Luke Hansard The Printer and Elisabeth Curson
Husband Luke Hansard The Printer
Born: 5 Jul 1752 - St. Mary, Norwich Christened: - St. Mary, Norwich Died: 29 Oct 1828 Buried: - St. Giles In The Fields, London
Father: Thomas Hansard (1727-1769) Mother: Sarah Norfolke (1717-1797)
Marriage: 21 Jul 1775 - St. John's, Clerkenwell
Events in his life were:
• Grant of Arms
• Occupation, Government printer, origin of 'Hansard Reports'
• Residence, Gower St. St. Giles in the Fields
• Will, M559 (LF 780 UN108/372/101) - Hartley Library, Southampton University
Wife Elisabeth Curson
Born: 1754 - Swanton Morley, Norwich Christened: Died: 18 May 1834 Buried:
Father: John Curson ( - ) Mother:
1 M Thomas Curson Hansard
Born: 6 Nov 1776 Christened: Died: 14 May 1833 Buried: - St. Brides, Fleet StreetSpouse: Ann Palmby (1770-1811) Marr: 6 Nov 1798 - St. John's ClerkenwellSpouse: Mary Palmby ( - ) Marr: 1 Feb 1812
2 F Elizabeth Susannah Hansard
Born: 28 Feb 1779 Christened: Died: 29 Sep 1807 Buried:
3 M James Hansard
Born: 23 Mar 1781 Christened: Died: 1849 - Westerham, Kent Buried:Spouse: Martha Dawes ( -1853) Marr: 21 Nov 1802 - St Giles In The Fields
4 M Luke Graves Hansard
Born: 10 Jan 1783 - Parish Of St. George, Bloomsbury Christened: Died: 28 Apr 1841 - Chigwell, Essex Buried:Spouse: Elizabeth Hobbs (1794-1857) Marr: 19 Aug 1809 - St. George's In The East
5 F Hannah Mary Hansard
Born: 1 Feb 1785 Christened: Died: 1862 Buried:Spouse: William Davies (1779- ) Marr: 21 Jul 1804 - St. Giles In The Fields, London
6 F Laetitia Hansard
Born: 14 Feb 1790 Christened: Died: Buried:Spouse: Samuel Foyster Yockney ( - ) Marr: 20 May 1812 - St. Giles In The Fields, London
General Notes (Husband)
In November 1943 the name Hansard was restored to the title page of Parliamen-tary Debates. Although 51 years had passed since it had last appeared on a government publication, the word Hansard had already entered the language. Quite simply it is defined as "the official verbatim report of the proceedings of the British Parliament". The definition is often qualified by stating that Luke Hansard was the printer of these re- ports, but the truth is that he never had anything to do with the publication of the debates on which his name is perpetuated.
The story of Hansard is the story of a family who were printers to the House of Commons for much of the last century. Luke was the founder of that dynasty which began humbly enough in the city of Norwich where he was born on 5 July 1752.
In an account of his life, written in 1817 for the benefit of his sons, Luke described his father, Thomas, as a manufacturer, though of what was not revealed. His mother, Sarah, was a clergyman's daughter from Spilsby in Lincolnshire, but at the time of Luke's birth, the family fortunes had reached a low ebb and never recovered.
He was educated in Norwich and at the Free Grammar School in the village of Kir- ton which lies about four miles south of Boston in Lincolnshire. On leaving school at 14, he was apprenticed to Stephen White, a Norwich printer.
Luke described his master as an "eccentrick genius", who was "very rarely in the office ..." Personal instruction seems to have been given sparingly. White would begin to set a line of type and then say, "So go on Luke boy," and leave his apprentice to finish. Within a few months, however Luke had mastered every aspect of the printing trade.
His father died in 1769 aged only 42. The same year Luke's apprenticeship came to an end and in the summer he set off for London with only a guinea in his pocket. After 10 weeks he found work as a composi-tor with the firm of John Hughs in Great Turnstile, Lincoln's Inn Fields.
Since 1763, the firm had been printers to the House of Commons. They produced parliamentary bills, reports and the "Journals of the House" which were an account of votes and proceedings derived from docu-ments supplied by the clerks. There were no verbatim reports of the debates themselves, for Parliament had deemed such detailed accounts of their work not in the public interest.
In 1771, John Hughs died and was succeeded by his son Henry with William Day as partner and manager, but as the workload increased both on the parliamentary and general side - Dr Johnson and Edmund Burke were among their literary customers - Hughs and Day realised that another part-ner was needed to supervise the operative section. In 1774 they offered 22 year-old Luke a partnership.
