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14 Zero-Fuck-Giving Historical Figures No One Tells You About In School

Why don't schools teach us about the inventor of the wasp pistol, or the paleontologist who liked to eat mice on toast? (H/t Great British Eccentrics)

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1. Sir Francis Dashwood (1708 –1781)

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Sir Francis Dashwood was a lascivious, rakish politician with huge appetites. He founded an infamous institution called the Hellfire Club, which he presided over dressed as a monk (Sir Francis of Assisi, to be precise). He would hire prostitutes, dress them as nuns, and have drunken orgies. His house bore the Latin motto "Peno Tento Non Penitento" – "an untamed penis requires no penitence." Nice.

2. William Buckland (1784 – 1856)

William Buckland was an eminent palaeontologist and wrote the first full account of a dinosaur (Megalosaurus). He was also a zoöphage, and was obsessed with eating his way through the entire animal kingdom like a bloodthirsty version of Noah. Over the years, Buckland consumed panthers, crocodiles, mice on toast, a jaguar, and even bluebottle flies, which he found "repulsive." No shit.

3. Henry de la Poer Beresford, 3rd Marquess of Waterford (1811–59)

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This laddish, bored Marquess once took loads of gin into central London and handed out huge mugs of it for free to "see what would happen." Everyone got pissed, rioted, and Beresford was arrested. He was also arrested for speeding when he galloped his horse down a crowded street. He brought his horse to court and demanded it be questioned, saying "only he knows how fast he was going”. Such bants.

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4. Mary "Princess Caraboo" Willcocks (1791 – 1864)

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In 1817, a strange woman appeared in a Gloucestershire village. She was dressed in odd clothes and convinced locals she was "Princess Caraboo" from the exotic island of "Javasu". For the next ten weeks, she was wined and dined, fenced, swam naked, and prayed to a god named Alla-Tallah. It turned out she was actually a Devonshire servant girl called Mary who wanted to live the high life for a while. Amazing.

5. Sir George Sitwell (1860 – 1943)

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Sitwell was an inventor, who had a sign that warned visitors: “I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices.” His inventions included a miniature pistol for shooting wasps out of the air, a musical toothbrush, and a chemical-coated "egg" made of smoked meat and rice. Weirdly, none of his inventions took off.

6. Sir Tatton Sykes (1772–1863)

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This landowner had such a deep hatred of flowers that if he ever saw one while out walking he would hack at the “nasty, untidy thing” with his walking stick. He lived on an exclusive diet of cold rice pudding and wore six coats at a time in slightly different sizes. As he walked and began to feel warmer, he would remove each coat and drop it onto the ground. He also did the same with his trousers. Sexy.

8. Hannah Snell (1723–1792)

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In 1750, a marine stunned his fellow soldiers by announcing that "he" was really a woman called Hannah Snell. For two years Snell had fought at their side in mud-filled Indian trenches, and had even been wounded in the groin. After she announced she was a woman, she demanded a full military pension from the Duke of Cumberland, and used the proceeds to open a pub named "The Female Warrior".

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9. Jemmy Hirst (1738 –1829)

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Jemmy Hirst was an excellent, albeit eccentric, animal trainer. He was followed everywhere by a pet hedgehog and tame jackdaw, and trained the farm's bull, Jupiter, to carry him like a horse. He also made Jupiter pull a wicker carriage that was shaped like an onion. One day, Hirst decided to add sails to the carriage, but the experiment failed and the carriage crashed into a shop window in Pontefract.

This reclusive duke disliked social contact so much that he built a second, hidden underground mansion beneath his stately home, which was entirely painted pink and included an observatory and a vast ballroom with a huge hydraulic lift. He never organised any dances in the ballroom. He built a wide underground road that led from his mansion all the way to the town of Worksop, and food was sent to him on heated trucks that ran on rails through the underground tunnels.

11. Joanna Southcott (1750 – 1814)

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Joanna Southcott was a British "prophetess" with a large cult following that lasted well into the 1960s (her devotees referred to themselves as Southcottians). When she died, she left behind a box of prophecies and said it was only to be opened at a time of national crisis by all 24 bishops of the Church of England. When it was finally opened the only things inside were a lottery ticket and a horse-pistol.

12. Brinsley le Poer Trench, 8th Earl of Clancarty (1911–1995)

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This prominent earl co-founded a UFO research charity and was also associated with a Japanese cult named The Cosmic Brotherhood, which believed that an alien astronaut had descended to Earth thousands of years ago to teach people how to grow vegetables. He used his influence to found a UFO Study Group at the House of Lords, and made them stock his magazine (Flying Saucer Review) in its library.

13. Lady Hester Stanhope (1776 – 1839)

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After a "romantic disappointment," Lady Hester set sail for the Near East. She disguised herself as a Bedouin nomad and became the first Western woman to enter the ancient city of Palmyra, now a World Heritage site, where she carried out methodical excavations. She also made romantic overtures to the chief of the Wahhabis Arabs, and ended up the de facto ruler of a large part of Lebanon.

14. Lord Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson Berners (1883 –1950)

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A true eccentric, Lord Berners insisted on dyeing all of his estate’s pigeons pink, and would drive around wearing a pig’s-head mask in order to confuse the locals. On trains, he'd ensure he got a carriage to himself by wearing a black skullcap and sunglasses, beckoning sinisterly to people on the platform, and repeatedly shoving a large rectal thermometer into his mouth while pulling faces. It always worked.

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