Fancy letters and famous faces

Having previously looked at marks made by clerks and residents of the manors, we will now look beyond the doodles to decorative letters and drawings that are works of art in themselves. Though these had been commonly used in the medieval period their use declined through the centuries, and by the seventeenth century were reserved for a few areas of written texts, such as the legal documents like deeds. In those occasions where they remained they became less about the content of the text and more for decoration. as we go through our manorial documents we often come across examples that are eye-catching.

Below is a nice example of a letter done with shapes and swirls.


One that is a little more complicated…

1729 indenture of lease and release

More complicated still…


Or this one, from a document of Charles I, which takes it further…

Char II exemplification cropped

This is so stylised it becomes difficult to make out the ‘C’ it represents.

However, many examples contain drawings. In the medieval manuscripts these are known as historiated initials and inhabited initials. A historiated initial relates to a picture in the letter that relates to the text, where an inhabited letter is purely decorative. The below sixteenth century example is an inhabited letter, which includes a rather unusual face. Perhaps he goes back to earlier traditions of the psalter and other illuminated works.


We start to see images of the monarch used in some documents such as deeds, and these historiated initials are very skilfully and professionally done. The monarch would be depicted in a cartouche, often attached to the first letter of their name. The earliest example we have come across is James I:

James I

James is shown on his throne next to a stylised ‘J’. Under his cloak he appears to be shown in medieval dress. His shoes are certainly of a much older style, quite unlike the decorative heeled shoes he is usually depicted wearing. Next to the image are the symbols for England (rose), Scotland (thistle) and Wales (fleur-de-lis) joined together, illustrating that the three countries were united by his rule. The swirls turning to leaves may also hark back to an early style of decorating pages.

Next we have James’s son, Charles I.


We can see Charles I in a cartouche, surrounded with ornate patterned decoration and a panel showing roses, unicorns, and other emblems of state, with swirling rose leaves filling the space. The letters are also very ornately decorated. The image of Charles is very well drawn, and shows him with the crown, orb and sceptre.


We have also come across Charles’s granddaughter, Queen Anne. This, like many decorated examples, is an ‘Exemplification of Recovery’, which recorded the breaking or ‘barring’ of an entail (a passage of land solely down the family line), so that the land became fee simple and could be mortgaged, sold or willed to someone not in the entail. They became obsolete in 1833, but were often highly decorated with the monarch’s image and seal to show authenticity.

Queen Anne, from an Exemplification of Recovery, 1710.
Queen Anne, from an Exemplification of Recovery, 1710.

Here we see Queen Anne in a cartouche, with her hair elaborately curled and wearing a chain of jewels. The pearl necklace she wears is perhaps the one still owned and worn by the royal family today.

Detail from the same Exemplification of Recovery, 1710.
Detail from the same Exemplification of Recovery, 1710.

Further along the top of the same document we see a great deal of detailed decoration. The swirling leaves in Charles I’s decoration have grown to become huge scrolling acanthus leaves, which support a rose, and cover much of the top section. Between the leaves we have the Royal coat of arms of Great Britain. This has Queen Anne’s own motto beneath it – ‘Semper Eadem’, meaning ‘always the same’.

These are some examples we have come across in our research, but there are a great many more in our collection, including this beautiful and ostentatious deed from the reign of George II. The decoration transforms an ordinary legal document into something fantastic and beautiful, and gives an added value to the claim that it upholds. We will be keeping our eyes peeled for more monarchs and interesting letters as the project continues.



This Week in World War One, 22 September 1916

Berwick Advertiser title 1915






Thomas Howe Pattison (37), sign writer and master painter, residing at 12 Parade, Berwick, appealed on the ground of serious hardship. He would have to close if he was taken, and the military allowance would not maintain his wife and family. All his capital had been placed in the business, and in asking him to serve they asked for his home, business, and all. He was willing to do something if he obtained a place in some munition work or corps where the pay would be sufficient to maintain his wife and family. He had been three years established in business; he was a native of Berwick, having learned the trade with his father. After that he worked in Newcastle, returning to Berwick and opening his present business. He had been passed for field service at home.- Mr Hogarth: You are exactly in the same position as other painters that have been asked to serve – Mr Pattison: I don’t exactly understand what you mean by saying that.- The appeal was dismissed.

