Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 3)

Georgian faces

Continuing our theme of beauty the following extracts from  Fashionable Magazine, October 1787  suggests various methods for changing the colour of the hair, we would as usual however add our caveat that these should not be tried at home, as potentially very unsafe!


There are many simple contrivances to make red, or other ill-coloured hair, more pleasing to the sight, by changing it to a black or dark brown, without a possibility of injuring the person even when applied to the eye-brows. Among these may be recommended, the roots of the caper-tree or holm-oak; the barks of the walnut-tree, the willow, and pomegranate’ the leaves of the myrtle, the wild vine, the rasberry-bush, the mulberry-tree, the fig-tree, and the artichoke; the green shells of walnuts or beans; and poppy flowers, ivy berries, or red beet seeds. Either of these articles may be boiled for this purpose in wine, vinegar, or rain-water, with the addition of a little marjoram, sage, betony, balm, or any other cephalic herb; and being strained off, the liquor may be used at pleasure. The usual way is to rub the hair well with the liquid on going to bed.

Alum, and most preparations of lead, boiled and applied in like manner, will produce the same effect.

If, after washing the head with spring water, the hair is every day combed in the sun with a comb dipped in oil of tartar, the hair will become quite black in a week’s time.  The hair may be moistened with oil of Benjamin, to give it a fine scent.


 Boil a pint and a half of ley prepared from vine-twig ashes; a quarter of an ounce each of turmerick, celandine roots, and briony; one drachm and a half each of lily roots, saffron, and flowers of mullein, yellow stechas, St. John’s wort, and broom. After straining off the clear fluid, use it frequently to wash the hair, which will in a short time change to a beautiful flaxen colour, which may be easily made more or less light at pleasure, by a very little attention to the several ingredients, and such other circumstances as cannot easily escape notice.

Grace hair colour
Image via the Frick Collection

This image shows the natural colour of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s hair taken from the painting of her in the Frick Collection which seems to confirm her use of hair powders.

Another amazing publication we have come across is the 1773 edition of The Golden Cabinet being the Laboratory or Handmaid to the Arts  which again provides with some spectacular solutions to age old problems including a cure for baldness.  If anyone tries this at home we would love to know whether the outcome is successful and whether you have any friends remaining after the experiment; given the ingredients used it would seem highly unlikely your friends would stay around for long!!!!

French hairdresser
Image courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library


This is a hard thing to cure, yet the following things are very good.  Rub the head or bald places every morning very hard with coarse cloth  till it be red anointing immediately after with bears grease; when ten or fifteen days are passed, rub every morning and evening with onion till the bald places bed red, then anoint with honey well mixed with mustard seed applying over a plaster of labdanum  ( which is a sticky brown resin obtained from the shrub Cistus ladanifer)  mixed with mice dung.

Hair oil
Image courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

If the former fail, bathe with a decoction of burdock roots made with a lixivium (of salt of tartar) two parts, and muscadel one part; immediately applying this unguent; take thapsi or turbeth one dracham (in powder) bears grease one ounce, mix them, which use for sixty days. If this mixture make not the hair come, the defect is incurable.

Old Bumblehead the 18th trying on the Napoleon Boots, 1823. Louis XVIII and Napoleon II – in spite of the “Bears grease”  the French king Louis XVIII is not able to put on Napoleon’s boots. Napoleon’s son stands ready to catch the Bourbon crown if it might fall.


Wash the hair very well with a lixivium of quicklime, then dry it very well; that done anoint with oil of myrtles or oil of omphacine  (oil from an unripe fruit) and powder it well with sweet powder, putting it up every night under a cap.  If the party be naturally of cold and moist constitution anointing and powdering must be perpetually used once or twice a week during life, the hair being put up every night.


Distill hogs grease or oil of olive in an alembic with the oil that comes there from anoint the hair and it will grow long and soft.


Anoint the ends thereof with oil omphacine or oil of myrtles, they are eminent in this case to preserve the hair from splitting. Also an ointment made of honey, bees wax and omphacine or bears grease.

Our final offering on this  subject is an unusual article that we felt worthy of inclusion which tells us that in 1765 whilst shampooing did not take place in Europe, a procedure known as shampooing was taking place in China, although it most certainly was not shampooing in the way we understand it today and brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘Chinese torture’!

Article by Charles Frederick Noble  dated 1765

Barbers that attend the factory shave after the English fashion, with short razors or sharp knives. but those who dress the Chinese go about the streets with a bundle of razors, scizars, combs, brushes, pomatum, tooth-pickers, ear-pickers, corn and nail cutter, and other such instruments upon their shoulder and, as they walk, make such a tinkling noise with an iron instrument as those fellows do who have a show in a box for the entertainment of children in London.  The operation of a Chinese barber, which he perfects  every morning, is very tedious, in cleaning and plating the hair and in shampooing his customers.

Shampooing is an operation not known in Europe and is peculiar to the Chinese, which I had once the curiosity to go through, and for which I paid but a trifle.  However, had I note seen several China merchants shampooed before me, I should have been very apprehensive of danger, even at the sight of all the different instruments that were arranged in proper order on the table before the operator began.

He first placed me in a large chair, then began to beat with both his hands very fast upon all parts of my body.  He next stretched out my arms and legs, and gave them several sudden pulls that racked my joints; then got my arm upon his shoulder and hauled me sideways a good way over the chair; and as suddenly gave my head a twitch or jerk around, that I thought he should have put my neck out of joint.  Next he beat with the ends of his fingers very softly, but very quickly all over my head, body and legs, every now and then cracking his fingers with an air: then he stroked up my ears, temples and eye lashes; and again racked my joints.

After he had gone through this process he proceeded with his instruments to scrape, pick and syringe my ears, every now and then tinkling with an instrument close to my ears.  The next thing was my eyes; into which I patiently suffered several small instruments to be thrust and turned about; by which operation, he brought away half a teacupful of hot, waterish stuff.  this was not only the most painful, but the most dangerous part of the whole operation which made me afraid to make the least motion with my head lest I should have suffered more; so I sat with resolute patients, till he pulled out these instruments and was about to use others to my eyes, but I had suffered so much that I would not permit him to meddle with them any farther.

He next proceeded to scraping, paring and cleaning the nails of my fingers and toes and then to cutting my corns.  I only wanted to have had a lock of hair plaited to complete the operation.  But, after he had spent half an hour with me, it ended here, for which I gave him the value of a penny.


This was part of a four part blog about cosmetics, so in case you missed the others here are the links to them

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 1)

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 2)

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 4)

Header image: Mrs Richard Brinsley Sheridan by Thomas Gainsborough, National Galley of Art

Thorpe, near Norwich; Joseph Stannard; Norfolk Museums Service

Jack Slack – ‘The Norfolk Butcher’

As we have the Commonwealth Games taking place at the moment we thought we’d join in with the spirit of the games and write an article about sport.  Our offering this week is about one John ‘Jack’ Slack, aka the ‘Norfolk Butcher’,  aka ‘Knight of the Cleaver’; a bare knuckle fighter, who was the champion of what is thought to be the first international Heavyweight fight which took place  in 1754.

Thorpe, near Norwich; Joseph Stannard; Norfolk Museums Service
Thorpe, near Norwich; Joseph Stannard; Norfolk Museums Service


Stated to have been born in Thorpe, Norfolk, in 1721, where he ran a butchers shop in the county (hence his nickname), Slack was reputedly the grandson of another famous fighter, James Figg, the first English bare knuckle boxing champion.

James Figg

In 1743 Slack became the Champion of Norfolk after defeating three local men in boxing matches and by 1748 his renown was such that he sold on his butchery business to his brother and moved to London where his reputation as a fighter continued to grow. He was backed later in his career by none other than Prince William, Duke of Cumberland (himself known as Butcher Cumberland after the Jacobite uprising).

