View of the west side of Berkeley Square; a carriage driving away from the viewer on the street, two men on the pavement to the right. 1813 Watercolour © The Trustees of the British Museum

Exciting news – our next book, ‘A Right Royal Scandal’

Our blog today is a little different as we have some news that we would like you, our readers, to be the first to hear about. We’re not going back in time as far as we usually do, in fact today we are going back only around a decade to the time when we first met via an online genealogy forum.

From discussing folk we had a common interest in online, we swapped email addresses and then phone numbers and lengthy conversations became the norm during which we delved deeper into the past. As our regular readers will no doubt be well aware, we’ve always been prone to getting a little side-tracked when something piques our interest (you only have to look at the different subjects we’ve covered on here!), and so it was that we became more than a little obsessed not with our own ancestors, but with a particular line of the British royal family’s tree.

These were the people we originally planned to write about. Then we discovered a connection to Grace Dalrymple Elliott and turned our attention briefly, or so we thought, towards her. Grace had other ideas. She barrelled into our lives like a steam-roller and she, and her family, took over, resulting in An Infamous Mistress, but we always planned to return to our original research which now forms a sequel to our first, although it can very much be read as a stand-alone book.

A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden.

And so, we are delighted to announce that our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: two marriages that changed history, will be available from November in hardback and is now available to pre-order.

Almost two books in one, A Right Royal Scandal recounts the fascinating history of the irregular love matches contracted by two successive generations of the Cavendish-Bentinck family, ancestors of the British Royal Family. The first part of this intriguing book looks at the scandal that erupted in Regency London, just months after the battle of Waterloo, when the widowed Lord Charles Bentinck eloped with the Duke of Wellington’s married niece. A messy divorce and a swift marriage followed, complicated by an unseemly tug-of-war over Lord Charles’ infant daughter from his first union.

Over two decades later and while at Oxford University, Lord Charles’ eldest son, known to his family as Charley, fell in love with a beautiful gypsy girl, and secretly married her. He kept this union hidden from his family, in particular his uncle, William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland, upon whose patronage he relied. When his alliance was discovered, Charley was cast adrift by his family, with devastating consequences.

The book ends by showing how, if not for a young gypsy and her tragic life, the British monarchy would look very different today.

It’s been a very busy few months with the launch of An Infamous Mistress and finalizing A Right Royal Scandal, so we’re taking a ‘blog break’ now until the beginning of September when we will return with lots more blogs from the Georgian Era for you, so please join us again from the 1st September and have a wonderful summer.

Sarah & Jo


18th Century Lottery

A Lottery is a taxation Upon all the fools in creation;

And Heav’n be prais’d It is easily rais’d. . . The Lottery

Henry Fielding

We have come across this question in the newspaper, posed to the legal profession on 20th May 1770 about a woman’s right to retain her winning from the state lottery for herself questioning whether her husband had any right to a share of it. So far, we have not found a response to it in the newspapers, so the challenge to our readers is this – does anyone know how such an issue would have been dealt with? any help gratefully received.

john and mary 25 may 1770

John marries Mary, and agrees that part of her fortune, which is in the funds, shall be settled upon her the said Mary, for her own separate use. Mary, from the interest of her money, buys a ticket in the lottery, and gets a ten thousand pound prize. Query, Has John any right, in law, over this ten thousand pounds: or has Mary any obligation, in conscience, to give her it to her husband? A solution of this question will end all disputes, and quiet the much disturbed minds of

John and Mary Somebody

With the question of lotteries in mind we thought we would take a look at 18th century lotteries and see whether it was as popular then as it is today. The answer in short is – yes, very much so.

The lottery ticket, or, The sunshine of hopeThe ticket a blank, or, The clouds of despair 1792

As today, the lottery then had the potential to make massive change to people’s lives. We tend to think that things like the national lottery are very modern, but this is far from the truth.

State lotteries began as early as the 1690s and were established by the Bank of England. In the 1700s, as well as generating money for ‘good causes’ it also generated money which enabled Britain to go to war, for example it was reported that just over a quarter of money raised was used in fighting Napoleon. In the mid-1700s the lottery assured potential punters that they would not lose and that at a minimum they would receive their stake back and potentially win a large life changing amount of money. There was usually one prize winning ticket for every four blanks.

The Lottery’ by William Hogarth 1721 Courtesy of The Met Museum
‘The Lottery’ by William Hogarth 1721 Courtesy of The Met Museum showing the lottery wheels

Apart from individuals many borough corporations also bought lottery tickets for the benefit of poor children; the church was also involved with many parish clerics gambling. The tickets were quite expensive, but then so were the prizes, this led to people who couldn’t afford to buy a full ticket purchasing a share. People even place advertisements in the newspapers for people to share with –

Daily Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, September 24, 1777
Daily Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, September 24, 1777

Below is one of numerous examples of what you could win when buying a share.

