The Tradition of Well Dressing

We are now approaching a fascinating tradition of well dressing. This is an annual event which takes places predominantly in villages throughout Derbyshire, but it is now also spreading to other parts of the country.

There are various ideas as to its origin varying from offering thanks to gods for a reliable water supply, to celebrating the purity of water to celebrating the waters constancy during a prolonged drought. It seems unlikely that the true origin will ever been established, but whatever its origin it is still very much alive and well today.

The village of Tissington, Derbyshire and its well-dressing or well-flowering as it was previously known, was one of the first that we came across in the Georgina era. This article in the Derby Mercury of 26 November 1823 sheds a little more light on the event.

Courtesy of calendarcustoms.com

Tissington ‘Well flowering’, Tissington, Nov 15th, 1823

TO THE EDITOR OF THE DERBY MERCURY

Sir, – Having a few days ago read in the Derby Mercury, some account relative to the above; I am induced with all deference to Mr. Rhodes, as the author, to submit to your notice a few particulars, therein omitted, which, tho’ trifling in themselves, will not, it is presumed, prove altogether uninteresting they form part of a letter, written by a youth at school, to his parents: –

During my residence in this village, I have been gratified by one of the most pleasing sights I ever beheld. I should much wish you to be present upon a similar occasion. I will, however, in the meantime, endeavour to give you something like a description of the festival to which I have alluded.

Holy Thursday, the time referred to, is observed here with an almost enthusiastic respect, amounting, in some instances, to a degree of veneration.

Tidsewell Well Dressing

Perhaps, no part of the world is more peculiarly favoured by providence in the gift of good water than this village; and the above-mentioned day appears to have been fixed upon, by an almost immemorial custom, to make merry and return united thanks for the same, in the following impressive manner.

While the younger branches of the community are busily engaged in gathering flowers, moss etc. during the first part of the week, some few, of rather mature years, occupy themselves in preparing the Springs, or, as they are here called ‘Wells’, tho’ not exceeding in depth a foot and a half, to receive their annual decorations.

Arches, or other fancy shapes, are accordingly formed out of a strong plank, upon which, fine clay, worked to the consistence of stiff mortar, is spread, and the embroidering part, if I may be allowed the expression, commences.

A Well Dressing in the making (Hollinsclough, 2006). Courtesy of Welldressing.com
A Well Dressing in the making (Hollinsclough, 2006). Courtesy of Welldressing.com

Various tasteful devices are now sketched on the clay, upon which, short ellipt flowers, of diverse sorts and colours, among which, the blood daisy, from its rich velvet hue, is held in greatest esteem, are stuck thereon, so extremely close and regular that not the least atom of the ground-work can be seen; each Spring also a flower printed Motto, in allusion to the ascension of our Saviour. For instance

I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God’

St John, chapter 20, verse 17.

On the principal Well, May 16th 1822:

The joyous day at length arrives, ushered in by the ringing of bells, and smiling faces; the decorations are speedily erected over the wells, while garlands, bough etc. disposed in the most fantastic and fairy-like manner, embellish the whole.

And now, labourer, stand thou still ‘tis a holyday for all; the poorest peasant has contrived, out of his hard earnings, to brew a ‘peck of malt’ to treat the passing guest; all doors are thrown open, and all comers experience the English Farmer’s hearty welcome.

‘Around the glossy board in sparkling pride,

The oft fill’d Tankard reels’.

One particular which tho’ last not least, is, that an appropriate sermon is preached; after which the music and signers go around, accompanied by hundreds of visitors from many miles and sing a psalm at each Spring.

With regard to the origin of the above, I have not been able to gather any certain information; prevailing opinion however, dates its rise from the Druids; be that as it may, the custom, as practised at Tissington, far exceeds in beauty and chastity of style everything that is generally conceived of Village rusticity.

For those interested in visiting a well dressing this year, this link will take you to this years calendar.

Featured Image

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Making a sailor a free mason Piercy Roberts 1807, Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Signs & signals used by the members of the Society of Freemasons 1724

As part of our research for our next book we briefly delved into the secret world of the freemasonry, specifically, Bartholomew Ruspini and his acquaintances.

Bartholomew Ruspini, Wellcome Library
Bartholomew Ruspini. Stipple engraving by W. S. Leney.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

So, today we thought we would share with you some information from a book we came across from 1724, The secret history of the free-masons. Being an accidental discovery, of the ceremonies made use of in the several lodges .  The book contained a dictionary explaining the private signs or signals used by the members of the Society of Freemasons and though there were too many for us to include all of them, we thought you might find this selection interesting.

As to the truth or accuracy of these we couldn’t possibly comment, but it seems highly unlikely that any of these are in use today. How on earth people remembered all these discreet codes remains a mystery, so we’ll be testing you later just to be sure you’ve learnt them all!

Back. To put the right hand behind him, fetches a member down from any edifice that is not built to an Holy use and to put the left hand behind him, signifies that the member must come to the public house nearest the place where he is at work, whether it be tavern, alehouse or the like.

Belly. To put the right hand on it, is a sign for the member to be in the Mall in St. James’s Park in an hour. And to put the left hand upon the belly, is a sign for his being in Westminster Abbey in two hours.

Westminster Abbey; British School | Bowles, Thomas, Government Art Collection.
Westminster Abbey; British School | Bowles, Thomas; Government Art Collection

Breast. To clap the right hand upon the right breast, is a signal for a member to meet him makes it in St Paul’s Cathedral at the time of morning prayer. And to clap the left hand upon the left breast, signified you will be at St Paul’s Cathedral at the time of evening prayer.

Button. To rub the right hand down the coat buttons, is a sign for a member to be upon the Royal Exchange at the beginning of change time. And to rub the left hand down the coat buttons, signifies he shall be at the Sun Tavern in Threadneedle Street, as soon as change is over. Also, to rub the right hand down the waistcoat buttons, signifies he must be at The Horns Ale House in Gutter Lane at nine of the clock the next morning. And to rub the left hand down the waistcoat buttons signifies that you must be at the same ale house at eight of the clock next night.

