Dover Castle; Richard Wilson; Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

The illegitimate sons of Thomas Winckley

Grace Dalrymple Elliot’s sister Jacintha married three times and information on all three of these marriages can be found in our latest book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliot, available now.  Her second husband, who she married in 1785, was Thomas Winckley, a Lancashire gentleman.

Winckley - 1785 wedding dress
Wedding dress in cream silk, 1758.
Combe & Co Brewery, Woodyard, Castle Street, Long Acre via Museum of London.
Combe & Co Brewery via Museum of London.

His will, written in 1788 with two codicils added in 1792 and 1793, reveals that before marrying Jacintha he had fathered two illegitimate sons. He left an annuity of £40 a year to ‘Alice Dobson late of Lytham, single woman, now residing at Capt. Broadley’s at Dover under the assumed name of Mrs. Wilson’ and to his natural sons by her, Thomas ‘near 19 years old’ and Nicholas ‘about 15 years old’. Nicholas was at the Rev Lawrence’s Free School at Kingston-on-Thames and was to have £1200 and Thomas was to be apprenticed to Hammond & Richardson’s Brewery in Castle Street, Long Acre Westminster (Combe & Co. Woodyard Brewery) in addition to a £1000 inheritance. The will states that both sons were registered at their baptism with the surname of Wilson but ‘have been called Winckley for several years.

Henry Broadley Esquire of Dover died in 1791 aged seventy-four years. In his own will he mentioned his esteemed friend Mrs Alice Wilson, now living with him, the wife of [blank] Wilson of [blank]. He lies in a vault at St Mary’s Church in Dover next to his wife, Philadelphia née Baillie, who died on the 3rd January 1782 aged fifty-one years. Henry and Philadephia had made an irregular marriage in 1752, by special licence, in the house of Mr Lynn in Norfolk Street.

And what of the two sons of Thomas Winckley? We can find no further trace of the eldest, Thomas, but Nicholas was probably apprenticed to Richard Barnes, an attorney of Reigate in Surrey on the 19th September 1787. He became a member of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple on the 24th April 1795 (where his father had previously been a member and fully acknowledged as his father’s youngest son in the admissions register) and died at fifty-eight years on the 21st March 1831 and is buried in the Temple Church in the City of London.

View of the old Middle Temple Hall; elegantly dressed figures in foreground, steps leading up to an entrance below a tower on the left; copied from a painting attributed to Hogarth, c.1780. © The Trustees of the British Museum
View of the old Middle Temple Hall; elegantly dressed figures in foreground, steps leading up to an entrance below a tower on the left; copied from a painting attributed to Hogarth, c.1780.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

We also wrote about Grace’s sister Jacintha for a guest blog on Geri Walton’s site History of the 18th and 19th Centuries, which you can read here.



Kent Archaeology Society, Dover St Mary’s monumental inscriptions

Find a Grave

Register of Burials at the Temple Church 1628-1853

Register of Admissions to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, vol II, 1782-1909

London Gardens Online

Header image: Dover Castle; Richard Wilson; Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Rehab for 18th century prostitutes – The Magdalen Hospital

So you’ve sinned and need rehabilitation in eighteenth-century London; where would you go? Well, that was easy, you applied to The Magdalen hospital in London. The hospital was established by laymen rather than the clergy, in particular a Robert Dingley (*see end of article for more information) who, with a committee including Rev. William Dodd, referred to it as a hospital but who insisted that it be more akin to a home.

by John Dixon, after William Hoare, mezzotint, (1762) by John Dixon, after William Hoare, mezzotint, (1762)
by John Dixon, after William Hoare, mezzotint, (1762)

It was to be a safe place for girls and women in eighteenth-century London (similar hospitals were sent up around the world too) where they could be rehabilitated and resume a good and honest life.

Saint Mary Magdalene reading in a landscape, Correggio, Bonhams
Saint Mary Magdalene reading in a landscape, Correggio. Courtesy of Bonhams

The first general meeting to discuss setting up such a place took place on the 1st of June 1758 and it was agreed that:

There was to be a ‘superiority of ward, the lower wards to take ‘inferior person’ or those ‘degraded for misbehaviour’.  The women might be promoted to higher wards.

The matron was to inspect the inmates’ correspondence.

Inmates were to be known by their Christian names alone. If further differentiation were needed, the name of the ward, or a number, should be added.

Various kinds of employment were suggested

We then have the most poignant sentence at the end:

… always observing in this and every other circumstance the utmost care and delicacy, humanity and tenderness; so that this establishment, instead of being apprehended to be a house of correction, may be gladly embraced as a safe, desirable and happy retreat from their wretched and distressful circumstances.

It took very little time to raise the funds required and secure appropriate premises.  Staff were duly appointed.