A contemporary description of Slack says that he was five foot eight inches and a half in height and weighed almost fourteen stone. His physique was ‘compact . . . superior to the generality of men in strength and of excellent bottom.’ He changed his style of fighting to suit his opponent and often came out the victor, punching his opponents with such force that the term ‘a slack’un’ came into general use, meaning a ‘smashing hit.’

On the 14th March 1750, at Broughton’s Amphitheatre in Oxford Road, London, he threw down a challenge to the formerly invincible Jack Broughton (a man some years older than he and known as the ‘Father of Boxing’ who had been taught by Slack’s grandfather, James Figg).

Jack Broughton, the Boxer by John Hamilton Mortimer, c.1767. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Jack Broughton, the Boxer by John Hamilton Mortimer, c.1767.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Broughton agreed but asked that the fight be deferred for a month as he was not immediately prepared for fighting. The match, which lasted just fourteen minutes and eleven seconds, duly took place on the 11th April 1750, Slack emerging as the victor to win the Championship of England and bagging himself, it was estimated, not less than 600 l. Slack was the only man to ever beat the great Broughton and one nobleman, described as being of the first rank, lost 1000 l. on the match. That nobleman is thought to have been the Duke of Cumberland.

The Duke of Cumberland (1721–1765) by Stephen Slaughter (attributed to), c.1750. (c) Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds
The Duke of Cumberland (1721–1765) by Stephen Slaughter (attributed to), c.1750.
(c) Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds

Then, on the 29th July 1754, back in his home county of Norfolk, Jack Slack challenged the Frenchman Monsieur Jean Petit (or Pettit) to a match.  Pettit was a muscular giant of a man, reputed to have previously exhibited himself in a circus as a ‘strong man.’ This boxing match took place at Harlston. A letter reporting the fight appeared in the newspapers just days later. This one is taken from the London Evening Post and dated 3rd August 1754.

Extract of a Letter from Harlston in Norfolk, July 30.

‘Yesterday in the Afternoon Slack and Pettit met and fought. At the first Set-to, Pettit seized Slack by the Throat, and held him up against the Rails, and grain’d him so much as to make him turn extremely black. This continued for Half a Minute before Slack could break Pettit’s Hold; after which, for near ten Minutes, Pettit kept fighting and driving hard at Slack; when at length Slack clos’d with his Antagonist, and gave him a very severe Fall; after that, a second and third. But between these Falls, Pettit threw Slack twice off the Stage; and indeed, Pettit so much dreaded Slack’s Falls, that he ran directly at his Hams, and tumbled him down; and by that Means gave Slack an Opportunity of making the Falls very easy.

When they had been fighting eighteen Minutes, the Odds ran against Slack a Guinea to a Shilling; whereas, on first setting out, it was three or four to one on his Head. But after this Time Slack shorten’d Pettit so, as to disable him from running and throwing him down in the Manner he had done before, but obliged him to stand close fighting. Slack then closed one of his Eyes, and beat him very much about the Face. At twenty Minutes Pettit grew weaker, Slack stronger; this was occasion’d by Slack’s strait Way of fighting. At twenty-two Minutes, the best Judges allow’d Slack to have the Advantage over Pettit very considerably, as he was then recovering his Wind, which was owing to Game.

When they had boxed twenty-four Minutes, Pettit threw Slack again over the rails; this indeed Slack suffer’d him to do, as by that Means he fix’d a Blow under Pettit’s Ribs, that hurt him much; whilst Slack was again getting upon the Stage (it was not Half a Minute before he was remounted) Pettit had so much the Fear of his Antagonist before his Eyes, that he walked off without so much as civilly taking Leave of the Spectators, or saying any Thing to any Person, this the Cockers call Roguing of it; for it is generally thought that Pettit ran away full strong. The whole Time of their fighting was twenty-five Minutes, and this Morning the Battle was given to Slack, who drew the first Ten Guineas out of the Box. Thus ended this dreadful Combat. The Box was Sixty-six Pounds Ten Shillings’.

Although sometimes mentioned as a ‘dirty fighter’, victories continued for Jack Slack until 1760 when he finally lost to Bill Stevens (the Nailer) at a bout on a stage erected for the purpose of the fight in the Tennis Court, James Street, London on the 17th June 1760. The Duke of Cumberland, who had previously been the patron of Broughton had backed Jack Slack in this fight and again lost money on the bout.

Slack, after this, mostly retired from boxing himself and instead concentrated on his butchery trade. Many sources say he possibly opened a shop on London’s Chandois Street in Covent Garden (he had appeared in the rate books for this street in 1750), but at the time of his fight with the Nailer in 1760, he was reported in the newspapers to be settled at Bristol.


He still kept his hand in by training other fighters, possibly running a boxing school in Bristol (he was rumoured to occasionally fix fights for his protégées), and just occasionally was mentioned as fighting himself.

The London Chronicle newspaper, on the 5th January 1765, reported that:

Slack, the famous Boxer, who has been for some time in Dublin, is under an engagement to fight one Weyburn, a noted bruiser there, for a considerable sum.

Reports of the date and location of his death seem to vary so we are now able to confirm that  John Slack died at Bristol on the 17th July 1768 and was buried in that city two days later.

Lloyd's Evening Post, 22nd July 1768
Extract from Lloyd’s Evening Post  22nd July 1768.

John Slack’s relations and descendants tried, with varying amounts of success, to emulate his feats in the boxing ring.

In November 1772 the newspapers were talking of a battle fought at New Buckenham in Norfolk between ‘Thomas Allgar, a Butcher of Norwich and James Slack, a Butcher of Bristol, youngest son of John Slack, the noted Bruiser.’ In front of a huge crowd of people, Slack junior lasted through seven minutes of sham-fighting before giving up. No injury had been received by either party, not even a bruise, and the spectators were enraged. James Slack narrowly managed to escape into a small public house where he managed to procure a disguise in which he could slip away unnoticed.

Some months later, in April 1773, again at Buckenham Castle, Thomas Algar met with Henry Skipper, described as a Dyer and nephew of the famous John Slack; again Algar was victorious.

More successful was James ‘Jem’ Belcher, born in Bristol in 1781, to John Slack’s daughter. Known as the ‘Napoleon of the Ring‘ and a naturally gifted fighter he had but a short career, dying in 1811.

James Belcher, Bare-Knuckle Champion of England ?1803 Benjamin Marshall 1768-1835 Bequeathed by Mrs F. Ambrose Clark through the British Sporting Art Trust 1982
James Belcher, Bare-Knuckle Champion of England c.1803 by Benjamin Marshall, via The Tate.

Jack Slack was still remembered some years after his death, the St. James’s Chronicle reporting on the 11th September 1781, and placing him alongside some very noteworthy personalities, that:

Some Years ago the three most remarkable Personages of the Age were Kitty Fisher, Lord B__te, and Slack, the Bruiser. At the present Day, says a Correspondent, the three most remarkable Personages are, the Perdita, Doctor Adelphi, and Sir Jeffery Dunstan.

Gipsy Camp; George Morland; The Stanleyand Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

The Life and Adventures of Bampfylde Moore Carew (1690-1758)


One of our readers last week mentioned the somewhat larger than life Georgian character of Bampfylde Moore Carew via some feedback on our Gypsies of Georgian England article and we decided to see whether we could actually find any new information about him. He was reputed to be ‘King of the Gypsies,’ ‘King of Beggars,’ a rogue and a scoundrel, but was, in all likelihood, simply a very well read travelling story teller – but we will let you decide!

His is a romantic tale, if questionable in authenticity; after being sent to school at Tiverton in Devon at the age of 12 years he got into trouble for pursuing deer with hounds across the nearby land and, with his fellows, ran away to avoid getting into bother. They met with a tribe of Gypsies and Carew claimed that he travelled with his new companions for a year and a half. Returning home he commenced a career as an imposter and swindler and supposedly took in a journey to Newfoundland before eloping with a respectable girl who became his long-suffering wife.