Linotype Advert


Samuel Gibson (18), Tweedmouth, linotype operator, “Advertiser” Office, was appealed for by Mr H. R. Smail, on the ground of serious hardship, and that Gibson’s services were indispensable. The case was heard in private, and the Chairman announced that the members had decided to grant exemption till 31st December. He could apply to the Tribunal again, but they hoped that in the meantime he would do the utmost to obtain a substitute.





Early Closing of Shops – The special attention of the public is drawn to an advertisement intimating the early closing of all business premises in Berwick from Monday, 2nd October. Commencing on that date, shops will shut on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings at 6p.m., on Saturdays at eight p.m. This will continue until the 1st of March. His Worship the Mayor also trusts that the public will assist in every way possible in the obscuration of all lights during the coming winter. No further warnings are to issued by the police, and in the future severe sentences are to be imposed for failing to observe the regulations which are so necessary at the present time.


Postage of Papers to the United States of America – We regret to inform our subscribers for whom we post the “Berwick Advertiser” and the “Berwickshire Advertiser” to the United States of America that owing to the restrictions made by the War Office, London, we cannot continue posting these papers except through an agent, making the cost to be 3d in place of 2d for each paper.




Further contributions of books, magazines, illustrated papers, etc., have been received at the Custom House – the local depot for this institution during the last week from Mrs R. Sidey and Mrs J. Simpson, Tweedmouth, Miss Grey, High Street; Mr Wilson, 32 Woolmarket; and a 5th lot from Mrs Cleasby Taylor, Bridge Street; also packing cases from the Tweedmouth Co-operative Society. Mr Toohey, collector of customs and excise, wishes to express thanks for same on behalf of the Central Committee, and state he hopes to be daily recipient of much needed lots of books and other suitable reading matter to forward for distribution amongst our sorely tried but brave warriors by flood and field, and their faithful devoted friends and nurses in camps at home and abroad – where so many harassed minds urgently need “something to read” to soothe and tone them up, and give away any tendency to downheartedness, for which in the light of every day happenings recently we have no excuse as the boys are “doing their bit” like true Britons; so also let those who can spare or procure and give “something to read” for the lads, do their bit and support the Camps Library during the period of the war.




Sir, – At that period of the war when Government allowances were settled on the dependants of those who had joined up, the amount was fixed on the basis of what was being lost to the home, by the withdrawal of the male supporters. This, you may be sure, after all official enquiries had been exhausted, was the bare minimum and was also in accordance with the existing food prices, which were then about normal.

Since then food prices have gone up 50 or 60 per cent., with the prospect of still further advances, which may be considerably augmented by the reported potato crop in many districts. Now Sir, the men fighting out there for their 1s 2d a day, part of which they ungrudgingly send home, know how hard it is on dependants under the present conditions, owing to the inflated prices, to meet the ever increasing demands, yet they are helpless to bring about a better and fairer state of things, by asking for their dependants an enchanced Government allowance, equivalent to the rise in prices.


World War One 'Breaches of the Rationing Order' poster. © This artistic work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain. Wikimedia Commons.
World War One ‘Breaches of the Rationing Order’ poster. © This artistic work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain. Wikimedia Commons.


What would the Empire, the Allies, or the world, think, or say, or do, if these men now doing so well on the different fronts, were to demand 10s per week advance on their dependants allowances, and back it up by the threat to throw up their hands in the face of all enemy attacks, unless their demands were conceded on a certain date, – What would they say or do, I ask? By all means get a strong move on against the unjustitable high prices of food, against the unscrupulous exploiters of the poor, and against the apparent apathy of the Government in the whole acute crisis.

But for heaven’s sake let us do nothing at present, that would for one moment embarrass or foil the magnificent spirit of self sacrifice, we are daily witnessing on the Somme and elsewhere. Our sacrifice, great as it may be at home, is small indeed, compared with that being exercised by those hewers who are making indelible history out there for our sakes at home.

Keep at the Government workers! get redress that shall benefit the nation at large, not a small section only; consolidate your positions, and reserve your fighting tactics till after the Germans have been beaten, and the others fighters from France and all over, shall throw in their lot with you, to destroy that element in our midst which has been making fortunes from the hardships of the poor.

Yours sincerely







Mrs M. Askew, Ladykirk, Norham, hon. Secretary to the local branch of the Vegetables Products Committee, has received a letter dated 11th September, from Commodore E. S. Alexander Sinclair. H.M.S, Galatea, also a letter dated 12th September, from the Commanding Officer of H.M.S. Inconstant, and a letter dated 11th Sept. from the Fleet Paymaster (P.M. Coldaugh) of the Victualling Store, H.M. Dockyard, Rosyth, all of which thank that lady for supplies of fruits and vegetables sent for distribution to the men of the Fleet, and which have been very much appreciated.

HMS Galatea, the flagship of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron under Commodore E.S. Alexander-Sinclair. © HMSO has declared that the expiry of Crown Copyrights applies worldwide. Wikimedia Commons.
HMS Galatea, the flagship of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron under Commodore E.S. Alexander-Sinclair. © HMSO has declared that the expiry of Crown Copyrights applies worldwide. Wikimedia Commons.


The local committee will be very glad to receive donations of vegetables and fruit, which are to be forwarded to the headquarters, Town Hall, Berwick on Saturdays. All who desire to send such gifts to the gallant men of the navy can have same forwarded free of charge by the railway companies. A generous response is appealed for. The Boy Scouts are going round with their cart to ask for gifts of vegetables. One turnip or cabbage from everyone would be most acceptable.

Roland Philipson: ‘Inasmuch’

Without the philanthropist Roland Philipson, who died on the 19th September 1906, the Stannington Sanatorium and Farm Colony would have been drastically different, or may never have existed at all. Descended from Philip de Thirlwall of Thirlwall castle, the Philipson family were famous for coach and train carriage building, and as solicitors and Aldermen of Newcastle. However they were also famous for their philanthropy, establishing many institutions and hospitals, for which Men of Mark Twixt Tyne and Tweed by Richard Welford is recommended reading. Roland’s grandfather, Ralph Park Philipson, was Town Clerk, Alderman, and solicitor to the North-Eastern Railway Company. It was after Ralph’s wife the ‘Philipson Memorial Orphan Asylum’ on Newcastle Town Moor was dedicated, a cause supported by the family for many generations. Roland’s father Hilton was a Justice of the Peace in Newcastle, and he and his wife Jane had five children. Born in Tynemouth in 1863, Roland was raised with his brothers Ralph and Hylton, and sisters Annie and Mary Seely Philipson, later Woosnam. He and his brothers attended Eton, where they can be found on the 1881 census.

Roland Philipson
Roland Philipson

He is described in later census as a mechanical engineer, and on the 2nd June 1905 became a director of the North-Eastern Railway Company. He was also involved in several coal companies, and was a director for the Wallsend Slipway Company, the Consett Iron Company, and North-Eastern Marine Engineering Company. As a Justice of the Peace he acted as chairman for the Wallsend Petty Sessions, and was a Juror at the Northumberland Assizes. The census and Kelly’s directories show he lived at 6 Prior’s Terrace, Tynemouth, but likely had other residences, possibly including one at Howick. He married Louisa Warden Parr in 1888 in Chorlton, Lancashire. She was born in North Shields. They had sons Hilton, Roland Thirlwall and Thirlwall, and a daughter, Vera. Roland was a philanthropist like the rest of his family, and gave the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade £2000 for a searchlight to help rescuers.

Mr John H. Watson, a founder and later Secretary of the PCHA, established the Newcastle Poor Children’s Holiday Association and Rescue Agency in 1888, to tackle the impact of poverty on children and bring homeless children off the streets (EP 10/75). When on holiday he came up with the idea of taking children from the slum areas of

Read moreRoland Philipson: ‘Inasmuch’