Cheek. To scratch your right cheek with either hand signifies the member must be in Lincoln’s Inn Walks at eight of the clock next morning. And to scratch his left cheek with either hand, signifies he must be walking under the chapel of the same Inn next day about dinner time.

Dog. If the member that makes the sign has a dog with him, and calls him to him to stroke him, it signifies that the member to whom the sign is made must be in the long Piazza in Covent Garden, at two of the clock in the afternoon.

Covent Garden, British School, Government Art Collection.
Covent Garden; British School; Government Art Collection

Eye. To rub the right eye with either hand, signifies the member must come to his house that makes the sign, at seven of the clock next morning. And to rub the left eye with either hand, signifies that he must go to the same place at dinner time.

Heel. To touch the heel of either shoe, with either hand, by lifting it up, signifies that the member must be at the King’s Arms in Southwark, precisely by noon.

View in St James's Park; British School; Government Art Collection
View in St James’s Park; British School Government Art Collection

Knee. To touch either knee, with either hand, signifies the member must be walking upon the Parade in St. James’s Park, about four of the clock in the afternoon.

Paper. To send a piece of paper done up like a letter, tho’ there is nothing writ in it, signifies the member to whom it is sent must be at the Bussler’s Head Tavern by Charing Cross at four of the clock in the afternoon.

Sword. To put either hand upon the hilt of the sword, signifies the member must be at The Half Moon Tavern in the Strand by eight of the clock at night.

Buckingham House, c1754. Courtesy of British Museum
Buckingham House, c1754. Courtesy of British Museum

Watch. To pull a watch out of the fob, signifies the member must be walking by Buckingham House, in St. James’s Park about one of the clock in the afternoon.

Youth. To send a letter with the word Youth writ in it, signifies the member must be walking behind the Banqueting House in White-Hall at four of the clock in the afternoon.

Banqueting House in Whitehall (1723-1724) Courtesy of British Museum
Banqueting House in Whitehall (1723-1724) Courtesy of British Museum

Zachary. To send a letter with only the word Zachary writ in it, signifies the member must be at the Sun Tavern in King’s Street in Westminster, at eight of the clock at night.

Chevalier Ruspini, the founder of the first school, leading the pupils into Grand Lodge in the presence of HRH George, Prince of Wales.
Chevalier Ruspini, the founder of the first school, leading the pupils into Grand Lodge in the presence of HRH George, Prince of Wales. Courtesy of Freemasonry Today, 13 March 2013

Featured Image

Making a sailor a free mason, Piercy Roberts 1807, courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library.

The death of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, 15th May 1823

The 15th of May marks the anniversary of the death of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, eighteenth-century courtesan and mother of the Prince of Wales’ reputed daughter.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott's daughter Georgiana as an infant, portrait by Joshua Reynolds. The portrait is now held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Grace’s daughter Georgiana as an infant. The portrait is now held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Grace died in Ville d’Avray, Paris, in 1823, having lived a long and tumultuous life filled with adventure and experiencing both the highs and the lows of the society of her age. Although she is best remembered as a demi-rep, there is so much more to her than that: she was not merely the mistress of titled men, but a strong woman in her own right, one who lived upon her own terms. Sadly though, at the end of her life, Grace had little left; her one remaining close family relative was her young granddaughter who she adored, and Grace’s dying regret was that she had nothing but her best wishes to leave her. She was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery on the outskirts of Paris.

Looking down the hill at tombstones at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris, France. Photo by Craig Patik, 2000 via Wikimedia. CC BY 4.0
Looking down the hill at tombstones at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris, France.
Photo by Craig Patik, 2000 via Wikimedia. CC BY 4.0

Grace left a will, one which caused a little trouble to the 1st Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley, the guardians of her granddaughter. To the Cholmondeleys fell the trouble of sorting out her affairs as they related to England and to her granddaughter. An adopted daughter, formerly known as Miss Staunton, laid claim to Grace’s French assets.

The marquess hired an English attorney, Mr Allen, to sort the matter out. In his accounts he lists a payment for a woman he described as Grace’s sister, to cover the cost of a carriage she took to Sèvres to testify to Grace’s handwriting. A sister? Grace only had one known sister, Jacintha, who had died some years earlier, although a shadowy third sister is mentioned in some sources. In our biography, An Infamous Mistress, we suggest who this lady could be, the one lady left in Grace’s latter years who had both an interest in Grace’s will and a genuine affection for her.

The path to Sèvres. View of Paris c.1855-1865 by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot via Wikimedia. CC BY 4.0.
The path to Sèvres. View of Paris c.1855-1865 by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot via Wikimedia. CC BY 4.0.

Our biography of Grace, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the product of many years of research into her life, is now available and published by Pen and Sword Books. It is the most definitive account to date of Grace’s life and also sheds new light on her equally fascinating wider family and ancestors, giving us a better understanding of the real woman behind her notorious persona.

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

 

Header image: Ville d’Avray, the Pond and the Cabassud House by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c.1840. WikiArt.

Lover's Leap, Eyam, Derbyshire, Looking West, 1890s by William Highfield (1870-1957), Courtesy of Eyam Museum

‘Lover’s Leap’, Derbyshire

Just outside the village of Eyam, in the Peak District lies the village of Stoney Middleton where, according to folklore, in 1762 a young woman by the name of Hannah Baddeley, who was born in the late 1730s, tried to commit suicide by throwing herself over the cliff top.

This is her story as told by a somewhat over enthusiastic reporter for The Buxton Herald, some 80 years later the event, so read into it as you wish! We have tried to find references to the story closer to its time, but somehow the press of the day managed to miss this story, despite reporting similar ones, as you will see at the end.