Staff appointed

The first admission was Ann Blore, a native of Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Two other women were promised admission as soon as they were cured of disease. One was admitted as servant to the matron and Mary Truman was rejected as she wasn’t a prostitute.  Admissions day was the first Thursday of the month at 5pm and women were not permitted to be either pregnant or suffering from any disease.

Petition for AdmissionThe house was divided into parts in order to make total and distinct divisions of the objects, and the rooms were distinguished by being numbered.  The women were classed in each ward. A proper number of women were appointed to perform all the domestic business of their respective wards and the household and to keep the chapel clean. Each woman lay in a separate bed and had a box for her clothes and linen, under lock and key which was kept by herself. Strict regard was had by the matron and her assistants to ensure that the wards were kept completely ventilated and the air pure – they visited the chambers and working rooms frequently each day to ensure this. Friends or relations of the women could apply to visit and visits were held under the supervision of the matron.

Upon admission their clothes are taken from them and returned to them when they leave. They are issued with grey shalloon gowns, all women worn the same ‘uniform’. Their diet/meals were agreed by the overseeing committee with a copy of the meals being hung on a board in each ward.

A Magdalen in 1760

All women are actively employed in tasks suiting their ability predominantly sewing, any occupation that will aid employment when they leave.

From Lady-day to Michaelmas they rise at six and go to bed at ten; and from Michaelmas to Lady-day rise at seven and in bed at nine; and after that time no fire of candle are allowed, except in the sick ward.

Breakfast was taken at 9 o’clock and they were allowed half an hour, they dined at one o’clock and were allowed one hour, and left off work at six in the winter and seven in the summer.

Magdalen by Thomas Rowlandson
Magdalen by Thomas Rowlandson

The hospital had opened on 10th August 1758 and by its 10th anniversary, some 1,036 women had been admitted.

509 had been reconciled to and received by their friends or placed in services in reputable families and to trades

38 proved lunatics, and afflicted with incurable fits

28 died

150 were uneasy under restraint and dismissed at their own desire

37 never returned from hospitals, to which they were sent to be cured

201 were discharged for faults and irregularities

73 were still present

Total 1,036

Did this method of reform work? Well seemingly so, if you believe the statistics, it did. To correct and to train rather than to punish seemed to be the order of the day. The hospital adapted to change over the years and finally closed its doors in 1966.

For anyone wishing to find out more about the Magdalene laundries in Ireland which were set up a few years after the one in London, you may find wish to follow the link here.

Image of the hospital


*  More about Robert Dingley

Robert Dingley was born around 1710, the eldest surviving son of Susanna and Robert Dingley, a prosperous jeweller and goldsmith of Bishopsgate Street, London. Robert took a keen interest in the arts and became a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was also founder member of the Society of Dilettanti, held a lifelong career with the Russia Company and was also Director of the Bank of England and trustee at the Foundling home.

On December 30th, 1744 Robert married Elizabeth Thomson, daughter of Henry Thomson Esq, of Kirby Hall, Yorkshire.

Elizabeth was to die in 1759 and Robert married his second wife, Esther Spencer the following year, on 21st March 1760. Esther died 1784.

Robert died 1781 and there is a memorial for both Robert and Esther in the same church.

There is an obelisk and bust of Elizabeth (Thompson) Dingley at St Luke’s church, Charlton, Kent
There is an obelisk and bust of Elizabeth at St Luke’s church, Charlton, Kent.

They had a daughter, Susanna Cecilia (1743–1795) of Lamb Abbey, near Eltham, Kent, who married Richard Hoare (d.1778) of Boreham House, Essex, a partner in Hoare’s bank, in 1762.

Richard Hoares' marriage to Susanna in 1762 in the presence of her father Robert. The marriage was carried out by none other than Rev. William Dodd.
Richard Hoares’ marriage to Susanna in 1762 in the presence of her father Robert. The marriage was carried out by none other than Rev. William Dodd.
Mrs Susanna Hoare and Child by Joshua Reynolds; The Wallace Collection
Mrs Susanna Hoare and Child by Joshua Reynolds; The Wallace Collection

The couple had five children, and the present picture probably depicts their eldest child, called Susanna Cecilia after her mother, who died young in 1768. In 1765 Mrs Hoare paid 70 guineas for the picture, which was probably painted 1763–1764.

Robert and his first wife also had a son Robert Henry Dingley.

There is no trace of Robert having left a will, but his second wife Esther left a will in which she made provision both of Robert’s children.