Carew then took to the road once again and, when a Gypsy King named Clause Patch died, he was crowned as the new King. The authorities caught up with him and, after being convicted of vagrancy, he was sentenced to be transported to Maryland in Virginia. Various escapades and adventures followed in America, but, in short, he managed to escape back home where, once again with his wife and their daughter, he fell into a nomadic way of life, even reputedly having travelled with the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie, in 1745.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Louis Gabriel Blanchet; National Portrait Gallery
Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Louis Gabriel Blanchet; National Portrait Gallery

Where to begin with such a story! From our perspective as genealogists, we started by checking what sources of information were readily available and immediately came across entries for him on the usual websites such as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) which is widely acknowledged to contain the most accurate and thoroughly researched information and Wikipedia. Here the confusion began; Wikipedia states his years of birth and death as 1693 and 1759 respectively as does the ODNB but other sources gave his birth as 1690 and his death as late as 1770.

The opening lines of a book written about him, ‘The Life and Adventure of Bampfylde Moore Carew‘ stated that ‘Mr Carew was born in the month of July 1693’ and that he was from ‘the parish of Brickley‘.  The parish is actually Bickley, or Bickleigh as it is known as today, (there never was the letter ‘r’ in its name), a village in mid-Devon. So, right at the beginning, we have a discrepancy with the misspelling of his birthplace suggesting the book had been written by someone other than Bampfylde himself; clearly, we were not off to a good start. One would assume that in the first few lines of the account of his life that the basic facts were correct – not so!

So, without further ado let’s get the basics resolved.

His baptism took place at the parish church in the village of Bickleigh, Devon on 23rd September 1690, he was baptized Banfield Moore Carew, son of Rev. Theodore Carew and his wife Alice née Pearce (whom we found via the couples marriage record); quite possibly the vicar misspelt his name in the register.  According to his ‘Life and Adventure’, he was named in honour of his two Godfather’s, the Honourable Hugh Bampfylde and Major Moore.  Hugh Bampfylde was said to have died after falling from his horse, and this would seem to identify him as Colonel Hugh Bampfylde, eldest son on Sir Coplestone Bampfylde of Poltimore, Devon, who died in a riding accident in 1691, two years before the accepted birth date for Bampfylde.

The Bampfield’s are an old and established gentry family in Devon. Sir Coplestone Bampfylde (1637/8-1692) was the one who changed the spelling of the surname, possibly to distance himself from his direct ancestors who had fought on the side of Parliament rather than on that of the King during the Civil Wars.

Bampfield Carew baptism 1690

Bampfylde’s marriage didn’t take place until he was in his 40’s, when, at Stoke Damerel in Devon on the 29th December 1733, he married a Mary Gray; the name does tally with a Miss Gray named in the book, whether she was the daughter of an apothecary/surgeon from Newcastle-upon-Tyne (as claimed) or not, we simply don’t know. We do however know that the surname Gray was a popular one amongst the gypsy community, so it is feasible that she was actually a gypsy, given his supposed connection with those people.  According to Carew’s story, the couple married at Bath where they spent some time, the implication being that they were only young at the time, but, unless for some strange reason they married twice this account seems improbable as the evidence of their marriage is presented in black and white below!

Carew marriage

In 1734, virtually a year to the day after their marriage Bampfylde and Mary presented their son Theodore for baptism, again at the parish church in Bickleigh then tragically, a mere two days later, the records show a burial for the child.

Four years later according to records held by Devon records office, Carew was sentenced as a criminal for transportation to Virginia. It was usual for a person being transported to have a Bond and a Contract issued, however, for Carew he was only named on the Bond, leading to speculation as to whether he actually was transported or not.

Carew talked fondly in his story of a daughter, Polly (a nickname often used instead of Mary), but so far any baptism record for this daughter is proving somewhat elusive, despite a mention of her marrying. There is one possible marriage for a Mary Carew at about the right time, but it took place in London, which does not fit with his account of her marrying a young gentleman who lived nearby in Devon.

Despite not being able to find the baptism we know that the couple most definitely did have a daughter named Mary as she was named in a vagrancy order issued at Sherborne, Dorset, dated 21st November 1745, along with a Robert Jones who was travelling with them.

Bampflyde vagrancy order

In part of his story, Carew says that he had ventured as far north as Scotland and was travelling with Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, and he specifically stated that he had accompanied the Young Pretender back through England to Carlisle and Derby. According to records, the Young Pretender entered Carlisle on 10th November 1745 and then travelled south reaching Derby on the 4th December 1745.  Given that Carew and his family were arrested as vagrants on the 21st November 1745, at Sherborne in Dorset, it seems unlikely that this part of his story has any truth in it; more likely the authorities returned him from Sherborne to his birthplace of Bickleigh.

There are known Jacobite sympathies in his family though; the son of Colonel Hugh Bampfylde who was stated to be godfather to Carew, another Sir Coplestone Bampfylde, this one the 3rd Baronet, was suspected of being a Jacobite in 1715 and imprisoned for a time.  Another Bampfield, Joseph Bampfield (1622-1685), who was dead some years before Carew was born but whose story was no doubt told to him, had, with his lover Anne Murray, helped James, Duke of York, second son of King Charles I and the future King James II, to escape in 1648 during the English Civil Wars, disguising the young man in women’s clothing.  Possibly Carew’s sympathies lay on the side of the Pretender in 1745 and he used anecdotes he’d heard in his youth to embellish his own tale.  It is not known to which family this Joseph Bampfield belonged but he is thought to slot into the Devonshire Bampfield’s somewhere.

We then moved on to searching for his burial, with dates for this varying between 1758 and 1770. To confirm it once and for all the actual date was the 28th June 1758 and he was buried at the same church he was baptized at.

Carew burial 1758

The London Chronicle dated 28th August 1759 reported his death, but as you will notice it was over a year after his actual burial!  His death must have gone unnoticed and unreported for over a year.

Bath, August 27th The well known Bampfield Moore Carew, stiled the king of the Beggars died lately at Bicknel, Near Tiverton, in Devonshire in the 60th year of his age, after 50 years travel.

His life story is so complex that rather than try to provide a ‘potted’ version we simply offer you a link to the book should you wish to learn more about him.

If you prefer a shorter account, we came across this excellent website.

Each time we have found one fact that checked out we found so many more that simply didn’t. Carew provided us with so many names to try to validate, but each time we came across one and searched the internet we inevitably came back to his story, but rarely, if ever, was the person mentioned anywhere else!

He either had the most adventurous life that read like something from a ‘Boys Own’ comic, or most of it was total fiction.  As we really can’t decide, we simply offer you the information we have found and you make your own decision, we would, however, say that the reality probably falls somewhere in between the two!

Header image: Gipsy Camp; George Morland; The Stanleyand Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

Bums, Tums and Downy Calves

No readers, we have not ‘lost the plot’ nor has this become a blog about exercise. We have been looking at the ways 18th-century people used enhancements to improve their looks.

The Bum Shop, 1785 Lewis Walpole Library


Until the mid 1770s skirts were made to appear full by the use of hoops, however, from 1776 onward it would appear from this somewhat amusing article below from Town and Country magazine (January 1776) that the fashion changed courtesy of Henrietta Vernon, Lady Grosvenor and her use of ‘cork rumps’, otherwise referred to as ‘Chloe’s Cushion’ .


The town has been for some time entertained with various accounts of cork rumps; a friend of mine, who lives at some distance from the capital, and who does not believe all that he reads in a news-paper, notwithstanding he is not a cockney, seems to entertain his doubts concerning the real existence of these cork, rumps; I have, therefore, in order to satisfy him, taken great pains to enquire into the existence or non-existence of these cork rumps. In the course of these researches I have traced their origin to lady Gro—nor [Lady Grosvenor], who having had her fortune told a short time before the regatta, was advised to be very careful of water, as the conjurer foresaw danger in the wind; but her ladyship not being able to resist the temptation of so fashionable an amusement, consulted some members of the society for recovering drowned persons.  She received little or no satisfaction from them, as they acknowledged they could be of no service to her till she was actually drowned, and not being willing to try the experiment upon whole terms, she had some thoughts of trying a cork jacket but reflecting upon the uncouth figure she would make in such a garb, when conquest was her principal view, her imagination was called into play, and after some days cogitation she hit upon the cork rump. 

She wore it upon this occasion, and was a spectator of the regatta, without being under the least apprehension from the prediction of the conjuror. Every one complimented her ladyship upon the elegant appearance she made, the slope of the back, and the striking protuberance beneath, were objects of every one’s wonder and admiration. Instead, she found the cork rump such an amazing improvement to her dress that she resolved to wear it constantly upon all occasions, and to preserve the secret to herself: but accidents will happen.

Dressing in a great hurry for Ranelagh, she forgot to secure this new appendage to grace effectually, and unfortunately she dropped it in the Rotunda. A circle immediately surrounded it, all eyes were fixed upon it, the gentlemen were astonished; the ladies were enchanted with it, and in less than a week, there were very few toasts upon the Ton, whose tails were not as light as Lady Gro—nor’s.

This, Sir, is the rise and progress of the cork-rumps, which being so great an improvement in dress and elegance,  must certainly merit the attention (particularly) of your female country readers of taste, who will certainly soon be in the fashion, and thus secured, neither fear the dangers of a regatta, or even an East India voyage.

My country friend having shewn my letter, with this intelligence, to his wife and daughters, I have received orders to procure one of them immediately; which I shall do, without loss of time, as that is great reason to believe that the price of cork will be greatly enhanced, by th: general fashion that will soon prevail all over England ; nay, I am well assur’d that these cork-rumps have already made their way to Edinburgh, and that a cargo of them is only detained by contrary winds at Chester, bound to Dublin.

I am, Sir,

Yours etc, etc.

An old Observor

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library
Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

The December edition of Town and Country magazine wrote the following, presumably a ‘nod’ to the Lady Grosvenor incident.

Bum-shops are opened in many parts of Westminster for the sale of cork bums, and report says they go swimmingly on. Tall ladies, and short ladies – fat ladies and lean ladies, must have bums’.

Image courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library Clearly the False Rump was not without its problems!
Image courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Clearly, the False Rump was not without its problems!

This fashion trend was somewhat short lived, possibly for obvious reasons, as above. By 1788 ‘the bum-less beauties’ had become all the rage.

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library
Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library


This one really does beg the question ‘why on earth would you do this?‘  It was apparently quite common practice during the Georgian Era to wear false stomachs, often these were made from either tin or cork, to imitate pregnancy. It gets better … we discovered in the newspapers that men also wore them!

Attributed to Cruikshank, courtesy of the Met Museum
Attributed to Cruikshank, courtesy of the Met Museum

These tin pinafores were described by Archenholtz in the following way

 ‘This was the most senseless invention, against all decency and delicacy, and disfiguring the female body; it caused a deformity which is only seen in the female sex during pregnancy. These decorations were called pads, and the smaller ones paddies; they were usually made of tin, and were therefore called “tin pinafores”. These artificial stomachs were in great favour, particularly with unmarried women, which caused the wits to say that a revolution had taken place amongst the signs of the Zodiac, and the Twins had come too near Virgo. But above all, these pads were the butt of jokers, who used them unmercifully, and their use soon had to be discontinued. Such a fashion was in too bad taste to last long. It was in existence in London in February 1793, but by the end of the spring it was over in England and went to Dublin, where it was welcomed by the women. During the migration which took place as a result of the French war, it was taken to Germany by refugee English women, but was not copied there.’ 

The newspapers carried a variety of report about such items including this one from The Morning Post of 1781 that stated that they were in fact worn by the gentlemen and not the ladies at that time for the following reason:-

Morning Post, 1781

 Our second offering is an extract from a much longer letter written by a country gentleman who was clearly nonplussed by England’s behaviour at the time who took it upon himself to write to the editor of The Tomahawk newspaper on the 5th February 1796.

Tomahawk, 1796


This article is for the gentlemen with a keen eye for fashion. Downy calves were false calves that were woven into the stockings to produce a ‘manly-looking calf’ and quite in vogue in the 1780’s. As a secondary benefit, they reputedly helped gentlemen afflicted with complaints requiring warmth. Mr Holland, of Broad Street, Bloomsbury developed a type of fleecy hosiery in which fine fleeces of wool are interwoven into a cotton piece of the common stocking texture.

We managed to find an entry in The World newspaper of 1788 advertising them.

downy calves

The description below from A Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, dated 1816, provides more technical information about how these were made.

FLEECY-HOSIERY, a very useful kind of manufacture, in which fine fleeces of wool are interwoven into a cotton piece of the common stocking texture. The following is the specification of the patent granted to Mr. Holland, of Broad-street, Bloomsbury, in the county of Middlesex, for a method of making stockings, socks, waistcoats, and other clothing, for persons afflicted with complaints requiring warmth, and for common use in cold climates, and for making false or downy calves in stockings.

“Having in the common stocking-frame, twisted silk, cotton yarn, flaxen or hempen thread, worsted or woollen yarn, or any such-like twisted or spun materials, begin the work in the common manner of manufacturing hosiery, and having worked one or more course or courses in the common way, begin to add a coating, thus: draw the frame over the arch, and then hang wool or jersey, raw or unspun, upon the beards of the needles, and slide the same off their beards upon their stems, till it comes exactly under the nibs of the sinkers; then sink the jacks and sinkers, and bring forward the frame, till the wool or jersey is drawn under the beards of the needles, and having done this, draw the frame over the arch, and place a thread of spun materials upon the needles (under the nibs of the sinkers), and proceed in finishing the course in the usual way of manufacturing hosiery with spun materials. Anything manufactured in this way has, on the one side, the appearance of common hosiery, and on the other side the appearance of raw wool. The raw or unspun materials may be worked in with every course, or with every second, third, or other course or courses, in quantity proportioned to the warmth and thickness required. The above-mentioned raw or unspun materials may be fixed also thus: having drawn the frame over the arch, hang them upon the beards of the needles, slide them off the beards upon their stems, and without sinking the jacks and sinkers, draw the frame off the arch, and bring the raw or unspun materials forward under the beards of the needles; then draw the same over the arch, and proceed in finishing the course, as before directed. The said raw or unspun materials may be fixed likewise thus: hang them upon the beards of the needles, without having the frame over the arch, and slide them off their beards upon their stems; then bring forward the frame till the raw or un-spun materials are drawn under the beards of the needles, and, having done this, draw the frame over the arch, and proceed in finishing the course as before directed.

Hosiery may be coated by any of these methods, not only with wool or jersey, but also with silk, cotton, flax, hemp, hair, or other things of the like nature, raw or unspun, but the method first described fixes them most firmly. The common stocking-frame is mentioned above, but any other frame, upon a similar principle, may answer the purpose. The method of making the false or downy calves in stockings is by working raw or unspun wool, or jersey, or any other raw or unspun materials, into the calves of  stockings, in the different methods before described, and to any required form or thickness. The latter use to which this invention is applied, we may be allowed to say, is somewhat ludicrous.

The Stocking Frame (from Charles Deering's History of Nottingham, 1750)
The Stocking Frame (from Charles Deering’s History of Nottingham, 1750)

Our 1st Anniversary



Today is the first anniversary of our blog and this is also our 50th post, so a double celebration.

We would like to raise a ‘virtual glass of bubbly’ to all our wonderful readers for such amazing support of the topics we have written about so far.





We have had an absolutely brilliant time researching all the topics  and have learnt so much along the way and hope that so far you have enjoyed reading about everything we’ve found and that you will continue to find our information interesting and informative.

The Georgian Era was such a diverse period in history spanning the time frame 1714 to 1830, no wonder it’s affectionately referred to at the ‘long 18th century’.

It managed to have four kings named George;

A plethora of writers  – Jane Austen, the Romantic poets – Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats & Byron to name but a few;

Architects – John Nash, Robert Adam;

Artists – Gainsborough, Stubbs, Reynolds & Turner;

Social reform – the abolition of slavery, establishment of hospitals, prison reform; the Luddites, the Peterloo Massacre & the Cato Street Conspiracy.

British expansion throughout the world, along with it the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic Wars and of course who could forget the French Revolution.

Explorers such as Captain Cook and the botanist Sir Joseph Banks.

The list is endless and we couldn’t include everyone or everything that happened during that era, but with so much happening during the period, it’s hard to know where to start, let alone end.

Judging by all the wonderful comments and followers we have gained we must be doing something right; we have readers from  all around the world. Our top 3 most popular blogs to date being –

Grace Dalrymple Elliott and that ridiculous hat

Gypsies of Georgian England

Elizabeth Sarah Villa-Real aka Mrs Gooch

The most hits our blog has received in one day being 688. 🙂

We named the blog ‘All Things Georgian‘ not really being quite sure what we were going to write about or where it would lead, it  was primarily just somewhere to put information we had researched, but that we didn’t need for our books. It’s probably safe to say that one year later we still don’t have a clear direction, but that’s part of the fun and given how busy the Georgian Era there is so much to choose from. We’re sure that really we should have some direction really, but with such a busy period in history it’s difficult to make that choice, therefore the blog has become an eclectic mix of ‘All Things Georgian‘, so maybe we did have the title right in the first place?  You decide!


Here’s to another brilliant year 🙂


Sarah & Jo

The Nottinghamshire Giantess

In an earlier article, we looked at John Coan, the Norfolk Dwarf. As a companion piece to that article, we now turn our attention to Frances Flower, the Nottinghamshire Giantess.

Frances was baptized at Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire on the 25th October 1800, the daughter of John and Catherine Flower. Her father John was a gardener and perhaps he tended to his family as well as he did to his plants for his daughter Frances grew unusually tall. By the time she was in her late teens she was around seven feet in height and being exhibited by Mr Samuel Gear, incongruously a fishmonger from Nottingham, who had spotted an opportunity for making a little extra money. Billed as the ‘Nottinghamshire Giantess,‘ Frances appeared at fairs around the country.

A Country Fair by James Gillray (c) Museums Sheffield
A Country Fair by James Gillray
(c) Museums Sheffield

On the 15th October 1820 at Hull in Yorkshire, Frances married a man named Sampson Bark, late the landlord of the Case-is-Altered and the Lion and Lamb public houses in Nottingham, possibly he also seeing chance to exploit Frances’ height to his own advantage for she continued to travel the country to exhibit herself to a curious public.

Shortly after her marriage, she was exhibited at Hull as ‘the greatest Natural Curiosity ever Exhibited in EUROPE,’ her age erroneously given as ‘not yet seventeen’ years when she was actually twenty.

Nottinghamshire Giantess poster

 The Morning Post newspaper ran a few lines on her on the 21st September 1821, mentioning the ‘universal admiration’ she excited and referring to her as Mrs Bark, the Nottinghamshire Giantess.

To her the meed of admiration,

What mortal can deny!

For ‘mongst all classes of the nation,

She must stand very high.

Sampson Bark died in Edinburgh in December 1825. The Stamford Mercury reported his death in their 2nd December edition.

At Edinburgh, on Sunday se-nnight, Mr. Sampson Bark, well known as having formerly kept the Lion and Lamb in Nottingham; but after his marriage with Miss Flower, “the Nottinghamshire Giantess,” he travelled from fair to fair with a caravan.

In 1827 Frances, having reverted back to her maiden name, appeared at Humberstone Gate in Leicester with the Albion Company as the Yorkshire Giantess, alongside such attractions as a Ladies Fortune-telling Pig (which we would dearly love to know more about!), a New Zealand Cannibal and a woman who was only 30 inches tall.

Leicester Chronicle 13th October 1827
Leicester Chronicle 13th October 1827

Unless Nottinghamshire had gained another Giantess, Frances was still exhibiting herself in 1837 at a Michaelmas Fair in Kent where she was the chief source of attraction and described as an Amazon. Her trumpeter proclaimed her the ‘finest, tallest, stoutest, and the most proportionable woman of the age,’ and she shared a snug booth at the fair with two other women whose appearance, unfortunately, marked them as in some way different.

We lose track of Frances after this but hope she did eventually manage a life away from the fairs where she was paraded as an object of curiosity.

Gipsy Camp; George Morland; The Stanleyand Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

The Case of the Misjudged Gypsies

In our earlier post about the gypsies of Georgian England, we said that we would revisit the topic and today we have decided to look at one example of the prejudice this group of people suffered.

Gipsy Encampment by George Morland, c.1790-1795 (c) Walker Art Gallery
Gipsy Encampment by George Morland, c.1790-1795
(c) Walker Art Gallery

When Elizabeth Mary Kellen presented herself at the door of a gentleman’s house at Southend near Lewisham in the June of 1802, dressed in little more than rags and quite obviously starving, her tale of being stolen by the gypsies was readily believed.

She looked to be around ten or twelve years old, and it was clear that she had previously been educated and well brought up. The gentleman took her in and an investigation was put into place.

Elizabeth Mary Kellen told the benevolent gentleman that she was the daughter of Captain Kellen of the Plymouth Marines. About seven months before her father had sent her on an errand to a person living at Stoke near Plymouth and, just outside Plymouth, she met a gang of gypsies, five men and six women, who forcibly seized hold of her and carried her to their camp some distance away.  There the gypsies stripped Elizabeth of her clothes, giving her some of their rags to wear instead. Elizabeth, by her account, was not alone as a prisoner; two other girls about the same age as she were already held there and Elizabeth heard them cry every night for their mothers. A boy by the name of Tommy soon joined the three captives.


When taken before the Bow Street magistrates and questioned by Sir Richard Ford, Elizabeth could give no further information about Tommy other than describing him as being of ‘genteel appearance’ as the gypsies had kept them apart and not allowed them to converse. The children had been forced to travel around the country with the tribe, helping them in their nefarious habits of stealing poultry and milking cows at night. The gypsies intended, claimed Elizabeth, to darken the skin of the children with walnut juice when it was walnut season to make them appear as real gypsies.

Elizabeth told the magistrate she had managed to escape when she was sent to a nearby farmhouse for a light. Instead of going there she had run, scrambling over hedges and through ditches for many miles until she reached Southend where, tired out and hungry, she stopped and asked for help.

Bow Street Magistrates' Court from Microcosm of London, 1808
Bow Street Magistrates’ Court from Microcosm of London, 1808

Whilst officials sent to Plymouth for news of Elizabeth’s father, scouting parties were sent into the countryside around London to round up any gypsy found there.  About fifty were taken, held and put to the bar two or three at a time in front of Elizabeth in the hope that she could identify her captors. Those she did not recognise were given a small sum of money to compensate them for the inconvenience of being held prisoner before being sent on their way.

The Morning Post newspaper noted that:

Never, perhaps, was there such an assemblage of this merry motley tribe in London, and who, whatever may be their mode of life, they exhibit the strongest outward marks of health and spirits. Their children are extremely fine in general, and many of the girls very beautiful.

The gypsies Elizabeth did identify, a married couple together with another woman and six children, had been apprehended at Wandsworth and were held in the House of Correction before being questioned by Sir Richard Ford and Mr. Thomas Robinson Esquire at the Public Office in Bow Street.

Bow Street Police Station (
Bow Street Police Station (

Here Elizabeth’s story slowly began to unravel.

The gypsies did not deny knowing Elizabeth, or that she had lived with them for a time, but they did deny meeting her near Plymouth six or seven months previously. Instead, they had met with the girl on Kennington Common just ten days earlier and, seeing she was on her own and in distress, they had allowed her to travel with them and had given her food and shelter. Elizabeth stubbornly refuted this and stuck to the veracity of her own story but more witnesses were called in.

Andrew Dew, a Sergeant of Marines belonging to the Plymouth Division arrived and he knew Elizabeth. He told Sir Richard that she was not the daughter of Captain Kellen, but the daughter-in-law [possibly meaning step-daughter in this case] of John Killings, not a Captain but a Sergeant in the same Division.

In the January of 1802, Andrew Dew had seen Elizabeth at Stonehouse Barracks near Plymouth selling apples and nuts for her mother.  Elizabeth disliked having to stand in the street at the Barracks during winter selling produce and she had run away, John Killings assuming she had gone to her relations in Taunton, Somerset.  A letter was then read from the Mayor of Plymouth who had been asked to make enquiries. He confirmed that the person in Stoke she claimed her father had sent her on an errand to on the fateful day she had been kidnapped did not exist, that Elizabeth’s story was false.

Stonehouse Barracks (
Stonehouse Barracks (

Finally, the overseers from the parish of St. Mary Rotherhithe attended the Public Office and identified Elizabeth as a girl who had been in their care since the 31st March 1802, when she had arrived with a pass dated from Plymouth and a settlement examination attached to it in which she claimed that her name was Elizabeth Mary Hibbins and that she belonged to the parish of Rotherhithe; she also said her father was dead. She was taken into the workhouse there and, although no record could be found relating to her dead father by which means her settlement could be confirmed, she behaved so well that the overseers did not like to turn her out and allowed her to remain in the workhouse, giving her leave to work in the surrounding fields for her own benefit. On the 4th of May, she had left the workhouse to work in the fields but had never returned.

The gypsies were brought from their confinement in the House of Correction and instead of being charged with the abduction of the girl they were instead thanked for their humanity and kindness in trying to help her. In gratitude for this, and in compensation for their wrongful arrest and confinement, they were given some money and several gentlemen who were present added silver from their own pockets to the total.  The authorities accepted that Tommy and the other two girls supposedly held captive were merely figments of Elizabeth’s imagination and the gypsies were then set free and sent on their way.

Elizabeth wept a little but then refused to answer any more questions. She was sent to the House of Correction so lately vacated by the gypsies whilst the authorities tried to establish exactly who she was and where she should be sent. Although it was noted that she was ‘very little, and plain in person, and cannot be above eleven or twelve years of age,’ Elizabeth now claimed that she was, in fact, seventeen years old.

Misjudged - Kennington

Elizabeth Mary Kellen’s story illustrates the attitudes and prejudice of people against the gypsies at the time. They did commit many petty crimes but the oft repeated tales of them kidnapping children which are found so frequently in contemporary reports of the day invariably turned out to be nothing more than ‘urban myth’ with no basis in fact.  That Elizabeth was so readily believed when she pointed to gypsies as her kidnappers was a sad fact of this perception when they had actually behaved extremely well and charitably towards her.  The story was reported in newspapers the length and breadth of the country, even appearing in the American newspapers when the story reached those shores, and much more tabloid space was giving up to the initial telling of the kidnap than was given to the final conclusion of the affair.

As for Elizabeth, she faded into obscurity after this, whether as a seventeen-year-old taking advantage of her small stature to prey on peoples sympathies by posing as a helpless young child or as a runaway youngster dependent upon parish relief.

Sources used:

Morning Post, 11th June 1802

Staffordshire Advertiser, 12th June 1802

Oxford Journal, 12th June 1802

Sussex Advertiser, 14th June 1802

Oxford Journal, 19th June 1802

Header image: Gipsy Camp; George Morland; The Stanleyand Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds


Madame de Pompadour by François Boucher, 1756.

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 2)

Georgian faces
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Continuing with our ‘Top Georgian beauty tips’ from The Fashionable Magazine of 1786. As before though, this one also carries a health warning – we strongly advise not trying these at home! Judging by Grace’s complexion it seems highly likely that once again she may have tried at least one of these top tips.



Jaw bone of a hog

The jaw bone of a hog, well burnt, pounded and sifted and afterward ground on marble to an impalpable powder, and mixed with oil of white poppies, may be laid on the face or neck at  pleasure, and will give them a delicate  whiteness without the possibility of those dangerous consequence which are known frequently to arise  from the use of mineral preparations  for this purpose.


Boil two handfuls of fresh wood ashes in a quart of water, til one half is consumed; then pour off the clear liquid, and after boil it again, filter it through coarse paper and wash the face with this lixivium twice or thrice every day.


Take an ounce of oil of sweet almonds and half a drachm each of white wax and spermaceti (wax from the head of a sperm whale) with a little balm of Gilead.

Balm of Gilead

Melt these ingredients in a glazed pipkin over hot ashes and pour the solution into a marble mortar, stirring it about with the pestle till the whole becomes smooth and is quite cold. Then, add gradually an ounce of rose or orange flower water, stirring the mixture till all is well incorporated, o as to become extremely light and white and much resembling cream, from it’s similitude to which the name is derived. This pomatum or cold cream is an excellent cosmetic, rendering the skin at once supple and smooth.  It is also serviceable in preventing marks from the small pox, especially when it has the addition of a little powder of saffron.  The gally pot in which cold cream is kept should have a piece of bladder tied over it.



Take any quantity of houseleek and beat it in a marble mortar, then squeeze out the juice and clarify it. Keep the liquid in a bottle and when you want to use it, drop a tea spoonful of spirits of wine into about a cupful of the juice and it will immediately become milky.  This milk not only preserves the skin soft and smooth, but it an excellent and perfectly innocent remedy for a pimpled face.

Storax and gum Benjamin (also known as Benzoin resin) , in equal parts, dissolved in spirits of wine, with the addition of balm of Gilead, and dropped into a glass of water will likewise make an excellent Virgin Milk, equally innocent and efficacious.


Failure to use these products could leave you looking like this by the time you are 70 – apparently!

old woman and wig
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Just in case you missed the other posts in this series, here are links to them:

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 1)

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 3)

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 4)

The Illegitimate child of Major General Banastre Tarleton

Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1782
Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1782 via Wikimedia Commons

In the course of our research, we came across a reference to an illegitimate child of Banastre Tarleton, army officer and politician.  Regular readers will probably be aware by now that we’re both natural ‘nosey parkers’ and as such simply had to find out more about this child.  So, here is some additional gossip on the subject for you.

In 1797 Major General Banastre Tarleton was ending his relationship with the actress and courtesan Mary Robinson (before Banastre she was better known as the Perdita to the Prince of Wales Florizel).  The diarist Joseph Farington recorded on the 2nd May 1797 that Banastre and Mary had separated due to his designs on her daughter ‘who is now 21.’  Maria Elizabeth Robinson, the daughter of Mary and Thomas Robinson, the husband from whom she had separated many years before, had been born in October 1774 so was actually a year older than the diarist thought.

In December 1798 Banastre married Susan Priscilla Bertie, illegitimate daughter and heiress of his former friend Robert Bertie, 4th Duke of Ancaster, who had been brought up by her titled grandmother and her aunt Lady Cholmondeley and who was almost a quarter of a century her husband’s, junior.

And at some point around his split from Mary and before his marriage to Susan Priscilla, Banastre was to father an illegitimate daughter, named in his honour and for his friend the Prince, as Banina Georgiana Tarleton.  Born on the 19th December 1797, the little girl was not baptized until the 26th May 1801, at the Old Church in Saint Pancras, her mother simply named as Kolina on the baptism register.


Click to enlarge

 This girl had but a short life, almost anonymous until a notice of her death appeared at the age of just twenty years on the 12th April 1818.  If her birth date (which is given in the parish register entry of her baptism) is correct, then she must have been conceived around the middle of March 1797, and Banastre appears to be resident in London at that time.  Interestingly, the only other woman he is linked with by the press in 1797, other than Mary Robinson, was her daughter.  Was Farington merely repeating salacious gossip or was there some truth behind the rumours?

General T_____ is said to fluctuate between the “Perdita” and her fair daughter, like the ass between two bundles of hay.

The Times, 13th October, 1797

Why Banina Georgiana was not baptized sooner is a mystery.  She was three and a half years old when she was taken to the church at St Pancras, but Banastre hadn’t been in London much in the interim; after his marriage to Susan Priscilla Bertie the newly-wed couple left for Portugal where Banastre had been given a command, not returning to England until the October of 1799 and in 1800 they spent some months in Wales.

Mary Robinson, after failing to reclaim Banastre and with the ill-health, she had suffered from since possibly undergoing a miscarriage during the early days of her relationship with him, died on the 26th December 1800 at her daughter’s cottage in Englefield Green near Egham.  After her death, a lock of her hair was reputedly sent to ‘a General and a Prince’, the two great loves of her life.  Is it somehow significant that the baptism of this little girl did not take place until after the great Perdita had died?

Mrs Mary Robinson (Perdita) by Thomas Gainsborough, 1781 (c) The Wallace Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Mrs Mary Robinson (Perdita) by Thomas Gainsborough, 1781
(c) The Wallace Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Despite our best efforts, we can still add little to Banina Georgiana’s life but we have found her burial, surprisingly up in Scotland, and as this does not seem to have been mentioned before we thought that we should share this new information with you, our readers.  In the Findo Gask parish burial records is the following document.

 Miss Tarleton, daughter of General Sir Banastre Tarleton, Baronet, died at Gask House, on Sunday the 12th, and was interred within the Old Church on Wednesday the 15th of April, 1818.

Sir Banastre sent five pounds to the poor as the price of a burial place, which sum, the Men and Managers of the Fund, after stating to Sir Banastre their uncertainty whether it was in their power to dispose of the ground, received in lieu of any right which the public may have in it, – and grateful for the bounty and human attention of Sir Banastre and Lady Tarleton to the poor of the place, as well during the whole term of their residence at Gask as on the present occasion, they promised to use their utmost endeavours to preserve entire the ground in which the remains of Miss Tarleton were deposited.

O.P.R. Deaths 352/00/0010 029

Banina Georgiana Tarleton died at Gask House at Findo Gask in Perthshire, the family home of Carolina Nairne nee Oliphant (1766-1845), a Scottish songwriter and poet from a Jacobite family.

Carolina Oliphant, Baroness Nairne, 1766 - 1845. Songwriter & son William Murray Nairne
Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne with her son

In 1806, when Carolina was forty-one years of age, she married her second cousin William Murray Nairne who in 1824 became the Baron Nairne.  The Nairnes lived in Edinburgh after their marriage.  We have to here point out that the name Carolina is very similar to the name of Banina’s mother, Kolina, although in doing so we wish to cast no aspersions on her moral character; it may just be a coincidence that the two names are similar and that Banina died at Gask House.

Died . . . At Gask House, on the 12th current, Miss Tarleton, daughter of General Sir Banastre Tarleton, Bart.

Caledonian Mercury, 18th April 1818

Gask House, rebuilt 1801-1805 by Laurence Oliphant
Gask House, rebuilt 1801-1805 by Laurence Oliphant

The Tarleton’s seem to have been using Gask House as a Scottish estate although their main residence was at Leintwardine in Herefordshire and their London address was 29 Berkeley Square; the Nairnes seem to mainly reside in Edinburgh.

Was Banina Georgiana there as part of a family unit with her father and her stepmother, or did Sir Banastre (he was made a baronet in 1816) and Lady Tarleton travel to Scotland after her death?  Certainly, they were there during June 1818 and as Susan Priscilla herself was illegitimate and had been brought up as part of the Cholmondeley family due to the kindness of her aunt it would not be surprising if she accepted Banastre’s illegitimate daughter as part of her family as the couple had no children of their own.

Sir Banaster [sic] and Lady Tarleton arrived on Thursday, at their house in Berkeley-square, from their seat in Scotland.

Morning Chronicle, 20th June 1818

Susan Priscilla, after her marriage in 1798, became religious and befriended Mary Robinson’s daughter; in 1804 Wild Wreath, a collection of poems put together by Maria Elizabeth Robinson included engravings from drawings by Mrs B. Tarleton along with poems written by ‘Susan’, which hints at a friendship just a few years after the baptism of Banina Georgiana between the Tarleton’s and the girl who reportedly was the cause of Banastre’s split with Mary Robinson.  Maria Elizabeth Robinson herself just predeceased Banina Georgiana for she was buried in Old Windsor (where her mother lay) on the 26th January 1818.  Her will, written in the August of 1801, left all she owned to Mrs Elizabeth Weale who shared her cottage on Englefield Green.

Is it just possible that the name Kolina is hiding the identity of someone else, someone close to Mary Robinson?

The Thunderer, 1782. Satirical print featuring the Prince of Wales, Colonel Banastre Tarleton and Mary (Perdita) Robinson. Ban Tarleton is boasting of his exploits to the prince, outside a brothel named the Whirligig.
Satirical print featuring the Prince of Wales, Colonel Banastre Tarleton and Mary (Perdita) Robinson, 1782. (Library of Congress prints)

Mary Robinson: Selected Poems, edited by Judith Pascoe

The Old Bailey. Microcosm of London.

A sordid tale of bigamy and attempted murder in Georgian London

On the 19th October 1739 Philip Blake, around 30 years of age and by trade a gardener, married Sarah Perkins at St Saviour’s Church in Southwark. The marriage lasted little more than two or three years before the couple parted, with Sarah accusing her husband of behaving badly towards her.

Many years later, on the 17th July 1762, Blake married again, notwithstanding his first wife still being alive. His wife by this second bigamous marriage was a widow, Phillis Ewen or Ewens of Brompton, Kensington, and the couple married in the church there.  Phillis, like Sarah before her, was ill used by her husband. She was eventually approached by a gentlewoman, a stranger to Phillis but someone who knew the history of her husband and knew how he treated his wife. This stranger gave Phillis the shocking news that she was no wife at all, that a first Mrs Blake was still living in Southwark. Phillis enlisted a friend, a Mr Nicholas Osbourn or Osborne, a gentleman and a neighbour of hers, to establish the truth of the matter. Osbourn straight away examined the parish registers of St. Saviour’s in Southwark on behalf of Phillis and, on finding out that everything the stranger had told her was true, Phillis brought a case against her supposed husband for bigamy.
Two images of Southwark via

The case was heard at London’s Old Bailey on the 24th February 1768. Philip Blake’s defence, that he did not know Sarah Perkins and that he was not the person that had married her was not believed and a guilty sentence was passed down by the judge. The punishment for bigamy was to be branded in the hand with a hot iron, and that sentence was duly carried out, marking Philip Blake as a bigamist to the end of his days.

Phillis Ewen went back to her home to rebuild her life. She lived on Brompton Lane, opposite the Bell public house in Kensington (probably the Bell and Horns which stood on the corner of Brompton Road and Brompton Lane) and kept a small market garden which was no doubt where Philip Blake, a gardener, had worked. Blake’s adult son, possibly from his marriage with Sarah Perkins, had lived with the couple and still lived with Phillis even after the departure of his father from the former marital home.

Late in April 1768 Phillis received a message from Blake; he begged that she would come to see him at his lodgings by Nibe’s pound near Oxford Road for he feared he was near death. Since the bigamy trial and being branded in his hand he had suffered a fall in which he had hurt his leg. The leg had turned black and bad. Blake pleaded with Phillis to allow him to return to her home, repenting of his previous life but Phillis would not be swayed. Blake then ominously told her that if she did not consent to take him back it would be the ‘utter ruin’ of them both.