Lloyd's Evening Post (London, England), January 31, 1794
Lloyd’s Evening Post (London, England), January 31, 1794

It was reported that in 1798 four low paid workers shared a winning ticket valued at £20,000 (approximately £1.2m in today’s money), a female servant from Holborn, a servant of the Duke of Roxburgh, a keeper of a fruit stall and a vegetable carrier from Covent Garden.

gardener greengrocer
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

It was even possible for gamblers to insure themselves against drawing a blank.

To the subscribers to the Lottery Magazine for 1777 : this plate (representing the four favourites of fortune who receiv’d the four hundred guineas for last years Lottery Magazine) is most gratefully inscribed by their obliged humble sert. E. Johnson

Georgian cakes and puddings

Have recently made the most delicious ginger and lemon cake from a modern, detailed, step by step recipe on the internet it seemed an opportune time to see what the recipes for cakes and puddings were like in the early 1800s. The recipe books seem to give ample instruction regarding quantity, but as to what to do with those quantities having weighed them out, is, in some instances sadly lacking; they have the most spectacular ability to go horribly wrong.

A Country Kitchen by William Collins. V&A Collection.
A Country Kitchen by William Collins. V&A Collection.

This first recipe for gingerbread bears little relationship to the one made the other day!

To make gingerbread

Take half a pound of flour dried, and half a pound of brown sugar dried and two ounces of ginger fresh pounded, three pounds of treacle, one pound of orange-peel cut small, two ounces of carvie seeds, if you like it, one pound and a half of butter melted and all well kneaded together, rolled out, cut it into cakes, baked very hard but not turned. It should be a rather quick good oven. A little citron may be added also, if you like it.

Dutch Cake

Two pound of flour, eight eggs, one pint and a half of milk, and one pound and a quarter of butter, half a pound of pounded almonds, half a pound of citron, one pound of currants and some yeast. It is very good for a cake and must stand before the fire to rise.

Dutch Waffles

Take four eggs, beat well with half a pound of flour; melt a quarter of a pound of butter in a pint of milk; let the milk and butter stand till they are almost cold, then mix them with the flour and eggs with one spoonful of yeast and a little salt; be sure to beat them well; let it stand three or four hours to rise before you put it in the waffle iron, and bake them on a quick fire.

almond cheesecake

A custard pudding

Take the yolks and whites of four eggs, well beat up with a spoonful of flour, a little nutmeg, about half a pint of milk and sugar to your taste, boiled in a small china bowl. The sauce – white wine and butter.

To make sponge biscuits

Take the weight of nine eggs in double refined sugar, beat and sifted; break the whites into a pan and beat them up to a froth, then put in the yolks and a little lemon peel, grated; put in the sugar and mix them well together. Then take the weight of five eggs, and mix it with the rest; put them in paper shapes into the oven: let the oven be no hotter than you can bear your hand in it.

And, when you’ve finished all the baking, time to put your feet up and have a well earned rest!


The new practice of cookery, pastry, baking, and preserving: being the country housewife’s best friend

Feature image – Kitchen Interior, John Cranch, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

King George II’s Royal Household Running Costs

Today we thought we would take a look at those employed in the Royal household of George II. We had no idea how many people it took to look after George II and his family until we came across a fascinating little book published 1734, that told us not only who was employed in each position but also their salary and duties. We don’t have enough space to cover all the roles (as there were so many!) so we have just included a selection, for more information, as the book itself is available online.

The salary bill for the Royal household must have been enormous, although there was major disparity between the wages of those who received board wages and those who did not and between those who were employed ‘downstairs’ and those ‘upstairs’.

As a guide, £100 in 1730 equates to slightly less than £10,000 in today’s money.

Ramsay, Allan; Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield; National Portrait Gallery, London;
Ramsay, Allan; Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield; National Portrait Gallery, London

So we begin with Lord Steward, who had overall of control of the King’s household and the servants under his direction ‘below stairs’.  The post was held by The Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield for which he received £100 per annum, plus £1360 per annum board wages. Board wages were sums of money given to the holder of the position to resided with their employers rather than in their own home.

van Loo, Jean-Baptiste; Horatio, 1st Baron Walpole of Wolterton, as Envoy and Minister-Plenipotentiary at The Hague; Norfolk Museums Service;
Jean-Baptiste van Loo; Horatio, 1st Baron Walpole of Wolterton, as Envoy and Minister-Plenipotentiary at The Hague; Norfolk Museums Service

Cofferer of the King’s Household, this role was another in the King’s gift and was held by Horatio Walpole Esq whose wages were £100 plus £400 board wages. His duties were, amongst others, to pay the wages of several of the King’s servants above and below stairs.