Sources Used:

The Magdalen Hospital: The Story of a Great Charity, 1917

An account of the rise, progress, and present state of the Magdalen Hospital, for the reception of penitent prostitutes. Together with Dr. Dodd’s sermons…, 1770

The Environs of London: Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent

Featured Image:

Courtesy of British Museum

A case of 18th Century Witchcraft in Silsoe Bedfordshire

We came across this curious case in the British Mercury or Annals of History, Politics, Manner, Literature and the Arts 1788 and thought we would share it with you.

A few months since some extraordinary particulars were given in this paper relating to the daughter of Mr. Capon, a considerable farmer at Silsoe, in Bedfordshire, discharging from her stomach 52 brass pins, a pincushion stuck with pins and needles, a pair of small scissors, with an iron chain etc.

The strange propensity of this child to swallow the above and various other indigestible substances, was by the ignorant attributed to the power of witchcraft and a man named Saunders, a gardener at Silsoe, was reprobated as a wizard and was accused of having exerted his diabolical influence over Mr. Capon’s daughter.

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole

About eight years ago Mr. Saunders and his wife were ducked at Silsoe till they were nearly drowned, on the supposition that one was a witch and the other a wizard.

About a month since the above mentioned Saunders died, and Mr. Capon’s daughter having, through the assistance of the Faculty much recovered in health, the ridiculous notion that her singular conduct was the effect of the super-natural agency of Saunders is amazingly strengthened; for though since April the child had been gradually recovering from a very ill state of health, the untaught multitude obstinately insist that the favourable change is but the natural consequence of the death of Saunders, who notwithstanding the strong prejudice against him was, by the more rational part of his neighbours always considered as an industrious, inoffensive man. Not only in Bedfordshire, but in many other parts of the Kingdom, the absurd notion of the power of witchcraft is as strongly prevalent as at Yatton, Bristol or any part of Somersetshire.

V0025858 A wizard casting spells from his magic circle by the light Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images A wizard casting spells from his magic circle by the light of his cauldron surrounded by creatures. Engraving by I. Wood. By: I WoodPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0
V0025858 A wizard casting spells from his magic circle by the light
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

The case also attracted interested from the media with the national ones giving similar accounts, some stating that the child had to be watched day and night in case she decided to start eating other things not designed for human consumption. We have done some research to try to find out who the child was and so far no luck, so if any of our readers have any luck in tracing her please do let us know. The wizard aka Mr Saunders could have been Thomas Saunders who was buried on 22nd April 1788 at Southill, Bedfordshire but apart from that there don’t appear to be another possible matches, so if those names mean anything to any of our readers please do let us know, we’d love to find out whether there was any truth in the story.


The British Mercury Or Annals of History, Politics, Manners, Literature, Arts Etc. of the British Empire, Volume 6, Issues 27-39, 1788

Trompe l'oeil, Letter Rack; Edwaert Collier; Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

Literary battles with Junius: who was Modestus?

As they continue to do today, people in the 1700s wrote to the newspapers using an alias to hide their true identity, and needless to say there was much speculation as to who these people were.  We came across such a name during our book research, someone using the pseudonym ‘Modestus’ who engaged in literary battles with the great Junius. Over the centuries there has been much speculation as to who Modestus was, many people claimed it was Sir William Draper and more recently John Cleland, author of the novel Fanny Hill has been mooted. The true identity of Modestus was actually none other than Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s father, Hugh Dalrymple. But to find out why we know that Hugh was Modestus you’ll have to read our book, where all is revealed.

Sir William Draper by Gainsborough
Sir William Draper by Gainsborough

Modestus penned a very interesting letter in the January of 1771, which jars with the topics of his previous letters and could, just possibly, be about his celebrated daughter Grace before her marriage and infamy. In fact, we’re not at all sure that this letter was actually written by Hugh, as it is of such a change of topic than his others. We have more than a sneaking suspicion that it was perhaps his namesake eldest son who might just have penned this one, using his father’s pseudonym. We do know he later wrote to the newspapers on occasion, using his father’s alias.

Trompe l'oeil with Writing Materials by Edwaert Collier
Collier, Edwaert; Trompe l’oeil with Writing Materials; Paintings Collection

This letter is very different from the others which had mainly been political. This one stands out and knowing that Hugh had a daughter who was about the same age as the one in his letter, who married in London later that year, it is extremely tempting to suggest that this may be a sighting of Grace Dalrymple and Modestus a vengeful father or brother.

The letter from Modestus, addressed to the committee for conducting the free-press, appeared in the Public Register newspaper (based in Dublin) on the 1st January 1771.


Your readiness to insert every Thing conducive to the publick Good, assures me you will not refuse the following Fact a Place in your Paper, as it may prevent a Repetition of an Action, both infamous in its Nature, as well as repugnant to every Rule of Good-breeding.

And you will oblige,

Your constant Reader and Admirer, MODESTUS.