Lovers Leap. In 1762 Hannah Baddeley was the most beautiful girl in Stoney Middleton. Unable to face the future after being rejected by her lover William Barnsley, she decided to end her life. She climbed the cliff above you, proclaimed her love for William and jumped. Her woollen petticoats billowed out and parachuted her down to safety, Cured of her desire for William, she died December 12th 1764. Derbyshire folklore
© Copyright David Lally and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Hannah Baddeley, a very beautiful young lady was greatly admired for the ardour of love which her incomparable charms created in the bosom of the village swains of Stoney Middleton, the place of her birth and residence. Amongst the many who sought to obtain the affections of the innocent young Hannah, was a young, intelligent man, named Baldwin, who, after countless visits had the happiness to think that his labour would be crowned with success. Enraptured with joy, Baldwin became even more assiduous until he beheld in ecstasy the unequivocal signs of reciprocal affection.

Humble in worldly circumstances, yet the loving couple felt all the blissful glow, the undefinable and delicious sensation of first, pure love. Often, they walked forth and enjoyed their lonely wandering a happiness that to them momentarily increased. The tangled walks along the rugged steeps which overhang the village of their homes, were as a paradise; their hearts were entwined round each other in all the glowing fervency of concentrated bliss.

Months passed away, yet the blissful sunshine of love, in which Baldwin and Hannah walked seemed to increase in glowing, fervent and deeply intoxicating splendor: they were happy and dreamed not of its transitory nature. Alas! Alas! experience tells us of countless instances, in which suns have risen in hope and glory, in which bright prospects of future happiness have been suddenly overshadowed and darkened by the sable shades of maddening disappointment, bitterly agonizing.

Inscrutable as are the operations of the human mind, still, from certain effects, it may be presumed that there is in reality a kind of similarly exiting between the immaterial portion of man, and the material things of the world. When any physical agent or instrument is exercised immoderately, it is soon destroyed; so with the mind, if any of its affections be excited to an unnatural height or pitch, it will, if not regulated in time, lose its zest, become in a manner paralyzed and decay.

The conduct of Baldwin might be instanced in corroboration of the opinion here advanced: for, strange and novel as it may appear, in about twelve months from the commencement of his love for the lovely Hannah, he relapsed gradually into a state of luke-warmness as respects his passion, and at length into total apathy. His visits became less frequent and soon ceased forever. But how was this borne by the lovely confiding Hannah she sank beneath the stroke with all the terrible anguish of a broken spirit. For hours she would sit gazing at the wall in silent stupefaction; then would burst forth a flood of tears bringing short solace. Hapless Hannah! Despair at length began to urge her to escape the bitter pangs she endured by self-destruction: terrible – awful remedy!

A Country Girl by Paul Sandby, c.1760s. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
A Country Girl by Paul Sandby, c.1760s. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

After a few months past in this deplorable condition, Hannah resolved to put period to her miserable existence by throwing herself from one of the highest rocks in Middleton dale, a resolution too horrible to contemplate. She repaired to the top of a towering rock early in the morning of the day following her resolution. Her bonnet and handkerchief she laid on an adjoining thorn, and with clasped hands and loose hair waving in the morning breeze, she passionately thus exclaimed

‘O my Baldwin, my Baldwin, false Baldwin, no I will not call thee false, my love, my life, thee whom I loved, I still love thee still. O my love, wilt thou not come to my grave and shed one tear to the memory of her who died for thee? I’ll bless thee again, my love, and then from this dizzy height I’ll cast myself and prove to thee and the world, my love is stronger than death. I sink, I go, my love, my love’.

Hannah sprang from the rock, which is upwards of eighty feet high, but incredible as it may seem, she fell upon a rocky projection, then among some thorns which then grew from the side of the rock, and reached the ground very little injured. The villagers were soon on the spot, and the rash maid was conveyed home, but the sense of her miraculous escape totally erased from her mind the maddening it of love under which she had laboured. She lived a few years after, unmarried and died after having spent that period in a pious and highly exemplary manner*. Such is a brief outline of the story which has been given the designation ‘Lover’s Leap’ to the high and romantic rock in Middleton Dale – a story well authenticated, as may be satisfactorily proved.

Not until the last line of the article does the author tells their readers that ‘the name Baldwin is assumed in consequence of the author not having any means at hand to ascertain the real name of Hannah’s lover‘. Quite why he came up with that name will remain a mystery!

As with any folklore story, newspapers over time have recorded events somewhat differently, some saying that her fall was broken by some small trees and when found she was taken home and gradually recovered from the serious injuries, although she was crippled as a result of the fall.

Other accounts say that she was found by workmen at the pit and when asked how she fell she said that she had been walking up the dale to fetch the cows and her foot slipped.

We know that Baldwin was not the real name of the gentleman, but other reports name him as Johnson and say that he was quite a charmer and told all the young girls the same story about how much he loved them, Hannah was, apparently, just one of many and that he moved on from the neighbourhood after this occurrence. According to reports locally however, the gentleman in question was in fact a William Barnsley.

This idea of young women throwing themselves off high cliffs after being rejected seems to have been somewhat more commonplace than you would have imagined, as there are several places named ‘Lover’s Leap’ around the country, all with similar stories as their origin. We’ve listed a few below, including one leap down the necessary!

True Briton, Wednesday, February 1, 1797

 

St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, April 25, 1769 – April 27, 1769

 

* Although we have not been able to view the parish records for Stoney Middleton, another site appears to confirm Hannah’s burial on the 12th December 1764 and gives her parents’ names as William and Joan Baddeley.

