United Kingdom

The Strange Case of Everet vs. Williams: When Two Highwaymen Took Each Other To Court

In 1725, one of the most peculiar cases in British legal history was brought before the Court of Exchequer. John Everet (or Everitt) and Joseph Williams, who had gone into business together, made an oral agreement to divide all the costs and profits of their enterprise equally. But after one particularly lucrative transaction went awry, Everet became suspicious that Williams was taking more than his fair share—so he took his partner to court.

Ordinarily that wouldn’t make for such an unusual case, and indeed, the official court documents seem to suggest that nothing in the pair’s dealings was out of the ordinary: In entering into their partnership, the records show that the pair had quite rightly agreed to share the cost of all the equipment their enterprise would require, “such as horses, bridles, saddles, assistants and servants,” they were merely involved “in dealing and in buying and selling several sorts of commodities.”

But as above board as all that sounds, Everet and Williams were both highwaymen—and their “business” amounted to nothing more than robbing unsuspecting gentlemen in and around north London and the surrounding countryside.

How the case even ended up in court at all is unclear, although one account claims that it was, in fact, Williams who made the first move: After a quarrel over the value of a gold watch they had acquired in a recent robbery, Williams sued Everet for £200. When Everet failed to show up to court (perhaps understandably, given the true nature of their business, although Everet would claim he was in prison), the action against him went undefended, and Williams won not only the case but Everet’s share of the spoils as well. In response, Everet—presumably aggrieved that Williams had won the case—then raised his own case against Williams. He took the unusual step of hiring a pair of solicitors, William Wreathock and William White, to represent him. Wreathock and White, in turn, hired legal counsel, a barrister by the name of Jonathan Collins, who drew up an official complaint and took the highwaymen’s case to the Court of Exchequer.

The bill Collins compiled—which requested that Williams account for the value of the goods in question, and repay any money owed to the…

Honeybees Go ‘Whoop!’ When They Bump Into Each Other

British scientists say startled honeybees emit a teeny “whoop!” noise when jostled or head-butted by another bee. The team described their findings this week in the journal PLOS One.

Bee societies are astoundingly sophisticated and complex; they’re strict hierarchies in which every bee knows its job and its place. To keep this social machine humming along, bees rely on multiple forms of communication: chemical signaling, electrical impulses, gestures (like their waggle dance), and sound.

One of the most common sounds is a quick little wing-buzz used often in crowded colonies. Bees seem to make this noise when they ask another bee for food and as they interfere with another bee’s waggle dance—a move that tells the second bee to change its plans. Because the buzz seems to be used to abort the waggle dance and any foraging that might follow, scientists call the noise the “stop” signal.

To learn…

11 Sweet Facts About Cadbury

To sugar-lovers stateside, Cadbury is best known as the maker of the cream-filled eggs that appear in stores each spring for Easter. But their full lineup of sweets includes close to 100 products that are beloved in the UK and around the world. Here are 11 decadent facts about the candy brand.

1. IT STARTED AS A DRINKING CHOCOLATE BUSINESS.

Cadbury advertisement from 1885. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Before it was an international corporation, Cadbury got its start as a humble grocery store. In 1824, John Cadbury opened a shop in Birmingham, England where he sold, among other goods, cocoa and drinking chocolate he ground by hand. The beverage was initially marketed as a health drink, and it was often served with lentils or barley mixed in. He opened up a full-fledged chocolate factory in 1841, and by the following year he was selling 11 types of cocoa and 16 varieties of drinking chocolate. Solid “eating chocolate” only came about years later as a way for the company to utilize the cocoa butter left over from the cocoa-making process.

2. CADBURY MADE CHOCOLATE FOR QUEEN VICTORIA.

The Cadbury company was just a few decades old when it was deemed fit for royalty. John Cadbury and his brother and business partner, Benjamin, received a Royal Warrant to assume the role of “manufacturers of cocoa and chocolate to Queen Victoria” in 1855. Today the company continues to hold a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II.

3. THE COMPANY INVENTED THE HEART-SHAPED CHOCOLATE BOX.

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Heart-shaped chocolate boxes are nearly as old as the commercialization of Valentine’s Day itself, and that’s thanks to Richard Cadbury. By the mid-19th century, exchanging gifts and cards with loved ones had become a popular practice around the holiday. Chocolate became part of the tradition by way of Cadbury’s romantic chocolate boxes. Richard, son of company founder John Cadbury, had the brilliant idea to package his confections in heart-shaped boxes embellished with cupids and roses in 1861. Customers could use the fancy boxes to store keepsakes long after the contents were consumed.

4. “RATION CHOCOLATE” WAS SOLD DURING WORLD WAR II.

Like many European businesses, Cadbury was forced to make sacrifices during the Second World War. When the British government banned fresh milk in 1941, the company stopped production on its Dairy Milk bars. Ration Chocolate, made from dried skim milk powder, was released as a cheap substitute.

5. THE FIRST CADBURY EGG APPEARED IN THE 19TH CENTURY.

Cadbury factory workers decorating Easter eggs in 1932. Image credit: Getty

Cadbury’s connection to chocolate…

Someone Is Placing Poems In a British Supermarket

If they’re lucky, shoppers at the Tesco supermarket in Coventry, UK may be able to pick up some poetry in addition to their milk and eggs. The Coventry Telegraph reports that a mysterious visitor has left carefully selected poems around the store.

Two poems printed on plain paper have been discovered in the grocery store so far. The first, “Bread,” by modern American poet W.S. Merwin, was placed in the baked goods aisle. The opening stanza reads:

Each face in the street is a slice of bread
wandering on
searching

The second poem was “Deer” by another American poet, Kenneth Rexroth:

Deer…

A Recent Time in British History When Husbands Sold Their Wives


wife-selling

Let’s say you’re an 18th-century British peasant, and you
and your wife just aren’t getting along anymore. What do you do?
Divorce her? Too expensive. Kill her? Too risky. Oh, well, looks
like you’ll have to auction her off. Welcome to the wacky world of
wife selling!

HARDY HAR-HAR

Hands up all of you who’ve read Thomas Hardy’s classic of
19th-century British misery,
The Mayor of Casterbridge
. You know, the one where
everybody dies and life is shown to be a pointless parade of
squalor, pain, and death? You haven’t gotten around to reading it
yet? Well, it’s worth filling you in on a key plot point, namely,
that the main character, Michael Henchard, sells his long-suffering
wife at a public auction. Surely not, you cry! Not in civilized old
England. Thomas Hardy must have made it all up. Well, we’re here to
tell you that it’s all true. Right up until the early 1900s,
husbands in Britain were able to offer their wives to the highest
bidder.

GOING, GOING…

The Golden Age of wife selling was between 1780 and 1850, when
some 300 wives were sold (and that’s just those that appeared in
the record books—doubtless many more spouses were gotten rid of
more quietly).

One of the earliest recorded wife sales took place in 1733, in
Birmingham, central England. The local paper of the day records how
“Samuel Whitehouse…sold his wife, Mary Whitehouse, in open market,
to Thomas Griffiths. Value, one guinea [about one English pound].”
As part of the deal, the paper comments, Griffiths was to take Mary
“with all her faults.” Another wife, in 1801, was put up for sale
by her husband for one penny. Not surprisingly, this bargain
sparked a frenzied bidding war among the locality’s lonely farmers,
and Mary eventually went for five shillings and sixpence. One
husband even managed to off-load his old lady for eighteen pence
and a quart of ale. An even luckier chap managed to trade in his
other half for…