Some few Nights ago, as a young Lady was returning from an Evening Visit, attended by a Servant, she was, opposite to Capel-street Play-house, sallied out on by some young Ruffians of the Military, by their Uniforms seemingly Officers of the _th Regiment, who wantonly drew water on her, to the infinite Terror and Amazement of the helpless young Creature.  Had the Gentlemen Reason enough to consider (which I much doubt) the unmeaning Barbarity of their behaviour, they would never have committed an Action, warranted by nothing, but the lustful Instinct of Dogs, whose Nature it is to turn up at every Post.

We’re sure you can imagine just what the soldiers might have been doing when they ‘drew water’ on the poor young lady!

View from Capel Street looking over Essex Bridge, Dublin, after Malton, James (d.1803) Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
View from Capel Street looking over Essex Bridge, Dublin, after Malton, James (d.1803)
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

There was indeed a theatre on Capel Street, but in Dublin.  Is it Grace at all and if so, was she in Dublin just a few months before her marriage to Doctor Eliot? Unfortunately, with no further information, not even the number of the regiment involved, it is fruitless to pursue this further and it must remain as merely a possible tantalising reference to Grace.

Header image: Trompe l’oeil, Letter Rack; Edwaert Collier; Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

The Celebrated 3rd Earl of Peterborough

As part of our ‘Blog Tour‘ we are delighted to be travelling over to see Madame Gilflurt aka Catherine Curzon, author of the soon to be released Life in the Georgian Court, which is being published by Pen & Sword Books in a few months time.

Over on her website A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life we will be telling you about an ancestor of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s uncle by marriage; none other than Charles Mordaunt, the celebrated 3rd Earl of Peterborough. He’s a fascinating character who we looked at during our research for An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott and although he couldn’t be included within its pages we’re delighted to be able to share his story with you, including details of his secretive late marriage to the opera singer Anastasia Robinson.

Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough (1658-1735) by Charles Jervas (c.1675-1739). Burghley House Collections.
Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough (1658-1735) by Charles Jervas (c.1675-1739). Burghley House Collections.

So if you would like to know more, please click HERE to be transported over to see Madame Gilflurt.


An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden.



A Trusty Maid; Geroge H Hay; Hospitalfield Arts

A tale of deceit in late 18th and early 19th century Essex

Today’s blog concerns a tale of deceit in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Essex.

Henry Cranmer of Quendon Hall in Essex educated and raised Captain Joseph Cranmer Gordon Esq as his own son, and perhaps he really was so. Gordon continued to receive financial support even as an adult, with frequent remittances of money. Suddenly, however, they ceased.

Upon investigation, Joseph Cranmer Gordon discovered that his benefactor was ‘in a lunatic state’ and controlled entirely by a man named James Winton and a Mrs Margaret Greygoose who had cut off Mr Gordon’s allowance. A commission of lunacy was taken out and Mr Gordon was appointed in control of Henry Cranmer’s estate, much to the annoyance of James Winton.

Quendon Hall via British History Online.
Quendon Hall via British History Online.

James Winton appeared before the commissioners in a menacing fashion, in full regimental uniform with ‘an immense and massy iron truncheon by his side, and a brace of double-barrelled pistols thrust under his girdle’. He was there to prove the sanity of old Henry Cranmer, but instead James Winton’s own sanity was doubted. A verdict of lunacy against Henry Cranmer was proved, as was the threatening behaviour of James Winton – he was shortly afterwards sent to Chelmsford gaol for antagonising one of Cranmer’s tenants.

Both James Winton and Joseph Cranmer Gordon had served in the Essex Militia; Winton wrote an ‘insolent letter’ to Gordon, mentioning that the pair had met once at a mess dinner and pointedly saying that ‘he had served the King for ten years, had been in battles where he had seen the brave nobly die’ and that he wished to meet Gordon upon his return into Essex. Winton was seen to strut around wearing a brace of pistols, with the intention of provoking his rival into a duel.

Estate Staff in a Servants' Hall by Nicholas Condy (1793–1857) (c) Mount Edgcumbe House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Estate Staff in a Servants’ Hall by Nicholas Condy (1793–1857)
(c) Mount Edgcumbe House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mrs Greygoose had been born Margaret Lacey, the granddaughter of Henry Cranmer’s nurse. Her mother was also named Margaret Lacey and she lived at Quendon Hall, as Cranmer’s housekeeper and his mistress. Brought up almost as one of the family by the gullible Henry Cranmer, in 1787 she married the footman, one James Greygoose – it would appear that Henry Cranmer was oblivious to the fact that his footman had married Margaret Lacey for, in a deed written in 1789 in which he gave her five properties, he described her as ‘Margaret Lacey, spinster, now resident at Quendon Hall’ (her mother had married a man named Gregg and moved out, so it could not be that lady who was referred to).  The deed gave the properties to Margaret Lacey in case she survived Cranmer, with a power of revocation during his lifetime. Before long, around 1792 or 1793, Margaret abandoned her husband. Eloping from Quendon Hall to live with James Winton as his wife.[i] A Mr Street was intimate with the household at Quendon Hall at this time and questioned Henry Cranmer about Margaret; Cranmer was anxious for her to return.

