The Honourable Mary Bridget Mostyn (1715-1789) – Maid of Honour

I came across a mysterious payment into the bank account of a Mary B Mostyn in 1785, for a substantial amount of money – £14,659, which today would be worth a little under £2 million. On 16 December 1785, the day after his marriage, George Finch-Hatton, the husband of Lady Elizabeth née Murray ( Dido Elizabeth Belle’s cousin) received £15,859 into his bank and that very same day he paid the whole amount out to two beneficiaries, the £14,659 being paid to Mary. This payment appears to be in connection with the purchase of property. Mary B Mostyn seems to have been involved in several property deals during her life as it was a great way to invest money.

This led me to try to find out more about this seemingly mysterious woman, as I had no idea who she was, especially given that her name appeared in the National Archives numerous times, all pertaining to the buying and selling of property and land.

Baptism of Mary Bridget Mostyn. Whitford, Flintshire Baptisms, Marriages and Burials. Wales: Archives and Records Council Wales.

After much digging it transpired that Mary Bridget Mostyn was born in 1715 at Whitford, Flintshire, to parents, Sir Roger Mostyn, 3rd Baronet and his wife, Essex née Finch.

Lady Essex Mostyn nee Finch. by and published by John Smith, after Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt. NPG

Essex Finch being the eldest daughter of  Daniel, 2nd Earl of Nottingham (1647-1730) and his second wife, Anne nee Hatton. Essex Finch was also one of Lady Elizabeth Mansfield’s siblings (Lord Mansfield’s wife).

Richardson the elder, Jonathan; Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham and 7th Earl of Winchilsea

Sir Roger and Essex married in 1703 and had somewhere between 10 and 12 children, nine of whom were born before he wrote his will in 1719. It would be just two years in May 1721 that his wife, Essex died from smallpox at the age of 34 leaving Roger with quite a brood to raise alone, as he never remarried. Mary Bridget was just six years old at the time and would be a mere sixteen  when her father also died, so it’s unclear as to who raised the younger children after his death, but it seems likely that there would have been a guardian put in place to care for them.

Just a month after the death of their father, the eldest daughter, Essex, married Robert Ker, who became 2nd Duke of Roxburgh. Whether Mary Bridget attended the wedding remains unknown.

Augusta, Princess of Saxe Gotha, later Princess of Wales (1719-72) c.1730-49. RCT

In 1746, Mary  Bridget was appointed to the position of Maid of Honour, to Augusta, Princess of Wales, wife of Prince Frederick (George II’s eldest son) and mother of the then future George III, which indicates that Mary Bridget would be very close to all the great and good of the day, added to which, of course, her maternal grandfather, 2nd Earl of Nottingham was one of the wealthiest men in the country and her maternal aunt was Lady Elizabeth Murray, wife of William, Lord Mansfield.

Royal Household Establishment List 1751

I would have thought Mary Bridget would have made an ideal Maid of Honour, as she and the princess were very close in age. Interestingly, her brother, John was also appointed as Groom of the Bedchamber to George II, in the same year, where he remained until his death in 1779. In his will he left his three surviving sisters, Anne, Elizabeth and Mary Bridget, £1,000 each.

This death was closely followed by another brother, Sir Thomas Mostyn the following year.

1751 saw the death of Princess Augusta’s husband and a period of mourning for the Princess and their eldest son, George became heir apparent.

The Family of Frederick, Prince of Wales. George Knapton. RCT

1757 saw the death of her brother, Rear Admiral of the Red, Savage Mostyn, (the same post that would be held by  Sir John Lindsay, some thirty years later).

Savage Mostyn. Courtesy of the Mostyn Estates.

In 1759, Elizabeth Mostyn joined her older sisters, Anne and Mary Bridget, as part of the Royal Establishment. Anne, it would appear was housekeeper at Hampton Court, with Elizabeth as her deputy, both living at Hampton Court Palace in Apartment 39, ‘The Lady Housekeeper’s Lodgings’ within the grace and favour apartments.

One of their brothers, Roger was also made Groom of the Bedchamber in 1758, so it appears that several of Mary Bridget’s several siblings were very much in the court circle. Not long after the ascension of George III in 1760, Elizabeth changed roles, becoming Keeper of his Majesty’s Privy Lodgings and Standing Wardrobe.

Princess Augusta had six Maids of Honour, at any one time, a position which was a junior attendant to that of Lady in Waiting. One such was Charlotte Dives, from 1736 to 1762, when in that year she married Samuel, 2nd Baron Masham and was replaced by a Miss Evelyn (unidentified but possibly one of the daughters of Sir John Evelyn). The others were:

Lucy Young from 1736 to 1742

Arabella Herbert from 1736 until her death in 1755

Albinia Selwyn from 1736 until her marriage to Sir William Irby in 1746. Albania’s daughter, Augusta Georgina would also become Maid of Honour.

Elizabeth Hamilton from 1738  to 1742, replaced by Elizabeth Granville from 1742  to 1772

Elizabeth Chudleigh 1743 until her bigamous marriage to the Duke of Kingston. Her mother was appointed as Housekeeper at Windsor Castle in 1751.

Alexander, John; Called ‘Elizabeth Chudleigh (1720-1788), Countess of Bristol, Later Bigamous Duchess of Kingston’; National Trust, Ickworth

Elizabeth Drax for just one year from 1743 to 1744

Elizabeth Drax, Countess of Berkeley (1720-1792)

Elizabeth Lawson from 1745 until her death in 1759. Her younger sister, Charlotte was Maid of Honour to princesses, Amelia and Caroline

The Life and Letters of James Wolfe by Beckles Wilson, published in London by William Heinemann, 1909, courtesy the Robarts Library, University of Toronto.

Henrietta Egerton, daughter of Sir William Egerton from 1756 to 1772

Susannah Vansittart, daughter of Arthur Vansittart of Shottesbrook Park, Berkshire, from 1760 to 1772

Katrina Neville from 1765 to 1772

Susan Tracey Keck from 1770 to 1772, who married Francis Charteris in 1771. She was replaced by Augusta Georgina Irby

Mary Bridget would have known, or known of, the majority of these women during her lengthy service to the princess, witnessed many events and met many people, her name appearing quite often in the press as one of the Maids of Honour in attendance at major events.

She remained as a Maid of Honour until the death of Princess Augusta in 1772, by which time Mary Bridget was in her mid-fifties.

It would appear that after her loyal service she began investing in property, a low risk and relatively safe way to invest funds, with her name appearing in many financial transactions which is slightly unusual for a woman at that time, but of course as a spinster she was freer than a married woman, but also, she needed to plan for her later life.

In the 1780’s she lived at 25 Queen Anne Street, London, rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Duke of Chandos, Earl Cornwallis and lived next door to Lady Mary Duncan (neé Sackville Tufton).

Visiting card 1786 – British Museum

At the beginning of 1785, her sister, Elizabeth was to die and was buried on 10 January at St Mary’s Hampton. Her burial entry confirms her role as Keeper of the Royal Lodgings, Hampton Court Palace. Reading Elizabeth’s will it sounds as if she had little to leave, as she simply bequeathed to Mary Bridget a ‘snuff box striped with blue and gold.’ The remainder of her estate was left to friends and consisted of equally small items.

Hilditch, George; View of the South Front of Hampton Court Palace from the Broad Walk; Hampton Court Palace

In July 1789, Mary Bridget died, and was buried at Hendon on 14 July 1789. She left a will in which she stated that she wished to be interred in the vault at North End which she had recently purchased. She left several bequests to various nieces and nephews, but made no mention of George Finch Hatton, which makes the payment made to him probably just a business transaction.

This was not a rabbit hole I had planned to disappear down, but nonetheless, having disappeared down there, one thing led to another, and it turned out to be very much a genealogical rabbit hole, discovering eventually that the connection between Mary Bridget Mostyn and George Finch-Hatton, was that of cousin, and once again, it shows the family’s close proximity to the royal family of the day.


Flintshire Baptisms, Marriages and Burials. Wales: Archives and Records Council Wales.

Household of Augusta, Princess of Wales

Will of The Honorable John Mostyn, General 

Copy of Court Roll Manor of L. Weldon; vfp &c. of George Hatton esquire & Hon. Mary Mostyn. 12 October 1782

Deed of Covenant on sale of copyhold lands 29 October 1784

Deed of absolute surrender 29 October 1784

Bargain and sale, in trust

Bond in £300  Mary Bridget Mostyn of Queen Ann Street East, St Mary le Bone, spinster. 13 December 1785

Admission of tenant: Mary Bridget Mostyn. 10 May 1785

Admission of tenant and surrender: MB Mostyn 10 May 1785

Copy of Reassignment of Mortgage in a trust to attend the inheritance of 19 October 1787

Admission of Tenant. 31 October 1789

Deed of Covenant for sale of estate.  5  November 1789

Will of Mary Bridget Mostyn.  Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1181

The artist, Diana Hill née Deitz 1760 – 1844

Diana was an artist, who, if I’m honest, I had not come across until recently, but when I saw this portrait by Diana, of an unknown girl and simply had to know more about Diana’s life. Many of her portraits are in private collections so are difficult to view, but I have managed to find a few to share.

Unknown Girl by Diana Hill. Courtesy of V&A

Who was Diana? It’s difficult to establish exactly when Diana was born, but it was around 1760, to parents George Dietz, a jeweller and his wife, Elizabeth.

The couple had 4 known children, Diana who I think was the eldest, then George, named for his father, who was born 1761, but as there are no further sightings of him, it’s fairly safe to say he died in infancy. The couple went on to have a further 2 daughters, Amelia (1763-1837) and Ann Sophia (1764-1819).

Diana and Amelia were trained as artists, with Diana winning five guineas and the Greater Silver Pallet for her painting of flowers in 1775, and another entry confirmed her as being a pupil of a Mr Pars, who I have not been able to trace.

Premiums offered by the Society, instituted at London, for the encouragement of arts, manufactures, and commerce 1776

I have read that she also studied under the famous artist, Jeremiah Meyer, but to date, I have found nothing to substantiate this.

In March 1780, according to London Lives, the family home at 236 Oxford Street was robbed and here we have a handwritten letter by Diana submitted to the court:

A little under a year later, on 1 February 1781, Diana made her first marriage, to Haydock Hill at St Marylebone.

London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/MRY1/169

Interestingly one of the witnesses was  a German merchant, Theophilus Christian Blanchenhagen (c1736-1814) whose name we will come across later.

Merchant Theophilus Blanckenhagen by Diana Hill 1785

The couple began their married life at 41 Broad Street, Golden Square, London, but their marriage was to be short lived. However, they did produce three children – Elizabeth (1781-1868), Haydock James (182-1834) and Catherine who was born December 1783, but who sadly died aged just one year, eleven weeks and was buried on 28 January 1785.

Tragedy would strike Diana again, just 4 months later, when her husband, Haydock died. Haydock was buried on 11 May 1785, at St Marylebone church.

Burial of Haydock Hill 11 May 1785 at St Marylebone. London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/MRY1/008

Finding herself a widow, in her mid-twenties, with two very young children to raise alone, she made the decision, presumably with help from family and friends to continue her artwork, but not in England where she would have had her father and siblings, plus in-laws around her for support – instead she set sail for India.

Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis by Diana Hill. Mount Vernon Museum

On 21 September 1785, Diana and her two surviving children made the long and arduous crossing to India, having been granted permission by the Court of Directors to travel there as a portrait painter. Her mother in law, Elizabeth Hill, of Newman Street, London and Theophilus Blanchenhagen, a very affluent merchant, of Broad Street, (which, coincidentally was where Diana and her children also lived), acted as her sponsors.

She arrived in Calcutta sometime in 1786 and began painting portraits of Europeans, much to the irritation of a jealous painter, Ozias Humphrey, who was already working in India.

Sir Charles Cockerell Bt. (1755-1837), wearing brown coat, white waistcoat, frilled chemise and cravat, his hair powdered. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Humphrey described Diana as a

pretty widow with to children’. Her popularity alarmed him and said that he would ‘rather have all the male painters in England landed in Bengal than this single woman’.

Thomas Harriott. V&A

Not only did Diana continue with her painting in India, but also found herself a new husband and on 15 November 1788 she married Lieutenant Thomas Harriott (1753-1817) of the First Native Infantry, whose portrait we see above.

Parish register transcripts from the Presidency of Bengal, : 1713-1948. N-1-4. folio 56

On the 13 October 1789, the couple were to baptise their first child, a daughter, named Diana Maria, as to whether this child survived infancy is not known, but the following year saw the birth of their first son together, Thomas George (1790-1857).

In February of 1792, her sister, Ann Sophia, known to all as Sophia, arrived to join her sister in India, again, Mrs Hill was to be her sponsor, as she had done for Diana. Sophia arrived around the time that Diana gave birth to their next child, William Henry (1792-1839). William was followed two years later by their final child,  another daughter, Clara Amelia (1794-1843). Of this brood of children, 4 survived into adulthood. In February 1806, Thomas resigned his commission and the family returned to England, taking up residence at West Hall, Mortlake. By this time Diana had given up painting, but her sister, Amelia was still working as an artist and presumably living with her father.

1816 her father, George died. In his will written in 1810, his occupation as that of jeweller was confirmed.

Bank Of England Wills Extracts 1717-1845

He left legacies for his 3 daughters – Diana, Amelia and Ann Sophia and his grandchildren. At probate his estate was valued at about £1500 (approx. £120k today). His address was give at Great Pultney Street, formerly of Vauxhall Terrace, Lambeth, but he was buried on 26 July 1816, at St Mary’s Lambeth, named George Erchart Dietz.

London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P85/MRY1/487

In April of the following year, Diana’s beloved husband, Thomas died and was buried at St Mary the Virgin, Mortlake. In his will he bequeathed his estate to Diana and their children. On 2 September 1819, Diana’s sister, Ann Sophia died, leaving just the two siblings.

The 1841 census shows Diana living at Sussex Place, London, she is noted to be of independent means. Her companion at that time was Sibella Harriott née Hunter, her daughter in law, the wife of Thomas George Harriott.

Class: HO107; Piece: 677; Book: 16; Civil Parish: St Marylebone; County: Middlesex; Enumeration District: 14; Folio: 20; Page: 33; Line: 18; GSU roll: 438793

Diana, it is to be assumed, lived a quiet later life, with her sister, Amelia close by, until her death in 1837. Diana, however, would outlive them all, dying on 10 February 1844.

London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: Dw/T/7006/36

She was buried beside her husband at St Mary’s Mortlake, at the ripe old age of 84, but at least we still have her art to remember her by. Diana also left a will, the bulk of which was left to her son, Thomas George, with bequests made to all her grandchildren.


George Dietz Probate – Bank of England Wills Extracts 1717-1845

Burial of George Dietz London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference NumberP85/MRY1/487

Archer, Mildred. Patna Painting

Williamson, George Charles. Life and Works of Ozias Humphrey

Foskett, Daphne. Collecting Miniatures

Will of Diana Harriott

Will of George Dietz

Will of Thomas Harriott

Will of Amelia Mary Dietz

Portrait Miniature on Ivorine of the Prominent Merchant Theophilus Blanckenhagen by Diana Hill (nee Dietz) 1760-1844. Courtesy of

William Habberfield aka ‘Slender Billy’ of Pimlico

Let’s begin this piece with William’s surname, I have come across quite a few documents about this man, but none of which seem to know exactly what the spelling of his surname was – Habberfield, Huberfield, Heberfield, Aberfield, the list goes on, was making it impossible so far, to find anything more as yet as to where he came from or even who he was married to. What is known without any doubt though, is the date he died at the age of about 50. So, who was this man and why do we know the date he died?

William was better known to his acquaintances as Slender Billy and lived in one of the worst parts of Pimlico, London. Many parts of Pimlico, especially near the river Thames, were, from the late 1700s into the early 1800s virtual  ‘no go’ areas. It was described as being poverty stricken,with many of its inhabitants living in what were described as ‘hovels’.

Joshua Cristall, 1768–1847, British, Landscape with Water Cart and Clothesline, undated YCBA

The area was largely swampy marshland used for grazing, but at night was described as being a distinctly unsafe place to visit, especially around Tothill Fields, Willow Walk and Five Fields. It was in the late 1790s into the mid 1820s that Lord Grosvenor, who owned all  land around that area, began an expansive  development of this area, with the help of a builder by the name of Thomas Cubitt, transforming it into the area we know today.

It is unclear how long Billy lived on Willow Walk, in what was known as the ‘Seven Chimneys’ area of Pimlico, but there’s no sign of him appearing in the rates returns, but exactly where he lived is not important, as, for those who needed to contact him, knew exactly where to find him. His home was described as being in a key position:

situated between two deep, banked ditches, filled with most filthy water, protected by a wall, and in front by Mrs Hubberfield, her husband, a bear, and two bulldogs.

From that description you weren’t exactly likely to receive a convivial welcome. A further description of the area featured in a book by George Keppel, 6th Earl Albemarle, who knew the area from his time at Westminster School:

Leading from Tothill Fields was a road called Willow Walk, which terminating at the Half Penny Hatch, opened on to the Thames near to the spot on which Millbank Penitentiary now stands.

The road on each side of the walk was bordered by wretched hovels, to which were attached small plots of swampy ground which served the poor inhabitants for gardens and were separated from each other by wide ditches.

Between Mother Hubbard’s and the Willow Walk was a nest of low buildings known by the name of the ‘Seven Chimneys’. The inhabitants were of questionable character, and certainly not of that class with whom ladies would wish darling boys to associate.

Keppel went on to describe Billy:

Of the indwellers of the ‘Seven Chimneys’ the prime favourite of us Westminsters was one William Heberfield, better known by the name of ‘Slender Billy’; a good humoured, amusing fellow, but whose moral character, as the sequel will show, would not bear a searching investigation. All we knew of him was that whenever we wanted a go to hunt a duck, draw a badger, or pin a bull, Billy was sure to provide us with one, no matter how minute we might be in the description of the animal required.

Another author who knew Billy well was Lord William Pitt Lennox, who was at school around the same time as Keppel and provided a lengthy insight into the home and character of Billy.

Billy’s ‘cabin’ was a menagerie for animals of every description, also a convenient ‘fencing repository’ from the lady’s lapdog to the nobleman’s plate. There might be seen a King Charles’ spaniel, ready to be returned whenever the reward offered was raised to ten guineas. There might be found an over-fed pug, for whose loss her disconsolate mistress had nearly cried her eyes out,  who was prepared to pledge a diamond ring to recover her lost pet, which arrangement was, in due time, brought about by one of Billy’s emissaries. Independently of the above, there were pointers, terriers, mastiffs, bull dogs, Italian greyhounds, all of which had ‘strayed’ into Habberfield’s yard.

He was considered the safest ‘fence’ in the metropolis, as his dwelling was well suited for concealment, and being garrisoned by bull dogs, it was rendered impregnable by any sudden attack made upon it, by the ‘Charley’s and ‘Bow Street Runners’, of that day.

So, we can tell from these descriptions, that Billy was well known to all classes of society from the under belly of London society to those in the upper echelons – but why?

Varley I, John; Westminster Abbey from Tothill Fields; Yale Center for British Art

Billy was regarded as something of a hero, he was a prize fighter and also superintended all the badger-baiting, dog fighting and cock fighting which was carried out in that area. He was also had many connections with burglars and pickpockets.  The Chronicles of Newgate, by Arthur Griffiths, also referred to Billy saying:

A system of bull-baits was introduced at Westminster by two notorious characters known as Caleb Baldwin and Hubbersfield, otherwise known as Slender Billy, which attracted great crowds and led to drunkenness scenes of great disorder.

By 1811, Billy, was no longer a resident of Willow Walk. Billy was tried at the Old Bailey for dealing in forged bank notes, but this was not Billy’s first crime, far from it, but prior to this offence he had already been sentenced to prison for two years.

His crime prior to dealing in forged notes, was, it transpired, after a little detective work, that:

On 20 June 1811, William Haberfield, had been convicted at the sittings after last Easter Term, at Westminster Hall, charged with assisting General Jacques Pierre Osten, and other army officers of the French army to break their parole at Litchfield, Staffordshire and escaping to London an after assisting them escape to Holland. Billy was sentenced to two years in his majesty’s gaol of Newgate.

General Osten

Having been sentenced for this crime, it was whilst in Newgate, that Billy couldn’t resist the chance to make some money and began dealing in forged bank notes – this would prove to be his downfall and he found himself back in court, this time, the sentence of imprisonment was not an option, instead Billy was to meet his maker at the end of the hangman’s noose, despite support for him coming from many quarters of society.

Inside Newgate

The Morning Chronicle 28 January 1812 noted that he would be executed, along with another prisoner who had been found guilty of housebreaking, and  with another name which I was very familiar, with despite the reference only giving his surname – Whitehead, who was sentenced to death for bank forgery.

If Whitehead rings any bells with you, it’s because it was in fact Paul Whitehead, the brother of Sarah Whitehead,  the Bank Nun Ghost, who I wrote about recently, so quite a coincidence.

I’ll let Lord William Pitt Lennox conclude this story about Billy’s life and with it, Billy’s sad end, but note the twist at the end of this regarding his wife!

So strictly correct was he in all his dealings that had amassed a large sum of money, the greater part of which being out in a trust went to his widow. He suffered the awful sentence of the law on 29 January 1812, opposite the debtor’s door at Newgate.

Poor Mrs Habberfield mourned the loss of her husband with tears and hysterics, but …

‘Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears

Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,

She Married.’

The happy bridegroom being the identical Bow Street runner who, transported by her charms, had captured her dear departed.

Slender Billy was buried at St Martin in the Fields on 11 February 1812 as William Habberfield leaving a wife and two daughters, none of whose identity I have able to establish yet.

Additional Sources

British History Online

Northampton Mercury, 29 June 1811

Forshall, Frederic Hale. Westminster School: Past and Present

London Parks and Gardens

Sporting Anecdotes Original and Selected

Featured Image

A West View of Chelsea Bridge called Jenny Whim’s Bridge, Ranelagh British Museum


The Account Book of a Georgian Man-About-Town, 1824-29

Today, I’d like to welcome back Mr RM Healey, who has recently written a guest post for All Things Georgian, about The Boyle Family and their Court Guides. Today, he is back to share some information from the account book of a Georgian, ‘Man About Town’. So with that, I’ll hand you over to him to tell you more:

Account books of the Georgian period are not exactly rare. Plenty can be found in County Record Offices, second-hand bookshops and auction rooms. Unfortunately, most are rather dull. Many simply record the day-to-day dealings of businessmen and farmers and from a socio-historical view remain too business-like to interest readers wishing to gain an idea of the everyday life of the average man-in-the street.

How refreshingly different is the one I am writing about here, which was acquired many years ago in a second hand bookshop. Along with the bald statements recording  sums of money received from various sources– mainly his father– are the very interesting records of outgoings by this ( alas) anonymous gentleman in the final years of the Georgian period.

Although the name of the man does not appear in the document, names and places are peppered throughout it, so at some point it may be possible to identify him.

What we do know is that he appears to be associated with both with the East Riding of Yorkshire and with South Lincolnshire. For instance, he goes to tea twice in Kirk Ella, a village west of Hull, and pays visits to nearby Goole and Hull.

Later he goes on expeditions to places not too far away, such as Donington in Leicestershire, and Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. Having said that, he also attends a ‘Ball’ at Peterborough, from where he may have gone to another ball in Holbeach, which is only a few  miles away. When he records an  ‘expedition‘ to some of these places, we don’t feel that  he is visiting friends or relations there, or he would surely have mentioned as much.

The bulk of the items on which he spends money suggest that he is young, that is to say, under forty. For instance, he appears to spend as much on personal grooming as he does on food. The regular monthly outlay of 6d. on ‘Hair cutting‘  over a five year period would seem to indicate that he regarded a close attention to his personal appearance as important.

Expenditure on gloves, ‘ribbands’, shoe-polishing, razors, lavender water, a new neckerchief and silk hat, a waistcoat and cravats, a new ribband and a new glass for his watch, in addition to payments to washerwomen, reinforce this theory. A single payment for new straps to his ‘skaits’ might also suggest that he is young enough to skate regularly; otherwise why would he need to replace the straps ?

Ice skating, which was brought to Britain by the Dutch in the late seventeenth century, was a popular pastime throughout the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth, and in the cold east side of England ponds and lake were often frozen over in winter.