Sources used:

Derbyshire Courier, 21 September 1878

The Derby Mercury, Wednesday, February 14, 1883

The Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, Saturday, May 04, 1889

True Briton, Wednesday, February 1, 1797

Featured Image (although not Georgian it shows exactly where Lover’s Leap is):

Lover’s Leap, Eyam, Derbyshire, Looking West, 1890s by William Highfield (1870-1957), Courtesy of Eyam Museum

 

St James's Palace with a View of Pall Mall; National Trust Collections

The Mysterious Marriages of Thomas Nelson

Charlotte Hayes, née Ward, aka O’Kelly was a highly successful Georgian brothel keeper and for those of you watching the TV series Harlots you will know her as the character, Charlotte Wells.

Actress Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells in Harlots
Actress Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells

We have briefly touched upon Charlotte in another of our blog posts about Samuel Derrick and much has already been written about her, but we came across her name in the newspaper in connection with another matter regarding her coachman and her cook, which simply had to be investigated further.

Possible portrait of Charlotte Hayes
Possible portrait of Charlotte Hayes

London Courier and Evening Gazette, 5th September 1815

THIRTY POUNDS REWARD – MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE – The said Reward will be paid to any person who will give such information as shall ascertain the time and place of marriage of Thomas Nelson. He was Coachman to Charlotte Hayes alias Mrs O’Kelly, Marlborough-street, in 1770 and soon afterwards kept a House the Corner of Hollen-street and Wardour-street; then lived in Winsley-street; in 1775 kept the Larder in Gerrard-street, Soho; then a House is Norris-street; in 1777 the George in Drury-lane; then the Cardigan Head, Charing-Cross; afterwards Almack’s, 56, Pall-Mall; and died at No. 60, Pall-Mall, in 1792.

His Will describes his Widow as Mary Nelson, the daughter of John and Mary Fogarty, but it is supposed he married Mary Kelly (who was Cook to the said Charlotte Hayes) by whom he had two Children, and who died in Duke-street, St. James’s, about 1785. Apply to Mr. Fielder, 9, Bennett-street, St. James’s.

We’re going to claim the £30 reward for this as we have found the marriage certificate that John Fielder was searching for.

17th April 1781 – Thomas Nelson of St Sepulchre married Mary Fogarty, also of St Sepulchre, by banns and in the presence of Sarah Fleming and Thomas Collier
17th April 1781 – Thomas Nelson of St Sepulchre married Mary Fogarty, also of St Sepulchre, by banns and in the presence of Sarah Fleming and Thomas Collier

But … everything is not quite as it seems. Clearly he married Mary Fogarty as it’s there in black and white and he was also very specific in his will, leaving everything to his ‘loving wife Mary, daughter of John and Mary Fogarty’.

When you dig deeper there are one or two anomalies. Thomas states he was a bachelor – was this true? Thomas appears to have moved around somewhat, changing his address and occupation.

Some ten years previously there was a reputed marriage for a Thomas Nelson to a Mary Kelly, the cook to Charlotte Hayes. So far there is no evidence that this marriage actually took place but, on 1st August 1774 at St Clement Danes, we find the baptism of a girl named Charlotte who seems to be their daughter, then on 26th August 1777 at St Mary-Le-Strand  the baptism of a second daughter, Sophia Augusta. She was named as daughter of Thomas and Mary Nelson of Drury Lane.

It wasn’t until 12th February 1816, when a case came to court pertaining to Thomas’ daughter Sophia Augusta, that things began to unravel. John Fielder, named in the above newspaper report was clearly trying to gather evidence against his wife Sophia whom he married in 1797.

The 1797 marriage record of John Fielder and Sophia Augusta Nelson.

John wanted the marriage nullified after almost 20 years, as he claimed that when he married Sophia her mother Mary gave permission, as Sophia was a minor, but that her mother, Mary (née Smith) was not married at the time and therefore should not have given her permission and that Sophia was born illegitimate.

So we now have three women all named Mary, connected with Thomas Nelson – Mary Smith, Mary Kelly and Mary Fogarty. The only one we can validate as his legitimate wife is Mary Fogarty.

During the case witnesses were produced, one of whom asserted that Nelson was married to Mary Kelly in April 1771, but we can’t find any proof to support this claim.

Mr Watts, an upholsterer, deposes that he furnished a house for Mr Nelson, upon his marriage with one Mary Kelly; that he, the deponent, was not present at the marriage, but he remembers their going out to be married; that, on their return they were married, and he dined with them upon the occasion, that they lived together two or three years, but then disagreed and parted; that he the deponent, was a trustee for Mrs Nelson; that he believes that he died in 1792, but knows that she was alive many years after the year 1788.

Interior of the Pantheon, Oxford Road, London by William Hodges and William Pars, 1770s; Leeds Museums and Galleries
Interior of the Pantheon, Oxford Road, London by William Hodges and William Pars, 1770s; Leeds Museums and Galleries

That in 1774 Mr Nelson removed into a street opposite to the Pantheon, in Oxford Street from thence to Gerrard Street, Soho, where he kept the Royal Larder, and lastly to Drury Lane, in 1776, at all which places he kept a gaming house and that whilst he lived in Gerrard Street, he went one evening with the deponent, to Bagnigge Wells.

Bagnigge Wells, 1783 © The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

That they there met with two young women, one of whom, Mary Smith, who from that time lived with Mr Nelson as his wife; that they had four children, to one of which he, the despondent, stood godfather; that he believes it was Sophia Augusta, and that she was born in 1777; that he often saw her during her infancy and latterly at the house of her mother, in Pall Mall, as Mrs Fielder.

If you are confused by this, spare a thought for us as we have tried to untangle it. Overall, though it would appear that Thomas Nelson cohabited with one or perhaps two Marys and produced several children including two daughters, then proceeded to walk up the aisle with Mary Fogarty, to whom he remained married until the end of his life (Thomas Nelson died in January 1792). It seems feasible that the witnesses in the court case could have been induced to lie to support Mr Fielder’s claim or quite simply believed that he was married to Mary Kelly and took the couple at their word. As to quite what the truth of the matter is we will probably never know – a secret he took to his grave.