Here is baked all the King’s bread, and bread for the household etc. which is delivered it the pantry every day.  The clerk, Thomas Holland Esq. is paid £80 per annum, John Clark, Yeoman £50 per annum and 2 grooms who were paid £40 per annum.


In the buttery is kept all the liquors, except the wine and delivered out to the Officer in Waiting. This again is managed by 2 Yeomans, Peter Campbell Gent. who received £60 and John Turner, £50.


The clerk of the Spicery keeps and delivers our all the spices etc. for the service of the Household which he receives from the tradesmen and keeps account of the same.  Richard D’Avenant Esq.; £100 per annum.


Takes care of the linnen for the King’s own table, lays the cloth, and serves up water in the silver ewers after dinner, whence the office has its name.  William Beager, £60 and James Towers £50. 2 Grooms £40 per annum.



Are purveyors of butter, eggs, fruit, pulse and all greens etc and deliver them out according to the Bill of Fare which being brought to them, the take care to have provided. John Skinner Esq; Clerk, £80 per annum; George Ackers, Yeoman £50 per annum plus 2 Grooms £40 per annum .


Whenever the King travels, they take lodgings for his Majesty and the household and ride a day before.  Peter La Roche, Gentleman-Harbingers £60 per annum, plus 5 yeomen at £50 per annum.


When the court travels, they have charge to provide waggons, carts etc to transport the King’s furniture and baggage. 2 Yeomen at £50 per annum, 3 Grooms at £40 each.


attributed to William Hoare, oil on canvas, circa 1735-1745
Charles, Duke of Grafton, Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, attributed to William Hoare, oil on canvas, circa 1735-1745

We now move on to ‘above stairs’ which was the responsibility of the Lord Chamberlain of the King’s household, a post held by Charles, Duke of Grafton, for which he received a salary of £100 plus board wages of £1,100.  The Lord Chamberlain has the principal command of all the King’s servant above stairs (except in the bedchamber, which is wholly under the Groom of the Stole), who are all sworn by him, or by his warrant to the gentlemen ushers. He has also inspection of all the officers of the wardrobe at all the King’s houses, and of the removing wardrobes, beds, tents, revels, musick, comedians, hunting, messengers, trumpeters, drummers, handicrafts, artizans retained by the King’s service; as well as of the serjeant at arms, physicians, surgeons, apothecaries and finally, of his Majesty’s chaplains.

Gentlemen of the King’s Bed-Chamber

These are frequently call’d Lord of the bed-chamber. They were ‘till late years, but eleven in number, whereof the Groom of the Stole, is the first, who, by his office has the honour to put on the King’s firs garment, or shirt, every morning, but it is now alternatively perform’d by the Lord in waiting, which they take in turn weekly, and attend in the King’s bed-chamber, when he eats in private; for then the cup-bearer, carvers and sewers do not wait. They are in the King’s gift.

Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin by Sir Godfrey Kneller

Groom of the Stole, Francis, Earl of Godolphin.

Grooms of the King’s Bed-chamber £500 per annum

They wait in the King’s chamber during his Majesty’s dressing and wait at dinner, take wine etc., from the under-servants and give it to the Lords to serve to his majesty. When the gentlemen of the bed-chamber are not there, they perform the office, and have waiting weekly, two and two, by turns. They are in the King’s gift.

Pages of Preference £25 per annum. They are the subordinate also to the gentlemen ushers, wait in the Privy chamber, and take care of fire and candles etc.

Coffer-Bearers £54 per annum. When the court removes, they take care to see the baggage loaded.

Laundress of the Body Linen

Mrs. Margaret Purcell £400 per annum

Necessary Woman

Mrs. Susannah White £121 5 shillings per annum, for cleaning his Majesty’s private lodgings and find necessaries thereto.

We really like this one! Master of the Revels. Francis Henry Lee Esq. £10 per annum.

His office is to order all things which relate to the performance of tragedies, comedies, masques, balls etc. at court. He hath likewise a jurisdiction of granting licences to all who travel, to act plays, puppet shews, or other such like diversions; which is very beneficial to him and increases the smallness of the salary to a very considerable income: neither can of right any new play, at either of the two houses, be acted till it has passed his perusal and licence first, that he may castrate anything which shall be offensive or religion or virtue.

Groom-Porter £550 per annum

Has the inspection of the King’s lodgings, and takes care that they are provided with tables, chairs, firing etc. As also to provide cards, dice etc. when there is playing at court and to decide disputes which arise in gaming.

Messenger of the Avery, Nathaniel Bridgewater, £15 per annum

Thomas Panton Esq., for keeping six race horses at Newmarket, with all necessaries £500 per annum.

Master of the Tennis court

Has the keeping of the king’s tennis court and the profits which arise by playing; he has likewise the apartments belonging to it, which yield considerable perquisites. Charles Fitzroy Esq. £130 per annum.

perhaps from the workshop of Sir Henry Cheere, 1st Bt, painted plaster bust, circa 1740
Colley Cibber Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, perhaps from the workshop of Sir Henry Cheere, 1st Bt, painted plaster bust, circa 1740

Poet Laureat, Colley Cibber Esq. £60 per annum

There we other listed for whom there was no salary mentioned.

Embroiderer – Mr Thomas Haywood

Operator of the teeth – Mr. Peter Hemet

Chocolate 1
Courtesy of History Extra Magazine

Chocolate maker – Mr Alphonse. Now that’s a job we would have enjoyed!

One we wouldn’t have been so keen on – Rat Killer, Mrs Elizabeth Stubbs.

And we finish with one close to our hearts, that of Historiographer, Rob Stephens, Esq. £200 per annum.


Feature image – The Family of George II c. 1731-2, William Hogarth, RCIN 401358.  Courtesy of the Royal Collection

Legends of the sea

There have always been rumours of mermaids and mermen in the seas, and these appear to have been seen on a fairly regular basis during the eighteenth-century with the newspapers so helpfully providing us with detailed descriptions of such creatures. We will leave our readers to judge for themselves whether any of these accounts could have even a grain of truth.

The Mermaid of Galloway by William Hilton II (1786–1839) Tabley House Collection;
The Mermaid of Galloway by William Hilton II (1786–1839)
Tabley House Collection

Weekly Journal or Saturday’s Post, Saturday, August 31, 1717

Letters from Leghorn of the 15th tell us that there has been seen in those seas a terrible mermaid or rather merman; that it shows itself at least 13 or 14-foot-high above the water; but if any boat or vessel makes towards it, then it makes a strange frightful noise and plunges into the sea. Several that have been it represent it as the most hideous monster that has ever been seen in the world.

Dublin Journal, Tuesday, October 12, 1725

Some particular advices from Brest, in France say that on that coast has lately appeared a strange sort of sea monster, in the form of a man, eight-foot-high call’d a merman; his teeth are white as ivory, he hath black curl’d hair, flat nose and in other members proportionable to his stature without deformity.

Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer (London, England), Saturday, December 11, 1725 provides a somewhat lengthy and detailed description of the merman, sadly there seems to be no evidence of any of the people named actually existing – unless you know otherwise, if so, we would love to hear from you.

The wind being easterly, we had thirty fathoms of water, when at ten o’clock in the morning a sea-monster like a man appeared near our ship; first on the larboard where the mate was, whose name is William Lomone, who took a grappling iron to pull him up: but our captain named Oliver Morin, hindered him, being afraid that the monster would drag him away into the sea. They said Lomone struck him only on the back to make him turnabout, that he might view him the better. The monster being struck, showed his face, having his two hands closed, as if he had expressed some anger. Afterwards he went round the ship. When he was at the stern he took hold of the helm with both hands and we were obliged to make it last, lest he should damage it. From thence he proceeded to the starboard, swimming still as men do. When he came to the forepart of the ship he viewed for some time the figure that was in our prow, which represented a beautiful woman; and then he rose out of the water, as if he had been willing to catch that figure. All this happened in sight of the whole crew. Afterwards he came again to the larboard, where they presented to him a codfish banging down with a rope. He handled it without spoiling it and then remove the length of cable and came again to the stern where he took hold of the helm a second time.

At that very moment, Captain Morin got a harping iron ready and took it himself to strike him with it, but the cordage being entangled he missed his aim and the harping iron touched only the monster, who turned about sowing his face as he had done before. Afterwards he came again to the fore part and viewed again the figure. The mate called for the harping iron but he was frightened fancying that this monster was one La Commune, who had killed himself in the ship the year before and had been thrown into the sea in the same passage. He was contented to push his back against the harping iron and the monster showed his face as he had done at other times.

Afterwards he came along the board so that one might have given him the hand. He had the boldness to take a rope held up by John Mazier and John Dessiere who being willing to pluck it out of his hands, drew him to our board and rising out of the water to the navel we observed that his breast was as large as that of a woman of the best plight. He turned upon his back and appeared to be a male. Afterwards he swam again round the ship and then went away; we have never seen him since.

I believe that from 10 o’clock till 12 that this monster was along our board, if the crew had not been frightened he might have been taken many times with the hand being only two feet distant.

The monster is about eight-foot-long: his skin is brown and tawny without any scales. All his motions are like those of men; the eyes of a proportionate size, a little mouth, a large and flat nose, very white teeth, black hair, the chin covered with a mossy beard, a sort of whiskers under the nose, the ears like those of men, fins between the fingers and toes of his hands and feet, like those of ducks. Which is certified to be true by Captain Oliver Morin, John Martin, pilot and the whole crew consisting of two and thirty men.

Figure of a man with the tail of a fish, large prominent ears and four talons to each hand and foot, standing on a beach clutching a fish; said to be a life-drawing of a merman captured near Exeter, 1737. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Figure of a man with the tail of a fish, large prominent ears and four talons to each hand and foot, standing on a beach clutching a fish; said to be a life-drawing of a merman captured near Exeter, 1737.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Common Sense or The Englishman’s Journal, Saturday, July 29, 1738 (we’re loving the title of the publication in light of the subject matter!). It provides us with a completely different description of a merman.

4 feet and a half in length, having a body much resembling that of a man, with a genital member of considerable size; together with jointed legs and feet extending from his belly 12 or 13 inches, with fins at this thighs and larger ones, like wings in the form of which those angels are often painted, at his shoulders, with a broad head of very uncommon form, a mouth 6 inches wide, smellers, or kind of whiskers at his nostrils, and two spout holes behind his eyes through which he ejected water when take 30 or 40 feet high.

And for our final offering we have, from the Universal Spectator and Weekly Journal), Saturday, May 5, 1739 the following:

They write from Vigo in Spain that some fishermen took on that coast a sort of monster, or merman, 5 feet and a half from its foot to its head, which is like that of a goat. It has a long beard and mustachoes, a back skin somewhat hairy; a very long neck, short arms and hands longer and bigger than they ought to be in proportion to the rest of the body; long fingers, like those of a man with nail like claws; very long toes join’d like the feet of a duck and the heels furnish’d with fins resembling the winged feet with which the painters represent Mercury. It has also a fin at the lower end of its back, which is 12 inches long and 15 or 16 broad.

Header image: The Carta Marina, a map of the Nordic countries showing various sea monsters (via Wikimedia).

A Trusty Maid; Geroge H Hay; Hospitalfield Arts

Murder at Kippax Hall

Granville William Wheeler Medhurst was born c.1765 at Kippax, the son of Thomas Medhurst, Esquire. In 1787 he married Sarah Jennings at St Mary’s in Lewisham, Kent. The new Mrs Medhurst was described as a dutiful wife and tender mother, and one of the most amiable of women. Living at the stately Kippax Hall a few miles from Pontefract in West Yorkshire, life seemed good; Mr Medhurst was reported to have £7,000 per annum. It was later reported that eight children were born to the couple, and that five of these were living on the fatal night of 3rd/4th May 1800.

Pontefract Castle; Alexander Keirincx; Pontefract Museum

Under the veneer of their gilded life, there was a problem. Although it seems to have been kept largely from the servants for some time, Medhurst was becoming deranged and anxious. He was convinced people were coming to take him away and that his loving wife was plotting to poison him. Mrs Sarah Medhurst was certainly fully aware of the condition of her husband, even to the extent of contemplating taking the children and leaving him for some time. If only she had…

During the early spring of 1800 the servants too had become aware of the state of mind of their master. He had appeared in turn sullen, deranged, anxious and withdrawn. On the evening of Saturday 3rd May 1800 Medhurst entreated his servants to retire early for the night. Some, like the cook and nursery maid, slept at Kippax Hall, others had their own home in the nearby village. Thomas Spinke was one who slept in the village, and he recounted how his master said he wished his family to go to bed early and wanted the house to be quiet. The house was to be far from quiet however.

The cook, Ann Dickinson, protested about retiring early; she had not finished her duties and a small fire still burnt in the kitchen hearth. Along with the nursery-maid Ann Tyson she slept in the children’s nursery which had a connecting door to Mrs and Mrs Medhurst’s rooms. There was a bit of a fuss and the children began to cry; Mr Medhurst said he could smell burning, that he was to be poisoned, and peered from the windows convinced there was someone at the gates who was coming for him. His wife decided to sleep with her daughters in the nursery as Medhurst proposed to sleep with a drawn sword and two pistols under his pillow and the women locked the connecting door.

All was quiet for a time and then they were disturbed by Mr Medhurst demanding the door be opened or he would shoot his way through it. Still fully dressed and with his sword in one hand and a pistol in the other, he entered the nursery and demanded the nursery-maid confess to him, waving his sword above her head and finally rapping her skull with the hilt. His wife cried, “My dear, don’t kill your servant, kill me, if you take any one’s life, take mine”. Medhurst gave his wife a knife with which to protect herself and promised not to hurt her. Tenderly he touched his wife and said “you won’t hurt me”, to which she replied “no, let us go to bed”. The cook saw her master unload his pistols and then everyone retired, the trusting lady of the house bidding her servants, “God bless you” as she left them to go with her husband.

A Trusty Maid; George H. Hay; Hospitalfield Arts

Thomas Spinke returned to Kippax Hall around half past six o’clock the following morning and was in the stable when the two eldest Medhurst children came to find him, crying and asking him to come to the house. Creeping upstairs into the Medhurst’s bedroom he saw his mistress lying on the bed, her feet hanging down. Spinke knew not if she was dead or alive but watched as the master of the house appeared from behind a curtain, still fully dressed and carrying in his hand a drawn sword, ‘bloody, fresh, and wet’. Driving Spinke from the room, Medhurst locked the door.

Thomas Spinke took the children away from the house, with their father crying out to them from an upper window. The eldest boy shouted back, “you villain, you have killed my mama, and if I had a pistol I would shoot you through the head’”. Medhurst replied “you are mistaken, I have not hurt your mama”.

A constable was sent for as well as the Pontefract volunteers, but with the master of the house armed, dangerous and roaming the upper floor there was a stand-off which lasted some time before one of the volunteers, a brave man, managed to find a way in (there were two doors to the Medhurst’s bedroom suite, and only one had been locked) creep up behind Medhurst and disarm him.

An inquest was taken at the hall on the body of Mrs Medhurst, and a charge of wilful murder was laid against her husband, Granville William Wheeler Medhurst. Sarah Medhurst was buried at Kippax on the 6th May 1800.

York Castle showing the gaol buildings and courthouse to the left. English Heritage
York Castle showing the gaol buildings and courthouse to the left.
English Heritage

When the case came to trial, Medhurst’s defence was insanity and this was corroborated by experts and witnesses. He was therefore acquitted of murder but ordered to be confined in the gaol at York Castle. There he remained until the 26th November 1802 when he was given over to the care of Dr Thomas Monro of Brook House, upper Clapton (a man accused of ‘wanting in humanity’ towards his patients) and a committee established to manage his estate at Kippax during until his son was of age. It was this committee who petitioned to have Wheeler removed from Brook House to a ‘House for the reception of Lunatics’ in Middle Mall, Hammersmith. A warrant for his removal was provided in the summer of 1816.

Brook House © The Trustees of the British Museum
Brook House
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Granville William Wheeler Medhurst lived to 77 years of age and, when he died in 1840, was confined in Moorcroft House at Hillingdon near Uxbridge in Middlesex, a lunatic asylum which was run by Dr James Stillwell until his death the year before. In his old age he had suffered from rheumatism and was allowed to take supervised trips to the seaside for so that the air and sea bathing might prove beneficial. He was buried in the churchyard of St John the Baptist in Hillingdon, and his fortune devolved to his grandson, Francis Hastings Medhurst.

But there is yet one more twist to this tale. When Medhurst died, his grandson was in prison, convicted of the manslaughter of a schoolfellow, Joseph Alsop. On 9th March 1839, at Dr Frederick Sturmer’s school, the Rectory House Academy at Hayes, young Medhurst had accused another pupil, Dalison, of breaking the glass of his watch. When Alsop leapt to Dalison’s defence a scuffle ensued which ended with young Medhurst taking a clasp-knife from his pocket, opening it and stabbing Alsop in his stomach. Although not instantly fatal, within just a few days Alsop was dead.

Francis Hastings Medhurst was accused, as his grandfather had been before him, of wilful murder and taken to Newgate. The charge was transmuted to one of manslaughter for which he was found guilty and sentenced to three years imprisonment in a house of correction.


Hereford Journal, 14th May 1800

Hampshire Chronicle, 19th May 1800

Leeds Intelligencer, 4th August 1800

The Annual Register of World Events: A Review of the Year, vol. 82, 1841

The Newgate Calendar

Findmypast criminal records

Header image:

Photograph of Kippax Park House, Lost Heritage

18th century crime and punishment

For what were regarded as the most heinous crimes the penalty was death, in some case this was commuted to transportation. Prison was another option, in the case of some women, the ‘shrew’s fiddle’ was used as a way of punishing women who were caught fighting in public.

Today however, we thought we would take a look at what in modern society could possibly be regarded as ‘naming and shaming’ – the public use of either the stocks or the pillory.

Eyam Stocks Britiain express
The stocks in the village of Eyam, Derbyshire, courtesy of Britain Express

Stocks and pillory’s date back centuries, but even as late on as the Georgian era their use was still extremely evident as at least several days a week there was mention of them being used in the newspapers.The stocks were mainly a mechanism used to confine the prisoner by their ankles and usually accommodated two people at once. The pillory was a similar mechanism however, it had three holes, one for the neck and two smaller ones either side to secure the wrists. Again these were often designed to take two prisoners at once.

Here in Britain the use of the pillory as a method of punishment was not abolished until 1837 despite several attempts to have it scrapped much earlier in the 1780’s, but the stocks remained for a few more decades.

We’ll leave you to decide whether the punishment fitted the crime.

London Evening Post, June 9, 1750 – June 12, 1750

On Saturday last two women stood on the pillory at St Margaret’s Hill, Southwark, for keeping a bawdy house and being instrumental in debauching several young girls.

The pillory at Charing Cross This engraving was published as Plate 62 of Microcosm of London 1809
The pillory at Charing Cross This engraving was published as Plate 62 of Microcosm of London 1809

Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser, Tuesday, March 9, 1756

Yesterday two of the thief-takers stood in the pillory in Smithfield, and as soon as they were fixed the mob began to use them very severely, which usage continued near 40 minutes during which time Eagan, otherwise Gahagan was killed, and then the mob desisted from throwing anything at them for the remaining part of the hour. They were both carried back in the cart to Newgate, but as Eagan was dead, his body was put into a place called the Pump room and the Coroner has issued

Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser, Thursday, May 6, 1756

Gloucester, May 1

This week was held here the general quarter sessions of the peace for this country, when John James, for felony was ordered to be transported for seven years and Mary Morris for keeping a bawdy house, was ordered to stand in the pillory at Cirencester, fined 5l. and to be imprisoned till the same be paid, and then to give security for her good behaviour for three years, and also to remain in goal till such security be found.

Strutt, William; Stocks Closed Firmly with an Upward Tendency; Kirklees Museums and Galleries;
Strutt, William; Stocks Closed Firmly with an Upward Tendency; Kirklees Museums and Galleries;

London Evening Post, April 1, 1760 – April 3, 1760

Francis Hayes was tried on two indictments, the first for violently assaulting Anne Lemman, an infant aged seven years with an intent to commit rape and thereby giving her the foul disease; and the second indictment was for violently assaulting and abusing Mary Swan, an infant aged eight years, with an intent also to commit rape, and thereby giving her the foul disease. On the first, he was sentenced to imprisonment for six months, to stand in the pillory and to give 100l security for his good behaviour for three years; and on the second he was sentenced to six months imprisonment after the former time was expired, to stand once in the pillory and to give 100l security for his good behaviour for three years.

Public Ledger or The Daily Register of Commerce and Intelligence, Thursday, January 8, 1761

Yesterday a man and a woman stood on the pillory on the south side of St Paul’s, opposite the Sun tavern, for keeping a disorderly house, notwithstanding, they behaved with the utmost assurance, they met with no ill treatment from the populace.

Cocking the Greeks courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
‘Cocking the Greeks’ courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, October 23, 1765

Worcester, Oct 17

On Saturday last, one Elizabeth Hollington stood in the pillory in our corn market being convicted at the quarter sessions last week, of being a cheat and imposter and endevouring to extort money from a gentleman of the parish on pretence of being with child by him.

Public Advertiser, Monday, August 16, 1790

Saturday two footmen for an unnatural crime underwent their sentence by standing in the pillory at Hay-Hill, Mayfair, for one hour, between one and two. Their reception was extremely warm, by a very numerous, but we cannot add a brilliant spectatory; the women especially treated them with an abundance of eggs, apples and turnips.

Forgotten Connections and Divided Loyalties

We would very much like to welcome a new guest to our blog, Avellina Balestri (alias Rosaria Marie), she is a Catholic freelance writer who resides in the scenic and historic Penn-Mar borderlands. She is a founding member and Editor-in-Chief of The Fellowship of the King (, an online magazine dedicated to merging spirituality and creativity. She is a long-time Britophile and historical enthusiast, taking a special interest in the Age of Horse and Musket. She hopes that her writings help to put a human face to history, keeping alive the unique legacies of those who have gone before us. For more information on her writings, visit Avellina’s Facebook Page:

We will now hand you over to Avellina:

The ‘rebels’ and ‘redcoats’ of the American Revolution are often portrayed as having been completely disassociated. However, the colonial relationship with the mother country linked many through ties of blood and affection. The following illustrates some of these forgotten connections.

Mrs. Thomas Gage, 1771. John Singleton Copley, 1738-1815. Courtesy of Timken Museum
Mrs. Thomas Gage, 1771. John Singleton Copley, 1738-1815.
Courtesy of Timken Museum

In 1757, Margaret Kemble of New Jersey was introduced to British Colonel Thomas Gage who was serving in America during The French and Indian War. He was attracted by her beauty and intellect, and she by his gentle manner. After their courtship, they were married and began to raise a family.

Appointed royal governor of New York in 1763, he and his wife hosted lavish galas at their mansion. Colonel George Washington, a fellow veteran from Virginia, was their frequent guest. But dark clouds looming on the horizon would put friendships to the test.

After the Boston Tea Party in 1773, General Gage was sent to Massachusetts to quell the upheaval. There he was visited by another colonial comrade, Major Israel Putnam, who Gage invited to rejoin the British service. The offer was courteously declined.

Margaret began to feel emotionally torn about her husband’s role in opposition to her fellow Americans. Quoting Shakespeare in a letter to a friend, she wrote: “Husband, I cannot pray that thou mayst win…Whoever wins, on that side shall I lose…”

 Taking for granted her allegiance to the king, he failed to assess how divided her loyalties were and continued to confide in her, personally and militarily.


On April 18, 1775, the general ordered rebel ammunition seized, but Paul Revere roused the minute men with the cry “The regulars are coming!” Both sides would make their stand at Lexington.

Major John Pitcairn, who was quartered next door to Revere and known to socialize with prominent patriots, was the leader of the British advance guard. Now, all conviviality aside, he confronted the militia with a stern countenance and threatened, “Disperse, ye rebels, or you’re all dead men!”

Then a succession of shots rang out, sparking the inevitable conflict. Later that day, snipers ambushed the redcoats and wounded Pitcairn, who was thrown from his horse as his men retreated in chaos. His mount and prized pistols in his saddlebag were captured.

Reports informed Gage of the bloodshed and that the high ground had been taken by a new rebel general, none other than his old friend, Israel Putnam. But there was worse to come. Circumstantial evidence indicated that Margaret had divulged British troop movements to the Patriots and was, at heart, a ‘Daughter of Liberty.’ Although unprepared for a coordinated attack, the distraught general impulsively commanded Breeds Hill to be taken by storm on June 17, 1775.

Dug in to face the onslaught, Putnam rallied his men. Armed with Pitcairn’s silver pistols, taken as trophies of war, the rugged New Englander gave the famous order: “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes! Shoot for the reddest coats!”

The first and second British assaults were repulsed with horrendous casualties. In a twist of  irony, the third and final charge was spear-headed by Major Pitcairn, brandishing his sword and shouting in his Scottish burr, “Now, for the glory of the marines!”

He was struck by a barrage of bullets and collapsed into the arms of his lieutenant son, dying a casualty of Gage’s folly. He was buried at Old North Church where the signal lanterns had been hung. Paul Revere would later be interred nearby him, neighbors in life and death.


His ranks decimated and Boston surrounded, a despairing Gage took to drink and exclaimed bitterly: “I wish this cursed place would burn.”

General George Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, strongly protested the ill treatment of American prisoners-of-war. But Gage refused to recognize his military authority and right to negotiate. Washington’s response to his long-time acquaintance was forthright: “Sir, having been chosen by a free people in the cause of liberty, I can claim the most worthy authority.”

As starvation gripped the besieged city, General Putnam, in a gesture of mercy towards Gage’s large family, sent a cut of beef to alleviate their hunger. A ray of light had penetrated the darkness of war.

Recalled to England, Gage was stripped of his titles and disgraced. Margaret would never see her beloved homeland again. Nevertheless, through love, forgiveness, and mutual devotion to their eleven children, they weathered the storm of divided loyalties.

The Gages, Washington, Putnam, Revere, and Pitcairn were all vital threads woven through the tapestry of the American Revolution. As we remember their forgotten connections and pray for their immortal souls, we can learn a deeper sense of compassion for what both sides endured, as well as an appreciation for their nobility of spirit. Inspired by the Christian principles of our ancestors, we must strive to be the patriots of today by upholding their legacy of courage, perseverance, and reconciliation.