January scene skating early 1820s. January by William Belch c.1820. Wikimedia

Our young man made payments for rent and ‘board’ to different people even though we know that he received money from his father. Of course, this does not mean that he didn’t live at home with his parents for some of the time.

He had an account with a wine merchant, which suggests maturity of a kind. On the other hand, his regular (many times a month) expenditure on  such snacks as oranges, walnuts ( arguably the most popular nut in Georgian times), gingerbread, a gooseberry tart or two and other pastries, suggests that in his fondness for ‘fast food’ he was no different in this respect from other young men of his time, or indeed our own.

Soda Water and Ginger Beer. Wellcome Library

Also, his liking for ginger beer, which he drank regularly,  could be another sign that he had a north of England upbringing. The beverage was, and perhaps still is, more popular in the northern counties than in the south. In 1817, it was sold in powdered form ( presumably as a mixture of ginger powder, sugar and bicarbonate of soda) at the bookshop and stationer run by J. Cragg in Hull. ‘ Soda Water powder ‘( sodium bicarbonate again) was sold at the same shop. Incidentally, it would be good to know if he bought his favourite pastries from bakers and confectioners to eat in the street or in his digs, or whether he patronised eating houses. It is a shame that we know so little about the extent to which the practice of consuming snacks in eateries established for this purpose, such as the premises depicted in caricatures of the time.

Reading, or at least the purchase of books or magazines, does not seem to occupy much of much of our young man’s time, unless of course magazines and newspapers were classed under ‘sundries’, which was a frequent heading in the account book.

The purchase of only three books– A History of Barbados, Cowper’s Poems, and Walter Scott’s Waverley is recorded over the five year period. Of course, he may have belonged to a circulating library, though no such expenditure features in the accounts.

If we compare the diaries of other young men, where the purchase of books features regularly, it is perhaps safe to assume that our well turned out man was not a scholar and certainly not a radical thinker. In fact, the regular payment of  two shillings  to a ‘Mechanics Institute‘, the organisation set up in Edinburgh in 1821 by the educationalist George Birkbeck to teach scientific and technological principles to young working men,  strongly indicates that he was more interested in pursuing a vocational, rather than an academic  education.

But what else do we know about his values? Expenditure on comestibles and self-grooming items tell us only so much. Perhaps we should look to the other expenditure in the account book. He was, for instance, a subscriber to the Society for the Support and Encouragement of Sunday Schools, which had been going since 1785, and the Missionary Society for Propagating the Gospel in Heathen and unenlightened Countries, which was instigated ten years later. He was a churchgoer, though not a regular one. He recorded a donation to a collection box. He also gave 6d to a ‘poor woman’.

Courtesy of R M Healey. Click to enlarge

But arguably the most intriguing item of expenditure he records is the 1s. 6d he gave to the ‘Jewish Society’ in 1826. This doesn’t suggest that he was Jewish or that he was sympathetic to the Jewish community in Britain. The Royal Kalendar for 1827 lists no such society, but it does mention the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews, which was established in 1809. In 1827 its leading lights included William Wilberforce, and such prominent City of London figures as Matthew Wood and Sir Thomas Baring. This would suggest that our young man, like many others of his time, feared that if the clamour for Catholic Emancipation succeeded, the lifting of restrictions on Jews, which, for instance, prevented them from being elected to Parliament, might easily follow. But as it turned out, despite the efforts of William Huskisson in 1829 to present a petition of 2,000 from Liverpool urging the abolitions of restrictions on Jews, these disabilities remained. Benjamin Disraeli could only enter Parliament because he had converted to Christianity when a young man.

Finally, though apparently conventional and even conservative in his outlook, our young man about town took his pleasures seriously. He paid frequent (at least once a month) visits to the theatre, to a ‘theatre mechanical’ and also attended a ‘choral concert‘.

One of his favourite vices was card games, at which he doesn’t appear to have been too successful. He bought a new card case for two shillings and a set of cards, but at the beginning of 1827 he played three times and lost a total of five shillings. At the end of May 1827 he recorded losing 4s. 6d. and in March 1829 3s. No losses are recorded in the rest of the account book, which ends in June 1829.

Further reading

Cragg’s Guide to Hull ( Hull, J. Cragg 1817)

The Royal Kalendar for 1827( London 1827)

Jon Stobart, Sugar and Spice: Grocers and Groceries in Provincial England, 1650 – 1830 (Oxford 2013)







Sarah Andrews, Revolutionary Partner – Guest post by Charmian Kenner

I am delighted to welcome a new guest to all Things Georgian, Charmian Kenner, a researcher and writer on women’s history, with a special interest in Latin America, who lives in Hastings, and who is going to tell us about someone I had never heard of, but who led a most remarkable life. With that, I’ll hand you over to Charmian:

How did a young woman from Yorkshire meet a Venezuelan revolutionary in the year 1800? Sarah Andrews was born in 1774 in the East Yorkshire town of Market Weighton, while Francisco de Miranda began his life thousands of miles away in Caracas, Venezuela. Yet they were to become partners, and their London home served as a British headquarters for the struggle to liberate Latin America from Spanish rule.

Plaque to Sarah Andrews in All Saints’ Church, Market Weighton

There are monuments to Francisco de Miranda throughout Latin America. But we do not even have a picture of Sarah Andrews, and her grave in Kensal Green cemetery was unmarked and neglected until found by a descendant four generations later. Today her gravestone, placed by the Venezuelan government in 2013, commemorates Sarah as ‘a supporter of revolutionaries who changed the world’.

Sarah’s grave in Kensal Green cemetery

My book Revolutionary Partners: Sarah Andrews and British Campaigners for Latin American Independence tells Sarah’s story through letters she wrote to Francisco de Miranda when he was away fighting in Venezuela from 1805-1807, while she held the fort in London and raised their two sons Leander and Francisco. Sarah emerges as a resourceful activist, combining politics and motherhood in the face of poverty and discrimination. But how did she become involved in the Latin American cause?

Revolutionary ideas were rife around the world in the late 18th century. When Sarah was a teenager, the whole of England was in a furore about the French Revolution. She would have heard radical opinions via her shoemaker father John – shoemakers’ shops, along with pubs, were places where customers gathered to discuss the issues of the day. We know little of Sarah’s early life, but by 1800 she had moved to London, probably amongst the thousands of young women who sought domestic work in the capital.

Francisco de Miranda, General of the French Revolution in 1792, by Georges Rouget

Across the Atlantic, Francisco de Miranda had grown up in Caracas as part of the ‘criollo’ aristocracy, who were born in Latin America from Spanish origins but now chafing under the yoke of Spain. After fighting as a General in the French Revolution, he came to London on a mission. He wanted prime minister William Pitt to provide finance and troops to free Venezuela and indeed the whole of Latin America. The reward for Britain would be huge business opportunities in countries that currently could only trade with Spain.

We do not know exactly how Sarah and Francisco met, though it may have been through Sarah’s uncle Stephen Hewson, who was a portrait painter in London. On 9th February 1800 Francisco wrote in his diary that when he returned to his lodgings in New Road (now Euston Road), ‘Sally’ told him of a visitor who called while he was out. Sally was Francisco’s affectionate name for Sarah, and their relationship is intriguing.

It is not clear whether ‘Sally’ was a servant at this point or sharing Francisco’s home. There was a considerable age gap between them – Francisco was 49 years old and Sarah was 25. In 1802 they moved into their long-term home, 27 Grafton Street (now 58 Grafton Way), an elegant new house that they rented in the Fitzrovia area of London. In his will dated 1805, Francisco refers to Sarah as ‘mi fiel ama de llaves [my faithful housekeeper] Sarah Andrews’, recognising her important role in running the household.

58 Grafton Way today, formerly 27 Grafton Street

By this time Sarah and Francisco were parents; their first child Leandro was nearly two and Sarah was pregnant with his brother Francisco. Were they married? No marriage certificate has ever been found, but Sarah was Protestant and Francisco was Catholic, so their marriage might not have taken place at an Anglican church as was then required. It may even have happened in secret.

Whether or not they were married, Sarah and Francisco were evidently committed to each other and shared a passionate dedication to the Latin American cause. Sarah wrote eloquently to Francisco in the hope that his 1805 expedition to Venezuela ‘will live a glorious example of Justice and Humanity and may your victories in the New World be a Pattern to all Nations, as you will be shown to reign in the hearts of the people, as you do, and ever will in mine’.

Francisco de Miranda circa 1806, artist unknown

Meanwhile Francisco made it clear that Sarah was a valued partner in his campaign, writing that ‘I want you as much as anybody else to carry in execution, and terminate with success my schemes’. He depended on Sarah to maintain the Grafton Street household, the key point of contact for political and diplomatic supporters.

But Sarah had a herculean task. At times there was not enough money for food, and she sacrificed her own needs: ‘I live on and get a little bit of meat for my dearest Children and Servant, if there is any left I have it but [not] for a week together, until I am so weak, that I am always crying, and I cannot help it’.

Despite these harsh conditions and a threat of eviction, Sarah managed to keep the house and prevent Francisco’s beloved book collection from being sold. At six thousand volumes, it was the largest private library in London and a vital resource for campaigners. She also kept faith with her purpose as a radical mother, bringing up three-year-old Leander to believe in the Latin American cause.

Fitzroy Square London

Finally, Francisco returned on New Year’s Day 1808. His expedition – organised alone when support from Britain did not materialise – had been unsuccessful. However, Latin American nations soon began to declare independence from Spain, with Venezuela being the first in 1810. Sarah and Francisco hosted Simón Bolívar, the future Liberator of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama, at Grafton Street when he visited London with a Venezuelan delegation to meet British politicians and influential supporters.

A modern re-imagining of Miranda’s meeting with Simón Bolívar at Grafton Street, with Sarah and her children, by Jason Askew

Francisco de Miranda returned to Venezuela and became the country’s Generalissimo, its supreme military commander, but the Spanish mounted a huge campaign to retake their colonial possession and captured him in triumph. He wrote his last letter to Sarah from prison in Cádiz, Spain, where he was to die in July 1816. Addressing her as ‘my very dear Sally’, Francisco says ‘nothing gives me greater pain than knowing that you are in distress’. His final words are ‘Goodbye, dear and afflicted friend, and give my love to the little ones’.

Sarah’s distress must indeed have been severe, but she did not give up the fight. She is said to have kept a candle burning in the window of Grafton Street for the revolution. The house became an important recruiting station for the Legión Británnica, British volunteers who went to Latin America to fight with Bolívar from 1817 onwards. Such recruitment was illegal, but when government agents came to arrest the activists, Sarah barred the door against them.

Bolívar’s troops crossing the Andes

The Legión Británnica scaled the icy heights of the Andes with Bolívar’s army to take the Spanish by surprise, and played a significant part alongside dedicated troops who finally achieved the liberation of their countries. Sarah’s mission as a radical mother was vindicated when both Leander and Francisco went to Latin America to join the struggle.

Sarah’s story is told in full, along with those of other British women who travelled to Latin America with the Legión Británnica and witnessed the dawn of a new society, in my book Revolutionary Partners, available FREE here (Click on the highlighted link).

The Truxtun Bowl – Guest post by Judith Pearson

Today, I am delighted to welcome back Judith Pearson who has previously written a guest post for All Things Georgian about a portrait by George Romney, but today’s story is very different as you will soon find out.

The Truxtun Bowl is a popular U.S. Navy collectible; a memento of The Age of Sail, a piece of memorabilia relating to the formation of the U.S. Navy. It is often given to naval officers as a retirement gift, or as an award to people serving in U.S. naval history organizations.

Truxtun bowls are replicas of two identical Chinese porcelain bowls owned by Commodore Thomas Truxtun, USN.  In 1794 he was appointed as the fourth most senior captain in the newly-formed U.S. Navy to oversee the building of the Navy’s first frigates. That year, to illustrate a book he was writing about navigation, Truxtun asked naval architect, Josiah Fox, for a drawing of a 44-gun frigate. He later commissioned two punch bowls featuring Fox’s drawing.

Truxtun bowl, interior showing 44-gun frigate
Truxtun bowl, side view.

Fox’s drawing can be found on the inside of the bowl: A frigate under full sail and framed by a blue and gold border on the inner rim. Side views show the lovely gold and blue trim around the outer rim.  The bottom of  the bowl displays the fouled anchor, attesting, in gold lettering:

Naval Historical Foundation, Truxtun Bowl, Fine Porcelain Replica, copyright 2017 DMA,, Crafted in China, TK-710-001

Truxtun Bowl, bottom

Many people recognize the bowl and appreciate its beauty and simplicity of style. Few people, even those who own a Truxtun bowl know about the man himself – his daring and skill as a merchant mariner, a privateer, and a naval officer, his reputation as a navigator, his knowledge of ship construction, and his amazing rise to the highest levels of early U.S. society.

Let me tell you something about Truxtun’s life, so that when you see (or own) a Truxtun bowl, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the man.

Thomas Truxtun was born in 1755 to a prosperous farming family on Long Island, New York. His father was an English barrister, previously living in Jamaica. His mother died before Thomas was six.

From age six to twelve he attended boarding school. His father died when Thomas was ten. At twelve, he went to sea as an apprentice. For the next seven years he worked on British merchant ships.

At 19, ashore in London, Truxtun was pressed into the Royal Navy, aboard the third-rate HMS Prudent (64). Refusing the opportunity to become a midshipman, he returned to New York. At age 20, he married Mary Vandrau, who was 15. Over the next 35 years, they had twelve children, ten of which survived to adulthood.

At age 20 he began commanding his own merchant ships. With the country entering a war for independence from Britain, Truxtun also became a privateer.  He sailed the Caribbean, dodging British warships, taking British merchant ships as prizes, and returning with rum, sugar, spices, and much needed supplies for the Continental Army, including something they needed desperately – gun powder. Twice he was forced to surrender his ship and his cargo to the Royal Navy as a prize.

Truxtun took command of Mars in 1777, of 22 carriage guns, 12 swivel guns and 150 men. Destination: The English Channel, where he took six prizes – all British merchant ships. In 1778 he bought the ship, Lydia, on borrowed money. She was badly damaged in a gale, but Truxtun brought her home, supervised her refit, and changed her name to Independence. With Independence, he carried on as a successful trader and privateer for the next two years.

In 1781, Truxtun took command of St. James and sailed from Philadelphia to France.  Two days out, he encountered a British privateer. A battle ensued with both ships badly damaged. After the British withdrew, Truxtun made repairs and continued on to France.  He returned to Philadelphia in March 1782, where he attended a dinner for General George Washington, who commended Truxtun for his contributions to the war effort. Philadelphia merchants applauded Truxtun for his skill and daring.

With the colonies gaining independence from Britain in 1783, Truxtun formed a partnership with James Collins and opened a dry goods store. Eager to establish trade with Britain, Truxtun made three voyages to England, bringing back rich cargos. By 1784, however, American coastal cities were saturated with imports and many trading houses were collapsing. Truxtun and Collins sold Commerce to pay their creditors. The partnership dissolved, with Collins declaring bankruptcy. Truxtun refused to declare bankruptcy, instead promising to repay his investors. He spent the next few years paying down his debts.

In 1785, the Donnaldson and Coxe trading house commissioned a new ship, the London Packet; an elegant passenger/cargo vessel. Truxtun accepted command and took her to Europe.  That summer, an infirm, 80-year old Benjamin Franklin took passage on the ship after eight years in France, where he had represented the U.S. at the Court of Versailles. Also on board: the sculptor, Antoine Houdon who was traveling to Mount Vernon to execute a bust of General Washington. Arriving in Philadelphia, Franklin was greeted with a gala reception.

Truxtun next entered into trade with China. With financing, he had the London Packet overhauled, renaming her, Canton, and sailed her to Canton in 1785. Historians credit Truxtun with opening U.S. trade with China, because the Chinese turned away other American traders, regarding their goods as inferior. Canton, however, carried American-grown ginseng, which the Chinese valued as a cure-all.

At Canton, Truxtun spent months navigating a complex labyrinth of Chinese laws and customs that required payments, inspections, negotiations and ceremonies with a hierarchy of officials, merchants and local rulers. He returned to Philadelphia a year and a half later. He completed a second voyage in June 1789. Later that year, several businessmen bought Canton. They hired Truxtun to take her to China, by way of India.  He sailed as far as Calcutta, where he was a guest of Governor General, Lord Cornwallis. Noting that his ship was in disrepair and not fit for the voyage, he returned to Philadelphia, arriving in April 1791, with many in his crew suffering from scurvy.

That year, Truxtun commissioned his own ship, Delaware. He had her coppered in England. From there, loaded with British goods, she sailed for India. Arriving at Madras, Truxtun traded for spices and piece goods. He hired a French ship to take some of the cargo to England, while he travelled on to Hamburg. Then he returned to England. He left Delaware in London, under the care of an associate, and booked passage to Philadelphia, arriving in the spring of 1793.

England and France were at war again. The Royal Navy seized the ship he hired in France. In 1793 he booked passage to London, expecting to take command of Delaware and renew trade with India. However, with a war in progress, Truxtun tried to sell Delaware at auction, but the bidding was so low that he bought her for £3,000, paid for extensive repairs, hired a crew, and took her home, stocked with cargo for trading. Truxtun was gaining a reputation as a skilful and prudent mariner, a shrewd entrepreneur, and a man of integrity.

Portrait of Thomas Truxtun by Bass Otis (1784 – 1861). From Truxtun of the Constellation by Eugene Ferguson, 1956.

In 1794, Congress authorized the formation of the U.S. Navy. President Washington selected Truxtun as one of six captains to oversee the building of the Navy’s first frigates. Truxtun served for seven years under three presidents. He earned fame in the Quasi War with France as commander of the fifth-rate frigate, USS Constellation (38). Under Truxtun’s command, Constellation won two battles against the French frigates LInsurgente and La Vengeance, respectively.  For his heroism, Congress awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal. He was also made a member of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Action between U.S. Frigate Constellation and French Frigate L’Insurgente, 9 February 1799. Painted by Rear Admiral John W. Schmidt, USN (Retired), a twentieth century maritime artist.
Truxtun’s Congressional Medal. From Truxtun of the Constellation by Eugene Ferguson, 1956.

When the Barbary Wars began, he was assigned to command the Mediterranean Squadron in his flagship, the fifth-rate frigate, USS Chesapeake (38). However, he resigned in 1802 when the Secretary of the Navy did not give him enough officers. He later regretted his decision, and applied for reinstatement, but his request was ignored.

Truxtun retired as a gentleman farmer, but he continued his involvement in politics and public affairs. In a final act of public service, he served as High Sheriff of Philadelphia County. He died in 1822. American naval historians revere Truxtun for his bravery, audacity, and tenacity, for his seamanship, and his loyalty to the country. Five U.S. Navy ships have been named after Truxtun. The latest one is the Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, USS Truxtun, DDG-103.

USS Truxtun (DDG 103) in Norfolk, Virginia. U.S. Navy photo.

And what of the Truxtun bowls? Years after his death, Truxtun’s own bowl was donated to the Naval Historical Foundation in Washington, DC, where it is now on display in the Navy Museum in the city’s naval dockyard.

The companion bowl, which he presented to President George Washington, is on display in Washington’s Virginia home, Mount Vernon.  Replicas can be purchased at the Navy Museum store in the Washington, DC Navy Yard, and they occasionally turn up on eBay.

When you know the story of Truxtun, you’ll understand why the bowl is a collector’s treasure.


Naval Historical Foundation, Navy Museum Store website

Eugene S. Ferguson, Truxtun of the Constellation (Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins Press, 1956).

U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command website.

Judith originally published this story in the Autumn 2021 issue of the Kedge Anchor of the 1805 Club. The Naval Historical Foundation was subsumed by the U.S. Naval Institute, in Annapolis, Maryland in 2023.

What were raree shows?

What was a raree show? Possibly a name derived from the word rarity, but no-one seems quite sure. It was a peep show, exhibited on the streets of the country, usually by itinerants, much like any other street performers.

The Raree-show (’t Fraay Curieus), Willem van Mieris, 1718. Rijksmuseum
The Raree-show,  Willem van Mieris, 1718. Rijksmuseum

The show was often carried around in a wooden cabinet with several viewing holes in which sets of pictures could be set by pulling a corresponding cord, or in a box, as can be seen in this painting above.

The showman then provided a narrative to accompany the images.  This post is very much a visual one showing some of the different rarees, along with a few stories from the newspapers.

Engelbrecht theatre peepshow, 18th century, Germany. Victoria and Albert Museum d A
Engelbrecht theatre peepshow, 18th century, Germany. Victoria and Albert Museum

The newspapers often provided advertisements for such shows and the charge to see them was usually half a penny.

The Oracle and Daily Advertiser 31 August 1803 described that a man with a raree show stopped to exhibit, on Lancashire Bridge, Stockport, one day last week and a crowd of people, as usual, gathered around him.

Amongst them was a solider who wished to have a peep at what was going on inside. He paid his halfpenny and applied his eye to the glass. The show man had shown him half the fine cities in the world, and eventually came to Paris. ‘There is the famous city of Paris’ said the showman, ‘You can see the great Bonaparte haranguing his troops for the invasion of England’. The indignant soldier could contain himself no longer, his fury was roused at the sight of his notorious enemy. He grabbed the show box and threw all the fine cities of the world, along with Bonaparte and his troops, over the bridge. ‘There, and now you see Bonaparte and his troops drowning and be damned to them.’

This image above, is located at the British Museum and The Leeds Intelligencer, 1 June 1779, reported:

A correspondent passing through Whitechapel on Friday observed a man, by his accent a German, exhibiting a halfpenny show to the children. There was something so whimsical in the contents of the show, that our correspondent could not help listening to the man and has brought off s much of the exhibition as his memory would contain; and has endeavoured to reduce it to English, from the jargon in which it was delivered. The article then continued to outline exactly what we are seeing above in the image.

Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

The Globe, 17 August 1826 reported that the collection of the late John Hunter was purchased by Parliament in 1796, and given to the Corporation of Surgeons, on certain conditions, intended to secure the medical world and the public the benefit of this fine collection.

The two main conditions were:

That the collection should be visible, and that it should be intelligible – that it should be open a certain number of days (twice) every week in a year, and that a catalogue of it should be provided.

A collection of anatomical preparations is very ill adapted for a raree show, to be exhibited on feasts and festivals, and, but for these conditions, which secured to studious men, the facilities of frequently examining it, the money spent upon it would have been better bestowed upon puppets or magic lanterns.

Featured Image

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco – Raree show

Dido Elizabeth Belle’s half-sister, Elizabeth Lindsay

Research continues into the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, daughter of Sir John Lindsay, yet to date only a limited amount of information is widely known today about the life of his other surviving illegitimate daughter, and half-sister to Dido, named Elizabeth (known as Eliza) Lindsay aka Palmer, as to a large extent she seems to have been written out of history. However, it would be Elizabeth and her half-brother John, whose existence Sir John acknowledged in his will as his ‘reputed’ children.

With that, let me introduce you to Peter Hill and Mr Elizabeth Hill née Lindsay or Palmer. Sadly, we don’t know the artist of these paintings.

Much research has been quietly carried out by Eliza’s descendants, especially Christopher Normand, and it’s thanks to his generosity in sharing the information he gleaned,  along with the photograph of Eliza and her husband, which has allowed me to delve deeper into her life and her family.

Eliza was born 8 December 1766 in Jamaica, just a few days after Dido was being baptised on the other side of the world, in London. As we see here from her baptism at Port Royal, Jamaica, it took place when she was a month old, on 10 January 1767.

Jamaica Parish Registers 1664-1800, Port Royal. Click to enlarge

Her baptismal record shows quite clearly, Sir John Lindsay as being her father, which he appears to have acknowledged throughout her life. Her mother was simply named as Martha G and there is nothing on the baptismal entry to tell us more about Eliza’s mother, but the majority of baptisms at that time record ethnicity if non white, and as can be seen above, there is nothing against either Eliza or her mother’s name, which in all likelihood means that unlike Dido, Eliza was white.

It remains unclear as to when Eliza and her half-brother, John, who was born in November 1767 arrived in Britain.

John Lindsay born 28 November 1767, Kingston, Jamaica. Parish Registers. Click to enlarge

Presumably Sir John felt the pair would have better life chances here rather than remaining in Jamaica and in Britain under Sir John’s care, they would receive a good education.

Martin, David; Alexander Murray (1736-1795), Lord Henderland; National Galleries of Scotland

It seems highly likely that Eliza and possibly John, were raised in Edinburgh, meaning they would be close to Sir John’s mother, Lady Amelia Lindsay (1691-1774) and his sister, Lady Katherine Henderland (1737-1828), the wife of Judge Alexander Murray, Lord Henderland (1736-1795).

It was in September 1768 that Eliza’s father married Mary Milner, a name we will return to later in Eliza’s life.

Little is known of Eliza’s early life, but it has been suggested by her descendants that she attended a boarding school in Edinburgh, which I  do agree with, especially in light of a reference that appeared in the accounts of John Lindsay junior, who noted that a woman by the name of Mrs Murray was to be paid for the education and board of a Miss Eliza Lindsay.

Whilst I am not sure whether this related to this his sister, Eliza or whether it pertained to his own daughter, whose name has not yet come into view, it is certainly of interest.

Click to enlarge

This question left me wondering whether there was any record of boarding schools around Edinburgh at the time Eliza would have been educated when I came across a document which included a Mrs Katherine Murray, who ran a boarding school from 1756, at Niddry’s Wynd. Niddry’s Wynd being fairly close to where Eliza was married, so it seems feasible, although I have no proof especially given this Mrs Murray ran the school in the latter part of the 1750’s that she was still there when Eliza attended, but it’s an interesting theory for now.

Creech’s Land, St Giles and the Market Cross, Edinburgh by Henry G. Duguid Nat Gallery Scotland

Around 1772, Eliza’s future husband, Peter Hill became apprenticed to Mr William Creech, a publisher and bookseller at that time. Edinburgh was renowned for its booksellers and Creech was arguably one of the most famous, so much so that the area around his shop became known as Creech’s Land.

Creech published for many authors such as the poet, Robert Burns, and also Dr James Beattie, who met Dido Elizabeth Belle at Kenwood House in 1771, which begs the question as to whether Beattie ever knew that the then young Peter Hill went on to marry Sir John Lindsay’s other daughter, Eliza. It was a small world at that time where anyone who was anyone knew each other, although Eliza would only have been a young child at the time, as there was an eleven year age gap between Eliza and Peter Hill.

Eliza and Peter married in Edinburgh on 3 May 1783, Eliza was 16 at the time and the marriage entry recorded her name as Elizabeth Palmer, alias Lindsay, daughter of Sir John Lindsay. Despite many attempts it has not been possible to ascertain why she used the name Palmer, unless it was in honour of someone who raised her.

Edinburgh Parish Marriage Register

On 29 September that year, Sir John wrote his will, in which he made provision of £1,000 each for John and Eliza, which was to be left in a trust, to be administered by his wife, Lady Mary Lindsay.

Click to enlarge

Now, it’s worth noting that Sir John named his daughter, Elizabeth Lindsay i.e. he used her maiden name, which arguably implies that he was unaware that Eliza had been married for 4 months by then, which could possibly tie in with the theory that the couple eloped, especially given Eliza’s age.

When they first married they are believed to have rented a flat at the head of The Mound, Edinburgh.

View of Princes Street, The Mound, and Edinburgh Castle National Galleries Scotland Copy after Thomas H. Shepherd

It would be just over a year into their marriage that their first child, Amelia was born, presumably named for her paternal grandmother, which seems to imply that she either knew or knew of her grandmother.

It is interesting to note that Eliza gave her maiden name on her daughter’s baptism, Palmer and not Lindsay, as she would go on to do for all her children, for some unexplained reason. Within the following year, they moved from The Mound to a property at 160 Nicolson Street on the corner of Hill Place. It has been suggested that Hill Place was named after Peter, however it was named after James Hill, a mason who was involved in building many houses in that area.

It seems highly likely that it was around this time, that William Creech and Peter had gone their separate ways, with Peter establishing his own bookshop. The Female Servant Tax Rolls of 1785, shows that Peter and Eliza had moved to Nicolson Street and were employing a servant, Mary Sherry.

In March 1786, Eliza and Peter’s second child entered the world, another girl, Margaret. Then shortly after this they moved again, this time to Parliament Close, as Peter’s name appeared in the shop rates 1788/89.

Kay, John; The Parliament Close and Public Characters of Edinburgh, Fifty Years Since; City of Edinburgh Council

It was in 1787 that Peter and Eliza first became acquainted with the poet, Robert Burns who would become a regular visitor and correspondent. Eliza was said to have been Peter’s superior, socially and is believed to have disapproved of her husband’s acquaintance with the poet. However, Burns described Eliza as ‘my fair friend’  and clearly enjoyed her company.

February 1788, Peter took on an apprentice, Archibald Constable, who lived in with the family. Constable would later write:

Mr Hill had been for many years principal clerk to Mr Creech, was highly respected as possessing gentlemanly manners beyond most others of the trade and proved in this year and important stage of my career a kind and indulgent master.

Constable went on to say:

I lived in the house with him … I passed six years very happily as an apprentice, and another as a clerk, receiving in the last year £30 of salary. Mr Hill’s shop was frequented by the most respectable persons in Edinburgh. Burns the poet when in town was a frequent visitor, the distinguished professors and clergy, and the most remarkable strangers. I remember Captain Gross making frequent visits …

Mr Hill did not remain long in the Parliament Close, but removed about the year of 1790 to the shop at the cross where he now is, his apprentices, clerks and shopmen increasing with his trade, which was very considerable.

NB Captain Gross (sic) was Francis Grose, the well-known author of A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Another of Peter’s employees was the mathematician an astronomer, William Wallace, who joined Peter towards the latter part of Archibald’s apprenticeship.

In June 1788, Eliza’s father, Sir John Lindsay died, as to when Eliza found out of her father’s death remains unanswered, but it would have been from this point onwards that she would have begun to receive the £1,000 left to her in his will. £1,000 was not an insignificant sum of money at that time and would equate to around £120,000 in today’s money (Bank of England). The same amount was also left to her brother, John.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

Business appeared to be going well for Peter, and he and his family continued to move, presumably to bigger and better premises, this move took them to James’s Court, but  in their domestic life tragedy struck again, in March 1789 when their four year old daughter, Amelia died from a fever.

Around this time, Eliza had two further children, John and James, both presumably named for Eliza’s and Peter’s fathers, although to date I have found no record of their births or deaths, but in 1790 the Servant Tax return confirms that they had two servants and 3 children, these children would have been, Margaret, James and John.

On 2 March 1790, Peter received a letter from Robert Burns, which included the following about Eliza:

And now, to quit the dry walk of business, how do you do my dear friend? and how is Mrs. Hill? I trust, if now and then not so elegantly handsome, at least as amiable, and sings as divinely as ever.

11 May 1791 saw the baptism of Elizabeth’s first son who would survive infancy and named Peter, for his father.

Peter Hill, bookseller by Samuel Edmonston Nat Galleries Scotland

Here we see Peter (senior) paying tax in 1791-2 for owning a horse and carriage:

As if any further proof were needed that Eliza was Sir John’s daughter, around 1793 Eliza had another daughter, whom she very clearly named after her step-mother – Mary Milner, it would appear crystal clear from this naming that she knew and respected her stepmother. I would argue that there was a much closer relationship, despite the distance, between Eliza and her father’s side of the family. At this time, the family moved again, this time to a house on Ramsay Gardens, Edinburgh.

Between 1793 and 1798 trials for sedition were held in Edinburgh, with Eliza’s uncle, Alexander Murray, Lord Henderson being one of the leading judges in the trials. When you look at the case of one of these men, Joseph Gerrald, another name comes into view, that of Peter Hill. It transpires that Peter was the Clerk, and therefore, Eliza would be well aware of these court cases.

In March 1794, Sir John Lindsay’s wife, Lady Mary wrote her will, in which she ensured Sir John two ‘reputed’ children continued to receive their inheritance from their father, although by this time Eliza had received £500 of the £1,000 trust. Lady Mary put in provision that upon her death the money should be paid to his children via Sir John’s sister, Katherine Murray, Lady Henderland. In addition to this, she personally left them £100 each (about £10.5k in today’s money). The same year, Peter’s name appeared in the Edinburgh Burgesses and Guild Brethren.

Around 1796, Eliza was pregnant again, this child was again believed to have been named John, but again, it seems likely he died shortly after birth; therefore no baptism or burial record has survived. The following year, 1797 their second surviving son, Alexander was born, with another daughter, Eliza being born just a year later. At this time, Peter was a member of the Edinburgh Council.

23 November 1799 Lady Mary Lindsay died, so at this time Eliza and her brother would have received their £100 legacy from their stepmother, money which would no doubt have been very welcome with a growing family, especially as Eliza had another daughter, Helen in 1800, closely followed in April 1802 by William Simpson.

In 1801 Peter had a catalogue published listing all the books he sold, in which he gave two addresses from where they may be purchase – his shop at The Cross, Edinburgh and this entry also tells us that he had a warehouse too, at Royal Bank Close, Edinburgh.

Sadly though 1803 would be a difficult year, with two of their children dying within days of each other. Alexander, by that time aged 5, died from water on the brain on 1 April 1803. Then on 14 April, William Simpson also died, no cause of death given for him though. This would have been especially difficult as Eliza who would have been heavily pregnant with their next daughter, named Lindsay, in honour of her father and also her maiden name. Lindsay was born on 10 Jul 1803.

21 October 1806, saw the birth of yet another child, their 14th child, a son, Francis Bridges, who lived until the age of 20, when he died from ‘decline’ in 1826.  They were reputed to have had a 15th child, Robert in 1810, but there is no evidence of this child, if he existed, having survived infancy.

The North Elevation of Heriot’s Hospital, Edinburgh by Phillipe Mercier. National Galleries of Scotland

By 1805 Peter was no longer a bookseller and had become the city treasurer and in 1809 he was also the treasurer of George Heriot’s Hospital, a post he held until 1813 when he became the Chief Collector of Burgal Taxes.

At the end of January 1821 Eliza’s brother, John died in India. Like their stepmother, John didn’t forget his sister in his will. He left a legacy for Eliza and also wrote off  debt of £300 which her husband owed him, although John didn’t elaborate as to what the loan was for.

John also provided for his mother, Frances Edwards (A ‘free mulatto woman’) who remained in her home town of Kingston, Jamaica, although by the time John’s will was proven his mother had died.

Shortly after this, Eliza and Peter moved to the newly built, affluent area of Edinburgh, 7 Randolph Crescent, together with Peter’s widowed sister, Janet Commel, née Hill, the widow of James Commel, a merchant, who died in 1836. Their neighbours included the likes of  The Honourable Misses Stewart MacKenzie at No. 9 and Erskine Douglas Sandford, advocate and author, who lived at number 11.

The family remained there until Peter’s death in 1837, at which time money was short and Eliza went to live with her married daughter, Lindsay (Hill) Wilson, and her son-in-law, George Wilson, at their home at Dalmarnock, Glasgow, together with her unmarried daughters, Mary Milner, Eliza and Helen, where they were recorded at the 1841 Census.

Eliza died 28 January 1842, and was buried beside her husband Peter Hill in Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh. The inventory of her estate for probate in 1848 was just £188 17 shillings, which is about £16k in today’s money.

On a final note to the story, it has been suggested that Peter and Eliza had a son named McCulloch Hill, born in 1796, however, following his life as a shoemaker, I noted no connection between the families, especially as his father’s name according to McCulloch’s marriage certificate, was William.


Inventories & Accounts of Deceased Estates – Madras 1822-1936. Folio 1227 & 1228

Sir John Lindsay’s will – Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1167

Rogers, C. The Book of Robert Burns: Genealogical and Historical Memoirs of the poet, Volume 1. 

Constable, T. Archibald Constable and His Literary Correspondents: A Memorial, Volume 1

John Lindsay junior’s will 

Elizabeth’s Inventory. 1846 Hill Peter (Wills and testaments Reference SC36/48/32. Glasgow Sheriff Court Inventories).




Sarah Whitehead – The Bank Nun Ghost

So much as been written about Sarah and ghostly sightings of her around London, close to and including the Bank of England, wearing all black, hence the moniker of Bank Nun, so I thought it would be interesting to revisit the known information about her to check some of the facts, and to hopefully provide a little new information.

To cut a very long story short, Sarah’s brother, Paul (also incorrectly named Philip) worked for the Bank of England until in 1811 when he was charged with forgery. He stood trial at the Old Bailey on 30 October 1811 at the age of thirty six years and was sentenced to death.

West View of Newgate by George Shepherd 1784-1862

The British Mercury, 29 January 1812 reported the execution of Paul Whitehead and other prisoners at Newgate at nine o’clock with their bodies being cut down and delivered to their respective friends. Whilst it’s not possible to confirm with any certainty, there was a burial on 3 February 1812, at St Giles, Cripplegate, for a Paul Whitehead, giving his age as 32.

Execution by hanging, outside Newgate, early 1800s

Paul was supported throughout his trial by Alderman Samuel Birch, who would later become Lord Mayor of London, and supported him to the drop, at the end of Paul’s life. Remember this name, as it will appear later in this story.

There are numerous reports with differing information about Sarah following the death of her brother. Most reports seem to confirm that although not witness to her brother’s death, when she did find out it caused Sarah to suffer some sort of mental health issues, to the extent that she continued going to the bank on an almost daily basis searching for her brother, who she could not accept was dead. The bank were sympathetic to her supposed plight, despite knowing that Paul had been hanged and as such they often gave her money, which she took and went away, until the next day.

The first account of Sarah’s demise appeared in Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 12 November 1837 and was repeated in most London newspapers at the time. It went as follows:

It will be in the recollection of many of our readers, and particularly of the gentlemen at the Bank, and of the merchants and banks connected with the Royal Exchange, that for the last 40 years the above named lady was in the habit of paying a daily visit in that vicinity. The circumstances that gave rise to the extraordinary perseverance of this unfortunate lady are well known to have reverted from the ill-fated end of her brother, who held a responsible situation in the Bank of England, and who, having committed an act of forgery, suffered the extreme penalty of the law.

The effect of his untimely end produced an alienation of her mental faculties; while, in addition, she was reduced from a state of comparative opulence (being at the time partly dependent upon her brother’s income) to one of indigence. Being they young, while her enthusiastic and romantic attachment to her brother, leading her to attend daily at the Bank, some opulent and Christian individuals in the City compassioned her in her misfortunes, and became eventually contributors to her support during the remainder of her life.

She as known to strangers by the singularity of her dress which was in the old fashioned style of the period about the early part of the reign of George III. She was always attire in black, while her cheeks had constantly the appearance of being rouged. As there were very peculiar and interesting circumstances connected with her sudden exit from this world, and as no information could be obtained by the parochial authorities, Mr Payne, the City coroner was informed of the occurrence, ad a highly respectable jury was yesterday empanelled before him, at the King’s Arms Tavern, Old Kent Road, on view of the body of the deceased, when the following evidence was received:-

Allingham, the summoning officer said that he had applied at the Bank of England, to find out the deceased’s relations, but he had not succeeded. He had seen there a porter, who had been there for the last 40 years, and who did not know her Christian name.

Mrs Butler, landlady of the Eagle Coffee House, stated she had known the deceased for the last fourteen years. She took her meals daily and read the newspapers. She paid regularly. On Thursday she was in the coffee room some hours.

She complained of not being well and appeared so. She left about four o’clock to return home. Witness assisted her along the passage, when, as she was sinking, the witness called for assistance, and two men then supported the deceased.

She was taken home, where Mr Saunders the surgeon saw her, and pronounced life extinct. After the hearing some further evidence, the jury returned a verdict of ‘Died by the visitation of God’.

The day she died she had said that she was going to the civic feast at the Mansion House, and that one of the Queen’s servants, had sent 100 shillings to her, to buy herself a suitable dress. As to whether there was any truth in that we will never know, but it seems unlikely.

Hereford Journal 15 November 1837

Mrs Wallis at number 7, Mason Street, Old Kent Road, stated that the deceased had lodged with her for nine months. Latterly she was very much declined in health. She paid 3s 6d a week for her lodgings. She owed one week’s rent.

The Coroner observed that he had known the deceased from his youth, and it was well known that she had several benefactors, and that she was greatly indebted to Alderman Birch.

Pearson, Mary Martha; Samuel Birch (1757-1841), Lord Mayor of London (1814); City of London Corporation


Allingham said that her relatives had left 5 shillings a week for her at the parish of Camberwell, and which was payable to her by the authorities. He believed a man named Nicholls knew a little of her history.

George Nicholls, in the employ of Mr Wheatley the extensive coach proprietor, said, that the deceased’s age was 61, as she informed him. After her brother’s death, who was buried in Greenwich churchyard, she walked own every Sunday to pray over his tomb. Latterly, from her infirmities, she rode to Greenwich in his coach every Sunday.

Curiously, there is no sign of Sarah’s burial or in fact anyone named Whitehead who was buried towards the end of 1837. I have read that she was buried at St Christopher-le-Stocks, but this could not be correct as the church was long gone before Sarah’s death in 1837. I can’t understand why she would have been buried anywhere near the Bank of England when she was living just off the Old Kent Road, which is about two miles away.

Trying to track down the names of people in the newspaper account proved difficult, but I did managed to trace the Mrs Wallis who Sarah had lodged with. She appeared on the 1841 census, so only a few years after Sarah’s death and lived at 7 Mason Street, Old Kent Road, with her husband John, a wine brewer and their young son, Thomas.

George Nicholls appears on the 1841 census, living just off Old Kent Road, as a young man aged 25, so it’s feasible he was the one who gave evidence at the inquest. His employers, were Mr John and Thomas Wheatley.

To date, I haven’t managed to track down the Mrs Butler, but that’s not really surprising as she may well have moved on by then, but she seems to have known Sarah well over a 14 year period. She was able to confirm that Sarah not only dined there, but also read the newspapers, which confirms that Sarah was, like her brother, educated and literate, something which has elsewhere been disputed, with suggestions that she may have ended up in the workhouse.

Mrs Butler also confirmed that Sarah always paid her dues, so it begs the question as to where her money was coming from, clearly not her brother, but it has also been suggested in The Book of Wonderful Characters, that her father was a respected employee of the Post Office holding a situation of importance and that his income enabled him to educate his family liberally, and also to layby something for a rainy day. The author provides no explanation as to how he knew this, but if correct, then did her father leave her some funds or was it all spent by her brother or was, as I suspect financially supported by the family friend, Alderman Birch.

Moving on to the ghostly sightings of Sarah, it has been said that she has often been seen around the area of the Bank of England, including at the underground, dressed in widow’s weeds and asking passers-by-by if they have seen her brother.

Miss Whitehead, an eccentric, known as the ‘Bank Nun’. Coloured lithograph by G.L. Lee. Wellcome Trust Images


The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 8; Volume 162

1841 census – Mrs WallisHO107; Piece: 1085; Book: 8; Civil ParishSt George The Martyr; CountySurrey; Enumeration District: 18; Folio: 30; Page: 11; Line: 13; GSU roll: 474668

1841 census – George Nicholls – Class: HO107; Piece: 1085; Book: 7; Civil Parish: St George The Martyr; CountySurrey; Enumeration District: 15; Folio: 30; Page: 11; Line: 22; GSU roll: 474668

Burial of a Paul Whitehead –  London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference NumberP69/Gis/A/003/Ms06420/004

London City Directory 1840

Brown, Harcourt.   Streetology of London; or The metropolitan papers of the Itinerant club

Reider, William.  The New Tablet of Memory

The Criminal Recorder: Or, Biographical Sketches of Notorious  Public Characters, Volume 2

Wilson, Henry. The Book of Wonderful Characters


A convict ship entering Sydney harbour. National Library of Australia.

The transportation of female convicts in 1820, onboard The Morley

On 22 May 1820 a ship named The Morley, sailed for New South Wales, arguably there was nothing new about this one as plenty of ships transported convicts to Australia at that time, but this ship was transporting 121 female prisoners, along with some several children, and was one sailing which we know a good deal more about than many other such voyages.

The reason for this being that the ship’s surgeon, Thomas Reid, who was a young man of just 29 years of age when they set sail, kept a detailed account of this voyage, with specific references and a dedication in the book to his good friend, the prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry. She and representatives from the British Ladies’ Committee, boarded the ship several times to deliver Bibles, prayer books and to also give the convicts moral advice prior to the ship sailing.

The ship was prepared ready to receive its female prisoners and some children.

A supply of books and other things fit for the children was carefully sent on board from the Ladies’ Committee; and to complete their benevolent design, a quantity of straw for plaiting, and some materials for knitting and sewing, were purchased, as their funds would allow, in order to afford the convicts employment on voyage.

Convicts arrived at the dock from prisons all over the country from Cumberland to Devon. The main crimes these women were being deported for were, by today’s standards relatively minor, such as theft of clothing, forging of bank notes, both such crimes would more than likely have been committed due to the extreme poverty they were living in and as a way to support their families.

Accompanying two of the Ladies from the committee, on one occasion, was the Solicitor to the Bank of England.

The Solicitor was commissioned by the Bank to make a present of five pounds to every woman who had been convicted of uttering forged notes, or of having them in possession.

He issued this money to the forty one women convicted of this crime, to ‘alleviate in some degree the distresses and wants brought upon them by their prosecution’.

A set of regulations were produced to ensure the health and comfort of the convicts:

The care and management of each mess shall be intrusted to a monitor who will be held responsible for any irregularities committed by those under her direction; it is expected that everyone will behave respectfully and be obedient to the monitor of her particular mess.

Cursing and swearing – obscene and indecent language, fighting and quarrelling, as such practices ten to dishonour God’s holy name, and corrupt good manners, will incur the displeasure of the Surgeon Superintendent. And be visited with punishment and disgrace.

Cleanliness being essentially necessary to the health, comfort and well-being of every person on board, it is desired that the most scrupulous attention in this respect be observed on every occasion.

The monitors are particularly enjoined the utmost vigilance in taking care that nothing disorderly shall appear among the members of their respective messes.

Anyone convicted of disturbing others whilst engaged in reading the holy scriptures, or other religious exercise, will incur special animadversion, and such misconduct will be entered into the journal.

A proper reserve towards the sailors will be held indispensable and all intercourse with them must be avoided as much as possible.

A daily account will be kept, and a faithful report made to His Excellence the Governor of New South Wales of the conduct of each individual during the voyage, and those who behave well, though they may have come here with bad characters, will be represented favourably; the Surgeon Superintendent pledges to use hi utmost effort to get everyone settled in a comfortable manner who behaviour shall merit such friendly interference.

NB Any breach of above regulations, or any attempt to deface or destroy this paper, will be punished severely; and the person so offending must not expect to be recommended to the kind notice of the Governor of New South Wales.

It took quite some conservable time for all convicts to board the ship, with one of two being old and frail who had to be disembarked, as it was thought that they wouldn’t survive the journey.

One of the women I came across who was named in Reid’s journal, was Browning Owen, she was one of the many women convicted for the forgery of bank notes and was sentenced to 14 years. Browning had four children, John, Eliza, Robert and Elizabeth; Reid wrote this about her situation:

The case of this poor woman seems one of aggravated distress. About nine months since, her husband incited her to commit crime; and after involving her in guilt and misery, left her with a helpless family without a friend in the world. Her conduct having been exceedingly good since she came on board, induced me to lay a statement of her case before Mr Capper, for the consideration of the Secretary of State, whose benevolence granted permission for all the children to be embarked and accompany their mother.

We now know from the New South Wales, Census and Population Books, 1811-1825, that all 4 children did accompany her and were named in the 1824 records for Parramatta, New South Wales.

Two women from York were brought on board, and a few minutes afterwards, three from Winchester.  The two women from York were Ruth, the wife of Joseph Clapham and Jane Peck, both had been sentenced to 14 years each. Ruth was from Halifax and her crime was to have knowingly used two promissory notes. Ruth had lived in the village of Northowram near Halifax, with her husband Joseph and at least one son.

It has been possible to trace the three from Winchester from the court registers and newspapers. We have Ann Welch, Sarah Bromley and Catherine Burns. Ann and Sarah were, according to the Hampshire Chronicle 15 November 1819 were convicted of using a forged £1 note. It’s not clear whether they forged it themselves or merely used it as payment to a Jane Moses.

From Newcastle gaol we have Isabella, wife of John Dennison. Isabella was convicted on 29 March 1819, for larceny and sentenced to seven years. The second woman being Frances, the wife of John Pattison. Frances was sentenced on 14 August 1819 to life. We know a little more about the case for Frances from the Northumberland, Durham and Cumberland Gazette of 7 September 1819:

Frances Pattison was charged with passing a note of British Linen Company knowing the same to be forged. On the 30 March, about half past seven, the prisoner went to the shop of Mrs Shiell, in the Milk Market in this town and bought two shilling loaves, for which she tendered the note in question. In consequence of some observations made at the time, the prisoner went out, saying she would go and fetch the neighbour she got it off, but she did not return. There were two forget notes of the same company found in her pocket by Forsyth, who went to apprehend her, after she had got into bed at 10 o’clock at night. The prisoner in her defence, she went to get some beer with a woman named Martha Hand, on the night in question, who desired her to go and get some bread and cheese. When she found the note was bad, she went to look for Hand, but could not find her, she then went to bed, thinking it was too late to go to the shop that night. She saw no more of Martha Hand, who was in custody soon after the prisoner was taken. She did not positively say she got the notes from Hand. Guilty – Death.

Clearly, her death sentence was lessened at some stage, to transportation.

Next, we have Eliza Dilling, alias Dillon, who was convicted at The Old Bailey for pickpocketing, she was aged about  34 and sentenced to life. You can read the account of her trial here.

According to the Stamford Mercury 30 July 1819,

Jane Brown, aged 18, late of Holbeach, Lincolnshire, a single woman, was charged with stealing, on the 26 March last, notes and cash to the amount of 18 shillings, 10 pence in the welling house of Mr John Smith, farmer of Holbeach.

Jane was also initially sentenced to death; however, this was amended to a sentence of 14 years for her crime and transportation.

A View of Hobart, Tasmania 1846 YCBA

The Morley arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, disembarked many of the women, then sailed on to Port Jackson, New South Wales, where the remainder were disembarked.

The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter 2 September 1820 reported:

The whole of the female convicts on board The Morley have reached this port in the best state of health and order and their condition in all respects affords the amplest testimonial of the humanity, attention and judgement which have been employed upon the passage. On Thursday Lieutenant Governor inspected the female prisoners of board and this day the number of 60 destined for this settlement were landed and appropriated to service.

Records of this journey have survived with a full list of convicts being held on the Australian Convict Transportation Register. Sadly, although we have names, dates of conviction, length of sentence and which assizes they were sentenced, we know little about the backgrounds of the women themselves which would make for a fascinating project to track them all down before leaving England.

What became of Dido Elizabeth Belle’s mother, Maria Belle?

If you have ever watched the film, Belle, as you would expect, some creative licence was involved, especially when it came to Dido being an orphan, this was not true.

Thomas Hutchinson, the former governor of Massachusetts who saw Dido at Kenwood House in 1779 wrote in his diary that Dido’s mother, Maria Belle, was taken prisoner onboard a Spanish vessel, then brought to England where she gave birth to Dido. Whether this is an accurate recollection of what happened we may never know for certain, but he would have had no reason to fabricate it, but it’s feasible that it was simply the account he had been given and didn’t question it.

What is known though, is that  Maria Belle lived in London until Dido was about 12 or 13, by which time Dido was firmly established at Kenwood House, the home of Lord and Lady Mansfield, where she was cared for, educated and raised as a young lady.

Lauren Julien-Box as 'Young Dido' and Matthew Goode as 'Captain Sir John Lindsay' in Amma Asante's BELLE
Lauren Julien-Box as ‘Young Dido’ and Matthew Goode as ‘Captain Sir John Lindsay’ in Amma Asante’s BELLE

But what became of her mother, Maria Belle? I was recently reminded by Etienne Daly about  Dido’s mother, who had been traced by archaeologist, Margo Stringfield, to Pensacola, Florida and you can hear about her fascinating findings in her conversation on Radio WUWF. In the interview she confirms that Maria Belle had moved to Pensacola and lived in a lovely property near the harbour.

As yet, no evidence has been found to confirm whereabouts in London Maria Belle lived or under what status – was she treated as a lady or was she a servant? whichever it may have been, it seems logical Sir John would have arranged accommodation somewhere for her and her newborn, after all, he arranged for Dido to live at Kenwood and his other two illegitimate children to live in Edinburgh, so he was unlikely to leave Dido’s mother to fend for herself.

There is however, absolutely nothing to indicate that Maria ever lived at Kenwood House with her daughter, but, although just speculation at present, it would seem likely she retained some form of contact with her young daughter as she grew up, but to date, no tangible evidence has survived to confirm the theory.

***  Please be aware, the following contains terminology about Maria Belle at the time but which today is regarded today as highly offensive  ***

Let’s go back a few steps, in 1757 Lindsay was made captain of HMS Trent and around the time of Dido’s conception was sailing between West Africa and the Leeward Islands. Given that Gene Adams stated that Dido was born 29 June 1761, and using modern conception calculators, assuming Maria Belle carried full term, then Dido would have been conceived early to mid-October 1760.

In September 1760, Lindsay was in the region of Guinea, West Africa and from there he sailed to the Leeward Islands, mooring briefly at Old Road Harbour, St Kitts and Nevis. He then sailed around the nearby islands, mooring briefly at Port Royal in December 1760. In January 1761 he returned to Port Royal with the ship Bien Amie in tow.

Sussex Advertiser – Monday 11 May 1761

From there the Bien Amie was taken to England, which begs the question, was Maria Belle onboard this ship? The truth is it is simply not known to date, from where Maria Belle originated. It has been suggested she was from Cuba, which is feasible, but again, to date, I have found no evidence to support the theory.

Moving forward a few year to the mid 1760’s Sir John Lindsay, who had at that time just been knighted, was posted to Pensacola, Florida, as captain of HMS Tartar and it was whilst there, that on 20 December 1765, he purchased or acquired two adjacent parcels of land, jointly given the number 6 – one part was to build a house upon, the other  part was an orchard/garden and as we can see below:

The town lot containeth in front or breadth eighty feet, and in depth, one hundred and seventy feet and the said garden lot containeth in front or breadth one hundred and five feet and in depth two hundred and eight feet, to hold the said lots and premises thereby granted together with all the timber and trees thereon growing.

This piece of land was formally registered to him on 4 January 1766 on the proviso that the land was to be enclosed and a dwelling built within 10 years i.e. by 1776 as can be seen below.

Click to enlarge for clarity
Reel 14. Vol 602. Folio 53. Grant of Lands, mortgages and conveyances 1765-1767. Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society

The author, Robin Fabel, in his book, The Economy of British West Florida, 1763-1783, tells us that in 1764, The Planation Act came into effect, which limited trading in West Florida to Britain only, and this included shipping trees to Britain. This would probably have made it lucrative to own a plot of land containing trees, as Sir John would have been able to ship the timber to England for resale.

Fabel also confirmed in his book that on 17 December 1765, Sir John was due to purchase 12 enslaved people from a merchant, Henry Driscoll and his partner, Henry Lizars, these enslaved people named below, were being transported onboard a ship named, The Cumberland :

Michael, Cumberland, Geoffrey, Samuel, Fortune, Charles, Caesar, Quachiba and three women –  Diana, Lucy, Venice and a child.

They were security for a debt of £487, 13 shilling and 8 pence, but tragically though, the ship sank whilst sailing from Jamaica for the Bay of Honduras and was lost on the Banaco shore.

What is not known is whether these people were for Sir John personally, or whether he was acting in the role of an agent for someone else. It’s perfectly feasible Sir John was planning to use these people to work on the land where the house was going to be, but despite my best efforts, it remains speculation at present, but from what is known about Sir John, it feels more likely he was simply acting as an agent.

Sir John returned to London around 1767, and during his absence his daughter, Dido Elizabeth Belle was baptised on 20 November 1766 aged five.  The baptism taking place at St George’s Church, in Bloomsbury with her mother being named simply named as, Maria, the wife of Mr Bell, as we can see here:

London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P82/Geo1/001

It is presumed that Maria or Bell’s wife, Maria, as she was named, was present at Dido’s baptism and it’s interesting though, that Dido took her mother’s surname and yet her half siblings, John and Elizabeth were given their father’s surname, albeit with Elizabeth later using her foster/adopted parents surname of Palmer, also.

Anyway, whatever Maria Belle’s domestic circumstances were in Britain, it would be a further seven years before Sir John granted her freedom, and arranging for the land in Pensacola to be transferred to her, allowing her therefore to return to Pensacola to continue her life, but that would be without him or her daughter, Dido. Speculation has been made that Maria and Dido spent time in Pensacola – there is absolutely no supporting evidence for this, and it does seem highly unlikely. 

Here we can see an extract from the property transfer document which confirms Maria Belle to be a free woman,  ‘a negro woman of Pensacola in America, but now of London, aforesaid made free of the other part’. 

Fabel confirmed in his book that the transfer of the property took place on 1 August 1773, and that she paid no money for this transfer, but it does state that she should pay a peppercorn rent on 25 March each year. Fabel wasn’t quite correct with the date as we can see here, it was 10 August 1773.

When you read the entire transfer document you also learn that Sir John visited Edinburgh to conduct this transaction, rather than asking his uncle, Lord Mansfield, the most senior judge in England and that no fee for this transaction was paid by Maria Belle i.e., it was gifted to her, along with her freedom to return to Pensacola. It’s worth noting that this freedom for Maria Belle took place just over a year after Lord Mansfield’s most famous case on slavery of Somerset v Stewart.

This document tells us that Maria Belle was from Pensacola originally, but there appears to be no proof of this as yet, mainly because records for that period are extremely scarce. There were the ships regularly sailing between the likes of West Africa and places such as Cuba, Jamaica and to Florida, so it may be that Maria Belle spent some of her life in Pensacola, which might explain her being ‘formerly of Pensacola’. The fact remains however, that no-one appears to know where she originated from.

The witnesses to Sir John’s signature were James Cunningham and Alexander Campbell, with the document being approved by the Lord Provost and Chief Magistrate of the City of Edinburgh, The Right Honourable Gilbert Laurie as can be seen below.

Click on the image to enlarge

It does beg the question as to whether, whilst in Edinburgh, he visited his other two children, John who would have been aged 6 and Elizabeth, aged 7, whilst I would hope so, I have no supporting evidence. Equally, it’s possible that this could have been when these children arrived in Britain, especially as we know that Elizabeth would later marry in Edinburgh, but there is still much more research into the early lives of these two half siblings to be done. 

Fabel tells us that according to a map of 1781, Maria’s lot was a high status one, facing Cumberland Street and Pensacola Harbour, and given that we have the number of the lot it could only be one of these two, shown on this map, one is on the corner of Cumberland Street, overlooking the harbour as per Faber, but there is a more likely one which again, overlooks the harbour but is on Lindsay Street, which seems far more likely given its owner, Sir John Lindsay, the street having been named in his honour.

It seems safe to assume that once the legal paperwork had been completed, that Maria Belle set off for a new life in Pensacola, to build the house and fence the surrounding land, as per the requirements of the registration document i.e. within 10 years.

Daly, who has been researching Dido Belle for several years, thinks that given her status, as the mother of Dido, that Sir John would have organised transport for her, perhaps onboard a naval vessel, but to date has found nothing to confirm this theory especially as naval vessels were, strictly speaking, not permitted to carry ‘passenger,’ but in my opinion it is more likely that she sailed on one of the regular packet ships that was bound for Jamaica, then on to Pensacola.

At about the time Maria would have left England, records only show an Ann Bell, aged 21 who sailed from London to Pensacola in August 1774, although, I’m fairly convinced she was another female Bell who was taking up residence there.

In both Springfield in her book Historic Pensacola and Fabel’s book, a Maria Belle is named as having paid a manumission fee i.e. purchased her freedom, for which she paid 200 Spanish Milled Dollars (Approx. £48 at the time), to a Phillips Comyn.

Having obtained a copy of manumission (above), I discovered that yes, indeed she did pay the fee, but also that she was buying her freedom from Phillips Comyn, not from Sir John Lindsay – so, it would appear that she had once again, somehow, become enslaved. Phillips Comyn, his father and siblings were merchants, all involved in the selling of enslaved people. 

In the index Maria Belle is described as ‘ Maria Belle a Negro wench’

The document didn’t make any sense, she left London as a free woman and yet, somehow, she had become, Maria Belle

a negro woman slave, about twenty eight years of age, and the property of me, the said Phillips Comyn … fully and freely and absolutely give, grant and remit unto her, the said Maria Belle, her full and entire freedom and liberty forever henceforth, and I do hereby for myself, my executors and administrators forever release and discharge the said Maria Belle of and from all manner of service and services which I the said Phillips Comyn now have, or ever had a right to ask, demand or require from her, the said Maria Belle and I, the said Phillips Comyn for myself, my executors and administrators do further covenant, grant and agree that the said Maria Belle, from and after the date of these presents forever henceforth shall and may pay and repay to and from any parts of the British Dominions or elsewhere without the set trouble, hindrance, fuss or molestation of me, the said Phillips Comyn, my executors or administration.

The manumission was dated 22 August 1774 and was witnessed on 29 August 1774 by none other than Alexander McCullagh, Esquire, Deputy Provincial Secretary for the said province. The same person who witnessed Sir John’s transfer of land to Maria when she arrived in Pensacola on 12 January 1774, as we see below:

Land transfer document witnessed by Alexander Macullagh

Surely, he must have recognised her and known that she was a free woman and land owner? It’s very strange, unless there were two Maria Belle’s, one a free woman, the mother of  Dido Belle and land owner; the other, aged about 28 and in the possession of Phillips Comyn (1743-1777). It’s not impossible but feels rather unlikely.

Having read this document, it raised the question for me as to whether the original suggestion that Dido Belle’s mother, Maria Belle did in fact ever pay the $200. I have been questioning for a while why she would have paid the manumission when she arrived in Pensacola when Sir John sent her off to Pensacola having granted her freedom whilst in Britain – I have no explanation, as yet.

However, returning to Fabel’s book, I also noticed another mention of Maria Belle, this time though it curiously related to her being sold to Phillips Comyn by an Antonio Garson, so with that, I had to find out more about this transaction.

I tracked this down and was very kindly provided with a copy of the document by the Library of Congress, which tells us that Antonio Garson was a yeoman, who was indebted to Phillips Comyn, a merchant and member of the council.

Garson, it would appear, owed Comyn 970 Spanish Dollars or £225, 5 shillings and 8 pence for goods, wares and merchandise supplied to him by Comyns and unable to meet the debt and so he sold some of his possession to make up the value of the debt, this included twelves cows, ten calves, three canoes, several horses, bedding, kitchen items etc and as can be read below…

‘one negro man named John, one other Negroe man named Louis and one Negroe woman named Maria Belle’

This transaction was concluded on 21 March 1774 and it was at that stage that Maria Belle became the property of Phillips Comyns who granted her freedom a few months later. Once again, this transaction was witnessed by Alexander Macullagh.

Was the Maria Belle being bought and sold really Dido’s mother, we may never know for sure, but a Mrs Bell (without the ‘e’), widow, appeared on the 1781 census.

Anglo-Americans in Spanish Archives Pensacola 1781 Census

Stringfield feels sure that the Maria Belle on the 1781 census was Dido’s mother, but it could equally be argued that it was this Mrs Bell, the young lady, Ann Bell, who sailed from London to settle in Pensacola onboard The Successes Increase in August 1774.

After  that potential sighting, in 1781, Maria Belle disappeared from the radar, but hopefully one day there will be an answer as to what became of her. Sadly, this article does raise more questions than it’s been possible to answer, but research continues.

** See an update dated 10 May 2023, in the Comments section of this article **


To find out more about Dido Elizabeth Belle, her family and much more

click on this link.


American Philosophical Society. p128 of  Reel 18

Colonial Office West Florida. CO5/613:238. Original supplied courtesy of the Library of Congress

Colonial Office West Florida. CO5/613:211. Original supplied courtesy of the Library of Congress

Pensacola, Florida; Year: 1774; Page Number: 316

The Florida Historical Quarterly. Volume XXXVII, Jan – Apr 1959

Featured Image

Plan of Pensacola 1764 bearing Sir John Lindsay’s name

London Fashions March 1823

Today, we return to one of my favourite publications, Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, for March 1823 to take a look at what the fashionable woman of the day wore. The fashion of the day not only appeared in Ackermann’s but also in regional newspapers and as far afield as Bombay, by which time what had been the fashion of the day was by the time they received it, a good few months out of date, but presumably British women living enjoyed keeping up with the ever changing fashions back in London.

Walking Dress

Ackermann’s tells us about the Walking Dress for March, which as you can see from this sketch, was a deep amethyst colour silk pelisse of gros de Naples, wadded, and lined with pink sarsnet. A little wrapt and fastened down the front with hooks and eyes. A corsage, made plain and high, ornamented with tasselled chevronelles; circular projecting collar of velvet, of a deeper hue than the silk; two rows of velvet are placed down the front and round the bottom of the skirt. Sleeve nearly to fit, with velvet cuff, and full epaulette, intersected with velvet straps.

Bucks Point lace from first half of 19th century. Courtesy of Wikipedia

A ruff of Buckinghamshire lace; cap of the same,  fastened under the chin with button and loop. Bonnet of the same silk as the pelisse, bound with broad velvet and lined with pink satin: the front bent á la Marie Stuart; the crown surrounded with inverted conical rouleau of velvet, equidistant, commencing with a silk knot; plume of ostrich feathers, of a bright amethyst colour, places of the right side, and falling low on the left shoulder. Gloves the colour of the pelisse. Corded silk boots, the colour of the velvet and a swansdown muff.

Evening Dress

A dress of pink gros de Naples: corsage to fit, edged with pink satin, and slash to the form of the stomacher; the interstices, or scollops, are filled with pink gauze, connected by circlets, and forming a tasteful chain, which continues to the waist behind, and gives the shape of the back: full court sleeves, confined with straps, bound with satin, satin circlets fastening the ends: a band of satin and full trimming of fluted gauze finish the sleeve, which is of a moderate length. The skirt is decorated with a fanciful trimming of double gauze; each division of the puff debrobé is supported by a satin rouleau and the lower part projects as far again as the upper: sprigs of the lonicera sempervirens, or great trumpet honeysuckle are disposed at regular distances above, and beneath is a satin rouleau; and the hem wadded. Broad pink satin sash, double bow and long ends. Blond lace scarf. Bracelet and earrings and necklace of that beautiful stone, the pink topaz, set in embossed gold, to which a cross is generally suspended. Head-dress, a gold tiara, ornamented with brilliants. White kid gloves, and white satin shoes.


The Village Wedding, Thomas Falcon Marshall

‘Clothes optional’ marriages of the 18th century

As the old saying goes, you learn something new everyday, and this is certainly a new subject to me, at least. One of my lovely readers said that they had read about such marriages in ‘Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England’ and hadn’t seen anything on All Things Georgian about such a type of marriage, so it seemed only right to correct this omission!

So, what was  this type of marriage? It was often referred to as a ‘shift‘ or ‘smock‘ marriage and occasionally a puris naturalibus or a naked marriage.

British Museum

One of the earliest references I came across which explains this bizarre notion was from the British Spy or New Universal London Weekly Journal of December 1757 which tells us that:

At Cranborne, Dorsetshire on 10 December 1757 a young woman who was married at our church, had only a shift on for a wedding garment; and the reason she gave for her coming to perfectly undressed, was, that she might be entirely quit of all debts she owed before marriage.

So, there we have it. If a woman appeared at the church with either little or nothing on, then she was free of debt when she married. It surprised me that the newspapers contained several references to such marriages in connection with debt, but here we have a slightly different take on this, from the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 30 June 1763, which reported that:

Worcester, June 23. The following circumstances, we are told, attended a marriage a few days ago, at a church near Stourbridge in this county. As soon as the woman came into the church, she stripped off all her cloaths, except her cap, shift, shoes and stockings; in which delicate and decent appearance she passed through the ceremony. This extraordinary piece  of whom, we are told, was thus occasioned. The bridegroom owed an acquaintance of his a sum of money, the creditor agreed to cancel the debt, on condition the woman could be prevailed upon to be married in the manner above mentioned.

Whilst many of these accounts carry no names (perhaps to save the blushes of the bride in question), we do know that according to the Salisbury and Winchester Journal 2 October 1775, we have the names of the happy couple, who married by licence in the town of Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire, on 21 September.

Bishop’s Waltham. © Sarah Murden

This couple were Richard Elcock, a bricklayer, and his new bride, Judith Redding. Judith wished to exempt her future husband from the payment of any debts she might have incurred. Judith went into one of the pews in the church, and stripped herself of all her cloaths except her shift, in which she went to the altar and was married, much to the astonishment of the parson, clerk etc.

According to the Northampton Mercury, 22 November 1794, at Lewes, Sussex, Mr Hollingdale, of Barcomb, near this town, was married to a widow of the same place, named Ford.

In order to get rid of some pecuniary obligations, ’twas judged expedient by the above couple, that the bride should cross the high road, attired en chemise only, in the presence of three male witnesses. Three neighbours were accordingly sent for, without being informed of the occasion, before whom the widow performed the curious ceremony, but as one of the witnesses was so confounded at what he saw, as to render him incapable of swearing to particulars, ‘tis doubted’ whether the stratagem of the newly married pair will prove successful.

The parish records confirm that Edward Hollingdale and Annie Ford were married by bans on 4 November 1794.

The Runcorn Examiner, 3 February 1912 had picked up on these unusual marriages and carried out its own research. It reported of one such marriage which took place on that date in 1774, at Saddleworth.

This marriage related to an Abraham Brooks, a widower, aged about 30 and his bride to be, a widow, Mary Bradley aged almost 70. Mary was believed to have been a little in debt and as such, Abraham obliged her to be married in her shift.

The weather was very severe on that day and caused her to suffer a violent fit of shaking, so much so, that the minister being compassionate, covered her with his coat whilst the marriage was solemnised.

The Wedding Breakfast; National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

The Caledonian Mercury 27 October 1794 reported that:

There is a prevalent (though we believe a very erroneous) opinion that if a widow is married without clothing, except a chemise, her second husband will be free from her debts.

The parish register book of Orchesten St Mary, a village in Wiltshire, contains an entry of the marriage of a woman ‘in her smock, without any head gear on,’ This marriage pertained to John Bridmore and Anne Selwood who were married on 17 October 1714.

At Ulcomb, in Kent in 1725, a woman married in her chemise. Having looked at the parish register and newspapers covering Ulcomb in Kent for 1725 there appears to be no mention of such an unusual wedding.

Similar marriages took place in America too, and from an article in the Hamilton Daily Times of 30 October 1919 and according to this article, in America at least:

The bride stood in a closet and put her hand through a hole in the door, sometimes she stood behind a cloth screen and put her hand out at one side, again, she wound about her a white sheet, furnished by the bridegroom and sometimes she stood in a her chemise or smock.

Whether this happened in Britain, there doesn’t seem to be anything to confirm such a thing.

In Lincolnshire, between 1838 and 1844, a woman was married wrapped only in a sheet. At Kirton in Lindsey, in North Lincolnshire, they took things one step further.

There was a popular belief  in that town, that the woman must be actually nude then she left her residence for that of her intended husband, in order to relieve him of her debts. The woman left her house from the bedroom window, stark naked and put on her clothes as she stood on the top of the ladder by which she accomplished her descent.

I have to say that I can’t see this custom being re-established any time soon.


Wood, Edward J, The Wedding Day in all Ages and Countries

Maryport Advertiser 4 June 1869

Featured Image

The Village Wedding, Thomas Falcon Marshall; Fylde Borough Council

The Boyle Family and their Court Guides – Guest post by R M Healey

It’s a pleasure to welcome guests back to All Things Georgian, and today we have another guest post from Mr R M Healey who is going to enlighten us about the Boyle Court Guides.

Since 1792, when it was established by Patrick Boyle, Boyle’s Court Guides, in the words of the 1819 edition, sought to contain ‘an alphabetical arrangement of the names and places in town and country, of all the Ladies and Gentlemen of Fashion’ in London. This was a significant innovation.

Since the mid eighteenth century the annual Royal Kalendar listed names and addresses of members of both Houses of Parliament, those holding office in the Royal Household as well as Officers of the State, Law, Revenue and other departments, senior officers in the Army and Navy, senior members of the clergy, and those running ‘Literary, Scientific and Charitable Institutions’   in England, Scotland , Ireland and the Colonies.

However, people falling outside these categories, who may have seen themselves as worthy of notice, were excluded. Boyle’s Guides represented a deliberate attempt to remedy this situation.

Thus, along with many of those who might also appear in the Royal Kalendar, Boyle welcomed entries from many who didn’t, including minor members of the aristocracy, both British and European, individuals with private means, scientists, inventors, artists, architects, writers and successful men of business. There was no charge for inclusion or even for alterations of address, which certainly must have encouraged people to come forward. What we don’t know, unfortunately, was whether the Boyles exercised some sort of screening process to ensure that certain undesirable people were excluded.

In the same edition we find, in the words of Eliza Boyle, who took over the Guides on the death of Patrick in 1808, ‘a separate register of all the fashionable streets’ for the use of  ‘Porters in the Hall, Servants, &c.‘  Thus ‘the Reader may see at one view, and become acquainted, in an Instant, with the Names of the various Persons of Fashion, according to the Numbers in each Street’. Such a register would have been useful for those who wished to know if someone of interest or ‘fashion’ lived close to them.

Naturally, of course, Boyle could only include those who came forward. Then, as now, there were those who wished to be ex-directory, possibly for security reasons. There was no attempt to supply an exhaustive list of residents in London. This came later with the Guides published by Pigot from the 1820s onwards, where in addition to a ‘court’ section, the names and addresses of those offering a commercial service became possible.

The Boyle Guides continued to be published up to 1924, along with the better known Kelly’s Directories, which suggests that there was still a need, even in the age of the telephone directory, for a specialist guide of this type.

By 1819 Eliza Boyle was editing the Guides from 15, Leicester Place, a short street off the better known Leicester Square, where her neighbours included two surgeons and a partnership of attorneys.

Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle 16 February 1823

In 1823, the newspapers were reporting that Eliza was bankrupt, so it would appear that the following year she paired up with her son George and by 1829 the upwardly mobile couple had relocated to the more fashionable 284, Regent’s Street where along with solicitors they were surrounded by bankers, artists and several architects, including such eminent practitioners as J. P. Gandy Dering, Lewis Vulliamy and ( at number 14) John Nash himself, who  had been responsible for much of Regent Street.

The Quadrant, Regent Street

The new premises also offered ‘ Copper-plate engraving, printing and lithography ‘ as well as ‘embossing‘. Lithography had only been invented comparatively recently, which suggests that the Boyles were anxious to promote themselves as a truly ‘modern’ and up to date concern.

Patrick Boyle, as part of his business plan, had devised a card-delivery scheme for his clientele. This must have become rather popular, for by 1819 Eliza ran an advert in the Guide for that year:

The number of Subscribers to the plan of delivering Cards &c having been, during the last season, so very great has induced E.B. to alter and enlarge her method, whereby a speedy and correct delivery will be certain.

Eliza then presented her table of charges for the various services offered:

For a Lady or Gentleman , head of a Family, and all unmarried daughters, residing in One House, for delivering Visiting Cards, Cards of Invitation, Thanks &c. for One Season, from the date of the Receipt which will expire at August next-    £2  2

To Non-Subscribers, for once delivering Cards of Thanks, Visits, Routs, Masks, Balls, Concerts &c. under 300, the whole to be sent to the Office at once, directed and ready for delivery –  £1    1s

And if above 300         £1  11s  6

For arranging & writing a Visiting Book in Alphabetical order, not above 300 names.        £1    11s    6

Exceeding that number        £2   2s   0

As postage was expensive until a uniform rate of one penny was established by Rowland Hill in 1840, such a scheme must have been regarded as a great blessing, even to the well-heeled. But with all such money-making enterprises, fraud was a problem.

In April 1819 Eliza warned the Nobility and Gentry to be aware of ‘impostors’ who ‘under the pretence that they are employed by her demanded money for alterations or insertions.

On the contrary, Eliza explained:

The men employed by E.B. are forbidden, under pain of prosecution, to make any such demand.

Evidently, these fraudulent practices persisted, for in 1829 the warning was reissued. It would be interesting to study some cases involving demands for money, which seem to be similar in nature to the various email and phone scams that plague us today.

In May 1829, Eliza married again, and her husband, Peter Paul O’Callaghan joined Eliza and her son in the business.  Eliza died in 1836, and her will she was very specific about the publication continuing and being printed and published by her husband, after being edited by her son.

From the will of Eliza – Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1866


Guest post by Elaine Thornton – ‘The Mysterious Mrs Rudd’

As always, it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome back guests to All Things Georgian, and today, we have the lovely Elaine Thornton who is going to tell us the fascinating story of ‘The Mysterious Mrs Rudd‘.

One of the most spectacular scandals of the 1770s was a forgery trial involving identical twin brothers of French Huguenot descent and a femme fatale with a murky past and a flair for publicity. The story unfolded in a series of twists and turns that gripped the public for nearly a year.

The three people involved in the fraud were the twins Robert and Daniel Perreau, respectively an apothecary and a stock jobber, and Daniel’s mistress, Margaret Caroline Rudd, known as Caroline, who lived with him and passed as his wife. Robert Perreau was the quieter of the brothers, happily married and hard-working. Daniel was more flamboyant: a gambler, with a taste for the high life. Despite their different characters, the twins were devoted to each other.

Margaret Caroline Rudd nee Youngson and Daniel Perreau. NPG

Caroline Rudd was an enigmatic figure: Irish by birth, she claimed to be descended from nobility. She had an enormous amount of charm, and always appeared elegantly and fashionably dressed. In fact, her father was an apothecary, and she was a former prostitute who had left her husband, a half-pay lieutenant, and lived on her wits on the fringes of society.

The Perreaus and Mrs Rudd were accused of forging bonds. It was common for money to be lent to borrowers on the strength of a bond, which was basically a guarantee, signed by a third party, who the lender knew to be wealthy enough repay the loan if the borrower defaulted. Forging bonds was a capital offence, as it undermined the basis of trust that the credit system was built on.

The scam carried out by the trio appeared to be a dazzlingly simple way to make money out of a series of forged bonds. The scheme involved borrowing an initial amount of money on a bond with a faked guarantor signature, and then borrowing enough money on a second forged bond both to pay off the first debt, and to make a profit. The chain of bonds could be extended indefinitely. Of course, the scheme relied on no one checking personally with the guarantor.

Around April 1774, the Perreau brothers began taking out loans on bonds supposedly guaranteed by William Adair, a wealthy army agent, for sums of up to £6,000. Adair’s name was probably chosen because Caroline Rudd knew his cousin, James Adair. The scheme ran successfully for nearly a year, until Robert Perreau took a bond for £7,500 to Drummonds bank on 7 March 1775. The Drummond brothers, who knew Adair, suspected the bond was a fake. Adair confirmed that the signature was not his, and denied knowing any of the three people involved.

The fraud unravelled quickly. By 12 March, Robert, Daniel and Caroline had all been arrested. They promptly turned on one another. Robert and Daniel both blamed Caroline, claiming that she had tricked them into believing that both William and James Adair were old family friends of hers. The brothers insisted that they had thought the bonds were genuine.

Caroline claimed that the twins were the instigators: she admitted faking the signature on the final bond, but said she had only done so out of fear of Daniel, who had forced her to sign at knife-point. She painted a pathetic scenario of virtuous female helplessness in the face of male violence and threats.

The initial hearing at Bow Street on 15 March had to be moved to the Guildhall because of the crowds: the papers reported that ‘every coach in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden was taken, and the street lined on both sides’. The case fascinated the public, with its heady mix of social ambition, sex and crime lurking beneath apparent respectability.

Portrait of Margaret Caroline Rudd; half-length, standing at the Bar of the Old Bailey in profile to right, her hands clasped and resting on desk; wearing ornate headdress over highly-dressed hair, shawl and gloves; in an oval; portrait copied from a larger image of the same scene by Bartolozzi. 1776. British Museum

At the hearing, Caroline gave a superb performance of bewildered innocence. She was so convincing that she was permitted to turn King’s evidence against the Perreaus, giving her immunity from prosecution. She was set free, while the twins were committed to prison.

The newspapers quickly took sides. The Morning Chronicle vilified Caroline as the ringleader, and depicted the Perreau brothers as her dupes. The Morning Post championed Caroline, and serialised her ‘case’ before any trial had taken place. Caroline had an instinctive understanding of PR, and seized the opportunity to present her version of the story to a wide public.

Readers were divided in their opinions. Some accepted her depiction of herself as a woman of high birth and good breeding, who found herself in unfortunate circumstances through no fault of her own. Others disbelieved her account; one correspondent, who appeared to know a good deal about her past, accused her of a history of prostitution and extortion, provoking a series of angry exchanges in print between her supporters and detractors.

The trial of the Perreau brothers opened on 1 June in a blaze of publicity. Caroline attended, expecting to be called as a Crown witness. On the first day, the presiding judge made a dramatic announcement: in his view, the magistrates at the initial hearing had no legal right to offer Mrs Rudd immunity in exchange for evidence. This was a stunning blow for Caroline. She was taken straight from the court to Newgate prison and committed for trial.

Robert Perreau and Daniel Perreau. NPG

Despite their insistence that they were Caroline’s victims, and the confusion caused among witnesses by their strong resemblance to one another, the Perreau twins were found not guilty of forging the bonds, but guilty of attempting to cash the bonds knowing they were false. Knowingly passing forged bonds was a capital crime, and four days later, the brothers were sentenced to death. However, their sentences would not be carried out until after Caroline’s trial.

Another woman in Caroline’s place might have despaired at this point, but she was a survivor. She threw herself into another sustained PR campaign through the pages of the Morning Post, proclaiming her own innocence, and the treachery of the Perreaus.

Caroline’s trial was delayed several times, but finally took place in December 1775. By that time, the Perreaus had been in prison under sentence of death for six months. Despite a strong case against her as the forger of the bonds, the jury sensationally acquitted her – although, as Horace Walpole commented drily, ‘nobody questions her guilt’.

The Perreau twins were hanged on 17 January 1776, protesting their innocence to the last. Touchingly, they held hands as they stood on the scaffold. Caroline lay low for a while, but her ambiguous reputation for glamour and danger remained. James Boswell visited her several times shortly after the trial, and was intrigued by her, but drew back, wary of the woman he compared to ‘that snake which fascinates with its eyes’ – although he did have a brief affair with her years later.

Caroline Rudd spent time in prison for debt in the 1780s, and died in obscurity, probably around 1800.

Northampton Mercury 11 February 1797

To this day, the truth behind her involvement in one of the most sensational criminal trials of the Georgian era has never been established.


Morning Chronicle

Morning Post

The Trials of Robert and Daniel Perreau, London 1775

James Boswell, The Ominous Years 1774-1776

Further Reading

Donna T. Andrew and Randall McGowen, The Perreaus & Mrs Rudd, University of California Press, 2001

Sarah Bakewell, The Smart, Vintage, 2001

Featured Image

Bow Street Court 1808. Microcosm. Wikimedia


The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street – Lady Sarah Archer

Whilst it’s not clear to whom the original name Old Lady of Threadneedle Street pertained to, if anyone, but the caricature of 1797 by Gillray, relates to Lady Sarah Archer and it’s Lady Sarah  that we’re going to look at today. Lady Sarah Archer, was the wife of 2nd Baron, Andrew Archer.

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street British Museum

Sarah was born in 1741, to parents, James West and Sarah, James who, according to the Bath Chronicle, 30 July 1761, was the joint Secretary to the Treasury and member of Parliament for St Alban’s, Hertfordshire. The couple were the owners of Alscot Park, Preston on Stour, Warwickshire, meaning that Sarah was born into an affluent family.

Alscot Park 1818. Courtesy of British Library

It was at the end of July 1761 that Sarah married the honourable Andrew Archer, son of Lord Archer of Umberslade Hall, Warwickshire and Pyrgo Park estate at Havering in Essex, so perhaps this was the union of two affluent families rather than a love match, but of course, we will never know.

We have no idea of the physical appearance of Andrew, nor do we really know what Lady Sarah looked like, as no portraits appear to exist, but we certainly have plenty of caricatures of her in later life, which are, to say the least, less than flattering.

Six Stages of Mending a face. Lady Archer. British Museum

The couple settled into married life and produced 4 daughters: Sarah (1762 – 1838), Ann Elizabeth (1763-1847), Maria (1765-1789) and Harriet (1769-1816).

The couple also had a son, according to Aris’s Birmingham Gazette 2 December 1771

On Wednesday last the lady of Lord Archer was delivered of a son and heir, at Umberslade, to the great joy of that family.

Their son was born 27 November 1771, but did not survive infancy, although there appears to be no documentary evidence to confirm the date of his death. This left the family with girls, therefore with no male to inherit the title.

It would be just seven years later that Andrew died in the April of 1778. He left no will and so a grant of administration of his estate was issued May 1778, in which his estate was placed in trust for his daughters, then aged 16, 15, 13 and 9.

As such, this left Lady Sarah widowed at the age of 37, with four children to care for. There is no evidence of her seeking a second husband, but she perhaps felt that being a wealthy widow there was no need of one; or possibly she was not the most attractive of women if the caricatures do bear any resemble to her, and as such didn’t find someone willing to marry her and take on four daughters, but of course, we will never know.

Lady Sarah facing right in ‘Race for a husband’. British Museum

All four daughters married well:

Sarah married on 20 May 1788, (not 1778, as I have read elsewhere), her husband sporting the unusual name of Other Hickman Windsor, 5th Earl of Plymouth. The couple were married by Special Licence at the home of Sir James Long of Grosvenor Place.

Maria was the next to marry. Her marriage to Henry Howard took place on November 26, 1788, by Licence, at Glaston, Northamptonshire, but she sadly died on 9 November, the following year.

Ann Elizabeth married Christopher Musgrave on 4 October 1790 by licence, at Edith Weston, Rutland.

Harriet also married on 5 December 1790, her husband being  Edward Bolton Clive. The couple married by special Licence at the home of Harriet’s brother in law, the Earl of Plymouth on Bruton Street.

According to the Morning Chronicle of 5 January 1789, Lady Sarah had died!

Friday died in Hereford Street. Lady Archer, relict of the late Lord Archer. The title extinct.

However, the Morning Post of 8 January 1789, corrected this rumour by stating that:

It is said that the dealers in Carmine and dead white, as well as the perfumers in general, have it in contemplation to present an address to Lady Archer, in gratitude for her not having died according to a late alarming report.

Throughout the 1790s Lady Sarah held regular ‘routs and card parties’ at her London home on Hereford Street.

The knave wins all. British Museum

According to Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, 30 July 1792 though, these parties came to an abrupt end … for a while at least.

Lady Archer has been struck with a paralytic stroke, which has totally deprived her of the use of one side, and has occasioned, in a great measure, the loss of her faculties; it is thought she cannot survive many day, nor is it to be wished, considering her melancholy situation She was warned of the probability of such an event by her physicians, about three years past.

Lady Sarah Archer and Albinia Hobart, Countess of Buckinghamshire in ‘The Exaltation of Faro’s Daughters’. British Museum

Perhaps in light of this illness, the following year, Sarah made her will whilst at her house at Umberslade. Her wish was to be buried alongside her husband, Andrew. She left £1,000 to her sister, Harriet West. To her maid Elizabeth Gallon, he left her wearing apparel, but not her jewellery, plus £100. To her housekeeper, Mary Walklett, again £100. The remainder of her estate to be divided equally between her 3 surviving daughters, Sarah, Elizabeth Ann and Harriet who were to be her joint executrixes.

The Morning Herald 4 March 1793 reported that Lady Sarah was still unwell, but as the saying goes, ‘the show must go on’.

In the Faro campaign of this winter, Mrs Monolieu has gained some advantage, as to visitors, over Mrs Hobart, and both find themselves assisted by the indisposition of Lady Archer. Since this game, it seems, must go on, why not licence it to a certain extent, and let five per cent of the profits to the widows of our seamen and soldiers!

By late 1793, she appears to have made something of a recovery and was back playing the card tables.

The Female Jockey Club, or A Sketch of the manners of the age by Charles Piggot, 1794 provides and interesting sketch of Lady Archer which aimed to summarize her life to that point:

Her Ladyships figure has been for many years common to this metropolis, but the natural complexion of her face, is no more remembered, it having been so long disguised by cosmetic art, that flesh and blood seem not to form the least part of its composition.

The art of painting, however, of brushing up an old decayed picture, is not the only art in which she excels. The noble dame is perfect mistress of all our polite, fashionable arts. In the art of driving phaeton with superior grace and dexterity; of shuffling the cards and raising a cock at Faro.

According to the Hampshire Chronicle April 1797,

Lady Archer let out her house in Albemarle Street, dismissed her servants, turned out the door Faro and his Host, and retired to her seat at Ham Common, Surrey, where she intends to lead a private life.

The Oracle and the Daily Advertiser 23 February 1801 reported the demise of Lady Sarah in almost mocking terms referring to her excessive use of cosmetics:

The death of Lady Archer has alarmed all the female dabbers in those cosmetics which are confessedly pernicious, but which cannot be dispensed with by those who enamel the skin; a mode of painting which requires repairing but about once a month.

Whereas the Bath Chronicle kept their report of her death extremely brief and factual:

Cause of death – as a result of injury by her clothes taking fire.

Lady Sarah died at her home on Charles Street, Grosvenor Square and was buried  on 27 February 1801, as per the wishes in her will, at the same church in Tanworth, Warwickshire, as her late husband.

Given all the caricatures of Lady Sarah, which would have been in the print shops and the references to her gambling in the press, both sources of which she would be very well aware of, couldn’t possibly have been happy about being depicted in such a derogatory fashion, but clearly not enough to stop her gambling or to tone down her excessive use of cosmetics.


Lady Sarah’s burial – Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service; Worcester, Worcestershire, England; The Diocese of Worcester Bishop’s Transcripts; Reference: b736/BA2015/357b

The Amorous Thief

I came across this curious case of a marriage, a few years ago, in connection with Dido Elizabeth Belle’s husband, John Daviniere. It was a case that many of the London newspapers  of  late 1815 reported upon. I put it to one side as it only appeared for a few days, and with no conclusion. However, returning to it with fresh eyes, I’ve unearthed some more bits and pieces to share with you.

Early November 1815, a man named William Palmer, alias John Everett, was charged with robbing a young Irish girl by the name of Julia Leary of clothing.

Julia was a young and uneducated servant girl, who had recently left Ireland to work in London and knew no-one except her employer and his wife. The couple she worked for were Mr John Daviniere and his ‘wife’. By the time of this case, Daviniere was a widower, Dido having died in 1804.

At some time after Dido’s death, her husband began a relationship with a Jane Holland and by 1815 they were co-habiting and had two children, in addition to Dido’s sons, the family having moved to 31 Edgware Road, London. As a slight aside, one thing I did think was interesting, was that John Daviniere’s wife was mentioned in all the newspapers, and yet John didn’t marry Jane until 1819, so were living together in apparent respectability, despite not being legally married at the time of this account.

Returning to Julia, she began a brief relationship with Palmer after he saw her on Edgeware Road, running errands for the Daviniere’s He introduced himself to her and told her he worked locally as a shoemaker. After just a mere four weeks, he whisked her off to St James’s Church, Piccadilly to marry her … but did he actually go through with the wedding?

Julia would later confirm that on arriving at the church,  Palmer simply put a brass ring rather than a gold one, on her finger, spoke to a man in the church, then announced to her that they were now wed. No legal ceremony took place, but being young and extremely naïve, Julia simply believed him.

Having disappeared for longer than expected, when Julia returned to Mrs Daviniere, she was reproached for having been out so long, but rather than apologise to her mistress, Julia simply announced that she had in fact gone out to get married, despite having only known the man for such a short time.

The following morning Palmer arrived at the Daviniere house and demanded that his new wife, along with her all clothing should leave, as he was taking her to visit his mother at Epping. Julia dutifully packed up her clothes and the couple left. All of this would take place some three weeks before Palmer would find himself in front of the Bow Street magistrate – but why?

The court were told that after the couple left Daviniere’s house, rather than going to visit Palmer’s mother they simply wandered around Epping Forest for four days, staying at a small public house on the heath at night.

Eventually they returned to London, but on arriving at St Paul’s churchyard, Palmer gave Julia the slip, and vanished from sight, along with all Julia’s bundle of clothing. Julia found herself entirely destitute, no money and all her clothing gone.

She had no friends in London except Mrs Daviniere, whom she returned to, and told her what had happened. Mrs Daviniere took pity on Julia and took her back into their house.

It would transpire in court that this was probably not the first gullible young woman that Palmer had done this to, and nor would  it be the last. Shortly after abandoning Julia, he returned to Edgware Road and attempted to repeat his crime, except on this occasion the young woman he selected was vaguely known to Julia and Julia had already told what had happened to her.

This appears to have been a regular occurrence for Palmer. This other young woman told Julia that she was getting married on the forthcoming Thursday, again at St James’s, but neither girl put two and two together and worked out it was to the same man.

Again, the sham wedding went ahead, but as the Daviniere’s had already reported the crime, a court official, John Humphries, was waiting for Palmer after the ‘wedding’ and immediately arrested him and took him into custody.

On searching Palmer, Humphries found pawnbroker’s duplicates for part of the poor girl’s clothes, also three ball cartridges and three bullets.

On being take to the office, Palmer revealed that his name was John Everett, and not William Palmer, the name he had used when he pretended to marry Julia.

Richard Birnie, 1819 engraving by William Say after James Green. NPG

Sir Richard Birnie, Chief Magistrate at Bow Street was so concerned about his case that he said he would ‘subscribe towards the expenses of carrying on the prosecution, as it was such a villainous case, to rob the poor girl of the whole of her property.’

The Old Bailey. Microcosm of London.
The Old Bailey. Microcosm of London.

On 6 December 1815, William Palmer now using what was assumed to be his real name, John Everett, aged 46, appeared at the Old Bailey, charged with grand larceny.

JOHN EVERETT alias WILLIAM PALMER , was indicted for stealing, on the 8th of October , two gowns, value 10s. two shifts, value 2s. one towel, value 2d. one apron value 6d. two caps, value 6d. and one gown piece, value 10s. the property of Julia Leary .

The outcome of the trial being that Everett/Palmer was found guilty and sentenced to transportation for 7 years. He didn’t depart immediately, rather he spent over a year onboard The Retribution, prison hulk, which stated his age at that time as being 46, so born around 1770, therefore considerably older than Julia would have been, even though we don’t have an exact age for her, she was reported to have been young.

He eventually sailed for New South Wales in April 1817 onboard The Almorah. The convict records confirm that John Everett was a shoemaker from Suffolk. His occupation tallies what he had told Julia.

A View of Hobart, Tasmania. YCBA

From NSW he sailed onboard The Pilot, to Tasmania. The convict record helpfully provides a physical description of him – 5 feet 7.75 inches, hazel eyes, black hair with a sallow complexion. His conduct was described as good.

The Tasmania Archives show that his conduct wasn’t always quite what it should have been though, as he was fined for being drunk and disorderly and suspected of theft on another occasion – not guilty of that crime, however.

He then disappears from view, so the rest of his life remains a mystery … for now, at least. As for  Julia, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever know what became of her.


The Globe 4 November 1815

The Star 7 November 1815

Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868

Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, 1802-1849

Assignment List CON13-1-1; Conduct Record CON31/1/9; Other Records CON13/1/1



Men’s waistcoats of the Georgian era

In the 18th and early 19th century  it was very much the fashion for men to wear some stunning waistcoats, so today we’re going to take a pictorial look at some stunning waistcoats from a variety of museums and galleries. Why don’t we see anything quite like these today? Perhaps time for a revival, maybe!

A French embroidered waistcoat dated between 1785-1795 shows Dido and Aeneas in a scene from Didon, a 1783 opera by the Italian composer Niccolò Piccini (1728-1800) Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
A French embroidered waistcoat dated between 1785-1795 shows Dido and Aeneas in a scene from Didon, a 1783 opera by the Italian composer Niccolò Piccini (1728-1800). Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

The first items is truly stunning especially when you look at the detail of the bottom of it. I can’t imagine how long that must have taken to sew.

I thought it was worth also taking a look at newspaper adverts to  see who was actually selling waistcoats and how much they cost. Whilst there are plenty of adverts, none of them tell us how much such lovely items would have cost.

Bath Journal 01 January 1749
Bath Journal 01 January 1749
Waistcoat worn by Claude Lamoral II (1685-1766). Prince of Ligne and the Holy Empire. Courtesy of Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris
Leeds Intelligencer 13 May 1777
Leeds Intelligencer 13 May 1777
Courtesy of the MetMuseum c 1750-1770
This original design is that it identifies not only the artist but also the weaver, Peter Lekeux, and gives the date of sale — October 23, 1747. Metmuseum

The design of this piece was created by Anna Maria Garthwaite, known for creating vivid floral designs for silk fabrics hand-woven in Spitalfields, London, in the mid-18th century.

Peter Lekeux was one of the many weavers working in Spitalfields, London, who died in 1768. In his will he left bequests to his wife, Mary, his mother, Sarah and his sister, Mary Margaret.

To finish, look closely at the pockets on this one, such intricate detail

The embroidery motifs on this vest depict Aesop’s (620-560 BC) tale of “The Wolf and the Crane.” The fable, which was re-introduced in the 17th century by Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), contains a wolf that needs assistance removing a bone from his throat with a crane kind enough to assist. The beautiful embroidery is very playful and indicative of the status of the waistcoat as decoration.. Courtesy of the MetMuseum

Following on from a conversation with Jennifer Newbold, please see below a fine example of a waistcoat pattern.

From What Clothes Reveal, by Linda Baumgarten, The Colonial Williamsburg Collection The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation/ Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2011

Guest post by RM Healey – The bizarre death of a young caricaturist

As always, it’s lovely to be able to welcome back to All Things Georgian, a now regular guest, Mr R M Healey who is going to share with us the bizarre death of  young caricaturist.

On 21st February (another source gives 21st May) 1828 those attending to the business of buying or hiring horses and carriages at the London Horse and Carriage Repository off the Gray’s Inn Lane (later renamed Gray’s Inn Road), just opposite the present King’s Cross station, must have been startled to hear the sound of a crash of broken glass and a terrible scream of pain. Those who rushed to the scene were met with a horrific sight. Lying on the pavement was a young man covered with blood who had seemingly fallen from a great height through glass, some of which was sticking out of his head and body.

As astonished spectators gathered around the unconscious figure two questions must have arisen. Who was he and how did he end up on the pavement in that terrible state.

Discovering how the accident had happened was easy enough, as people rushed down the stairs from the upper stories of the building. A man had somehow managed to step onto a skylight window and had fallen straight through the glass down onto the ground some forty feet below.

London Horse repository

He had been alone, so there was no-one there who knew who he was. But even if someone in the Repository had known him, he was so disfigured by the numerous cuts to his face that it would have been impossible to identify him.

Then, less than a year before the Metropolitan Police Act was passed someone present performed a very obvious act. He rifled through the dead man’s clothes, found a card case and took out a card. The man lying motionless before them was the celebrated young caricaturist and book illustrator Theodore Lane, who it turned out was just 27 years old.

British Museum

Some standing around the body may have seen the young artist eight years earlier as he carried out his apprenticeship at the premises of J. C. Barrow at Weston Place, no more than a stone’s throw away from the Repository.

Had they been the sort of person who had delighted in Pierce Egan’s  Life in London, that best-selling adventure of Corinthian Tom and  Jerry among the flesh pots of the metropolis, which had appeared in 1821, they could have noticed that a similar work, The Life of an Actor, had had some success the following year.

The man who had provided the six plates for this had been Theodore Lane. Had they cast their mind back a few months earlier they may have noticed that some of the anonymous anti-Queen Caroline caricatures that had issued from the print shop of Humphrey in 1820/1 were similar in style to those of Lane. In fact, Dorothy Richardson, an authority on British caricature, firmly attributes them to the artist.

Theodore Lane snuff box

Theodore Lane was born in Isleworth, Middlesex in 1800, the son of a poor drawing-master from Worcester. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to John Barrow, an artist and colourer of prints. Alongside his work as a book illustrator Lane exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1819, 1820 and 1826) as a watercolourist and miniaturist, but in 1825 took up oil painting. Following his modest success with The Life of an Actor the young Lane had met with Egan with a view to a collaboration. Thus, it was, that Life of an Actor, Peregrine Proteus, including 27 colour plates and many woodcuts, had been published in 1825. Two year later Lane illustrated Egan’s Anecdotes of the Turf ; and also, one of Lane’s best humorous full size plates appeared from the print shop of the well known George Hunt in Covent Garden. This shows a dandy emerging from his coach his face splattered with mud thrown by a young imp who had aimed it at his friend standing close by. ‘A Shilling Fare to a Christmas Dinner ‘must have appeared in the shop window some time in December 1827 in time for the Christmas trade.

British Museum

This was probably the last of Lane’s comic prints to appear. As a young artist whose stock in the public mind was rapidly rising, he had doubtless enjoyed a happy Christmas with his wife and three children in the country.

A new year brought the prospect of fresh commissions –and so as Lane waited at the newly opened London Horse and Carriage Repository for a friend to join him for a coach trip to see his family — he was doubtless in good spirits.

No-one could have imagined that he could have been as careless as to step onto a skylight. But this is what happened. The press described the disaster as an accident. It is certainly possible that Lane could have been drinking at the time. A more bizarre explanation is that he may have been pushed by someone who disliked his anti-Caroline caricatures, which were quite savage. He had shown himself to be a supporter of the King by dedicating some of his plates  to him. But in an age when perhaps only the faces of the most prominent public figures were publicly known, it seems unlikely that a stranger could have recognised such a young and comparatively unknown artist as Lane. It seems much more probable that the artist had indeed died as a result of a freak accident.

Lane was buried in the nearby Old St Pancras churchyard. His heartbroken family were partially provided for when one of Lane’s most famous paintings (‘The Enthusiast,’ aka ‘The Gouty Angler’) was engraved and later bought for the nation.

Lane, Theodore; Enthusiast (‘The Gouty Angler’); Tate

The Royal Academy also opened a subscription for his widow. As for the scene of his death, the London Horse and Carriage Repository seems to have been jinxed. It closed not long afterwards and reopened as the Royal London Bazaar—a rather up-market exhibition space for novelty attractions. In 1834- 5 this became for a brief period the first permanent exhibition of Madame Tussauds waxworks; by then it was also the site of Robert Owen’s Equitable Labour Exchange.


Pierce Egan’s The Show Folks (1831) contains a memoir of Lane.

Dorothy Richardson’s English Political Caricature (1959) is also useful on the anti-Caroline caricatures.

Simon Houfe’s Dictionary of  British Book Illustrators (1998) has a useful catalogue.

Guest post by the The Early Dance Circle

I am delighted to welcome to All Things Georgian, Sharon Butler, from the Early Dance Circle, who joins me today to publicise their upcoming event, which may well be of interest to you. With that, I will hand you over to Sharon:


For 40 years, The Early Dance Circle has promoted the enjoyment, performance and study of European dance from the 15th to the 20th century. Our website, will tell you all about us and our many activities as a small charity and an umbrella group for dancers all over the UK. The dances of Britain play a large part in this long history.

From time to time we sponsor events and here I want to tell you about our next one. It fits with our aims perfectly and offers some superb entertainment from the Georgian era as well. Try not to miss it.


The Remarkably Talented Mr Weaver Presents… an evening of drama, baroque music, song and dance the London of 1717

Join the Weaver Ensemble onstage to celebrate the 350th anniversary of John Weaver, choreographer, impresario and creator of the first ballet. Two comic romances, filled with notated baroque dance and authentic period music, make an entertaining introduction to his world.

You can experience the vivid performance potential of 18th century theatre on the London stage at the Marylebone Theatre on 21 January, 7:30 pm.


The flyer below provides more details and there is more information on the Eventbrite page itself. Please come along and bring your friends.

This show is a welcoming introduction to the pleasures of historical dance, with its huge repertoire that we can all continue to enjoy today.

Our two young stars are Chiara Vinci and Anton Zakirov:


18th century wigs and wigmakers

The use of wigs began prior to the 18th century, but they were very much in vogue throughout the 18th century and were known as either periwigs or perukes, and remained fashionable until the advent of  hair powder tax which was part of the government’s way to find more ways to increase the empty coffers, at which time their prevalence diminished, and it wouldn’t take many years for au naturel to become the fashion. The terms periwig and peruke appear to have been interchangeable terms and it’s interesting to note the decrease in size of wigs over the decades as we can see here.

Wellcome Collection

To have your wig powdered was a sign of your wealth, affluence and when you read newspapers about missing persons, there was frequently a physical description of the person, but also a reference to the type of wig they were wearing as we can see below with this gentleman who was sporting a curled wig powdered.

Police Gazette 18 March 1774

There were several reasons for wearing wigs, apart from being a fashion accessory, hair loss being the most obvious, but they were also worn to cover scarring caused by illnesses such as syphilis.

Needless to say, wearing a wig became something of  a vicious circle, you may have chosen to wear one to protect against head lice, but equally, wigs were often made from made from animal hair which could cause lice and other scalp conditions which they may not have suffered from prior to wearing it!

Wearing a wig was also a fire hazard due to the use of candles, something I have written about before, so candle light combined with the use of animal fats used for styling wigs, was a recipe for disaster.

A Doleful Disaster, Or Miss Fubby Fatarmin’s Wig Caught Fire. Lewis Walpole Library

Wigmakers and hairdressers not only benefitted from the sale of wigs, but also by selling accessories to ensure their client remained looking and smelling fragrant with the use of soaps, oils, powders and pomatums, as we can see below at Oaks’ Ornamental Hair Manufactory on Vine Street London.

Aris’s Birmingham Gazette 27 May 1799

We may think that grooming is a 21st century ‘thing’ but it was extremely important back in the 18th century too. If you visit a hairdressers, barbers or beauty salon today, secondary selling still takes place. Many adverts claimed that products developed by the wigmaker would not only make your wig look good, but also that their product was better than any others and that it could stop you from getting a headache or other ailments, as it was far superior to other products on the market – of course, no evidence exists to support some of their spurious claims.

Here we can see an example of a trade card for Thomas Ravenscroft, of Serle Street, London, not only did he sell all kinds of wigs, but also perfumes. From his will though, his business doesn’t appear to have been terribly successful, as he left a legacy to his wife in 1807 of just £20.

British Museum

Women rarely wore wigs, as they were very much a male domain, but I have also read that women never wore wigs, however, as we can see from this advert, which appeared in the Hereford Journal, 12 September 1798, Mr Bosley could provide hair services for you having brought with him from London – ‘Ladies’ wigs, fillets, braids and all kinds of false hair’. This was only one of many adverts, so clearly there was a requirement for women’s wigs. In fact the advert above for Oaks’ appears to have been very much aimed at women.

For women the fashion for large and high hair grew during the 1770s and 80s and as we can see here in this caricature below, some were enormous towers. For women who wished to replicate anything similar to this one would probably have used what today we would call hair extensions, which, with an experienced stylist could create some amazingly high hair, but quite how realistic images as we see below were, we can only imagine, as I would have thought taking your hair that high, might actually snap your neck.

Satire on fashion: a French hairdresser mounts a ladder to arrange with tongs the curls of a lady with an enormous coiffure, while another man with a long queue, evidently her husband, holds a sextant to measure the height. 15 July 1771. Matthias Darly. British Museum.

The Hampshire Chronicle 11 August 1798 tells us that apparently men preferred their ladies not to wear wigs (make of this what you will!).

This advert by William Johnston which appeared in the Caledonian Mercury, advises his customers that not only did he sell wigs for men, but also women and children in various sizes and colours. I wasn’t aware of children wearing wigs, so a new one to me.

Caledonian Mercury 25 May 1752

So where did the hair come from? It would appear that there were hair merchants, who would sell the hair either in its natural state or prepared for wig making, such a procedure would probably include dying it. We can see an example of a hair merchant here in this advert in the Northampton Mercury 9 May 1795:

Sadly, I have no context for this next piece which appeared in the Cambridge Intelligencer, 15 September 1798:

The hair merchants first introduced ladies’ wigs, in order to dispose of their over laden market, from the heads of the dead soldiers, during the war. Read this, fair country women, and shudder!

In the 1700s, wig or peruke making was very much a male occupation, with many of them being journeymen who travelled around the country to service their clients.  However, I did come across a few women who were wig makers, mainly having taken over their husband’s business upon his demise. Here we have an advert for Alice Rawlinson, whose husband Matthew,  had died, but rather than selling the business, Alice decided to continue running it.

Manchester Mercury 08 April 1783

And one for Elizabeth Perkins, again continuing to run her late husband’s business, but this woman’s skills knew no bounds, not only peruke making, but bloodletting, ladies ear boring (which presumably means ear piercing), cleaning and teeth drawing.

Leeds Intelligencer 28 August 1787 – Elizabeth Perkins

I’ll finish this article with a snippet from the Hampshire Chronicle of 20 August 1798, about Lady Emma Hamilton’s wigs. True or not, I couldn’t possibly comment, but she was in Naples at this time, so perhaps there is a grain of truth in it.

Update courtesy of Etienne Daly:

Others in the 18th century also grew their own hair and styled it to the fashionable perukes of the time as can be seen here, Admiral Sir John Lockhart Ross (1721-1790).

Christmas at Belvoir Castle

Today’s article is rather different to my usual ones, as today’s is a rather early festive post and will be the last one for this year, as I’m taking a short break until  the new year, when I’ll return with plenty more tales from the Georgian period for you.

© Sarah Murden

I recently had the pleasure to visit the historic Belvoir Castle (pronounced Beaver), which stands above the Vale of Belvoir, on the outskirts of Grantham.

The castle originally dates back to the eleventh century and is the ancestral home of the Manners family, the Dukes of Rutland and remains so to this day, so needless to say it well and truly pre-dates the Georgian period, but of course, for me I was very keen to see anything that was of the Georgian era – I was not disappointed. Belvoir Castle is said by experts to be one of the finest examples of Regency architecture in the country.

©Sarah Murden

Apart from the stunning architecture and the festive decorations, I just thought I would share a couple of Romany stories connected to Belvoir, that you might find interesting, not about the nobility as such, however. The first originating in the Derby Mercury, 6 September 1771:

We have an account from the Vale of Belvoir, that a numerous family of gypsies lately took up their lodgings in a barn at Redmile Field, near Barnston. The noble duke riding with an attendant that way, to take an airing, was alarmed with the cries of woman in labour, and on enquiry finding the gypsey female in great distress, he very humanely sent his servant for immediate assistance, and soon after a cart with plenty of refreshments. And we are further informed that on Sunday the child (which was a boy) was publicly baptised, a plentiful dinner being served up in the barn to a numerous company, and his Grace standing godfather by proxy.

So far, I haven’t had any luck tracing this baptism, but there is very little to go on, apart from the child being a boy. There was a girl baptised at Redmile in the August of that year, Lydia Lovett, the daughter of Henry and Angeletta, travellers, so it’s perhaps reasonably safe to assume that whoever this child was, his parents were travelling with the Lovetts. In all likelihood the reference to the duke, would have been John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland, who we see pictured here:

John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland, by Charles Jervis, 1725, Belvoir Castle

Some ten plus years ago I came across this article in the Leicestershire Notes and Queries, also concerning a child and Belvoir Castle and a famous, or rather an infamous Romany family, who travelled around the East Midlands:

One of Absalom’s daughters, Beatta by name, was considered to be extremely handsome. A fine painting of her in a red cloak is at Belvoir Castle. Beatta had twenty-four children. On one occasion she was confined in camp at Goadby lane, and was frequently visited by Mrs. Norman, from the Hall, who stood godmother to the child, and it was named after her.

It has been possible to trace this child, she was named Adeliza Smith, her parents being Absolom Smith (1802-1865) and Beatta or Beatrice (1800-1856), Beatta being the daughter of another Absolom Smith. The Mrs Norman, in the story was the daughter of 4th Duke of Rutland, Lady Adeliza Elizabeth Gertrude Manners (1810-1877), who later married Reverend F. J. Norman.

I did contact Belvoir Castle at that time, but sadly they were unable to shed any light on such a portrait, so quite where it vanished to I and they have no idea, but I did look for it again on my visit, but with no luck, so presumably it was sold at some stage.

So, there appears to have been at least a couple of instances of the Manners family coming into close contact with the travelling Romany families of the East Midlands and I’m sure there must be more stories that haven’t come to light as yet.

©Sarah Murden

Anyway, I’ll leave to enjoy a final photograph of the festive decorations at Belvoir and wish you all seasons greetings and a very happy new year, but before I go I would also like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your continued support over the years, and to say that All Things Georgian has now achieved over  two million views, which is amazing – so  a massive THANK YOU 🙂

©Sarah Murden

If you have the opportunity to visit the castle, I can assure you that the walk up the very steep hill, is well worth the effort.

Featured Image

Belvoir Castle, Rutland by William Daniell. Courtesy of YCBA

Education, Education, Education – for girls in the Georgian era

I have previously looked at employment for 18th century girls, so today we’re going to look at educational establishments for girls.

Lady Jane Mathew and Her Daughters c1790 YCBA

If you were middle or upper class, you would no doubt have been educated, but for the lower classes education may well  have been carried out by the mother in the home, and in a large part, a girl would have learnt the same skills as her mother, whether that be childcare or perhaps some sort of home based work, for example framework knitting.

We know that for girls born into noble families education was often carried out home, with tutors being brought into the household or by a live in governess, rather than the girl attending a school, but for many upper class young ladies they were educated and would perhaps attend boarding school. Sending your daughter to a boarding school could also be quite risky, as it meant your daughter was no longer under your roof and it would be difficult to assess how safe she might be in such a place, despite their seemingly impeccable credentials.

Trade card of Mary and Ann Favell (Eltham), school. c.1755. British Museum

Of course, it was a different situation for young gentlemen, as there were education establishments popping up all over. Once educated, it was common for an affluent young gentleman to go off on the Grand Tour and for others to go to university, or if not suited to academia, perhaps a career working for the East India Company might have been an option, or joining the military.  None of these options were on offer to young ladies.

Sloane House Boarding School. British Museum

Today, I’m going to look at adverts in the newspapers to see what schools offered young women and women who sought employment in them.

The Morning Herald, London seems to have been a popular newspaper for such establishments seeking both pupils and also for employees and there were certain skills required by potential teachers as we can see from these:

17 March 1802

Wanted, as one of the English teachers in a very superior ladies’ boarding school, a lady, not less than thirty, of genteel manners, an informed mind, and capable of teaching the English language, and different kinds of needle-works. It is also absolutely necessary that she should translate and speak French.

and another from 28 August 1807 by a school looking for

A young lady, who thoroughly understands teaching music. If acquainted with the French language, the more agreeable.

and this from 21 January 1806:

Wanted immediately, as an apprentice in an established ladies’ boarding school, a young lady, who upon reasonable terms will be instructed in writing, arithmetic, needlework, grammar, composition, geography, in the French and Italian languages, and in other departments of study requisite to qualify her for a school, or as a private governess. French and Italian are the languages chiefly spoken in the school.

Trade card of The Misses Lankester (London), school. c1800. British Museum

In the St James’s Chronicle 10 February 1801, we see an advert from a widower who had five daughters and was:

Desirous of their education being completed at home, rather than at boarding school. Any lady of respectability, perfectly qualified for such an undertaking, may meet with a very agreeable situation. Preference will be given if accustomed to the tuition of children. Satisfactory references will be expected.

We then move on to look at young ladies who offered their skills as a teacher such as this one potential candidate who, in 1801 offered her skills as an assistant teacher in a respectable school. She advised potential employers that she was

19 years of age and the daughter of a clergyman and that a potential employer should be aware that as this would be her first trial, salary will not be an object.

Which loosely translate to her being prepared to work for very low wages to gain additional skills.

Morning Post 6 July 1803

Wants a situation, in a ladies boarding school,  a young lady, who can teach the French and English language, needlework and the rudiments of geography.

The Sense of Hearing, Philippe Mercier.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

From the adverts for both lessons being offered, and those equipped to teach them, the skills for a young lady would appear to be English and French, with French being a necessity for all young women. Art, needlework, music and geography were lessons appearing in most adverts, but dancing and music lessons, which I thought might have been included appear to have been offered as an extra-curricular  option and would have been taught by a dancing master, who would often offer this at home.

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John Richard Comyns of Hylands, Essex, with His Daughters YCBA

Whaplode near Holbeach, Lincolnshire.

The Reverend Samuel Oliver of Whaplode, Lincolnshire … again!

The Reverend Samuel Oliver has probably received more publicity via All Things Georgian than he ever did during his life, as I have written several times before, he was the vicar who simply kept on giving.

He was not only the moral compass for Whaplode parish in rural Lincolnshire, but a great lover of the exclamation mark. Whilst for most of his parishioners he simply recorded the basic information, for some he would really go to town with more details than really necessary about them.

If a woman had a child out of wedlock, he seems to have felt the need to record the mother as a prostitute, whether this was accurate we will never know.

Today, I have inadvertently found myself revisiting his parish registers, this time it’s his comments about the baptisms of his parishioners children that I have been drawn to. He never held back in his comments, as we can see here in this first one for the baptism of Henry Wilson, the son of James, a cottager and his wife Elizabeth. The entry was on 26 November 1822, but it was not a usual baptism as noted by Rev. Oliver:

These people are stark raging ranters, who took the child (9 weeks old) to Mr Elsdale and imposed upon him with a lie!

For some reason the couple appear to have had the child baptised previously by the Rev Samuel Elsdale, master of the grammar school, in the neighbouring village of Moulton, which has obviously offended or annoyed Rev Oliver.

Next, we have the baptism of Betsey Makeman, on 9 December 1815, ‘the bastard daughter’ of Maria, the widow of William Lown.  Maria was said to be living in a small house, in the low fields of Whaplode and her late husband, was a farmer.

Maria nee Copeland had married William Lown in 1799 and shortly after, the couple had a son, William in 1800 and a daughter, Maria the following year, followed by Elizabeth, Snelson, Ann and Robert. Maria’s husband William, then died, leaving Maria with 6 children to raise alone. Clearly, Maria met someone new and had a child with him. Rev. Oliver clearly did not approve of Maria’s current living arrangements i.e., living in sin as he saw it.

This woman’s moral depravity is so great, that she prefers living in a state of adultery with one, William Makeman to a state of matrimony with the same man!!!

On 22 April 1817, Maria Lown presented a second child, William, for baptism, the child having been born 29 December 1815, so not long after she had presented her daughter Betsey for baptism, which seems slightly curious as to why she didn’t have both children baptised at the same time. Rev. Oliver seems to have had plenty to say about Williams mother, Maria once again. This time his thoughts seem to have had no filter.

This abandoned woman might be married but will not! The banns of marriage have been published, but she prefers a state of prostitution! Remarking or having it remarked that she is already a whore and can be no worse. Therefore, will e’en remain as she is!!!!

Sure enough, the banns had been read for William Makeman’s marriage to Maria and even then, Rev. Oliver felt the need to record her as Maria, (the prostitute).

The couple were married by Rev. Oliver on 1 August 1817. On this occasion however,  he simply stuck to the facts and there were no little asides noted about her former occupation.

Young William didn’t survive very long after his baptism dying in September 1817 and Rev. Oliver, once again saw fit to make a comment about Maria, despite her by this time being a respectable married woman, in Rev Oliver’s eyes it would appear that Maria could do nothing right.

With that, we move swiftly on to Rebecca, baptised 12 February 1816, the illegitimate daughter of Rebecca Winters. Rebecca, we are told was

bought into the parish by one, Edward Smith, a farmer’s son, as his wife, although he had another wife living at the same time, who was, shortly after delivered, in this parish of a dead child and what is more wonderful, the parish bore the expense of his wife’s confinement and suffered him to go at large, triumphing his wickedness as an affair which concerned no person!!!


The Carlton House Ball of March 1784

I have previously written about Georgian parties and let’s jut say, that no-one hosted more impressive parties than the ‘King of Bling’ himself, Prince George, later George IV.

Carlton House Plan in March 1784. RCT

During 1783 and early 1784 his London home, Carlton House was extensively renovated with a grand ball being held early March 1784. Looking at the royal accounts, just to give you an idea, he spent the equivalent of £123,000 on curtains alone!

The Gardens of Carlton House with Neapolitan Ballad Singers 1784. William Henry Bunbury. 10 May 1785. Gov’t Art Collection

A lengthy account by the Hampshire Chronicle 22 March 1784 reported that:

The elegant suite of apartments lately fitted up at Carlton House, were opened for the reception of a select party of the friends of the Prince of Wales.

The ball presented the most pleasing coup d’oeil of everything that was magnificent and delightful. The dresses of the ladies, with the charms of their persons, the sprightliness of the dances, and the excellence of the music, formed altogether a scene that was perfectly brilliant and enchanting. Among the beauties particularly distinguished on this occasion were the Misses Ingrams and Talbots, with Lady Beauchamp and sister, and many others of the first note for person and figure. The five above mentioned ladies all appeared in one uniform Spanish dress, composed on white crepe and gold, elegantly set off with precious tones.

The rooms were illuminated in the finest taste, and the supper was the most exquisite of whatever could be procured in the present season.

The Rebuilding of Carlton House c1783 RCT

The account continues:

The ballroom exhibits a pleasing contrast to the state room, and is, from the style in which it is laid out, admitted to be as nouvelle as it is beautiful. The panels are of a beautiful white, framed with a light moulding, which appears to be entwined with foliage and flowers after nature. On each side of the room are placed give large looking glasses, the framing of which is light and well in character for a ball room. A very magnificent glass is placed in one end of the room, of such dimensions, that it reflects almost every object in the room. On the other end is an orchestra, elevated about eleven feet from the ground. A painted railing, of blue upon a most beautiful crimson damask drapery appears, hung in a well-disposed style, and blended with festoons of artificial roses and leaves, that give the most beautiful relief. Plumes of artificial feathers, fixed in small coronets, are placed in proper distances around the room.

With great thanks to one of my lovely readers, I now know from the diary of Mary Hamilton more about the event, along with newspapers reports. Mary Hamilton described her preparations for the ball.

The ball commenced about 10pm, so Mary, along with some of the other ladies began to get themselves ready for the ball about 5pm with the help of a hairdressers and dresser, everything had to look ‘just so’ as this was an extremely important event  – after all, it was being hosted by the Prince, so only new dresses would suffice.

Mary explained that a little after 10pm Lady Stormont (the second wife of Lord Stormont, later to become 2nd Lord Mansfield) and her step daughter, Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray, came to collect her. Sadly, there was no mention in her correspondence that Dido Elizabeth Belle was with them, so we have to assume with no evidence to the contrary, that Dido was not  at this social gathering, otherwise, I feel sure she would have been specifically named, just as Lady Elizabeth was.

Mary described meeting the prince when they reached the second room and said of him:

his R. H was very gracious & expressed great pleasure in seeing me — had two long conversations with him

Later in the evening, the prince asked Lady Stormont to dance, but she had to decline as she was pregnant with their 4th child, Henry, who was born early August 1784.

Mary Hamilton also confirmed something I had read in the press, that there were between 500 and 600 people at the event, so it wasn’t exactly what most of us would think of as a small gathering.

Mary described not taking part in the dancing as the ballroom was too full, so instead she walked from room to room to chat with people. She had planned to dine under the protection of Lady Finch, but the prince sent for her to dine at his table. Later, the prince joined the others in the ballroom and according to Mary ‘he dances very finely. There were 4 or 5 minuets danced, but without ceremony or precision as to rank.’ Mary confirmed that she finally ate at 2.30am in one of the lower rooms, describing everything as handsome, proper and well attended. The pages were all dressed in uniform, which was a very dark coloured cloath, trimmed handsomely with gold lace, with the footmen who waited at the tables dressed in Royal livery.

Mary left the ball at quarter to four in the morning, but by all accounts, it went on until about 9am. That was quite some party, wasn’t it?

The Montgomeryshire Ghost of 1827

There are plenty of ghost stories from the 18th and early 19th century, and I have previously written about The Hammersmith Ghost, but today I have a very different ghost story for your Halloween.

This story took place at a large, old mansion house, by the Welsh name of Tee Gwyn, or The White House, just outside the village of Llanfyllin in Montgomeryshire.

A gentleman by the name of Mr Thomas, a supervisor of excise, was ordered to take over responsibility for the district from another supervisor, as was often the case at that time. Mr Thomas was married with children, but rather than arrive with his family, he went on his own, on the assumption that once he’d settled in the area, his wife and family could join him.

He had never been to Wales before and  as you would imagine he wanted to find out more about the area and make sure that wherever he was bringing his family to that it was suitable. Unfortunately, the only vacant house was the large, old, dilapidated mansion house, which stood in decay, at the foot of a mountain. Mr Thomas was advised that it was that or nothing.

The house had a large garden which was full of weeds and the steps leading to the door covered with moss and several windows were broken, the whole place had an air of neglected grandeur.

Upon visiting the mansion house, he decided to see if there were a few suitable rooms that would be suitable to live in and the cheap rent proved a suitable inducement.

He was directed to a man whom he believed to have been the owner who instantly offered to let him the mansion at the low rent of five pounds a year. Mr Thomas didn’t really want or need a large house but didn’t think it was suitable to continue living at the local ale house for long as he wanted his family to be with him as soon as possible.

He decided that four or five rooms upstairs would be fine, so struck a deal, five pounds a year, and purchased a few bits and pieces to make it feel more homely until his family arrived with all their possessions.

On the first night he lit a large fire to make it feel more homely and to get rid of the dampness, had a cup of grog and settled down to enjoy a good night’s rest.

The following morning, he went into the village to the barber’s shop for a shave, where several people enquired how he had slept. He declared that he had enjoyed the best night’s sleep of his life, but was somewhat taken aback by the question, until the locals revealed that the house was believed to be have been haunted for over fifty years.

Mr Thomas was a very down to earth gentleman and  just laughed at the idea of ghosts and declared that he didn’t believe in ghosts.

Country characters no. 9: Exciseman. Digital Commonwealth

On returning to the house, he began sorting it out and preparing for the eventual arrival of his family and didn’t give the ghost story another thought.

Given his role as that of an excise officer,  he thought an empty house might have made the perfect place for working an illicit still, so he spent much of the next day checking out the vaults and all hiding places, but didn’t find anything to indicate any sign of anything suspicious.

As night drew on, he threw an extra log on the fire, and having borrowed a chair in the town, he at himself down in front of the fire, ate his bread and cheese, and once again, supped his cup of grog.

He did still have a niggling worry in his mind about the possibility of there being an illegal still, and that given the remoteness of the property, that if it were being used to brew illicit alcohol, someone could return during the night and that if someone found him there, he could have his throat cut and his body thrown into a tub, while his wife and family would be none the wiser.

Fears of the living, more than the dead, worried him until eventually he decided, in case he heard anything going on that he needed to remain as quiet as possible, and send all the information he could to the heads of his department. He could see by his watch that it was nearly twelve o’clock, but he couldn’t sleep.

All of a sudden, he heard footsteps on the staircase, and he felt or thought he felt his hair lift his hat involuntarily a least an inch off his forehead. His heart began to beat faster and faster, the logs did not seem to blaze as brightly; he listened anxiously … but heard nothing, not a sound.

Eventually, he plucked up the courage to open the door  and took himself off to bed, having given the fire a last poke, to keep it going. He had just begun to doze off when he was woken by a strange clattering on the staircase, as if ten thousand imps were ascending to his room.

In the panic of the moment, he jumped out of bed, rushed to the landing, where he distinctly heard the said imps clatter down the broad staircase again, making faint shrieking cries, which died away with the sound of their footsteps as they seemed to disappear into the vaults.

To him, it was clear that there were other tenants living in the house beside himself, he kept as quiet as possible, but was anxious about what he thought he had heard. Eventually, as he watched the dawn break in the east, he got up and began searching to find out where thee noises had come from.

He found absolutely nothing, the house was silent, not even a footstep on the staircase, although he could have sworn that he really did hear his disturbers ascend towards his room, and then depart.

On his visit to the town that morning, the previous day’s inquiries were repeated, but he strenuously denied having been disturbed, for fear he should be thought a coward. The next evening, he decided to find out whether anything really did climb the staircase, or whether it was mere fancy. With that, he spread a thick layer of sand on every step, imagining that if his tormentors were really substantial, they must leave some tracks behind them.

In the middle of the night, the same extraordinary noise was heard, so, armed with  with pistols, and a lamp, Mr Thomas set off downstairs as fast as he could. The imps, however, were too quick for him, and he couldn’t even get a glimpse of them.

Yet again, did he searched everywhere in vain, he was retracing his steps when he remembered the sand, which, in his terrified descent he had forgotten about, when, to his horror, he perceived some five or six hundred cloven tracts ! They were too small for goblins, and much too large for rats. Mr Thomas was more puzzled than ever, he had no idea what could have left such marks, certainly not a ghost, he thought.

The matter assumed rather a serious aspect, and he wrote to his wife, ordering his wife not to join him until he wrote to her again, he didn’t want to put his family in any danger. All day long, he racked his brain as to the species of creatures that had disturbed his peace and quiet.

Over and over again, he concluded that perhaps it was a trick, and as often did he abandon that notion as improbable ; but then he could not account for his not being able to see what had made the tracks.

He had given up every idea that rats could have made such a noise or tracks so large, but he decided to set a few rat traps to try to solve the mystery. Accordingly, he purchased six, as that was all he could get, and on the fourth night he carefully set them in a row on one of the steps of the staircase, so that if the imps ascended in a column, he was sure of catching at least one of them.

Still, he would not abandon his pistols or his lamp, but determined to be on guard all night.

About the mystic hour of twelve, he heard the jumping or hopping, as it seemed, up the stairs, and while he cocked one of the pistols, he heard a trap go off, then another, then another, succeeded by appalling shrieks, and the same clattering noise down stairs again.

He proceeded to the spot, and there, much to his surprise he found three fine fat rabbits, caught by the legs in the traps.

Herring I, John Frederick; A Happy Family; Leeds Museums and Galleries

The reality was, there was no ghost, just the inhabitants of an adjoining rabbit warren who used to make their way up through the sewers into the deserted mansion, and their gambols through the empty rooms first gave rise to the story of ‘Tee Gwynn’ being haunted.

With that, Mr Thomas was reassured and immediately sent for his family, and they now enjoy a house, and as many rabbits as they could eat, all for five pounds a year!

As to whether there was any truth in the whole story, who knows.


Hampshire Advertiser 3 November 1827

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Bodfach house and grounds c1781 National Library of Wales

Guest post by Jenny Newbold ‘The ship was not the only “she” at sea’

I am thrilled to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian, Jenny Newbold who has recently published a fictional book, ‘The Private Misadventures of Nell Nobody’  which was published in June 2022 by Luminare Press. It is an historical-fiction/adventure novel featuring Admiral Lord Nelson and a gender-ambiguous protagonist, examining from ‘Ned’s’ perspective the events of Horatio Nelson’s first tour of the Mediterranean.

Without further ado, I will hand over to Jenny to tell you more about women at sea.

When you envision the eighteenth century British navy, I can guess what you might see in your mind’s eye. Noble, self-sacrificing officers. Hardy tars with hearts of oak. The triumph of The Nile, the glory of Trafalgar, wreaths of laurel and cypress for the honour rolls of the wounded, dead, and missing. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Royal Navy during the heroic Age of Sail was exclusively a man’s world. After all, that’s what the Admiralty Board wanted you to believe.

There are no official records of women serving aboard warships in the Georgian Royal Navy, because officially, women were not allowed on board. With the possible exception of the captain’s wife (at his discretion), according to the Admiralty the only woman to be found on one of its ships would be the occasional passenger.

Reality, however, is a different story.

Yale Center for British Art
Yale Center for British Art

Women (and children) may not have been entered on the muster books and victualled, but they were part of the fabric of the warship. Most were probably wives: of officers, marines, and even occasionally ratings (ratings were seamen who were not commissioned or warrant officers). They had a legitimate reason for being there, even if they were not officially there. Interestingly, I have come across evidence of wives of captains, warrant officers, and marines shipboard, but no wives of lieutenants. Since wives were there at the discretion of the captain, it might have been an unspoken opinion that a lieutenant didn’t need a wife distracting him from executing his orders.

There were other women—of a certain persuasion—who came aboard when the ship was in port and who might not leave when the ship prepared to depart. There were wives, and then there were ‘wives’. If the officers’ wives were unofficial, one of these stowaways was practically invisible. Her survival aboard depended on the generosity of the man, or men, she was attached to, since she would have to share his hammock and his provisions.

Even for the legitimate wives, life on a warship cannot have been particularly pleasant. They would not have had their own quarters or their own rations. An officer’s wife might have the privacy of her husband’s partitioned-off sleeping place at night, but if you were the wife of a private soldier or an ordinary seaman, you slept in his hammock, both of you, 14 to 16 inches away from the next man (and whoever might or might not be sharing his hammock). Granted, you might get the hammock all to yourself for the four hours your husband was on watch, but you still slept in the same space with perhaps one hundred other men/wives/children.

Babies were inevitably born aboard. Presumably giving birth at sea was not much worse than giving birth on land—despite the apparent belief by some of the men that firing the great guns would hasten the birth process. I’m not sure science would back that up, but if the commander didn’t mind expending the powder, I don’t suppose it hurt to try.

On troopships, women travelling ‘on the strength’ were official – but on the army’s books, not those of the navy. These were soldiers’ wives, accompanying their husbands on campaign. The British Army allowed three women per one hundred men to travel with their regiment. Accommodations for them would not have been any better, but they were indisputably, officially, aboard.

What did these women do aboard? Unless they were passengers, they were almost certainly expected to contribute to the overall well-being of the ship. The Georgian military expected that if they were going to provision a woman, they would get their money’s worth.

So, a woman had to pull her own weight, although presumably not on the ship’s lines! In the official muster-rolls and quarter bills, however, all the roles in a well-governed warship were filled by men. What then, did she do?

I suppose we have to speculate a little here. It was very unlikely that she cooked. The ship had a cook whose job it was to manage the galley. The men in each mess (a mess was a group of men who ate together) rotated through the role of mess cook, retrieving the cooked food from the galley. I imagine no one wanted women anywhere near the stove. Rations were closely apportioned, and trust was not in great supply; everyone from the men to the officers probably suspected that the women were capable of thieving.

John Jervis Earl of St Vincent. Francis Cotes. NPG
John Jervis Earl of St Vincent. Francis Cotes. NPG

A woman probably maintained her man’s clothing, and conceivably might have done the same occasionally for his mates. Sir John Jervis, Admiral St Vincent, got snappish now and then about the women aboard using the fresh water, intended for cooking and drinking, for washing clothes. (St Vincent also, at one point, decided that the fleet’s lieutenants were getting rather podgy and decreed that they should not be allowed to use the ships’ entry ports, but be made to climb over the side. He sounds as though he could be quite a curmudgeon: it must have been an experience to serve under him!)

Much is made—and rightly so—of women participating in battle. But on a warship, everyone participated in battle, with the exception of passengers, who might have chosen to but probably were not expected to do so. Untrained in naval warfare, women probably carried powder from the ship’s magazines to the guns, or assisted on the surgeon’s deck, mopping up or giving whatever comfort and assurance they could offer to the wounded. Either job would have been horrific. It is unlikely there were any tasks in battle that were not.

Finally, there were the fighting women, the ones who the navy really did not see. They were the ones whose presence was cloaked in disguise, determination, and/or desperation. It is possible to find a handful of documented accounts of women who served, disguised as men, in the armies and navies of the age, and I personally believe that in some cases it must have been known what gender they actually were, but nobody was acknowledging anything. (The modern American military cannot have thought that they were onto something new and clever with their ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ sexual-identity policy of the 1990s).

Although not genuine transformations, these images give an idea of how relatively easy it would have been for a woman to transform from female to male
Although not genuine transformations, these images give an idea of how relatively easy it would have been for a woman to transform herself from female to male

Tolerance for women aboard depended largely on the command. For all that St Vincent groused about women and fresh water, he didn’t ban them from his ship. But some naval men considered women at sea bad luck. Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood thought they were disruptive to order and discipline and was known to have any woman he found on his ship put ashore. He much preferred his dog, Bounce, as a shipboard companion; presumably it was more obedient!

Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood. by Henry Howard, after a painting by Giuseppe Politi. NPG
Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood. by Henry Howard, after a painting by Giuseppe Politi. NPG

Admiral Horatio Nelson did not particularly care to have women aboard either, although he might justifiably be accused of hypocrisy in that regard. He always made sure his lady friends were ashore if he was contemplating a naval engagement, however. It has been said that Nelson once remarked that every man became a bachelor when he passed the Gut of Gibraltar. I personally do not think he meant that statement to provide a license for licentiousness. I believe it might have been an assertion that a man should put all concerns for home and family out of his head… or at least, put King and Country first! When Lady Hamilton, the love of his life, suggested that she come to the Mediterranean with their daughter Horatia and Horatia’s nurse, and that they all live aboard HMS Victory with him, his answer was an unqualified ‘NO’.

But obviously, regardless of what the Admiralty liked to pretend that the ship was not the only ‘she’ at sea!

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HMS Victory c1806. Royal Collection Trust


Watier’s Club

In Harriette Wilsons’ Memoirs, she described in great detail the ball that was held at Burlington House, in celebration of the English victory over Napoleon.

Watier’s 1 July 1814 on the reverse
Watier’s 1 July 1814 on the reverse

Harriette, along with her sisters, Amy and Fanny managed to obtain tickets, but their friend Julia was unable to obtain a lady’s ticket, so in order to attend she dressed as a boy.

The event was covered in minute detail in most of the newspapers of the day, such was the magnitude of the event, with about 1,700 guests attending the supper which was said to have been ‘the most magnificent thing of the kind ever seen’.

The event was organised by Mr Wattier (sic), after whom the famous Watiers Club was named, so rather than discussing the ball itself, as amazing as it appears to have been, today’s article is about Jean/John Baptiste Watier, after whom this club was said to have been named.

According to the author, Henry Benjamin Wheatley, Watier’s Club was

established in 1807, at 81 Piccadilly by Messrs, John Maddock and Calvert, and Lord Headfort.

Wheatley went on to say that:

The club was kept by Watier, the Prince of Wales cook, and Labourie was the cook who made the place celebrated for its dinners. Brummell was the supreme dictator… The club did not endure for years altogether, and died a natural death in 1819, when the house was taken by a set of blacklegs, who instituted a common bank for gambling.

These statements are rather confusing for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it has been widely acknowledged that from 1802 Sir Francis Burdett lived at No. 80, Piccadilly and according to the rates books, Mr Watier was living next door at 81 from 1804, therefore rather earlier than initially suggested above and there is no sign of the other gentlemen named. Was he living there as a private resident in 1804 or did he begin his club there at that time?

Here we have the rates return for 1804 with Watier (wrongly spelled as Walter initially) but it is clearly the same person as we can see his name written correctly by 1809.

1804 Rates
1804 Rates
1809 Rates
1809 Rates

The first name check I have come across for Watier’s Club, appeared in the Morning Post, 17 April 1805, which seems to confirm my thoughts that it began about 1804, not 1807 as suggested elsewhere:

The new amateur convert and assembly will be held this season at Willis’s Rooms, King Street, St James’s, under the direction of a Committee of twelve gentlemen, members of Watier’s Club, Piccadilly.

Watier’s Club was ‘the’ place for young men to be seen during the Regency period where gentlemen of the day would play cards and dice, often for high stakes.

According to Thomas Raikes, it was a place where it was easy for a young gentleman to be ruined through debt and cited a specific instance involving Beau Brummell:

One day, when he had lost considerably, he called to the waiter, with a tragic air, for a flat candlestick and a pistol, upon which one of the members (Bob Bligh, a madman) produced from his coat pocket two loaded pistols, and placing them on the table said ‘Mr Brummell, if you really wish to put a period to your existence, I am extremely happy to offer you the means without troubling the waiter’.

Here we see a relatively recent image portraying this event.

Illustrated London News 24 March 1923
Illustrated London News 24 March 1923

Virtually nothing is known of Jean Baptiste Watier’s early life, but we know that he became a Freemason, in the Ancient French Lodge from February 1789 when he was aged 25, therefore he would have been born about 1764. It also tells us that he was living on Broad Street, London at that time.

Freemasonry Membership Registers; Description: Register of Members, London, vol I, Fols 1-597

In 1796, he married Ann Crowther

Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STJ/PR/6/8

Up to 1810 the Maitre D’hôtel to George, Prince of Wales was Charles Beckt, after which John Baptiste Watier took over the reins, as can be seen in the Household account book for George, Prince of Wales.  So, it would appear that for a number of years, Watier held down two jobs, club owner and Maitre D’hôtel.

Carlton House. Royal Collection Trust
Carlton House. Royal Collection Trust

By 1812 he was working at Carlton House as Clerk Comptroller, a position he held for several years according to the royal account books.

Royal Household Staff 1526-1924. GEO/MAIN/88983-89031

Between opening the club and then working for the Prince it seems difficult to know exactly how he earned a living. Having questioned all the reports of the club itself, I do wonder whether he ever was a chef, or was, more likely, a manager/ Maitre D’hôtel. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to support him working for royalty as a chef.

Menu book for dinners held by the Prince Regent from 1811 onwards, principally at Carlton House and occasionally at Hampton Court, include includes a few dinners held by Princess Charlotte of Wales and one of the Ambassadors. Also included are details served to members of the Prince Regents Household, most notably Mr Watier (John Baptiste Watier, Clerk Comptroller of the Kitchen).

Above shows the royal accounts ledgers for Brighton for Thursday 7 January 1819 records Mr Watier and family dining at Brighton Pavilion numerous times and by this time Watier was working in a higher capacity for the Prince as, according to Brighton Pavilion

Jean Baptiste Watier, was a multi-talented figure who as well as acting as George’s furniture and decorative objects scout in Paris, was also at various times confectioner and a collector or rets in Brighton.

The Pavilion mention that he was a confectioner and whilst I’m not saying he wasn’t, we do know from the royal accounts that his nephew, Philip Watier was a royal confectioner, but I can’t find anything to confirm that Jean Baptiste Watier did. I do wonder whether the two names have become confused.

Bought in Paris for George IV by Jean-Baptiste Watier, entered in the Carlton House receipts’ ledger by Benjamin Jutsham on 30 November 1816: ‘Part of Mr Watier’s Purchases brought from Paris A Circular Seve Porcelaine Vase Blue Ground & Gold, with white Flutes, white & Gold Handles, Gilt Embossed wreaths on the Top, Gilt Metal Plynth on 4 Claws’. Royal Collection Trust
Bought in Paris for George IV by Jean-Baptiste Watier, entered in the Carlton House receipts’ ledger by Benjamin Jutsham on 30 November 1816: ‘Part of Mr Watier’s Purchases brought from Paris A Circular Seve Porcelaine Vase Blue Ground & Gold, with white Flutes, white & Gold Handles, Gilt Embossed wreaths on the Top, Gilt Metal Plynth on 4 Claws’. Royal Collection Trust

By 1816 Jean and his wife were no longer at the Club in Piccadilly, but had moved to Mall South, as can be seen here:

Their previous address had been taken over by a Thomas Maddison. It seems likely that he was the royal page named in various accounts about the club.

The Kettle calling the Pot ugly names. 23 September 1820. Royal Trust Collection RCT 1820
The Kettle calling the Pot ugly names. 23 September 1820. Royal Trust Collection

On 17 November 1820 an intriguing, anonymous letter was sent to John at Carlton House. Whilst I can’t be certain, it would appear, given the surrounding letters in the same folder at the National Archives, to have something to do with King George IV’s wife, Queen Caroline.

Was John passing on information about Caroline to her supporters or enemies? I really have no idea where John’s loyalties lay, to the King or Queen. Nationally, loyalties were definitely split at that time, as George IV was trying to divorce Caroline. Many of the public supported Caroline and were less impressed by their new king.


You are safe just at present so you may stop where you are a little longer – if it is possible. I will let you know of danger. Time enough to escape – you cannot know by any other means as we are wary who we trust, and our work will be sure so do not delay to escape when I give you notice which I will do if I am not watched.

I am your true friend.

We have no Edwards’s amongst us.

The next letter in the file was one threatening to set fire to the home of John Sympson Jessop, a lawyer. In his home at the time were his wife and 7 daughters. Jessop’s name appeared in the press as he publicly accused Caroline of adultery.

The News (London) 10 December 1820
The News (London) 10 December 1820

From there, John and his wife moved to Sloane Street, Chelsea, where they remained for the rest of their lives. In the case of John, this was on 22 September 1828. He was buried on 29 September 1828 at St James, Piccadilly at the age of 65.

As the couple had no children his estate went to his wife, Ann and other friends and relatives, but the key person being his nephew Philip, the royal confectioner, mentioned earlier.

In 1825, John’s nephew, Philip Watier, married Miss Anne Simes and rose through the ranks of the palace eventually becoming the Superintendent. The couple went on to have 5 daughters, none of whom married.

In 1835 John’s wife, Ann died and in her will she confirmed that as they had had no children that their nephew was to be her main beneficiary. She also left Philip a portrait of his uncle, painted by none other than Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Whether this portrait has survived over the centuries is unknown, perhaps it is in a private collection somewhere. Philip married and had 5 daughters, none of whom married, so assuming it was passed down through the family it must have been sold when Philip’s youngest daughter died in 1917 otherwise, we would have a likeness of John Baptiste Watier to view.


A Curious Case of Criminal Conversation

I am delighted to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian, Elaine Thornton who trained as a linguist, has lived and worked in Germany, Russia and Cyprus. She has had a varied career, as an army officer, project manager, and development officer.

Her first book, a biography of the German-Jewish opera composer Giacomo Meyerbeer, Giacomo Meyerbeer and his Family: Between Two Worlds, was published by Vallentine Mitchell in 2021.

She is currently researching the life of Sir Henry Bate Dudley and is going to tell us more about a certain crim. con that he was front and centre of. It was a case that doesn’t make for a pleasant read – You have been warned!

In 1788 the Reverend Henry Bate Dudley, known as the ‘Fighting Parson’, found himself facing a charge of adultery, or ‘criminal conversation’. A clergyman, journalist, dramatist and duellist, Bate Dudley had been ordained in the Church of England, but had soon realised that his talents and temperament were better suited to the rough and tumble of the flourishing Georgian newspaper industry. He had been editor of the Morning Post from 1772 to 1780, when he had founded his own newspaper, the Morning Herald.

A modern history of journalism, the Encyclopaedia of the British Press, describes Bate Dudley as ‘undoubtedly, the star of his day’. The Georgian writer and wit Horace Walpole was less flattering, calling him ‘the worst of all the scandalous libellers’. Bate Dudley’s newspapers specialised in high-class scandal and ‘celebrity’ gossip, and at the time of Walpole’s comment, in 1780, he had been convicted of libelling the 3rd Duke of Richmond, by accusing him of treason. He was subsequently sentenced to a year in the King’s Bench prison.

The King's Bench Prison from Ackermann’s Microcosm of London (1808-10)
The King’s Bench Prison from Ackermann’s Microcosm of London (1808-10)

The charge of adultery against Bate Dudley concerned the wife of a Mr Edward Dodwell. Mrs Dodwell’s first name was never revealed publicly, but documents held in Lambeth Palace archives, relating to a later application by her husband for a legal separation, identify her as Frances Dodwell, née Jennings. Edward Dodwell was demanding £3,000 in damages from Bate Dudley for ‘alienating his wife’s affections’ (adultery was treated as a case of trespass on another man’s property, as a wife was considered a ‘chattel’ in law).

Southend-on-Sea c1822. British Museum
Southend-on-Sea c1822. British Museum

The Dodwell’s and Bate Dudley’s lived near each other in the Chelmsford area. The chief witness for the prosecution, Mrs Dodwell’s servant Elizabeth Serjeant, claimed that in September 1780, Mrs Dodwell had gone to Southend for a holiday without her husband. Bate Dudley had followed her there and had visited her frequently in her lodgings. One night, Serjeant claimed, she had opened her mistress’s door at two in the morning and had seen ‘Mr Bate and Mrs Dodwell on the floor in an act of adultery’.

Mrs Serjeant added that the affair had continued after Mrs Dodwell’s return to Chelmsford, citing an instance in February 1782, when Mrs Dodwell had returned from a carriage ride with Bate Dudley, and Mrs Serjeant, ‘having seen certain parts of Mrs Dodwell’s linen, was enabled to judge of her conduct that night’.

Bate Dudley submitted a plea of ‘not guilty in two ways’. In the first place, he claimed that he was innocent of the charge. The second part of the plea was related to the legal time limit on prosecutions for adultery. A charge could not be upheld if the alleged offence had taken place more than six years prior to the commencement of the action and Bate Dudley’s second plea was that he was not guilty ‘within six years’. Bate Dudley’s defence counsel, James Mingay, referred to October 1781 as the relevant date, so this would presumably exclude the evidence dating from 1780.

James Mingay (NPG)
James Mingay (NPG)

Mingay opened the defence by revealing that Edward Dodwell had a very strange hobby. He was passionately interested in the dissection of dead bodies, which he carried out in the couple’s home. A visitor to the Dodwells’ house testified that

‘Mr. Dodwell had a room near his bedchamber, which was called a dissecting room, where he [the visitor] once saw an arm half dissected.’

According to the defence, Dodwell did not bother to clean himself up before making advances to his wife, but ‘approached her with his hands covered with all the nauseous filthiness of such pursuits … while his hungry hounds were quarrelling over the flesh he had been slicing’.

The prosecution’s response to these revelations was the perfectly reasonable one that, even if Dodwell had

a laboratory wherein he dissected dead bodies … this surely could hardly give any other person a right to commit adultery with his wife’.

Bate Dudley’s next line of defence was that Mr Dodwell had positively encouraged his wife to take lovers. After she had had an affair with a baronet, Dodwell had sent his wife abroad, where she lived ‘in open adultery’ with a British army officer. On her return to England, he had installed her in lodgings in London, where he visited her for sex ‘as if she had been his kept girl’. Dodwell later introduced her to a retired military man, a General Desaguliers, whose mistress she became.

In defence counsel’s view, Dodwell had been ‘an accessory to the prostitution of his own wife’ and was in no position to accuse Bate Dudley of alienating Mrs Dodwell’s affections by breaking up a happy marriage. Dodwell himself unwittingly contributed to this defence, by suggesting that Bate Dudley was only one of many: ‘I have stuck the fork in the dung-hill, up came Mr. Bate, and it is his chance, and I cannot help it.’

'A baite. For the devil'. 1779. British Museum
‘A baite. For the devil’. 1779. British Museum

Bate Dudley’s final submission was a knock-out blow. He produced a witness to testify that he had actually been confined in the King’s Bench prison, undergoing his sentence for libelling the Duke of Richmond, in February 1782, when Elizabeth Serjeant claimed to have seen him consorting with Mrs Dodwell in Chelmsford. The King’s Bench books were brought to the court to verify the fact. The prosecution’s star witness had lost all credibility, and the jury took twelve minutes to find in favour of the defendant.

‘The Fighting Parson’ had triumphed in court, but was he really innocent? His wife, Mary, seems to have had her suspicions. One day in 1781, she had arrived at her husband’s room in the King’s Bench prison – where, characteristically, he was holding a musical party for his friends – and had met Frances Dodwell, who was just leaving, on the stairs. The unexpected encounter had resulted in a lively quarrel between the two women, and a temporary coolness between Mary and her husband.

Legal opinions on the case differed. A year after the King’s Bench trial jury had found Bate Dudley not guilty, the ecclesiastical Court of Arches granted Edward Dodwell’s application for a separation – based on his wife’s adultery with Henry Bate Dudley. Two years after that judgement, the Court of Doctors’ Commons, after several days considering the evidence for a divorce, ‘finally dismissed the suit of Edward Dodwell Esquire against his Lady’.


Anon, Adultery Trial, in the Court of King’s Bench … between Edward Dodwell, Esquire, Plaintiff, and the Rev. Henry Bate Dudley, Defendant, for Crim. Con., H. D. Symonds, 1789

Dennis Griffiths (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of the British Press 1422-1992, Macmillan, 1992

Lambeth Palace Library and Archive, Arches D611

Lloyd’s Evening Post

Town and Country Magazine, 1788, supplement

Horace Walpole, Last Journals, Bodley Head, 1910


The Oxford Sausage of the 18th century

Bangers, or more correctly named, sausages, have been made for centuries, but today we’re going to look at those made in the 18th century and by whom.

According to the newspapers of the Georgian period, it would appear that the one of the most popular places in England at least, for making and selling sausages was Oxford (who knew!).

Sausage making appears to have begun in earnest from September each year. This would be because the pigs were reared on natural feed during the spring and summer, then slaughtered early September, ready to be made into pork products.

Today sausages are available in every supermarket in a wide variety of flavours, and we often just think of ‘bangers for the barbie’, but in the 18th century there was a very prescribed season for making and eating sausages, due to the lack of refrigeration at that time.

Many of the cookery books of the day had recipes for home cooks to make, such as this one from The Ladies Handmaid or a Compleat System of Cookery by Sarah Phillips of Duke Street in 1758:

To Fry Sausages

Take half a pound of sausages and six apples. Slice four apples about as thick as a Crown (coin), cut the other two into quarters. Fry them with the sausages until light brown, lay the sausages in the middle of the dish with the apples around them. Garnish with the quartered apples.

Or this one from 1769, in the  Professed Cook who recommended this recipe:

Boil short, thick sausages in a little white wine, two cloves, thyme, laurel and one sliced onion, one clove of garlic.

When done, peel the guts off and dip them in butter mixed with mustard, then roll them in grated Parmesan cheese.

Have as many bits of fried bread, as sausages, and as long.

Garnish the bottom of the dishes you intend to serve upon, with a little cullis (a strong meat broth) and breadcrumbs.

Put it on the ashes of the fire and mix a little Parmesan with it, then lay a bit of the fried bread and a sausage and so on till you have completed it.

Leave it on the fire until it forms a gratin.

Colour the top of the sausages with the salamander and serve upon a good clear cullis as sauce for it.


Morland, George; The Artist in His Studio and His Man Gibbs; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries (Man by the fire is frying a pan of sausages)

Charlotte Mason who wrote Mrs Mason’s Cookery in 1786 explained the difference techniques for making ordinary and very fine sausages:


Two pounds of learn pork, three pounds of chine fat free from skin, some sage leaves chopped, pounded cloves, pepper and salt; beat it fine and either press it into pots and roll it when it is used, or put it into skins.

Very fine sausages

Take part of a leg of leg of port or veal, pick it clean from the skin or fat. To every pound add two pounds of beef suet, shred both several very fine; mix them well with finely chopped sage leaves, pepper, salt nutmeg and pounded cloves, a little grated lemon peel. Put this close down in a pot, when it is used mix it with yolk of egg, a few breadcrumbs, roll it into lengths.

The ‘go to’ cook of the day, Hannah Glasse provided a similar recipe and advised cooking them either in butter or good dripping, ensuring that the pan was hot enough before frying them until golden brown.

One of the major sausage makers in Oxford from around 1775 was Sarah Herbert, the wife of John Herbert, a watch maker. Sarah trade from a premises close to the Angel Inn, an ideal place as being close to the Angel would, presumably have meant she would pick up trade from the coaches which frequently stopped there.

The Angel Hotel, Oxford c1820 British Museum
The Angel Hotel, Oxford c1820 British Museum

John and Sarah married in 1747, Sarah’s maiden name, was rather appropriately, Mace (an ingredient often used in early sausage making). Whilst John ran his business, Sarah developed quite a following for her sausages, using recipes she had learnt from her aunt, a cook, by the name of Dorothy Spreadbury. Clearly, her aunt’s name carried some kudos as Sarah referred to her when advertising her products in the press.

Oxford Journal 4 October 1760

On Saturday October 11, 1760, Sarah Herbert will begin selling sausages, at John Herbert’s, watchmaker in St Peter’s in the East, in Oxford. All persons she please to favour her with their custom, may depend upon being extremely well served, she having a receipt o the late Dorothy Spreadbury, her aunt.

Clearly, her business was going well, as by 1775 she has moved premises as we see here in the Oxford Journal 7 October 1775

Notice is hereby given, that Mrs Herbert, wife of Mr Herbert, near the Angel Inn, Oxford, will begin making sausages on Saturday 14 October 1775. Those gentlemen and ladies who will please to favour her with their custom, may depend on being well used by their obedient humble servant. Sarah Herbert

NB Mrs Herbert will send a printed bill of her own name with all sausages she sends out of town.

The best Durham Mustard, wholesale and retail.

Within a couple of years of that advertisement however, Sarah had acquired a rival:


Charles Dodd, Cook of New College, begs leave to inform his friends and the public that he has begun Making sausages for the winter season; by whom they may be supplied at his house, the Wheatsheaf, in the High Street, Oxford, with any quantity, fresh made very day.

They will be fried at a moment’s notice, if desired.

Also, that same year we have Martha West:

The original sausage maker for thirty years past, removed from the Anchor, near the Red Lion, in the High Street, Thame, Oxfordshire.

Martha confirmed that she would be making sausages all season along with fine collared brawn and potted beef.

Today, along with the more regular pork sausage, we have many of varieties, perhaps the most famous being Cumberland and Lincolnshire.

Guest post by Alix Nathan, author of ‘Sea Change’

I am delighted to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian, Alix Nathan, who is here to tell us more about the background behind her latest book, Sea Change.

So without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Alix:

My recent novel Sea Change, begins with a balloon journey heading for disaster.

In 1802 when the flight takes place, balloon travel was no longer rare, having begun in Paris in 1783, but people still flocked to the launches. It was because of these flights that the word balloon entered the language to replace ‘aerostat’ or ‘aerostatic globe’.

The journey in Sea Change is based on a real one that took off from Ranelagh Gardens on 28th June 1802.

An elegant afternoon breakfaft was given at Ranelagh by the directors of the Pic Nic Society of which about 2000 perfons of the firft diftinction partook. About five o’clock, Mr Garnerin, the celebrated aëronaut, accompanied by Capt. Sowden, of the navy, ascended in his balloon.  Its afcent was, in the firft inftance, very gradual, in order that all poffible gratification might be afforded to the crowd of fpectators.

In my story I’ve replaced Captain Sowden with two of the principle characters, Sarah and Joseph, but André-Jacques Garnerin remains a real person, known not only for his frequent flights, but also for taking a woman up with him in 1798 in Paris which was something of a scandal, and also for inventing and demonstrating a parachute.  The intrepid Garnerin took his wife, who had once been his student, on many of his flights and ultimately was made Official Aeronaut of France.

I found the account of the original flight from Ranelagh in The Annual Register of 1802, in which extensive quotation is given from Captain Sowden, who, as a naval officer used to writing up logs, provides fascinating detail of the physical experience of rising through dense cloud, seeing and hearing the world laid out beneath them and then encountering drastically difficult weather conditions.  His account was a gift for me.  Sowden and Garnerin’s flight came down badly but on dry land, whereas I take the balloon out to sea.

Annual Registers are a marvellous source.  I have a run from 1789 to 1814, most in their very fragile eighteenth-century boards.  Begun in 1758, its first editor Edmund Burke, it aimed to cover history, politics and literature.  My volumes contain accounts of events in Europe and elsewhere, especially where war in concerned; parliamentary matters, state papers, lists of marriages (only those of the ‘first distinction’ of course!), promotions, deaths, tables of stock prices, imports and exports, barometer and thermometer readings, amount of tax for various things (e.g. letter money, alum mines, fines and forfeitures, four-wheel carriages, shops), diseases from which people died (e.g. convulsions, childbed, smallpox, dropsy, fever, lunatick (sic)).

A picture of each year gradually forms.  One of the best sections in every volume for me has been the ‘Chronicle’ which, taking a month at a time, provides often quite short reports of events that have happened all around the country.  Reports of extreme weather (frozen Thames, huge hailstones, lightning strikes), people living till 100 or more (rare then of course), odd discoveries, mysterious deaths and murders, gatherings of mobs, fires, explosions.

Most of the stories in my book His Last Fire came about because of an event or a name or a description from a report in one of the ‘Chronicles’.  Thus, the pedlar who on his death was found to be a woman; the day the Turkish ambassador’s coach broke down; the woman who didn’t leave her house for twenty years and whose carriage fell to pieces; the King’s Theatre going up in flames; a list of executions for coining in which the only woman criminal was burned at the stake (1789!).  My previous novel, The Warlow Experiment grew out of a short paragraph in the Annual Register ‘Chronicle’ for 1797.

Of course, Annual Registers are only one source.  In Sea Change the character Sarah (the mother who becomes separated from her young daughter Eve) grew out of a brief mention of a spy’s wife running off to America with a radical, while I was reading about the London Corresponding Society.  I wrote a short story about her and then Parthian Books commissioned a novel that became The Flight of Sarah Battle.

The character of Joseph in Sea Change owes a certain amount to what I read about Franz Schubert in Elizabeth Norman McKay’s excellent biography of him.  She believes that he may have suffered from cyclothymia, a lesser bi-polar condition, which I found helpful in my construction of Joseph’s difficult, erratic personality.

Mental conditions and early attempts to treat them are a theme in Sea Change even though its main subject is the love and loss between a mother and daughter.

Sarah and Eve, separated after the balloon comes down each believe the other is dead.  Which leads me to say that for all the reading and research I’ve done, over years now, for all the soaking in the period, helped greatly by those Annual Registers, my stories, short and long are always about fundamental human situations that are never pinned to one period alone.

Autumn fashion for 1822

Having taken a look at the summer fashions for 1822, it seems appropriate to follow it up with the autumn fashion for attending balls and court that year, with the help of the ever reliable guide by Rudolph Ackermann.

Rudolph Ackermann. NPG
Rudolph Ackermann. NPG

What were fashionable women wearing in autumn 1822 to ensure that they were fashionable and appropriate? Let’s find out:

Ball dresses were required each season and of course, you wouldn’t wish to wear the wrong one. Ackermann’s tells us that the dress below was the appropriate outfit to be seen in for September 1822.

A dress of fine tulle over a white satin slip, ornamented nearly half the centre, and a semicircle of small steel beads. Short full sleeve, composed of alternate rows of pink net and steel, and white tulle and steel scallops, confined by a band of pink net and steel. Tucker, a quilling of the finest tulle.

Tucker c1820. MetMuseum
Tucker c1820. MetMuseum

Sash of pink and white embroidered satin ribbon. Necklace, red cornelian and pearl. Gloves of white kids, shoes, white gros de Naples.

A wreath of roses confines the hair, which is in ringlets, as in the reign of Charles II and presented to our admiration in the beautiful paintings of Vandyke.

Below, although from slightly later, we can see the ringlet styled hair.

Wyatt, Henry; A Regency Lady; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum. c1828

Court Dress

This elegant robe and petticoat were made for a lady of high rank and taste, as a presentation dress at the palace of Holyrood. It is of pale blue silver lama, over a blue satin slip; thus, combining Scotland’s national colour of blue and white, now so prevalent among the leaders of haut ton; the waist is of that graceful length which cultivate taste has adopted, and which we hope will long be retained. The stomacher is of silver vandykes: a double row extends over the shoulders and back, united by silver roses. The sleeve is short, and of novel construction, consisting of dozens of rows of silver vandyke trimming, separated by blue satin pipings; confined by a silver band round the arm, and finished with the same trimming. The tucker is fine blond lace. The robe and petticoat have an elegant border of large roses, of blue gofre crape (crepe) and silver, half encircle with thistles, which form a kind of radii, giving lightness and effect to the trimming, which is edged with a silver wave, and finished with loped gofre crape. The headdress is of diamonds, with a superb plume of ostrich feathers. Necklace and earrings of diamonds and sapphires. White kid gloves; white satin shoes, with blue and silver roses.

General observations

Silk pelisses were vey much in vogue with summer hues moving into more autumnal shades. Waists remained long; tight back are rather more worn that full ones. Shawls and Spencer’s remained the fashion of the day. Bonnets remained of a moderate size. The cambric muslin capotes worn in dishabille began to replace the straw bonnets. Flowers remained the order of the day with them often being seen around the edges of small bonnets.

The colours most in favour were lemon, shades of green, lavender and deep rose.

Patrick Colquhoun on the criminal code relating to capital offences in the UK compared with that which prevailed in Austria

I am once again, delighted to welcome back a now regular guest to All Things Georgian, the historian, Mr R M Healey. Today his article is about Patrick Colquhoun on the criminal code relating to capital offences in the UK compared with that which prevailed in Austria.

unknown artist; Patrick Colquhoun (1745-1820); Thames Police Museum

One of the best-known facts about life in Georgian England was that so many seemingly minor crimes were punishable by death. From stealing goods worth a few shillings, to forgery, with many minor infractions in between, murdering someone was not the only crime that attracted the death penalty.

The famous magistrate (for Middlesex, Surrey, Kent and Essex) and commentator on the penal code, Patrick (later Sir Patrick) Colquhoun, devoted a good deal of his best-selling Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis to the question on whether the death penalty for seemingly trivial offences was justified.

Colquhoun’s Treatise (5th edition of 1797) is essential reading for anyone who wants to know what dangers lay in store for offenders, sometimes driven by poverty and desperation, to steal, lie and forge. But Colquhoun was a reformer, not a hanger and flogger.

He sought remedies for the prevention of crimes, and he saw the irrationality of executing someone for stealing property worth a certain amount. To show just how harsh the punishments were for comparatively minor violations he listed all those offences which carried the death penalty. Here is a selection of the most iniquitous:

Forgery of deeds, bonds, bills, notes etc., bankrupts not surrendering, or concealing their effects, house breaking in the day time, shop lifting above five shillings, stealing above 40 shillings in any house, stealing linen &c from bleaching grounds or destroying the linen therein, stealing horse, cattle or sheep, breaking down the head of a fish pond, whereby fish may be lost, maiming or killing cattle maliciously, stealing woollen cloth from tenter grounds, uttering counterfeit money ,servants purloining their masters’ goods to the value of 40 shillings, robbery of  the mail, cutting down trees in an avenue, sending threatening letters, riots by twelve or more and not dispersing in an hour after proclamation, sacrilege, destroying turnpikes or bridges, gates, weighing engine locks, sluices, concealing the death of a Bastard child…

 Of course, it did not follow that those convicted of some of the most trivial of these offences paid the ultimate penalty. When the Annual Register recorded the monthly county reports of those convicted of capital crimes it invariably declared that most offenders were reprieved. We can surmise that perhaps only those convicted of murder, large-scale forgery, coining, arson, highway robbery and serious housebreaking, to name but a few heinous crimes, were hanged.

Bizarrely, certain offences, though seemingly as serious, or more serious, than the crimes listed by Colquhoun, did not carry the death penalty, but were merely punishable by ‘transportation, whipping, imprisonment, the pillory and hard labour in houses of correction, according to the nature of the offence.’ These included ripping and stealing lead, iron, copper, &c, or buying or receiving, assaulting with intent to rob, stealing children with their apparel, stealing fish from a pond or river, bigamy, manslaughter and killing without malice.

by D.P. Pariset, after Pierre-Étienne Falconet, stipple engraving, circa 1768-1769. © National Portrait Gallery, London

However, most lawmakers agreed that the crime which most deserved the noose was forgery. The Georgian period saw a number of high profile forgery cases involving eminent men. These included Dr William Dodd, the high-living ‘macaroni parson’ who Dr Johnson failed to save from the gibbet in 1777; the celebrated ‘Engraver to the King’ and inventor of stipple, William Wynne Ryland, who tried to defraud the East India Company and was hanged in 1783; and finally, the banker Henry Fauntleroy who in 1824 became the last person to die on the gallows for the crime of forgery.

Colquhoun then compared the legal code instituted by Emperor Joseph II of Austria that related to murder, manslaughter and other violent offences, with that which prevailed in the United Kingdom.

In Austria not one offence was punishable by death, though in some cases, the alternative punishment, which might involve being chained up for thirty years, sometimes without proper food, could have seemed a far worse experience—a sort of living death. Here are some of the offences and the punishments they carried.


Imprisonment not less than 15, nor more than 30 years…When a criminal is condemned to severe imprisonment, he has no bed but the floor, no nourishment but bread and water, and all communication wit