 

For more information on Charlotte Hayes and the incredible but true story behind Harlots, see The Covent Garden Ladies: The Extraordinary Story of Harris’s List by Hallie Rubenhold.

 

Featured Image

St James’s Palace with a View of Pall Mall, British (English) School, National Trust Collections

 

British School; View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake; Government Art Collection

Guest Post: A Tour Through Some Georgian Gardens of Note

We are thrilled to welcome author Claire Cock-Starkey to our blog today to share with us some fascinating information about eighteenth-century gardens, as her latest book, The Golden Age of the Garden is released today by publishers Elliott & Thompson.The Golden Age of the Garden: A Miscellany, edited by Claire Cock-Starkey. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Golden-Age-Garden-Miscellany/dp/1783963204

During the Georgian period a new style of garden superseded the Renaissance formal garden. Gone were the parterres, the neatly trimmed box hedges and the geometric gravel pathways, and in their stead came the naturalistic styles of the landscape design movement – inspired by the English pastoral ideal.

The landscape design movement held nature as its guide – using serpentine paths to meander past organic bodies of water, to picturesque ruined follies and through artfully placed groves of trees. These gardens were designed to provide fresh vistas at every turn, with variety and contrast used to ensure the visitor was constantly delighted by the changing landscape.

The most famous gardeners of the era included William Kent, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton, all of whom contributed a great deal to what today we still consider some of the finest gardens in the land. Let us take a little tour through some of the iconic gardens of the Georgian era, with some contemporary descriptions:

Stowe: The south or garden front of Stowe from Jones' Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen (1829).
Stowe: The south or garden front of Stowe from Jones’ Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen (1829).

Stowe

Stowe gardens in Oxfordshire were one of the most famed gardens of the Georgian era. From 1713 Viscount Cobham employed architect John Vanbrugh and gardener Charles Bridgeman to begin modelling the grounds, later also engaging William Kent and Capability Brown to continue improvements.

‘Here is such a scene of Magnificence and Nature display’d at one View. To the Right you have a View of the Gothic Temple, Lord COBHAM’s Pillar, and the Bridge; in the Center is a grand View of the House, and on the Left the Piramid; the Trees and Water so delightfully intermingled, and such charming Verdure, symmetry, and Proportion every where presenting to the Eye, that the Judgment is agreeably puzzled, which singularly to prefer, of so many Beauties.’ – The Beauties of Stow by George Bickham (1753)

Blenheim by Nicolas Vergnaud from A new and accurate plan of Blenheim Palace, Gardens, Park, Plantations, &, the Seat of His Grace, the Duke of Marlborough (1835)
Blenheim by Nicolas Vergnaud from A new and accurate plan of Blenheim Palace, Gardens, Park, Plantations, &, the Seat of His Grace, the Duke of Marlborough (1835)

Blenheim

Also designed by prominent architect Sir John Vanbrugh, Blenheim Palace was built between 1705 and 1733. The large grounds were extensively remodelled by Capability Brown between 1764 and 1774.

‘All this scenery before the castle, is now new-modelled by the late ingenious Mr. Brown, who has given a specimen of his art, in a nobler style, then he has commonly displayed. His works are generally pleasing; but here they are great. About a mile below the house, he has thrown across the valley, a massy head; which forms the rivulet into a noble lake, divided by the bridge, (which now appears properly with all the grandeur of accompaniments) into two very extensive pieces of water. Brown himself used to say, “that the Thames would never forgive him, what he had done at Blenheim.” And every spectator must allow, that. On entering the great gate from Woodstock, the whole of this scenery, (the castle, the lawn, the woods, and the lake) seen together, makes one of the grandest bursts, which art perhaps ever displayed.’ – Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland by William Gilpin (1786).

Painshill: An Engraving by William Woollett, 1760s
Painshill: An Engraving by William Woollett, 1760s

Painshill

The gardens of Painshill near Cobham in Surrey were designed by their owner the Honourable Charles Hamilton and laid out 1738–73.

‘But Painshill is all a new creation; and a boldness of design, and a happiness of execution, attend the wonderful efforts which art has there made to rival nature. An easy winding descent leads from the Gothic building to the lake, and a broad walk is afterwards continued along the banks, and across an island, close to the water on one hand, and skirted by wood on the other: the spot is perfectly retired; but the retirement is cheerful; the lake is calm; but it is full to the brim, and never darkened with shadow; the walk is smooth, and almost level, and touches the very margin of the water; the wood which secludes all view into the country, is composed of the most elegant trees, full of the lightest greens, and bordered with shrubs and with flowers; and though the place is almost surrounded with plantations, yet within itself is open and airy; it is embellished with three bridges, a ruined arch, and a grotto; and the Gothic building, still very near, and impending directly over the lake, belongs to the place; but these objects are never visible all together; they appear in succession as the walk proceeds; and their number does not croud the scene which is enriched by their frequency.’  – Observations on Modern Gardening by Thomas Whately (1770).

The Leasowes: "The Leasowes, Shropshire" copper engraved print published in The Beauties of England and Wales, 1811
The Leasowes: “The Leasowes, Shropshire” copper engraved print published in The Beauties of England and Wales, 1811

The Leasowes

The poet William Shenstone created the gardens at the Leasowes between 1743 and 1763. Shenstone intended to create a ferme ornée – an ornamented farm which combines practicality and beauty and his achievements at the Leasowes were much admired by contemporary visitors.

‘The moment I entered this quiet and sequestered valley, the superlative genius of Shenstone stood confessed on every object, and struck me with silent admiration. – I turned to a bench under the wall, and sat so absorbed, with the charms of a cascade, so powerfully conducted in the very image of nature herself, plunging down a bed of shelving rock, and huge massy stones, that, for a long while, my attention was lost to every thing else – I strove to find out where the hand of the designer had been, but could not: – surely nothing was ever held to the eye so incomparably well executed! And if we add to its analogous accompaniments, of bold scarry grounds, rough entangled thicket, clustering trees, and sudden declivities: I cannot but be persuaded, it is altogether one of the most distinguished scenes that ever was formed by art.’ – Letters on the Beauties of Hagley, Envil, and the Leasowes by Joseph Heely (1777).