With his future now secure, Luke's thoughts turned to marriage. On 21 July 1775, he married Elizabeth Curson from Swanton Morley in Norfolk at St John's Church, Clerkenwell. Their marriage was to last for 50 years and produce five children: Thomas Curson (1776), Elizabeth Susanna (1779), James (1781), Luke Graves (1783) and Hannah Mary (1785).
Henry Hughs certainly admired the skills and character of his junior partner. He involved Luke more and more in the general running of the business until Hansard the printer became well known in the London literary circle and in the corridors of Parliament where he was becoming a familiar figure.
In 1800 at the age of 43 Luke became sole proprietor of the firm. Henry Hughs had retired and William Day had been dead for six years. Thomas Curson, James and Luke Graves had followed their father into the business and the new century saw Luke Hansard and Sons as printers to the House.
Within three years however, Thomas Curson, rebellious and single minded had left, striking out on his own as a master printer. He acquired, probably with some help from Luke, the business of Thomas Rickaby in Peterborough Court.
On 3 December 1803, a publication called Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates was launched. Founded by William Cobbett, the text was gleaned largely from newspaper reports supplemented by copies of written speeches supplied by more liberal minded MPs. Although it could never be regarded as a comprehensive word by word account, it was the first publication in this country to attempt a fuller reporting of Parliamentary discussion.
In 1809, the printer's name on this journal changed from Cox and Bayliss to T C Hansard, the firm owned by Luke's oldest son. Inevitably, Thomas's association with an outspoken radical like Cobbett led to trouble. The following year he was imprisoned for three months as the printer of Cobbett's scathing attack on flogging in the British Army. Cobbett himself received two years in Newgate and a £1000 fine. To clear his debts, Cobbett was forced to sell all his publications, and three of them, including the Parliamentary Debates, were purchased by Thomas.
Meanwhile Luke Hansard and Sons had opened a second printing works, the "Journal House" in Parker Street, to cope with the increasing amount of Parliamentary work. Luke's skill and integrity as a printer were highly regarded by MPs and Parliamentary Officials but, from the 1820s onwards, men, both inside and outside Parliament, began to question standards in public administration, particularly the costs of Government printing. Firms like Hansard were suspected of making large profits out of this work. Three committees sat during the period 1822-1828 to investigate the matter. Luke gave evidence before two of them but nothing detrimental was ever found against his firm.
When he faced the committee of 1828, he was in his 77th year. It was the last battle he fought on behalf of his firm, for on 29 October he died at five o'clock in the afternoon. The man from Norwich who, as a child had never been "nursed in the lap of luxury" and who arrived in London with only a guinea in his pocket, died worth £80,000.
Five years later, on 14 May 1833, his oldest son, Thomas Curson, died aged 57. His business too had flourished and, since 1829 the debates had been published as Hansard's Parliamentary Debates. It was not a particularly lucrative part of Thomas's output, but it had certainly made his name. He had a high profile in both the printing world and the City of London where he had been elected to the Common Council. In 1825, he had written a book, Typographia, which was a short history and practical guide to every aspect of the printing trade. It was revised and reprinted in 1869.
Even after Thomas's death, T C Hansard remained the firm's imprint. His son, a barrister with chambers in the Middle Temple, bore the same names. He, too, was a master printer and articles written by him on type founding and printing appeared in the seventh and eighth editions of Encyclopedia Britannica.
Questions over printing costs continued to beset Luke's old firm, now controlled by James and Luke Graves. During 1837, the firm became defendants in a libel action brought by another printer, J Stockdale, who had been criticised in a Government report for circulating an obscene book around Newgate prison. The case dragged on for two years and created a constitutional crisis between Parliament and the courts.
Luke Graves died on 28 May 1841. His brother James was too ill to work and James' son, Luke James Hansard, took control. He tried to keep his cousin Henry (Luke Graves' son) in the background but increasingly ec-centric behaviour and the public criticism of MP Joseph Hume temporarily lost Hansard the parliamentary printing contract:
Henry ousted Luke James and the con-tract was restored but the firm still faced pressure to reduce their costs. By the end of 1850, the works at Great Turnstile was closed and retained only as a sales office. All production was carried out at the "Jour-nal House" with a greatly reduced work-force.
In 1878, Henry was joined by his son fresh from Cambridge University. Together they faced further pressure from the Stationery Office which was intent on imposing a scale of charges on Government printers. Hansards agreed to the new scale but in September 1882, Henry stepped aside in favour of his son. Henry Luke Tite Hansard had now followed in his great-grandfather's footsteps, but he would be the last.