A few days later, on the 2nd May 1768 and between 9 and 10 o’clock in the evening, a woman who lodged in Phillis Ewen’s Brompton Lane home went upstairs and opened a sash window to let in the cool evening air. She saw someone running across the garden and went to tell Phillis. It was Blake’s son, running to meet his father who was hidden amongst some gooseberry bushes at the end of the garden. Blake tried to gain entrance to the house, saying he had come to fetch some of his clothes which had been left at his former home. Phillis, perhaps feeling sorry for the state he was reduced to, let him in and he sat down and began to bemoan his fate. Phillis, by banishing him from her home and away from her garden, had deprived him of the means of making a living and for this he blamed her.

Phillis had had enough. She went to open the door to turn him out but, with her hand still on the door handle, heard the woman who lodged with her, scream and cry out, “Mr Blake, what are you going to do?” Phillis turned and saw Blake pulling a pistol from his pocket. A scuffle ensued in which Phillis, assisted by Blake’s son, struggled with her former husband, trying to take hold of the pistol. Blake fell down in the passage way, in the dark; Phillis was now truly afraid and begging him to spare her life, promising to do anything if he would.

Blake told Phillis, if she wanted to live, to come with him to the door to the garden where he would tell her what he wanted her to do. About three yards from the door he clasped his left arm around Phillis’ head, pulled her towards him and, holding the pistol in his right hand, shot her in the neck, intending to murder her. Phillis fell back into the arms of her female companion and Blake’s son while Blake himself ran away into an arbour from where a further gunshot was heard.

Elizabeth Freeman, another woman who had an apartment in the house, heard the cry of “murder” from downstairs. She ran to the scene of the commotion to find Phillis Ewen’s hair and cap on fire (from the charge contained in the pistol), blood running down her neck, convinced that she was dying and that the bullet was still lodged inside her. But Phillis had been lucky, the lead bullet had entered the back of her neck on the left-hand side and passed straight through; after the wounds had been dressed and stitched she was left with a scar on either side of her neck but no other lasting injury.

When men went to look for Blake in the arbour, thinking he had killed himself, they found no sign of his body. He was eventually found between four and five o’clock the next morning, in a stable, having slit his throat with his small gardener’s budding knife but still alive. He was carried to a hospital where his throat was stitched and, once he had recovered, he was taken to the New Prison at Clerkenwell to await his trial for the attempted murder of Phillis Ewen. When she heard that Blake was to be released from prison the woman who had witnessed the shooting, whose name is not mentioned in any of the reports on the trial, was in such a great terror that she left London, going into Essex rather than stand as a witness and face Blake once more. Phillis Ewen, however, was made of sterner stuff.

Phyllis - New Prison

On the 6th July 1768, Blake found himself for the second time that year in the dock of the Old Bailey. In his defence he said that he had asked Phillis, when she went to his lodgings, for some plants from the garden and for the return of some of his things left at her house; she, he claimed, refused to allow either. Blake also said he had made over three houses to Phillis, the Kensington one she lived in, another at Knightsbridge and one further at Hyde Park Corner; Phillis countered with the fact that these were her houses before she had married Blake and not his. A silver punch ladle was also a bone of contention; Blake said it was his, Phillis said it was bought with her own money.

Blake said he had taken the pistol with him to the Brompton Lane house because, if Phillis would not let him return, he intended to commit suicide. Finding Phillis inflexible he claimed he had pulled her towards him, not to kill her but, to buss or kiss her and claimed, that when Phillis pulled her head away, that the pistol went off accidentally.

After his defence, the record of his trial and conviction for bigamy just months earlier was read, and the verdict was passed down.


The sentence was Death.


He was held at Newgate until he was taken to the gallows at Tyburn on Wednesday 27th July 1768. Reports described him as a grave looking and elderly man, around 60 years of age. He was penitent, repented of his crimes and sins and reportedly admitted at his end to one further bigamous marriage.

Last Wednesday morning, Philip Blake, for shooting Phillis Ewen, was executed at Tyburn . . . Blake, the unfortunate convict, executed as above, for shooting at one of his wives, has left three widows behind him, he having acknowledged to a person who attended him, that he had been married to so many.

The Oxford Journal of 30th July 1768:

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Phillis Ewen bore the scars of her assault for a further eleven years before dying, in 1779, at Purser’s Cross near Fulham. Her trip down the aisle with Philip Blake was to be her last; she took no further husband.


Westminster Journal and London Political Miscellany, 2nd July 1768

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 8th July 1768

Westminster Journal and London Political Miscellany, 30th July 1768

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (part 1)

In today’s society millions of pounds are spent on cosmetics in the hope of making us appear more beautiful or better still in attempting to slow down or prevent the ageing process. It seems that this is nothing new and Georgian ladies faced the same challenges. The Fashionable Magazine of 1786 provides us with some amazing ‘top tips’ for looking your best with the aid of cosmetics – we do not however, advocate trying these at home as we aren’t scientists so can not validate the claims being made!!

Georgian faces
Thomas Rowlandson, Six Stages of Mending a Face (1792). Image courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library


This water, which has long been in the highest estimation with ladies on the Continent, received it’s distinguished name from their experience of it’s unparalleled virtues in smoothing wrinkles, and giving peculiar delicacy to the skin, as well as in mitigating the tooth-ache, adding whiteness and lustre to the teeth, and supplying  the breath with a most agreeable frangrance.

The method of preparing Imperial Water has hitherto been little known in England; but the reputation of it’s excellence has given rise to many paltry imitations.

This is the genuine method –

After dissolving, in a quart of French Brandy, gum Arabic, benzoin (the resin from a Styrax tree), sandarach (the resin of a type of Cypress tree), mastic and frankincense, a quarter of an ounce of each add half the quantity of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, with an ounce of pine-nut kernels and sweet almonds and a single grain of musk.

These ingredients being well bruised in a marble mortar, distill them in a vapour bath; and the Imperial Water will be drawn off, which must be kept closely stopped in a glass bottle.

The want of pine-nut kernels may be supplied by half the quantity of spruce fir, or even by the mere addition of almonds.


Take a pound of finely powered rice, half a pound of well levigated (reduced to a fine powder) harthorn, three ounces of ceruss and gum Arabic, mastic and frankincense, an ounce of each; dissolve these ingredients in a pro-per quantity of rose water, which may be increased at discretion and wash the face every day with the fluid.


Take three quarters of a pound of fresh picked rosemary flowers, with a quarter of a pound of each of the flowers of penny-royal and marjoram; and put them into an alembic, with three pints of the best French brandy, carefully closing the mouth to prevent evaporation. Then bury it in horse dung, to digest for thirty hours, and afterwards distill the spirit in a water bath.


This Hungary Water is not only useful by way of embrocation to bathe the face or any other part affected with pain or debility, but it may likewise be taken internally once or twice a week, lasting with considerable advantage, in doses of about a drachm, diluted  with spring water to recruit strength, dispel gloom and exhilarate spirits.  Hungary Water must always be used cold, whether internally  or applied externally.  It is esteemed very serviceable in weaknesses of the eyes.


After washing the eyebrows with a decoction of nut-galls, wet them with a camel’s hair pencil, dipped in a solution of gum Arabic, with green vitriol, and they will, when dry appear of a most beautiful black.

Some use burnt cork, or cloves burnt in a candle, to darken their eyebrows; while others prefer the black of burnt frankincense, or mastic. One of the most simple expedients used for this purpose  is that of frequently rubbing the eyebrows with ripe elder-berries.


  Judging by Grace’s eyebrows it seems likely that she would have used one of these methods.


Cut any quantity of polipode of the oak into very small pieces, and place them in a glass vessel covered over about an inch higher than the substance with Lisbon  wine.  Let them digest twenty four hours in a hot-water bath, and  then distill off the liquor by the heat of boiling water till the whole  comes over the helm.  This is the  depilatory fluid; with which a linen cloth is to be wetted, and bound  on the part where the superfluous hair grows.  The cloth is to remain on all night, and the application is to be repeated every other evening till the hair falls off.

A distillation from the leaves and roots of celandine is sometimes  used in the same manner, and has a similar effect.

Boilly, La Toilette Intime ou la Rose Effeuille. Image @Wikimedia Commons