Chatsworth: Image extracted from page 102 of volume 1 of The County Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, by Francis Orpen Morris. Original held and digitised by the British Library. 1866
Chatsworth: Image extracted from page 102 of volume 1 of The County Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, by Francis Orpen Morris. Original held and digitised by the British Library. 1866

Chatsworth

In 1760 Capability Brown took out the old formal gardens and converted much of the farmland into parkland at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, substantially altering the grounds. Brown utilised many of his signature designs, such as rolling parkland, belts of trees to enclose the view and an expanse of water to reflect the vistas.

‘This extensive part presents a great variety of aspect, from the most graceful undulating hill and swelling eminence, interspersed with plantations, beautiful lawns and pleasure grounds to the bold rugged cliff and lofty mountain, well watered and richly wooded, including an area of about 11 miles in circumference, stocked with about two thousand head of deer, sheep and cattle in vast numbers, and kept in the finest possible order.

. . .

On a fine sunny day it is truly sublime, and it need scarcely be observed that we stood for a while to contemplate a scene so enchanting – a scene which a century ago could not have been dreamed of as likely to exist amongst healthy mountains and the wilds of the Peak. But it exhibits a splendid specimen of the enrichment of art, and the capability of a world, however sterile and forbidding in its natural aspect, of being converted, by persevering industry and judicious management, into a very Paradise.’ – Description of Buxton, Chatsworth and Castleton by William Adam (1847).

 

Featured Image:

View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake, British School, Government Art Collection

Guest Post: Grace’s French Counterpart, Juliette Récamier

We are delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, Stew Ross. Stew is a retired commercial banker who embarked on writing books more than five years ago. He enjoys writing about important and interesting historical events of Paris and its time periods. He takes his readers around Paris on defined walks to visit the buildings, places, and sites that were important to the theme of the book. Stew is currently working on two books covering the Nazi occupation of Paris between 1940 and 1944 (Where Did They Put the Gestapo Headquarters?). These books will follow his first four books—two volumes each—Where Did They Put the Guillotine? A Walking Tour of Revolutionary Paris and Where Did They Burn the Last Grand Master of the Knights Templar? A Walking Tour of Medieval Paris (click here to find out more). Stew hopes you will visit his blog at www.stewross.com as well as follow him on Twitter and Facebook. So, now over to Stew…

I’m honored to have been asked by Sarah and Joanne to write a piece for their blog site. Although I first learned of Grace Dalrymple Elliott (1754–1823) through an article in the BBC History Magazine, it was Sarah and Joanne’s book, An Infamous Mistress which provided me an expanded view into Grace’s life and in particular, her activities during the French Revolution.

Portrait of Grace Elliott. Oil painting by Thomas Gainsborough (c.1782). Frick Collection. PD-100+ Wikimedia Commons.
Portrait of Grace Elliott. Oil painting by Thomas Gainsborough (c.1782). Frick Collection. PD-100+ Wikimedia Commons.

GRACE AND JULIETTE

I would like to introduce you to Juliette Récamier (1777–1849). Although twenty-three years younger than Grace, Madame Récamier had many things in common with Mrs. Elliott—although I’m not quite sure the term “courtesan” would apply to Juliette as it did for Grace. Similar to Grace, Juliette married an older man (by 30-years) and suffered a loveless and unconsummated marriage (he was rumored to have been her biological father). Each of them moved about effortlessly in the upper echelons of society but died virtually penniless. Both of these women were so gorgeous that famous artists clamored to paint their portraits.

Portrait of Madame Juliette Récamier. Oil painting by Antoine-Jean Gros (1825). Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters. PD-100+ Wikimedia Commons.
Portrait of Madame Juliette Récamier. Oil painting by Antoine-Jean Gros (1825). Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters. PD-100+ Wikimedia Commons.

JULIETTE

Juliette Bernard was born into the family of Jean Bernard, King Louis XVI’s counselor and receiver of finance. Her mother ran one of the most sought after salons in Paris and it was there, at the age of fifteen, that she was introduced to and ultimately married the 42-year-old banker Jacques-Rose Récamier. By the time Juliette had turned eighteen, Marie Antoinette had heard of her beauty and sent for her. Unlike Grace, Mme Récamier hid her loveless marriage and divorce was not an option. Reportedly, she remained a virgin until the age of forty-two.

It is a wonder that Juliette’s husband escaped the blade of Madame Guillotine during the French Revolution. It seems his friendship with the revolutionary Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès (1753–1824) allowed M. Récamier to keep his head.

When Juliette was twenty-one, M. Récamier purchased the former residence of the king’s finance minister, Jacques Necker. Located on Rue du Mont-Blanc—today 7 rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin—the mansion would serve as the site for Juliette’s luxurious balls, receptions, and most important, her salon.

Bust of Juliette Récamier. Photo by Philippe Alès (2012). Musée des Beaux-arts of Lyon, France. PD-Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.
Bust of Juliette Récamier. Photo by Philippe Alès (2012). Musée des Beaux-arts of Lyon, France. PD-Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

POST-REVOLUTION: NAPOLÉON

Besides her exquisite beauty, Juliette was well known for her Paris salon and as one of the city’s leaders of fashion. Her salon was extremely fashionable with discussions centered on politics and literary interests. Her circle of friends included Lucien Bonaparte (Napoléon’s brother), Mme Germaine de Staël, François-René de Chateaubriand, various foreign princes, and many famous contemporaries during the time of the Empire and first Restoration.

