A Member of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits


Saturday 19 November 2011

Tobacconist of London

To the Memory of
Mr. William Brinkley
Late Citizen and Tobacconist
of London
who departed this life
November 13th 17~39 or 59 ?
Aged 6? Years
Also the body of Sarah Brinkley
the remaining words were hidden

Whilst visiting the Church of St. John the Baptist in Pinner, Middlesex, I discovered this old headstone and was pleased to see that it stated the owners occupation and citizenship ~ I just love these additional clues as to the identities of the occupants.
Sometimes it's easy to just skim the surface and simply take things at face value, to think no further than what we initially see ~ Simply another name and date.

But upon 'digging a little deeper' ~ a good term for graveyard detectives ! ~ I wanted to see what it would have been like to have been a Tobacconist in Georgian England.

Georgian Smokers

Tobacco Advert

Huron Indian myth has it that in ancient times, when the land was barren and the people were starving, the Great Spirit sent forth a woman to save humanity. As she traveled over the world, everywhere her right hand touched the soil, there grew potatoes. And everywhere her left hand touched the soil, there grew corn. And when the world was rich and fertile, she sat down and rested. When she arose, there grew tobacco . . .

A History of Tobacco
6000 BC ~ It is believed that the tobacco plant, as we know it today, began growing in The Americas.
1 BC ~ Indigenious American inhabitants begun smoking and chewing tobacco. Peruvian aboriginals used it as an hallucinogenic, inducing enema.
470 ~ 630 AD ~ Aztecs at the Court of Montezuma, smoked tobacco pipes pipes with great ceremony. Whilst lesser Indians, rolled tobacco leaves to form crude cigars. Complex Religious and Political rites developed around the smoking of tobacco.

Christopher Columbus

1492 ~ Christopher Columbus arrives in the New World for the first time. Columbus accepts  gifts from the indigenous natives, but the significance of the 'Pungent dried leaves' was not understood and they were simply thrown away.
Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, arrived in Cuba. They noted that the natives wrapped dried tobacco leaves 'In the manner of a musket formed of paper, which they lit, then commenced 'Drinking' the smoke through the other end'.
Jerez became the first European Smoker and brought the habit back to his hometown. The smoke billowing from his mouth and nose so frightened his neighbours, he was imprisoned by the holy inquisitors for 7 years. When he was released, smoking was a Spanish craze.

1556~61 ~ Tobacco is introduced into France and Portugal. Snuff is sent to Catherine de Medici, Queen Mother to Francis II's of France, to cure his migraine headaches. She decrees tobacco be termed Herba Regina.
1564~65 ~ Tobacco is introduced into England by Sir John Hawkins and his crew. Tobacco is used cheifly by sailors, including those employed by Sir Francis Drake. 
Spanish and Portuguese sailors spread the practice of smoking around the world, probably first to fellow sailors. There may have been a community of seafaring tobacco users in England for decades before officials noticed.

 1571~ In Germany, Dr. Michael Bernhard Valentini's 'Exotic Remedies' describes different types of enemas. The tobacco smoke enema was said to be good for the treatment of colic, nephritis, hysteria, hernia, and dysentery.
1573 ~ Sir Francis Drake returns to England from the Americas with 'Nicotina tobacum'.
1577 ~ European doctors looking for new cures, recommend tobacco for toothache, fingernail loss, worms, bad breath, lockjaw and cancer.

Elizabethan Physicians

1584 ~ 86 Queen Elizabeth grants Walter Raleigh a charter for establishing a settlement in America.
Sir Francis Drake introduces smoking to Sir Walter Raleigh
Ralph Lane, first governor of Virginia, teaches Sir Walter Raleigh to smoke the long-stemmed clay pipe Lane is credited with inventing.

Long Clay Pipe

1586 ~ In Germany 'De plantis epitome utilissima' issues cautions on the use of tobacco, calling it a 'Violent Herb'.
Tobacco Arrives in English Society. In July, some of the Virginia colonists returned to Plymouth, smoking tobacco from pipes, which caused a sensation. Tobacco in the Elizabethan age was known as 'Sotweed'.

Elizabeth I

1600 ~ Sir Walter Raleigh persuades Queen Elizabeth to try smoking.
1602 ~ In an English publication, an anonymous doctor states that 'Tobacco works by evaporating man's 'Unctuous and Radical Moistures' ~ as it is used to cure gonorrhea by drying up the discharge'.
This process, if continued, could only end by drying up 'Spermatical Humidity,' rendering him incapable of propagation.
Experience also showed that tobacco left men in a state of depression, 'Mopishness and Sottishness,' which with time, damages memory, imagination and understanding.
1603 ~ English Physicians are upset that tobacco is being used by people without a physician's prescription and complain to King James I.
1606 ~ Spanish King Philip III decrees that tobacco may only be grown in Cuba, Santo Domingo, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. Sale of tobacco to foreigners is punishable by death.

Philip III of Spain

1610 ~ Sir Francis Bacon writes that the use of tobacco, is a custom hard to quit. 
1613 ~ John Rolfe and his wife Pocahontas grow the first commericial crop of 'tall tobacco' in Jamestown, Virginia and the first shipment of Rolfe's tobacco arrives in England. The Virginia colony enters the world tobacco market, under English protection.
1614 ~ King James I of England makes the import of tobacco a Royal monopoly, available for a yearly fee of £14,000. 'There be 7000 shops in and about London that doth vent Tobacco'

John Rolfe and Pocahontas

 1614 ~ King Philip III of Spain requires all tobacco grown in the Spanish New World, to be shipped to Seville in Spain. He establishes Seville as the world center for tobacco and the production of cigars. Cigarette use begins here, as beggars patch together tobacco from used cigars, and roll them in paper.
1610 ~ In England, the first tobacco vending machine is invented. The 'Honor Box' allows a user to deposit a penny to open a lidded small box, and scoop out a pipeful of tobacco.
1617 ~ Dr. William Vaughn writes about the perils of smoking:
Tobacco that outlandish weede
It spends the braine and spoiles the seede
It dulls the spirite, it dims the sight
It robs a woman of her right
1618 ~ Sir Walter Raleigh, popularizer of tobacco in England, is beheaded for treason. Upon Raleigh's tobacco box, found in his cell afterwards, is the inscription, 'Comes meus fuit illo miserrimo tempo' ~ 'It was my comfort in those miserable times.'