While the fortunes of one side of the family were waning, Hansard's Parliamen-tary Debates were gaining official recogni-tion. In 1855, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, had ordered the Stationery Office to sub-scribe for 100 sets of the published debates for distribution around Government depart-ments at home and in the colonies. Three years later it was increased to 120 sets at five guineas each. The text was still being com-piled from newspaper reports and by refer-ence to the MPs themselves but so synonymous with parliamentary debate had the name Hansard become that a new verb entered the English language: to Hansardise. It meant that one speaker could challenge another by quoting what had been said on a previous occasion. In other words, the challenger could refer back to Hansard for the contents of a past speech. It had been coined by Lord Derby during a debate in April 1867. Although the verb itself has fallen out of use, MPs still Hansardise each other.
In 1878, a resolution by the Commons empowered Thomas Curson to engage his own reporters to cover such matters as after midnight debates which would not appear in the morning papers. This went some way to filling in the gaps.
On several occasions in the 1880s, Thomas was approached by his first cousin Henry asking if his firm could print the debates. Thomas, however, would not agree. Even when tenders were invited by the Stationery Office in 1888 to produce the debates, Thomas, then in his 75th year would entertain no offer from his relative. Instead, he sold the goodwill of his business to a consortium headed by Horatio Bottomley which was to call itself the Hansard Publishing Union.
At first, Henry distanced himself from the union but he was in a difficult position. With only a four year contract for Govern-ment printing, he feared that Bottomley would drastically undercut his prices. Eventually, he agreed to sell to the union but, because of financial difficulties, he only re-ceived around £65,000 of the £90,000 agreed. Within a few weeks Bottomley's venture had collapsed and the Hansard Pub-lishing Union was bankrupt.
Eyre and Spottiswoode, who had produced the "Journals" from 1890, took over production of the debates, from which the name Hansard was dropped in 1892. Three years later the printing was taken over by Waterlow and Son in partnership with The Times.
In 1909, acting on the proposal of a Select Committee, an editor, assistant editor, and a team of experienced reporters were appointed to provide a full verbatim account of parliamentary debates in the "Official Report". For 10 years it was printed by James Truscott and Sons, until, in 1920, production was taken over by H M Station-ery Office.
Yet the name of Hansard would not be laid to rest. Unofficially, it was still being applied to the reports, and countries of the former Empire such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago had their own Hansards.
By a remarkable coincidence, when the headquarters of Her Majesty's Stationery Office was moved from London to its present site in St Crispins, Duke Street, Nor- wich, it was only a few hundred yards from the parish of St Mary, Coslany, within the boundaries of which Luke had been born over two centuries before. Hansard had returned to the city where a 14 year-old apprentice printer had first set a line of type.
Luke was educated at Boston grammar school, and was apprenticed to Stephen White, a Norwich printer. As soon as his apprenticeship had expired Hansard started for London with only a guinea in his pocket, and became a compositor in the office of John Hughs (1703-1771), printer to the House of Commons. In 1774 he was made a partner, and undertook almost the entire conduct of the business, which in 1800 came completely into his hands. On the admission of his sons the firm became Luke Hansard & Sons. Among those whose friendship Hansard won in the exercise of his profession were Robert Orme, Burke and Dr Johnson; while Porson praised him as the most accurate printer of Greek. He printed the Journals of the House of Commons from 1774 till his death. The promptitude and accuracy with which Hansard printed parliamentary papers were often of the greatest service to government, notably on one occasion when the proof-sheets of the report of the Secret Committee on the French Revolution were submitted to Pitt twenty-four hours after the draft had left his hands. On the union with Ireland in 1801, the increase of parliamentary printing compelled Hansard to give up all private printing except when parliament was not sitting. He devised numerous expedients for reducing the expense of publishing the reports; and in 1805, when his workmen struck at a time of great pressure, he and his sons themselves set to work as compositors.
THIS is the story of the boy from Norwich who borrowed a guinea, went off to seek fame and fortune in London . . . and gave a new word to the English language - Hansard - the official report of Parliamentary proceedings.
Luke Hansard was the founder of the family whose name is now known all over the world. He was born on July 5, 1752, in the parish of St Mary, Norwich. His father, Thomas, was a merchant and his mother, the daughter of a Lincolnshire vicar, sent him to the grammar school at Boston to be educated.