Juliette turned down an invitation to be lady-in-waiting for Napoléon’s wife, Joséphine. Coupled with her strong friendship with Mme Staël, Napoléon ordered Juliette to be exiled along with Mme Staël, a fervent monarchist and outspoken opponent of Napoléon and the Empire—Juliette moved to Italy whereas Germaine took up residence in Switzerland.

Juliette returned to Paris after Napoléon was sent into his exile (turn about is fair play?). She continued to receive visitors at her apartment located at 16 rue de Sèvres (the building was demolished in the early 20th-century).

Portrait of Madame Récamier. Oil painting by François Gérard (1805). Musée Carnavalet. PD-100+ Wikimedia Commons.
Portrait of Madame Récamier. Oil painting by François Gérard (1805). Musée Carnavalet. PD-100+ Wikimedia Commons.

Juliette Récamier died of cholera and is buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre. We will visit Juliette’s grave in my seventh book Where Did They Bury Jim Morrison the Lizard King? A Walking Tour of Curious Paris Cemeteries.

THE RÉCAMIER SOFA

One of the legacies Juliette left us with is the Récamier sofa. She is lounging on the sofa in Jacques-Louis David’s famous portrait of her. The original Récamier sofa can be seen at the Louvre. As you view the painting at the top of the post, notice Juliette is not wearing any slippers or shoes. When David introduced the painting to the general public there was a huge scandal over her being presented barefoot.

The Original Récamier Recliner used in David’s Portrait of Mme Récamier. Photo by anonymous (date unknown). Original recliner located in the Louvre Museum. Wikimedia.
The Original Récamier Recliner used in David’s Portrait of Mme Récamier. Photo by anonymous (date unknown). Original recliner located in the Louvre Museum. Wikimedia.

 

Copyright © 2017 Stew Ross

Featured Image

Portrait de Juliette Récamier. Oil painting by Jacques-Louis David (1800). Louvre Museum. PD-100+ Wikimedia Commons.

All Things History – Round up for April 2017

Sir Thomas Lawrence and the Romantic Portrait 

Pitched upon a pitchfork [this one should really come with a warning… not for the faint-hearted!]

Gerald Wellesley’s secret family

Tricky Surnames and How to Pronounce Them

What Did Napoleon Like to Read?

Animal Fads and Fashions in the 18th and 19th Century

The Murky Recesses of the Georgian Post Office

Lancelot “Capability” Brown and the Landscape Park

Six Reasons Why You Should Take Part at a Jane Austen Ball

Reusable Condoms

St. James’s Square: A Fashionable Regency Era Address

18th-Century Barbers at the Old Bailey

Pattens in the 18th Century – a sensible way of keeping dresses off the filthy streets

Georgian Era Commerce ~ Part IV: The St Katherine Docks and the Custom House

 

 

 

 

 

Sweeps' Day in Upper Lisson Street, London, British School, c.1835-37. Museum of London

May Day: the tradition of the Jack-in-the-Green and chimney sweeps

May Day, or, Jack-in-the-Green

We’ll banish Care, and all his Train

Nor thought of Sadness round us play

Fly distant hence, corroding pain

For happiness shall crown this Day.

(20th June 1795)

A Jack-in-the-Green was once a traditional sight amongst English May Day celebrations. Dancing at the head of processions on the day, often noisy and drunk, the Jack-in-the-Green was a man who covered himself in a conical or pyramidal framework decorated with green foliage, concealing his body. He resembled a walking tree or bush. The parades were riotous affairs, usually consisting of a King and Queen (or a Lord and Lady) as well as the Jack-in-the-Green, together with jesters, clowns, chimney sweeps and musicians.

A Jack-in-the-Green procession in a village, with the Jack in the centre flanked by two figures, and two children dancing in the foreground. c.1840. © The Trustees of the British Museum
A Jack-in-the-Green procession in a village, with the Jack in the centre flanked by two figures, and two children dancing in the foreground. c.1840. © The Trustees of the British Museum

It is believed that the custom began from the tradition of making garlands of flowers for May Day and got a little out of hand, resulting in the Jack-in-the-Green being covered head to foot. Although no-one is too sure why, the Jack-in-the-Green is usually associated with chimney sweeps. One theory is that it was the Sweeps Guilds who increasingly enlarged the size of the May Day garlands, hoping that the people watching the procession would give them their coins as they passed by rather than donate them to the other participants in the parade. (May Day was a traditional holiday for chimney sweeps; it is sometimes known as ‘Chimney Sweeper’s day’.) First recorded in London, Jack-in-the-Greens were soon appearing across the country.

Sweeps' Day in Upper Lisson Street, London, British School, c.1835-37. Museum of London
Sweeps’ Day in Upper Lisson Street, London, British School, c.1835-37. Museum of London

Although Jack-in-the-Greens can still be seen in some town and village May Day celebrations, often associated now with the custom of the Green Man and signifying spring and rebirth, the custom largely died out in the Victorian era, replaced instead by a more sedate May Queen.

We’ve found some references to eighteenth-century May Day celebrations which include Jack-in-the-Greens in the newspapers. The earliest known reference dates to 1775.

Jack of the Green had made his garland by five in the morning, and got under his shady building by seven…

(Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 2nd May 1775)

May Day - or Jack in the green, 1795. © The Trustees of the British Museum
May Day – or Jack in the green, 1795. © The Trustees of the British Museum

May Day in London, 1786 was awash with events which caused the newspapers to take note. Warren Hastings, statesman and first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal, India was facing questions by government ministers over his role in the Maratha War, Frances Lewis stood trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Ann Rose and a Jack-in-the-Green merrily cantered through the London streets.

LONDON

Yesterday being the first of May, several curious Circumstances took Place. – The Sweeps and Milkmaids, with Jack o’ th’ Green, danced through the Streets – Mr. Hastings appeared at the Bar of the House of Commons to defend his Cause, though no Impeachment is yet made out – And a Woman tried a the Old-Bailey for the Murder of another Woman, was found guilty of Manslaughter.