Mr Street asked him [Henry Cranmer], as she was a pretty woman, whether he was induced to do this as a reward for kind services: to which he replied, No, – he had never but once attempted to kiss her, and then she had boxed his ears, but he would have married her if she had conducted herself properly.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

James Greygoose was buried at Quendon on the 3rd November 1805 (he continued as a servant to Henry Cranmer) and on the 9th June 1806, at St James’ in Clerkenwell, Margaret Greygoose married James Winton. It was this union and, it appears, James Winton’s influence which led to them treating Henry Cranmer as something of a ‘golden goose’. The Commission into his lunacy took place towards the end of July, just weeks after their wedding.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Margaret was, however, well-matched to James Winton. After the Commission had decided Henry Cranmer was a lunatic she took him [Cranmer] out for a ride and contrived to lure him into a waiting chaise and spirit him away, retaining her hold over him. The Lord Chancellor was applied to, and Henry Cranmer and Mrs Winton were eventually traced to a house in Camden. After some resistance, he was eventually taken back to Quendon Hall and Captain Gordon.

Henry Cranmer died in 1810 and, without access to Cranmer’s wealth, by November 1812 James Winton ‘formerly of Somer’s-town, in the county of Middlesex, and late of Quendon, in the county of Essex, gentleman’ found himself a debtor in the King’s Bench Prison.

NB: Joseph Cranmer Gordon is referred to as John Cranmer Gordon in some of the newspaper reports.


Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, 3rd August 1798

Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, 20th September 1803

Morning Advertiser, 1st August 1806

Morning Post, 1st August 1806

Bury and Norwich Post, 6th August 1806

Morning Chronicle, 6th August 1806

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 15th November 1806

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 13th August 1811

Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, 16th August 1811

Hertfordshire Genealogy

Historic England


[i] Margaret Lacey and James Greygoose married at St Leonard’s in Shoreditch on the 26th July 1787.

Header image:

A Trust Maid by George H. Hay, Hospitalfield Arts

The Life of Catherina Pitcairn

Today we take a more detailed look at one of the people mentioned in our recent biography of the eighteenth-century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, An Infamous Mistress.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden.

Our subject today is Catherina Pitcairn who was first cousin to Grace; Elizabeth Dalrymple had married John Pitcairn, a man who rose through the ranks of the marine regiments. Grace’s elder sister, Jacintha, was especially close to her Pitcairn relatives and spent some time living with her aunt, uncle and cousins at their home in Kent, close to the military base there. When Jacintha married, in 1771, to Thomas Hesketh, a Lieutenant in the 7th Foot Regiment, Catherina was a witness at the marriage. Shortly afterwards Catherina herself married, to a fellow officer from the 7th Foot, Charles Cochrane who was the second son of the Earl of Dundonald.

Winckley - 1785 wedding dress
Wedding dress in cream silk, 1785

Thomas Hesketh and Charles Cochrane were commanded, with their regiment, first to Canada and then to America where they saw action in the War of Independence. John Pitcairn too was there and his son, William, both with the British Marine force. Jacintha, with two young children in tow, followed her husband overseas and remained close by his side through his adventures in America. Catherina initially remained in England with her two infant children.

The Cochrane’s had a son (Thomas, son of the Honourable Charles Cochrane Esq and Catherine his wife was baptised on the 1st August 1773, at St Margaret’s in Rochester Kent) and a daughter.

British Infantrymen of a Royal Regiment in an Encampment by unknown artist (c) National Army Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
British Infantrymen of a Royal Regiment in an Encampment by unknown artist
(c) National Army Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In Boston, Charles Cochrane was promoted to a Captaincy in the 4th Regiment of Foot, ‘The King’s Own’, the youngest captain in that regiment, and was employed in helping in father-in-law, Major Pitcairn. Despairing of promotion within the 4th Foot, Cochrane transferred to the 1st Foot Guards and then a commission to Brevet Major within the British Legion, the ‘Green Dragoons’. Another officer who served with the British Legion was ‘Bloody Ban’, otherwise Banastre Tarleton, remembered to history not only for his military endeavours but also as the lover of the actress and courtesan Mary Darby Robinson who was a rival to our heroine Grace Dalrymple Elliott for the affections of the young Prince of Wales in the early 1780s. Ban was Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment, composed of small loyalist units of American infantry and cavalry.

