A summer reading selection: green men, sovereigns, moles and bawds

We are taking our annual summer holiday from blogging and so this will be our last post until September when we will be back with plenty of new posts and some exciting news (CLICK HERE for a teaser and there’s a little more to be found at the end of this blog!). In the meantime though, we have taken a look back at a few of our favourite blogs from this year, in a summer reading recap for our readers, old and new.

We invite you to discover Henry Cope, the Green Man of Brighton. He dressed in ‘green pantaloons, green waistcoat, green frock, green cravat… He eats nothing but greens, fruits and vegetables; has his apartments painted green, and furnished with a green sofa, green chairs, green tables, green bed and green curtains. His gig, his livery his portmanteau, his gloves and his whips, are all green. With a green silk handkerchief in his hand and a large watch chain with green seals, fastened to the green buttons of his green waistcoat he parades every day on the Steyne, Brighton’.

Henry Cope, the Green Man of Brighton, 1806. © National Portrait Gallery, London

What rake is ignorant of King’s Coffee House? Moll King was the proprietress of King’s Coffee House in Covent Garden and she counted Hogarth, Henry Fielding, Alexander Pope and John Gay amongst her customers. Separating fact from fiction, we present the true account of her life in our blog post.

The Four Times of the Day: Morning by Hogarth.

Back in March, we were guest-blogging on the subject of the Allied Sovereigns’ Visit to England in 1814, when the Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and other European sovereigns were hosted by the Prince Regent to celebrate the Peace of Paris and the abdication of Napoléon Bonaparte, who had been exiled to Elba.

The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, 24 June 1814

We have a post on folklore next: Fortune Telling Using Moles. No, not the small, furry creatures! Find out why a round mole is luckier than an angular one and whether your mole denotes a good marriage, health, wealth and wisdom or a testy contention and ungovernable spirit.

A Fortune-Teller by Joshua Reynolds: Kenwood, English Heritage

Upon stumbling across a painting of two children which captured our interest, we turned art detectives and delved into the history behind it, discovering the family of Captain Richard Davison Pritchard of the Royal Navy.The Children of Captain R. D. Pritchard (1827) by Philip August Gaugain (1791–1865)<br /> Walker Art Gallery

We hope that you enjoy your summer and we’d like to thank all our readers for their continued support of our blog and for your comments. When we come back in September, we will begin to share with you the incredible but true story of a woman who history has largely forgotten, a woman whose story has to be read to be believed and which proves the old adage that fact is often much stranger than fiction. If you haven’t already subscribed to our blog, please do give us a follow to be kept updated and – if you’re too impatient to wait until September – CLICK HERE for a little ‘spoiler’ and be one of the first to find out more…



Featured image:

Outskirts of a Town (detail from), British (English) School, Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

Horse Race at Newmarket (The Duke of Bolton's 'Bay Bolton' defeating the Duke of Somerset's Grey 'Windham' at Newmarket on either 12th November 1712 or 4th April 1713) John Wootton (c.1682–1764) National Trust, Petworth House

The Jockey Club and the 2nd Earl of Godolphin (1678-1766)

Now, we will begin this article with a ‘rider’ (excuse the pun); we freely admit to knowing about as much as you could write on the back of a postage stamp on the subject of horse racing, however, we felt this was something we had to write about. Our previous post was about Dennis O’Kelly and his connection with horse racing which has led us off down yet another rabbit hole, to an earlier period.

According to the Jockey Club itself, it was established in 1753 at Newmarket, however, purely by chance we came across this newspaper article in the Daily Advertiser of Wednesday, March 10, 1731, which gives a much earlier reference to the club, the implication in the article being that by this date the club was already established.

The picture of the Lord James Cavendish’s horse, which his Lordship rode on some time since, for a very considerable wager to Windsor being near finish’d, we hear the same will be plac’d in the Jockey Club Room at William’s Coffee House, St. James’s.

Having read this of course we needed to know more. We knew that ‘clubs’ were increasing in popularity in the early 1700s with many being established in coffee houses, but we came across this image in ‘The History of the London Clubs 1709′ by Edward Ward.

The History of the London Clubs 1709 by Edward Ward
The History of the London Clubs 1709 by Edward Ward

There is no further information about the club, simply this image, so could it be that it was established earlier than originally assumed and if so, who was a member? We know that racing has always been regarded as the ‘Sport of Kings’ therefore you needed to be affluent to own your own race horse, so in all likelihood, the ‘club’ would have consisted of nobility who had a penchant for gambling. A few names came to mind including the likes of the 3rd Duke of Bolton (1685- 1754), who we knew enjoyed a flutter and was wealthy, obviously, Lord James Cavendish (bef. 1707-1751), as he is mentioned above and the 2nd Earl of Godolphin, who was renowned as being the owner of the stallion ‘The Godolphin Arabian’ who was one of three stallions who founded the modern thoroughbred racehorse stock.

Kneller, Godfrey; Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin; National Portrait Gallery, London; 
Kneller, Godfrey; Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin; National Portrait Gallery, London;

The newspaper report above mentioned that the Jockey Club meeting was held at William’s Coffee House, so off we went to look for such a place and sure enough, there was a William’s Coffee House at 86, St James’s Street, owned by one, Roger Williams who died at the end of 1745. This led us off on a will hunting expedition.

According to his will, which was proven 15th January 1746, he left his family well provided for as you would expect or at least hope for, but also amongst other things, he left to a Mr Francis Pitt of Newmarket, his gold stop watch and to:

‘his great benefactor, the Earl of Godolphin all his pictures painted by Mr. Wootton’.

Mr Wootton would appear to be the artist, John Wootton (c. 1682-1764) who was renowned for his paintings of horses, unfortunately for us, Roger Williams remained vague as to which of his paintings he owned, which is such a shame, however it does rather seem to confirm that Williams had a strong connection with the horse racing fraternity.

As Williams also named a Francis Pitt of Newmarket, we set off to see if there was anything of interest in his will, he died in 1759. There was – he too made a bequest to the Earl of Godolphin.

Wootton, John; Tregonwell Frampton (1641-1727), 'Father of the Turf'; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey; 
Wootton, John; Tregonwell Frampton (1641-1727), ‘Father of the Turf’; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey;

Looking at the paintings by Wootton we spotted this one above, of the ‘Father of the Turf’, Tregonwell Frampton, who died at Newmarket in 1727, so decided that his will might be interesting and once again, sure enough the Earl of Godolphin’s name was there in black and white – he inherited all of Frampton’s estate, he inherited all Frampton’s horses, that were stabled at Gog Magog, Newmarket, plus two that he stated were originally to be left to the Marquis of Blandford, plus land he owned in Dorset and Wiltshire. *

This, in turn, led us to look at the will of Edward Coke, owner of Longford Hall, Derbyshire and former owner of the horse Godolphin, he died 1733 his bingo, yet again, look whose names appeared:

I give to the Right Honourable, the Earl of Godolphin all my running horses and mares and stud; to Mr Roger Williams all my stallions.

Butler, Thomas; The Godolphin Arabian; Norfolk Museums Service; 
Butler, Thomas; The Godolphin Arabian; Norfolk Museums Service;

So, yet again there was a connection between the 2nd Earl of Godolphin and Roger Williams.  This is nicely confirmed for us in this extract from The Turf Register, dated 1803. 

We also noticed another newspaper report in the Newcastle Courant dated 27 January 1733 which once again confirmed the Duke of Bolton’s connection to the Jockey Club.

The Duke of Bolton who has been dangerously ill, is pretty well recover’d and on Monday next is to dine with the Jockey Club, at William’s Coffee House, St. James’s.

This find, in turn, led us back to an even earlier entry for the Jockey Club itself, dated August 2nd, 1729 in the Daily Post which stated that:

The Jockey Club, consisting of several noblemen and gentlemen, are to meet one day next week at Hackwood, the Duke of Bolton’s seat in Hampshire, to consider methods for the better keeping of their respective strings of horses at Newmarket.

Wootton, John; Young True Blue at Newmarket; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; 
Wootton, John; Young True Blue at Newmarket; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology;

Then, we found that Williams Coffee House had strong connections with sport and Newmarket even earlier, as recorded in Mist’s Weekly Journal, Saturday, March 16, 1728.

We hear from William’s Coffee House, hat several matches re made already to be run at Newmarket, in next April and October; particularly, that Sir Edward O’Brien has laid a considerable wager that his little Sett of cropp’d Duns draw him, in his chariot, to Newmarket in 12 hours.

In conclusion, we are left with several questions –

Did the Jockey Club originate in 1753 or was it, as we suggest significantly earlier?

Why did the 2nd Earl of Godolphin benefit from so many people’s wills, was he a really nice person or was this gambling debts being paid off?

Could the 2nd Earl of Godolphin have been one of the founder members of the Jockey Club?

We will probably never know the answer to these for sure unless you have any information that may solve these!

*We had come across the name Tregonwell Frampton in an earlier post ‘William Parsons: 18th Century highwayman, swindler and rogue, we’re sure that there must be a connection to Mary Tregonwell Frampton of Kensington, the daughter of John Frampton, but so far this is the only piece of evidence that appears to link them, but we cannot confirm this.

Notes and Queries Volume s13-1 Issue 3 21 July 1923
Notes and Queries Volume s13-1 Issue 3 21 July 1923



The Jockey Club

Pedigree Online all Breed Database

British History Online

The Jockey Club and its Founders: In Three Periods

Godolphin Club


Featured Image

Horse Race at Newmarket (The Duke of Bolton’s ‘Bay Bolton’ defeating the Duke of Somerset’s Grey ‘Windham’ at Newmarket on either 12th November 1712 or 4th April 1713) John Wootton (c.1682–1764) National Trust, Petworth House

Dennis O’Kelly and his horse ‘Eclipse’

For those of you who read our recent post ‘The Mysterious Marriages of Thomas Nelson you may have noticed the name Charlotte Hayes aka O’Kelly, well, for those who didn’t, Charlotte was a very successful brothel keeper, who co-habited (for there seems to be no proof that they married) with a gentleman by the name of Dennis O’Kelly, with whom they had one child Mary Charlotte.

Much has been written about O’Kelly, so we won’t re-tell the alleged story of his life as much more can be found by following this link, but suffice it say that he was born around 1725 in Ireland, moved to London where he became a sedan chair carrier, but found fame and wealth courtesy of horse racing. He as reputed to be quite a character – Mr, Captain, Major or Colonel, a disreputable adventurer.

Dennis O'Kelly ('The Eclipse Macarony') published by Matthew or Matthias Darly, after Richard St George Mansergh St George etching, published 12 May 1773. Courtesy of NPG
published by Matthew or Matthias Darly, after Richard St George Mansergh St George, etching, published 12 May 1773. Courtesy of NPG

Whilst reading about him, however, we came across several caricatures of him and one cameo, but then we came across a portrait of him in a 1932 newspaper, which states that the portrait was painted by Johan Zoffany which seems curious as it doesn’t appear to have been recorded anywhere so far as we can tell – so perhaps one of our lovely art historians may be able to shed some light as to its validity and possible location now. Whether the newspaper got their facts correct, who knows – possibly ‘fake news’, as it appears was this report about Charlotte having inherited the horse ‘Eclipse’.

Leeds Intelligencer 29 May 1770

A morning paper says, a Gentleman of the Turf, who died lately of a fit of the stone, has left his fortune, which is very considerable to the celebrated Charlotte Hayes; among this is his horse Eclipse.

There seems no other mention of Charlotte having had any part in the purchase of the horse, every source we have checked states that O’Kelly purchased him from his owner, William Wildman, a meat salesman of Newgate market, in two stages, 650 guineas in June 1769 and a further 1,100 guineas April 1770.

The only possibility could be that she did invest some of the money she apparently was left by Samuel Derrick, who died March 1769, but there were mixed rumours as to whether he actually left any money of where he died penniless, so who knows what the truth is.

Colonel Dennis O'Kelly by Johann Zoffany
Colonel Dennis O’Kelly by Johann Zoffany (image reproduced in the Illustrated London News, 4th June 1932).

O’Kelly became what today we would regard as nouveau riche as a result of his knowledge of horses and gambling made a small fortune and bought the famous horse ‘Eclipse’.

Eclipse, bred in 1764 by the Duke of Cumberland.
Eclipse, bred in 1764 by the Duke of Cumberland. Charles Hunt after George Stubbs.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

‘Eclipse’ was born 1764 and named after the solar eclipse that occurred on April 1st of that year. It seems that the horse could not be beaten and won 18 races and was then put out to stud and appears in the pedigree of most modern thoroughbreds. So, we thought we would take a look at some of the many paintings of him.

Portrait of Eclipse in a landscape with Mr William Wildman and his sons by George Stubbs
Portrait of Eclipse in a landscape with Mr William Wildman and his sons by George Stubbs (image reproduced in The London Illustrated News, 4th June 1932).
Eclipse with her mother Spiletta
Eclipse with her mother Spiletta

O’Kelly died December 28th, 1787 and Eclipse died February 26th, 1789. Upon the death of O’Kelly, Charlotte was left well provided for in his will, but despite all her acquired wealth towards the end of her life, she found herself back in the debtors prison. Charlotte died in unknown circumstances in 1813.

Featured Image

‘Eclipse’ by John Nost Sartorius (1759–1828), National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art

Meissonier, Jean Louis Ernest; An Artist Showing his Work; The Wallace Collection

A chance discovery or a red herring: is this another portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliott?

The earliest known portrait of the infamous eighteenth-century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott is a miniature painted by Richard Cosway around the time of her marriage to Dr (later Sir) John Eliot. It can be viewed on the cover of our biography of Grace, An Infamous Mistress.

Incidentally, Cosway lived on Berkeley Row where Grace was seen in a bagnio with the worthless Viscount Valentia, an indiscretion which led to a Criminal Conversation trial and her divorce; Cosway was called to the trial as a witness and testified to the disreputability of Mrs Jane Price’s house.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

Then there are the two well-known portraits of Grace by Thomas Gainsborough, both now held in museums in New York. The full-length of Mrs Elliott was commissioned by her lover the 4th Earl (later 1st Marquess) of Cholmondeley and hung in his mansion in Piccadilly, and remained there even after their romance was over and Grace was in Paris, in the arms of the Duke of Orléans. Reputedly, the young Prince of Wales stood in front of this portrait and expressed his wish to meet the original; Cholmondeley was despatched to Paris to bring Grace home and she enjoyed a few short weeks as the Prince’s paramour and gained a permanent reminder and claim to the royal purse in the form of their daughter, born nine months later, Georgiana Seymour. We have examined this portrait, now in the Met Museum, in more detail in a previous blog post.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

While her star burned brightly as Prinny’s courtesan (she replaced Perdita aka the actress and courtesan Mary Darby Robinson in the prince’s affections), Gainsborough was commissioned to paint a head and shoulders portrait of Grace. Although by the time it was finished, the prince had long since abandoned its subject, it is a stunning portrait and one that gained an instant fame when it was first exhibited. Grace, it was thought, exuded a much too ‘knowing’ look.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough

These are all the confirmed portraits of Grace. There is a chalk drawing by Hoppner which is traditionally thought to be of Grace, and the jury is out on this one with us. It could possibly be her (we’ve discussed this drawing before too, here).

Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.
An unidentified lady thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.

But Grace was a noted beauty and, for many years, a fixture in the society gossip columns. We can’t believe that there were no other portraits of her. We know of none painted while she was resident in France, and the Duke of Orléans would surely have commissioned a portrait or at least a miniature of his stunning mistress. It was with some excitement then, that we noticed a pastel portrait supposed to be of Grace had been added on to The Getty site. The provenance for the sitter being Grace comes from a 1906 edition of The Connoisseur, in which the portrait is reproduced as a colour plate; it is this image which is on The Getty website. The publication gives no other evidence for claiming the sitter is Grace. However, we can’t see Grace in this portrait (although we’ll grant the nose is a similar shape). Doing a little digging we found that there are several versions of this portrait. Many have passed through various auction houses over the years, as a portrait of an unknown woman, one is held in Riga Castle and one in the Royal Collection where it is traditionally claimed to be a likeness of one of the daughters of George III. So, we’ll leave this one with you, for your response. Do you think it is Grace, or not?

Pastel portrait claimed by The Connoisseur (1906) to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, but we doubt the provenance of this. Read why on our blog.
Pastel portrait reproduced from The Connoisseur (1906) and claimed to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott.


Left, the pastel portrait reputed to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott and right, for comparison, a cropped image from the full-length portrait of Grace by Thomas Gainsborough.
Left, the pastel portrait reputed to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott and right, for comparison, a cropped image from the full-length portrait of Grace by Thomas Gainsborough.



The Connoisseur, volume XVI, 1906

Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800

Cheltenham High Street, Gloucestershire; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

18th Century ‘Flying Machines’

No, not aeroplanes – coaches. The concept of flying coaches seems to date back to the late 1600s when there were advertisements in the newspapers for lengthy journeys being undertaken by means of these. Looking at these adverts there must have been coaches crisscrossing the country all day every day, so we thought we would share a few with you.

City Mercury, Monday, July 4, 1692

Post Man and the Historical Account, June 21, 1698

Nottingham Flying Coach in two days twice every week. Sets out from Nottingham every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 4 o’clock and will be at the Ram Inn West Smithfield, London the next day, and set out from The Ram Inn, West Smithfield, every Tuesday and Thursday.

Performed if God permit, by Charles Hood, Richard Tuffin and Edward Wilkinson.

Miseries of Travelling
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole

Daily Post, Saturday, April 3, 1731

Daventry Flying stage-coach in one day with three sets of able horses. Begins on Saturday 17th April from The Ram Inn in West-Smithfield, London to Mr James Pratt’s at The Black Boy, Daventry; and returns to The Ram Inn in West-Smithfield on Mondays and will continue all the Summer Season, at Fifteen Shillings each passenger. The coach sets out at Two in the morning precisely. Performed, if God permit, by Thomas Smith.

Francis Blewitt's Coach 'The Abingdon Machine' on its first journey from London, 1767 (although the first journey was actually made in 1761)
British (English) School; Francis Blewitt’s Coach, ‘The Abingdon Machine’, on Its First Journey from London; Abingdon Town Council;  Dated 1767, however, according to this advert below, the first journey was in fact made in 1761.

1761  – The Abingdon coach began flying on Wednesday 8th April according to the Oxford Journal

Sets out from the New Inn, in Abingdon every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 5 o’clock in the morning, to the Black Bull in Holborn; and returns every Monday. Wednesday and Friday. The far to and from Abingdon –

Ten Shillings: children in lap and outside passengers Five Shillings. Inside passengers are allowed to carry Fourteen Pounds in weight, all above to pay for.

N.B No plate, jewels, writings or other things of great value to be paid for, if left, unless entered and paid for as such.

Performed, if God permits by Francis Blewitt.

The Henley Coach Ten Miles from London
British (English) School; The Henley Coach Ten Miles from London; Henley Town Council;

On the same day, the same newspaper also carried this advert –

 Bew’s flying machine to London was advertised, again travelling three time a week. Sets out from The Bear Inn, in the High Street, Oxford, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to The Black Bull Inn, in Holborn; and returns to Oxford every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Sets out at six o’clock in the morning.

Performed by John Bew

The London to Birmingham Stage Coach
Cordrey, John; The London to Birmingham Stage Coach; Science Museum, London

These coaches were built to carry four passengers inside and no more than six riding on top, but like public transport today there was over crowding, so a contraption was added to the rear, which was a type of basket, known as the rumble tumble that designed to carry the luggage. It was not meant to carry passengers, but as you can see from this picture by Hogarth perhaps it did, but it would have been extremely uncomfortable, worse than riding inside with no springs or on top where you would have been exposed to the elements.

The Stage Coach, or Country Inn Yard, by Hogarth, 1748
The Stage Coach, or Country Inn Yard, by Hogarth, 1748. Courtesy of the Met Museum


Featured Image

Cheltenham High Street, Gloucestershire; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

Sandpit near Sudbury, Suffolk by Joshua Kirby (1716-1774)

Sarah Trimmer née Kirby (1741-1810), author, critic and educational reformer

Sarah Trimmer née Kirby, author, critic and religious and educational reformer, was born in 1741 at Ipswich, the only daughter of the Suffolk landscape painter Joshua Kirby (a close friend of Thomas Gainsborough) and his wife Sarah née Bell. The Kirby family, including Sarah’s younger brother, William moved to London in 1755 where Joshua Kirby tutored the Prince of Wales (the future George III) in perspective.

Sarah Kirby (née Bull) and her husband (John) Joshua Kirby by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1751-52. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sarah Kirby (née Bull) and her husband (John) Joshua Kirby by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1751-52. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Many well-known personalities of the day counted the Kirbys as friends, including William Hogarth and Samuel Johnson and, as befitted the daughter of an artist, and one with social connections to the best artistic and literary talents of the day, Sarah later had her portrait painted three times, by Henry Howard, George Romney and Thomas Lawrence. She herself was a talented amateur artist, and several miniatures by her survive.

Sarah Trimmer by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c.1790. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sarah Trimmer by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c.1790. © National Portrait Gallery, London

In time, the family moved to Kew when Joshua Kirby was appointed Clerk to the Works of the Royal Household at Kew Palace and it was at Kew that Sarah met her future husband, James Trimmer whose family owned a brick making business at Brentford; the young couple married on 21st September 1762, at Ealing. The notice of their marriage in the Ipswich Journal reveals the name by which Sarah was known to her family.

MARRIAGE – At Great Ealing, Mr. James Trimmer, of Brentford, to Miss Sally Kirby, of the Chapelry of Kew.

A View of the Palace at Kew from the Lawn, in the Royal Gardens at Kew, 1763. This plate was engraved after Joshua Kirby for William Chambers’s Plans, Elevations, Sections and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew, published in 1763 and dedicated to the Dowager Princess of Wales.
A View of the Palace at Kew from the Lawn, in the Royal Gardens at Kew, 1763. This plate was engraved after Joshua Kirby for William Chambers’s Plans, Elevations, Sections and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew, published in 1763 and dedicated to the Dowager Princess of Wales. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The Trimmers had twelve children in all, equally divided between boys and girls and – as she was responsible for their education – Sarah, both a mother and a teacher, discovered a lifelong passion for education. She founded the first Sunday school for poor children in 1786 and began to write and publish books, initially treatises on how to establish Sunday schools with a sub-text of social reform and then branching out into instructive works and fiction for children, such as her Fabulous Histories. She also reviewed children’s literature in her periodical, The Guardian of Education, with the aim of influencing both authors and publishers and redefining the content of these books.

She used to say, that as soon as she became a mother, her thoughts were turned so entirely to the subject of education, that she scarcely read a book upon any other topic, and believed she almost wearied her friends by making it so frequently the subject of conversation. Having experienced the greatest success in her plan of educating her own family, she naturally wished to extent that blessing to others, and this probably first induced her to become an author.

After James Trimmer died in 1792, Sarah and her unmarried daughters moved to Brentford, and it was there that she died on 15th December 1810, in the act of writing a letter.

Sarah Trimmer by Henry Howard, c.1798. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sarah Trimmer by Henry Howard, c.1798. © National Portrait Gallery, London

She had been known to fall asleep at her desk in her study, and so when her daughters found her, with her head bowed forward onto her bosom, they assumed she merely slumbering and it was some time before they could be made to believe that she was dead. This gave rise to a few ‘Chinese whispers’ which were reported in the newspapers, with a slightly more lurid take on poor Sarah’s demise.

MRS TRIMMER – This authoress died under circumstances of a peculiar nature. Having received intelligence of the death of a favourite sister, she sat down to write a letter of condolence to her family; but soon after, on her female servant going into the room, she found her mistress sitting, apparently in the utmost composure, with her pen in one hand, and her head reclining on the other; in this attitude it appears that she died. What added to the singularity of this extraordinary occurrence was, that although she had been dead three weeks, her countenance had not changed in the least, and in consequence her relatives had directed that no interment should take place, in the hope (a vain one, it is feared) that the body might be recovered from a trance.

Sarah had no sister, favourite or otherwise, and her sister-in-law – and her brother – had both died some years previously. She was buried on the 5th January 1811, in a family plot in St Mary’s churchyard, Ealing, the delay between her death and burial probably being more to do with the weather and the season rather than any fanciful notions supposed to have been entertained by the children of such an eminently sensible, moral and instructive mother.

Portrait of Sarah Trimmer by George Romney (1734-1802). Image taken from Illustrated Catalogue of the Fifth Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters, being a portion of the Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, 1899.
Portrait of Sarah Trimmer by George Romney (1734-1802). Image taken from Illustrated Catalogue of the Fifth Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters, being a portion of the Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, 1899.

One of Sarah’s daughters, at least, followed in her footsteps; her daughter Selina was appointed by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire to be the governess to their daughters and their cousins, including the future Lady Caroline Lamb. You can read more about Selina and her life as a governess in the Cavendish household here, in a blog post by Lauren Gilbert.


Sources not mentioned above:

Ipswich Journal, 25th September 1762

Chester Chronicle, 1st February 1811

Chalmer’s General Biographical Dictionary, volume 30

Brentford High Street Project: The Trimmer family


Featured image:

Sandpit near Sudbury, Suffolk by Joshua Kirby (1716-1774)

The Tragic Tale of the Death of Ann Hoon, 1796

When aged just twenty-one years of age, Ann Rollstone was married to Thomas Hoon, a labourer, at the parish church in Longford, Derbyshire, about six miles from the town of Ashbourne. Just nine months later the couple produced their first child, a beautiful baby girl whom they named, Elizabeth.

Longford Church. © sarumsleuth via Flickr
Longford Church. © sarumsleuth via Flickr

Tragically though their joy at this birth was to be short-lived as the child died the following April. Despite this loss and unknown to Ann at the time, she was already pregnant with their second child, another daughter whom they named Ann, after her mother. Ann was born at the end of January 1795.

The couple’s life continued as it did for most people, with Ann looking after the home and raising their daughter and Thomas going out to work.

In March 1796, this picture of domestic bliss was about to end abruptly as the story will now show from Ann’s trial at Derby Assizes. This tragic story came to the attention of the newspapers of the day due to its unusual nature.

On Friday last this poor creature, who is the wife of a laboring man, was about to heat her oven, and being short of wood, had broken down a rail or two from the fencing round the plantation of a gentleman in the neighbourhood, some of her neighbours threatened her with prosecution and told her she would be transported for it.

This so much alarmed her mind and the idea of being separated from her child, whom she had always appeared remarkably fond of, so wrought on her imagination, that she formed the horrible design of putting her to death, in order that, by surrendering herself into the hands of justice, she might be executed for the murder, and so be forever reunited in heaven with the baby whom she had loved more than life.

(Kentish Gazette, 22nd March 1796)

Her story continues – no sooner had her husband had gone to work she began to hatch a plan to put this dreadful thing into action. She decided that the best way to do this was to fill a large tub with water and plunge the child into to it causing it to drown. However, when she took the child in her arms and was just about to plunge her into the water, the baby, smiling up at the mother’s face, disarmed her for the moment, and Anne found herself unable to commit the dreadful act.

Having composed herself, she then lulled the baby to sleep at her breast, wrapped a cloth around her and plunged her into the tub, and held her under water till life became extinct.

She took the baby out of the tub and carefully laid her dead body on the bed. She then collected up her hat and cloak, went outside, locking her street door after her, and took the key to a neighbours for her husband to collect when he returned from work.

She then proceeded to walk about eight miles to a magistrate (which would, in all likelihood have been at Derby). When she arrived, she knocked on the door and asked to be admitted. Ann then proceeded to tell the magistrate the whole story, desperately wishing to be executed immediately for what she had done.

Derby Prison as it was previous to the riots of 1831.
Derby Prison. Courtesy of British Library

About an hour after she had left, her husband, Thomas, returned home from work and to his very great shock and dismay he found his dear little infant lying stretched out on the bed. It had such an effect upon Thomas, that he was insensible for quite some time. When he had composed himself he enquired of neighbours as to whether they knew where his wife was and was told that she went out about an hour earlier, but no-one knew where she had gone. Distraught he simply sat down by his dead infant and waited for Ann to return.

Derbyshire Assizes. © Enjoying Derby via Flickr
Derbyshire Assizes. © Enjoying Derby via Flickr

Ann did not get her wish of execution but was instead sent for trial at Derby Assizes whereupon it transpired that there had, in fact, been ‘many instances of insanity over the past four years’ and it was felt that this was the most likely cause of her dramatic action. This mitigating evidence was taken into consideration by the jury and somewhat surprisingly they found her … not guilty of such a heinous crime. It is well known that at that time many juries were reluctant to convict women of intentional killing and in fact, infanticide was not particularly rare during the Georgian Era and there are quite a few cases that appeared at The Old Bailey.

What became of the couple after this terrible event remains a mystery, did they return to the marital home in Longford or did they move elsewhere? There are baptism records for a William and a Thomas Hoon at Derby in 1800 and 1805 respectively, with parents named as Thomas and Ann Hoon: could the couple have moved to Derby for a fresh start? We may never know, we can only hope.


Featured Image

Family Sitting Outside a Rural Cottage, Attributed to George Morland, Courtesy of Buxton Museum