19 April 2010

Christopher Thomson, The Bottle, Literacy, and Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire

Christoper Thomson's book, Autobiography of an Artisan, was published in 1847, and in it, among many other things, he tells of his birth on Christmas Day, 1799, and of his various occupations: sailor, sawyer, and strolling player among them. It was as a strolling player that he first arrived in Edwinstowe in about 1930, later to return and set up business as a house-painter.

He was appalled by the drunkeness and ignorance of many of the inhabitants, and in 1838 set up a 'penny library' in Ye Olde Jug and Glass in the High Street. He underwent hardship such as not buying sugar - probably then considered essential - for his tea in order to buy books. Night classes were also held there, and there was a conversation class attended by up to sixty people.

The Reading Rooms diagonally opposite Ye Olde Jug and Glass were a gift by the Earl and Countess of Manvers. Games were played there, and there was a meeting room: this was another attempt to lure people away from pubs.

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