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

In June 1780 Cochrane asked for leave to go home and see his wife and the two young children he had left behind; additionally, his father had died and his father-in-law, Major Pitcairn had lost his life at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill (otherwise Breed’s Hill). He had been away for almost seven years. His request was granted and he was given important military despatches to take back to England with him and a letter to Lord Amherst from General James Robertson, who said of him that:

Major Cochran who carrys this is an Officer who has gallantly distinguished himself – and can inform You of what is passing here, and perfectly well of the state of Carolina and Georgia.[i]

Lord Cornwallis, in charge of the British force, was sorry to see such a talented young officer leave, writing the following heartfelt letter to the ‘Honble Major Cochrane’.

Campden, June 10th, 1780

Dear Sir,

I cannot let you go from hence without expressing the very sincere regret I feel at your leaving my corps, and assuring you that on any future occasion I shall be happy in serving with so able and spirited an officer. I heartily wish you a prosperous voyage, and a happy meeting with your family, and am with great regard,

Your most obedient and faithful servant,


Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis by Thomas Gainsborough, 1783. National Portrait Gallery
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis by Thomas Gainsborough, 1783.
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Cochrane’s attempts to get home were met with drama; he was set upon by three privateers, whom he overcame and delivered back to New York as prisoners, returning to his schooner to be once again attacked by two rebel privateers from the New England shore, resulting in him jumping overboard and swimming back to shore to save the dispatches he carried whilst his schooner was taken.

Finally managing to get back to England, he collected his young family and brought them back to New York with him. Catherina and her two children waited there, in the October of 1781, while Charles Cochrane was sent to Yorktown in Virginia where a siege was underway, reaching Chesapeake Bay in a whaleboat on the 10th October with the French fleet firing on him as he landed. Perhaps he intended to rejoin the British Legion, now renamed as the 5th American Regiment and skirmishing with the French at Gloucester across the York River, but instead, he was appointed by Lord Cornwallis as his acting aide-de-camp.

Siege of Yorktown (1781) by Auguste Couder via Wikimedia Commons
Siege of Yorktown (1781) by Auguste Couder via Wikimedia Commons

A day later Lord Cornwallis was inspecting the defences and his newly appointed staff member accompanied him. Cochrane was allowed to fire one of the cannons himself, and he leaned over the breastworks to see where his shot landed in ricochet: a fatal error! A cannonball from the French and American lines (the American forces were commanded by General George Washington) was incoming, and as Cochrane leaned forward he was decapitated by it.[ii] Lord Cornwallis later surrendered his position.

His young widow was grief-stricken when she heard the news, and further tragedy lay in store for her, as her two young children both died young. Bereft, she returned to England.

The Dead Soldier by Joseph Wright of Derby, c.1789. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
The Dead Soldier by Joseph Wright of Derby, c.1789.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Catherina Pitcairn - St Barts the LessAt the church of St Bartholomew the Less, in the City of London, on the 19th February 1789 and after years of widowhood, Catherina married once more, to Charles Owen Cambridge.

Charles Owen Cambridge was the son of Robert Owen Cambridge (who added Owen to his name to inherit from an uncle), a poet and old Etonian who was a contemporary of the renowned letter writer Horace Walpole. And Horace Walpole, in turn, was the great-uncle of Lord Cholmondeley, Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s lover and protector: as we note in our book, Grace’s world was but a small one no matter how far she or her family travelled.

Both parties to the marriage had been widowed for Charles Owen Cambridge had married previously in 1787 to a lady named Mary Edwards, only to be bereaved by her death, possibly due to an early and complicated childbirth, less than seven months later.[iii] His brother, the Reverend George Owen Cambridge, was the presumed suitor of the diarist and novelist Fanny Burney, only George showed a distinct disinclination to commit to a marriage with her. She did, however, mention the Cambridge family on many occasions in her diary.

Charles Owen Cambridge © National Portrait Gallery, London
Charles Owen Cambridge
© National Portrait Gallery, London

A son, named Robert Owen, was born to Charles Owen Cambridge and his new wife Catherina, in 1790, baptised on the 6th August at East Lavant in Sussex. Sadly the tragedy which had dogged Catherina’s former life followed her into this new marriage, and the son died young aged only fourteen years.

Catherina and Charles Owen Cambridge did both lead long, and one hopes happy, lives; Catherina died in 1835 at the age of 84 years and Charles lived on until 1847, and the tremendous age of 95 years. They lived at Whitminster House in Gloucestershire, an old, and somewhat dilapidated in their day, medieval manor house.

A description of the manor house is available to view via the British History Online website.