Sir Walter Raleigh

1619 ~ In Jamestown, Virginia, John Rolfe writes in his diary about the arrival of the first Africans. 'About the last of August came in a dutch man of warre that sold us twenty negars.' They were needed for the booming tobacco crop, but as they had been baptized as Christians, they could not be enslaved for life, but only indentured, like many of the English colonists, for 5-7 years.
Tobacco is being used as currency and continues to be used so, for 200 years in Virginia, and 150 years in Maryland.
The first shipment of women arrive in Jamestown, they are to become wives for the settlers. A prospective husband must pay for his chosen wife's passage with 120 lbs. of tobacco.

1624 ~ Pope Urban VIII threatens excommunication for snuff users, sneezing is thought too close to sexual ecstasy.

Pope Urban VIII

1624 ~ New York City is born with the town of New Amsterdam being established on lower Manhattan. Greenwich Village was a Native Amercian Indian village known as Sapponckanican ~ 'Tobacco Fields', or 'Land where the Tobacco grows'. The Dutch continued the tradition in the 17th century and tobacco farms lined both sides of what is now Christopher Street.
1628 ~ In Persia Shah Sefi punishes two merchants for selling tobacco by pouring hot lead down their throats.
1630 ~ Sweden learns to smoke.
1632 ~ Massachusetts forbids public smoking.
1633 ~ In Turkey, Sultan Murad IV orders tobacco users executed as infidels. As many as 18 a day were executed. It was rescinded 10 years later by Murad's successor.

Sultan Murad IV

1634 ~ Russian Czar Alexis creates penalties for smoking ~ 1st offense is whipping, a slit nose, and transportation to Siberia. 2nd offense is execution.

Czar Alexis

1638 ~ In  China the use or distribution of tobacco is made a crime punishable by decapitation. The  Jesuits introduced Snuff into China by the mid-17th century, it became popular and continued to be so through much of the Qing dynasty ~ mid-17th century to 1912.
1643 ~ In Russia, Tsar Michael declared smoking as a deadly sin.  Smokers were arrested and flogged or have their lips slit. A visitor commented that, 'Those convicted of taking snuff, both men and women, can expect to have their noses taken away.'

1647 ~ The Colony of Connecticut bans public smoking, however its citizens may smoke only once a day, 'And then not in company with any other.' In 1650 the colony states, 'No smoking by person under age of 21, no smoking except with physicians order'.
1665 ~ 66 In Europe, Smoking Tobacco is thought to have a protective effect against the Great Plague. Smoking is made compulsory at Eton to ward off infection.
1674 ~ In Russia, smoking can now carry the Death Penalty.
1675 ~ In Switzerland, the town council of Berne applies the same dire penalties to smokers as it does with adulterers.
1676 ~ Russia lifts it's smoking ban.
1700 ~ In England, King George III's wife known as 'Snuffy Charlotte' and in France, Napoleon said to have used 7 lb. of snuff per month.  


1705 ~ In Virginia, assembly passes a law legalizing lifelong slavery. It states that ' All servants imported and brought into this country, by sea or land, who were not christians in their native country, shall be slaves, and as such be here bought and sold notwithstanding a conversion to christianity afterwards'.
1761 ~ In England, the Physician John Hill 'Cautions against the Immoderate Use of Snuff'. It is perhaps the first clinical study of tobacco effects and Hill warns snuff users they are vulnerable to cancers of the nose.
1769 ~ Captain James Cook arrives in Tahiti, smoking a pipe. He is thought to be a demon and the natives dowse him with water.

Captain James Cook

1776 ~ In America, along the 'Tobacco Coast' ~ the Chesapeake,~ the Revolutionary War began. Tobacco growers found themselves perpetually in debt to British merchants and owed the mercantile houses millions of pounds. Tobacco helped finance the Revolution. George Washington appealed to his countrymen for aid 'If you can't send money, send tobacco'. When the war was over, tobacco taxes to help repay the revolutionary war debt.

George Washington

1779: Pope Benedict XII opens a tobacco factory

Vintage British Cigarette Advert

This cigarette advert was a popular one when I was a child and now I know why a Sailor was used in the promotion of sales of them.

Many thanks to Gene Borio at www.tobacco.org for the information used in A History of Tobacco.


  1. What a great post! Isn't it fun where our graveyard visits end up taking us?

  2. Thank You ~ Yes it can be a real eye~opener into the past, as well as an interesting education about those subjects I would never have believed would fascinate me so much.

  3. Hi! Thanks for providing this interedting info! It's great to know how people accepted tobacco after its discovery till nowadays. Did you know that Francis Drake discovered how to deal with tobacco so that it could be transported to the European continent and stored? It is from History Of Tobacco In London.

    1. There was so much more interesting information on the history that I wanted to include, but began to realise that this post would have gone on and on. I had to stop it somewhere and that has meant that some facts have been sadly omitted. But I am glad that you have enjoyed reading it Helen.


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