After schooling, Luke returned to Norwich and was apprenticed to Stephen White, a printer, in Cockey Lane. A quick learner, Luke soon rose through the ranks and was often left in charge of the works when the boss was away. Norwich has always had a strong printing tradition - it was a good place to learn the trade from skilled craftsmen - and Stephen White ran a flourishing business. He was also a medicine vendor, painter, boat-builder and general artist and operated from the Bible and Crown in Magdalen Street.
Luke left home and lived in his master's house. Sleeping in the press room, he was devoted to White.
Much later in life, Luke wrote about White, saying he was rarely in the office: "In a short time I became expert: I was proud in being compositor and pressman, corrector and manager, copperplate printer and shopman, book-keeper and accountant to this chequered business."
But the young Luke needed to earn more money to help out his father who was not the most successful cloth merchant in the city.
So he borrowed a guinea and set off to walk to London where he found both fame and fortune.
As a Norwich-trained printer, Luke found little difficulty in getting work and fate led him to the office of John Hughs, printer to the House of Commons. He was taken on as a compositor and his competence soon brought him to the notice of great figures in the literacy world. They all wanted Luke to print their work, including the likes of Dr Johnson.
Within two years, he had become a partner in the business, and by 1800 the firm was completely in his hands. Luke worked non-stop printing the journals and reports of the House of Commons.
It is Hansard's claim to fame that he not only accelerated the work, but also raised the standard of accuracy. He was known by all as Hansard the Printer . . . and reports say he never lost his Norwich burr. And whenever he did manage to take a few days off work, he usually headed home to "beautiful Norwich, my home."
Eventually, his two younger sons carried on the Government work and it was his eldest boy, Thomas Curson Hansard, known as TC, who decided the family name should be used on the reports.
That name was to become one of Britain's lesser known, but enduring exports. In Canada and Australia, Hansard became the recognised name of parliamentary reports as they followed the Westminster way.
Luke died in 1828 - a wealthy and respected craftsman. One thing is for sure, his name will never be forgotten.
Grant of Arms
Copy of Roll Empowering to Bear Arms
To All and Singular to whom these presents shall come, Sir Isaac Heard Knight Garter Principal King of Arms & George Harrison, Esq., Clarenceux King of Arms of the South East and West Parts of England from the river Trent Southwards send Greeting.
Whereas Luke Hansard of Lower Street in the Parish of St. Giles in the Fields, in the County of Middlesex, Citizen and Stationer of London,many years printer to the Honourable House of Commons, only son of Thomas Hansard of the Parish of St. Mary Norwich by Sarah his wife, second daughter & co-heir of the Revd. William Norfolk of Spilsby in the County of Lincoln both deceased, hath represented unto the Most Noble Charles Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal & hereditary Marshal of England, in that being uncertain of armorial ensigns & unwilling to bear any without due Authority he requested his Grace's warrant for our divising granting & exemplifying such as may be proper to be borne by him and his descendants, & futher requested that armorial ensigns may be devised and granted for Norfolk to be borne in memory of his Mother by him & his desendants & the whole according to the law of Arms: and for as much as the said Earl Marshall did by warrant & under his hand & seal bearing date the 4th day of November instant, authorize & direct us to devise grant and exemplify armorial ensigns for HANSARD & NORFOLK accordingly.
Know ye therefore, we the said Garter and Clarenceux in pursuance of his Graces's warrant & by virtues of the Letters patent of our several offices to each of us respective granted have devised & do by these present grant and exemplify, that is to say Quarterly first & fourth ermine & Lion passant, Sable between three Mullets pierced, Gules on a Canton Azure, a Beehive Or, for HANSARD Second and Third Or two bars Pean; on a bend engrailed Azure three Martlet's of the field for NORFOLKE ; And for crest of Hansard, on a wreath of the colours a Cubit Arm erect, vested azure, cupp Or, the arm charged with a fesse Argent, thereon a bee valant proper in the hand, also proper, a Mullet gold, with the motto "PROBITAS VERUS HOROS", as the same are in the margin here of more plainly depicted to be borne & held for ever heareafter by him the said Luke Hansard & his descendants according to the laws of Arms. In witness whereof we the said Garter & Clarenceux King of Arms have to these present subscribed our names & affixed the seals of our several Offices this 17 day of November in this [49th] year [of] our Sovereign Lord, George the Third, by the Grace of God of [this Sainted King] & of Great Britain and Ireland King defender of the Faith, etc. & in the year of our Lord 1809
Isaac Heard ) seal ( Garter Principal King of Arms
George Denison Clarenceux ) seal ( King of Arms