Whitminster House via Heritage4Media
Whitminster House via Heritage4Media

Charles Owen Cambridge was a virtuous man. He paid for the education of fifteen boys and twenty-five girls in a day school in Moreton-in-Marsh and supported twenty-six boys and thirty-two girls in a Sunday school at the same place. He was also a zealous advocate of the proposal to adopt machinery instead of climbing boys to sweep chimneys clean. In 1828 Charles and another supporter of the campaign, E.J. Kirkman, Esq, attended a meeting at Fareham in Hampshire to consider this; Cambridge and Kirkham sent the machinery from Portsmouth and supervised the cleaning of three chimneys at the Red Lion Inn with this apparatus. The conclusion was that the chimneys were effectually swept clean in about a quarter of an hour, and the good people of Fareham who attended the meeting resolved to abstain from the use of sweeping boys and to persuade their neighbours to do the same.

The Red Lion at Fareham as it is today, via
The Red Lion at Fareham as it is today, via

Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s sister, Jacintha, had her own adventures in America during the years of the War of Independence, when she followed her own husband overseas, an interesting counterpart to Catherina Cochrane’s experiences. More information can be found in our book, An Infamous Mistress: the Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, which not only covers Grace’s fascinating life but also documents the varied and interesting lives led by her relatives.


The Lady’s Magazine: or, Entertaining companion for the fair sex, June 1804.

Hampshire Chronicle, 18th August 1828.

Gloucester Chronicle, 12th January 1839.

The Court Journals and Letters of Frances Burney: Volume ii: 1787, edited by Stewart Cooke, 2011.

Memorial of Captain Charles Cochrane, a British Officer in the Revolutionary War, 1774-1781, by Mellen Chamberlain, 1891.

Oatmeal for the Foxhound: Banastre Tarleton and the British Legion


[i] James Robertson to Lord Amherst, 12 August 1780, in James Robertson, The Twilight of British Rule in Revolutionary America: The New York Letter Book of General James Robertson, 1780-1783, eds. Milton M. Klein and Ronald W. Howard (Cooperstown, NY: The New York State Historical Association, 1983), p141.

[ii] Major Charles Cochrane has the unfortunate distinction of being the only British officer killed during this action.

[iii] Charles Owen Cambridge married Mary Edwards on the 26th July 1787 at East Lavant in Sussex; she died on the 14th February 1788.

Sweet dreams: meddlesome mice and 1770s ‘big’ hair

The extravaganza, or, The mountain head dress of 1776. Lewis Walpole Library
The extravaganza, or, The mountain head dress of 1776.
Lewis Walpole Library

We’re all aware of the elaborate ladies’ hairstyles of the Georgian period, and the chance of a little visitor or two becoming lodged inside them. Fleas yes, we knew that was a possibility, but we’ll freely admit that getting mice inside your hair whilst sleeping was not one of the dangers of living in Georgian Britain that had ever occurred to us. However, according to the Ipswich Journal (25th January 1777) and the Society of Arts, it was a constant and worrying hazard.

The many melancholy accidents that have lately happened in consequence of mice getting into ladies hair in the night time, induced the society of arts, at their last meeting, to offer a premium to the person who should invent the neatest and most useful bed-side mouse-trap.

Well, indeed! We can foresee all kinds of further melancholy accidents ensuing here when a recently woken lady fumbles around, completely forgetting she’d set a trap for her little night-time companions…

The following uncommon circumstance is authentic. On Monday morning, about three o’clock, the Lady of a well-known Gentleman, whose name we are desired not to publish, waked suddenly in a fright, and screaming out aloud, also waked her husband. He desired to know the reason of her being thus alarmed, when she told him, she felt something in her hair behind alive. On searching, a poor innocent mouse was found, who, it is supposed was invited there by the amazing quantity of powder and pomatum. The mouse made its escape, and no dangerous consequences ensued; which was very fortunate for the Lady, as she is very far advanced in her pregnancy.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 18th March 1773

Oh heigh oh, or, A view of the back settlements. Lewis Walpole Library
Oh heigh oh, or, A view of the back settlements.
Lewis Walpole Library

Mr Moses Martingo, a silversmith from New Bond-street, came to the rescue. He invented a silver trap (unfortunately the newspaper advertisement doesn’t say how it differed from a normal trap, other than obviously looking a little prettier) and began to sell these for three guineas a pop. He didn’t stop there though, oh no…

He also sells night-caps, made of silver wire, as flexible as gauze, and yet so strong that no mouse, or even rat, can gnaw thro’ them. The present demand for these articles is incredible, Mr Martingo employing no less than 40 hands in that branch only. The caps if made of plain silver wire, are sold at 3 guineas each, but the ton have them of gilt wire, from six guineas to ten.

Nightcaps made of stiffened linen were worn to protect lady’s coiffures, which could last many weeks. Perhaps Mr Martingo and the Society of Arts felt that these were not protection enough against the nocturnal activities of nibbling little rodents?

