The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker: The story of Britain through its Census, since 1801 (book #165)

Cover of The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker

Roger Hutchinson, 2017.

Describes John Rickman, who in 1800 pushed through the legislation for the first census, and then carried out the first three censuses and planned the fourth. From 1802 he was Secretary to the Speaker of the House of Commons. The post came with a house in New Palace Yard in the precincts of the mediaeval Old Palace of Westminster. Hutchinson writes that it was “among wooden buildings which date from the time of Queen Elizabeth I, some of them so close to the River Thames that, as Rickman’s daughter Ann would recall, ‘at Spring tide there was great pleasure to us children in dipping our fingers down into the waters from the sitting room window … ‘”

Ann described the garden as “‘a bright, pleasant piece of ground with a terrace and rails to the river, and the roses and other flowers grew luxuriously’, while at the end of Keeper of the Exchequer Mr Wilde’s house on the terrance ‘there was a Hamboro’ grape; and we had gooseberries too and a Morella cherry beside a very pretty Bird cherry tree … and there was a corner and a mound to bury the kittens and canaries in … ‘”

“‘Papa very often in warm weather stretched himself down on the slope of turf that formed the terrace, in the centre of which were four stone steps: he generally went to sleep and we made daisy chains to dress him up, and looked at his pigtail, but we never quite made up our minds to pull it.’ The lighthearted polymath Papa Rickman in his turn insisted that at the family dinner table his children should order their desserts in Latin.”

Guardian review.

Review and information about the author from the Skye Reading Room.

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