(Northampton Mercury, 6th May 1786)

View of the large detached Montagu House at the north west corner of Portman Square, its name derived from Elizabeth Montagu, who the house was built for; figures in colourful costumes dance on street outside supported by men with instruments, a small crowd gathers to watch, the building was demolished in the Blitz. 1851 © The Trustees of the British Museum
A later view of the large detached Montagu House at the north west corner of Portman Square, its name derived from Elizabeth Montagu, who the house was built for; figures in colourful costumes dance on street outside supported by men with instruments, a small crowd gathers to watch. © The Trustees of the British Museum

LONDON

Yesterday being the 1st of May, the Honourable Mrs. Montague entertained the Chimney-sweepers according to annual custom, with roast beef, mutton, and baked plumb-pudding, in the lawn of her house in Portman-square, and after their regale gave them each a shilling. Mrs. Montague appeared in good spirits among the Nobility whom she invited to see the motley company. The outside of the place was thronged with people, carriages, and carts; among the latter several broke down by being overloaded with spectators. The Duchess of York, in her curricle, stopped some time, and seemed highly delighted with the Jacks in the Green, the pyramids of tankards, and the dancing of the sweeps and their ladies on the lawn.

(Staffordshire Advertiser, 6th May 1797)

Frederica, Duchess of York, 1795. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Frederica, Duchess of York, 1795. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

We’ll leave you with this video of a modern day Jack-in-the-Green, from the May Day Festival at Hastings in 2016.

Sources not mentioned above:

Jack in the Green – a chimney sweep’s tale by Lucy Lilliman, Social History intern at Leeds Museums and Galleries, 2013

The Company of the Green Man – The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green

There’s nothing like washing your dirty linen in public!

Which is exactly what happened in this case.

Portrait of Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle, in a garden, a statue of Minerva beyond , 1761. Attributed to Adriaen Carpentiers (1739–1778)
Portrait of Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle, in a garden, a statue of Minerva beyond , 1761. Attributed to Adriaen Carpentiers (1739–1778)

Edward Weld, son of Humphrey Weld and Margaret Simeons of Lulworth Castle was taken to court by his wife the Honourable Catherine Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Aston.

The couple married June 22, 1727, but according to Catherine her husband was impotent. The trial took place in 1732. The couple had lived together for the vast majority of their marriage, but Catherine confirmed that the marriage was never actually consummated.  Edward acknowledged that she was ‘able, apt and fit for the procreation of children’.

At this point Catherine decided that they could no longer cohabit; Edward’s view however, was, that ‘many married people live together like brother and sister’. The couple were Catholic and as such deemed marriage to be as sacrament. Edward confirmed to Catherine’s father that it was true, the marriage had not been consummated, the reason for this being that he had ‘an outward defect which prevented him from consummation‘. Catherine’s father recommended that Edward visit a doctor who he felt sure would be able to quickly remedy this problem.

Three midwives were produced:

…that they are all well skilled in the art and practice of midwifery, and have very carefully and diligently inspected the private parts of the Hon. Catherine Elizabeth Weld, which are naturally designed for carnal copulation; and that to the best of their skills and knowledge she is a virgin and never had carnal copulation with any man whatsoever.

Depositions on behalf of Edward were made:

Edward Weld Esq. deposed, that he was of the age of 26, and has all the parts of his body which constitute a man perfect and entire, more particularly those parts which nature formed for the propagation of his species and the act of carnal copulation, in full and just proportion and was and is capable of carnally knowing Catherine Elizabeth Weld, his wife, or any other woman. And during the time he cohabited with his wife, his private member was often turgid, dilated and erected, as was necessary to perform the act of carnal copulation; and that he did as such time consummate his marriage by carnally lying wit and knowing his wife.

Mr Williams, an eminent surgeon, deposed that Mr Weld came to him in June 1728 and that upon examining his penis, he found the frenulum too straight, which he set at liberty by clipping it with a pair of scissors, and on examining that part again the next day, found nothing amiss in the organs of generation.

Five surgeons carried out an inspection of Edward too and agreed that he was perfectly capable of carnal copulation.

Having heard all the evidence, in a nutshell, Catherine Elizabeth was told to return to her husband and, in effect, to ‘put up and shut up’ the wording being that she should ‘remain in perpetual silence’. It was a decision which many felt at the time was cruel and unjust.  In order to save face, Edward decided to counter-sue Catherine for libel and won but could not remarry until Catherine died in 1739.

Burial of Edward Weld December 20, 1761

Edward died in 1761 and his will dated April 17, 1755, makes for interesting reading as he left the majority of his estate to his son, Edward (born 1741), with other beneficiaries named as his second son John (born 1742), third son Thomas (born 1750) and daughter Mary (born 1753).

So, was the marriage eventually consummated? Presumably not, for after Catherine’s death Edward went on to marry Mary Theresa Vaughan (who died 1754) with whom he had the above named children.

Edward Weld (junior) by Pompeo Batoni. Painted days before he died in 1775.
Edward Weld (junior) by Pompeo Batoni. Painted days before he died in 1775.

June 12, 1773, Edward Weld’s son, Edward wrote his will. He made reference to his late wife, the Honourable Lady Juliana (who died 1772) and left everything to his brother Thomas. His will was proven November 7, 1775, just after he died from a fall from his horse and only four months after he married Maria Smythe (married July 13, 1775 at Twyford, Hampshire), who was later to become Maria Fitzherbert, the secret wife of the future King George IV but, as Edward Weld junior didn’t have chance to update his will, Maria was left with nothing at his death.

Maria Fitzherbert by Sir Joshua Reynolds, oil on canvas, 1786-1788. Courtesy of NPG
Maria Fitzherbert by Sir Joshua Reynolds, oil on canvas, 1786-1788. Courtesy of NPG

 

Featured Image

Lulworth Castle created by Margaret Weld, mother of Edward Weld senior. Courtesy of SPL Rare Books