Lewis Walpole Library
Lewis Walpole Library

OK, hands up. We believe the 1777 advert is a fake and poking fun of the elaborate hairstyles of the day but if there really was a Mr Martingo, then fair play to him for cashing in on the fashion. So, Georgian fact or Georgian fiction? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sources not mentioned above:

Cambridge Sentinel, Volume XXXI, No. 29, 18th July 1936

Love and Marriage – Georgian Style

lwlpr07752 Here's songs of love & maids forsaken
‘Here’s songs of love & maids forsaken.’ Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library.

Samuel Johnson described a second marriage as a:

triumph of hope over experience

So what about a first marriage, how did you find a soul mate? Well, at the start of the Georgian era marriage, especially if you happened to be wealthy, was very much akin to an arranged marriage, with landed and gentry families arranging the marriage of their children to other wealthy families in order to build their empire and to keep the money in the family. Children were sometimes betrothed during their childhood and love took virtually no part in marriage. The situation was very different for working class people who were free to marry for love. Things began to change as a result of couples running away to Gretna Green and the like who wanted to marry for love, and by doing so they managed to cheat their parents out of such a financial union. The result of these runaway marriages being the 1753 Marriage Act which standardized marriages in England for the first time, meaning that couples under the age of 21-years had to seek parental permission. This, however, meant that couples under that age continued to runaway to Scotland.

British School; The Elopement; Paintings Collection;
British School; The Elopement; Paintings Collection

What if you couldn’t manage a first marriage, let alone a second one – where did you look? Well, there was always the ‘lonely hearts’ column. Today we have online and speed dating, back in Georgian times both men and women who were seeking love used the newspapers to look for a suitable partner, so we thought it might be fun to take a look at the advertisements placed for those seeking a suitable spouse.

The World Friday, March 21, 1788
The World Friday, March 21, 1788

So, what did men look for in a wife? Well in this case only tall women need apply! He really should have defined ‘tall’!

Public Advertiser 8th June 1774


A gentleman, lately arrived in England, and who is void of acquaintance, wishes to enter into the State of Matrimony. A fortune is not his object. He should be glad, were a lady about twenty-one years of age, rather tall than otherwise, of an affable and lively temper. Any one answering these particulars would have a carriage at her command and every other indulgence might tend to her happiness.

In the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser 14th November 1776, this gentleman basically tells would be ‘timewasters’ to ‘jog on’!

To the fair candidates for Matrimony

A young gentleman, genteelly settled and possessed of three thousand pounds real and 400l per annum wishes to meet with an agreeable partner for life whose will and fortune is independent of others control; her fortune a thousand pounds; no objection to more; the beauty of the mind which is lasting will be preferred to the charms of the face; and favours are requested for Mr. Price to be left at the Penny Post House, Charles Street, Oxford Road.

NB Those insignificant jades whose characters won’t bear inquiry and in consequence are ashamed to appear to their appointment are desired not to trouble the author to no purpose.

Clater, Thomas; The Proposal; Stockport Heritage Services;
Clater, Thomas; The Proposal; Stockport Heritage Services

Seemingly the lonely hearts advertisements were not restricted to men – women also placed adverts such as this one in the Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 12th October 1775.

A young gentlewoman that has met with some disappointments in life, has never been from home, and in expectation of some fortune, but chooseth to see genteel life, has a good education, and speaks French would be glad to superintend a single Nobleman or Gentleman’s house; no objection to age, town or country, or to go abroad, on terms agreed on at an interview.

NB Prefers a genteel independence to matrimony.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

At the other end of the spectrum we discovered quite a number of people who marriage multiple times. One woman, Lydia Hall who according to ‘The World’ died in 1787, had been:

Tried at the Old Bailey nine times and was seven times marriage; three of her spouses were long ago executed and two of them transported.

In 1797, according to The Morning Herald of 30th December:

Thomas Lonfield Esq. who died at Bath last week was married six times, and by each of his wives received a large fortune: having no children, he has left the principal part of his immense possessions to his widow.

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole


Feature image: Hogarth, William; After; The Fitzwilliam Museum

A later representation of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in Edinburgh, 1745; City of Edinburgh Council

A Jacobite link to Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s cousin

Constance Bouchier Smith and the grandson of the Young Pretender.

As part of our ‘Blog Tour’ we are delighted to have been asked to write a guest post for the wonderful Geri Walton.

We have chosen to focus on Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s cousin who was connected to a young lady by the name of Constance Bouchier Smith and we examine her relationship to the grandson of the Young Pretender. Without giving any more away, we will hand you over to Geri to tell more over on her blog ‘Unique histories from the 18th and 19th centuries’ by clicking HERE.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden.