Today we’re following on from the previous article by R. M Healey with some more places in London to enjoy dining in the 18th century.
Windsor Castle, Richmond.
Long has this house been in estimation. Rigby, who often formerly used to bait here, en tête-à-tête, used to say “ that further up you may fare worse! “. The apartments are all spacious, and the view from behind a most luxurious landscape! Good eels, good fowls, and good venison, are found here. The various courses are all served up in style, and there is not a wine but what is of the highest flavour, and best quality. The stables too are excellent in equestrian accommodation; and that is no secondary consideration with a man of feeling, who feeds his horse himself, while the cuisineur is preparing his own feed. The charge is by no means extortionate, and there is as grateful a fair hair’d curtsey at the bar to be had for a shilling as for a guinea. In the left front parlour is a room befitting even Middleton himself. It was lined by India, at least in painting—the panels were formed for the room, and then sent out for Asiatic gilding!
Three Tuns, Strand.
The fragments of royalty smoke here; and smoke, too, in additionalperfume. It is a royal larder. Besides this luxurious conveniency, every choice article is to be had in season. The expence being tacked to the bill of fare, is no inconsiderable invitation to sit down. Bricklayers in their bills manage it otherwise. If Mr Hodd says that your demand is to cost ten pounds, it is ten to one that it will be thirty. The Lord Mayor himself cannot deny this. As for the Tuns, both upstairs and down stairs, all is activity, civility and good service too; nor should the company pass unnoticed, who though motley, are generally accomplished ; and where is the man of sense that would not choose his company before his food? As to the bill, it is very moderate.
Below we have a snippet about a young man who couldn’t pay for his meal at the Three Tuns:
Walker’s, the Assembly Rooms, Blackheath.
This tavern is very pleasantly situated on the Heath. The prospect to the north is rich, variegated and delightful; and this must certainly please the Scotch Golf Club, that when they look towards home from hence, it is viewing Thule in idea, through the most grand and attractive medium. The prospect to the south is not half so charming. It seems only a pleasing waste, not from sterility, but from the folly of continuing waste-grounds in a fertile country, mainly because we are free to do as absurd actions as we please. This liberal policy is a determined, though not rooted enmity against the wants of man. Why does not our patriot minister make all England yield that equal burthen which nature has intended?
As to Walker’s, they dress very good dinners. It is an excellent house for turbot. The Kentish Dispensary, it would appear, know this truism; for besides its being a centrical (sic) house for their dinners, it is an excellent and a reasonable house for making out a bill. All guests know that when a house is unreasonable, however wise it may appear in it’s (sic) own eyes, it ought either to be sent to Bridewell or Bedlam. Moderate profits, ready attendance and good cheer can only ensure business; and these recommendations, it may be with truth affirmed, are the characteristics of the Blackheath Assembly Rooms.
The Virginia, Newman’s Court, Cornhill.
This house is much frequented by ship carpenters, and ship brokers. Dinners are very well served up at 15d a head. Rural city merchants, that is, those who sleep in the country, generally dine here. The entertainment is good, and the charge moderate. As to the mistress at the bar, she is very obliging; she is as prolific in curtseys as a Frenchwoman, and as prolific in issue as a rabbit.
Mill’s, Gerrard Street, Soho
This house is remarkable for good red port, and good spirits. They dress dinners and suppers in style —and the breakfast are very comfortable. Several intelligent gentlemen, stricken in years, are it’s constant guests, and the conversation is both pleasing and instructive. The charges are indeed very reasonable, and the attention prompt and agreeable. It is celebrated for being the very first house that reduced the prices of wines and spirits, after the commencement of the French treaty.
Batson’s Coffee House, near ‘Change.
This is the English emporium for the Russian trade. The Baltic ships are regularly filed here. It is the great commercial mart, and city lounge for the Thornton’s. No dinners are dressed. Opulent and elegant clubs meet here. It is the coffee-house patron of Sunday schools. The ladies at the bar Flood their customers with good spirits, good coffee, and good looks. As to their proof brandy, it serves as excellent fur cloaks to the Russian captains.
Bull and Bush, North-End, Hampstead.
The bon-vivants for several miles around meet here every Friday. There is a very pleasant garden, in the midst of which is a bush, that can accommodate a dozen people to dinner. The rooms are cheerful, and the prospect, altho’ confined, is neatly rural, and somewhat romantic. Every article, both in eating and drinking is of the very best quality; and it being without the vortex of common Sunday pedestrians, it is a most delightful recess on that day as well as others. The bill is conscionable, and the service speedy.
The Windsor Castle inn seems to have disappeared.
Today, there are a couple of inns named The Three Tuns in the Strand area, but the one flourishing in 1788, appears to have gone.
The Assembly Rooms in Blackheath have long disappeared, but The Royal Blackheath Golf Club, ancestor of the Blackheath Golf Club, still exists, though it has now moved to Eltham. This ‘Scotch Golf Club’ had its HQ at the Greenwich end of the heath. Although it could trace its origins to 1608, when Scottish courtiers based at Greenwich Palace practiced their skills on the nearby heath, it was formally established in the mid eighteenth century. The scathing reference to the free market ( ie ‘ liberal’) practice of concentrating waste-grounds in ‘ fertile ‘Blackheath reveals a sensibility towards the environment that was surely ahead of its time. The Kentish Dispensary was, like the voluntary hospitals of the period, a source of drugs and medical care that was funded by voluntary subscriptions. It’s good to discover that the tradition of City bankers living opulently in the shires and commuting into the square mile each morning was alive in the late eighteenth century, though the absence of a railway network in 1788 meant that the country in this period probably meant Edmonton, Woodford or Clapham, all villages that could be reached by a fast coach from the City. Soho continued to be a refuge for ‘intelligent gentlemen, stricken in years ‘where good conversation could be had right up to the early nineteen seventies. Alas, that reputation is no more. We confess to being perplexed by the references to the Thorntons and Flood, but perhaps historians of London will know more. According to a writer in the Connoisseur magazine for 1754 Batson’s was where physicians met their clients. Food is still served at the famous Old Bull and Bush, and according to the deputy manager, there was once a bush in the garden. However, she could give no information on when it disappeared or whether it could once accommodate several customers.
When we’re looking for somewhere to dine out, we often use a website, such as Trip Advisor (others available, of course), but did you know that something similar existed in the 18th century? Well, today’s guest, who I am delighted to welcome, is historian and biographer R. M Healey. He has also written and contributed to many books, journals, newspapers and magazines, during a long and varied life, including working in various museums and art galleries in the UK. With that, I’ll hand over to him to share some of these reviews with you.
Reviews of eating and drinking establishments are rare in any newspapers and magazines of the Georgian era. However, the idea was taken up in 1815 by the journalist George Rylance in his very extensive survey, The Epicure’s Almanack, a recent edition of which was edited by Janet Ing Freeman.
Here is a selection of the best descriptions of eating and drinking resorts taken from a ‘Review of Taverns, Inns, Coffee Houses and Genteel Eating Houses’ published anonymously in the New London Magazine in July and August 1788. Oddly, although she pays tribute to the many manifestations of similar reviews in earlier books on London, Ms Freeman neglects to mention this particular magazine’s earlier survey.
Brentford Eights, an island in the Thames off Brentford
This is rendered famous for pitch-cock eels. It is likewise celebrated for a very favourite Dutch dish called Vater Zuchee. This dish is composed of perch, parsley-roots and vinegar, served up in a deep dish, with slices of bread and butter. The visitors of the Eights, in gormandising this dish, have no occasion for any other knives and forks than what nature has given them. It is common to eat with digits only.
If any stripling of fortune, whether a coxswain of a barge, or the supercargo of a post chaise, wishes to be indulged, he may be served here with zouchee to the amount of eight shillings a head.
Marlborough Coffee-House, Bond Street
Lord George Gordon used to say that this house was excellent for good fish. Do they purchase it off Philips—the Carnaby-market Cat—the best of all anglers? The frequenters are fashionable, the fare is of the best quality, nor can ever the guests repine at summing up the total of their entertainment.
New Spring Gardens, Chelsea
This is a foreign house where indeed, to do them justice, they dress all kinds of French dishes remarkably well. They have very good French and Portuguese wines. Their tevel is delicate and their red port strong and genuine, without the fiery aid of British brandy. This house is a bumper every Sunday, in the tea and ordinary style. The prospect from the pleasure ground is perhaps the richest rural view of any. In the fore-ground are the verdant lawns of Pimlico. In the side and backgrounds, St James’s Park, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s stand proudly pre-eminent. The service is neat, the entertainment good, the bill very moderate indeed! Excepting in rich eating and rich drinking, it is a complete rus in urbe.
Guildhall Coffee- House, King Street, Cheapside.
Frequented by all classes of luxurious citizens. Aldermen, Deputies, Common Councilmen, Gentlemen of the Long Robe attending the Courts, with a variety of others whose interest in pleasure leads them near the city senate. Here you may lodge and board —or you may dine in private, aux prix raisonable. Rich soup is made here in the season, which the lawyers devour as eagerly as their briefs. The Port is good and the Sherry most excellent. It is, indeed, pretty plentifully distributed to the neighbouring cits*. Sometimes the lawyers and common council gill it in a morning; and Pownall’s cellar has caused many a citizen’s question to be carried, and many a doubtful cause to be won. The address of Mr Pownal, and the attention of Mr Pugh give pleasure to all it’s (sic) visitants. The bill is very moderate.
Red Lion Inn, Hounslow.
A good house for post-chaises, good horses and good beds. There are two gardens belonging to it that are very pleasant for a solitary or a tête-à-tête walk. The larder is not variegated, but what it contains is of the prime. The port wine is good, and the tea and coffee excellent, nor should the clotted cream be forgotten. It is unadulterated, although chalk may be had very reasonable. The bill is very moderate for the western road, and the attendance prompt and pleasing.
Spread Eagle, Strand.
Long noted among the society of the humorous and intelligent. The rooms are here remarkably spacious. Indeed, they are in stile. As to the bill of fare, it abounds with every article in the season, from a mutton chop to a bustard or John-dory. The wines are all pure and well flavoured. If there be any preferable to others, it is the sherry and the port. The master and waiters are as civil and patient at four in the morning as at eight in the evening; and the prices of the various articles are very moderate.
Pitch-cock eels are here in the utmost perfection. Being in the vicinity of the palace, it is ever frequented in the summer months, by the great, the dissipated and the inquisitive. The apartments are airy, the bill of fare is rich and diversified. The wines are all excellent. If the bill appears stretched sometimes, strangers cannot much repine, as they have always the best of everything for their money, and likewise the utmost alacrity of attention. The guests would rather pay a guinea at the Toy, from experience, that fifteen shillings for the same fare any where contiguous.
Click on the highlighted link which will take you to Part Two
Today, young and monied men about town will no longer find local fish dishes being served on Brentford Ait, a long, narrow island in the Thames, lying opposite Kew Gardens and Brentford High Street, which is now just a greensward. However, Eel Pie Island, further downstream off Twickenham, got its name by offering similar fishy fare in Victorian times and became a trendy hot spot in the swinging sixties. Incidentally, it is slightly worrying to read that parsley root was an ingredient in Zucher Zee. Back in 1788, when the Thames was less polluted, the deadly poisonous Hemlock Water Dropwort (cicuta virosa) would have grown profusely along its banks; and in the annals of toxicology there are numerous cases of ignorant people mistaking the roots of this dangerous plant for parsnips. Many died horrible deaths. Let’s hope no cooks on the Brentford ‘Eights’ made the same mistake.
*A cit in Georgian slang was a ‘townsman ‘who traded. We would certainly like to know more about Philips, the ‘Carnaby-market cat’.
Not surprisingly, all of the eateries described have long vanished, although some of the buildings have survived. The Red Lion in Hounslow High Street, which Dickens knew, was flourishing (much changed) at least until the 1930s. It is now a Barclays bank. The original Toy inn, possibly dating from the time of Henry VIII, once stood close to the Hampton Court palace gates, where one of its regular customers was King William the Third. In The Epicure’s Handbook (1815) the Toy is described as being ‘on a larger scale than the King’s Arms, and the charges, we believe, are rather higher, but the fare is such to leave you no shadow of cause to repine at the expence ‘. By 1840, however, it had become ruinous, and it that year was reconstructed, relocated and renamed ‘Ye Old Toye’. It was still doing business until recently, but now seems to have closed.
Eagle Tavern and Coffee House near Somerset House formerly Bath and Liverpool Hotel. YCBA
When people marry today, they can choose where they marry, be it a religious building, registry office or even by taking their vows whilst sky diving and anywhere in between, as long as an officiating officer is present.
In the Georgian period marriages had to take place in a religious venue, presided over by a religious official, unless you chose to elope over the border to Gretna Green, Scotland.
Forthcoming marriages were usually announced by banns read out in church. If the couple wanted more privacy, then they would apply for a Marriage Licence, which, if you could afford it, could be purchased for a whole variety of reasons such as – they were in a hurry as the bride being pregnant or that the couple were of different social standings, so perhaps a master marrying his servant, or there was a large age gap. There may have been opposition from the family, or the parties may have been of different religions. It could even have been that they had married overseas and wanted it to be legitimatised by the Church of England. Paying for a licence made it a quicker and easier option.
According to the Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical, marriages could only take places between the hours of 8am and midday. So perhaps with a marriage licence you would opt for the earliest time available, so you could simply ‘tie the knot‘ and slip away without anyone noticing.
Usually there were only one or two marriages per day in London churches, far less in local parish churches, but on extremely rare occasions as many as 8 could take place, but this would have made each one an extremely hurried affair, literally giving the couple enough time to make their vows and leave in order to allow the next wedding to take place. Not ideal nor romantic, in my opinion.
I was recently reading about the life story of the Scottish poet and ballad writer, David Love, who, although Scottish, spent much of his life in Nottingham, when I came across some details of his first marriage which took place in Scotland and he described how different marriage in Scotland was, compared to England.
In David’s own words:
Marriages in Scotland are not performed as is done in England, there is no ring put on the bride’s finger, no repeating of words after the minister, no common prayer book to read out of, nor any form of words till the minister bids them join their hands; the minister then says “Are you willing to have this woman to be your wedded wife” he bows as a token of his willingness: then he says to the woman “Are you willing to have this man to be your wedded husband” she makes a courtesy; the minister then says “ the presence of God and these witnesses I pronounce you man and wife, for whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” The minister then begins with an exhortation concerning the marriage-state, how each is to behave, respecting their duty to one another, concluding with prayers suitable to the occasion.
Today, the tradition is to throw the wedding bouquet, David tells us though, that in his time, the tradition was to throw one of stockings of the bride. Then the process was repeated by the groom. (Hmm, I’m not so sure that throwing a man’s sock today would be seen as lucky though!)
Having read David’s account, I thought I would take a look at some of the other wedding customs of the Georgian period.
I came across this interesting piece in the Carlisle Journal, October 1846 which explains some of the tradition practised in the north of England (a similar article also appeared previously in 1823).
Marriage ceremonies in the north of England – The day of marriage has always been, and it is to be hoped, in spite of disconsolate old maids and love-crossed bachelors, will ever continue to be, a time of festivity.
Among the rustics in Cumberland, the is plentiful music, dancing and revelry. Early in the morning, the bridegroom, attended by his friends on horseback, proceeds in a gallop to the house of the bride’s father. Having alighted, he salutes her, and then the company breakfast together. The repast concluded, the whole nuptial party depart in cavalcade order towards the church, accompanied by a fiddler, who plays a succession of tunes appropriate to the occasion. Immediately after the performance of the ceremony, the company retire to some neighbouring ale house, and many a flowing bumper of home brewed is quaffed to the health of the happy pair. Animate with this earthy nectar, they set off at full speed towards the future residence of the bride, where a handkerchief is presented to the first who arrives.
In some of the country villages in the county of Durham, after the connubial knot is tied, a ribbon is proposed as the subject of contention, either for a foot or a horse race, supposed to be a delicate substitute for the bride’s garter, which used to be taken off while she knelt at the altar; and the practice being anticipated, the garter was generally found to do credit to her taste and skill in needlework.
In Craven, where this singular sport also prevails, whoever first reaches the bride’s habitation is ushered into the bridal chamber and having performed the ceremony of turning down the bedclothes, returns, carrying in his tankard of warm ale, previously prepared, to meet the bride, to whom he triumphantly offers his humble beverage, and by whom, in return, he is presented with the ribbon, as the honourable reward of his victory.
Riding for the kail
Another ancient marriage ceremony of the same sort, still observed in the remote parts of Northumberland, is that of ‘riding for the kail’, where the party, after kissing the bride, set off at full speed on horseback to the bridegroom’s, the winner of the race receiving the kail(today, written as kale), or dish of spice broth, as the chief prize.
The wedding ring
I have no idea whether there is any truth in this one from the Cheltenham Chronicle October 1815, but I do like it.
This custom was introduced by the ancients, who used to present their mistresses with a ring, meaning thereby to express as a ring has no end, so there shall be no end of that love which is necessary to constitute connubial felicity; and it was put upon the fourth finger of the left hand because anatomists affirm, that there is a vein in it having direct conveyance to the heart, which is the source of love and affection.
It was also custom to that ring was directed first to be put on the thumb, afterwards the second, then upon the third and lastly on the fourth finger, where it would remain. The Perthshire Courier of September 1824, also stated:
Married women are so rigid, not to say superstitious, in the notion concerning their wedding rings, that neither when they wash their hands, nor at any other time, will they displace it from this finger, extending, it should seem, the expression of ‘till death do us part’ even to this golden circlet, the token and pledge of matrimony.
I have previously written about wedding cakes and you find more about the first tiered wedding cake, by clicking on this link.
The bridal party after leaving the church repair to a neighbouring inn, where a thin currant cake, marked in squares, though not entirely cut through, is ready against the bride’s arrival. Over her head is spread a clean linen napkin; the bridegroom standing behind the bride, breaks the cake over her head, which is thrown over her and scrambled for by the attendants.
This sounds potentially rather messy, I would have thought, so perhaps not one for today’s brides given the cost of today’s wedding dresses.
The bridal pie was so essential a dish on the dining table after the celebration of the marriage, that there was no prospect of happiness without it. This was always made round, with a very strong crust, ornamented with various devices. In the middle of it was a fat, laying hen, full of eggs, probably intended as an emblem of fertility, which was also garnished with minced and sweet meats. It would have been deemed an act of neglect or rudeness if any of the party omitted to partake of it. And on this occasion, it was the etiquette for the bridegroom always to wait upon the bride, from whence it is supposed the term bridegroom took its origin.
According to the Morning Post, December 1815:
Honey moon – it was the custom of the higher order of Teutonics, an ancient people who inhabited the northern parts of German, to drink mead, or Metheglin, a beverage made with honey, for thirty days after every wedding. From this custom comes the expression “to spend the Honey Moon”.
As usual, to find out what the fashionable woman of the 1820’s should be seen wearing in the summer of 1822, ‘The Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics’, comes to the rescue. Needless to say, for the fashion conscious woman two outfits were needed, one for the day and one for the evening.
The morning dress is composed of colonnade stripe muslin, worked round the bottom to correspond with the stripe, and trimmed with four narrow worked flounces, the upper one finished with a double row of cord. The body fastens behind, plain and high, but a little open towards the throat; trimmed with the same delicate work that decorates the cape, in which there are two rows, separated by a puffing of plain book-muslin, through which a lilac ribbon is drawn. The cape is square at the shoulder, where it finishes; but the upper row of trimming is continued to the bottom of the waist, adding to the gracefulness of the form.
The sleeve is worked at the end and tied with lilac ribbon at the wrist; above which, the work is arranged in a double angle trimmed, from each of which is suspended a small cord tassel. The cap is elegantly simple, of the cottage form, and composed of beautiful India worked muslin and Mechlin lace, tastefully decorated with fancy lilac ribbon. Shoes, lilac kid.
Round dress, of delicately stripped net, over a white satin slip; the bottom of the dress extended by a double rouleau of rich white satin; above which are elegant festoons, arranged transversely, of puffed crepe lisse, confined diagonally by three narrow rouleau’s of white satin, and finished at the top with small clusters of the blue convolvulus. The corsage displays the chastest taste, cut round, and edged with a quilling of the finest tulle; the stomacher is formed of four rows of six minute folds of white satin, net appearing between each row. The tasteful trimming round the back, over the shoulder, and uniting with the stomacher to the bottom of the waist, is composed of short rows of folded satin, separated by the net at equal distances, and edged with blond, of a rich and elegant pattern. The sleeve short and full, confined by convolvuluses and divisions of small folded satin, which is again intersected by cheveronels. Head dress, turban of cerulean blue and white crepe lisse, and two white ostrich feathers. The hair parted in front, and elegant ringlets on each side. White satin shoes, long white kid gloves. Necklace and ear-rings of pearl and cornelian.
General observations on fashion and dress
It is Brighton, Cheltenham etc that we must now resort for an account of the prevailing modes among the fair votaries of fashion. We find that muslin robes made in the style of pelisses are a good deal worn for the morning promenade: the one which we are about to described is the most novel that we have seen: it is an open dress composed of cambric muslin; the skirt is of an easy fulness and less gored than they have been worn lately; the waist is the usual length; the back full, and the fulness confined by a row of points, which cross each other, and fasten in the middle of the back by buttons; the points are edged with embroidery.
The sleeve is nearly tights to the arm; and it is finished at the hand to correspond with the back, but the points are small. The collar falls over, it is rounded at the corners, and terminates in a point in the middle of the back. The trimming, which is very deep, and goes all round, is formed of clear muslin let in in a wreath of leaves; between each of the windings of the wreath is a small rose, also of clear muslin.
Silk pelisses are likewise in favour for the more advanced part of the day, and spencers are very fashionable. A good many of the latter button behind and are ornamented in front either with braiding and brandenburgs, or else with the same material as the spencer, disposed in various ways.
If the trimming be of brandenburgs, the half-sleeve, which is always full, is interspersed with them. These spencers are made in general without collars and are worn either with a lace falling collar or a ruff. We have seen a spencer composed on white lace, and lined with coloured sarsnet, of a very novel and pretty description; the lining was of lemon colour; the back was formed by a row of small silk buttons on each side and had a little fulness at the bottom of the waist. A short lace jacket, composed of three falls, gives the spencer a very jaunty air.
The kind of bonnet which the French capote, is a good deal in favour for the morning walk, but then it is always worn with muslin dresses. It is composed of cambric muslin, in some instances with embroidery, but not in general and has rarely any embroidery.
Silk bonnets are fashionable, but not so much as those that are transparent. Toques and turban are in favour in full dress, but not so much as head dresses en cheveaux.
Here in the Morning Post we can see an example of a London store which stocked Mechlin lace, so fabrics were readily available for seamstresses.
Here in this portrait of Henrietta Howard, c1724, we can see how fashions evolved over the 100 years.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian, Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. to tell us more about a fascinating portrait by George Romney housed at DACOR Bacon House, Washington D.C.
An oil portrait by George Romney graces the second-floor dining room of the historic DACOR Bacon House at 1801 F Street, N.W., Washington, DC. It is one of the very few Romney paintings found in the US, and you won’t find it on the internet. The portrait, hanging above the sideboard, is the focal point in a room furnished with exquisite antiques. It is Romney’s portrait of Lady Augusta Murray, holding her infant son, Augustus Frederick d’Este.
Unlike Romney’s many famous paintings of Lady Emma Hamilton, the portrait of Lady Murray is obscure, familiar mainly to those who frequent the DACOR Bacon House and know something of the mansion’s history. On the other hand, like Emma, and many of Romney’s female subjects, Lady Murray is portrayed in a charming manner. With dark curls encircling her face, she looks directly at the viewer with a tilt of her head and a shy, captivating smile. She wears a white, short-sleeved, high-collared dress and a turban. The boy, in a white frock, gazes into the distance, somewhere behind the viewer.
The DACOR Bacon House, the woman who owned the house and the portrait, and the portrait itself, all have complex histories that make for rich and fascinating tales of the Georgian Era and beyond, reaching into the twentieth century. Here are those interrelated stories.
The DACOR Bacon House
Built in 1825, the DACOR Bacon House is an architectural treasure; one of the best-preserved nineteenth-century, Federal-style landmarks in Washington DC. Just a short distance from the White House, the Capitol building, and the Supreme Court, the venue can boast almost two centuries of connections to the influential and the powerful who have conducted the nation’s domestic and foreign affairs.
To enter the house is to walk in the footsteps of presidents, justices, governors, senators, diplomats, military leaders, and dignitaries who lived there or visited to attend dinners, balls, receptions, and musicales. As a family home and sometime boarding house, the structure has been the residence of a diplomat, a US Marshall, Supreme Court justices, an heiress and one-time English countess, and a New York congressman, as well as social and cultural leaders. The house is named after Congressman Robert Low Bacon, and his wife, Virginia Murray Bacon, who owned the house from 1925 until her death in 1980.
Today the stately, four-story, beautifully appointed mansion is the headquarters of the Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired foundation, known as DACOR, a non-profit educational and cultural institution dedicated to excellence in the field of international understanding and discourse in shaping US public policy. The foundation hosts meetings, dinners, receptions, and conferences for discussions of literature, history, and topics related to and bearing directly on current foreign affairs. The National Trust for Historic Preservation holds an easement to preserve the property and structure for future generations.
The property on which the house sits was once part of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Census records show that it was a farm tract owned by David Burnes who emigrated from Scotland in 1721. Burnes expanded his holdings to encompass much of the area that would eventually become Washington, DC. Upon his death, the land passed to his son, James, who expanded the holdings, and eventually, in 1772, to his grandson, David Burnes II, who served as a lieutenant in the War for American Independence. In 1790, Congress established a federal city on the banks of the Potomac River. Within the following year, Burnes sold a portion of his holdings to the newly formed federal government. That land today forms a segment of the Washington Mall and the south half of the White House grounds.
David Burnes II retained the remaining portion of his land that had become situated in the District of Columbia. When he died in 1800, his property passed to his teenaged daughter, Marcia Brown Burnes. In 1802, her guardian, John Oakley, sold three lots of the property to William Hammond Dorsey, a prominent member of the nearby Georgetown community and a judge of the Orphan’s Court of Washington County, Maryland.
Subsequently, the remaining property passed through additional owners. Respectively, they were: Jacob Wagner, chief clerk of the Department of State and the owner of the Federal Republican newspaper; Tobias Lear V, former private secretary to George Washington and, afterward, a US diplomat serving under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; and Mr. Tench Ringgold, US Marshall for the District of Columbia, appointed by President James Monroe.
In 1824, Ringgold built a three-story, Federal-style house on the property with borrowed money (from his daughter, Sarah) and slave labour. He added two outbuildings; a storage/gardening shed and a carriage house.
Ringgold was well-placed socially. He attended the inaugural ball for President John Quincy Adams in May 1825. He befriended Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams who both died in 1826, as did Ringgold’s wife, Mary, with whom he had five children. In keeping with local custom, the Ringgold’s opened their home as a boarding house to non-resident, government officials. Chief Justice John Marshall and numerous associate justices and their clerks boarded at the Ringgold home. Former President Monroe and his wife were guests in 1829 and 1830.
When President Andrew Jackson took office in 1831, he dismissed Ringgold from his post as US Marshall, despite Ringgold’s strenuous objections. Ringgold fell into financial difficulties and defaulted on the loan, urging Sarah and her husband, John M. Thomas, to foreclose on the property and take ownership. The Thomas’s held possession from 1833 to 1835, when they sold the house to Samuel Sprigg.
Sprigg, born about 1783, was a wealthy landowner. He was married to Violetta Lansdale with whom he had two children. He was the first governor of Maryland, a position he held until December 1822. At his death in 1855, his estate was valued at $50,000, including 61 slaves. He bought the house as a residence for his daughter, Sally, and her husband William Thomas Carroll, who was a Supreme Court clerk appointed by Chief Justice John Marshall, a position he held for 36 years. The F Street house, known as the Sprigg-Carroll House, stayed in Sprigg’s name until his death, when it went in trust to his daughter. During the Carroll’s occupancy, the house underwent expansion and many renovations to include connections to city’s new water and sewer system in the 1860s.
The Carroll’s enjoyed affluence and social prominence. They entertained lavishly and spent summers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. They had four daughters and three sons, two of whom died in childhood. The daughters all married well. The surviving son was an officer in the Union Army, wounded during the Civil War, retiring as a major-general.
William Carroll died in 1863 at age 61. Sally Carroll remained in the house until her death in 1895 at age 81. Her son-in-law and executor to her will then sold the house to Mary Ellen (Mollie) Fuller, the second wife of Melville Weston Fuller, Chief Justice to the Supreme Court, nominated by President Grover Cleveland in 1888. The Fuller family lived at the mansion for 14 years, enlarging and modernizing the living spaces and outbuildings.
The Fullers were a fixture of Washington high society. They entertained with grand fetes and, as the Chief Justice aged, small dinner parties for close friends. Justice Fuller also opened his home to weekly conferences with associate justices. The family spent the summers in Maine, where, in 1904, Mollie died of a heart attack. Justice Fuller died in 1910, replaced by Chief Justice Edward D. White, grandson of Tench Ringgold, who built the house on F. Street.
In 1911, a new owner took residence. Alice Copely Thaw was one of 10 children born to William Thaw, a wealthy capitalist who left a fortune to his heirs upon his death in 1889. In 1903, she married George Francis Alexander (Seymour), Earl of Yarmouth and relocated to England. When the marriage failed in 1908, she returned to the US, bought the mansion in 1911, and retained ownership until 1923. She continued remodelling and improvements, to include installing electricity throughout the house. In 1912, she married Geoffrey Whitney, a broker from New York. The Whitney’s moved to New York and rented the home on F Street to various tenants.
In 1923, the newly elected US congressman from New York’s First District, Robert Low Bacon, and his wife, Virginia Murray Bacon, rented the house. They bought it from Alice Thaw Whitney in 1925.
Virginia Murray Bacon
Virginia Murray was born in New York City in 1890. Her father’s family was descended from Scottish nobility; her great-great-grandfather was Lord John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia. He fled the colonies under protection of the Royal Navy. Subsequently, he became the royal governor of the Bahamas.
Her father, Henry Murray, was the son of an English diplomat. As a young man, Henry moved from England to Canada, and eventually to New York, where he found work with a securities firm. In 1889, he married Fannie Morris Babcock, an heiress from a family of wealthy landowners, soldiers, bankers, and businessmen. Henry Murray enjoyed a successful career in finance and the couple quickly rose to social prominence. The Murrays had three children. The eldest was Virginia, born in 1890.
Virginia Murray was beautiful, well-educated, and well-connected. Her marriage to Congressman Robert Bacon was the highlight of the New York social season. Born in 1884, Robert was the son of a successful banker, soldier, and diplomat. Robert, himself, was a Harvard graduate and successful banker who went into politics and served in the Army Officer Reserve Corps.
Virginia rapidly became a grand dame of Washington society. She hosted presidents, noted musicians, statesmen, and social leaders. She generously supported organizations concerned with world affairs and the arts. She was named to several boards and committees and received prestigious awards.
She remodelled the mansion and planted majestic trees in the garden, where she often hosted buffet luncheons during World War II, inviting weary officials to drop by, unannounced, for a midday respite. She filled the rooms with tasteful furniture, much of it imported from Europe and England, and objects of art, especially historic lithographs, and family portraits.
The Bacon House Foundation
Robert Bacon served eight terms and died in office in 1938 at age 54. His wife remained in residence until her death in 1980 at age 89. Prior to her death, she considered options for leaving the building to an organization that would preserve its history and character. She wanted the Bacon house to “enjoy a lively existence consistent with the interests and connections of its occupants through the years, and be characterized by dignity, taste and intelligence.” In 1975, she established the Bacon House Foundation to that end.
The foundation took ownership of the house, with a permanent deed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The foundation then purchased adjoining lots, razed the homes on these lots, and sold the lots to the Organization of American States for the organization’s headquarters and offices. In 1980, with Virginia Bacon’s blessing, the foundation partnered with DACOR and the DACOR Educational and Welfare Foundation, to convert the home, upon her demise, from a residence to offices and an educational center. The DACOR Bacon House merger was finalized in 1985.
The house and outbuildings have undergone extensive renovations since 1980. DACOR added a library and a collection of diplomatic memorabilia. Every effort has been made to give the home a nineteenth century atmosphere and to preserve the beautiful furnishings and works of art that once belonged to the Bacon family. One such piece is the Romney portrait of Lady Augusta Murray and her son.
The History of the Romney Painting
The Romney oil painting that hangs in the DACOR Bacon House dining room has a small, gold plaque mounted on the bottom of the frame that reads:
George Romney R.A. 1734 – 1802. Lady Augusta Murray, 2nd Daughter of the Fourth Earl of Dunmore. Married the Duke of Sussex. Holding on her lap her infant son Sir Augustus Frederick d’Este in white frock. Collection of Lord Truro.
Lady Augusta Murray (1768 – 1830) was the daughter of John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (hence, the connection to Virginia Murray Bacon, as described above). Her mother was Lady Charlotte Stewart, daughter of Alexander Stewart, 6th Earl of Galloway. She and Prince August Frederick (1773 – 1843), sixth son of King George III, met while he was a young man vacationing in Rome. They married in 1793 in a private ceremony in Rome in opposition to the Royal Marriage Act. They later married again in a religious ceremony in London, without revealing their true identities.
The royal family declared the marriage null and void. The couple remained together for eight years, producing two children: Augustus Frederick d’Este (1794 – 1848) and Augusta Emma d’Este (1801 – 1866). While the Romney painting is not dated, it was most likely painted in 1795 or 1796, in that the infant, Augustus Frederick, looks to be about 18 months old.
The couple parted company in 1801, when the prince grew frustrated with the monarch’s refusal to grant him a dukedom. The prince gave Augusta custody of the children, at which point she and the children took the surname d’Este (some sources say Ameland). In 1809, the prince took custody of the children, arranging a pension for his former wife. He became the Duke of Sussex.
After Augusta’s death, Prince Augustus married Lady Cecelia Buggin, daughter of the second Earl of Arron. Again, the marriage was contrary to the Royal Marriage Act. However, in 1837, Queen Victoria dubbed Lady Cecilia as Duchess of Inverness, granting a royal favor to her favourite uncle, and acquiring royal precedence for her consort, Prince Albert.
At age 18, the younger Augustus was commissioned in the Seventh Royal Fusiliers and fought in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Although he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, he was known for his unlikable, pretentious personality. He died in 1848, unmarried, with no heirs, and crippled by the first-ever diagnosed case of multiple sclerosis.
His sister, Emma, was the second wife to Thomas Wilde (1782 – 1855), 1st Baron Truro, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain 1850 – 1852, formerly the Solicitor General, Attorney General, and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. They married in 1845. She had no children. She inherited the Romney portrait of her mother and brother. Thus, it became part of the Truro Collection.
Little else is known about the portrait, until 1921, when Charles W. Schwab, a wealthy American industrialist, bought it at an auction in London. Three years after Schwab’s death in 1939, the portrait again came up for auction in New York. Virginia Bacon bought it and placed it in the second-floor dining room of her home at 1801 F Street, Washington, DC where it remains today.
The portrait delights all visitors who appreciate seeing one of the few works by Romney to be found in a private collection in the US.
Since Judith wrote this article I have been made aware that there has been some doubt as to the identity of the portrait, which led me to carry out some of my own research.
DACOR Bacon House understands it to be Lady Augusta Murray, as you can see on the plaque beneath it, and it was certainly believed to have been that of Lady Augusta Murray, when it was sold by auctioneers, Christie’s in 1900.
The portrait formed part of a collection belonging to the estate of the then, late Lord Truro. The painting achieved a mere 500 guineas in comparison to another portrait of her which sold for £3,800 guineas, some 6 years previously.
The Illustrated London News, 30 June 1900, included a copy of the portrait, as can be seen below:
The Morning Post described it thus:
Art historian, Dr Alex Kidson, who has recently produced the catalogue raisonné of Romney’s painting, did not include this portrait in his catalogue, as he did not believe it to be by Romney. Therefore, if not by Romney, then it would appear that more work needs to be carried out to ascertain who painted it.
The is another portrait of Lady Augusta by Romney which was sold back in the 1960’s and has since disappeared from public view, so if anyone knows where it is please do let me know.
William D. Calerhead, DACOR Bacon House. (Archetype Press, Inc. Washington, D.C. 1999)
A while ago I wrote about an article about the ‘scale of Bon Ton’ which was used to rank twelve high society ladies for their ‘virtues’. It was subsequently published in the Morning Post of 2 October 1776. Coming in at number 4 was Mrs Harriet Bouverie, one place above the famous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
I was then contacted by Avril Gilbert, who is a volunteer at Delapre Abbey in Northampton where Harriet Bouverie lived. During lockdown, Avril was part of a group that researched her life and she’s with us today to tell us more about their scandalous findings, but to begin with, we have a portrait of Harriet.
So who was Harriet, a mere ‘Mrs’ surrounded by five Duchesses, a Countess and three Ladies?
In Northampton, a group of volunteers at Delapré Abbey, the home of Harriet’s husband Hon Edward Bouverie, spent lockdown piecing together her life story and we think that the scandal we discovered makes for very interesting reading!
Harriet was born in 1750 to Sir Everard Fawkener and his wife Harriet Churchill. However, in 1758 Sir Everard died leaving his widow with a mass of debts. It was probably due to this that Harriet needed to marry at just fourteen. Whilst she had no wealth to offer a husband, Harriet certainly had the right family connections; through her mother’s line, she was related to the Churchills of Blenheim and connected to the Spencer’s of Althorp.
Harriet’s prospective husband was Mr Edward Bouverie, an eligible bachelor from a wealthy Huguenot refugee family.
Edward’s grandfather had purchased the title Viscount Folkestone and his older brother was the first Earl of Radnor. Although Edward did not have a title, his mother had left him her land and property in Northamptonshire and when neighbouring Delapré Abbey came up for sale, it was purchased, creating an estate of considerable size. All that he needed was a suitable bride, someone with the right connections.
On 17th June 1764, the twenty-six-year-old Hon. Edward Bouverie married the fourteen-year-old Harriet Fawkener by special license at St George’s Church in Hanover Square, Westminster.
Aged 16, Harriet fell pregnant and delivered Edward an heir, the healthy baby boy shown in the Reynolds portrait above. Over the next twenty-two years, Harriet had 7 more children, five daughters named Harriet, Frances, Mary Charlotte, Jane, and Diana, and two sons named John and Henry Frederick.
This is where the story gets really interesting! During our research, we discovered a letter written by Lady Louisa Stuart in 1802 which stated
Mrs Maxwell is the tell-tale Bouverie, for there never was such a perfect indisputable Spencer, Lord Robert’s walking picture, the very prettier creature that ever was seen.
We realised that Mrs Maxwell was Harriet’s fourth child, Mary Charlotte, who married William Maxwell Esq in 1799. This raised a number of questions:
Who was Lord Robert Spencer?
How did he and Harriet meet?
Was there any evidence of an affair?
What was Edward’s reaction?
If Robert was the father of Mary, which other Bouverie children did he father?
Robert was the youngest son of Charles Spencer, the third Duke of Marlborough who lived a very privileged life. Educated at Harrow then on to Christ Church College, Oxford, where he met and made a lifelong long friend, Charles James Fox. In 1766, Robert went on a grand tour arriving back in England in 1768 when he was ‘elected’ MP for Woodstock.
Harriet and Robert must have met at some point afterwards. By the 1770’s they were both key members of the Devonshire House ‘circle’, Robert a close relative of Georgiana and Harriet a member of Georgiana’s inner circle. (Edward also hovered somewhere in ‘the circle’).
Both Robert and Harriet shared a passion for Whig politics. Whilst researching her life, we uncovered the following in a letter dated 1793 written by Sylvester Douglas, Baron Glenbervie:
“Mrs Bouverie… looked very handsome and is still armed with a great deal of matron-like seduction….Lord Orford (Horace Wimpole) said a good, though very severe thing about her… Mrs Bouverie had been talking a great deal of democratical language and had declared that she hoped to see the time when there would be no overgrown fortunes, and when the poor would be in easy circumstances and the fine ladies would lay down their coaches and walk the streets.”
Had she been allowed to stand for Parliament, we would have voted for her!
However, Lord Orford went on to say:
“he had no doubt a great deal of regard for his relation Mrs Bouverie”, but that he “always thought she had turn for street walking”.
Ouch! Was he hinting at her adultery?
In 1784, Harriet and Robert must have spent a lot of time in each other’s company owing to the snap general election that was called. The ladies of the Devonshire House Circle were determined to get Robert’s great friend and fellow Whig, Charles James Fox, elected as MP for the Westminster constituency and they canvassed hard for him, perhaps even more so than the men!
Unfortunately, our research didn’t lead us to a love letter, but we did find further gossip about Harriet and Robert’s relationship in letters from the time.
Our earliest source was a letter from 1777 in which George Selwyn, a well-known gossip, mentioned that Robert, Edward and Harriet had been at Brighthelmstone together at the home of Lady Holland.
In November 1781, Selwyn wrote:
“Bob’s political tenants will be very tardy in remitting him their rents. but between Foley House and the run of Mrs Bouverie’s kitchen, with his own credit at Brookes’s and his shares in and an affinity to an opulent bank, and flourishing trade, he may find subsistence.”
Selwyn certainly knew that Robert was very well acquainted with Harriet!
Although a few years after the deaths of Harriet and Robert, in 1844 letters of the former celebrity gossip Beau Brummell were published. He wrote:
“Mrs Bouverie was a very attractive and engaging woman, and her conduct when living with Lord Robert, who was very constant to her, was in other respects so amiable and exemplary, that it elicited from Charles Fox, the paradoxical remark that “they made adultery respectable”.
In Brummell’s collection there was also this poem about Harriet written by Charles James Fox.
She loves the truth, though she lies till she’s black in the face;
She loves virtue, though none in her conduct you trace;
Her delicate feelings all wickedness shocks;
Though her lover’s Lord Robert, and her friend is Charles Fox!
Whilst we discovered much about Harriet and Robert, very little was written about Edward, perhaps because he was a very quiet man, never once speaking in all his years in Parliament.
We found a letter written in 1803 by the MP Thomas Creevey which stated that he had supped with Fox and the Whig leaders at Mrs Bouverie’s house and noted that Mrs Bouverie lived in tranquil amity with Lord Robert, Mr Bouverie raising no objection.
Brummell wrote that, sometime after her last child was born, Harriet “placed herself under the protection of Lord Robert”. This was not as harsh as it sounds. Harriet went to live with Robert, yet Edward still spent a lot of time with them both! A letter written in 1808 by Lady Lyttleton following a visit to Robert’s house at Woolbeding in Sussex revealed that Edward was there too and told us more about him:
“The honours of the house were done by Mrs Bouverie, a lady still very beautiful though past fifty, and who is in more than one sense the mistress of that abode. Her ill-fated husband, a poor old twaddler, was there too.”
Edward died in 1810 and a year afterwards, Harriet finally married Robert, the love of her life. They had a further fourteen years together before Harriet passed away in 1825. Robert lived on until 1831 and was buried next to Harriet in the grounds of All Hallows Church on his Woolbeding estate.
In Lady Lyttleton’s letter, she also wrote
“Papa saw several children playing about but thought it not prudent to inquire minutely into their heritage for fear of getting into some scrape.”
So how many of the children were Edward’s and how many were Robert’s? We know that Harriet fell pregnant with Edward, her first child, in 1767 whilst Robert was on his Grand Tour of Europe, so baby Edward was Edward’s legitimate son.
The first daughter, Harriet, was born in 1771 but we can’t be sure that the affair had started by then. Harriet married James St Clair, the Earl of Roslyn. Although she died before Robert, her husband James is mentioned in Robert’s will. Was that an acknowledgment of paternity?
Frances Bouverie never married. She died in1848 and was buried with Harriet and Robert at Woolbeding. Could she be Robert’s child?
Mary Charlotte, the tell-tale Bouverie, was highly likely to have been Robert’s child.
John Bouverie became the Rector of Woolbeding and was also buried with Harriet and Robert. Given that he was born after Mary, he probably was Robert’s child.
Jane Bouverie was born in 1781, so probably Robert’s.
Sir Henry Frederick Bouverie was born in 1783. At the time it was rumoured that he was Robert’s son, and he probably was. He was also mentioned in Robert’s will.
Diana Bouverie was definitely Robert’s child. What more evidence do you need than the fact that he left Woolbeding to her.
Earlier we mentioned the story of Lord Melbourne, a silent character who visitors to Devonshire House barely noticed, who once Lady Melbourne had presented him with an heir, allowed her the freedom to do and see whom she pleased. Perhaps this was the same for Edward; maybe once he had his heir, he allowed his young wife to follow her heart? We will leave you to make up your own minds!
If you would like to find out more about Delapre Abbey and the lives of the people who lived there, please click on this link.
Lynda A. O’Keeffe is a researcher/writer who lives between England and Ireland. She has contributed to numerous publications including History Ireland and various online publications including the Irish Literary Society. She has recently completed a historical novel about the life and works of John O’Keeffe and is currently writing a stage play about John’s extraordinary life reflecting the effect of blindness in shaping his work, and intends to write about Adelaide.
Lynda has joined me a couple of times now to share some of her research into the lives of John O’Keeffe, the blind playwright and his devoted daughter, Adelaide. Well, she’s back with lovely story about one of her discoveries – the gravestone of Adelaide. So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Lynda:
Under what guise would the intention of grave hunting be labelled? Some may say, curiosity, even morbid curiosity, familial research, genealogy or just the simple desire to reify a particular relationship?
In the case of Adelaide it was a stubborn desire to know more about an extraordinary woman. A woman who from the age of twelve years worked for forty five years as her blind father’s amanuensis, companion and carer. Although as his amanuensis she lived in the shadow of his playwright fame, she shone her own bright light in the books she authored. In 1833, Adelaide’s father died leaving the then fifty seven year old spinster alone and in poverty. She had declined offers of marriage to care for her father, and some may say, she sacrificed her entire life for him.
After her fathers death, Adelaide led a somewhat itinerant life, staying for short periods around the villages on the Sussex coastline. There are so many questions about the day to day circumstances of a woman who played an important and vital role in the education of children, yet as a person remained somewhat unknown and now forgotten. Like so many women in the 18th and 19th century, Adelaide must have battled hard for recognition in a gender biased society, were the employment of women was frowned upon.
Did the income from her writing provide periods of relief from her poverty, did she work as a governess, have friends to support her, and did she ever regret the sacrifices she made on account of her father’s disability? There is something there that demands respect and admiration for a woman living alone in a time that cannot be compared with life today.
Adelaide, her life and work is an enigma, with a thought and a whisper, Adelaide should have recognition. With so many unanswered questions, the quest to find her final resting place began. A quick trawl on Ancestry showed that she died in Brighton. On the 1861 Census, she is listed as a boarder aged eighty five; the other boarders are women half a century or more younger than her.
Armed with the date of Adelaide’s passing, an email was sent to Brighton cemeteries and shortly after a reply, stating Adelaide’s final resting place as the Extra Mural Cemetery on Lewes Road, Brighton. The kindly man in the office, listened patiently as the story of Adelaide was told, persuading him to dig out the burial records from 1865. Adelaide’s burial was not that of a pauper, he said, but of average cost, her casket was oak and the funeral rites were led by a chaplain. There is no indication of who attended her funeral, bought the burial plot or placed the gravestone with its tender inscription.
A strong urge, or perhaps a compulsion, a nagging insistence that Adelaide’s grave needed to be visited, to say that first hello, utter a prayer and lay flowers for a person who gave up so much for her father, and gave so much to the world through her literary genius. This compulsion was not borne of pity, but of admiration for a woman who quietly achieved. The kindly man in the cemetery office dug out a map of the burial grounds and thereupon the location of Adelaide’s grave was revealed, but only literally, not physically!
The pandemic struck and all notions of locating and visiting Adelaide’s grave were put on hold, as the world hunkered down in terror of this ghost like virus that lurked unseen, devastating lives in its wake. A miserable, dark time when visiting a cemetery seemed the last thing on anyone’s mind.
In November 2021, the world seemed to relax and the virus loosened its grip and the terror began to dissipate, as if in celebration the sky was blue, hardly a cloud in the sky and the sun shone on the day the long journey to the Extra Mural Cemetery in Brighton began. With a car packed with spade, forks, secateurs, trowel, gardening gloves, the obligatory hand sanitiser, face masks and a box of chocolate truffles to thank kindly man for his help; all set for the long awaited discovery of Adelaide’s grave. However, now reading this back, it sounds more like preparations for a grave robbery or that of a body snatcher.
Arriving promptly at 12 noon as pre arranged with kindly man in the cemetery office and with all the ‘grave-hunters’ paraphernalia slung over a shoulder, said kindly man proceeds to march in an authoritative fashion in the direction of where Adelaide’s grave should be. Up a slightly hilly road, turning left and down a steep gravelly path it was becoming increasingly difficult to balance with one heavy spade in left hand and large bag with gardening tools in right, but onwards kindly man marched without a thought for the ‘pack person’ struggling behind him. You might well ask where the chocolate truffles were at this stage of the journey, I had given them on meeting kindly man.
Back to our story, it was at this point that the questioning began for the the reasoning behind this unlikely excursion. Upon reaching the end of the gravelly path, he turned sharp right onto a tarmac path and comes to an abrupt halt and points to a wall, saying, ‘Her grave is somewhere over there.’ The sight of the wall presented a conundrum…a ladder had not been thought of, how to get over the wall? So near, yet so far. Recognising the concern about the wall, kindly man, then marches further along the tarmac path and says, ‘No need for a ladder, we can go this way’.
Further we yomp, until arriving at a small muddy track that leads upwards into an area of thick undergrowth, a luxurious green carpet woven with ivy, bramble and periwinkle – all made treacherous by their ability to tangle around an unsuspecting foot, the area was also on a slope! The only paths that criss crossed the green carpet, were those of rabbits. There were no headstones that could be used as markers, it was only then that the reality kicked in that it was going to be near impossible to find Adelaide in this overgrown wilderness with it’s residents sleeping silently underfoot.
Kindly man stops and stretching out his arms, announces, ‘Her grave should be somewhere around here.’ This somewhere could have been one hundred metres radius or half a metre, what difference did it make? The challenge was there, we had come so far… In desperation, a plea, which was intended to be silent, poured forth, ‘Oh come on, Adelaide. show us where you are.’
Kindly man, looked concerned and in an attempt to ignore, busied himself by pushing and clearing the undergrowth with his booted foot. ‘Hang on’ he says, ‘Here’s something, it says authoress.’ Of course it had to be Adelaide! Further clearance of the tangled ivy and bramble revealed part of the inscription of the gravestone – Adelaide, we had found her, hooray.
Now dear reader picture this, sloping ground covered in undergrowth and one person on hands and knees with secateurs excitedly cutting away the ivy, whilst trying to maintain an element of dignity whilst slipping down the slope, being watched over by a solemn cemetery officer. How glorious were the words when, kindly man says…’Excuse me, if you don’t mind…’ At last he was to take charge of the spade, clear the undergrowth, oh the delight…he continued, ‘…I will go for my lunch.’ ‘Oh…’ was the slightly miffed reply, ‘Is it safe here, in this secluded part of the cemetery?’ As he strode off in his authoritarian gait in search of his lunchbox, he stopped and turned for a second to say, ‘We’ve never had any trouble, you have my telephone number if you do have a problem.’
Now alone with Adelaide in her secret garden, her gravestone revealed, and the inscription exposed. A prayer was uttered and flowers laid and somewhere in a far away place, perhaps in one’s psyche or imagination, or maybe, Adelaide was there, laughter could be heard and a smile imagined.
Did Adelaide regret the sacrifices she made? Read the inscription and then conclude.
As it is approaching Good Friday I thought I would share some information about the original Chelsea Bun House. Easter is traditionally the time for hot cross buns which are slightly different to Chelsea buns as the Chelsea bun is made of a rich yeast dough flavoured with lemon peel, cinnamon or mixed spice and are much sweeter and stickier than hot cross buns.
The Chelsea Bun House is believed to have originated in the early 1700s and was run by the same family for over 100 years, producing what we still know today as Chelsea Buns, although the recipe may have changed slightly over the centuries to cater for modern tastes.
The shop was owned by the Hand family and for some considerable time was run by Richard and Margaret Hand. Richard died in 1767 leaving the business to his second wife, Margaret. The couple raised two sons, but according to Richard his eldest son, Richard Gideon, was by his first wife, Ann, although he was baptised in 1752 stating Richard and Margaret were his parents. Their second son, somewhat confusingly was named Gideon Richard and was born 1760, clearly they weren’t very inventive in their name choices.
Margaret died 1798 at which time she left the shop which made buns, to her step son Richard Gideon, and should he decide he didn’t want to continue running it, then he should assign it to their other son, Gideon Richard. When Margaret died The Gentleman’s Magazine noted:
At Chelsea, Mrs Margaret Hand, who for more than 60 years kept the Royal Bun-House there (so denominated by express permission).
Their elder son, Richard, was a military man and served for many years, joining as an ensign in 1773, in the 13th Regiment of foot. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1776. He remained in the military until at least the turn of the century, leaving his brother, Gideon continued to run the bun shop and who was described as
An eccentric character ad used to dress in a very peculiar manner. He dealt largely in butter which he carried about the streets in a basket on his head.
The Chelsea Bun House was so successful that even royalty and the nobility visited, including George II and Queen Caroline and the princesses, as did George III and Queen Charlotte. Queen Charlotte presented Mrs Hands with a silver half-gallon mug with five guineas in it.
On Good Friday mornings, upwards of 50,000 people assembled to buy buns, when disturbances broke out among the people gathered there. In one day, more than £250 was taken in sales.
Gideon died 19 February 1820, so it would appear that his brother took over running the business, although it isn’t quite clear.
Around that time there were two bun shops on the same street, Grosvenor Row, selling Chelsea buns in direct competition with each other. The rates return from 1821 show that Richard was living at Grosvenor Row, as was possibly his competitor, Edward Chapman.
The above rates also show, although faint, the name Martin, which may well have been Mr Martin of Martin’s Tea Warehouse, whose name appears in the picture of the bun shop.
Richard died at the ripe old age of 84 and was buried at the same cemetery as his brother, on 2 March 1836.
Following his death there was a court case bought against a David Loudon who claimed to have lived with the Hands and whom he said Richard, who died intestate, had given him all his money.
Loudon claimed he was related to Richard by marriage, he claimed to have married Richard’s daughter who was ‘born in indignant circumstances‘, but this appears to have been proved false. The man who was trying to claim the whole of Richard’s estate describing Richard as being ‘of eccentric habits‘ and that he was one of ‘the Poor Knights of Windsor’.
Loudon was found guilty and sent to prison for seven months for breach of trust in obtaining Richard’s money and remaining at the Bun House. It was proven to the court that Richard had no heirs.
The Bun House had been frequented by visitors to Ranelagh, but after it closed in 1803, trade began to decline, but apparently on Good Friday, April 18, 1839, about 240,000 buns were sold.
Given that both Richard and Gideon Hand were both dead by this time, it’s difficult to know who was running the Bun House, unless Loudon returned there after his spell in prison. Soon after this the Bun House was sold and demolished to make way for improvements to the neighbourhood.
Timbs, John. Curiosities of London: exhibiting the most rare and remarkable objects of interest in the metropolis
The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction: VOL.XXXIII
London Courier and Evening Gazette – 30 April 1838
Morning Advertiser 28 May 1838
Courtesy of The Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington
Elizabeth Boardingham was one of the last women in England to be sentenced to death by burning, but was this really how her life came to an end? Today, we’ll take a look at her life and discover a little more about its end.
Elizabeth, you would imagine, was happily married to her husband, John, with the couple living in the picturesque costal fishing village of Flamborough, Yorkshire. During their marriage the couple had five children, the eldest, Mary, born in 1766, followed by Ann, John, Robert and Thomas, the youngest, who was born early summer 1775.
However, life for Elizabeth was no bed of roses, as her husband sailed rather close to the wind and found himself in court on occasion, reputedly for smuggling, thereby leaving Elizabeth to run the home and care for their children.
Eventually Elizabeth had had enough, and despite having five children, all aged under 10, she took up with a man, some six years her senior, a Thomas Aikney of Thwing, Yorkshire, some 12 miles away from where she lived, according to the newspapers, although his correct surname was Hakeney. Perhaps she was hoping for a better life with him, but the choice she made was to elope with him, leaving her young family and fleeing to Lincolnshire for about three months, but was this in reality everything she had hoped for? Elizabeth reputedly told Thomas that,
if her husband was dead, Tom and her would be married, and no longer live like a whore and rogue as they had done for some time.
According to Thomas’s account of events, he didn’t want to go through with such an horrendous act as killing Elizabeth’s husband, rather, it would be much better if they simply eloped to be free of him, which they did.
This elopement didn’t last long, and Elizabeth returned to John, who it seems welcomed her back into the marital home. Thomas however, remained in her life and Elizabeth could bear life with John no longer, and with those few words from Elizabeth about wishing her husband dead, ringing Thomas’s ears, a plot was hatched.
Eight days after she returned home, on the 14 February 1776, about eleven at night, Elizabeth woke her husband, telling him that there was an intruder. She had already persuaded Thomas to go along with her plan and had left the door unlock to make it easy for him to enter the house unnoticed.
Quickly dressing in his coat and waistcoat, John went downstairs after Elizabeth told him she could a noise at the door. Thomas was waiting for him and stabbed him, firstly in his thigh, then one of the left side, leaving the knife in the wound. Elizabeth headed outside crying ‘murder’ and a neighbour immediately came to her assistance, but of course, it was too late.
Thomas and Elizabeth were captured and charged with the murder of John Boardingham and convicted on the clearest of evidence.
During the trial Elizabeth claimed that she knew nothing of Thomas’s plan to kill her husband. Thomas however, showed remorse for his actions and acknowledged that the sentence was just. Elizabeth it is reported, showed no remorse what so ever, declaring right until the very end that she knew nothing about his intention to kill her husband.
Thomas was ordered to be hanged, and his body was then taken to the surgeon for dissection, Elizabeth was to be ‘burnt with fire till you are dead‘.
The couple were transported from York castle to Tyburn, near the city, Thomas in a cart, Elizabeth drawn on a sledge, where they were executed amidst one of the largest crowds ever seen there.
The press also stated that during their time in York Castle gaol, the couple cohabited and that Elizabeth admitted that she liked Thomas and that she would like to be buried in the same grave as him, that that was never going to happen does not appear to have entered her head.
According to the newspapers, just before the unhappy couple died, they shook hands and saluted each other.
An account of the sentenced passed on the pair was recounted well over a century later, in 1909, which stated that the judge was Sir Henry Goulding, who, when sentencing Elizabeth to death for aiding and abetting in the murder of her husband, observed:
The sentence which the law obliges me to pass upon you is, that you, Elizabeth Boardingham, shall be led from here to the gaol, whence you came, and from thence upon Wednesday next, you shall be drawn upon a hurdle to the place of execution and there you are to be burnt with fire till you are dead, and your body consumed to ashes.
There is nevertheless such a spirit of lenity in the common law of this country, though this is the sentence you have received, and for my own part, do not believe that sentence could ever be more properly executed, in the strict letter thereof, than upon you, however severe the punishment is, that you would have been found guilty of a crime of the great magnitude, are condemned to undergo the law has allowed some mitigation.
You are first to be strangled at a stake and then burnt with fire. You have reason to admire the excellency of that consideration by which you have been tried and found guilty.
As we can see though, the judge showed leniency, so it appears that Elizabeth was strangled first, then her body then burned, not the other way around, as has been noted in other accounts, thereby making the first sentence of this account not strictly accurate.
John was buried in the graveyard of St Oswald’s church, Flamborough, Yorkshire, but as Elizabeth was burnt there appears to have been nothing to mark her grave.
Derby Mercury 22 March 1776
Leeds Intelligencer, 27 February 1776
Yorkshire Gazette 12 March 1887
Western Daily Press 15 May 1909
Richardson I, Thomas Miles; Off the Coast near Flamborough Head; National Trust, Cragside
Today’s post is a little unusual, as I welcome back legal eagle, Mel Barnes who has worked with me in a joint article, to tell the story of a very messy divorce (quite literally), as you’ll discover later.
As most of us know from experience, the golden rule when talking to someone about their divorce is that almost always, ‘the other spouse is always to blame’, a principle enshrined in natural law when Adam pointed his apple-scented finger at Eve and told God it was all her fault. But that’s all about to change with the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020on 6 April 2022 with a no-fact, no-fault, quickie online divorce. While the country perhaps celebrates this long-awaited change, in this post we will instead commiserate with a divorcing couple from the eighteenth century.
Historically, the Ecclesiastical Court could only pronounce a divorce mensa et thoro, separation from bed and board, now known in law as judicial separation for couples who do not want to divorce for religious reasons.
A divorce à vinculo matrimonii, one that dissolved the marriage, was only possible with a private member’s bill and were very rare, with only sixty divorce acts were passed between 1715 and 1775.
This brings us to our unhappy couple who wed on 14 June 1729 at Holland House in Kensington: Henry Somerset, the 3rd Duke of Beaufort (aged 22), and Frances Scudamore (aged 18); otherwise, Lord and Lady Beaumont.
Sadly, for the young couple, their respective fathers both died young, but fortunately at a time when they were fantastically rich. This was the marriage of two extremely affluent families, bringing to it both money and land and a union of wealth and assets, though Henry gifted jewellery with a value of £500 to Frances (about £60,000 today), which shows he was committed to the union.
Part of the marriage agreement included the requirement for Henry to also take Frances’ surname:
Obliging the duke and Duchess of Beaufort and her children to take the additional surname and bear the arms of Scudamore, pursuant to a settlement made by James, late Lord Scudamore and vesting in the duke in fee the manors of Wickhall and Ditton Camois and lands in Cambridgeshire, late the testate of Lord Scudamore, in lieu of the portion provided by him for his daughter, the said Duchess and other provisions.
As the years went by, the couple’s separate lives and absence of the pattering of small feet began to attract attention. The lack of an heir and a spare would have been seen as a major problem for these two dynasties, and it was highly likely that medical advice would have been sought about why Fanny couldn’t conceive (obviously, this was automatically assumed to be her fault).
Married life wasn’t great for Frances and Henry and it became a whole lot worse when, in 1736 Frances it would appear, contracted small pox and returned to the family home, Holme Lacy in Herefordshire to rest and be treated by the Scudamore physician, but she did recover from this.
In 1740, Frances met William, Lord Talbot (1710-1782), at that time a lawyer and politician referred to by Horace Walpole as having
some wit, and a little tincture of a disordered understanding; but was better known as a boxer and man of pleasure than in the light of a statesman.
William had also married for money, his wife being Mary de Cardonnel, but after two children (a daughter, Cecil (1735-1793) and a son, William who only survived until 1742), she was advised that she was unlikely to survive another pregnancy, so with that, he declared that he was ‘deprived of her sexual services’ and sought solace elsewhere.
With Frances looking for love and William for pleasure, the couple made a perfect match. They began an indiscrete relationship, which soon led to tongues wagging and an open secret that they were having an affair.
Initially, Henry was pragmatic about the affair and he and Frances executed a Deed of Separation under which each agreed not to make a claim against the other’s estate. This amicable relationship would not last long, as just few months later, Frances discovered that she was pregnant to William – this was not good!
As far as high society was concerned, indiscretion was forgivable, but public adultery was not. On 13 September 1741, Frances gave birth to a daughter who she named Fanny Matthews to hide her real identity. With Henry being in poor health, Frances hoped that he would soon die, so she could pass off her daughter as his, but alas, he recovered!
Meanwhile, William had grown bored with Frances, and he ended their relationship, but it’s not clear at that stage what became of their daughter, was she raised by Frances or perhaps William who had returned to his wife, something which was not unusual at that time.
Henry, continued with his mission and by June 1742, had obtained all the damning statements and evidence he could against Frances, and issued divorce proceedings against her for adultery.
What he hadn’t bargained on though, was that Frances would make a counter-application on the basis of his impotency, a claim that she knew would involve humiliating Henry with a very intimate examination.
In his Reply, Henry claimed that they had slept together in one bed for ten years and produced witness statements from servants swearing that they had ‘actually seen the stains’ on the bedding, proving their intimacy.
None of the evidence was given much weight, and a judge eventually held that Henry needed to prove once and for all that ‘duke-junior’ could ‘rise to the occasion‘.
This would involve either: masturbating and ejaculating, or having sex with a woman before court-appointed witnesses. Soul-crushing shame aside, what we want to know is whether the woman was also to have been appointed by the court. What sort of terrible employment would she have agreed to? However, a very embarrassed Henry eventually decided on the former and was successful. Thereby, winning his case, which gave him damages and costs of £80,000 (about £1 million in today’s money).
After a protracted bill through Parliament, the parties were finally divorced in March 1744, when the Act took effect. Any happiness with the freedom to marry would be short lived for our unhappy couple, as Henry died less than a year later, in February 1745.
As for Frances, well, she married again, not to Lord William Talbot, but to Colonel Charles Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of the 2nd Duke of Grafton. The couple married on 4 July 1748, at Holme Lacy, Herefordshire.
Francs died just seven months later, and was buried on 27 February 1749 at Holme Lacy, aged just 38. This was just six days after giving birth to another daughter, Frances, who was presented for baptism at St George’s, Hanover Square on 14 February 1749.
For anyone recently separated, know that everything will now be a lot easier in terms of the process, and be thankful for a divorce that no longer has anything to do with ‘private members!’.
As for Frances’s illegitimate daughter, Fanny, little is known about her life, but in his Will of 1782, William referred to his daughter Cecil, but, also, more curiously, ‘my very dear daughter, Miss Fanny Talbot, now living with me’.
So, it looks as if his illegitimate daughter ended up being cared for in a loving home, which means we can end on a happy note.
I am delighted to welcome, author, Andrew Noone, whose book, ‘Bathsheba Spooner, A Revolutionary Murder Conspiracy’ makes for a fascinating read. Bathsheba was was the first woman in American history to be executed following the Declaration of Independence. Today Andrew is going to share with us a little about Bathsheba, followed by some questions and answers.
Bathsheba Spooner was the next-to-last of seven children born to Timothy Ruggles and Bathsheba Bourne Newcomb; Mrs. Ruggles had birthed eight children from her first marriage. Her mother’s roots were firmly planted in one of Cape Cod’s oldest families, her father’s from Roxbury. Timothy was born in 1711, descendant of a family long involved in Massachusetts politics, but none enjoyed the status to which he would rise.
A Brigadier General in the French and Indian War, he had also served as Speaker of the House for two years. His reputation suffered dramatically when, as delegate to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 in New York, he refused to join those protesting the actions of Parliament and King George III. Now firmly placed in the camp of those loyal to the king, he freely accepted the position of mandamus councillor, one of the men who were appointed by the king’s governor to the upper Massachusetts house,
to do the king’s bidding.
Few men were as loathed in Massachusetts in the year 1774. That year, he was banished from his new hometown of Hardwick, a town his ancestors had
founded and he himself nurtured. He remained in British controlled Boston until Evacuation Day, March 17, 1776, when he was removed with most Tories to Staten Island.
In the meantime, daughter Bathsheba had married Joshua Spooner of Boston, a
businessman/land speculator/lumber salesman.
The couple settled in Brookfield, not far from nearby Hardwick; the marriage may have been an arranged one, a marriage which gossipers usually characterized as inharmonious.
Sixteen- year- old militiaman Ezra Ross of Topsfield (a native of Ipswich) left his hospital camp in 1777 in Peekskill, NY to venture home. En route, he was taken in by Bathsheba in Brookfield, and nursed back to health. He returned to Topsfield, then headed west again that fall to join what would become the Battle of Saratoga. The British had hoped to cut New England off from the remaining nine colonies, General Burgoyne’s troops heading south to meet up with General Howe’s troops heading north. It was not to be; Howe instead focused on Philadelphia, leaving
Burgoyne to fend off the increasing masses of American troops north of Albany. His entire army surrendered to American General Gates. Marched to Boston, the British prisoners of war were quartered in Cambridge and Charlestown.
Both Sgt. James Buchanan and Private William Brooks managed to escape (not a difficult task), and likely met each other in Worcester for the first time. Now February 1778, the men were apparently headed to Springfield for work when during a fierce snowstorm, they were called in to the Spooner home.
They remained there for the next few weeks, Bathsheba plotting her husband’s
murder with them. In the meantime, young Ezra Ross, just having attempted to poison Mr. Spooner, left with him to prepare his Princeton property, soon to be handed over to Spooner’s brother.
Ross never made it to Princeton, apparently, borrowing Spooner’s horse to return to Topsfield. All rendezvoused in Brookfield the evening of March 1, 1778; it is unclear if their meeting was coincidental or arranged. Having dined with a friend and his wife, Joshua returned home alone through the snow, and was assaulted at his well, beaten to death, and thrown in while his wife finished eating her dinner.
The clothes he wore and those from his chamber, along with his cash, were distributed among the three men, who fled on horseback and foot.
All were arrested the next day. The trial took place in late April, Abraham Lincoln’s distant cousin as defence attorney, Robert Treat Paine, a signer of the Declaration as prosecutor, in a trial organized by Gov. John Hancock. With a trial lasting just over a day plus, all were found guilty.
The date of execution was originally set for early June, but the four received a stay until July 2.
Bathsheba claimed pregnancy; the officials in Boston allowed an exam to be done, proving that she was not with child. She insisted; a second exam, not authorized, instead confirmed her pregnancy, but the Boston authorities would not relent.
Despite an informal third exam proving her right, her execution date was not changed.
On June 10, Abigail Adams wrote to her son John Quincy, with his father in Paris:
… the Modern History of our own times furnishes as black a list of crimes as can be paralleled in ancient time, even if going back to Nero, Caligula, or Cesare Borgia.
All four accomplices were hanged July 2; an autopsy requested by Bathsheba confirmed her pregnancy of five months, with a male child.
Timothy Ruggles eventually found his way to Nova Scotia, where as a loyal servant to the Crown he was granted a multi-hundred acre estate which he fostered as he had his legendary estate in Hardwick; his wife chose to stay behind in Massachusetts with their son. Timothy died in 1795, and was buried near his home in Nova Scotia.
To this day, the burial site in Green Hill Park of Bathsheba and her unborn son has never been located; it remains Worcester County’s favourite mystery.
What inspired you to write this book?
When my family bought our first home across the street from Green Hill Park, a friend came by for dinner a few weeks later. He reminded me of the infamous tale of Bathsheba Spooner. A lifelong devotee of Worcester’s history, especially as a village during the Revolution, I wanted to learn more. This being the late 90’s, besides a mid-19th c. essay and the odd article or two, no full scale study had ever been done. I decided that my first book would tackle the notorious episode. While in the middle of research, and with the book about a third written, Deborah Navas’ book appeared in 1999. Well written and scholarly, I admired her contribution, yet I still
hungered for a less academic approach, one which would comprehensively relate the details of the case; while nonfiction, I wanted to tell the story more like a novel. And I wanted to do more than just relate a true-to-life melodrama. Since the early 19th century, historians, poets and other writers from eastern Massachusetts have been Boston-centric in their retelling of the colony’s role in the Revolution, to the neglect of many other towns. Worcester’s contribution to the conflict and the events leading up to the opening gunshot looms dramatically larger than the mere 1,800 residents of 1778. I chose the tale of Bathsheba and her murderous lovers as the frame upon which to re-construct Worcester’s significant role in the rebellion.
Was Bathsheba insane?
Playing armchair psychologist from nearly two-and-a-half centuries away is tenuous for a professional; for me, impossible. We can only speculate, and the facts might lend themselves to characterizing Ms. Spooner as imbalanced. She had a sharp temper, and was involved sexually with at least two, and more likely five men, none of whom were her husband. She freely welcomed two enemy prisoners of war into her home, and on occasion, a handsome teenager, in her husband’s presence. Her actions were often erratic. She allowed her two-year-old daughter to touch her husband’s corpse. She jeopardized the future lives of her three surviving children. She lied incessantly. Would we be safe in assuming that she at least exhibited signs of a disordered personality? Although her attorney suggested insanity during the trial, it would take many more decades before such a defence would be admissible in a court of law.
Was teenager Ezra Ross truly guilty? And of what?
This is one of the hardest to answer, and the overall situation perhaps the most poignant of the saga. Age wise, the eighteenth-century freely condemned teenagers. But what exactly was his role? It appears that he had no knowledge of the murderous March 1 plot before that date. He had spent many days before at his Topsfield home (had Bathsheba sent him any letters while there? Given the slow pace of mail, it’s unlikely). He turned up in Brookfield only hours before
the murder, which he did discuss with the two British men, and Bathsheba. And keeping in mind that weeks earlier he had tried to poison Spooner, and had planned to try again before leaving for Topsfield, his background certainly did not incline the jury to consider his role more leniently.
To read the whole story Andrew’s book is available via the link at the beginning of the story.
Homestead of General Timothy Ruggles, Hardwick, Massachusetts Worcester Art Museum
So far we have looked at Catherine Despard’s life and the demise of her husband, Colonel Edward Marcus Despard, but of course there was a son, John Edward which today’s post will take a brief look at. If you have missed the three articles about Catherine this link here will take you back to the beginning of her story.
But what became their son, John Edward Despard?
If you watched Poldark, you would know that Edward and Catherine had a son, but he didn’t make his appearance into the world until about 1801, whereas in reality he was born in the late 1780’s and joined the army in England. However, there remains a great deal of confusion about his life and his military career.
His grandmother, Sarah confirmed in her will that he was serving as a lieutenant in his Majesty’s East London Regiment, but it’s impossible to make out his middle name. It would make sense for it to have been John, after his famous uncle, General John Despard and his father Edward, but the middle name in his grandmother’s will begins with B, which is of no help at all.
Trying to track down John Edward Despard however, has become somewhat problematic. His grandmother was very specific about his rank and regiment, which I thought would surely simplify things – but no!
In December 1799 a John Edward Despard joined army as an ensign in 62nd Regiment, without purchase, but wasn’t promoted to lieutenant until 1801 i.e., after Sarah’s death. This one listed in the army records, was aged 19 when he joined up, so born c1780.
Having chased this John Edward Despard’s life up hills and down dales, it appears that on 12 May of 1799 he had married a Mary Hilder and was then promoted to lieutenant in 1801. According to his military records, he remained with the same regiment throughout his career, until his death in 1836.
In the letter from Joseph Plymley, mentioned previously, Plymley made specific reference to Edward’s son, who he said, had arrived at Shrewsbury gaol and wishing to see his father. Plymley confirmed the boy had arrived from Ireland upon military duty and was in Shrewsbury to receive volunteers from the Glamorgan Militia, was then heading to South Wales.
Now, we know from John Edward’s military record below, that he sustained an eye injury whilst serving in Ireland. This document of 1828 confirms not only his marriage in 1799, but that they had no children, so I thought I had correct person. His address was given as 50 Britannia Terrace.
He stated that he had never been able to receive any augmentation on his half pay and that the injury he sustained in Ireland was the loss of his left eye. He received no grant or civil employment, so was utterly reliant upon just the half pension.
This John Edward died in 1836, leaving Mary to apply for a widows pension. Again, she confirmed everything exactly as above, about her husband, and here we have his burial, Friday 6 May 1836, Lieutenant John, otherwise John Edward Despard, aged 58 of Britannia Terrace, London. Mary also confirmed that her husband died from dropsy.
I was quite happy, with what I had discovered although unsure about his grandmothers account of his rank and regiment, until I found another John Edward Despard, in the army at the same time.
For this second one we know nothing of his early career i.e., when he joined or at what rank, but we do know that in 1813 this one was serving in the East London Militia and was promoted to Captain following death of a Captain Benwell.
On 11 September 1820, The British Press noted that
Captain John Edward Despard, late of the Royal East Regiment of London Militia, to be quartermaster.
This one had been a lieutenant and served in the East London Militia, so was this someone else with the same name, and was this Catherine and Edwards’ son? If so, who was the other Edward John Despard?
Several newspapers reported on 29 June 1828 that at the Court of King’s Bench amongst others a John Edward Despard was brought up for judgement, having been convicted for the illegal sale of a cadetship, in the East Indian Company’s service. Despard was sent to King’s Bench prison for six weeks. Now, as to which John Edward Despard that account related to, I really don’t have a clue.
On Sunday night last, about 12 o’clock, the London Courier and Evening Gazette, of 29 January 1830, reported that
As Captain J.E Despard, residing at No 50, Britannia Terrace, Hoxton Old-Town, was going from Pittfield Street, towards his residence, he was met by two ruffians …
the story continued, but either the newspaper got his rank wrong or John Edward had been promoted, which seems unlikely.
There were either two John Edward Despard’s about the same age, both in the military, both in London at the same time, but of different ranks or the whole thing has got into quite a tangle.
The final snippet of information about Edwards’ son appears in Mike Jay’s book and which apparently came from Edward’s older brother, General John Despard.
He was leaving a London theatre with another of his brothers when they heard a waiting carriage-driver calling the name ‘Despard’. They made their way towards the carriage, which has been ordered in their name, ‘and there appeared a flashy Creole and a flashy young lady on his arm, they both stepped into it’.
I really don’t know which was John and Catherine’s son, so if anyone can untangle this, I would love to hear from you. Maybe this mystery is one for someone with military knowledge.
All sources not included elsewhere in the articles about Catherine, Edward and their son:
Bannantine, James. Memories of Edward Marcus Despard.
Cloncurry, Valentine, Baron (1773-1853) Personal Recollections of the life and times, with extracts from the correspondence of Valentine, Lord Cloncurry.
Connor, Clifford C. Colonel Despard: the life and death of an English/Irish Jacobin. P137
Gurney, Joseph & Gurney, William. The trial of Edward Marcus Despard for high treason: at the Session House, Newington, Surry, on Monday the seventh of February 1803
Jay, Mike. The Unfortunate Colonel Despard: And the British Revolution that never happened
Linebaugh, Peter. The many-headed hydra: sailors, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic
Trahey, Erin. Free Women and the Making of Colonial Jamaican Economy and Society (1760-1834) (PhD thesis, History Department, University of Cambridge, 2018). Will of Sarah Gordon, 19 May 1799, LOS66, fol 6. Register General, Twickenham Park, Jamaica
Oracle and the Daily Advertiser 22 February 1803
Letter from the Venerable Joseph Plymley, Archdeacon of Shropshire and Visiting Magistrate of Salop County Gaol. 12 June 1800. HO 42/50/81
Letter by Catherine Despard – HO 42/43/127. Folio 291-293.
Letter by Attorney General, Spencer Percival. HO 42/70. Folio 77-80.
Edward Despard’s Petition HO42/70. Folio 81-85
Letter from Lord Mayor to Lord Pelham HO42/70 Folio 181
Letter regarding Catherine HO 42/70. Folio 77-80 and 101-104
Letter regarding Despard’s request for Catherine to visit. HO 42/48. Folio 188-190
Today we are concluding the story of Catherine Despard, but if you missed the previous articles, part one can be found here and part two here.
In February 1799 the Whitehall Evening Post provided a transcript of events in Parliament including a speech by Mr Courtenay M.P, supporter of Edward and Catherine, which was stated to be Colonel Despard’s petition, in which Edward said he was aware of letters being written by Catherine which had been published in the newspaper and that he concurred with the contents of them. Edward stated that he had only been able to see Catherine through an iron grate and that his son, who had travelled a great distance had been denied permission to see him. He also confirmed that the Duke of Portland had refused to see Catherine.
The Courier, 22 August 1799, tell us that Edward was transferred over 100 miles away to Shrewsbury gaol, but there appears little by way of explanation as to why this should have occurred, it simply says:
At five in the morning, a King’s messenger and Bow Street officer took Edward out of the house of correction, Cold Bath Fields where he had been incarcerated for the past 17 months. They set off in a post-chaise for Shrewsbury gaol.
Catherine must have been aware of this where did that leave her, apart from being all alone in London without her beloved husband and fighting for his freedom?
On 2 October 1799, whilst Edward was still in gaol at Shrewsbury, a letter sent on his behalf, by the visiting magistrates, Reverend John Rocke and the Reverend Edmund Dana, asks:
In case Mrs Despard should come to Shrewsbury, in what manner and for what length of time will she be permitted to have access to him?
The original letter in Edward’s hand appears to be quite scribbled with crossing outs throughout it, but clearly, Edward was anxious that Catherine should visit him whilst there.
So, despite a notice in the Star and Evening Advertiser just a month earlier saying that
the orders strictly prohibit any communication either with persons without or prisoners in the gaol
it would appear from the letter that Edward was making representation to have Catherine visit him, so clearly, he wanted to see his wife and it’s probably safe to assume the feeling would have been mutual.
In his recent book, Red Round Globe Hot Burning, Linebaugh states that:
Catherine visited her husband in three prisons that we know of: Cold Bath Fields, the Tower and Horsemonger Lane Gaol. He was incarcerated between 1798 to 1799 in Cold Bath Fields, in the Tower in 1802 and in Horsemonger Lane for his trial and execution in 1803. In these years he was also imprisoned in Shrewsbury, in Tothill Fields, and in Newgate, though we do not have documentary evidence that Catherine visited him in those places.
Despite Lineburgh’s observation and the content of the piece in the Star and Evening Advertiser, saying that he was not to be permitted visitors, we do now have evidence that Catherine visited her husband whilst he was in Shrewsbury.
This comes courtesy of a letter written on 12 June 1800, to the Home Secretary, from Venerable Joseph Plymley, who was the Archdeacon of Shropshire and visiting magistrate of Shropshire County Gaol. He stated that Catherine was Edward’s only visitor at Shrewsbury, apart from the chaplain of the goal and quarterly visits by magistrates.
However, Plymley, also helpfully provided a snippet of information about their son being briefly in Shrewsbury:
Last night Colonel Despard’s son, an officer in His Majesty’s Service, arrived in this town from Ireland, upon military duty, viz to receive volunteers from the Glamorganshire Militia.
Edward’s son was then travelling on to South Wales and wished to see his father whilst he was in town, but the gaoler refused him admission. The gaoler immediately contacted Plymley who, in turn urgently wrote to the Home Secretary to find out if this would be acceptable. Plymley stressed that Edward was a model prisoner and only spent time with Catherine and suggested that any message for Edward from their son, could be conveyed by Catherine and therefore their son was not permitted to visit his father.
Given that we now know that Catherine visited him whilst in Shrewsbury, she must have travelled there by the regular coach service, or mail coach similar to the one below.
The journey from London to Shrewsbury was extremely long and arduous given the condition of the roads at that time. There was usually a ‘stop over’ enroute of a night, so the journey could well have taken at least two, very long days each way. A journey following the same route today, would take about four hours today by car, so we can only begin to imagine how hard this would have been for Catherine.
There was, however, a regular coach which travelled from London to Shrewsbury three times a week, via Henley on Thames, Oxford, Stratford upon Avon and finally arriving in Shrewsbury.
We can only assume that Catherine simply took lodgings and stayed in Shrewsbury for the duration of Edward’s time there, but it does appear from the letter, that she was a regular visitor.
The Ipswich Journal, Saturday 21 February 1801 reported that Edward had been held in gaol on charges of sedition from April 1798 until March 1801, but it doesn’t clarify exactly how much of that time was spent in Shrewsbury.
A report by James Ives, the keeper of the county gaol, Surrey, who wrote to the Northumberland, Durham Cumberland Gazette on 15 February 1803, wished to correct what he deemed misinformation about Edward’s accommodation in goal, he stated that:
Colonel Despard is confined in the attic story, in the same room as before his trial. It is a boarded floor, 80 feet square, with three large windows, framed and glazed, and a large fire constantly kept; his wife attends him daily.
Almost every report about Edward’s ‘domestic’ situation seems to make reference to Catherine being present, obviously they wanted to spend as much time together as possible. One account also mentioned that Edward made a lady, who accompanied Catherine, cut off some of his hair, which she was to distribute to some of his friends as a keepsake. A token which I sure must have been of some small comfort to Catherine too.
Baron Cloncurry noted that he didn’t see Edward between 1797 and spring 1801 and that he passed through London on his travels in 1802 at which time Edward called to see him. There was no mention of Catherine being present at this visit. He described Edward as:
So wan and worn, that he looked like a man risen from the grave. Of the unsound state of his mind, the following anecdote may convey some notion. In talking over the condition of Ireland, he told me that though he had not seen his country for thirty years, he never ceased thinking of it.
This would seem to confirm that since arriving from overseas that by 1802 Catherine must have remained in England and not have visited Edward’s relatives in Ireland as had been suggested elsewhere.
Baron Cloncurry, who was to become a good friend to the couple, described Catherine in about 1800, as:
A Spanish Creole, a remarkably fine woman, much younger than her husband, who then appeared to be about sixty years of age.
Edward was only 52 when he died, so he must have looked much older than his actual age, which provides no clues as to Catherine’s age, she may simply have looked younger than her age.
Edward and his reputed co-conspirators were arrested again on 16 November 1802 at the Oakley Arms public house for their part in Edward’s plot to assassinate King George III and were taken to Newgate prison.
Whilst back in gaol Catherine was still permitted to visit Edward, this may well have come about via the Attorney General, Spencer Percival, who wrote a letter on 15 February 1803, which confirmed that Catherine was being closely watched in case she smuggled papers out of the prison on Edward’s behalf and ultimately decided that whilst she could still visit, she should no longer be permitted to carry any papers for him. We don’t know how complicit Catherine was in doing Edwards’ bidding, so she must have either been very brave or completely unaware how closely she was being watched. Either way she must surely have feared for her own safety or perhaps so devoted that Edward that she wasn’t at all concerned.
Edward and his co-conspirators were tried on Monday 7 February 1803. From his Petition dated 16 February 1803, he stated that from September 1790 to September 1791 he was employed in London at the wish of government ministers, particularly furnishing details which had occupied many months of his helping to plan an attack on the Spanish Main.
For his work Edward was promised upwards of £2,000 and the first vacant consularship on the Barbary Coast, but that neither of these promises were kept. Overall, Edward stated that during his time in King’s Bench his debts amounted to some £3,000. There is no mention of Catherine, so how did she manage for money? It begs the question of who was financially supporting her at this time, friends and/or family? Someone was, for sure, perhaps her son.
On 20 February 1803, we have a letter from Sir Richard Ford, the chief magistrate at Bow Street, who referred to crowds gathering at the prison etc, but then made specific reference to Catherine, describing her as having been:
‘very troublesome, but at last has gone away’.
Catherine was piling on the pressure to have her husband released, she was utterly convinced of his innocence and willing to do as much as she could to persuade those in authority of her views, but to no avail. As her hopes of mercy vanished, Catherine, it is said, became almost delirious, her emotions, when the order for his execution arrived can hardly be imagined.
Morning Post 21 February 1803
Colonel Despard was strictly searched to discover whether he had any knife or meals of self-destruction concealed about him, and everything that it was though might enable him to put an end to his existence was conveyed out of his reach. There was no reason to suppose he had the slightest decision of committing suicide, but it was standard procedure.
Mrs Despard was greatly affected when he first heard that his fate was sealed, but yesterday, she recovered her fortitude. Accompanied by another lady, she had her last meeting with him on 20 February 1803. It is said that the other, unnamed woman wept bitterly. But first Mrs Despard, and then the colonel, reproached her with her weakness. Mr and Mrs Despard bore up with great firmness, even in parting. When Catherine got into the coach, as it drove off, she waved her handkerchief out of the window.
In the vivid newspaper accounts of the hangings that took place on 21 February 1803, there appears no mention of Catherine being present, although given her commitment to him during his life and her courage, it appears likely that she would have been there.
On a slight lighter but macabre note, the Gloucester Journal, (amongst others) of 28 February 1803 reported this reputed conversation (how very British, a conversation about the weather):
The following anecdote respecting Col. Despard immediately previous to the instant of his execution, is not generally known. When Macnamara was brought out, he said, upon seeing Despard, “I am afraid, Colonel, we have go into a bad situation”. The answer was very characteristic of the man, ‘There are many better, and some worse”. He was extremely anxious to assist the executioner in adjusting the rope about his neck and placed himself the noose under his left ear. When he was on the point of being launched into eternity he said to Francis, who stood next to him – “What an amazing crowd” and looking up, he observed, with the greatest indifference ‘Tis very cold, I think we shall have some rain”.
The sentence included disembowelment, but with the assistance of Lord Nelson, Catherine was able to have this part of the torture removed, instead he was hanged, and his head severed. An horrific sight whichever it was carried out, for Catherine to witness.
The day arrived for Catherine to say her final farewell to Edward and for his remains to be buried. About ten o’clock in on the morning of Tuesday 1 March 1803, just over a week after Edward’s death, several hundred people congregated near Lambeth asylum, at the property Catherine and Edward had lived in, but not where Catherine was living by that time of the funeral.
After fifteen minutes a hackney coach arrived, Catherine was inconsolable and almost fainted when the coach arrived and had to be supported by two female friends; sadly, no names were given for the female friends.
The Ipswich Journal, 5 March 1803, tells us that
An artist, it is said, took a cast of Mr Despard’s face, a few minutes before the lid of the coffin was screwed down.
This artist was Madame Tussaud.
Edward’s remains were taken away through the streets of London to be buried. Twelve of his friends arrived about eleven, with four gentlemen in each of the mourning coaches. Newspapers confirm that there were no women mourners. This was quite normal at that time for women not to attend funerals. Graveyards were not really places deemed safe or suitable for women.
It was reported that the procession initially headed for St Pancras for Edward’s final resting place, but this was a ruse, instead he was taken from where his body had been kept, near Lambeth, across the river, to St Faith’s Chapel, St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Lord Mayor of London immediately wrote to Lord Pelham, in a polite, but clearly furious tone, asking why Edward’s place of burial had been changed and wanting to know why no-one had bothered to tell him! This change of burial appears to have been instigated by Catherine who felt that it was Edward’s hereditary right to be buried there.
Shortly after Edward’s death, the Morning Post stated:
It has been reported that Mrs Despard, since the execution of her husband, has been taken under the protection of Lady Nelson. We have authority to state that the circumstances is holly untrue, and we much fear that the rumour has been propagated by the enemies of the virtuous an amiable Viscountess.
However, the Dairies of James Harris, 1st Earl of Malmesbury confirm that it was not Lady Nelson, rather Nelson’s lover, Lady Hamilton who visited Catherine, so it was she who took Catherine under her wing.
Monday Feb 21 – Lady Hamilton, whom Lady Malmesbury met in the evening of this day at Lady Abercorn’s, after singing etc said she had gone to see poor Mrs Despard in the morning – she did not know her, but she went to comfort her, and that she found her much better since the body had been brought back to her. This is the consequence of Lord Nelson having spoken to his character.
The Morning Post 21 February 1803 provided confirmation that a musical event was held at Marchioness of Abercorn’s that day, so that would tally with Harris’s diary entry.
Following the execution of Edward, Catherine was left virtually destitute and possibly heading for the workhouse, were it not for a pension being agreed for Catherine by Sir Francis Burdett and the kindness of 2nd Baron, Valentine Cloncurry, who offered her a safe haven at his estate in Dublin, Ireland, his father having died in 1799.
A year after this conversation, this poor madman made mad by official persecution, was executed for a plot to take the Tower. I was afterwards able to afford his wife an asylum from destitution. She lived in my family at Lyons for some years.
Lord Cloncurry doesn’t provide any clues as to how long ‘some years’ was, but we know that at some stage she returned to London, where she died. Catherine’s fight was over, and she died in 1815 in the Somerstown district.
She was buried at St Pancras parish chapel, Camden on 9 September 1815. Her address is almost impossible to read, but it looks like Elmore Street, so if anyone is able to decipher it, please do let me know.
Many newspapers nationally, noted Catherine’s death, all carrying the same few, simple words:
As to who notified the press we will never know, but someone certainly did, perhaps it was her son, I’d like to think so.
There remain a myriad of questions about Catherine’s life, but just maybe this has filled in a few of the gaps … for now. You can find out more about her mysterious son by following this link.
Following on from Part 1 of this story, which can be read here if you missed it, we now move on to
Catherine’s arrival in England
The Dictionary of Irish Biography states that Edward and Catherine married in 1786, Jamaica, but having contacted them, in order to check their source, they now plan to amend the entry to reflect the vagueness of that information. Their source being from Colonel Despard: the life and death of an English/Irish Jacobin, which suggests that it must have been between November 1785 and April 1786. None of the available Jamaican parish registers sadly show any marriage for them in any parish (believe me, I’ve read every single one of entry to check!), so it would appear more likely that if they actually married, that it took place in Honduras.
The Caledonian Mercury, 17 May 1790, tells us that Edward’s post as Superintendent of the settlement in the Bay of Honduras had been filled by a Colonel Hunter and that Edward and Catherine had returned to England, under something of a cloud, the authorities unhappy with Edward’s management style there, having apparently become something of an autocrat.
Arriving in England in 1790, must have been quite a culture shock for Catherine, sailing all that way to a new country, the sights, sounds, smells, climate, clothing, the list goes on and of course and probably one of the most important things being, the lack of people who looked like her, in the social society that Edward would have mixed, all of which must have been completely disorientating. There were of course, black people in London, but most of them would have been servants, working for affluent aristocrats.
Being a woman of colour living in London would not have been easy, especially given the trade in enslaved people, but Catherine seems to have risen above any preconceived notions about the colour of her skin, perhaps helped by her position as having married into Irish gentry. Catherine’s sole aim was to care for her husband, but she couldn’t possibly have imagined in 1790 how this new life in London would have panned out.
On arrival in England, Edward was merely expecting them to only remain there briefly, just long enough to sort out the financial issues pertaining to his time abroad, his plan being to return to Honduras, which makes it somewhat curious as to why Catherine and their son would have accompanied him on such a long voyage, but accompany him they certainly did.
This brief sojourn to England did not transpire the way Edward planned at all.
Edward, it seems, proved to be something of a thorn in the side of the government, he bombarded them with demands for compensation and vindication for what he viewed to be unfair dismissal from his post, no charges were brought against him, but no compensation either, leaving him with little more than his salary as a half pay colonel which wouldn’t amount to very much, probably insufficient to support Edward, let alone his Catherine and their son.
What was he going to do to rectify this matter? There was little he could do, he tried to seek employment, but nothing was forthcoming. This dispute between Edward and the government continued for two long years.
We can only imagine what Catherine must have made of this terrible situation that she had now found herself in, after all, she thought the visit to England was only going to be a short one, so there was nowhere she could now call home. There is no sign of them in rate books, so it has to be assumed that they were renting somewhere or living with friends. We know that Edward was a close acquaintance of Lord Nelson, having served together previously, so perhaps he helped them find lodgings.
On 28 November 1792 Edward was sentenced to two years in prison and the 1794 prison records for King’s Bench and Fleet prison discharge book, noted his release in 1794. With Edward incarcerated this would have left poor Catherine to fend for herself in this new country with presumably few, if any friends to assist her, this must have been immensely difficult for her.
We know that during Edward’s various court cases, Catherine was constantly referred to as his wife, which I do suspect was not done so as merely a courtesy title, but as I’ve said, proof of such a marriage is sadly lacking.
Besides being described as his wife, Catherine was described in a variety of ways by the press, some of which today we do, of course, deem derogatory, ‘a negress, a mulatto, a woman of the Caribbean and a woman of colour’. Her skin colour must have been an important fact for readers of the day, otherwise why would they feel the need to mention it? Mike Jay in ‘The Unfortunate Colonel Despard’ states that:
Family memoirs referred to Catherine as his “black housekeeper”, and “the poor woman who called herself his wife”. James was ascribed to a previous lover, both of whom were written out of the family tree.
It appears that parts of Edward’s family found it difficult to acknowledge Edward’s choice of wife given her colour, referring to her as his ‘black housekeeper’.
In July 1795, the True Briton, provided the first sighting of where Edward and Catherine were living in London, courtesy of the address ‘34 London Road, St George’s Fields’ an address provided by Edward in court, where he had been charged with allegedly being involved in the Charing Cross Riot.
Edward claimed that he was merely an onlooker and was on his way home. This was not believed, as he was apparently heard to say, ‘No King, No Pitt’. Edward was detained for further questioning.
When not in gaol, did Edward and Catherine appear to have spent their time trying to evade Edward’s recapture? At least, it would certainly appear that way, from this snippet, of 10 March 1798 in the Express and Evening Chronicle which reported that:
It was Colonel Despard, whom the King’s Messengers seized on Sunday in Meards Court, Dean Street, Soho. His house was entered by four Messengers, and several Bow Street Officers. The Colonel and Mrs Despard were both in bed when the former was arrested.
Dean Street was a location well known to Lord Nelson, as he stayed there the day before the Battle of Trafalgar, so perhaps Edward and Catherine were staying close by. Whilst this gives us an address for Catherine, the rates returns show that they must have been staying with someone living there. The residents around that time were George Campbell, Thomas Melhuish, Joel Clifford Mr Miles and John Dealtry, but none of them as far as I can tell, appear to have had any connection to Edward and Catherine.
Given the closeness of the date between the above report to this one from Lloyd’s Evening Post, 12 March 1798, it can only be assumed that the reference to Bath, was not the place, rather, Cold Bath Fields:
Yesterday, Mr Higgins, one of the King’s Messengers, arrived at the Duke of Portland’s office, having in charge Colonel Despard, whom he brought from Bath, after a search of two days.
Having caught Edward, he was brought before the Privy Council, underwent a short examination and was remanded into the custody of the Messengers.
It’s always lovely to come across letter written in the person’s own hand, especially by Catherine as we have little information about her life, but we see from this, that she was educated, fluent in English, articulate and confident in her own ability, assuming this was written in her hand rather than dictated by her. It was not in Edward’s hand; the style is completely different. It also demonstrates that Catherine didn’t remain at Meards Court, with the address, but moved very quickly to Upper Berkeley Street.
This letter, although undated, appears to have been written April – early May 1798, and the full letter tells us that Catherine was trying to establish whether there had been any response from the Duke of Portland regarding the payment of Edward’s pension.
She also wrote that Edward had been moved within Cold Bath Fields prison, from a comfortable, upper floor, to a lower room. Catherine described how awful Edward’s room was, no table, no chair nor a fire to warm himself. She continued to say that he was only allowed to see her briefly and described his care being more akin to that of a vagabond rather the gentleman he was.
We know from this letter written by Catherine that she was living in lodgings at 41 Upper Berkeley Street, where by 1801, the property itself appears to have been empty, but living a few doors away was Henry Austen Esq. at 24, the brother of the author Jane Austen, perhaps indicating that at least, that at that time, Catherine was living in a pleasant area of London, so, once again who was funding this?
This link will take you to the final part of Catherine’s story.
As there is so much to tell in this story, during the next few days I will be taking a look at the life of Catherine Despard and that of her son, so do keep an eye out for the following parts.
Firstly though, I would like to give a massive ‘Thank you’ to the kindness and generosity of Mike Jay, author of The Unfortunate Colonel Despard, who kindly shared with me Sarah Gordon’s will, which helped to open some doors. To Mish Holman, who, despite being busy with her own research, found time to check out some documents at the National Archives for me and to Professor Gretchen Gerzina for telling me to ‘go for it’ when I initially thought everything known about Catherine had already been written.
For fans of the programme, Poldark, you may well have seen the episode about Edward (Ned) Marcus Despard and his wife, Catherine and her valiant, but unsuccessful, attempt to save her husband’s life.
Whilst Poldark is fiction, the lives of Edward (Ned) and Catherine were real. The programme, as you might expect, used quite a bit of creative licence in the telling of their story, especially as neither character appeared in the books by Winston Graham.
Much has been written about the life and more dramatically, the death of Edward, who, for those who don’t know, was found guilty of high treason and met his end courtesy of the hangman’s noose, closely followed by the removal of his head, which was placed on a spike as a warning to others.
Edward allegedly plotted along with his co-conspirators, to kill George III whilst on his way to Parliament on 23 November 1802, then to seize the Tower, and the Bank of England. Whether he was guilty or not is another story, as he refused to admit to anything, perhaps to avoid implicating his co-accused. I’ll leave you to read more about the trial for yourselves, as the focus in tis post is really upon his wife, Catherine.
Fewer than a handful of writers have attempted to record in any detail Catherine’s life, and so, always being one for a challenge, it was suggested that I try to see if I could piece together a little more about the life of the woman who stood beside Edward every step of the way, until he mounted those final steps on 21 February 1803.
Not only did Catherine seem to be a dutiful and loving wife, but she also acted as a courier and campaigner, visiting her husband, writing letters on his behalf and fighting as hard as she could to gain his freedom.
Who was Mrs Catherine Despard?
Accounts vary but, she is often described ‘a former black slave‘, from somewhere in the Caribbean, but we do know a little more about her than just those few words.
Catherine’s early life
To begin with though, we don’t know exactly when, or for sure where Catherine was born, but it now seems fairly safe to assume she was born around 1760, give or take a few years, in Jamaica.
Having trawled through the baptism parish registers for Jamaica, there are a few possible matches for Catherine, as below, from the parish register of St Catherine’s Jamaica, but there is nothing conclusive. This entry provides no parents being named but describes her ‘a mulatto child’ meaning one white parent, one black which could possibly be hers.
It is now known that Catherine’s mother was Sarah Gordon of St Andrew’s, Jamaica, who was buried on 25 July 1799 at Long Mountain, St Andrews, as can be seen here.
The parish register of St Andrew’s clearly states any person of colour or black and as you can see the entry directly above Sarah Gordon’s, states that Martha was ‘a free black woman’, the next but one entries after Sarah’s name, tells us of two women who were buried as ‘a woman of colour’ and yet there is nothing against Sarah’s name, which is unusual in light of the other burials recorded at St Andrews, but this could simply have been an omission. The burial entry also tells us she was not buried in the church graveyard, but at Long Mountain.
Sarah left a will, of which I was extremely kindly sent a copy, by Mike Jay (see bibliography at end of the whole article). The handwriting not the easiest to decipher and is quite faint, but it does tell us that Sarah was a ‘free black woman’.
I have read that Catherine’s father was a church minister, but I haven’t as yet been able to confirm the source. Mike Jay also said that ‘There was a claim in the London pamphlets of 1802 that her father was a Jamaican preacher and her mother a Spanish creole’ but he had no luck confirming this either.
When writing her will, Sarah was ‘sickly state of health, but sound of mind.’ She was a land owner of the parish of St Andrews, and sadly no mention of a husband, it simply describes her as being a relic i.e., widow.
Although very difficult to read, the will tells us that at some stage in the past Sarah had borrowed money from a friend or possibly a relative, Hannah Williams, a ‘free sambo woman’. Sarah part purchased three pieces of land in Kingston, half of the money for the three plots was funded by her, the remainder of the money borrowed from Hannah, which Sarah wished to be paid to Hannah upon her death. She also names Hannah’s two children, Eleanor and Benjamin Pierce, who, in the event of Hannah’s death, would take over ownership of the land, assuming they were aged 21 or over.
Both children named in the will were born in St Andrews, Jamaica, Eleanor in 1783 followed by Benjamin, 1791, but what is confusing is that both children shared the same father, a Benjamin Pierce, but the mother of Eleanor was named as Johanna Williams, whilst Benjamin’s mother was a Hannah Pierce. It’s interesting to note in the parish register, just below Sarah’s burial was that of a Joanna Williams, was this Eleanor’s mother? once again, we may never know.
The children were baptised on the same day in January 1799, a fact that Sarah would, in all likelihood have been aware of. Whilst that is a slight aside, Sarah also names her sister, Catherine Pierce (surname illegible), so quite who her middle name, Pierce was in honour of, I don’t know, but what does seems highly probable is that Sarah named her daughter, Catherine, in honour of her sister.
Sarah also left a legacy for her daughter, Catherine:
to my dear daughter, Catherine Gordon Despard, now in London … four negroes, who had been in my possession, a negro man named Jack and a negro woman, named Maria and a little boy, her child, named December and a negro woman, named Louisa.
It has not been possible to find out anything more about the enslaved people or what became of them, unless Catherine bought them over to England, which seems rather unlikely. Sarah also described Catherine as
my beloved daughter and best of friends, Catherine Gordon Despard of the city of London‘
It would seem clear from Sarah’s will, that Catherine was very much loved, but perhaps more importantly that her mother knew about her husband, Edward, where they were living and also that Catherine and Edward had a son, Sarah’s grandson, John (illegible) Despard.
Sarah knew that her grandson was a lieutenant in His Majesty’s East London Regiment, so despite Catherine having left Jamaica almost 10 years previously she was aware of her grandson’s military rank prior to her death, which must mean that they retained communications after Catherine left the island, so presumably Catherine wrote to her mother with news from England.
This link will take you to Part 2 and Catherine’s arrival in England and this one to part 3.
Tomorrow is Pancake day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, which may well feel of little consequence in light of the current situation in Ukraine, but I’ll share it anyway. Like so many, my thoughts and prayers are very much with those in Ukraine. For those who know All Things Georgian well, you will know that my comments have always remained firmly rooted in the 18th century and never write or comment on current events, so for once, I make an exception. Now back to pancake day:
The word ‘shrive’ means to give absolution after hearing a confession, so people would historically attend confession in order to prepare themselves for Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday.
The earliest English recipe for pancakes is believed to date back to about the 15th century, but today we’re going to take a quick look at what the newspapers of the early 1800s had to say about Pancake day.
To begin, I came across this variation on the origins of Pancake day in the Cumberland Pacquet 12 March 1821:
Pancake Tuesday – The custom of eating pancakes on this day is believed to have originated from the following circumstances. One, Simon Eyre, a shoemaker, being chosen Lord Mayor of London, made a pan-cake feast, on Shrove Tuesday, for all the apprentices in London; and ordered that upon ringing a bell in every parish, which is still called the pan-cake bell in the city, they should leave work for the day. In the year 1446, Mr Eyre built Leadenhall.
We have an interesting report on the Derby Mercury 19 February 1823 which reported that the type of people ate pancakes by 1823 was largely governed by social class!
The custom of eating pancakes on this day, arose from the discipline of the ancient church, which, though it allowed the people to indulge in festive amusements after their confession, did not permit them to eat flesh meat. Recourse was therefore had, to pancakes and fritters; and the custom of eating them peculiarly on this day, though the decline among the great, is still maintained by many families of the better sort; but more especially among the lower class through the Kingdom.
Was there anything those Georgians thought unacceptable?
Not only, like us today, they enjoyed pancakes, but also, they had another tradition that took place on that day – cock throwing, but it would appear that by 1803 they were society was beginning to disagree with this long established practice on Shrove Tuesdays, if this report in the True Briton, of 19 February is to be believed:
As Shrove Tuesday us approaching, we hope some steps will be taken to abolish the barbarous practice of throwing cocks.
The Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser of February 1823 waxed lyrical about pancakes, although I’m not sure I like the idea of adding vinegar – it’s lemon juice for me, for sure.
Shrove Tuesday is a relic of the carnival, and is more properly called, in some parts of the country, Pancake Tuesday, the shriving, or confessions of sin, taking place in the Shrove-tide, or Lent, which follows it; it was the interval between flesh-eating and fish-eating, and so they judiciously filled up the time with pudding.
The making of the pancakes used to furnish as much amusement in the kitchen as their mastication did in the parlour – the operators piquing themselves on tossing them skilfully in the pan; but the custom is too much gone out. We see many reasons for the discontinuance of some customs – of cock fighting, for instance, which use to be the disgrace, and which is the pastime of cowards; but why we should give up our pancakes, unless we have lost our gums as well as our teeth, or are subject to heartburn we see no reason upon the table. They are of taste “not inelegant” as Milton says. They are a nice variety – their entrance is a prodigious moment for the children – they can accommodate themselves to sophisticated palates by means of lemon juice or vinegar, the rolling of one of them up, and then cutting it with a knife and fork, and dipping the slice into plenty of sugar, is a thing not be to slightly praised.
To end with, I wonder what event this child baptised on February 26, 1775, could possibly have been named after? Mary Pancake, illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth Staines was baptised at Cowley, St James, Oxford.
As we are approaching Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake day, I thought we would take a look at Sarah Tully, later to become Lady Hoare about whom the Wellcome Collection have a book of recipes from the 1730’s in Sarah’s name. It’s not clear whether Sarah wrote the book itself, or her name simply appeared on the front of it, especially as there appears to be a variety of handwriting in it.
From this portrait of Sarah though, it does look as if she’s holding the recipe book itself, purely a guess on my part, of course.
Amongst the countless recipes of receipts as they were then known, we have one for pancakes. For any chefs out there they are perhaps worth a try on Pancake Day.
Who was Sarah?
James Tully died in August 1731, leaving a wife, Sarah and several daughters including our lady in question, Sarah.
Upon the death of her father, who died suddenly from an apoplectic fit and fell of his horse, Sarah and her siblings became extremely wealthy heiresses. Her father’s wealth was estimated to have been around at least £5 million in today’s money.
In his will James, an attorney, left lands at Wood End, Ravensden, Bedfordshire to his wife and also his lands at Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex which he had purchased from Richard Hoare. To his daughter Sarah he directly left land in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Berkshire and Middlesex, plus properties on Bow Street Convent Garden and Poland Street in Westminster. Even just some of this would have made Sarah an extremely affluent heiress. His other daughters, Charlotte, Anne and Elizabeth he also left various estates. James was one, exceptionally wealthy man, whose will runs to about 8 pages, with further legacies to different people.
It would just eight months later that Miss Sarah Tully was married to a member of the banking dynasty Hoares. She married Richard Hoare, on 24 April 1732. Richard was also the Lord Mayor of London in 1745. The couple had just one child, a son, Richard.
Sadly, Sarah’s married life was extremely short as she died September 1736, but Richard wasted little time marrying for a second time. His second wife being a Miss Elizabeth Rust, described in the press as being a ‘beautiful lady of great merit, find accomplishments, and a considerable fortune’. So, Richard clearly married well twice.
For anyone interested in 18th century recipes I would highly recommend reading this book, a direct link is highlighted the start of this article.
Not only did Sarah’s book contain recipes, a few household tips and also health remedies, such as this one for ‘buggs‘.
and this one which was specifically for Richard to ‘keep him free from oppression, lowness and flatulence‘.
Finally, this is not a remedy I will be trying, under any circumstances. I can’t imagine anything worse than a concoction made from earth worms and garden snails to be drunk as a cure for a consumptive cough!
I am delighted to welcome back, ‘legal eagle’ Melanie Barnes, who, with today being Valentine’s Day, is taking a look at brides and bigamy.
When the government introduced Lord Hardwicke’s Bill for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage in 1753, the whole country literally was livid. Modern commentators have now acknowledged that in reality the Acts made little difference, but at the time the mere idea of marriages only in public led to widespread protests, a gazillion angry pamphlets and much debate.
Essentially, the Marriage Act introduced the structure for a valid marriage as we know it today with public banns and licence, but previously it was also possible to have a ‘clandestine marriage’ in secret. You’ve probably already imagined a dashing young Master sneaking into the stables with a pretty young maid, and you’d be right, as the Bill was partly designed to prevent rich heirs from being seduced into clandestine marriages with their social and economic inferiors.
One of the problems is that a valid marriage attracted all sorts of financial goodies such as rights to maintenance, inheritance or property. For example, a spouse could sue for ‘reinstatement of conjugal rights’ or bring a claim of ‘failure to maintain’ in order to receive regular support. Or, a husband could sue for damages if the promised ‘portion’ or dowry was not paid. Any valid marriage, for example, one that might quickly follow the tête-à-tête between the young heir and his maid, could also annul any future union which automatically made the children of the second marriage illegitimate. Oh the shame!
In terms of punishment, the Act provided that any clergymen who performed clandestine marriages were to be transported to America for 14 years. I like to think that this explains why there are so many Chapels of Love in Las Vegas.
It was also hoped that the Bill would prevent the problem of bigamy as marriage was a well-known remedy for women against debt. Essentially, upon marriage in the 18th century, a man and woman became one legal entity under the doctrine of coverture and the husband would subsume his wife’s rights and obligations. This prevented, for example, women from owning property in her own name without permission from her husband (though she could protect her money through a trust), but also made him solely responsible for their joint actions in crime, for example if they both committed murder. Coverture is one of the reasons that gave men the right to physically chastise his wife – if there was a risk that the wife could break the law then she needs to be controlled! It’s very hard for us now to get our heads around this doctrine, but at the time it was simply accepted.
In terms of liabilities, any debt accrued by a woman was the responsibility of her husband so, yep, you guessed it; all she needed to do in order to avoid liability was to marry. This also wasn’t a problem for the new husband (who might have been paid for his services), as law suits were crazy-expensive and took years in court. I am aware of one woman who went on to marry five times without a single divorce and in her memoir describes how she arranged the first simply to avoid prison. In fact, her first husband was already married so when her second husband tried to argue that their marriage was void, the woman argued that this was impossible as her first union was already void so their marriage was valid and … yeah, it’s complicated.
Lord Hardwicke was aware of this particular case and referred to it in parliamentary debates. Of course, he couldn’t say that the real reason the Act was needed was to stop rich people from marrying the poor, so much was made about bigamy, when in reality, fake marriages were probably not that widespread a problem, although they did happen.
But, it wasn’t all bad for those who opposed the Act as they had the final glorious protest. On the day before the Marriage Act was introduced in 1754, in defiance of the new rules, hundreds of couples entered into a clandestine marriage. I like to think that all of them ended up drinking and dancing in Covent Garden. Thousands of people all coming together in a democratic demonstration of nuptial love and freedom. I wonder how many of us were born of those unions. It’s a lovely thought.
I accidently came across this beautiful medicinal chest on the Wellcome collection website and decided to find out more about Reece.
Dr Richard Reece was born in 1775 and at the age of twenty was resident surgeon at Hereford Infirmary. He became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1796.
In 1799 Richard, by now a well-established doctor, married Kitty Blackborow, the daughter of Justice William Blackborow. The couple had 9 children, of which according to Richard’s will, 3 of the five girls survived into adulthood, along with 4 boys.
Not only was Richard a well-respected doctor, but he also wrote many papers and books about medicine and in 1813 wrote a Dictionary of Medicine.He also sold medicines and medical equipment from his premises, including medical chests, as we can see here, on his trade card.
His business operated from 170 Piccadilly and his medical chests were said to have been designed by a man with the flamboyant name of Francis Columbine Daniel who had an equally flamboyant life, but that’s another story.
Richard, it appears was also one of the doctors involved in the case of Joanna Southcott, who, aged 64 claimed to be pregnant, you can find out more about the story using the highlighted link. It always amazes me how I disappear down one proverbial rabbit hole and end up finding something I really wasn’t expecting.
Early September 1814 it was recorded in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, that Dr Richard Reece, of Piccadilly had ‘ascertained by personal examination and confirmed that Joanna Southcott was undoubtedly pregnant‘. This of course, it transpired was untrue. Richard was mocked for this as can be seen in this caricature.
However, perhaps in order to set the record straight, Richard was also the doctor who led the post mortem on Joanna. Perhaps this redeemed him from his initial mistake.
In 1827 the Morning Chronicle Richard suffered a break in at his premises. Lyon Lyons, a known receiver of stolen goods was charged with having stolen thirty smelling bottles, with gold and silver tops, valued at £15, two medicine chests, £8 in money and other articles. Instead of the focus being on the thief, Reece was challenged by counsel for the defence about swearing the oath on the bible. It was stated that perhaps as a follower of Joanna Southcote, this was inappropriate. So, there he stood some 14 years after Joanna’s death still being challenged about his view that she was pregnant and that he was one of her believers. Eventually Lyons was found guilty of the crime.
Richard died from a liver complaint in early October 1831, and, in his will, he stipulated that he should be buried at St George’s burial ground to join his two daughters, Emma and Kitty. He left one shilling to his son William, a chemist at Worcester, he said that he couldn’t leave him more due to funding his son’s move to Worcester. He left his business in trust for his three remaining sons, George, Richard and Henry for at least two years until they were deemed worthy of it. His wife Kitty lived until 1863.
Although not one of Richard’s cabinets, how wonderous is this example from the Rijksmuseum.
Finally, there is an interesting article on the website of New York City Museum about the restoration of one of Richard Reece’s cabinets – link.
Parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials
Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1791a
Today, in this very long piece, for which I apologise in advance, we are going to take a look at arguably to the two most famous Regency courtesans, Harriette Wilson and her friend Julia Johnstone, or to be more accurate I’m going to try to establish some of the fact from fiction about Julia’s life, part of which was told by Harriette and part by Julia, so buckle up we’re in for a bumpy ride!
Who were these two women?
Julia Johnstone was the pseudonym of Julia Elizabeth Storer, born to Thomas James Storer and the Honourable Elizabeth Proby, a Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte. She was baptised on September 9, 1777, at Frensham, Surrey.
Harriette Wilson was the pseudonym of Harriette Dubouchet, born 22 February 1786, St George’s, Hanover Square, the daughter of John and Amelia and about whom I have written previously, so rather than recap her life, there is a link to it here.
Despite everything I have read, I am convinced the pair met in the early 1810s when they became firm friends, visiting each other, mixing in the same social circles and sharing the gossip of the day, until that is, the friendship turned rather sour. Both were famous or infamous courtesans of the day; however, I am less convinced about Julia’s reputation.
Harriette’s Memoirs were first published in January 1825 and of which the Duke of Wellington, reputedly, if not accurately, said of her blackmail threats to include him in her book, ‘published and be damned’.
Julia’s Confessions, are a rebuttal of much of what Harriette had written about her, being published just two months later, with the subtitle of ‘In contradiction to the fables of Harriette Wilson’. Given the speed with which Julia wrote her book, she must have wasted absolutely no time whatsoever, after reading Harriette’s memoirs to write her own, a contradiction of the apparent lies that Harriette had written about her.
Julia would, no doubt, have been furious at Harriette’s portrayal of her and clearly wished to set the record straight, but this is where the problems begin, as some aspects of Julia’s account don’t stand up to close scrutiny, but then arguably, neither does Harriette’s.
I do have a major problem with Julia’s account, for a very specific reason which will become very clear at the end. Julia seems to have featured in several books, several of which have however, taken Julia’s account of her life at face value, but with a little more digging I have managed to rectify some of the reputed ‘facts’.
Who was Julia?
According to Julia, her mother, Elizabeth née Proby was a Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte, however I am struggling to find confirmation of this widely acknowledged fact. This list notes all of Queen Charlotte’s maids and there is simply no sign of her either under her maiden or married name. I’m not saying she lied, but rather, I can’t find supporting evidence.
Her father was Thomas James’s Storer whose family lived in Jamaica and made their wealth owning slave plantations in Jamaica.
Apparently, Julia and her family lived at Hampton Court Palace, so the first thing to do was to check that out. However, this is where it begins to unravel, having checked the Grace and Favour handbook of people who lived in Hampton Court Palace it tells us that an Hon. Mrs Storer lived there from 1782 until 1808. Now this seems feasible as Elizabeth had married Thomas Storer in 1774 and she died in 1808, but the handbook itself suggests that the Hon. Mrs Storer was someone completely different. It is of course possible that Julia’s parents lived at another of the royal palaces. Sarah E Parker, author of Grace and Favour has picked up on the ODNB suggestion that a Rev. Francis Willis married a Mrs Storer who lived at Hampton Court Palace, however on closer examination that doesn’t quite add up either. Rev. Francis Willis, who treated King George III, married for the second time, in 1798, his wife was however, a Sarah Storr not Storer, a spinster of the parish of Greatford, Lincolnshire where both were living when they married, rather than at Hampton Court, although the possibly had rooms there too, it’s not clear.
Setting that aside, the author, Frances Wilson, in The Courtesan’s Revenge states that Julia had three siblings, but there is no sign of any other children, and certainly only three were named in her fathers will. Julia had just two younger siblings, a sister, Frances (1780-1821), who married a Richard Hutchins Whitelock and a brother, Anthony Gilbert (1782-1818), who inherited estates in Jamaica from his paternal uncle when just 17 years of age. He married in 1806 at Westmoreland, Jamaica and he and his family remained there until his death, aged 36.
According to Julia her father ‘died abroad in embarrassed circumstances’ – this does not appear to be quite truthful, although just maybe that’s what she was led to believe, only being 15 at the time.
Her father wrote his will on 29 September 1792, and stated that whilst he had been in Lille, he had, by this time, returned to the parish of St Margaret’s, London, now whether his wife, Elizabeth was living with him, who knows, but he does not appear to have been in embarrassed circumstances and left both his wife and children provided for. Frances Wilson also states that Thomas died at ‘his family’s Belle Isle home’ i.e., in Jamaica, clearly that was not the case as we can see from the Public Advertiser, 14 November 1792:
Thomas James Storer was buried on 18 November 1792 at St James, Piccadilly.
Thomas’s father had returned from Jamaica and died the following year, having made his will on 22 June 1792, so just before his son, in which he left the majority of his estate in Jamaica, to his eldest son, Anthony Morris Storer, which in turn, he left in trust to Julia’s brother, Anthony Gilbert.
Julia never married but adopted the surname, Johnstone, we may never know why, but as suggested by Frances Wilson, the Johnstone surname was probably adopted by Julia in honour of her late aunt, Elizabeth Anna Maria Storer, who married a Thomas Gregory Johnstone and who died in 1791, although no definitive reason for this name change has ever come to light.
Julia’s formative years
Julia says that she was sent to a convent in the south of France to be educated and that:
At the age of thirteen I was sent for home and arrived at the Royal Palace (where my mother had apartments) to finish my education under an old ignorant Swiss governante, amidst the gloomy walls, and long avenues of trees.
Julia refers to the apartment as being at the Royal Palace, so they could have been living at Kensington perhaps, or maybe St James’s, which might explain why there’s no sign of them at Hampton Court Palace.
Julia also says that says that once her education was complete, she wanted her freedom and independence:
My governess complained, my mother scolded, I pouted, a carriage was drawn up to the palace gates, I entered it by word of command, put my head out of the window, ‘Good bye, mother’, ‘Adieu, daughter’ and went the horses full speed, and from that moment we never met again.’
She specifically said of this event:
We stopped at Hampton Court Palace. Another palace, thought I, pray heaven it proves less gloomy than the one I have turned my back upon.
This implies that this was Julia’s first visit to Hampton Court Palace, but offers no explanation as to why she would go there, who she was going to, it was all rather a strange and vague parting. Surely Julia didn’t simply have an argument with her mother, pack her bags and head off to Hampton Court Palace without any money or any idea why she was heading there – it doesn’t add up.
She says that on her arrival she moved in with a Josiah and Lavinia Cottin who, according to Harriette’s account, eventually had 9 children. It would appear that Julia was to be a companion to Lavinia, although how this arrangement came about, we have no idea. Julia also said that she had met Josiah previously, in France when he had delivered letters to her from her mother, whether true or not, who knows, perhaps the families knew each other, and this is how it was arranged, rather than her simply packing up and leaving home for who knows where. According to Harriette’s account:
Poor Julia, all this time, did not receive the slightest compliment or attention from anybody. At last, she kissed her hand to someone in a neighbouring box.
“Whom are you bowing to?” I inquired.
“An old flame of mine, who was violently in love with me when I was a girl at Hampton Court,” whispered Julia. “I have never seen him since I knew Cotton.”
“What is his name?” I asked.
“George Brummell,” answered Julia
So perhaps Julia lived at Hampton for a few years earlier in her life, it feels almost impossible to distinguish fact from fiction here.
Who was Josiah Cottin/Cotton?
Josiah Cottin was born in 1767 to Alexander Cottin of Cheverills, Hertfordshire, and his wife, Anne née Chapman, so some ten years Julia’s senior. He served in the 10th Light Dragoons, and in March 1792 he married Lavinia Chambers, the daughter of the famous architect, Sir William Chambers.
Their first child, Anna, was born one year later, 1793. Anna was swiftly followed by Georgiana in 1794, John, 1795, Lavinia, 1796 and some five years later in 1800, Adolphus, therefore making just five in total, not the nine as has been claimed they had, unless they had other children who died in infancy, but certainly there is no evidence of the other four, but if they existed, they must have been born in the gap between 1796 and 1800.
Now, according to Julia, when she went to live with the Cottin’s at Hampton Court Palace, they did have children, daughters, but she didn’t specify how many. What Julia told readers was that she was only 16 at the time. However, if this were true it must have taken place in 1793, at which time the Cottin’s possibly had one baby, Anna, but certainly no more than that. The records for Hampton Court show Josiah and Lavinia not moving in to the palace until the end of 1797, this would have made Julia at least 21.
It seems far more plausible that Julia went there at that age, rather than aged 16 as she had said. By that time Lavinia would have 3 toddlers and a baby, which makes more sense of Julia’s statement when she described the children as being ‘too young for me to associate with’.
Julia described Josiah’s marriage to Lavinia as being ‘on the worst possible terms’. If that were the case, they still managed to resolve issues long enough to produce another child, perhaps that one was achieved more by accident than design.
Julia then asks her readers, not to judge her, when, ‘at the early age of sixteen I fell a victim to my own inexperience, and the passioned solicitations of a man’ – that man was Josiah Cottin and so their relationship began.
Julia started her seventeenth year as a well-connected debutante, but ended it a “fallen woman, pregnant and disgraced”.
If Julia became pregnant in 1794, then there is absolutely no sign of a birth for this child, so whilst I’m not saying it was a lie, I’m suggesting that it seems highly unlikely.
It wasn’t until in June 1800, that we first have any tangible proof that Julia became pregnant, giving birth to a son, Josiah, naturally as their first born, it seems logical that the baby would be named after its father. This seems to have taken quite a long time for her to conceive assuming her relationship with Josiah began when implied. Julia would have been 22 when Josiah was born. Coincidently, Josiah’s wife also gave birth to their final child in September of the same year – awkward!
It would be a further five years before Julia and Josiah had more children, however they then went on to have Charles in 1805, with the couple’s address being given as Warwick Court at that time. George who was born in 1806, Julia Emma in 1807, but not baptised until August 1814, at St George’s Hanover Square, with Josiah stating his rank to be that of Captain. The couple, or at least Julia, were living at Chapel Street, Grosvenor Place.
Then in 1809, Lavinia, who was also baptised with her sister, Julia Emma. Coincidently, on the same day, the line below in the parish register there is an entry for the baptism of Harriette’s parents youngest child Julia Elizabeth Dubouchet, which perhaps shows the closeness of Julia and Harriette. It strikes me that it was rather cheeky of Julia and Josiah to have been having an affair yet feeling it appropriate to name one of their offspring after Josiah’s wife, Lavinia.
The following year, 1810, Josiah’s eldest daughter by this wife, Georgiana Maria, aged 16, married Sir John Fleming, 1st Baron De Tabley, with her father’s permission and at the family home, Hampton Court Palace. Josiah was named on her marriage entry as a ‘lieutenant colonel in his majesty’s army’.
Julia and Josiah’s final child was Sophia, who was born in 1811, so a total of 6 children altogether, as confirmed by Harriette in her memoirs:
“Certainly,” said I; “I do think it wicked to put ourselves in the way of increasing a large family of children, only to starve them. You are the mother of six already, which is five more than your slender fortune can support
By Harriette acknowledging that Julia had six children would place this part of her memoirs as being post 1811. According to Harriette it was around this time that Julia claimed to be pregnant by Sir Henry Mildmay, although in reality there is no evidence of there ever being a child as a result of the reputed relationship.
Julia said that Josiah had set up her and the children in Primrose Cottage at Primrose Hill and visited them as often as possible, which seems to confirm that he was still living with his wife and keeping Julia as his mistress. Julia did have some money of her own from an inheritance, from a family member, but she didn’t elaborate as to which member, but it has to be assumed that Josiah was helping to fund their family unit, as well as his main family, so he would have been supporting 11 children on an army salary – quite an achievement in my opinion.
According to Harriette, Lavinia was extremely angry when she found out about Josiah and Julia’s relationship and threw her out. Julia on the other hand said that Lavinia knew nothing about it, until months after she had moved out of their home, and that Lavinia and Josiah had separated. As to which version was true, who knows, but Julia’s account seems more plausible.
When Julia announced her first pregnancy, according to Harriette:
Julia could not attempt to describe the rage and fury either of her mother or brother. It was harsh, it was shocking, even as applied to the most hardened sinner, in such a state of mental and bodily suffering. Julia was, with her infant, by her noble relatives hurried into the country, almost at the risk of her life, and Colonel Cotton was called out by young Storer, Julia’s brother, and, I believe, wounded.
Julia completely dismissed this as rubbish, saying that her mother treated this information with complete apathy, rather she said that Julia was now completely on her own to fend for herself. The idea that Julia’s brother had a duel with Josiah she said was complete fiction, as her brother was out of the country. This could well be true, as we know that he had inherited estates in Jamaica, so it’s feasible that he had left for Jamaica by this time.
When did Harriette and Julia first meet?
According to Harriette’s memoirs:
Just as we were sitting down to dinner Mr. Johnstone arrived and was introduced to me. He was a particularly elegant, handsome man, about forty years of age.
If we assume that Harriette was correct about his age being about 40, then this must meeting must have taken place around 1810, ‘Mr Johnstone’ (Josiah Cottin) was born in 1767, so would have been 43, so not a bad guess on Harriette’s part.
At the time of their meeting, Julia would have been about 34 and Harriette 25. Frances Wilson stated that Julia and Harriette met as early as 1803, but that doesn’t really fit with Julia’s children’s ages, as, in 1803 Julia had just the one child, not the five Harriette said.
Circa 1810 would also be a better match given Harriette’s remark if the couple had been together since about 1800:
I never saw such romantic people, after nine years and five children!
Harriette did say that at some stage during Julia’s relationship with Josiah that he was ‘was dismissed from his regiment by his royal commander’. I can find no evidence of this at all, and this remark angered Julia –
There never was a more cruelly false insinuation. I believe military law takes no cognizance of errors of the heart in any of its officers.
Josiah was a major in 1798, promoted to lieutenant colonel by 1804, then by 1814 he was a captain, or at least that is what was recorded on the baptism entries for Julia and Lavinia in 1814.
According to Julia, Josiah paid for the boys to attend a respectable public school. As for the girls, Julia said ‘he left me to dispose of, and assigned a very small annuity to each of them. As for me I was left to shift as I though proper’.
Having provided for them via his solicitor, Josiah left England with his regiment. This is likely to have been mid 1813 when the 10th Regiment were sent to Spain, at which time Julia described herself as a single woman again and decided at that time to move in with Harriette.
What became of Julia’s six children?
Josiah (junior) became a teacher in Twickenham, and died at just 27 years of age, leaving a widow, Eliza née Sandby and 3 children – Albany, Eliza and Ellen.
Josiah’s son, Albany would, as a young man of 22, appear in court for ‘begging letter imposition’. During the hearing Albany told the court of his family background which proved to be completely truthful and was verified in court, by the production of supporting documentation His mother, Eliza, his two sisters, Eliza and Ellen and wife, Mary Ann, were also present at the proceedings. Albany told the court that he had trained as a dentist but found himself and his family in dire straits, so appealed to people living at Hampton Court Palace for financial help. The case against him was dismissed.
Eliza, Josiah junior’s eldest daughter, married a widower, twice her age and they lived in Stepney, by 1861 she was living with her 3 children and her mother.
Ellen, Josiah junior’s youngest child, married in 1856, her husband, George Hyde Hambly, a law stationer, of Whitechapel.
Charles also became a school master and married in 1841. The couple lived in Chelsea before moving to Beaconsfield where they had at least two children. Charles died in in 1860.
George, little is known of him, he married a Mary Thorn May in 1829 and died in Hounslow in 1843, aged 36.
Julia Emma died aged 20 and Lavinia Mary died aged 32, both unmarried.
What became of Julia and when did she die?
Julia seems to have disappeared from the radar after her book was published, according to her book she was living quietly in Hampstead, but that in itself raises questions.
Did she really write the book? My conclusion is that she didn’t, but rather, it was written by someone with a good knowledge of her life, family and her friendship with Harriette and that much of Julia’s story could well have been written constructing it from information taken from Harriette’s book.
The author, Angela Thirkell also felt that Julia was dead before her memoirs were written and questioned whether they could, according to John Stockdale, have been ghost written by Jack Mitford, to me, this does seem feasible.
In June 1815, Harriette’s sister, Fanny, died (buried as Frances Parker, having taken her lover Colonel John Boetler Parker‘s surname) and Harriette confirmed that three months later (on 13 September 1815), her mother also died. She was buried at St George’s Hanover Square – this was also true and is supported by evidence for both burials.
Harriette said that following these deaths, she too became ill and was confined to her bed for two months which takes us to around November/December 1815.
Harriette then described visiting her friend Julia who was close to death.
When my spirits and health were at their very worst, I was informed that poor Julia was dying and wanted to see me. I could not refuse her request. Her features bore the fixed rigidity of death when I entered her room. Her complaint, like her late poor friend’s, was a disease of the heart, and there was no remedy.
Harriette’s story of Julia’s demise continues with a conversation with Napier* who said:
N: I had her laid out in state, and wax candles were kept burning round her coffin for a fortnight: and I paid half of all her debts!
H: Suppose you had paid the whole?
N: Nonsense! They were very thankful for half.
H: And what is to become of her poor children?
N:A noble relative has taken one, and Lord Folkestone another, and Mrs. Armstrong is consulting me about the rest.
The main reason I don’t believe Julia’s memoirs were written by her, is that according to the parish register of St George’s Hanover Square, Julia was buried on 28 January 1816 using the name with which she was baptised, Julia Elizabeth Storer, and coincidently, at the same church that several of her children were baptised. This also fits perfectly with the timescale Harriette gave.
I also noted that when Harriette was buried, she too was buried with her given name of Harriette Dubouchet rather than Harriette Wilson, so it would follow that Julia was also buried using her real name.
If that wasn’t her, then there was someone else with exactly the same name, Julia Elizabeth Storer, living in the same location. I have to say that I do find it too much of a coincidence and have found no other person buried at that time that it could have been.
The burial register for Julia Elizabeth Storer also provided the name of the street she was living on – Grosvenor Place, London. On checking the rates returns for around 1816, I had hoped to find her listed or a clue – sure enough, whilst there was no sign of her, her maternal uncle, Lord John Josiah Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort had his London house there, and it was also the road noted on the baptismal entry in 1814 for two of her daughters.
For me at least, this would confirm that Julia died there in 1816 which is why she had disappeared from the radar. Whoever actually raised her children though, I have no idea as yet apart from the comment above, made in Harriette’s book.
In Frances Wilson’s book, The Courtesan’s Revenge, she states that in 1824, Julia was charged with being drunk and disorderly, however, the person named was a Julia Johnson, without the ‘t’ and ‘e’, she was a different person altogether, who appeared in court quite regularly. This and other newspaper reports were also cited in Julia’s book too, and disputed by its author. Whoever wrote Julia’s book had also read the newspapers and knew they were two different women.
Frances Wilson also concludes from a baptism of 1823, that Julia and Josiah were still together at that time, some 10 years after the birth of their last child. She names the child as being Julia Storer Johnstone. This infant was however, one of Julia’s grandchildren, born to her eldest son Josiah and his wife Eliza nee Sandby. Baby Julia was their second of 5 children and not in fact ‘our’ Julia, but named in honour of her grandmother, Josiah knowing full well that his mother was dead by this time.
Josiah Cottin remained resident at Hampton Court until his death in 1843, living there with his wife and after her death in 1830, with their eldest daughter, Anna. Josiah’s will made provision for one person only – his eldest daughter, Anna who presumably was caring for him in old age, as he died aged 76. There was no reference made to his other living daughter, Georgiana, although as she was married, he must have sure she was already being very well provided for. There was absolutely no mention of Julia or his children with her at all.
To finish, there was an interesting piece in the Morning Herald, 21 October 1826
Some curiosity was excited, on a woman called Harriette Wilson, being placed at the bar, on a charge of felony, brought be a certain Julia Johnson, in the vague hope that the prisoner and prosecutrix might prove to be the ladies whose annals have made so much noise and scandal in the world. The parties, however turned out to be common-place people, one of whom stole a milk jug from the other, and was therefore found guilty, and sent to the mill for a week.
Again, this confirms that Julia Johnson was not ‘our’ Julia.
*Napier was Charles James Napier (1782-1853). Julia’s memoirs described Napier as being ‘Inspector General, Ionian Islands’.
According to Harriette Napier was with Julia when she died, so we’re looking at about December 1815, I am struggling to place him in England at that time, although it’s not impossible. He was certainly in Paris during the earlier pat of 1815 according to his memoirs, so was this another piece of fiction? I suspect it was.
This of course, still leaves many unanswered questions, but, I hope gives a little more clarity about the life of Julia Elizabeth Storer (Johnstone).
Thinking about the past couple of years living with the Covid situation and how we remember those we have lost during this time, led me to think about death in the Georgian period and I thought I would take a look at items used at that time as keepsakes and tokens of love.
This of course led me to mourning rings, objects which are rarely purchased today. We often think of such items as morbid, but they’re not, they are tokens of love and something the wearer has right next to them all the time as a permanent reminder of someone close who is no longer with them.
I found myself on the British Museum website looking at some of the mourning rings and have tried to find out a little more about some of them, not necessarily who owned them, rather, whose death had instigated the creation and purchase of them.
Many mourning rings include the person’s name, their age and the date they died, and money was often set aside in wills for the purchase of such items, so here we go with just a few of the many they hold in the collection.
The first ring was in memory of cordwainer, John Bignell/Bignall. John died on 3 August 1782, aged 56 and was buried at St Benet Fink church, London.
His will tells us that he set aside £10 for ‘mourning items’ for his brothers, which could, in all likelihood, have been for mourning ring(s) as well as perhaps items of clothing for the funeral itself. Of course we have no idea which brother this particular ring belonged to. The ring is a gold hoop with a floral design and an enamelled skull engraved on outside; floral design, enamelled, covering whole hoop.
The next ring was to commemorate the life of Judith Sheldrake. Judith died on 26 October 1788 at the age of 44. The British Museum queried whether she was from Hadleigh, Essex, but with a little research it would seem that she was actually from Hadleigh, near Ipswich and was buried at the parish church of Little Wenham, near Ipswich on 1 November 1788.
Judith was born Judith Everett, daughter of Isaac and Mary, but married into the Sheldrake family, her husband being Robert Sheldrake, a grocer and draper of Hadleigh, according to the Ipswich Journal which carried a notice of Judith’s death. The couple had married at Hadleigh in 1775, so relatively speaking their marriage was quite short, but during that time they had at least 5 children, Robert, Thomas, Isaac Everett, Jeremiah and finally, a daughter, also named Judith, who was born in 1786, so she was just under two years old when her mother died. All the children was baptised in the non-conformist church.
Judith and Robert’s place in the family tree was recorded in ‘Notes and Querieson subjects connected with the counties of Suffolk, Cambridge, Essex and Norfolk,’ as Robert’s brother was Thomas Sheldrake, of Wetheringsett Hall, who wrote about the family’s genealogy. Robert remained in Hadleigh until his death in 1818 and there is no record of him having married again, so perhaps the mourning ring was his, as a constant remainder of his beloved Judith.
We move on to Gilbert Allix, who died on 27 June 1767 at the age of 73 and was buried on 3 July 1767 at St Giles, Camberwell. We know little of his life, but we do know that he was a merchant and that he left a brief will in which he named his dearly beloved wife, Jane and his brother, William. His estate went to Jane, and he left twenty guineas for mourning to William, so it’s possible that the ring was purchased by William as a memento of his brother.
Our next ring was in memory of Barbara Davenport who died 4 November 1812 aged 57, according to the ring. Although the ring names her as Mrs Barbara Davenport, this would have been a courtesy title, as she was a spinster.
Barbara was born 28 June 1754, at Astley Abbots, Shropshire, the daughter of Rev Dr William Davenport and his wife, Martha of Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire.
Barbara left a will which tells us that one of her close friends was the MP Charles Bragge Bathurst of Lydney Park, Gloucester, but sadly there is nothing that specifically tells us to whom the ring was a gift to, but this link will take you to a fascinating story about the family and tells you a little more about Barbara.
The final ring was in memory of a John Higgs who died at the age of 53, on 12 May 1782. John’s will tells us that he was a bargemaster of Millbank Street, Westminster.
John was married to Hannah, and they had two sons, William and John and two daughters, Lydia and Mary. His wish was that his two son should continue to run his business after his death, which consisted of 5 barges and a punt.
This ring is a little more unusual and more elaborate than the others and the description from the British Museum tells us that it was
Gold, marquise bezel, urn on pedestal with monogram painted on white ground; above, a weeping willow executed in hair and inscription; inscription on black enamel round hoop
The fact that inscription on the ring says ‘in memory of a dear father’ means that it was purchased by one of the children, so perhaps each child received one and to date this is the one that has survived.
It’s been quite surprising how much information such a small object can tell us about the life of a person.
200 years ago in January 1822, Ackermann’s Repository provided detailed guidance for the ever so fashion conscious woman of the day to wear.
A high gown composed of bright rose-coloured levantine; the bottom of the skirt is trimmed with a broad bouillonné of the same material, above which is a flounce edged with velvet to correspond and disposed in a scroll pattern; there are two rows, each turned the same way, and a rouleau of levantine placed between. The body meets in front: it is ornamented with straps placed bias, and each furnished with a Brandenbourg; the back is plain, and extremely narrow at the bottom. Spring collar, trimmed with a full fall of the same material. Sleeve moderately wide; cuff cut in the three points, finished by Brandenbourgs. The epaulette, for which we must refer to our print, is extremely novel and pretty.
Headdress, a demi-cornette composed of Urling’s lace; the caul is something higher than they have been lately worn; narrow border, made very full. A bouquet of roses is placed rather far back. The hair is parted so as to display almost the whole of the forehead and is dressed lightly at the sides. Black kid shoes. Limerick gloves (Maria Edgeworth wrote in her ‘Popular Tales’ a story about such items. You can find out more here).
A white satin round gown; the bottom of the skirt is trimmed in a very novel style with blond intermixed with white satin. The corsage is cut low and square; the bust is edged with a plaiting of satin, and the lower part of it is ornamented in front with satin edged with narrow blond and disposed in a scroll pattern. The sleeve is a mixture of blond and white satin; the former full, and confined by lozenges of the latter, the point of each finished by a Provence rose; the bottom of the sleeve is confined by a band to correspond. White satin sash, embroidered at each end in a bouquet of roses, and tied in full bows and long ends.
Headdress, en cheveaux. The front of the hair is parted to display the forehead and falls very low at the sides of the face in light loose ringlets. The hind hair is disposed in plaits, through which a wreath of Provence roses is carelessly twisted. Earrings and necklace diamonds: the latter is a negligé. White kid gloves, and white gros de Naples slippers.
We are indebted to Miss Pierpoint of No. 12 Edwards Street, Portman Square, inventress of the corset à la Grecque, for both these dresses.
Although it’s not possible to establish exactly when Miss Pierpoint began trading, it is known that she was trading until 1818 at Southampton Street, then moved to No. 9 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.
Interestingly, No. 10, the property next door was occupied by the bankers Austen, Maunde and Tilson, of whom Jane Austen’s brother, Henry was a partner, with Jane staying here with her brother in 1813 and 1814, so it might just be feasible that she knew of Miss Pierpoint herself, if only be reputation, as she was clearly well known to the nobility and gentry, even though Miss Pierpoint didn’t move to Henrietta Street until after Jane’s death. 9 Henrietta Street is still linked to fashion, as it’s home to Fred Perry, Covent Garden branch.
We know that Miss Pierpoint moved to Edward Street, in 1822 from where she continued to successfully trade for many years. Catherine was actually married and described herself as a widow in her will but traded as Miss Pierpoint. She died in 1849, whilst still living and trading from Edward Street.
Many of images of Catherine’s fashions appeared in the Ladies’ Monthly Museum and more images can be found via this link.
I am thrilled to welcome to All Things Georgian a new guest, Melanie Barnes. Mel is is a lawyer and recent NFTS Screenwriting MA graduate, who has more than a passing interest in 18th century marriage law, military history and like myself, she loves all things Georgian.
Mel’s post today takes a look at punishment and so I should warn you that it includes images of violence, which many people may find upsetting.
The British Army, an elite unit of around 1000 “gentlemen volunteers” from Scottish, English, Irish and Welsh regiments, came into being with the restoration of Charles II. According to those in power, by 1689 the army had expanded to a force of 74,000 unruly and untrained “common men” who we now know probably weren’t volunteers at all. Perhaps suspecting that catchy ballads, inspirational drumming and the promise of non-existent bounty was unlikely to sustain the new recruits for long, in the same year Parliament introduced the Mutiny Act and made desertion punishable by death.
Discipline and obedience is the foundation of an army. Otherwise, the theory goes, your large majority of murderous soldiers, all traumatised by war, will not easily be managed by the minority of posh blokes with authority. Prior to 1689, regulations were in place to discourage insubordination and mutiny but during peace-time could only be dealt with under civil law. The Mutiny Act introduced a much clearer distinction between military and civilian law, although there were occasions when civilians travelling with the army were also sentenced under Martial Law.
Death was the most extreme penalty of all, with beheading apparently reserved only for the most aristocratic. This is surprising, as I’d always assumed that those who made it onto ThePeerage.com would prefer to be poisoned by sumptuous grapes or drowned in a pond of lilacs and flowers. For those of us who only make it onto Facebook.com, I’m afraid punishment of death was the less honourable death by shooting or rope.
For anyone who has watched Handmaidens, you will already have a good idea of 18th century military punishments, and only have to reimagine most of the scenes with men wearing red coats instead of capes – the ceremony is very similar. Troops would surround the prisoner in a semi-circle who would then be tied to a stake and blindfolded. After (hopefully) being told by the Chaplain that that all would be forgiven and they were definitely going to heaven, the execution party would fire, followed by a reserve party if the target was missed. In one case, a soldier was shot simply for grumbling about having to go on sentry duty – I wouldn’t have lasted long!
Very occasionally, punishment would be by fire. The records show that on one occasion in Flanders, during the Nine Years War, a French spy was apprehended after throwing a fire bomb into a wagon of explosives. In retaliation, he was burned slowly on a stake; a hideous and painful death.
The most terrifying punishment builds on the Roman punishment of decimation; death of a minority by chance. This was usually ordered when a large group were considered culpable but it wasn’t feasible for them all to be killed. For example, permission was sought in 1668 for several soldiers to “throw dice for their lives”, with the lowest score resulting in death. There were several other instances of dice being used for this purpose.
In another case recorded at a Court Martial in Flanders in 1694, several men were caught deserting their post and one was ordered to be executed. The remaining six had to draw lots, with two being executed, a scenario recorded several other times in the records. In our day and age when an abusive tweet or harsh word is considered a crime, it is difficult to imagine the horror and dread experienced by the men who were killed for deserting out of fear, and later, bad luck.
A hangover from medieval torture was the punishment of disablement or mutilation. The strappado is a form of torture in which the prisoner’s hands are tied behind their back and they are hoisted to the ceiling on a rope. In medieval times, they would then be dropped, bottom-first, onto a large spike. OUCH! In the army, the lucky devils were simply dropped to the ground, in a way that usually guaranteed a serious disability.
But it wasn’t just men who received corporal punishments. Whipping was a common chastisement and records reveal that civilian women also received this treatment. The amount of strokes, or stripes, depended on the crime, but often was based on the biblical “40 stripes save 1”, in other words, 39 strokes. There were, however, instances where the sentence was for much more. One story relates to a woman who was found guilty for inciting to mutiny. Her sentence was that she should be gagged and receive 50 lashes on her bare back, 10 at 5 different spots, and then to be sent away from the garrison on the first available ship. This wasn’t seen as enough, and she was also sentenced to being whipped all the way from the prison to the dock. In Ireland, another woman was sentenced to death for inciting troops to desert their post, something I would be likely to do at the first sight of blood!
Most of us have heard the saying “running the gauntlet” but I never knew the ruthlessness of its origin. The word Gatloup was used by the Roman Army, and is said to have derived from a Germanic word meaning “lane” and “run”. Essentially, as seen in the picture, the regiment would line up and form a lane of men, all of whom would hold a cudgel or other weapon. The prisoner would then have to run past them all, perhaps even a number of times, and be struck by each and every soldier. It was an officer’s duty to make sure all of the soldiers adequately attacked the prisoner, so by the end the poor man would be very badly beaten. By the Victorian times, the saying was already being used as a joke, perhaps signifying the lack of continued use as a punishment in the army.
Lesser sentences were also given for lesser crimes, for example, mutilation by branding, cutting off the ears or nose, or even temporary starvation. Another sentence was time spent on the “wooden horse”, a punishment designed to humiliate the offender, usually with physical pain by tying guns or weights to his or her legs, or making them face the backside which might have been used for an officer. All of these punishments were designed to deter others in a way that is less apparent in our sentencing system of “just deserts”, Under this philosophy, the sentence should be commensurate with the offence, and cannot be ordered as a deterrent to the wider community.
The life of an 18th century soldier was harsh and unrelentingly brutal. The wars of the Georgian period were less about freedom and more about power and wealth, so the hardships endured and the lives lost are difficult to justify.
When you next commemorate those who have fallen, take a moment to also remember the god-forsaken lives of the red-coated soldier in his thread-bare shirt:
Went to a tavern and I got drunk
That is where they found me
Back to barracks in chains I was sent
And there they did impound me.
Fifty (lashes) I got for selling me coat
Fifty I got for me blankets
If ever I ‘list for a soldier again
The devil will be my sergeant
The Oxford history of the British army (1996)
History of the British Standing Army (1894), Harrison & Sons, Walton, Clifford
Tried and Valiant (1972, Leo Cooper, Sutherland, Douglas
As many of you will be aware, research into the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her family has been ongoing for quite some time now and today, at the suggestion of Etienne Daly, who has been researching the life of Dido for a number of years, we will take a look at some of Dido and John’s neighbours, in order to gain a glimpse into what living on Ranelagh Street would have been like for this newlywed couple.
When Dido Elizabeth Belle married John Daviniere in 1793, the couple set up home at 14 Ranelagh Street in Pimlico. It’s difficult to determine in which social circles Dido and John mixed after their wedding, or exactly where Dido lived immediately following the death of Lord Mansfield, earlier in 1793.
Her direct family, i.e., her father and Lord Mansfield had both died prior to her marriage, but her step mother, Lady Mary Lindsay was alive until 1799, but there is no surviving evidence to confirm that she and Dido had any contact at all, especially as Dido’s half siblings, John and Elizabeth were named Lady Lindsay’s will, but curiously, Dido was not. Maybe Lady Lindsay simply assumed her step daughter had been provided for by both Lord Mansfield and her husband.
Her cousin, Lady Elizabeth with whom she shared the famous portrait, had married George Finch-Hatton some eight year previously, and although they were obviously close whilst at Kenwood House, although there appears to be nothing left to history to confirm that they ever kept in touch after Lady Elizabeth married, but then their lives took very different paths, with Lady Elizabeth marrying into an aristocratic family and Dido marrying John Daviniere, who was a servant at the time of their marriage.
Sadly, there is also nothing to confirm that Dido had any contact with her half siblings, but as Elizabeth was in Scotland and John, out in Indian with their respective families, so perhaps this is not really surprising given the geography. This would have left Dido with few known contracts, despite her previous social standing as the great niece of one of the most affluent and influential men in the country and living in the grand, Kenwood House.
With a lack of information about her possible acquaintances after her marriage, especially any contact with family and at present there is no knowledge of her having many, if any, friends, the only things left to go by, are her neighbours in Pimlico.
Their new home on Ranelagh Street, Pimlico would have been similar to this one, advertised in the Morning Post, August 1800.
The search began with the rates book from 1794 when they moved there, up to around 1807, by which time it is known that John and their two sons had moved out after Dido’s death.
The first interesting piece of information I found, was that when John Daviniere left 14 Ranelagh Street North, Pimlico, the new occupants were a Martha and James White, a gardener. Martha had married James in November 1794 at the same church that Dido and John had married at just a year previously.
Why is this relevant? Well, in the marriage register for Dido, the marriage was witnessed by a Martha Darnell, and it transpires that it was this Martha, who went on to marry James White, so it would certainly appear from this, that Dido and John remained in contact with Martha when she married her first husband and also through to her second marriage, with Martha and James moving into Dido and John’s property after John and the boys moved out.
After the death of James, Martha and her second husband, William Parkes remained in the property for a few years, until they completely vanished from the radar. It seems feasible that Dido knew Martha from Kenwood House, where it’s possible Martha was a dairymaid or a ladies’ maid, and that maybe her first husband was one of the gardeners at Kenwood House too – pure speculation at this stage, but hopefully at some point tangible proof will come to light.
Another neighbour who lived next door to Dido and John was a John Mann, who was initially described as a perfumer, but by 1808 he had become a hairdresser and barber. He was clearly not operating his business from home as it’s known that he was renting out part of him home by this time, perhaps business wasn’t going so well.
It was in December 1808 that Mann’s life came to something of an abrupt end as we will now discover. The Hull Packet newspaper of 10 January 1809, amongst others carried reports of his demise.
A melancholy event occurred a few days since, at Pimlico, near London, accompanied with very extraordinary circumstance. Mr Mann, a hairdresser, who resided in Ranelagh Street, had, in consequence of a domestic misfortune, suffered mental derangement; but being, by medical aid, recovered, he had again resumed his occupation. A few morning since, he attended, as usual, to dress and shave several gentlemen in his neighbourhood, by whom he was much esteemed. He had, in all, dressed and shaved nine of his customers, the last of whom was Mr Palmer, of Drury Lane Theatre. Immediately upon his leaving Mr Palmer, he returned home, without attending to any of his other employers, and cut his own throat with one of his razors. The wound was so deep and extensive that he died in a few moments.
The gentlemen with whom he had been, all observed something very singular in his conduct: and there is no doubt that, during the whole of the morning, he was labouring under the terrible malady which induced him to put a period to his existence. Each of the nine has reason, therefore, to be thankful, that the razor was not applied to his neck, before the unfortunate maniac raised it against his own.
It’s not clear what the ‘domestic misfortune’ was, but it could have been connected to the death of his wife, Ann, who had died the previous year. Both John and Ann were buried at St George’s in the Fields, the same graveyard that Dido had been buried in a few years previously, in 1804.
Another of Dido and John’s neighbours was Anthony Fabiani, who, research shows, was one of the Treasury messengers, working directly for the 3rd Duke of Portland. Ranelagh Street was close to the Queen’s house, so arguably, it was a convenient place for him to live. Bentinck was a close friend of Sir John in his lifetime and therefore may well have been aware of Dido living in Ranelagh Street through Fabiani or government spies, and that she had a French husband.
Fabiani’s role was to be responsible for seeking out felons and taking them to prison, along with carrying documents the length and breadth of the country and travelling on behalf of the King and ministers all over Europe. I first spotted his name in the Hampshire Chronicle, 28 July 1798, which noted that:
Tuesday morning a Captain Coppinger, of Ireland, brought a few days since from Guernsey, where he had been arrested on suspicion of being one of the leading men in the rebellion in that Kingdom found means to effect his escape from the house of Mr Fabiani, at Pimlico, one of the Treasury Messengers, where he was in custody. The charges against him are said to be of a most serious nature.
With a little more searching I discovered several arrest warrants issued by the 3rd Duke of Portland, which bore Fabiani’s name, as the messenger sent to apprehend them; most being wanted for High Treason. Interestingly on the subsequent page of warrants was a name that jumped out at me – Edward Marcus Despard.
Despard was famously arrested in 1798, not by Fabiani, but one of his colleagues, George Higgins. Despard was hanged for treason in 1803, despite pleas from his wife, Catherine, who, like Dido was a woman of colour. It would be interesting to know whether Dido was familiar with Despard’s case and of Catherine, but it does seem quite likely that she would have read about it in the newspaper. Etienne has suggested that Dido’s husband, could possibly have been a spy, but of course, as you can imagine, there’s no tangible evidence yet to support this but it’s an avenue he is pursuing.
Fabiani lived at No. 3 Ranelagh Street until just after the turn of the century when he moved to Silver Street, Golden Square, where he died in 1810 and again, like Dido, he too was buried at St George in the Fields on 3 November 1810.
At No. 19, lived a music seller, dealer and chapman, Louis Von Esch, who was declared bankrupt in 1796, but presumably life began to dramatically improve, as by the turn of the century his musical talent was recognised.
Whilst it’s not conclusive, I’m fairly certain that this article in the Morning Chronicle of 1802, relates to Louis rather than his brother, Dominique, also a musician, and it would appear that he has become responsible for the musical education of Prince George’s daughter, Princess Charlotte:
It was around this time that he moved from Ranelagh Street and had moved to Edward Street. The same year, Louis had joined the Freemasons at the Lodge De L’Esperance, an Ancient French Lodge, giving his occupation as composer of music, along with his brother, Dominique, a music master, the brothers being aged 37 and 33, respectively. Fellow members of the lodge included the artist, Domenico Pellegrini.
It would appear that Louis’s music was extremely popular at the time. He socialised in the upper echelons of society and would eventually travel to Milan and the Palace of Visconti, which was where his life reached its conclusion in 1829.
Another long term resident of Ranelagh Street, living at no. 22, so just a few door away from Dido and John, was the watch and clock maker, George Philip Strigel. The couple would, more than likely, have known him in passing at least, as the elderly gentleman who made clocks and Watchmaker to Queen Charlotte.
According to the Royal Collection Trust, Strigel was described as the ‘blunt, high-dried, honest German’ who ‘had the care of his majesty’s clocks’. He was apparently, once interrupted by the George III whilst attending to a clock dial at Buckingham House, ‘standing upon a stool, placed upon a table, his hands extended above his head’ as he adjusted a clock dial in Buckingham House.
He was made an honorary freeman of the Clockmakers’ Company in 1771 – conferred on those who the Company believed could help to advance its interests – socially and influentially.
Maybe John and Dido even purchased a clock from him for their new home, who knows. Strigel died in 1798, and like other residents, was buried on 23 December 1798 at St George in the Fields.
In addition to these, Paula Byrne noted in her book, ‘Belle’, that other neighbours included the miniature painter and engraver, Charles Wilkins, an architect, George Shakespeare and probably the most interesting characters of all, was the herbalist, Mrs Ringenberig, who examined morning urine from which she could provide cures for female complaints – I wonder if Dido ever used her services?
Hopefully, this post will provide a glimpse into the lives of some of the people that Dido and John would have rubbed shoulders with whilst living in Pimlico and it would appear that several residents were employed by the royal family with others employed in a whole variety of roles. Needless to say, apart from her friend, Martha, no women are named, that is because none are known of as yet, but it would be difficult to believe that she had no female acquaintances.
Etienne Daly has found out that Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Portland was a close friend to Lord and Lady Mansfield, and that she was also a good friend to the ‘blue stocking’, Mary Delany and that both women visited Kenwood House whilst Dido was living there, so would most likely have met her, or at least been aware of her presence within the household. The Dowager’s son, 3rd Duke of Portland was mentioned earlier, so would possibly have known that Dido lived in Pimlico, but there is no conclusive proof of this.
To find out more about the lives of Dido Elizabeth Belle, her family and descendants, click in this link.
Gold always feels like such a luxurious colour, so today I thought I would take a quick look at some of the shades of yellow and gold used in Georgian fashion.
According to The Art of Dying of 1705, we know how fabric was dyed to create a wide variety of colours and it provides us with instructions about how to create the colour, gold.
Take your ware after it is dyed yellow, hang fresh water over the fire and for every pound of ware, take one ounce of Fustel wood, commonly called Gelb Swane or yellowing shavings, and a sufficient quantity of coarse pot ashes, boil the dye for half an hour, then work the stuff into it.
To create a straw colour
Firstly, dye the article yellow, then add half a pint of urine and work it in for as long as deemed necessary. Some recipes recommend stale urine, perhaps that makes it more colourfast?
As there are no further instructions provided, personally, I can’t imagine anything worse than wearing an outfit that’s been dyed that colour using urine and not then washed thoroughly in several boil washes before even contemplating wearing, to say the least, so perhaps it assumes the reader will work out that bit for themselves.
I hasten to add that it doesn’t tell you whether it should be human or animal, so I think it’s probably best to draw a line under that one!
The finest yellow after being boiled with alum alone, or with alum and dry tartar, are coloured with Spanish broom, which grows in several provinces in France. Turmerick which comes from the Indies produces also a sort of yellow, which is none of the best colours, but serves to tinge yellows and brighten those colours.
For every pound of ware, take two ounces of fustel wood, one ounce of pot ashes, boil them for half an hour, then stir it very well, after which put in your ware, it being first dyed yellow, work it till the colour pleases you, then rinse it out.
The next method doesn’t elaborate as to what shade of yellow/gold it creates, but presumably that’s left for the dyer to decide.
Alum your ware as usual for half an hour. Then for every pound, take half a pound of yellow dye weed, a handful of wood ashes, boil them a quarter of an hour, then throw your rinse ware into the liquor.
Over time new dying techniques were developed an according to the Ipswich Journal, October 1783,
A Mr Beckman, member of the Royal Society of Gottingen, has lately made a valuable discovery with respect to manufactures. He has found from repeated experiments that the Catharmus, or false flower, otherwise known as the false saffron plant, gives a most beautiful yellow dye to cotton, wool and even linen yarn.
However, some ten years previously, the Kentish Gazette reported that
One of the resolutions come to on Friday in the Committee of Supply was, that a form not exceeding two thousand pounds should be granted to Dr Richard Williams, of St Margaret’s, Westminster, as a reward for inventing a fast green and yellow dye on cotton, yarns and thread and for discovering the secret thereof.
Sadly, it doesn’t elaborate as to what the secret was, so perhaps, it will forever remain a secret.
This is my last post before the Christmas break, but I will return in January with lots more stories to share, along with some of my lovely guests. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all seasonal greetings and thank you so much for all your support during what has been a very tough year for us all.
Jane, or Mother Douglas as she was known, kept a bawdy house or brothel, in the Piazza, Covent Garden, entertaining a more upmarket clientele, until her death in 1761.
It was, as is often the case, that whilst looking for something completely different I came across her name recently in E.J Burford’s book, ‘Wits, Wenchers and Wantons’. Having also read her entry on Wikipedia I noticed a line which is always designed to send me scurrying off down a proverbial rabbit hole – ‘She had three sisters and at least one brother, but nothing more is known of the family’. Was that really true?
According to her memoirs published just after her death in 1761, her family were said to have hailed from Aberdeen. If her memoirs are to be believed, then her father was a John Douglas a ‘n___ by complexion, though born in these kingdoms’, and her mother was simply named Susanna.
John, it would was a drummer in the army. The couple apparently had a tempestuous and somewhat violent relationship, with infidelity and drink being to blame for much of this. Jane, it states, was:
born in Aberdeen, although they would lay no claim to her being one of its daughters.
Being raised in an environment of drink and violence, history, it is said, repeated itself with Jane enjoying a drop or two of drink. Incest was also said to have been involved in her early years, but how much truth there was in that remains unknown.
When Jane’s father died, she and her mother moved to London, where her mother, short of funds was said to have found herself on trial at the Old Bailey, and transported for 14 years, and never heard of again.
At the age of 19, Jane somehow found herself back in Aberdeen, tending to the needs of the young men there, but then fled to Edinburgh to avoid prosecution for stealing from the young men.
Whilst in Edinburgh, she took up with a Captain Hunter for a while, until she gave him the gift of a sexually transmitted disease and he kicked her out. Whilst finding herself in the situation of being on the street she stole a watch and wallet from a parson, containing ten guineas and was now wealthy and managed to get herself cured and continued to ply her trade, stealing as she went along.
She moved in with a ‘Mother R___’ where she proved to be an asset helping to run the house, whilst continuing to ensure her own purse was full, but things began to unravel for Jane and ultimately, she had to leave Edinburgh and headed back to London hoping to make her fortune.
Sure enough, the streets of London weren’t paved with gold, as she had hoped, and she took a room in an ale house in Drury Lane to recover and decide what she was going to do with her life. Again, she found herself as a street walker, but struggled to earn any money, her dinners being described as a slice of bread and cheese, and a pint of porter.
She accidently met up with a girl, Suky, who had also worked for Mother, R___, and who, like Jane had fled to London, but was now living in house of Moll J___ under the Piazza, Covent Garden, a place to which eventually Jane moved, and her life began to improve. The house was frequented by noblemen and gentlemen and Jane could visualise her life on the up, until an altercation with Moll J___, at which point Jane found herself back out on the street, she was, it seems incapable of holding her temper.
To cut a long story short though eventually Jane managed to acquire her own house in the perfect location in Convent Garden meaning plenty of customers and ‘would be’ actresses who could earn some extra money whilst waiting to land their star role.
‘Her house was calculated for the superior ranks of debauchees. Princes and peers frequented in, and she fleeced them in proportion to their dignity. She had a piece of plate which she constantly exhibited on her sideboard and which she called ‘Billy’s Bread basket’, it being a present from a certain Prince of that name who often visited her’.
It is said that she moved location in 1741 to the opposite side of the road, to the even more impressive building, the former King’s Head. Money was rolling in and Jane had improvements carried out to enhance the premises, but the working life of the girls remained the same, continuing to attract the wealthy clients.
Within a few years though all began to turn sour, the elite stopped visiting and she found her girls catering for a different clientele. The full ‘genuine’ account of her life can be found in the link below and is well worth reading.
However, as if often the case, some of may have been a case stretching the truth somewhat. Many accounts of her life confirm that she died June 1761, with her memoirs stating
The fatal hour last arrived, and the illustrious mother D____s paid the debt to nature on the second of June 1761. She was the same night carried privately out of her welling house to the undertaker’s. This measure was very prudent, as there was reason to apprehend, that the mob might rise, and some mischief ensue on the occasion. So, she was buried privately in the night time on the eight of the month in Paddington church yard. She died a true penitent, in the seventy-fourth year of her age, but very little lamented.
At least two newspapers reported:
Died. 10 June. At her house in Convent Garden, London. Mrs Douglas, well known by the name of Mother Douglas.
On Tuesday night died, at her house in Covent Garden, Mrs Douglas, well known to the sorrow of many fools of both sexes.
Where this Memoir begins to fall apart is that Jane was always referred to as Mrs Douglas, now this could of course have been a courtesy title or, as is more likely, she really was married to a Mr Douglas, but who he was or what became of him, I have no idea, alternatively, the whole story about her parents was fabrication on someone’s part.
Having managed to eventually find her burial, it took place as stated at Paddington, but on 12 June 1761, but more importantly the burial names her not as Jane, but Amelia, which has been stated by Burford to have been a relative of hers who ‘died a few year later’. This can’t be the case, unless both relatives died at the same time and were buried in the same place.
It seems far more likely that Jane used a variety of names, but was, officially Amelia, but as to where the surname Douglas came from, we may never know. With this in mind, it led to her will, which was dated 31 October 1759, plus a codicil added 15 May 1761, just a few days before her death.
In her will she left bequests to her sister, Mary Ann Marin(e) of Bromley Street, St Giles in the Fields, her brother, James in Edinburgh and his daughters, Jacobina and Frances.
Trawling through newspapers it would appear that her sister returned to Edinburgh, presumably to be nearer to her brother. According to Aberdeen Press and Journal 11 March 1799:
Died, at her house in Nicolson’s street, on the 11th ult. Mrs Mary Anne Marine, sister to the late James Marine, trumpeter to the Court of Justiciary, aged 103.
According to an article in The Trumpet in Scotland from 1488-1800, by Alexander McGrattan, it transpired that there was a James Marine with a musical connection, but I still wasn’t convinced that these were Amelia aka Jane’s siblings until I found the baptism in 1738, for James’s daughter, with the unusual name of Jacobina, that it began to come together, with the added bonus of her baptism telling us that her father was one of his majesties household trumpets.
We therefore have Mary Ann Marin(e) approx. 1696-1799
James Marin (e) 1699-1786
And the youngest, Amelia, approx.1704-1761, so rather than being Mrs Jane Douglas, she was actually born Amelia Marine. Whether there were any other siblings who knows, maybe they are still waiting to be found.
There’s still a mystery surrounding the codicil to Amelia’s will, as she provides for a young girl, Elizabeth Holmes, who was living with her, but was aged below 21 when the codicil was written. It is believed this girl was her daughter, but so far, I can find nothing to support the theory that her father was Admiral Charles Holmes, who was said to have been known to Amelia.
I’m sure this still leave many unanswered questions, but equally, it clarifies some of the mysteries. If you know anything more about the family, do let me know.
London – The Wicked City: A Thousand Years of Prostitution and Vice by Fergus Linnane, Robson, 2007
Wits, Wenchers, and Wantons: London’s Low Life: Covent Garden in the Eighteenth Century by E. J. Burford, Robert Hale Ltd, 1986
I came across a couple of really interesting characters who were said to have been very well known in their local area, at the time. The first was a Martha Staninought, who today, would possibly have been identified as having mental health issues, but at the time was simply regarded as eccentric.
Martha was generally known as ‘The Queen’. In her younger days she lived as a servant in some of the families in Great Yarmouth, during which time she demonstrated some symptoms of eccentricity, but for many years past she was reported to have been ‘in a state of insanity’ and was supported by an allowance from the parish and by private money, which was loaned to her, to be paid back when due.
Martha believed that her brother John was entitled to the Crown and that she ought to be considered and treated as The Queen. Under this illusion Martha carried in her hand, as symbols of her right, a seal, a triangular piece of French chalk, a dollar or a French half-crown, and the title page of some Acts of Parliament.
She was said to have taken great offence if not addressed by the term ‘Your Majesty’, and when she was at church, which she attended regularly, she always made a formal protest against praying for the King and Queen, when the prayer was read; and if the word Society occurred in the service, always called out ‘No Society’.
Her mind was frequently distressed by her apprehensions, sometimes that the state, sometimes that the Catholic faith, were in danger; but, excepting her insanity upon the subject of royalty, her conduct was perfectly correct and inoffensive. She was very neat in her appearance and very civil in her behaviour, just as long as she was treated with respect.
She always refused to take alms, though she would accept a loan in advance of her revenue, and frequently repaid it when she received her allowance, which accumulated during her absence upon the road, as she spent a great part of her time in travelling, visiting frequently ‘her cathedral’ at Norwich, and ‘her courts’ at Westminster.
In her progress to town, she was taken ill at Leiston, in Suffolk and was sent to Yarmouth, where she was taken into the workhouse, and treated with the utmost attention, her imagination remaining to the last impressed with her ruling idea. In her health she bestowed dignities upon her favourites, and in her last illness, she promised handsome regards to her faithful attendants.
Martha died in the workhouse at the age of 70 and was buried on 22 October 1804 at the parish church of St Nicholas with St Peter, St John, St Andrew, St James, St Paul and St Luke, Great Yarmouth.
The second character was Edmund Noakes, who died at Hornchurch, in Essex in 1802. He was by a tinker by trade, which he followed zealously until about six weeks before his death.
His rooms portrayed symptoms of the most abject poverty and yet, despite this, he was found to possess property to the amount of between five and six thousand pounds (about ¼ million in today’s money).
He had a wife and several children, which he brought up in the most frugal manner, often feeding them on grain and offal, which he had purchased at reduced prices.
He was no less remarkable in person and dress. In order to save the expense of shaving, he would encourage the dirt to gather on his face, to hide the fact. He never allowed for his shirt to be washed in water, but after wearing it until it became intolerably black, he used to wash it in urine to save the expense of soap.
His coat which time had transformed into a jacket, would have puzzled the wisest philosopher to make out its original colour, so covered was it with shreds and patches of different colours, and those so diversified, as to resemble the different trophies of the several nations of Europe and seemed to compete with Joseph’s ‘coat of many colours’.
The interest on the money, together with all he could heap up from his penurious mode of living, he used to deposit in a bag, which was covered up with a tin pot, and then conveyed to a brick kitchen, one of the bricks was taken out and a hole made just large enough to hold the pot. The brick was then carefully marked, and a tally kept behind the door of the sum deposited.
One day his wife discovered this hoard and resolving to profit from her discovery, took fifteen guineas from the pot. Edmund soon discovered what she had done and from that day forward he never spoke to her without calling her a thief.
In his younger days, to save money, when any of his children died, rather than having a coffin supplied for their body, he had a deal wood box made up (which would be much cheaper) and rather than undergoing a regular funeral, he would take them to a place dug for them.
A short time before his death, which he evidently hastened by the use of almost a quart of spirits, he gave strict instructions that his coffin should not have a nail in it, and that the hinges be made of cord. No plate on the coffin just his initials cut out of the lid. His shroud was made from a pound of wool and his coffin carried by six men, to whom he had left half-a-crown and at this specific request, no-one who followed him to the grave should wear mourning clothing, on the contrary, their whole dress should be striking. Even the undertaker wore a blue coat and scarlet waistcoat.
He died without a will and his fortune was equally divided between his wife and family. There was a burial on 17 October 1802 for an Edward Nokes, which it is fairly safe to assume was him, so he was buried officially, despite not having done so for his children.
Advertising was just as important in the 18th and 19th centuries as it is today. In order to really promote your business it was essential to invest in both newspaper advertising and also to have a trade/ business card and unlike many today, 18th century trade cards were much more elaborate.
Today I thought I would take a quick look at some of the trade cards for perfumers. I do have to confess this is a rather self indulgent piece, simply because I love trade cards, and along with these are a few invoices that I have come across, so, this is very much a pictorial post.
We begin with a for a Mr Stewart, perfumer of 12 & 13 Old Broad Street, who claimed to be perfumer to the royal family. At first I wondered whether there was just one company who had royal approval at any one time, but this was really not the case, there were many. Having that ‘royal seal of approval’ was the best way for a business to succeed.
Next we have Lewis Hendrie, comb maker to their majesties and perfumer to royal princesses, as we can see on this invoice from 1784, held by the British Museum.
John Thomas Rigge was an importer of foreign perfumes to be sold to the likes of King George III and of course, his son, George, Prince of Wales who always liked to keep up with the latest trends. John Thomas ran his business from two premises, 65 Cheapside and 52, Park Street, Grosvenor Square, with his wife Rebecca, along with several sons and daughters, so very much a family affair. Below we have both a bill of sale and his trade card, both courtesy of the British Museum.
You can almost imagine the wonderfully heady smells in Alexander Ross’s perfume shop picture below, which, it would appear, he ran with his wife Mary and two sons, until his death in 1819. Alexander clearly wanted to ensure that Mary wasn’t left short of anything when he died, but his priority in his will was to bequeath her all his wines and spirits (should we read anything into that?). He was in partnership with his sons, Thomas and William to whom he left three London properties along with the business.
Next we have Thomas Golding, of 42, Cornhill, perfumer to Her Majesty, Queen Charlotte. We can see from this invoice that not only was he a perfumer, but also a manufacturer or razors, dressing cases, pocket books and pouches, clearly someone who knew how to diversify in order to meet the needs of his potential clients. Below the invoice we also have his trade card. This invoice was for a Captain William Sherry, who it would appear was the captain of the ship, ‘Jamaica’ of Bristol. It would appear that Sherry was purchasing a variety of products including Windsor Soap, a variety of pomatums and lavender water.
Could the famous perfumer, Sangwine, have fitted anything more onto this?
Also, courtesy of Dr Alun Withey, from his personal collection, I’d like to share with you this receipt (below) from Sangwine’s who sold a leather pouch to a Mr Batt. It would appear that the family had begun to diversify from selling just perfume by this time.
So far it hasn’t been possibly to ascertain who was running the family business by 1810, but it had previously been run by Richard Sangwine, who when he died left it to his son, Richard and wife Mary to continue running.
Mary died in October 1810 and left a will in which she divided her estate between her three children, not equally though, it was split into six, with Ann receiving 3/6th’s, Frances 2/6th’s and her son, Richard for reasons known to his siblings, just 1/6th. I do wish she had elaborated on why Richard junior received the smallest share – but she didn’t!
By 1810 Richard junior’s son, Thomas was clearly involved in the family firm as we note from this receipt.
Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece:1623
Illustration from Ackermann’s ‘Repository of Arts’, part 1 or 85, series 2, vol 1. 1816
Delighted to welcome back Paul Martinovich who previously wrote the fascinating guest post ‘Who was Selina Cordelia St Charles?’ Today Paul’s back, with an equally fascinating post to share, so I’ll hand over to Paul to tell us more about Dr Richard Verity.
Richard Verity first came to my attention when I was researching my 3x great-grandfather, Robert Bellingham. In about 1815, Bellingham set up a partnership with Verity (both were surgeons and apothecaries) at 25 Bolton Street, Piccadilly. Nine years later the partnership was dissolved (by then Bellingham had moved to Bourne in Lincolnshire), though Verity kept the Piccadilly address for a number of years.
But Verity went on to greater things. He had been born at Bristol in 1788, though the family came from Cowbridge in Wales, and before that from Yorkshire. His father, Isaiah Verity, was a successful merchant who accumulated enough wealth to give Richard a medical education, including apprenticeship to a surgeon, William Salmon at Cowbridge, followed by a stint at Guys Hospital.
How the young Verity met Robert Bellingham is not clear, though the two men obviously aspired to a lucrative medical practice, based on their premises in fashionable Mayfair.
Richard Verity’s career soon became focused on attending to (and travelling with) some of the most prominent aristocratic families in Britain, particularly that of William Cavendish, the sixth Duke of Devonshire.
The Duke was the son of Georgiana, the famous Duchess, and inherited the title on the death of his father in 1811.
His sister Harriet, Lady Granville, seems to have been the first member of the family to employ the young surgeon in 1820, at a time when he already had the reputation of being a very competent but expensive physician to the aristocracy. This was to be the beginning of a thirty-year connection between the doctor and the Cavendishes and their kin.
A couple of years later, Harriet recommended Verity to her brother to act as his travelling physician. The ‘Bachelor Duke’ was a frequent traveller, and like many of his class, felt more secure voyaging with a trusted British doctor in his suite, rather than relying on the doubtful ministrations of an unknown foreign medical man.
The Duke set out quite specific duties for his private physician, which suggest he regarded the role as also including elements of personal companion, and tour manager. For £50 a month (such journeys often lasted several months), the Duke required his physician to handle the day-to-day financial aspects of the tour, as well as monitor his patron’s health and deal with any medical emergencies of members of the travelling party, which usually numbered up to a dozen. The doctor was guaranteed to have his own carriage, but could not assume that he would be introduced at the courts the Duke visited, or dine with the Duke, unless the latter was dining at home.
Verity first travelled with the Duke in July of 1822 on a relatively brief trip to Paris.
On his return, the doctor soon established himself as a close and respected member of the Cavendish inner circle, consulted not just by the Duke, but his sisters Lady Granville and Georgiana Lady Carlisle, and their respective spouses. Lord Granville was the British ambassador to France from 1824 to 1841 (with one two-year interruption), and during some of that time Verity held the very desirable post of Physician to the British Embassy in Paris. He seems to have interpreted his role quite broadly, since he often advised the Granville’s on maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. When he was away, he even left instructions for Lady Granville to prepare doses of drugs for the embassy staff.
In fact the doctor travelled much of the time he was attached to the embassy. Often the journey was to escort the Granville children back and forth across the channel during summer holidays, or the Ambassador and his wife on restorative trips to spas and seaside resorts. He even found time in 1826 to accompany the Duke on a ceremonial trip to Russia, where the latter represented the British government at the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I. During this trip, he is said to have saved the life of the Hon. Robert Dundas, the secretary to the Duke, making a dash from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod to retrieve the very ill young man.
In 1820 Richard Verity had married Charlotte George, daughter of Sir Rupert George, a senior naval officer. She died in 1823 just a month after giving birth to a daughter, Charlotte Margaret Anne. By 1825 Verity must have been prospering, since he purchased an estate, Dean Lodge, at Kimbolton in Bedfordshire, a fitting seat for a man who mixed comfortably with some of the highest in the land. But some aspects of his personal life may not have been known to his aristocratic employers.
Between 1823 and 1828, he had three children with a woman named Martha Binning, of whom little is known, other than she lived in London and may have been a bonnet maker. Two of the children survived infancy, and Verity may have provided some support for his illegitimate offspring.
Throughout the 1830s and 40s, Verity was a fixture in the lives of the Duke and his relatives, and remained close to the Granvilles even after they left the embassy in 1845. He also gave medical and other advice to the Duchess of Manchester, who lived at Kimbolton Castle, just a few miles from Verity’s home at Dean Lodge.
In 1854, some years after the death of the Duchess, this friendship involved him in a nasty court action. Just before her death she had changed her will to ensure that her Irish estates (which she had brought to the marriage) went to her husband rather than her children. Verity had witnessed the authorization of the new will, even steadying her hand as she signed. However, this document was contested on the grounds that the Duke (with the doctor’s assistance) had illegally pressured the failing Duchess into signing the new document, when she was not of sufficiently sound mind to do so. After a long and very public trial, in which Verity was extensively cross-examined, the jury found for the Duke, and the revised will was validated.
By this time Richard Verity had retired, having handed over the bulk of his aristocratic practice to his nephew, Robert. The latter was a strong proponent of the new medical theory of homeopathy, an approach based on administering miniscule amounts of natural substances to the patient. Richard is also said to have adopted this approach at some point in his career, but if so, none of his patients mentioned it in their published letters.
His last years were spent either in London, at his house in Hastings, or at Dean Lodge in Bedfordshire where he died in 1857.
He was survived by his legitimate daughter Charlotte; his second wife, Susannah Bayntun, the daughter of Admiral Sir Henry William Bayntun, having died nearly 15 years earlier.
What this bare recital of his life does not convey is the man’s unusual personality. He must have had a winning bedside manner, since his patients seemed to trust him unreservedly, even when his prognostications proved wrong. He could be quite severe in his directions—Lady Granville writes that
We have begun a life that even the uncompromising, inflexible Verity smiles upon,
and much later when the family was visiting a spa, he insisted on her drinking the sulphurous water, despite its vile taste.
His mere presence seems to have reassured his patients: Lady Granville said in a letter to her sister:
Granville is very well, but it will be a great comfort to me to have that valuable creature [Verity] to look at us.
After Lord Granville had a mild stroke, the doctor was even persuaded to follow the Granvilles around on their peregrinations in France, taking the same roads in his carriage and staying in the same towns, but not actually travelling with the family group.
So Richard Verity seems to have negotiated his ambiguous status with some skill—family confidant, close to its members, yet still substantially lower in the social hierarchy than his aristocratic employers. And this was despite his strange personal behaviour, as described by the Duke of Devonshire, who said he was
the queerest man I ever saw, sometimes pleasant in society, but so absent and vain in his person & dress, gazing at himself in the glass [mirror] that I sometimes think he is cracked.
Reading between the lines, Verity may not have been an easy person to work with. He was probably demanding of both his colleagues and his patients, ambitious and self-centred. Yet considering the range of his friends and acquaintances, his story is worthy of a biographer.
Many of his papers are now housed at the Glamorgan Archives, awaiting the attention of some curious historian interested in the intersection of social and medical history in 19th-century Britain.
Betty Askwith, Piety and Wit: A Biography of Harriet Countess Granville 1785-1862, Collins, London, 1982
James Lees-Milne, ‘The Bachelor Duke’ A Life of William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire 1790-1858: John Murray, London, 1991
Hon. F. Leveson-Gower (ed): The Letters of Harriet Countess Granville 1810-1845, 2 vols, Longmans Green, London, 1894
Samuel Wale RA, 1721–1786, British, Guys Hospital, undated. Yale Center for British Art
In a previous post, ‘Was green fashionable in the 18th century?’ I featured this beautiful miniature of a Mrs Russell, née Cocks. I was recently asked if I knew more about the sitter, so I had to see what else was known about her, if anything.
Mary was born 21 June 1758, the eldest daughter of Margaret and her husband, a barrister, Joseph Cocks. Joseph Cocks was the brother of Charles Cocks, 1st Baronet.
Mary had just one sibling, Margaret, who, as we will discover is very relevant to this story. Mary and Margaret’s father died 1775 and ensured that his two daughters were well provided for in his will, and placed his sister Elizabeth and his two brothers, John and Phillip as trustees of his estate until his daughters were aged twenty one or married.
When Mary posed for the miniature above, she was due to marry William Russell the following year, which she duly did on 19 March 1782 at St Martin, Worcester.
Just one year to the day later, Mary gave birth to a daughter, whom the couple named after her mother. The portrait below shows young Mary, aged 6, with her aunt, Margaret.
Tragically Mary’s life was to be cut short, as she died at just 28 years old, on 27 November 1786, but he has never been forgotten as she is commemorated in the parish church St Peter’s Powick, Malvern Hills, Worcestershire.
It’s just possible to make out in the carving below, Mary with her young daughter and they are surrounded by musical instruments, as Mary, was not only regarded as beautiful, but was also said to have been a talented musician.
As we can see from this portrait of Margaret below, painted the year of her beloved sister’s death, that she has the miniature of Mary in her lap and wearing what may well have been a mourning ring.
Mary’s husband, William, a wealthy lawyer, was left to raise their young daughter alone until he remarried in 1793, his second wife being Elizabeth Pakington. The couple had several further children including John Somerset Russell, later known as John Somerset Pakington who became First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for War and Baronet Pakington, and later was created 1st Baron Hampton.
William lived into his early 60’s and died in 1812. His will confirms that he owned estates in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Somerset and refers to an indenture of covenant that he had with Sir Herbert Perrot Pakington and his brother, John Pakington (these were the sons of Sir Herbert Pakington who was named in the memoirs of Teresia Constantia Phillips – such a small world!)
Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1006
Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1541
I’m delighted to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian, the lovely Leonora Nattress to tell us more about her first book, Black Drop which certainly makes for a gripping read, with plenty of twists and turns throughout, but I won’t spoil it and will leave you with Leonora to tell you more, but I would highly recommend reading it and I look forward to the next instalment.
Leonora Nattrass studied eighteenth-century literature and politics, and spent ten years as an English Literature lecturer, including eight at Nottingham Trent University. During this time she published several works on William Cobbett, and was a reviewer for The Year’s Work in English Studies journal. She then moved to Cornwall, where she lives in a seventeenth-century house with seventeenth-century draughts, and spins the fleeces of her traditional Ryeland sheep into yarn. Black Drop is her first novel.
Laurence Jago, the hero of my historical mystery Black Drop, is a young Foreign Office clerk who finds himself caught up in the dramatic political events of 1794 as he attempts to solve the murder of a fellow clerk.
Laurence’s investigations take him all around London, from his lodgings opposite the rickety waxworks on Fleet Street, to the meetings of the Corresponding Society radicals in backstreet taverns, but the heart of the story is the old Foreign Office (FO) in Downing Street. I have always loved novels set in small worlds, and when it came into existence after a reorganisation of the old ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ Departments in 1782, the FO had only eleven members of staff, including the Secretary of State himself, and the cleaning or ‘Necessary’ woman.
In 1794 Cabinet meetings took place in a FO room with a fine carved fireplace, and at its table the fear of a copycat revolution in imitation of the French, drove the fierce Government clampdown on dissent, which is at the heart of my novel.
But accounts of the old building and its day-to-day business at first proved frustratingly elusive. The old building itself is long gone, replaced by the monstrous behemoth of the current Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which was built between 1861 and 1868, and only a painting of Downing Street in the eighteenth century shows the square of handsome Georgian brick houses which once stood there, alongside a Number 10 as yet un-blackened by Victorian soot.
In the end, I was lucky enough to stumble upon Recollections of the Old Foreign Office by Sir Edward Hertslet, KBE, published in 1901. Though the author’s own tenure as librarian to the FO only began in 1840, his father had preceded him in the same post from 1801. This gives Hertslet marvellous second-hand knowledge of the place within a handful of years of my setting. The Foreign Office in Black Drop is based on this treasure trove of a book, and all the best and most delightful details come from Sir Edward’s memory, or his father’s.
The old Foreign Office stood in the left corner of Downing Street, looking down from Whitehall, and initially comprised two buildings thrown together into one rather inconvenient set of offices. ‘The most important rooms in the office were those assigned to the Secretary of State [and] the Private Secretary … on the first floor …’ whose windows looked into St James’s Park.
‘The walls of the Secretary of State’s room were hung around with fine old tapestry, a portion of which had been purposefully cut through on one side … to conceal a doorway that led into the Private Secretary’s room adjoining.’ In the Permanent Under-Secretary’s room, a hidden door was disguised ‘by imitation backs of books, handsomely bound, and inserted in the door, which gave it the appearance of forming part of the mahogany bookcase.’
The windows of the clerks’ rooms ‘looked either into the small “square” so-called, which formed a cul-de-sac at the end of Downing Street, or into Fludyer Street’, a back alley where ‘it was not an uncommon practice for the occupants of the upper rooms … to let down strings of red tape from the upper windows and haul up pottles of strawberries which they had purchased from fruit sellers in the street.’
One day, a mischievous young clerk in the attic ‘nursery’ dared another to cut the strings – an escapade that ended in a row and demands for reimbursement. Hertslet asks an elderly library messenger if he remembers this escapade. ‘Yes Sir, I remember it well … and didn’t we have a feast off those strawberries when they fell!’
It is marvellous to have pen portraits of the long-forgotten servants and clerks who worked under the Foreign Secretary, such as the old butler reduced, in Hertslet’s early days, to the task of lamplighter. ‘He was a very stout man, and being troubled with asthma, was so short-winded that when he went his daily rounds of the office to light the oil lamps in the various rooms in the winter months (for there was no gas in those days) it was painful to hear him panting for breath.’
We are well-enough acquainted with the pale and intense Pitt (‘accustomed to consume a quantity of port wine surprising in those days and incredible in these’ according to his Victorian biographer Lord Rosebery), the cuttingly satirical figure of George Canning, and the ‘broad-bottomed’ Foreign Secretary Lord Grenville beloved of the satirists in his turn, but it would be hard to match the drama of another supernumerary clerk, Mr George Lennox Conyngham who entered the FO in 1812 and spent his long career ‘hopping’ about the offices on a crutch and a walking stick, having met with a severe gun accident as a young man.
Riding on the outside of a coach bound for Cambridge, for a day’s shooting, with his accidentally-loaded gun leaning nonchalantly against his left leg, the inevitable happened. ‘He was at once removed from off the coach into the hotel where his leg was amputated near the hip joint. Some days later the surgeons discovered that it had not been cut off quite high enough, and Mr Conyngham submitted, with wonderful courage, to having another slice taken off …’ Tormented by rheumatism on rainy days, Hertslet recalls, Conyngham dulled the agony with large doses of opium.
These domestic details might make it easy to forget that the Foreign Office sat at the centre of a network of spies and informants, but Hertslet also catalogues the dangers faced by the King’s Messengers who brought news to the Foreign Secretary from all across war-torn Europe:
‘In September 1797 two messengers were drowned off Calais attempting to land at night in an open boat … In the same year another messenger was killed by a carriage accident near Augsburg … In 1807 another was stabbed by boatmen, who were conveying him along the coast of Sicily, and it was believed that he fell a sacrifice to a most heroic defence of his dispatches…’
Daring maritime escapades like these provided further brilliant inspiration when I came to write Black Drop’s sequel, Blue Water, which is set at sea and will come out in autumn 2022.
This is the confession of Laurence Jago. Clerk. Gentleman. Reluctant spy. July 1794, and the streets of London are filled with rumours of revolution. Political radical Thomas Hardy is to go on trial for treason, the war against the French is not going in Britain’s favour, and negotiations with the independent American colonies are on a knife edge.
Laurence Jago – clerk to the Foreign Office – is ever more reliant on the Black Drop to ease his nightmares. A highly sensitive letter has been leaked to the press, which may lead to the destruction of the British Army, and Laurence is a suspect. Then he discovers the body of a fellow clerk, supposedly a suicide.
Blame for the leak is shifted to the dead man, but even as the body is taken to the anatomists, Laurence is certain both of his friend’s innocence, and that he was murdered. But after years of hiding his own secrets from his powerful employers, and at a time when even the slightest hint of treason can lead to the gallows, how can Laurence find the true culprit without incriminating himself?
Black Drop was published by Viper Books on 14th October 2021
Having previously written about the final days of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire it seemed appropriate to also write about the demise of her husband, William, 5th Duke of Devonshire and that of her successor, Lady Elizabeth Christiana Foster, née Hervey, better remembered to the world as Bess, as they were probably the most famous ménage à trois of the period.
Until her death in 1806, Georgiana lived alongside her husband, in her name only, whilst he and Bess effectively lived as husband and wife, although, of course, unable to marry whilst Georgiana was still alive.
1809 proved to be a busy year socially for the Duke and Lady Elizabeth, as not only did their illegitimate daughter, Caroline Rosalie Adelaide St Jules (1786- 1862) marry George Lamb, in May of that year, but this was to be followed by Bess’s own marriage, finally, to the duke on 19 October 1809, at their Chiswick home. Given the lack of commentary in the media, it appears to have been a somewhat low key event.
The third marriage of the year was that of Lady Harriet Cavendish, known by the family as Harryo, the younger daughter of Georgiana and the duke. Harryo married Lord Granville Leveson-Gower on 24 December 1809, also at Chiswick House.
Bess’s marriage to the Duke proved to be relatively short lived, as the 5th Duke of Devonshire died suddenly at his house in Piccadilly on 29 July 1811. It was reported that he had been feeling unwell for a couple of weeks, however, that day his condition greatly deteriorated, and he died peacefully in Bess’s arms.
As the duke’s death was regarded as sudden, a post mortem was carried out, at which, around three pints of fluid were found in his chest and it was agreed by the doctors present that this would have been the cause of his death. Today we would most likely describe this as plural effusion.
Following the post mortem, the St James’s Chronicle reported that the duke’s remains would be taken from Devonshire House early in the morning and would proceed as far as Woburn, where the cortège would remain overnight before travelling onwards to Derby to be deposited in the vault close to the late Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
As was the case for Georgiana, the duke’s final resting place was also to be in the magnificent mausoleum, at All Saints Church, better known as Derby Cathedral.
On 5 August 1811 the duke’s remains were removed from Devonshire House and headed via the Great Northern road, for the family vault at Derby, with the procession being led by Messrs. Wilson, the undertakers.
Following the procession was his personal carriage with six horses and a mourning coach with six horses containing the upper servants of the household. His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent’s coach with six horses, four grooms and footmen in their liveries.
These were followed by the Prince Regent’s carriage and six; Earls Bessborough, Spencer, Liverpool and Cowper; Lords Holland, Yarborough, Morpeth and Gower plus sets of horses. This must have been an impressive sight for the average person to witness.
His coffin was described as being very beautiful and, if possible, even more highly decorated than that of the late Duchess of Devonshire. It was covered with Genoa crimson velvet, ornamented with exquisitely chased handles. The stars were silver and the coronets, rails etc were silver gilt. On a plate of copper gilt was engraved:
The Most Noble WILLIAM CAVENDISH,
Fifth Duke of Devonshire
Born December 24th, 1748
Died July 29th, 1811
At Kentish Town the Price Regent’s carriage left the procession and proceeded to Highgate, whilst the remainder continued their onward journey, arriving at Derby Cathedral on 8 August, 1811.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire died 30 March 1806 and it would exactly 18 years later to the date, that on 30 March 1824, in Rome, her successor, Bess’s life would also come to an end.
According to the Morning Post, 16 April 1824, the cause of her demise was inflammation of the bowels. Bess was aged 65 when she died.
The 6th Duke sent a courier to Rome to collect her body to have it repatriated to England. The journey took the courier some nine days to get there. After three days, arrangements were made for the repatriation and on the fourth day the procession left. It was estimated that her remains would reach Calais the following week. A hearse left London for Dover in readiness to receive her.
Bess’s body was then taken to Devonshire House and from there a state cavalcade took her to the family vault at All Saints church, Derby, where the Duke and Georgiana were already interred on 26 May 1824.
Her funeral was nowhere near as grand an affair as it had been for Georgiana and William, although it followed the same route when leaving London heading for Derby. It was simply preceded by one mourning coach and six outriders. The arms of family were on each side of the hearse and the initials E.D.D. The carriage containing her remains was drawn by six chestnut horses with crepe on their bridles; a second mourning coach closed the procession.
The ménage à trois were, once again reunited, this time for eternity
The portrait on the left is that of Mrs Sophia Musters, painted by George Romney and the one to the right is Mary, Countess Howe, by Thomas Gainsborough.
Both painting are located at Kenwood House and initially I didn’t realise there was any other connection, apart from that they were simply two stunning portraits of 18th century women. It was when I began to explore the life of Sophia, that her connection to Mary came into view.
Sophia Catherine nee Heywood was one of the daughters of the affluent James Modyford Heywood and his wife Catherine, nee Hartopp. The couple lived at Maristow House in the parish of Bickleigh, set in landscaped parkland, on the River Tavy to the north of Plymouth. In addition to this, James also had a plantation named Heywood, in the parish of St Mary, Jamaica.
James and Catherine had 4 daughters:
Frances, who married Thomas Orby Hunter on 26 Sept 1796 at the parish church of Tamerton Foliot, Devon.
Maria Henrietta, who married a Lewis Montolieu on 4 March 1786 at St George’s, Hanover Square in the presence of her father, her sister, Frances and John Musters.
Emma who married the controversial Admiral Sir Albemarle Bertie on 15 July 1782 also at Tamerton Foliot.
Finally, the woman in question, Sophia, who married Sir John Musters on 23 July 1776, again, their marriage took place at the parish church of Tamerton Foliot in Devon.
John Musters was a Nottinghamshire politician, land owner and the High Sherriff of Nottingham and just prior to the couple’s marriage John had the old Colwick Hall demolished and a new one built in its place ready for his new bride.
Once settled into their new home, Colwick Hall, they wasted no time starting a family, with Sophia giving birth to their first child, a son, John, born on 6 May 1777, followed by two daughters, sadly though, only one of whom survived into adulthood, Sophia Ann, who baptised on 21 Jun 1778. Their second daughter, Frances Catherine was baptised on 31 Jul 1779 but she sadly died shortly after.
Not long after this, all was not well in paradise, although to the outside world it certainly appeared to be. Sophia soon learnt that John preferred to spend his time with his horses and country pursuits rather than with his beautiful wife and young family.
The diarist, Fanny Burney described Sophia as ‘most beautiful, but most unhappy’. Sophia, it transpired, was much livelier and fun loving than her seemingly dull and disinterested husband.
Men were captivated by Sophia and being bored with her husband she soon found herself attracted to other men and was reputed to have had affairs with the likes of Peniston Lamb and George Pitt.
It’s curious however, that when Lamb died in 1805 that he left his bay horse to his ‘good friend, John Musters’ along with a further bequest to Sophia. It can only be assumed that Peniston and John Musters found a way to move on from Sophia’s affair and the two men remained friends. John was said to have been furious when he discovered his wife’s infidelity and had her removed from their joint portrait and this has only recently been discovered and restored to the image above that you now see.
Sophia died in 1819 at the age of 61, the couple having patched up their differences and settled down to some sort of marital harmony. In her memory John had this tomb sculpture of a woman weeping.
In 1796, Sophia’s father James Modyford died, and it was whilst checking his will, that Mary, Countess Howe (nee Hartopp) came into view. Mary was James’ sister in law and whilst she wasn’t named in his will, her husband Richard, 4th Viscount Howe was. James also sold his plantation in Jamaica, along with property, cattle and enslaved people to Donald Campbell for £18,000, payable in instalments.
How interesting that the two portraits now share the same location, Kenwood House, but to finish, here we have Mrs Sophia Musters as Hebe, again at Kenwood House.
It’s always a pleasure to welcome new guest authors to All Things Georgian and today I’d like to welcome Robert N. Smith who tells us more about the day to day life in the north of England during the Georgian era and his analysis of the truly shocking murder of an elderly man in his home, in his latest, absolutely fascinating book, ‘A Horrid Deed‘.
Robert earned his PhD in History from the University of Georgia and also holds a master’s degree in History and his undergraduate degree was in Classics and Mediaeval History from the University of Edinburgh.
Robert’s interest in crime developed through his research into the death penalty in the United States of America, which led to his book ‘An Evil Day in Georgia‘ that was nominated for several awards.
A Horrid Deed is Robert’s fourth book and one that takes him back to a few miles from where he was born in Hexham, Northumberland. He now lives with his wife and two chinchillas in the west of Scotland.
“On the morning of 7 January 1826, a small gathering of people stood outside the cottage where Joseph Hedley, ‘Joe the Quilter’, had lived since the time of the American Rebellion. Concern etched their faces as they chatted and glanced around at their dreary surroundings. The recent snow had drained the landscape of its colour, leaving a few patches of green along the hedges and brown ruts in the lane where wagons had passed by. Along with the usual small-talk of country neighbours who had not seen each other in a while, they discussed how the reclusive man who lived in the cottage often left home for days at a time, so they probably had little need to worry about this latest absence. But this time felt different, and they sensed something was amiss; no one had seen or heard from Hedley for five days, not the local farmer’s wife who gave him food and milk when he called round, or his labourer friend who raised the alarm about the missing man. A pair of well-worn clogs discarded in a drift of snow on the other side of the lane opposite the cottage door heightened their sense of unease.”
Four days before the strange gathering, Joseph Hedley had answered a knock on the door of his isolated little cottage along a country lane near Hexham, Northumberland. He was never seen alive again.
The group that assembled the following Saturday broke in and found his mangled body discarded in a dark corner. An inquest was held, a policeman arrived from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to conduct an investigation, a reward of 100 guineas was offered for information leading to the capture of Hedley’s murderer, and the newspapers ran with the story for weeks. But despite rumours and conjecture, no one was ever convicted of the crime. Joe the Quilter’s murder remains officially unsolved.
But who was Joseph Hedley, how did he live, and why was he killed? In A Horrid Deed, I have tried to answer those questions while providing a flavour of what that world was like in the places we rarely see in history books.
Part I surveys the life of Joseph Hedley. Known as Joe the Quilter for his craftsmanship, Hedley lived in relative anonymity in the backwaters of Northumberland during a momentous period in history. Born in the wake of the Jacobite Rebellions, Hedley’s life followed the rhythms of childhood, apprenticeship, marriage, work, then inevitable decline. As he worked away on his quilts, the world underwent momentous changes, much of it with Britain at its centre. Indeed, this was the period of Britain’s true emergence onto the world stage as its empire stretched across the horizons in all directions. Yet even someone as isolated could feel the impact of that empire, from his cup of tea in the morning to the cotton he used on his quilts.
Quieter upheavals occurred closer to home in rural economics, industrial and urban development, and social change. This was the era of the Bloody Code, widespread Enclosures of farmland, Parish relief and Poor Houses, poachers and smugglers, industrial unrest, and the paranoia over fears of a French invasion.
Even the environment emphasized the vulnerability of the poor and unprotected as winter storms created havoc down the Tyne Valley where Hedley and his aging wife cowered in their cottage. Despite his skills as a quiltmaker, Hedley found himself at the wrong end of the emerging class system, dying in abject poverty, though his killer perhaps suspected otherwise.
Part II examines the crime. Hedley’s murder stood out for its brutality in brutal era. This assault on a frail, old man shocked England and still resonates. Authorities suspected a botched robbery committed by two assailants who believed Hedley was a wealthy man, but the investigators had very little tools at hand to track down the killers. Through a careful reconstruction of the crime (aided by the recreation of Hedley’s cottage at Beamish Museum), and deploying methods unavailable at the time, I argue that the answer lay under investigator’s noses all along and identify a suspect who had the means, motive, and opportunity to commit this “horrid deed”.
You can find out more about Joe the Quilter in Robert’s book, which is available from Guardbridge Books and other book retailer.
Today it’s my pleasure to have Lynda O’Keeffe with us again. Following on from her previous post about the blind playwright, John O’Keeffe, today, she’s going to tell us the very moving and tragic story of his daughter, Adelaide’s life.
Introducing Miss Adelaide O’Keeffe, author, poet and amanuensis.
Adelaide was born in Eustace Street, Dublin on 5th November 1776 to the blind playwright John O’Keeffe and his actress wife Mary (née Heaphy). It is worth noting that Adelaide’s father was Catholic, and her mother Protestant as this union would have been difficult in a time when the outlawing of Catholicism was prevalent. Adelaide’s own religious practice is not known, which is even more interesting when considering two of her major works, Patriarchal Times, or The Land of Canaan (1811) and Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra (1814); the latter portrayed Zenobia’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity and, in 1848, became the first work authored by a non-Jew to be reissued by the Jewish Publication Society of Philadelphia. No small feat!
Little is known of Adelaide O’Keeffe, other than her being the devoted daughter and amanuensis of her illustrious blind father. It is only through her work that we can grasp a tantalising glimpse of her character. Sadly, there are no paintings of her, only two descriptions – one by her father when she was a child, and the other by an acquaintance who visited her grave in the Extra-Mural Cemetery, Lewes Road, Brighton in 1865:
In person Miss O’Keeffe was petite, and in early life must have been extremely pretty: having bright blue eyes, sunny chestnut hair, and a most pleasing and expressive countenance. She was well known to many here, chiefly by the booksellers, and to the last dressed somewhat showily and young.
She was fond of impressing upon strangers that she was Miss O’Keeffe; and once told a friend of ours, “that she thought it wrong for aged unmarried ladies to be called ‘Mrs’. I always will insist upon being called ‘Miss;’ I am Miss O’Keeffe and am proud to wear the garland.”
Though from an early period she acted as amanuensis to her father, who suffered from partial blindness, her own taste for literary composition really arose from hearing read one evening Gesner’s Death of Abel. This made such an impression upon her that, before retiring to rest, she had arranged in her own mind the first four chapters of Patriarchal Times – perhaps the most popular of her works, it having gone through many editions. One of her subsequent works, The Broken Sword, was dedicated to the Prince of Wales. Many to whom her name was scarcely known have probably been familiar from childhood with her verses; for in the Original Poems by Jane and Anne Taylor (which are even now frequently reprinted) there are many bearing the signature of “Adelaide,” all of which were contributed by Miss O’Keeffe.
The most prominent trait in Miss O’Keeffe’s character was the warmth of her affections. Her love for her father, with whom she lived till his death (at Southampton, in 1833,) was entire, unselfish, and devoted; and almost all her first earnings were devoted to pay the debts of a deceased and dearly loved brother.
She outlived almost all of her friends; but there are some still living who retain the liveliest recollections of her genial and vivacious conversation. In changing her residence, Miss O’Keeffe always carried her father’s portrait about with her from place to place, – in loving remembrance of his memory and of her happy home; and she was much gratified when, about twelve months prior to her death, it was taken by the Government for the National Portrait Gallery and placed among those whom the country “has delighted to honour.”
From early childhood, Adelaide was destined not to have an easy life. However, her life experiences may have been the reasons for her pioneering work on the education of young minds, the importance of family, morals, belief in God and other meritorious topics.
In this brief article, the aim is to offer recognition and appreciation to an extraordinary female author, poet and amanuensis and to honour her own personal sacrifices in providing lifelong care for her disabled father.
In 1781, Adelaide’s parents separated as the result of an affair her mother had had with a Scottish actor called George Graham. Her father removed the children from the family home in Dublin and they decamped to London. Shortly after their arrival, an incident occurred whereby the children’s mother secretly visited the children. In the Memoir section of her father’s book of poetry entitled O’Keeffe’s Legacy to his Daughter, Adelaide describes her father’s fury at the visitation; Adelaide relives this pivotal moment:
On hearing that their poor mother had visited both at night, and clasped them in her arms, and shed tears over them, the bursting tears of grief and remorse, he suddenly, at a moment’s warning, inflamed with jealousy, the master passion of his mind, (that infirmity of the best hearts and noblest natures) sent them to France.
So, to Adelaide’s horror, she was sent to a convent in the French countryside whilst her brother, Tottenham, was sent to the Collège du Plessis in Paris. One can only imagine the feelings of the five-year-old Adelaide being taken from her home, separated from her parents and brother, and placed in a convent in a foreign land. For nearly eight years Adelaide and her brother remained in France, until the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789, which facilitated their return to London and the home of their father.
It is worth mentioning here that Adelaide attended the Catholic convent Sainte-Austreberthe, Montreuil, in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France. Her education would have been like that of her Protestant peers in English grammar schools, with the focus on Latin and the Classics. However, there was one big difference – Catholic children did their learning in the context of a fully functioning religious community, observing and absorbing religious practices that had been outlawed in England.
Adelaide was twelve when she returned from France, and soon after she began working as an amanuensis to her blind father, who was then at the height of his fame. In her own words, she describes the love and care given by her father when she was an infant and proclaims:
These early remembrances laid the foundation of that devoted attachment, which, from her childhood to his lamented death, never forsook. She never experienced a mother’s care, she never knew the kindness of female relatives; her father was her first object of love, and when away from him, her brother her only protector. Be it here remarked under the solemnity of a sacred protestation, whatever the world thought to the contrary, that neither son or daughter ever voluntarily quitted their beloved, their near sightless, and sometime unhappy father.
The work that Adelaide embarked on with her father was unrelenting as he was a prolific writer, and being blind, always needed someone to be ‘at my elbow with a pen’. With the skills she obtained from the many years of working with her eminent father, Adelaide was the first writer to turn schoolroom text into dramatic dialogues, using stage-writing techniques to convey information via dialogue and not exposition. In these dramatic dialogues, she required the children not just to memorise the texts, but also to perform them, which required physical action and further compounded the learning. As an aside, recent research has identified the linking of movement to learning – Adelaide was ahead of her time in discovering this.
It has been suggested that Adelaide was intermittently employed as a governess, thus providing her with the necessary skills to take part in the educational movement of the Enlightenment period. During this time, it was thought that a child’s mind could be best reached through the body and that human understanding comes from experience, and experience comes through sensation and reflection – this was known as rationalist education.
In 1819, Adelaide authored the first verse novel for children, A Trip to the Coast. This small book of 160 pages contains poems each linked by a narrative, whereby the children find objects on their rambles and share them with their parents, describing each item in detail. The preface, gives us an intimate insight into Adelaide’s character and intentions, notes:
The Author of the following little poems has endeavoured, by their extreme simplicity, to adapt sea-subjects to the most juvenile comprehension…
The object of this little work is rather to excite curiosity than to gratify it: its design is to lead children to think, to seek, to enquire, to read, and to exert those faculties of mind, and powers of body, which often are more brilliant and effectual, than without exertion, they themselves, or those around them, are aware of.
Each short poem is no more than ten verses long, and the whole are interlinked as a novel starting from when the family begin their journey to the coast. Throughout all the poems, there is a constant interaction between the parents and the children, encouraging the children to use their reasoning powers on given occasions. In addition, there are activities connected to moral and natural history lessons throughout. Adelaide’s method of education was not to be condescending, but for children to be an integral component of their learning, offering them the capacity for self-reflection and conscious decision making.
In total, Adelaide penned fourteen books between 1799 and 1854.
In 1833, John O’Keeffe died, and Adelaide was consumed with grief at the loss of her beloved father. Money was short and she was forced to move to smaller lodgings in Southampton and resort to auctioning furniture and books to raise funds. Now fifty-seven years of age, Adelaide found herself alone in the world with little financial security. She had sacrificed her life to care for her father and had never married, although it has been reported that, at the age of eighty years, she confided, ‘she was actually engaged to be married, when her blind father so earnestly craved her undivided time and attention, that she gave it up, and devoted herself entirely to his comforts for the remainder of his life’. In 1834, she was named as Editor on her father’s final publication, a collection of poems entitled O’Keeffe’s Legacy to his Daughter.
From here on, information becomes sparse as Adelaide embarks on an itinerant life moving from Southampton to Ryde, Somerset, Devon, Dorset, Hampton Court and Brighton. We know she continued writing as she published two pieces in 1848 and 1854, and she may have been employed as a governess to subsidise her meagre living. We also know that, shortly after her father’s death, she appealed to the beneficence of the Royal Literary Fund and received £25, she was then awarded a pension from the Crown of £50, and Prince Albert personally sent her £5. Three years later, she appealed again to the Royal Literary Fund and received a further £15, which she saw as inadequate and not conducive to financial planning. By 1856, at the age of eighty years and despite her pension income, Adelaide was reduced to contemplating the last item of value to sell, a Shakespeare’s First Folio edition.
It is here that one’s heart must be touched by the hardships experienced by an unmarried female author in the 18th century. One of Adelaide’s friends appealed to the better nature of the Royal Literary Fund when he wrote to them: ‘Poor old lady, I wish she had someone to repay her in kind for her selfless generosity to her father. But, at least, I would gladly know she was not stinted in her little comforts.’ Among these little comforts, he included a fire. He continued: ‘if your excellent Society will help her once more, I shall feel very grateful; and at eighty years old, you need not fear many, if any, repetitions of her importunity.’ The appeal fell on stony ground, and nothing was given.
Adelaide’s portfolio of work emphasises her firm belief that the young were the world’s future and that, with careful nurturing and education, a brighter life and world could be achieved. Her work is, therefore, as relevant today as it was in the 1800s. She struggled for recognition as a female author, but still made efforts to aid the emancipation of women, whilst in her personal life, her love and devotion to her father was unsurpassable.
Adelaide died destitute in 1865 aged ninety, a boarder in a lodging house in Brighton. Her death certificate records her occupation as: Authoress, daughter of John O’Keeffe (Dramatist).
Listed below are the titles of Adelaide O’Keeffe’s works: