Extraordinary Georgian Characters

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’.

Ladbrooke, Robert; A View of Norwich Castle and Cathedral, Norfolk; Norfolk Museums Service

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.

A tinker; with boy and dog, calling out along street by William Henry Pyne. British Museum
A tinker; with boy and dog, calling out along street by William Henry Pyne. British Museum

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.


Staffordshire Advertiser, 1 December 1804

Sussex Advertiser, 6 December 1802

Featured Image

View of Yarmouth Yale Center for British Art

18th century perfumer’s trade cards

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.


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.

Interior of the shop of Alex Ross, perfumer in London; a large table displays the many perfume bottles and scents on offer, wooden chests on bench next to table contain further goods; garlands of flowers hang from walls;

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.

Both items courtesy of British Museum

Could the famous perfumer, Sangwine, have fitted anything more onto this?

Courtesy of Meisterdrucke Fine Art Prints

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

Header Image

Illustration from Ackermann’s ‘Repository of Arts’, part 1 or 85, series 2, vol 1. 1816

‘That Valuable Creature’: Doctor Richard Verity

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.

Courtesy of Peoples Collection of Wales
Courtesy of Peoples Collection of Wales

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.

William Spencer, 6th Duke of Devonshire by Thomas Lawrence
William Spencer, 6th Duke of Devonshire by Thomas Lawrence (via Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Barber, Thomas; Lady Harriet Cavendish (1785-1862), Countess Granville; National Trust, Hardwick Hall

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.

Bouhot’s view of the entrance to the Musée Royal (Louvre) and the exhibition. 1822
Bouhot’s view of the entrance to the Musée Royal (Louvre) and the exhibition. 1822

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.

Coronation of Tsar Nicholas I in 1826
Coronation of Tsar Nicholas I in 1826

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.

London Evening Standard 24 March 1857
London Evening Standard 24 March 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

Featured Image

Samuel Wale RA, 1721–1786, British, Guys Hospital, undated. Yale Center for British Art

The lady in green – A portrait within a portrait

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.

Portrait miniature of Mrs Russell, nee Cocks, 1781 by John Smart (1741-1811). Historical Portraits, courtesy of Philip Mould.
Portrait miniature of Mrs Russell, nee Cocks, 1781 by John Smart (1741-1811). Historical Portraits, courtesy of Philip Mould.

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.

Margaret Cocks, later Mrs Joseph Smith and her niece Mary Russell, later Mrs H. B. Domvile as a young Girl (after Sir Joshua Reynolds, PRA) Henry Macbeth-Raeburn (Helensburgh 1860 - Dedham 1947). Courtesy of  National Trust, Tyntesfield, North Somerset
Margaret Cocks, later Mrs Joseph Smith and her niece Mary Russell, later Mrs H. B. Domvile as a young Girl (after Sir Joshua Reynolds, PRA). Courtesy of  National Trust, Tyntesfield, North Somerset

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.

Courtesy of Angus and Rosemary’s Miscellany of Malvern

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.

Courtesy of Meisterdrucke, Fine Arts
Courtesy of Meisterdrucke, Fine Arts

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.

Born John Somerset Russell, later to become John Somerset Pakington
Born John Somerset Russell, later to become John Somerset Pakington

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; ClassPROB 11; Piece1541

Find a Grave

The Heraldry of Worcestershire


Black Drop and the Old Foreign Office, guest post by Leonora Nattrass

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 but I will leave you with Leonora to tell you more, but I would highly recommend reading it and 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.

Bodleian Libraries, Mrs. Salmon’s Fleet Street

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.[1]

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.

Downing Street
Downing Street

In the end, I was lucky enough to stumble upon Recollections of the Old Foreign Office by Sir Edward Hertslet, KBE, published in 1901.[2] 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.’

William Pitt, the Younger
William Pitt, the Younger

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.

Political cartoon of the London Corresponding Society
Political cartoon of the London Corresponding Society

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

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-foreign-office-one-of-the-great-offices-of-state

[2] Hertslet, Sir Edward, Recollections of the Old Foreign Office, London: John Murray, 1901

Reunited in death, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, Georgiana and Bess

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.

From the film, The Duchess
From the film, The Duchess

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.

Chiswick House. Yale Centre for British Art
Chiswick House. Yale Centre for British Art

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.

William Cavendish 5th Duke of Devonshire. Pompeo Batoni
William Cavendish 5th Duke of Devonshire. Pompeo Batoni

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.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Sir Thomas Lawrence. Holburne Museum. © The Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Sir Thomas Lawrence. Holburne Museum. © The Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth.

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:


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.

Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire. British Museum
Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire. British Museum

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


Pilot 1 August 1811

General Evening Post 3 Aug 1811

Globe 5 August 1811

Morning Advertiser 24 May 1824

Find out more about the connection between these two paintings

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.

The Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics - October 1826
The Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics – October 1826

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.

Peniston Lamb by Thomas Lawrence (NPG) and George Pitt, 2nd Baron Rivers (NPG)
Peniston Lamb by Thomas Lawrence (NPG) and George Pitt, 2nd Baron Rivers (NPG)

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.

Southwell & Nottingham Church History Project
Southwell & Nottingham Church History Project

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 slaves to Donald Campbell for £18,000, payable in instalments.

Kirtland, George; Admiral Lord Richard Howe (1726-1799); City of London Corporation

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.

Reynolds, Joshua; Mrs Musters as Hebe; English Heritage, Kenwood


Devon Family History Society

Featured Image:

Colwick Hall

A Horrid Deed The Life and Death of Joe the Quilter

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.

All images used are courtesy of Beamish Museum


Adelaide O’Keeffe Author, Poet and Rationalistic Educator in the Enlightenment Period

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!

Photo credit: L.A.O’Keeffe
Photo credit: L.A.O’Keeffe

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.

Photo credit: L.A.O’Keeffe
Photo credit: L.A.O’Keeffe

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.

Photo credit: L.A.O’Keeffe
Photo credit: L.A.O’Keeffe

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.

Excerpt from, A Trip to the Coast.
Excerpt from, A Trip to the Coast.

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:

  • Llewellin: A Tale(1799)
  • Patriarchal Times, or The Land of Canaan(1811)
  • Original Poems for Infant Minds by Ann TaylorJane Taylorand Adelaide O’Keeffe  (1804, 1805)
  • Original Poems Calculated to Improve the Mind of Youth and Allure it to Virtue(1808)
  • Old Grand-Papa, and Other Poems, for the Amusement of Children(1812)
  • Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra: A Narrative, Founded on History(1814)
  • ‘Prejudice’ in The Hermit and the Traveller(1816)
  • National Characters Exhibited in Forty Geographical Poems(1818)
  • Dudley(1819)
  • A Trip to the Coast; Or Poems Descriptive of Various Interesting Objects on the Sea-Shore(1819)
  • Mamma’s Present of Pictures and Poetry (1820)
  • ‘Memoir’ in O’Keeffe’s Legacy to his Daughter(1834)
  • Poems for Young Children(1848)
  • The Broken Sword; or, A Soldier’s Honour (1854)



The Prince Regent’s Grand Fete 1811

In 1811, George, became the Prince Regent, taking over from his father who was incapacitated. One of the first things he did was organise a Grand Fete at his home, Carlton House, reputedly to celebrate his father’s birthday, but for a guess it was simply an excuse for a party, and this was no ordinary party.

There’s bling and then there is Royal bling – and as everyone knows, the Prince Regent loved his bling, preferring gold to silver, as it was said to be warmer and ‘showier’, and where better to show it off, than at his Grand Fete.

On 22 May 1811 preparations began for the Grand Fete. Upwards of 100 men were employed in the furnishing and arranging of the different ornamental decorations to be introduced. Every room of Carlton House was to be thrown open during the celebrations. Rooms were to be hung with crimson silk damask, all the Chinese, Etruscan, Grecian and Hindoostan cabinets in ebony and ivory were to be exhibited for the first time.

Not only the interior would be used but also the gardens which would covered in and formed into one immense tent, resembling a marquee. The Gothic conservatory was to be filled with all kinds of rare exotics and illuminated by crystal lamps ‘of uncommon beauty’.

There were to be seven spacious rooms to promenade in, and the supper was to be given under the awning in the garden. The Prince Regent ordered 1500 chairs for the use of the banquet alone. The trees were to be illuminated with variegated lamps next to the park entrance which would be opened, and an avenue was to be formed for sedan chairs only.

To allow easy access and exit to the grand tent, three temporary flights of steps extending from the principal state apartments were to be added.

Everything was set for this grand event, but … ‘hold you horses, Prinny, not so fast’ the newspapers duly reported on 1 June 1811 that ‘party time’ was to be postponed as the King was unwell.

It was then postponed again at short notice following a letter from his mother, Queen Charlotte, who wrote to him to let him know that for a variety of reasons it was best to briefly postpone it. You can read the letter to her son in full here.

By the 15 June all preparations were complete in the temporary ‘Chinese rooms’ which were located on the lawn of Carlton House, 13,214 square feet, with 45,824 square feet of canvas (oil cloth) was used to cover the roofs.

The aisle (north and south) was 186 feet by 22 feet; the end one, 159 feet by 22 feet. At the end of the aisle, opposite to the grand entrance from the conservatory, was to be placed a large mirror, the dimensions – 12 feet high by 9 feet, the aim being to reflect every object by well-disposed girandoles and candelabras.

A set of twenty-four silver-gilt four light candelabra, each with three scrolling branches cast with acanthus and lion masks, on a tapering stem cast as three Greco-Egyptian monopodiae, and a gadrooned base with three paw feet. Royal Collection Trust
A set of twenty-four silver-gilt four light candelabra, each with three scrolling branches cast with acanthus and lion masks, on a tapering stem cast as three Greco-Egyptian monopodiae, and a gadrooned base with three paw feet. Royal Collection Trust

The whole aisle was to resemble an allée vert, or green walk, with garlands and festoons of roses of every colour, honeysuckle, pinks carnations and tulips, both real and artificial. Also, dwarf fruit trees, consisting of oranges, cherries. All the chandeliers were to be suspended from chains covered with wreaths of artificial flowers stretching for 2,000 yards.

Four superb marquees were erected in the interior of the treble cross as it was known, with connecting rooms for the servants. There were to be two principle rooms for dancing, the other was the grand council chamber. In the centre was G.III.R with the Royal Crown. The whole area encircle in a highly emblazoned manner, by the rose, the thistle and the shamrock, emblematic of the arms of the United Kingdom.

The Prince Regent’s Attire

The Prince Regent wore a Field Marshall’s uniform (as did the Duke of York), and a superb, brilliant star, a large diamond loop and button in his hat and feather, and wore a sabre, the handle and scabbard of which were richly studded with jewellery.

His Royal Highness = the Prince Regent. June 1811. Royal Collection Trust
His Royal Highness = the Prince Regent. June 1811. Royal Collection Trust

The Supper

In the conservatory, was the Prince’s table, elevated on a platform, about 6 inches from the ground.  From this table there were a range of tables, extending in line over the further extremities of the Prince’s bed-chamber, occupying a space of around 600 feet. Every table was covered with gold or silver gilt plate. Covers were laid on tables for his 140 particular friends.

Conservatory at Carlton House. Royal Collection Trust.
Conservatory at Carlton House. Royal Collection Trust.

The Prince sat at the head of the table, seated on a superb state chair, covered with crimson Genoa Velvet, embroidered with gold. The masterpiece being a serpentine bubbling brook of water which occupied a central space down the Prince’s table, 170 feet in length and 14 inches in depth. It was a running stream, produced by a reservoir at one end and waste pipes at the others. The canal was filled with gold and silver fish which meandered over the artificially created weeds and soil. A space in each side was allocated for moss and flowers, to give the banks a natural appearance.

The supper was described as being ‘the most superb ever exhibited in this country’. The whole dinner service was in gold. The food consisted of everything that was in season, along with fruits, confectionery and copious amounts of wine.

The tables ran through to the lower suite of rooms were so arranged that the Prince Regent could distinctly see and be seen from one end to the other. Along those tables the royal family of England, and that of the Bourbons.


The Grand Fête eventually took place at nine o’clock, on Wednesday 19 June 1811 with over 2,000 of the nobility and gentry in attendance. This was said to have been the largest event known in Europe at the time, with 1,600 guests under canvas and a further 400 in the house itself.

The family of the house of Bourbon entered through the gardens at about 10 and were ushered into the Privy Council Chamber, where the Prince Regent was sitting.  Guests were attended by 60 servants, seven waited on the Prince, besides 6 of the King’s and 6 of the Queen’s footmen in their state liveries, with one man in a complete suit of ancient armour.

Musicians played throughout the event and during the night a brilliant discharge of fireworks too place. The company sat down to supper about one o’clock and after taking refreshments they resumed their dancing until daylight.

Companies were always keen to be associated with anything royal and Charlton, Ladies Boot and Shoe Makers of Silver Street, Hull were no exception, telling potential customers that read the Hull Packet, 11 June 1811, that Mr Charlton had just returned from London and Windsor, where he has procured a variety of new patterns such as are now being made for the Prince Regent’s Grand Fete, called the ‘Regent’s Slipper’.


The Ipswich Journal 25 May 1811

Northampton Mercury 1 June 1811

Hampshire Chronicle 24 June 1811

Featured Image

Te Grand Service. The Service was made by the Royal Goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, following an initial commission of £60,000 worth of plate. Royal Collection Trust

‘An Unnatural Rebellion’: How the British Perceived the American Revolution

Today I’d like to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian – Jordan Baker. Jordan holds a BA and MA in History from North Carolina State University. He is a lover of all things historical and concentrates his research and writing on the history of the Atlantic World. He also blogs about history and can be found at eastindiabloggingco.com.

The coming of the American revolution was a matter of great interest for the people back home in Britain. And, as with anything that proves interesting, the revolution was the subject of many different opinions. Across the country, the British weighed in on economics, military success and failures, the morality of the revolution, and more, through the press and private correspondence. As the British enjoyed one of the freest press systems in the world, not everyone felt obliged to speak out on behalf of His Majesty or the policies of Parliament. Mix all these ingredients together and you get some colourful, eighteenth-century commentary.

Money Problems

One of the most nagging questions for people in Britain during the American Revolution was what would happen to their investments and trade deals in the colonies. Merchants, nobility, and other well-to-do British subjects had millions of pounds invested in land holdings and trade deals in the colonies that now claimed independence. And, what was worse for these titans of finance, the revolutionary governments had seized all lands and property owned by loyalists.

As the Oxford Gazette put it in 1774,

The consequences of an American War to England will be estates in houses selling for nothing; in land high; money very scarce, and public credit low; no debts paying; no trade stirring.

This rather foreboding view of the war’s potential to wreak havoc on the British economy caused some to side with the Americans. In 1775, a group of merchants from Bristol wrote to the king, expressing their desire for an end to the conflict, lest trade be irrevocably damaged.

We can foresee no good effects to the commerce or revenues of this kingdom at a future period from any victories which may be obtained by your majesty’s army over desolated provinces and […] people.’

While some merchants felt that British trade could continue to prosper even if the rebelling colonies were given independence, others within the realm felt defeat would spell the beginning of the end for the empire. In 1776, one pamphlet writer, fortuitously forgetting about Britain’s holdings in Canada, the Caribbean, and India, insisted that losing America would be tantamount to “inclosing [sic] us within the confined seas of England, Ireland, and Scotland.”

Reynolds, Joshua; Doctor Samuel Johnson; Tate

Samuel Johnson and the Political Argument Against the Revolution

A leading voice of the opposition, British writer and political philosopher Samuel Johnson published his scathing opinions in his 1774 treatise, Taxation no Tyranny. To begin this work, Johnson gave a nod to the economic arguments that dominated the early days of the revolution, weighing in with his opinion:

‘That our commerce with America is profitable, however less than ostentatious or deceitful estimates have made it, and that it is our interest to preserve it, has never been denied; but, surely, it will most effectually be preserved, by being kept always in our own power. Concessions may promote it for a moment, but superiority only can ensure its continuance.’

The crux of Johnson’s argument, though, was the American colonies had no right to rebel and that their protests over taxation and lack of representation were unfounded. When Americans, or their ancestors, had left the island of Britain where they enjoyed representation in Parliament to seek land ownership or other opportunities in the New World they had given up their representation in the government of the empire.

Or, as Johnson stated,

he who goes voluntarily to America, cannot complain of losing what he leaves in Europe.

Additionally, since the British government protected these colonists, most recently during the French and Indian War, it had the right to tax them in order to afford to offer such protection.

Finally, as the final point in his argument, Johnson delved into the moral questions of the revolution. Penning one of the most scathing retorts to the American Revolution, a sentiment that still gets brought during discussion of the revolution, Johnson argued:

We are told, that the subjection of Americans may tend to the diminution of our own liberties; an event, which none but very perspicacious politicians are able to foresee. If slavery be thus fatally contagious, how is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?

Hot off the Press

Much of what we know regarding how British citizens across the Atlantic viewed and thought of the American Revolution comes from the copious amounts of coverage it received in the British press, between both newspapers and more editorialized pamphlets. Given that the revolution was the biggest news of the day, newspapers felt obliged to print articles on the happenings in America, lest they lose their readership and their profits.

While some publishers sympathized with the Americans, calling them the “chosen people” of the New World and proclaiming George Washington “a man of sense and great integrity,” most publications took a more negative view of the revolution. Indeed, in Britain many viewed the American Revolution as a civil war with their American cousins. Throughout the war, many newspapers throughout Britain stoked the flames of this opinion. “It is very melancholy to think that we must sacrifice so many brave lives, in order to put an end, to such an unnatural Rebellion,” G.B Brunell, a citizen of London, wrote in December 1776.

During the last few years of the war, the British press became flooded with stories of how Loyalists suffered at the hands of Patriots, prompting them to flee to Canada and the Floridas, and articles claiming that a dissatisfaction with the new state governments widely existed in  

America. Such stories led many Britons to doubt the ability of the United States to properly govern its own people, let alone do business with other nations. If a nation was born of the “criminal enterprise” of rebellion, could it ever really be trusted?


While Britons expressed a wide array of opinions on the American Revolution, a general sentiment of imperial anxiety runs through most of these thoughts. Whether those in Britain opposed or sympathized with the revolution, most of the thoughts written on the subject dealt with the effects on the empire’s economy, the morality of rebelling against one’s sovereign, and fears of the empire’s collapse.

Featured Image

John Trumbull, American, 1756–1843 Yale University Art Gallery

Death by dangerous driving of a stagecoach

From the early 1800s, coach design was much improved and, in part, so were roads. By the 1820s coaches could travel at about 12 miles an hour with four horses rather than six as had been used previously. Coach drivers also were much smarter in their appearance and the government legislated that the names of the coach proprietors were to be painted on the doors of the coaches, with the exception of mail coaches.

There were strict rules about how many passengers could travel, both inside and out and the maximum weight of luggage. The law stated that stagecoaches were not to carry more than six passengers on the roof  and no more than two on the box in addition to the coachman. For every passenger in excess, the coachman was liable to a penalty of 40 shillings, and if he was the owner or part owner this penalty was raised to £4.

The penalty for carrying excess passengers was severe and ingeniously contrived in order to totally suppress the practice. It was 5 shillings for every supernumerary passenger, to be paid to the toll-keeper at every turn pike gate. This was a sure fire way of making sure that an excess number would be instantly spotted by the toll-keeper who would be keen to have a chance to enhance their income.

Cordrey, John. The London to Dartford Stage Coach. Museum of London

The guard of a stagecoach who fired his pistol unnecessarily, or for anything other than defensive purposes, on the road or in any town, forfeited 20 shillings, a penalty which was increased to £5 in 1811.

The height to which luggage might be piled on the roof was also carefully set. From 1 March 1811, it became unlawful for any driver, owner or proprietor to permit luggage, or indeed any person, on the roof of a coach, the top of which was more than 8 feet 9 inches from the ground, or whose gauge was less than 4 feet 6 inches.

Turnpike keepers and others were given powers to have luggage measured and driver’s refusing such measurements to be taken were to be fined, on conviction, of 50 shillings.

Intoxicated coachmen came in for a maximum of £10 penalty, or the alternative, a term of imprisonment not less than three months or not exceeding six, so being drunk in charge of a coach was not a great idea!

The Piccadilly Nuisance. British Museum

With the instigation of so many rules and regulations to be followed, a new breed of people a appeared on the scene ‘the professional informer’. These people were akin to a modern day ‘ambulance chaser’. They would pursue coaches checking that the coachman wasn’t breaking any rules and if they were, they would be reported to the appropriate authorities, for which these informers would receive a very handsome fee – nice work if you could get it.

Today’s story is about a less than careful coach driver. In July 1827 John Maule, the driver of the stagecoach, Celerity, that was travelling to Exeter was charged at the Coroner’s Inquest to appear before Chief Justice Best, with the manslaughter of Thomas Strange at Bulford on 18 June 1827.

Unknown artist; William Draper Best, Lord Wynford (1767-1845); Wadham College, University of Oxford

The events surrounding this charge were, that there were two coaches, the Celerity and the Defiance, running from Exeter, on this day they were travelling in opposite directions. The Defiance on its way to Exeter from Andover, Hampshire. The Defiance had been operating for about three years and the Celerity, just one.

On the night in question, the Defiance was at the foot of a hill near Exeter, where the accident happened. The Defiance was going very slowly and it was just at that time that the coachman of the Defiance spotted the Celerity about 200 yards away, at the top of the hill and approaching him very quickly.

The coachman of the Defiance pulled off the road as much as he safely could to avoid the rapidly approaching Celerity, but it was too late, the near wheels of the Defiance found its two near wheels on the turf (the whole road from bank to bank being about 86 feet wide), when the stagecoach overturned and was entirely on the grass, closely followed by the Celerity, which threw some of its passengers.

In court the jury were told that there was strong proof of the side on which the accident really originated, this being that no-one was seriously injured when the Defiance toppled over, whilst several people in the Celerity were injured and others severely bruised, a gentleman, Thomas Strange died at the scene.

Cordrey, John. ‘The Wellington Coach’ (The Newcastle-York-London Mail). Ferens Art Gallery

A Thomas Bradley Naylor, a student of Magdalen Hall, Oxford was examined by Mr Halcomb, and confirmed that he was seated on the box of the Defiance. He confirmed coach was about three miles from Exeter when he saw that another coach approaching as it was not especially dark, and the Defiance had its lamps lit.

The coachman of the Defiance shouted to slow the horse down, but it was too late, the carriage tipped onto its side. Naylor asserted that the Celerity also had its lights on and could therefore have clearly seen the Defiance, but that it was being driven too fast. He said his coach was going quite slowly, not more than six or seven miles an hour and that there was enough room on the road for the Celerity to safely pass, were he been going more slowly.

Joseph Cannon, guard of the Defiance, also confirmed how slowly they were travelling, although he estimated it to be at the rate of about four or five miles an hour. So, both the coachman, witnesses and his guard providing very similar accounts of the event.

Another witness, James Bridge, also a passenger on the Defiance was called to provide his account of events. Bridge was sitting on the back just behind the coachman when he saw the Celerity about 150 yards away. He estimated that it was travelling at about 11 or 12 miles an hour with a heavy load on it. In his opinion the horses hadn’t heard the command of the coachman.  William Bound Rondle, another passenger who was inside the coach also supported that he had heard the coachman shout to the horses, but by that time it was too late, the accident had occurred.

The Celerity was laying across the road with its roof close to the bank, the luggage rack fell off and broke and the horses became detached from the coach. He stated that he helped to extricate two ladies who were underneath the coach, one of whom was later to die from her injuries. The coachman was called to give evidence and again said he’d called to his horses, but it was too late.

After lengthy deliberation by the jury and with help from the judge it was decided that the coachman, John Maule was not guilty, as he was not the regular coachman, and that it was an unfortunate accident.

The judge, however, gave notice that if another case of the same kind should come before him, and a conviction ensue, he would transport the prisoner for life; for it was absolutely necessary to put some check on this system of furious and negligent driving.

This of course, was not the only accident and many coachman drove furiously and had a reputation for liking a tipple or two whilst enroute.


Sun, 30 Jul 1827

Harper. Charles G Stagecoach and mail in the days of yore: a history of the coaching age

The Meaning of the term ‘Molly’

I’m delighted to welcome back a now familiar guest to All Things Georgian, erAto who is going to tell us more about a term rarely used today – ‘Molly’.

Tho’ Briton’s, tis said, were not Mollies of old,

Were for dealing of blows, and were manly and bold

And if out-number’d to fear they were strangers,

No councils of war restrain’d them from dangers.

from The Mock Expedition, or; The Woman in Breeches, ca. 1695

The word molly appears in many Georgian era historical fictions as, more or less, a synonym for the modern terms “gay” or “homosexual.” The popular reference book by Francis Grose, 1811’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, includes it with the definition: A Miss Molly; an effeminate fellow, a sodomite. It seems of course, that this should point to it as a word appropriate to the 1810s. However, it must be noted that this book was a reprint of a title originally released in 1785, and that even in the first edition, many of the slang terms were outdated in common language. (Take the entries of Oliver’s Skull and Olli-Compolli, which both seem to be sourced from a 1699 Dictionary of the Canting Crew.)

While even today we have some slang terms that have lasted 90 years or more, such as “the bee’s knees” (ca. 1923) or “bimbo” (floozie sense, ca. 1920) these are, at the same time, not indicative of words used in fashionable speech or slang. They should be employed with caution by an inexperienced English speaker, since they can easily make one sound strange or childish.

Yale Center for British Art

Molly was one of these words that had been in use for quite a long time by the Regency era. The Woman in Breeches Broadsheet of circa 1695, quoted above, is the oldest certain use of it I have been able to locate. The term is most probably an alteration of the Latin word mollis, which would have been a word known to educated men through its use in Livy, Cicero and other classical writers. Literally meaning “soft” the term mollis designated a certain type of man who was very effeminate and thus implied homosexual. It also appeared in the Latin vulgate version of the Bible to translate certain passages about fornicators and homosexuals, and it is probably through this that it entered the underworld slang. (Do not doubt, a quick look through those old slang dictionaries will show a good deal of Biblical and Ecclesiastical references.) The words popularity was probably enhanced by its coincidental similarity to the name Molly, which was often used as a generic name for a floozy type of girl in songs and poems.

A text of 1709 by one Ned Ward, reporting on a “Mollies Club” in London, defines a molly for readers unfamiliar with the term:

“Sodomitical Wretches […] so far degenerated from all masculine Deportment, or manly Exercises, that they rather fancy themselves Women, imitating all the little Vanities that Custom has reconcil’d to the Female Sex, affecting to Speak, Walk, Tattle, Cursy, Cry, Scold, and to mimick all Manner of Effeminacy, that ever has fallen within their several Observations; not omitting the Indecencies of Lewd Women, that they may tempt one another by such immodest Freedoms to commit those odious Bestialities [i.e. behaviours unbecoming mankind], that ought for ever to be without a Name.”

In addition to a noun, it seems to molly was also employed as a verb. From a 1726 court case we have:

“they look’d a-skew upon Mark Partridge, and call’d him a treacherous, blowing-up Mollying Bitch.”

In another case of 1744 we have:

“James Ruggles, who had followed them at a Distance, and waited only till he saw them closely engaged, came up to them, and seizing upon the Gentleman, cry’d, D – n your Blood you Dog, what are you a Mollying one another? Give me what you have this Minute, or I will carry your directly to the Guard-Room. The Gentleman, confounded and frightened almost out of his Wits, made answer, […] but C – soon silenced him, by crying out, indeed he seduced me hither to Molly me.”

The subject not being a topic often discussed in polite literature, much of the information we have about the use of the word molly comes from old court cases. To judge from the records, the term peaked in the 1720s through 1740s, then is seen less and less through the 18th century until disappearing almost entirely after the 1770s. In fact, the only post-1770 use of the term in its homosexual sense which I have seen as of this writing is, you guessed it, Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

So, what wiped out the word ‘molly‘? To some extent the rival term madge seems it may have supplanted it in slang. Nevertheless, an increased prudishness about sexual talk through the 18th century may be also a culprit. (A personal story on this: I once was editing an edition of Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer, initially using a first edition text; but finding some missing page or such issue that required checking another copy, I looked to an edition from 1800. The 1800 edition had needed to cut a lot of sexual references in the dialogue to make it acceptable for public performance. It was quite heavily trimmed compared to the original.) By the early 19th century, a term “mollycoddle” meaning a weak or effete man is able to appear in print with perfect respectability, indicating the sexual suggestion in the word was lost — compare the term “weakling” which too originally had a sexual implication.

The term molly does seem to have a more effeminate connotation about it than the modern term gay, but that might simply be due to gay culture in a modern understanding, not yet existing. Words like sissy or faggot might better replicate the abusiveness of the term.

Dido Elizabeth Belle

The Descendants of Dido Elizabeth Belle

A question that is frequently asked is, ‘are any of Dido Elizabeth Belle’s descendants still alive?’ The answer in short is no. Today, I thought it worth providing a somewhat lengthy, but nevertheless potted genealogy, to explain how her family line died out. Be prepared, it’s not always an easy read in parts. At the end is a family tree for reference.

We begin with the birth of her 3 boys. In 1795, Dido, by then simply known as Elizabeth, gave birth to twins, John and Charles Daviniere. Nothing is really known of what became of John, although it would appear that he died when relatively young, although exactly when remains unknown. It is now known that he was still alive after Dido’s death in 1804, but for how long we have no idea.

Their third child, William Thomas Daviniere, was baptised on 26 January 1800 at St George’s Hanover Square, London. His date of birth is less clear from the parish register, it was either 17 December 1799 or 17 January 1800*.

City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: CCDS/PR/3/4

William Thomas and his family appear to have simply melted into history leaving little trace of their existence, with many places simply noting that William Thomas:

joined the East India Company, married a widow, Fanny Graham, and had a daughter, Emily. Emily died unmarried in 1870, several years after the death of her parents.

Was that the entirety of a life, just a couple of sentences to cover the lives of three people?  Surely, there had to be a little more to the lives of Dido’s boys.

It is probably quite safe to assume that William would have undertaken his education with his older brother, Charles, at a school for young gentlemen in Pimlico, where they studied, amongst other subjects, mathematics. That would have William in good stead for his future employment. However, whilst evidence survives for Charles, no similar account has survived for William Thomas, but it’s unlikely that one son attended school and the other didn’t.

In 1811, Charles joined the East India Company and was sent to India as an ensign in the army. William Thomas would have been still living at the family home, 31 Edgware Road, London, with his father John, Jane Holland (his father’s new partner, as they didn’t marry until 1819), and his two half siblings, Edward and Lavinia.

Whilst still in India, in 1817, Charles achieved promotion to lieutenant, but it would be a further 10 years before he achieved further advancement. Unlike his grandfather, Sir John Lindsay, Charles didn’t achieve rapid promotion.  It was the same year in which Lady Anne Murray, niece to Lord Mansfield died, leaving £50 to each of Dido’s boys.

East India House, Leadenhall Street

On 16 December 1818, the day before his 19th birthday, William Thomas was appointed to the post of a writer, in the Bengal warehouse of the East India Company, in London. He remained in this post for just two years before transferring to the Tea warehouse on 5 January 1821.

In 1823, Thomas was also a beneficiary in another will. This time he was joint beneficiary with a George Bremner, the godson of a Mrs Susan Douse, nee Awood. Susan’s late husband was Thomas Douse, who had worked for Lord Mansfield at Kenwood House for a number of years.

Kenwood House. Courtesy of Visit London.com

Susan appears to have had little to leave, but what she did have was split between the two young men. William Thomas also received her books and a miniature portrait of the late Earl of Mansfield, who had died a few years prior to Williams’ birth, but Susan must have thought it important enough to leave it to him, perhaps as a reminder of his late mother and her connection to Lord Mansfield. 

What this will tells us is that despite Dido’s death, at least one servant’s wife retained contact with one of Dido’s boys, but it’s curious that Susan left nothing for Charles. Perhaps this was either because he was in India and she didn’t think given how little she had, that it was not worthwhile, or maybe she was just closer to Dido’s youngest child. It has always struck me as curious that Dido wasn’t mentioned in either her father’s will or that of his wife, Lady Mary nor the will of 2nd Lord Mansfield, so it’s lovely to see that someone close to the family remembered her.

Three years later, on 20 August 1824, William Thomas progressed in his career and was appointed as an extra clerk in the auditor’s office. Then, just one year later, he applied for and achieved the vacant post of established clerk in the Accountant General’s Office. He took up this post on 10 August 1825, his skills having been assessed by an accountant, Daniel MacLaurin, as can be seen below. He clearly demonstrated that he was the ideal candidate.

83 Lombard Street

10 August 1825

These are to certify that I have carefully examined Mr W.T Daviniere as to his knowledge of book-keeping by double entry and have found him fully competent to explain and properly to state any question put to him upon that subject.

Daniel MacLaurin

The company was owned by Duncan MacLaurin until his demise in December 1823, at which time his brother, Daniel, took the reins. There’s no explanation offered as to why MacLaurin made the assessment though.

In 1834 Charles returned from India for two years, perhaps on leave or possibly for health reasons. As to where he stayed in England remains unknown, but presumably at the family home.

There is an interesting baptismal entry for a William Charles Graham, on 25 July 1834 stating that his parents are William Thomas (gent.) and Fanny Matilda Graham of Regent Street. More about this curious entry later.

Baptism for William Charles Graham. Parents named William Thomas and Fanny Matilda Graham, Regent Street

It was in 1836 that, whilst in England, Charles married Miss Hannah Nash, a young woman some 20 years his junior. The couple were married by licence at St Mary Abbot’s church, Kensington. Whilst it’s not been possible to ascertain anything further about Hannah’s background, her father, John Nash who was named on the marriage certificate, lived at 119 Crawford Street. Hannah appears to have been the youngest of 10 children.

The wedding was very much a family affair with Hannah’s brother Rev. George Edward Nash conducting ceremony, and, along with others, William Thomas was present. Following the marriage, the newlyweds returned to India, where Charles resumed his army post. Just over a year later, Charles and Hannah’s first child, Ada Hannah was born, but tragically she only survived for five months.

In September of 1837, William married Miss Fanny Graham, the daughter of the late William Graham of Portsmouth, about whom nothing seems to be known as yet. William Thomas’ half-brother, Edward, returned from Ducey, France, where the family were now living, to witness the marriage, along with Elizabeth Graham, one of Fanny’s’ sisters.

London Evening Standard 11 September 1837

In 1838, Charles and Hannah had their second child, another girl, Lavinia Hannah, again, born in India, and the following year they produced a son, Charles George, both of whom we will return to later.

It would be a just a few months later, on 17 January 1840, whilst living at 25 North Bank, London that William and Fanny had their one and only acknowledged child, Emily Helen perhaps taking her middle name Helen, as a nod to her maternal aunt.

Their little family appeared together on the 1841 census. Living with them, apart from their daughter Emily, was another child, the William Charles Graham, previously mentioned. Sadly the 1841 census was fairly basic and provided little information about family relationships, so no clues there, annoyingly.

By the end of 1841, Charles, still in India, had eventually been promoted to Major, but was subsequently reported to have been an invalid and no longer on active duty. In 1845 he retired on health grounds from the army. The family returned to England and set up home at 2 Lansdowne Villas, Kensington, before moving around 1851 to number 5 and eventually settling at number 10 Lansdowne Road. It would appear that poor health had been an issue for much of his career.

By the 1851 census, there was no sign of the William Graham living with William and Fanny, so it has to be assumed that he had been sent off to school somewhere. Later that year, William Thomas applied for a passport, so presumably he was he planning a trip over to Ducey, France, to sort out the estate of his late step mother, Jane née Holland, who had died in March. His father, John Daviniere having died several years previously.

The following year a report was published by the Select Committee on Indian Territories which showed that William Thomas was earning a good salary in his role in the Accounts Branch. His annual salary was noted as being £600, which equates to around £50,000 in today’s money.

In April 1860 Charles’ son, Charles George, aged 20, had joined the Civil Service as a temporary clerk. It seems clear that he would follow in his uncle’s footsteps rather than joining the army as his father had done.

According to the 1861 census William Charles Graham had reappeared back at the home of William Thomas, as their nephew and was working as a commercial clerk. If William Charles was their nephew, then who and where were his parents? Fanny had two siblings, Elizabeth and Helen Graham, neither of whom married. Could one of them have been his mother, but was presented for baptism by Charles and Fanny using Fanny’s maiden name? A mystery which may well never be solved.

That year, William Thomas’ published salary, having worked for 41 years, had risen to £900 per annum with an associated pension of £800 per annum. This would have left William Thomas and his family quite comfortably off. It was during that year that William Thomas retired. They were living at 18 Blomfield Road, Paddington, along with their daughter, Emily and William Charles Graham. The family had two employees, Anne Hoare, their cook/domestic servant and Jemima Lock, housemaid.

In May 1862 William Thomas was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society. Perhaps on retirement he had found a very enjoyable pastime. From the very helpful RHS Library staff we now know that:

Members, or Fellows as they were officially known from 1809, had to be proposed by three or more Fellows, and elected by ballot; the membership fee on admission was five guineas, with annual supplements of two guineas (raised to three in 1818). A Fellow could make a single payment of twenty guineas (raised to thirty in 1818), thereby becoming a Life Fellow. Such fees could only be afforded by the well-to-do.

Sadly, they hold no further information about his membership, so whether he only remained a member for the one year, or until his death, the records don’t tell us.

In addition to his work and hobbies, this he was also the company secretary of the Hendre DDU Slate and Slab Quarry Company in Wales.

We know very little about William Thomas’s family’s social life apart from one small mention in the Brighton Gazette, 6 April 1865, which refers to fashionable arrivals. This would indicate that Fanny, Emily and William Charles Graham went off to Brighton without William Thomas. They stayed at the Cavendish Mansion, a boarding house on Cavendish Place run by divorcee Mrs Mary Ann Wrench and her partner Julia Hely.

William Thomas died on 10 September 1867. His death certificate gave cause of death as paralysis for 5 years, 2nd attack, 2 years and final attack 3 hours.  The term paralysis could well have meant that he had suffered several strokes leading ultimately to his death. Present at his death and informant was not his wife, but William Charles Graham who was still living with the family at that time.

His death was followed just 18 months later by the death of his beloved wife, Fanny, the cause of death being attributed to ‘general decay commencing 5 years ago’ – a euphemism for old age, Fanny was 69. It sounds as if the couple suffered from poor health for the final years of their lives with no chance to enjoy their retirement.

William Thomas left a will in which he ensured that both his wife and daughter were provided for. Their ‘nephew’ William Charles Graham was provided for separately.

Tragically, their daughter Emily Helen, who inherited from her parents, was not to live much longer either and at the tender age of 30 died on 2 March 1870, whilst living at 13 Montpelier Road, Brighton where she was being cared for. The cause of death was given as a disease of the brain and extreme prostration. As Emily died intestate, her estate was administered by her uncle, Charles Daviniere.

Their nephew, if that’s what his relationship was to the family, William Charles Graham, a clerk, died a few weeks after Emily, on 10 September 1870 at the Middlesex hospital, exactly 3 years to the day after William Thomas died. Although not clear when he left the family home, he was living at 4 Upper Westbourne Terrace, Middlesex, until his demise. An inquest carried out by Edwin Lankster, determined the cause of death as being due to pneumonia, following an injury to his throat caused by a razor. His death was deemed to have been suicide, so it is highly unlikely that his true relationship to William Thomas Daviniere will never be known.

It makes you wonder what drove him to such an action. Was it that the rest of his family were dead, or had he found out that William and Fanny were his parents? Guesswork here, of course.

Clearly his demise was planned, as the day before his death he wrote his will, leaving it in part to his friend, Charles Davinier junior and also the Charles’ sister, Lavinia, along with the family servant, Anne Hoare, who had worked for Daviniere’s for a number of years and to his aunt Elizabeth who was living at 27 Thayer Street, Manchester Square, with her sister Helen, of whom he made no mention. Elizabeth died the following year and her sister Helen, was beneficiary of her will.

Therefore, within a three year period an entire branch of the Daviniere family was gone.  That left just Dido’s son Charles, his wife Hannah and their 2 children, Charles George and Lavinia Hannah.

In the midst of all this grief, Charles’ son, Charles George Daviniere, married Helen Marion Parkinson on 30 August 1870. Helen was the daughter of dental surgeon, James Parkinson who hailed from a long line of dentist/surgeons of Racquet Court, Fleet Street. Helen joined him at his home, 22 Addison Road, Kensington. A little under a year later, the first of their children, Charles Lindsay Frederick was born, followed a year later by their first daughter, Marion Julia.

Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 10 September 1870

In January 1873, Dido’s eldest son, Charles died after a long suffered illness affecting his lungs, leaving his widow, Hannah to survive on an army pension of just £196 per annum along with Charles’ estate, as sole beneficiary, apart from a few small items such as his watch which went to his son.

In June 1874, Charles George and Helen had another daughter, Eva.

On 4 May 1875, Charles senior’s daughter, Lavinia Hannah married Dr James Dickson Steele, the prison doctor at HMP Woking. It’s lovely to note that his brother, William Johnstone Steele and wife, Catherine gave birth to a son about the same time, who they named James Dickson Daviniere Steele, an acknowledgement of his brother and soon to be sister-in-law. However, this joy was to have been very short lived as their son only survived just four months, dying on 22 August 1875.

In January 1876, Charles George and Helen produced another daughter, Maud Florence Mary. More tragedy was just around the corner for the family, when Charles George’s sister, Lavinia Hannah died on 20 February 1876 aged just 37 from myeloma and purpura. Her death took place just ten days before after her mother, Hannah, wrote her will, appointing her son, Charles George Daviniere and her nephew, Francis Charles Bescoby, the son of her sister, Charlotte, as her trustees. She couldn’t possibly have been aware of what was to come, but she never amended her will after the death of her daughter, so the estate went to her son in its entirety when she died on 14 November 1883.  

In 1877, Charles George and Helen had a second son, Herbert Lionel, closely followed on 20 August 1878 by another son, Percy Angus. Sadly, shortly after his birth Herbert Lionel died. 

In 1880, the couple had another daughter, Maud Florence Mary. By the 1881 census this ever growing family moved to possibly a larger property at 15 Norland Square, Kensington. Three years later another child was born, Glady Annette Louis. The name Louis was perhaps a nod to her great grandfather, Dido’s husband, John Louis Daviniere.

Their final child, yet another Charles, this one being Charles Crawford, was born on 19 October 1886.

In 1895, their eldest son, Charles Lindsay Fredrick, always referred to, at least by his siblings, as Lindsay, set sail for South Africa as a sergeant in the army. Whilst there, in 1911 he met and married Lilian Raddrock and the couple had Harold Charles Bertrand Daviniere in 1913 who was to become Dido’s last surviving descendant.

Charles George Daviniere died on 16 January 1899, aged 59 at 54 Lansdowne Road, formerly of Addison Road. His estate was left solely to his wife Hannah. Hannah then moved to 15 Ladbrooke Square, Kensington.

What became of Charles George and Helen’s other children?

Percy Angus attended St Paul’s School, London until 1892 and died unmarried in 1904, just before his 26th birthday, and almost 100 years after the death of Dido Elizabeth Belle.  His death was registered by his mother, in London. The cause of death being phthisis (tuberculosis) and his estate such as it would have been, given his age, was left to his mother.

There is an entry for Percy Kelly’s Trade Directory 1904, the year he died, at Duxford, Cambridgeshire as what appears to be, the joint licensee of The Red Lion, Whittlesford Bridge, along with a Helmuth von Bühler, son of a captain of the German army. Despite this entry for The Red Lion, Percy was employed as a clerk in the Union Bank of Scotland, so it has to be assumed that he was in Cambridge briefly, perhaps somewhere to escape the smog of the city or perhaps he and Helmuth were business partners, since Helmut lived in nearby Norland Square.

In 1932, Charles George’s wife, Helen died.  Their second daughter, Eva never married. Itt would appear that she had been a language teacher, but by 1939 she was a patient in St Bernard’s’ hospital, Southall, a psychiatric hospital, where she remained until her death in 1946, aged 72.

Marion Julia, their first daughter, never married. In her 40’s she became involved with the Church League for Women’s Suffrage. She died on 29 February 1940, aged 67 and left her estate to her siblings Maud, Gladys and Lindsay and also in trust for Lindsay’s son, Harold Charles.

It is known that Charles Crawford attended the Sir John Gresham Grammar School at Holt, Norfolk for a couple of years from 1901-1903. As to what occupation he followed after leaving school is still to be uncovered. He died, unmarried, in 1937. He had been living at 9 Inkerman Terrace, Kensington with his sister Marion Julia.

He left £50 to be split equally between his brother Charles Lindsay, but should he be dead prior to this it should go directly to his wife Lillian and their son Harold, split equally. To Harold he left and additional £50. To his sister, Florence, he left her 2 shares in Army and Navy Stores, plus his gold cufflinks and is small signet ring.  To Marion, his large signet ring and pearl pin. To Maud his amethyst tie pin and onyx studs and buttons. To Gladys £100 a pair of cuff links and a small French clock.  To her husband Charles Pletts £10 and his silver wine taster and silver wine strainer. Apart from a few gifts to friends, the remainder of his estate was to be sold and the money split between his siblings, with the exception of Eva. Her share was to be used by the trustees for her benefit, so we can only assume this was because she was deemed mentally incapacitated by this time.

Gladys Annette married an army officer, Charles Menham Pletts and died in 1958, but the couple had no children, so her line died out with her.

In 1911, Maud was working as a school matron at the South Acton Day Nursery which had opened in 1908 in the poorest part of Acton. The post of matron was funded by Norland who have very kindly confirmed that Maud began her training there in December 1895 and awarded the Norland Institute certificate on 9 December 1896, so they would have had a hand in appointing Maud to this post. By 1939 she was described as being a retired welfare worker and again, unmarried. Maud died in 1970 at Smiles Home for Invalid Ladies, Maybury Hill, Woking. Her will made provision for her nephew, Harold Charles and several cousins, who appear to be to have been related to her sister, Gladys’s husband side of the family.

Charles Lindsay’s son, Harold Charles Bertram Daviniere was in the army as a private, during WWII, and was a prisoner of war in Stalag 342, Lamsdorf, Poland from 1942.

After the war he returned to South Africa and married an Elma Beeton in 1949, in South Africa, where he worked as a motor mechanic and lived at 1 Doreen Court, 68 Garden Street, Rosettenville, Johannesburg. He left an estate worth 4,750 rand, which, at the time of writing this equates to about £250. He and his wife had no children. Elma died shortly after her husband.

Therefore, the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle began with her mother Maria Belle, a slave and ended on 17 February 1975 in South Africa, with Dido’s great-great-grandson a former prisoner of war.

If this piece whetted your appetite to find out more about Dido, you will find more articles here on All Things Georgian by clicking on this highlighted link.

This will be the last post until September as I’m taking a summer break, but I’ll return early September with more stories from the 18th century. Enjoy the summer everyone and stay safe.


City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: CCDS/PR/3/4

University of London; London, England; The East India Register and Directory for 1826 Mason, A.W. and Brown, G.H.; Reference Number: Rb1696511 1826

 Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1665

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/MRY1/035

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/CTC/064

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/MRY1/101

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/CTC/049

Class: HO107; Piece: 678; Book: 2; Civil Parish: St Marylebone; County: Middlesex; Enumeration District: 2; Folio: 12; Page: 18; Line: 12; GSU roll: 438794

Class: HO107; Piece: 1491; Folio: 546; Page: 29; GSU roll: 87819-87820

Class: HO107; Piece: 1468; Folio: 791; Page: 53; GSU roll: 87790-87791

Class: RG 9; Piece: 14; Folio: 156; Page: 22; GSU roll: 542556

Class: RG 9; Piece: 5; Folio: 66; Page: 7; GSU roll: 542554

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: DL/T/041/038

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: DL/T/041/035

1871 England Census; Class: RG10; Piece: 38; Folio: 46; Page: 5; GSU roll: 838761

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: DL/T/041/037

Deceased Online; United Kingdom; Deceased Online Burial Indexes (Emily Helen Daviniere)

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: DL/T/041/038

* Etienne Daly is of the opinion that William Thomas was born on 17 December 1800 as noted on his grave and that the baptism record of 26 January 1800 must therefore be incorrect, this would mean that William Thomas couldn’t have been baptised in January 1800 and that the date of birth on his gravestone must be the correct one. His death certificate, however, confirms his age at death as 67 i.e. born either at the end of 1799 or the beginning of 1800. He also notes that William Thomas was baptised on 26 January 1802, although there is no supporting evidence for this in the baptism registers. The census returns give his estimated age as – 40 in 1841, 50 in 1851 and 60 in 1861, so it leave a slight mystery as to which information was correct.

Guest post by Alice McVeigh ‘Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel’

This week I am delighted to welcome another guest to All Things Georgian. Today’s guest is Alice McVeigh, a London ghost writer and professional cellist, who has spent over fifteen years performing with orchestras including the BBC Symphony and the Royal Philharmonic.

Her first two novels were published to acclaim by Orion, marketed as ‘The secret life of a symphony orchestra’. Her latest book, Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel, was released just a couple of weeks ago and has already been rated 10 stars out of 10 by Publishers Weekly’s BookLife Prize.

With that introduction, I’ll hand over to Alice to tell you more about her new book and the music in the era of Jane Austen.

As Lady Catherine de Bourgh decrees in my own new novel:

‘In my opinion, every gentlewoman should be able to ride, to embroider, and to play tolerably on the pianoforte. To play too well on the pianoforte, however, might be considered vulgar.’

Music features in all Jane Austen’s works – one recalls Mary Crawford’s entrancing harp, Marianne Dashwood’s ‘magnificent concerto’ – the one enabling Elinor and Lucy Steele to speak without being overheard – not to mention Jane Fairfax’s effortlessly superior performances in Emma

On a less-exalted level, everyone remembers the Pride and Prejudice scene in which Elizabeth Bennet’s sister Mary tests the patience of the company to exhaustion-point. While Austen’s Lady Susan wrote of her daughter:

‘I want her to play and sing with some portion of taste and a good deal of assurance, as she has my hand and arm and a tolerable voice. I was so much indulged in my infant years that I was never obliged to attend to anything, and consequently am without the accomplishments which are now necessary to finish a pretty woman.’ 

Music, drawing etc. – even foreign languages, to some degree – were often regarded in such a manner: not as a means of personal enjoyment or as an artistic end in themselves, but as props deployed to display the daughters of the house to greatest advantage. Brides apparently often abandoned music upon marriage – it’s impossible not to imagine with some level of relief.  (As Mrs Elton observed sententiously to Emma Woodhouse, “… for married women, you know–there is a sad story against them, in general. They are but too apt to give up music.”)

As for the London music masters, most were barely scraping a living. It’s hard not to feel sorry for them. And yet, without teaching young ladies (more occasionally, young gentlemen) these music masters’ finances would have been rocky indeed. Beethoven himself was obliged to teach young Hungarian countesses, with whom he was – being Beethoven – occasionally presumptuous enough to fall in love… (One such instance was explored in Jessica Duchen’s novel Immortal, based on Beethoven’s famous letter to his “Immortal beloved…”)

In my own Jane Austen prequel,there is the following exchange between the sharp-elbowed Susan and her erstwhile music master.

Still accompanying another young lady, he said, very softly, without troubling to look up, ‘And so, Miss Smithson, we were betrayed.’

‘I did nothing wrong, yet it was I who was sent away.’

He glanced up then, with that strangely attractive smile – the smile that had first persuaded her that he was not, in fact, so very plain. As his fingers moved over the ivory keys, he asked, ‘And do you regret your expulsion, Miss Smithson?’

‘I do not.’

‘Of course not, for you were no more allowed to be your true self in that place than Mrs Ansruther’s spaniel… I presume that you do not wish to exhibit?’

‘Not in the least.’

‘Then I will shield you. But I beg, once you come into your kingdom, that you remember me.’

Flustered, Susan longed to say that she was in no need of shielding, but she did not dare. As for remembering him ‘once she came into her kingdom,’ she understood the implied compliment – that she might become a person of influence. She understood too the sadness in his tone, though only moments later he was light-heartedly castigating another of his charges. (‘My dear Miss Drayton, be so good as to count your rests!’) But he was true to his word, and, when the cry went up for more young lady performers and ‘Miss Smithson’ was named, Mr Maggini said, ‘Nay, for she has injured her finger. Miss Clara, perhaps you might charm us with an air?’

British Museum

In terms of instruments, the pianoforte and voice were most often preferred, but the harp was considered ladylike, and there were isolated cases of the violin being chosen – though the instrument possessed connotations of devilishness, and its shape seemed too suggestive for some.

Another alternative was the newly designed harp-lute, whose inventor, Edward Light, taught it to Princess Charlotte, and paid for its production. There was quite a vogue for the harp-lute during the Regency period. These apparently sounded rather harp-like (and, presumably, lute-ish) but were delicate, decorative and small enough to hold on one’s lap.

And then there was the repertoire.

Unpretentious little tunes – such as ‘Robin Adair’ – the song Frank Churchill teased Miss Fairfax about in Emma – were generally favoured over more earnest and difficult works. In Susan, I have Miss Caroline Johnson – a good-natured young heiress – struggling woefully with a sonata by Dussek:

Thus, Susan was at least partly prepared, after supper, to find Frank Churchill proposing that they stroll to her favourite spot, as Caroline was rashly embarking on her Dussek sonata.

They left, pursued by the sound of fingers falling with dogged persistence on ivory keys. Once outside, he added, ‘I am grateful. Otherwise, the Dussek might have been the death of me!’

‘I’m sure I should play it no better. Rather worse if anything.’

‘You would have the very good sense not to play it at all.’

‘I suppose it to be rather a compliment – Were the Cuthbert’s here, Miss Johnson would have confined herself to her well-trodden songs and airs.’

‘If so, it is a compliment I could willingly dispense with. I would rather hear young Miss Laura at her scales!’ They paused, to admire the scudding clouds in the half-light, then he said, ‘Miss Smithson, I asked you a question yesterday that you were denied the chance to answer. I asked whether you might one day like me better than “well enough”.’

Susan laughed. ‘Oh, that must be evident to everybody! Why, at this very moment, we are probably the talk of the place!’

Susan, however, used music to her own advantage – particularly when Lady Catherine requests that she read to her:

Now Susan had a low, pretty voice and natural discretion in the use of it. Lady Catherine had only once to object that she spoke too low for her to discover the pace and pitch most grateful to her ear. Of course, the book was wearisome, and the room overheated, but she read until she noticed her ladyship nodding off – at which she could not wonder – then she scraped the heel of her boot upon the floor.

Lady Catherine started, saying, ‘Nay, I was not asleep. You should take care not to sink your tone at the end of a section, Miss Smithson. Now, be so good as to play to me upon the pianoforte.’

Susan seated herself at the instrument, recalling an early work by Corri, which she had recently memorised. Lady Catherine beat time with her forefinger throughout and at its conclusion announced that she had always been devoted to Haydn. But when Susan enquired whether she might like another air, she said, ‘No. You may go, Miss Smithson – but come tomorrow at half-past two, to read to me again.’

Susan, hiding her dancing eyes, promised to attend her with the greatest pleasure…

As a professional cellist myself, I grieve that the cello was considered insufficiently decorous for a lady in the early 1800s. Worse, women were not allowed to perform in orchestras, whichever instrument they chose, though Austen does hint in Emma that Jane Fairfax’s unusual musical brilliance might have made her even more employable as a governess…

It’s a terrible thought: the elegant Miss Fairfax toiling over Miss Sophia’s pianoforte studies and Miss Maria’s vocal scales…

What a good thing it is that it never happened!

John O’Keeffe (1747-1833), the blind playwright

I love introducing new guests to All Things Georgian and I’m excited to welcome Lynda O’Keeffe, researcher, writer and storyteller, today to tell us about John O’Keeffe (1747-1833), the blind playwright.

As her name denotes, she is a descendant of John O’Keeffe. Lynda has spent over eight years researching the life and works of this extraordinary man and with that she can safely say that she knows this man, everything from his favourite meal to the ribbons in his hair. The object of her research is that his story must be told, his life and experiences are as relevant today as in the 18th century. 

Lynda has worked as a literary and creative arts agent – representing actors, musicians and writers. With a passion for theatre, obviously in the blood, the writing of The Blind Playwright is her first major foray into writing – an experience she says could be likened to an assault course! Finding herself on the other side of the fence, she sought out a writer that she both respects and admires, attended his workshops and now states firmly and unabashedly that without the encouragement and expertise of Niall Williams (author of This is HappinessFour Letters of Love, etc.), she would not have had the confidence to embark on The Blind Playwright.  Her writing has enabled her to escape the uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic to dash through the streets of 18th-century London, privy to O’Keeffe’s many amusing anecdotes and cavorting with some of his famous friends including R.B. Sheridan, Charles Macklin, Elizabeth Inchbald and Dorothea Jordan. 

With her confidence bolstered, Lynda’s labours have now come to fruition with the completion of a historical novel based on his life, a play script of O’Keeffe’s life, the reworking of one of his previously unperformed plays and the transformation of several of his comedic poems into a story and play script. Her research has also earned her the support of academic institutions around the world including Trinity College Dublin and London Metropolitan University and national institutions include National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery Dublin and the Fitzwilliam Museum. 

You can join Lynda on her Instagram page and find out more about her ancestor there: the_blind_playwright

National Portrait Gallery

18th century London was never going to be an easy place for a blind Irish playwright to prosper and thrive …

Introducing John O’Keeffe, a man who in his own time needed no introduction at all – the most prolific and significant playwright of the 18th century. With works including operas, comedic farces and poetry, he could be called the Andrew Lloyd Webber of Georgian theatre.  John O’Keeffe’s story is one of survival and success in the face of adversity. He was born in Abbey Street, Dublin on 24th June 1747 into an affluent Catholic family; his father held an office of Prerogative and was a descendant of the Kings of Ireland.  Being born into a life of privilege ensured a fine education, so John attended school in Dublin and soon became a Classics scholar proficient in four languages. Upon his parents’ own desire for their sons to become artists, John and his brother Daniel were sent to the Royal Academy of Art in the city. John’s skill with a paintbrush led to numerous commissions in both portraiture and landscape, but little did he foresee that the observational skills he learnt at the RAA would in the future be his treasured and most invaluable tools. 

National Gallery Ireland, Dublin. Item Number 1810

In 1761, John visited London and upon seeing David Garrick perform was mightily impressed. Unbeknown to the fourteen-year-old John, this was to be the catalyst behind his life choices. He went on to study at Trinity College Dublin, a bright young man with a character described as forever merry and good hearted. He was the life and soul of the party with a fine singing voice, a quick humour and a kindly disposition, and he was considered a man of principles. By this time he was already a published writer, flooding the newspaper editors’ desks with his poetry and amusing stories, forever using the pseudonyms of his classical heroes – Democritus was a favourite.  

After completing his education, John decided upon a career change and became an actor, a strolling player travelling the length and breadth of Ireland. However, after a raucous night out with friends in Dublin, the twenty-two-year old thespian fell into the River Liffey, a watery accident that resulted in a rapid deterioration of his sight, with complete blindness setting in some eight years later. 

THE SHE GALLANT by John O’Keeffe published 1767 for Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin. Credit: Collection of L.A. O’KEEFFE  Photo Credit: L.A. O’KEEFFE

With his acting career now thwarted, the indefatigable John turned his skills to playwrighting. His first play, The She Gallant, became a roaring success in Dublin, and he and his young family decamped to London to find fame and fortune. 

London soon recognised John’s brilliance and he became one of the most prolific and significant playwrights of the 18th century, writing for the Theatre Royals of Covent Garden and the Haymarket. His portfolio totalled above seventy-nine pieces, and between 1778 and 1798 fifty-seven of his plays, amounting to over two thousand performances, were performed on the London stages. 

He was the epitome of celebrity, enjoying royal patronage from King George III and the royal family, and lauded and praised by his illustrious friends and peers, including Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Sarah Siddons, Charles Macklin, Elizabeth Inchbald, Kane O’Hara, William Shield and Oliver Goldsmith. The finest actors, actresses and musicians of the 18th century performed in his works, with Dorothea Jordan, William Lewis, Ann Catley, Michael Leoni and Mrs Powell to be found on the cast lists. He was adored and courted by both society and the public. 

Theatre Royal Covent Garden. Photo by L.A. O’KEEFFE. Print exhibited at The Queens Gallery, George IV Art and Spectacle 2019

But while John’s career was rising to exalted heights, his personal life was crashing down around him. His professional and private lives were on a collision course, and despite reaching the pinnacle of success as a writer, he was ravaged by tragedy and loss. If losing his sight at age thirty was not enough, his first child Gerald died in infancy, his marriage to Mary (née Heaphy) failed, he lost another son Henry at age ten years, and his brother Daniel died in 1787. The final nail in this ‘mental crucifixion’ was the death of his eldest son, the Reverend John Tottenham, at the age of 28 years.  

Throughout all these tragedies, with his daughter Adelaide as scribe, John continued in his work, turning out operas, farces and poetry to enchant and amuse his audiences – even whilst his own heart had been blown wide open. A quote from his memoirs, Recollections of the Life of John O’Keeffe, displays his actions behind his broken human heart: 

The effort to be envied, rather than pitied, often proves a successful stimulus to the greatest actions of human life.’

Portrait of Mrs John O’ Keefe, Wife of the Artist. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

John’s blindness was a major contributing factor to many of his personality traits, influencing how he reacted to the events that befell him. His character could change in the blink of an eye; from being introverted and often reclusive, he would almost instantly become exuberant and flamboyant. He suffered with bouts of depression, anxiety and vulnerability, yet demonstrated confidence and enthusiasm when putting pen to paper and creating his theatrical masterpieces. The theatre was his Utopia. And even while beset with his own tragedies, this man of principles maintained a strong social conscience. He was a champion and advocate for gender equality, female authorship and the abolition of slavery – and he never missed an opportunity to express his own thoughts through his work. His example in and commitment to socio-political issues remain as relevant to modern times and resonate loudly with current equality movements and issues of modern slavery and human trafficking, immigration and world poverty. From the many pieces John wrote, the most famous over time has been Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp. In 1788 (pre-dating Disney by over 230 years) John dramatised the story of Aladdin as a harlequinade, with its first performance on the stage of the Theatre Royal Covent Garden – it having had resounding worldwide success since. 

Zoe Wanamaker in the RSC’s production of ‘Wild Oats’
Photo credit:www.zoewanamaker.com photo by Reg Wilson

John’s play Wild Oats, first performed in 1791, remains a popular choice with modern theatre companies: hugely successful productions were staged in 1976 by the Royal Shakespeare Company, with a cast including Zoë Wanamaker, in 1997 by the National Theatre, and in 2012 by the Bristol Old Vic. 

Credit: Collection of L.A. O’KEEFFE. Photo Credit: L.A. O’KEEFFE

On this note, I will end John’s story with a review of the RSC production by Bernard Levin: 

‘With ”Wild Oats” the RSC have struck gold and oil at once, and rubies and diamonds to the utmost profusion, mingled with vintage champagne, lightly chilled, caviar is there…A farce by an altogether forgotten Irish born man of the theatre.’ 

John O’Keeffe died in Southampton on 4th February 1833 in poverty, with only four people attending his funeral, somewhat forgotten too at the end of his own life after so many years feted in the spotlight. Remember him next time you see the posters going up for a Christmas production of Aladdin.

Monsieur Garnerin and his maiden balloon flight in England

I came across a story to share with you from the Star, 29 June 1802 which described Monsieur Garnerin’s first flight in England ,although I had read that his first flight didn’t take place until 21 September 1802, but perhaps it was, that on that occasion he made the first parachute jump.


A group of people/party-goers known as the Pic Nics made the news on a regular basis around this time. The group included the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Duchesses of Manchester and Gordon, Leeds amongst many others, all carefully named by the newspaper, in order of their social status.

Weather-wise, June would usually be regarded as an ideal time to meet up and enjoy an outdoor party and so at about two o’clock in the afternoon, the Regatta began with about forty of them began their party along the Thames from Whitehall stairs in large pleasure barges sailing to Ranelagh pleasure gardens. Accompanying the party goers was another boat with a very large band of wind instruments and other pleasure barges filled with ‘people of distinction’.

The Pic-Nic Orchestra Gillray MetMuseum

The Pic-Nic Orchestra Gillray. MetMuseum

Sadly, the weather was not quite as good as it could have been, but poor weather wasn’t going to spoil their fun. They reached Ranelagh stairs about an hour later, after encountering a very strong ebb tide and a very strong breeze from the South West and  were saluted on landing, with a volley from the soldiers on duty in the gardens.

The Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh, London; Canaletto
The Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh, London; Canaletto; Compton Verney

The breakfast, as it was described, consisted of all the delicacies of the season. The wines were not only abundant but of the best quality. Those who came with guinea tickets were admitted to the gallery of the rotunda below, at tables equally well supplied. But the principal attraction was the ascension of Monsieur Jacques Garnerin in his small balloon. This was to be his first flight in this country, and he later went on to make several more during his visit.

About four o’clock the company left the breakfast tables and retired to the garden to watch the event. The Pic Nics contracted Garnerin to take to the air by paying him 500 guineas. Captain Snowden, a member of the group, agreed to accompany him and it was said that he had a wager with someone of 200 guineas to take part in this. Sadly, the article omits to tell us who the other party was.

André Jacques Garnerin descending from a balloon by parachute in a field near St Pancras Church British Museum

A later image of André Jacques Garnerin descending from a balloon by parachute in a field near St Pancras Church British Museum

This proved to be quite a spectacle. The figure and proportions of the balloon was described as:

grand and beautiful, it’s colours were alternate sections of dark green and yellow, The vessel that contained the materials from which the gas was generated the tubes by which it was conveyed to the balloon, the most minute part of the instruments, and the process were examined with the most particular attention that wonder and curiosity could excite.  

Whilst the audience were waiting in the garden for the ascent, they were entertained with several excellent pieces of music by the band who had attended on the river. The balloon had been filling since about nine in the morning, and a few minutes before five it was deemed sufficiently filled and ready to ascend. Monsieur Garnerin stepped into the car under the balloon. A lady of the party tried to persuade Captain Snowden not to go, but her please fell on deaf ears. After a brief period making final adjustments, the balloon was ready. Initially, it wouldn’t lift as Garnerin had hope, so he threw out some of the extra ballast, which immediately solved the problem.

Three signal guns were fired for his ascent and just as the balloon was rising Captain Snowden sat down, but Garnerin insisted he stood otherwise it could prove fatal. The balloon ascended in the most majestic manner, amidst the onlookers numbering by now about a thousand who were assembled in the garden. The car was richly decorated with flags of different nations in honour of the Peace of Amiens.

Immense crowds were assembled in Battersea fields, the upper part of Millbank, Tothill Fields, Chelsea and Pimlico; every window, every house top, every tree was filled. Chelsea gardens were crowded, the river was covered with boats, while on the banks on both side, an every avenue from town towards Ranelagh were thronged. The great road from Buckingham gate was absolutely impassable, or at least the carriages which formed an unbroken chain from the Turnpike to Ranelagh door, could only advance so slowly that many preferred to get out and struggle through the amassed crowd.

The newspaper assured its readers that:

No balloon that ever before went up, took a course so directly over London from West to East. It passed over the Five Fields, part of the Park, Pall-Mall, Charing Cross, the Strand, Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill, St Paul’s churchyard and could be distinctly seen above every street.

Every shop was totally deserted as everyone had taken to the streets to watch. Monsieur Garnerin could be distinctly seen waving the flags, and at one time he came down very low and threw out yet more ballast, rapidly ascended and disappeared behind a cloud. Soon after this it began to rain, but this did not deter Garnerin and his fellow passenger and thy travelled on to Colchester, Essex, 51 miles from London, in just a few hours, where they landed without any accident.

Those left at Ranelagh were refreshed with tea, coffee and an excellent cold meal, most leaving Ranelagh sometime around seven in the evening. A large party of the light horse and foot guards were stationed in all directions leading to Ranelagh to keep the peace and watch out for pickpockets.

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814), religious prophetess

Joanna was born in 1750 and presented for baptism at the local parish church, Ottery St Mary, Devon, by parents William and Hannah on 6th June 1750. If you look to the left of the entry in the baptismal register, you’ll see a faint, handwritten notation which was added at some time. Someone has written the words ‘The Fanatic’.

If you’ve never come across Joanna before, she held very strong religious convictions and in her early 40’s began to experience apocalyptic dreams and visitations. She believed that she possessed supernatural gifts and wrote prophecies in rhyme. She claimed to be the Woman of the Apocalypse referenced in a prophetic passage of the book of Revelations, Chapter 12, verses 1-6 and that she was destined to have a son who would be the new Messiah or Shiloh (Genesis, Chapter 49, verse 10).

Over time, Joanna acquired a large following who believed in her prophecies, so much so that she began selling paper ‘seals of the Lord’ at prices varying from twelve shillings to a guinea. The seals were supposed to ensure the owners of such would receive eternal life. Joanna became so popular that she was persuaded to leave her home in Devon and move to London.

British Museum
British Museum

At the age of 64, Joanna announced that she was pregnant, and it was an immaculate conception. The child was to be born on 19 October 1814 and needless to sy there was a media frenzy awaiting the birth of this child, but of course much of her prophecies were viewed with a degree of scepticism.

19 October 1814 came and went, but Joanna was growing ever larger, so people believed that the birth of the child was imminent.

The Statesman of 28 November 1814 reported that her state of health had changed:

On Thursday night, she complained of great oppression insomuch, that she could not lay down on her bed, nor be in one posture, but a very short time together during the night. On Friday morning, she got some sleep, but wakened frequently, with the oppression and pain. Towards the evening she became restless again, had a very bad night and this day (Saturday is so much exhausted, that she cannot keep her head off the pillow. She complains of a giddiness in her head, and extreme faintness all over her and general pains all over. This is the state she is in at present, some change must soon take place, according to all human understanding, as she continues without taking nourishment, except the wine, which does not remain long on her stomach.

Her condition deteriorated and still no sign of the child until about 27 December 1814, when she died, with her Chief Priest Tozer and her close friend, Ann Underwood along with two or three unnamed people at her bedside.

Spirits at work- Joanna conceiving- ie- blowingup Shiloh. British Museum
Spirits at work- Joanna conceiving- i.e.- blowing up Shiloh. British Museum

The Examiner 8 January 1815 carried a detailed report titled Death and Dissection of the Prophetess. Just prior to her death it was said that she became insensible, but her supporters continued to believe that he wasn’t dying, but that it was merely a precursor to giving birth. A surgeon, Mr Want, of Tottenham Court Road was made aware of Joanna’s condition some seven weeks prior to her demise. He stated that the symptoms she displayed should be examined independent of the question of reputed pregnancy. He concluded from his examination that there was no pregnancy, but that she would die from her illness, but that he could give her medication to help ease her suffering and to ‘relieve the flatulency of which she was oppressed’. In order to ensure that Joanna’s carer, Ann Underwood was under no illusion that her friend would recover or that she was pregnant, the doctor wisely put his view to Ann in writing, urging her to ensure that Joanna took the medicine he had prescribed. He also noted that Joanna declined any medicine unless The Lord told her she should take it.

Joanna’s supporters believed that Joanna would appear as dead for a period of four days, she would then be revived, and the boy would be born, so her body was not allowed to be moved for burial during this period. They simply believed that she was ‘gone for a while’ and wrapped her body in blankets, put bottles of hot water around her feet and kept the room warm.

Crowds of her supporters gathered in Manchester Street to await her resurrection, all constantly asking for news. Far from waking up after the four-day period, decomposition rapidly began, aided by the heat.

Two surgeons carried out the dissection and as they anticipated, no unborn child was found, her uterine organs were healthy, however, her intestines were distended and flatulent which they believed to be the cause of her appearing pregnant. The cause of death was recorded as ‘natural’.

Joanna Southcott. British Museum
Joanna Southcott. British Museum

Before Joanna died, she advised Ann Underwood that if the child wasn’t born, that all the gifts given by her followers, for the use of the Shiloh, including a crib were to be returned to them. Joanna left a will, in which she left small financial gifts along with her wearing apparel to named followers, her will contains over two full pages of names in a list along with the item to be given to them.

Following her death there was a media frenzy, describing her as a ‘wicked woman’ taking money from people under false pretences. She was also described as a scandalous  and deluded.

The Caledonian Mercury, 31 December 1814, contained a letter which confirmed that Joanna had died at four o’clock in the morning, 27 December 1814 and was buried on 2nd January 1815 at St Marylebone.

Joanna was also said to have a left a chest containing prophecies which was only to be opened at a time of national crisis or danger and in the presence of all the Bishops of the Church of England.

Quite where this box is now I’m not quite sure, and there appears to be no mention of such an item in her will. I have read that it was at some time been deposited at the British Museum, but that it has now been lost. It’s also said to be with a member of the family and but perhaps the most likely place being that in 1957 it was presented to the Panacea Society that it remains with them, in a house which is now a museum in Bedford.

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The Imposter, or Obstetric Dispute. British Museum

18th Century Song, guest post by erAto

It’s always lovely to welcome guests to All Things Georgian and today I’m welcoming back the author, erAto who writes historic 18th century fiction, who will share with us information about 18th century songs.

My Exenchester Series is a dark and lurid take on the Georgian Era. In a world inspired by Old Bailey transcripts and by unusual authors like Thomas de Quincey, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the Marquis de Sade, sex, crime and death are lurking everywhere.

 The series consists of two novels and a short story. Within their haunting plotlines there is also a connection to another topic of 18th century interest: popular music. Some might think that this is an odd combination — gritty gothic noir and Georgian era songs — but let us take a look at the music of the Exenchester series and see how this all aligns.


Gothic horror meets splatterpunk in Steps of the Malefactor. Giving the backstory of Francis Exenchester via his relationship with footman William Roxby, these two young men find themselves caught up in a “knot” of sex offenders. During what is likely the story’s most brutal scene, one character, Blore, spontaneously bursts into song: Down Among the Dead Men.

Here’s a health to the King and a lasting peace

To faction an end, to wealth increase.

Come, let us drink it while we have breath,

For there’s no drinking after death.

And he that will this health deny,

Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

Down, down, down, down;

Down among the dead men let him lie!

Let charming beauty’s health go round,

With whom celestial joys are found.

And may confusion yet pursue,

That selfish woman-hating crew.

And he who’d woman’s health deny,

Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

Down, down, down, down;

Down among the dead men let him lie!

In smiling Bacchus’ joys I’ll roll,

Deny no pleasure to my soul.

Let Bacchus’ health round briskly move,

For Bacchus is a friend to Love;

And they that would this health deny,

Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

Down, down, down, down;

Down among the dead men let him lie!

May love and wine their rights maintain,

And their united pleasures reign.

While Bacchus’ treasure crowns the board,

We’ll sing the joy that both afford.

And they that won’t with us comply,

Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

Down, down, down, down;

Down among the dead men let them lie!

Charles Mackay, in his collection of English folk songs, notes that this song’s composition is attributed to a “Mr. Dyer” (posited by some to be John Dyer) and said to have been first performed at the theatre at Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields.

The first publication is said to be from 1728 in a book called The Dancing Master, though it also appears in a slightly different, crasser form, in Scottish author Allan Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany around the same time.

A circa 1740 broadside has yet another variant, and even crasser than Ramsay’s. The nature of folk songs means the tunes and lyrics are a bit unstable, for there was a time when one couldn’t rely on a recording to play the song back identically ad infinitum.

These old folk tunes tended to be communicated orally; and the transmission relies on the memory of the performer and on said performer’s own artistic take on the song. So it was that popular songs lived and mutated as they were passed along.

Best known as a drinking song, ‘Down Among the Dead Men’ has an implication in its lyrics of a person who is “dead drunk” — and this sometimes guessed to be the meaning of the “dead men” in the song.

Nevertheless, the patriotic note to the lyrics does suggest real animosity may be intended towards those who won’t drink to the King and Queen. It actually has a feel of the 17th century “Rump Songs” about it, and if it was already being collected by Ramsay as a folk song in the 1720s, the John Dyer attribution seems unlikely (or at least, it was not by the famous John Dyer who was born in 1699).

The appearance of this song in Steps of the Malefactor was actually my own tribute to David Lynch and his disturbing use of popular songs in the movie Blue Velvet. Certain verses in particular seemed appropriate to the characters in the story, and to their evil intentions, particularly when removed from context.


In the mirthful drama Molly Brazen, Annabelle the sex worker is baffled by the behavior and appearance of her young client, who seems to not actually want to have any sex; and as she interrogates him to discover his reasons why, his answers just get weirder and weirder.

The story was written as a promo piece for The Virgin and the Bull, but hints at many events from the then-to-be-written Steps of the Malefactor.

Technically, Molly Brazen contains no songs. However, the title of the story is reference to a sex worker character from The Beggar’s Opera, as well as a play on the old word for a homosexual (strictly speaking, molly is the 18th century equivalent of sissy).

In The Beggar’s Opera, there is only one song in which Molly Brazen would have participated: Youth’s the Season Made for Joys.

Youth’s the season made for joys,

Love is then our duty;

She alone who that employs,

Well deserves her beauty.

Let’s be gay,

While we may,

Beauty’s a flower despis’d in decay.

Let us drink and sport to-day,

Ours is not tomorrow.

Love with youth flies swift away,

Age is nought but sorrow.

Dance and sing,

Time’s on the wing,

Life never knows the return of spring.

As with all songs from The Beggar’s Opera, author John Gay wrote the lyrics himself, but set them to an existing melody. In this case the song used was merely called “cotillion” — perhaps just an instrumental dance piece for which he created words. In the surrounding dialogue it’s referred to as a “French tune.”

The setting for this performance in The Beggar’s Opera is in a whorehouse, as is too the entire story Molly Brazen. There is consequently a bit of irony in its verses on fleeting love and hurrying to “drink and sport” as, like waiters at a restaurant table, the whores surely want to move along to their next client. 


Though a man of science, hero Charles Macgregor shows a great interest in poetry and literature, which proves to be what binds him to the gorgeous but troublesome Constance Fawkes. The tragic noir romance of The Virgin and the Bull opens with Macgregor’s suicide note, in which he quotes some lines from a song that is stuck in his head as he prepares himself for death.

Macgregor’s tune is a version of a song known variously as Sweet William, Sweet William’s Ghost, Lady Margaret, My Willie-O, Lament of the Border Widow, or simply nowadays as Child Ballad 77.

Francis James Child has seven versions of Sweet William in his original collection of popular ballads (of which it is the 77th entry). Some versions of this song are more or less cheerful in content, some have a more or less Scottish dialect to them, some are longer or shorter, some particular details get changed, but there is typically something consistent enough to make it a recognizable version of a single song. The Sweet William songs involve a woman (often called Margaret) receiving a visit from the ghost of her lover (usually called William or Willie) who has died while away from her. William’s promise to marry Margaret has gone unfulfilled, and he either wishes to fulfil the promise or be freed from it, so he may rest in peace.

Child’s oldest version of the ballad dates to 1740, via a later edition of Allan Ramsay’s Tea Table Miscellany.

However, in Child’s introduction he speculates it’s a variant of a song he can trace to 17th century in Scandinavian sources. The Virgin and the Bull’s Charles Macgregor uses a version similar to that found in Jamieson’s Popular Ballads of 1806 (though in which version the tragic hero is named “Clerk Saunders”).

When seven years were come and gane,

Lady Margaret she thought lang;

And she is up to the hichest tower,

By the lee licht o the moon.

She was lookin oer her castle high,

To see what she might fa,

And there she saw a grieved ghost,

Comin waukin oer the wa.

‘O are ye a man of mean,’ she says,

‘Seekin ony o my meat?

Or are you a rank robber,

Come in my bower to break?’

‘O I’m Clerk Saunders, your true-love,

Behold, Margaret, and see,

And mind, for a’ your meikle pride,

Sae will become of thee.’

‘Gin ye be Clerk Saunders, my true-love,

This meikle marvels me;

O wherein is your bonny arms,

That wont to embrace me?’

‘By worms they’re eaten, in mools they’re rotten,

Behold, Margaret, and see,

And mind, for a’ your mickle pride,

Sae will become o thee.’

‘O, bonny, bonny sang the bird,

Sat on the coil o hay;

But dowie, dowie was the maid

That followd the corpse o clay.

‘Is there ony room at your head, Saunders?

Is there ony room at your feet?

Is there ony room at your twa sides,

For a lady to lie and sleep?’

‘There is nae room at my head, Margaret,

As little at my feet;

There is nae room at my twa sides,

For a lady to lie and sleep.

‘But gae hame, gae hame now, May Margaret,

Gae hame and sew your seam;

For if ye were laid in your weel made bed,

Your days will nae be lang.’

In my book, Macgregor, of course, is feeling many of the song’s visions of graves and rotting corpses as he quotes from it; and surely, he’s also experiencing his own shock and betrayal at a broken promise of marriage, leading to this chilling tune churning amongst his final thoughts.

In Steps of the Malefactor, the character of Garcifer also makes a verbal reference to this song, addressing William Roxby as “Sweet William” while threatening to torture him (implying that he’s already marked for death).

These are all popular tunes of the 18th century (as opposed to art songs, such as the operatic tunes of Handel, Arne and others that are intended for a trained voice and large orchestra) and would have probably been known and heard comparably to modern multi-decade standards like Tubthumping, Holiday and Major Tom. It is nevertheless interesting to note the preoccupation with death and mortality in these songs, even in the cheerful one. In a sense, these songs reflect the darkness that existed within the Enlightenment, which was also rather the goal of the Exenchester series.

Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom

It has largely been accepted that the story of Lady Godiva riding through the streets of Coventry was a myth. The legend dates back to around the 13th century when she was reputed to have ridden around Coventry naked, with just her long blonde hair covering her modesty. Her reason for doing this was said to have been in protest against her husband Leofric who was planning to impose higher taxes on his tenants.

Gee, David; Lammas Day, Coventry; Herbert Art Gallery & Museum

The name ‘Peeping Tom’ was said to originate from someone who, rather than politely looking away when she rode through the town, watched her and was said to have been struck blind, other legends say he was struck dead. Either way both Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom entered folklore, with her parade being re-enacted every 3 years initially. This eventually became incorporated into the Coventry’s annual fair.

Jones, George; Godiva Preparing to Ride through Coventry; Tate

Today we’ll take a glimpse into how this story continued to be remembered and re-enacted into the Georgian Era.  In 1713, according to ‘British curiosities in nature and art’ which described notable objects and buildings in Coventry it made specific reference to both Lady Godiva and although not named, Peeping Tom:

The figure of a man, who was very miraculously punished for his brutal curiosity, in looking out at a window, when the Lady Godiva (wife of Leofric, the first Lord of this place) road naked thro’ the streets, to purchase a mitigation of taxes, and other privileges for the city.

From the beginning of June 1788, the city of Coventry held a week long fair, known as the Trinity Fair, also known as a Shew or Show Fair, and it was at this that it was agreed that the pagan tradition of Lady Godiva parading through the streets on horseback was reinstated after many years.

On Friday in consequence of the revival of that ancient and singular ceremony, which has for some years discontinued, the procession of Lady Godiva through the streets of Coventry. A great concourse of people were assembled at the fair in that place, from all parts of the country, than has ever been known upon a former similar occasion and the fight with which the spectators were gratified fully answered their expectations, great preparations having been made to render it is most showy and splendid. After divine service had been performed at Trinity Church, the procession began, and her ladyship, attired only in white linen, closely fitted to her body, and decorated with bows of red ribbon, paraded on horseback, through the principal streets of the city. The Mayor, Sheriffs, Aldermen, Council and Companies of the city, attended by their proper officers, and music, were in the procession. The banners of each were newly painted and the streamers and flags finely ornamented with a variety of curious emblematic devices, added greatly to the beauty of the scene. Peeping Tom, a principal personage in the show, was entirely new clothed, and appeared with becoming dignity.

Clearly the weather was good for the 1789 event as ‘Lady Godiva, not only made a most majestic appearance, but conducted herself throughout the whole in a manner becoming her exalted station’.

In 1818, according to the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser:

The ancient city pageant at Coventry, which has been suspended for some years, is about to be revived with additional splendour; for which cavalcade the several trading companies are preparing. Lady Godiva is once more to pass mounted on her milk white palfry, and Peeping Tom again to appear in all his glory.

In 1827, Lady Godiva did not make an appearance at the annual show, which was much to the disappointment of visitors, according to this piece:

Our annual Great Fair commenced this morning and will continue for eight days. The occasion has brought a considerable influx of strangers to the city, but in consequence of the lowering aspect of the morning, together with the omission this year of the Procession of Lady Godiva, many of our annual gay country visitors will probably defer their visit to a future occasion. An unusual number of exhibitions have arrived, which, if the weather permits, we doubt not will in great measure make up for the absence of the pageant of our good Lady.

Gee, David; The Lady Godiva Procession of 1829, Coventry; Herbert Art Gallery & Museum

Finally, in this period, the Oxford Journal, 30 May 1829, tells us that citizens of Coventry were expecting a splendid fair this year with the procession of Lady Godiva being revived and here was a portrait of the young woman portraying Lady Godiva in that year. She takes centre stage on her horse, fully clothed and a brunette, rather than the traditional image of a fair haired Lady Godiva. She is being handed a bouquet of flowers.

On the right of the image, although a little blurred, you can see the coat of arms for Coventry on the banner.

I did come across a couple of amusing anecdotes which referenced Lady Godiva to share with you:

The first comes to us courtesy of the Cambridge Intelligencer, 20 April 1800:

Masked Ball – At one of the great Parisian grand masked balls, a mask appeared whose whole outward dress was composed of macaroons; the lovers of sweets pursued him from every quarter of the room, and in a short period his clothing was so completely devoured that he was nearly in the state of Lady Godiva at Coventry Fair.

From the Morning Post 14 September 1801, it appears that the term Peeping Tom had by then acquired an unwelcome meaning, one which is still used even to this day:

The indiscriminate mixing of the bathers at Ramsgate is much complained of by some of the visitors, as there are many ‘Peeping Toms’, and some, who, it is supposed, wish to be Lady Godivas.

The first details about Peeping Tom were said to have been recorded in the city of Coventry accounts of 1773, however, I have come across a description of him dating back to 1762 in a book, ‘England and Wales described in a series of letters’, by William Toldervy in which he tells readers that

In one street, against the wall of a house, is the figure of a man, in a blue doublet, with a black cap on his head. This figure call Peeping Tom, being the representation of a Taylor, who (as the vulgar believe) having more curiosity than the rest, popped out his head as the lady rode along, but on the instant, was struck blind.


Leeds Intelligencer 3 June 1788

Oxford Journal 20 June 1789

Coventry Herald 15 June 1827

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Ellis; Lady Godiva; St Mary’s Guildhall

The Pious Mary Anne Deane (1718-1807)

Mary  Anne Deane was born about 1718 and was believed to be the daughter of John Deane, Governor of India, who died about 1752. Sadly, it’s proving difficult to find anything about this lady’s early life.

Teapot with Lid and Cup Inscribed with the Crest of John Deane (d. 1751), Governor of Bengal. LCMA
Teapot with Lid and Cup Inscribed with the Crest of John Deane (d. 1751), Governor of Bengal. LCMA

She came to my attention when I was asked for help in finding out more about her for the television programme, A House Through Time, but, as their plans changed I decided that for now it was worth including the little we do know about her, here on All Things Georgian.

Romney, George; John Wesley (1703-1791); Christ Church, University of Oxford

Mary Anne was a deeply religious woman and friend of John Wesley, the evangelist and lived at The Manor House, Whitkirk, near Leeds, until her death on 4 February 1807, when she was buried at the parish church, aged 88 years, according to the parish register.  The burial register entry also stated:

Her life was pious, her death triumphant

William Dawson described as ‘an eloquent preacher’ gave the sermon at Mary Anne’s funeral which took place the week following her demise. The York Herald 14 February 1807 also paid tribute to her, describing her as, ‘a lady universally respected’.

Mary Anne had moved to Whitkirk about 1768, but it’s not clear whether that it was then that she moved into The Manor House.

Russell, John; The Right Honourable Selina, Countess of Huntingdon (1707-1791), Foundress and Benefactress; Westminster College, Cambridge

Apart from being well known to the Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntington, the religious leader who played a prominent part in the religious revival of the 18th century and the Methodist movement in England and Wales, Mary Anne was also reputed to be related to the Frances, Viscountess Irwin, but so far it hasn’t been possible to establish whether the connection was to the Countess or her husband.

Viscountess Frances Irwin (Irving) was the illegitimate daughter of Shepheard, but was also known as Gibson, her mother’s name. Her father Samuel Shepheard’s will of 1748, made that clear ‘my daughter Frances Gibson, commonly called Frances Shepheard’.

Frances, Viscountess Irwin (1734–1807), née Frances Gibson Shepheard, after Joshua Reynolds) and Charles Ingram (1727–1778), 9th Viscount Irwin by Benjamin Wilson. Temple Newsam House, Leeds Museums and Galleries
Frances, Viscountess Irwin (1734–1807), née Frances Gibson Shepheard, after Joshua Reynolds) and Charles Ingram (1727–1778), 9th Viscount Irwin by Benjamin Wilson. Temple Newsam House, Leeds Museums and Galleries

In her will, May Anne stipulated that she should be buried at Whitkirk parish church, with a gravestone just showing her name and age.  She made provision for a Louisa Deane, daughter of her late uncle Lewis Deane, the interest on £1,000 stock, so long as Louisa paid £10 per annum to her brother John. This was all to be left in trust granted to Viscountess Irwin.

She also made reference to bank annuities from 1747, but provided no explanation as to exactly what consisted of. She left £1,000 to a Mary Greenwood, wife of John Greenwood, of Whitkirk, but again, sadly no explanation as to who this was, or whether  John and Mary were connected to her, and also to a Christopher Wainwright she left, 10 guineas.

She also made provision for her employees – household linen and wearing apparel to her chambermaid, Deborah and money to Catherine Houseman, her cook. Not only her wages, to Catherine, but also her ‘Mr Wesley’s unbound magazines‘, which she clearly felt Catherine would really appreciate.

She also mentioned Miss Gordon and Miss Alice Scott, to whom she bequeathed a miniature of Lady Irwin. Her will was proven 5 May 1807.

There was an account in the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine of 1840 about a Mrs Bywater, who had died in 1837. Mrs Bywater being nee Houseman (Catherine) which made reference to Mary Anne and provided a small glimpse into her later life:

In the year 1797, following, as she believed, the leadings of divine providence, she engaged in the service of that venerable saint, the late Mrs Deane of Whitkirk. Her fellow servant was also a deeply pious young woman, and they both enjoyed peculiar privileges while dwelling under that favoured roof. Mrs Dean was so infirm that, though the church was not far distant, it was very difficult to get her there; and, as her hearing was far from good, she could not hear much of the service; and though she could join in the prayers, yet the sermon was lost to her. The servants were induced to propose to her to have preaching on Sunday evenings in the front kitchen; and to this she readily consented, attending as long as she was able, and fining the service very profitable.

In The Sword and The Trowel: A Record of Combat with Sin and of Labour for the Lord, edited by C.H Spurgeon, written in 1873, Spurgeon was writing about the Yorkshire farmer and preacher, William Dawson, who had given the sermon at Mary Anne’s funeral. It was said that Mary Anne was very attached to Dawson and was in the habit of designating him, ‘My Willy’.

In The Life and Times of Selina, Countess of Huntington we have another glimpse into who Mary Anne was:

The late Mrs Deane who resided at that time at Whitkirk near Leeds, was considered as ranking among the higher circles. She had occasionally heard Mr Ingram and Mr Edwards, who had withdrawn himself from Mr Wesley, and had built himself a place of worship, known by the name of ‘White Chapel’, at Leeds, where he continued to dispense the Word of Life for more than thirty years.

Mr Edwards mentioned Mrs Dean to Lady Huntingdon, who observing the mark of a penitent in her, invited her to her house, and there she became acquainted with those bright stars that shone in England, and now shine in heaven. Messrs Whitefield, the Wesley’s, Venn, Ingram, Romain and other clergymen who found a welcome in that honourable house. She had frequent opportunities of conversing with Lady Huntingdon and enjoying those spiritual pleasures which would naturally result from communication with one so well qualified as that excellent lady, to direct and comfort the Christian in his road to glory.

Mrs Dean was a woman of rank, of superior education and accomplishments, ad her letters and meditations afford strong proofs that if there be any happiness separate from union and communication with God by faith in Jesus Christ.

Mrs Deane was nearly allied to the noble family of Charles, Viscount Irvine, of Temple Newson. His Lordship, who had succeeded to the title in 1763, had married Miss Shepheard, a lady possessed of a very great fortune. Mrs Deane’s attachment to and affection for Lady Irvine and every member of that honourable family were remarkable, and always appeared so vigorous that they were constantly breaking forth in the most aren’t prayers for their eternal welfare. She soon brought her Ladyship acquainted with Lady Huntingdon, and never failed to invite Lord and Lady Irvine to her house whenever the Countess was at Leeds, or at Ledstone Hall.

The account goes on to say that Lady Irvine outlived her ‘old friend and relative’ and that Mary Anne died at the age of 88 years and nine months. Hopefully in due course more information can be found about Mary Anne’s earlier life.

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The Manor House Whitkirk

18th century buttons

I’m delighted to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian, Robin C. Larner. She is a retired attorney, legal writer, editor, and life-time member of the National Button Society. Robin offers antique buttons for sale and the end of the post is a link to her website. Robin is going to tell us 18th century painted buttons, which are fabulous, so I’ll hand over to Robin to tell you more about these beauties:

In the 18th century, the gross disparity between land-owning classes and impoverished citizens unable to feed their families was the fuse to a powder keg of violence that weakened monarchy across Europe. The Industrial Revolution and the excessive display of wealth by the aristocracy and a new merchant class forever changed the face of society.

One of the many extravagances of the time was the sartorial splendour of gentlemen of the first and second estates in France and the peerage of Great Britain. The men of the 18th century were the peacocks in society, often as bright, colourful, and sparkling as the ladies. Gentlemen proudly wore clothing buttons as sumptuous as jewels, among them, miniature scenes of their estates. Women also indulged this fancy.

The Duke and Duchess of Osuna and their Children. Museo Del Prada

Antique buttons of every category are highly collectible and prized by collectors today, but the appeal of historic scenes, persons, and properties today on buttons is the tangible record of the past. From the storming of the Bastille in Paris on July 14, 1789 to the death of Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901, people, places, and popular culture were captured in fashion on buttons. Sporting, literature, theatre, coiffure, hat, and clothing style, as well as portraiture and mourning, were represented on buttons.

Courtesy of Robin C. Larner

One area of interest is the miniature painting under glass of great estates and their landscape parks. These illustrated moats, zoos, orangeries, grottoes, fountains, and follies but most appreciated are the architectural scenes of great French chateaux and English country houses. The Chateau of Raincy was embellished in the 18th century with an orangerie. This was an entire building designed for the winter comfort of potted orange trees from the garden. Many notable estates had an orangerie raised in the 18th century.

Half the fun of finding one of these little scenes is the search online to find the property today. Not all the subjects of 18th century buttons are extant. For example, the huge orangerie of the Chateau of Raincy today is a small block house, all that remains of the original building. It still shows the lovely orange brick and window trim.

Image courtesy of Houri-Architecte, France

The paintings of Chateau du Raincy on 18th century buttons have been attributed to Louis Carrogis, called Carmontelle (1717 to 1806). I do not know whether buttons were available to tourists, but they were probably painted for Louis Philippe Joseph, Duke of Orleans or his son in 17893.

Each button has a gouche painting under glass mounted in gold-plated copper measuring 1 and 5/8 inches. These large buttons were not fasteners, or utilitarian buttons, but ornaments amplifying them. Even though the opposite side of the coat front had exquisite hand sewn button holes, gentlemen’s coats were never buttoned. Up to twenty-four of them might amplify silk embroidery. Lucky collectors may find an 18th century boxed set.

One view of the Chateau park shows the delightful orange and white coloration of the stone. Was it orange for the obvious reason? A farm woman is visible herding fowl; a hay wagon is in the background.

Courtesy of Robin C. Larner
Courtesy of Robin C. Larner

Another fascinating view of the Chateau park grounds is of a man-made grotto. Among the 18th century aristocracy, a grotto was as de rigueur as an orangerie. The farm is in the rear behind trees. I was unsure whether this artifice was part of Raincy because I acquired the button without information. The same style was a good indication. Notice that one of the grotto caves has a window and door, as well as a shower.

Courtesy of Robin C. Larner

I was delighted to find an 18th century painting of the Raincy estate landscape that included “my” grotto. Many images may be found of aristocratic grottoes in England and France. This painting is in the Musee Marmottan in France and was also painted Carmontelle.

Musee Marmottan, Paris, France

Other 18th century garden or estate park scenes can be found in an even rarer medium on buttons, such as enamel on copper. The following hand-painted scenes are not identified but illustrate in an almost primitive style other man-made follies of the 18th century.

Courtesy of Robin C. Larner
Courtesy of Robin C. Larner
Courtesy of Robin C. Larner
Courtesy of Robin C. Larner

To find out more about Robin’s online shop and 18th century buttons, click on this link to access it Ruby Lane.

Mary Edwards a single minded woman (1705-1743)

On 12 July 1704, at Christ Church, Newgate Street, London, Francis Edwards married Anna Margaretta Vernatti and almost nine months to the day their daughter, Mary was born.  On 25 May 1705, Francis and Anna presented their daughter, Mary to be baptised at St Ann’s Soho.

Anna Margaretta was the daughter of Constantine Vernatti of Hackney, who died a year before she married.

Constantine Vernatti Courtesy of Geni com
Constantine Vernatti Courtesy of Geni com

In Constantine’s will he stated that if  his daughter married with her mother’s consent, that she would receive £10,000, which is over one million pounds in today’s money.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The remainder of Constantine’s vast estate including lands in Dartford, Kent and Hackney was left to his wife and so as you can see, the Vernatti family were extremely wealthy landowners, as were Francis Edwards’ family, so this was a union of two very wealthy families.

In 1729 Francis Edwards died, leaving one of his estates in Ireland, directly to his daughter, Mary, thereby making her an extremely wealthy heiress, not to mention all the land he also owned in England in including properties in Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Middlesex, Northamptonshire and Welford, Leicestershire and shares in the New River water Company.

Upon her father’s death, Mary arranged for this memorial below, to be erected in his honour at Welham church.

Monument to Francis Edwards from Mary at Welham church. Courtesy of Leicestershire Churches.co.uk
Monument to Francis Edwards from Mary at Welham church. Courtesy of Leicestershire Churches.co.uk

The London Gazette, August 1729 carried the following notice:

Francis Edwards estate The London Gazette Issue 6801. Click to enlarge
Francis Edwards estate The London Gazette Issue 6801. Click to enlarge

The Daily Advertiser, 17 June 1731 announced that Mary was due to marry:

between the right honourable the Lord Anne Hamilton, brother to his Grace the Duke of that name, and Miss Edwards of Pall Mall, a young lady of distinguishing great virtues, and possessed of a plentiful estate, which according to her innate propensity to the poor, enables her to exert herself in the most extensive charities and acts of humanity towards the distressed part of her fellow creatures.

On 8 July 1731, Mary granted property in Leicestershire to Lord Anne, so had they married? This was followed by an article in the Caledonian Mercury, dated 2 August 1731, which reported that:

on Sunday the Lord Anne Hamilton was married to Miss Edwards of Pall Mall, a rich heiress’,

However, it was soon updated on 24 August:

A marriage is actually concluded, and will soon by consummated, between the Right Honourable Lord Anne Hamilton, and Miss Mary Edwards, of Cambden House, Kensington, a very rich heiress.

(Lord Anne Hamilton took his first name from his godmother, Queen Anne. Born 12 October 1709).

So, when and where did they marry? Articles I have read state that there’s no evidence of their marriage having taken place, others that they married at Fleet prison, so a clandestine marriage. If that were the case, why did the newspaper provide coverage of it and what did her mother, who was still alive, make of it? This seems unlikely, she was a wealthy young woman and someone who the press would have taken great interest in.

It wasn’t until 8 November 1731 that more information became visible about their possible marriage, courtesy of the Daily Advertiser:

On Monday last, and not before, the Right Hon. The Lord Anne Hamilton, brother to his Grace the Duke of Hamilton, was married at Kensington Church, to Miss Edwards, the great heiress of Pall Mall, a lady of upwards of £100,000 fortune (about 12 million in today’s money).

If that figure is even vaguely correct, then Mary was exceptionally wealthy when she married her spendthrift husband. The newspapers also tell us that he had something of a penchant for the horses, presumably both owning and gambling on them, so had he married her and if so, was it purely for her money?

Either way, after two years of marriage, they saw the joyous arrival of a son and heir. The Stamford Mercury 15 March 1733 reported that

On Thursday last the Lady of the Lord Anne Hamilton (Brother to his Grace the Duke of Hamilton), was safely delivered of a son, at his house in Pall Mall, to the great joy of that family.  

After the birth of their son, it was to be Mary alone, who presented the child for baptism on 28 March 1733, at St Mary Abbots, Kensington, the church where is seems likely Mary and Lord Anne had married.

Hogarth, William. Gerard Anne Edwards Hamilton (1732-1773), in His Cradle; National Trust, Upton House

The child, a boy, was born 4 March 1733 and baptised as Gerard Anne Edwards, son of Mary Edwards, Singlewoman.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

By having giving her status as single, it raises several questions – were she and Lord Anne legally married? If they were, then wouldn’t it be highly likely that the same vicar who presided over their marriage would have also officiated at the baptism of their son and would surely have questions Mary’s actions? Did this act imply that, if they had been married, then by this time Mary no longer regarded herself as such? Or was the son really Lord Anne’s child? The latter seems unlikely, given that she named with child with Anne’s name. This baptism raises more questions than it answers, unfortunately.

It was only a few weeks after the birth of their son, that Lord Anne resigned from his post from the First Regiment of Foot, presumably to spend  more of his time on his passion of horse racing, after all, having married a wealthy heiress, money would not have been in short supply and in 1734 he stood as a candidate for Lanarkshire and became Knight of the Shire of Lanark in early 1735.

According to the ODNB

Mary also used her maiden name on 2 July 1733, when signing a grant at the College of Arms, extending the use of her coat and crest to Lord Anne, who briefly assumed Edwards as his middle name.

Sotheby’s, The Edwards Hamilton Family on a Terrace, 1734, William Hogarth, Oil on canvas, 68.5 x 86 cm. Private Collection. Digital image courtesy of Patrick Goetelen. Paul Mellon Center
Sotheby’s, The Edwards Hamilton Family on a Terrace, 1734, William Hogarth, Oil on canvas, 68.5 x 86 cm. Private Collection. Digital image courtesy of Patrick Goetelen. Paul Mellon Center

The couple continued to live together for a while and this conversation piece above depicts the couple together, although from the painting it appears quite obvious that there is little love lost between them by this stage and young Gerard is playing alone on the left of the painting, on the terrace of Mary’s house in Kensington.

Shortly after this, the couple went their separate ways, with Mary clearly having had enough of her husbands spending and stating that he had taken some of her money without her consent, to value of a little under £2,000. Mary continued to live alone until her death in 1744.

Portrait of Gerard Anne Edwards in a brown coat and a red and gold waistcoat with a pamphlet extolling education , 1743–1743 John Shakleton Artnet
Portrait of Gerard Anne Edwards in a brown coat and a red and gold waistcoat with a pamphlet extolling education , 1743–1743 John Shakleton Artnet

Two years prior to her death, Mary wrote her fourteen page will, on 13 April 1742, written in the name of Mary Edwards, complete with full details of her estate and that it should be left to Gerard, in trust until he reached 21 and that her executors be appointed his guardians until then, given that he was only eleven when she died. She stressed the importance of him continuing with his education which was being provided at that time by Rev Cox, in Kensington. She made a somewhat unusual stipulation that her son should not be sent away to public school or university, nor should he be permitted to travel abroad. Mary arranged for him to continue with his education with Rev Cox in Kensington, she was very clear about how important his education was to her.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

She also set aside money to ensure that the monument erected for her father at Welham be maintained and repaired as and when necessary. She also took the unusual step of confirming in her will, when and where her son had been baptised, and that he to be known as Gerard Anne Edwards, the implication being that no connection to his father should be mentioned. Mary also ensured that her mother, who was still living should be provided for too.

Mary Edwards by William Hogarth. The Frick Collection
Mary Edwards by William Hogarth. The Frick Collection

Once Mary and Lord Anne had separated, Lord Anne found love again or maybe just another source of money, as it was reported in the Caledonian Mercury 20 December 1742, that he had married again, at Bath, so only months after Mary had written her will, with absolutely no mention of him in it.

Was he really free to marry or was it a bigamous marriage? His bride being a Miss Anna Charlotta Maria Powell, described as a beautiful young lady, with a fortune of £30,000.

Mary died at Kensington on 23 August 1743, aged thirty-eight and was buried at the same church as her father, Welham, Leicestershire.

Lord Anne was reported to have died on 1 January 1749 in either Bath after a long illness, or in Paris, it’s unclear as to which was correct. Whichever it was his burial did not take place until 7 July 1749 at St James, Piccadilly.

When Mary’s mother, Anna Margaretta sat down to write her will in 1762, her daughter, Mary had been dead for several years as Anna made specific mention to in her will. With no-one else to inherit her not unsubstantial will, she left everything to her grandson when she died in 1765, Gerard Anne Edwards.

She referred to her late daughter, Mary Edwards, indicating that either her daughter never married or was no longer married to Lord Anne Hamilton and had resumed the use of her maiden name.  Anna owned property and land in Clapton, Somerstown and Barking. Anna was buried on 19 March 1765 in St. John-at-Hackney Churchyard.


Fenland notes and Queries

The Herald and Genealogist – Volume 5. 1870

The Scots Peerage. Volume 4. p385


Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 736

Find out what John Spilsbury was famous for inventing

Although John Spilsbury lived for a mere 30 years, his legacy to the world is one that will be remembered by many, as he was the inventor of what we know today as, the jigsaw puzzle. What do we know about his short life?

John was one of three boys born to Thomas and Mary Spilsbury, a block maker (a person who engraved or set up the clocks used in block printing). Another son Jonathon became a renowned engraver in London, whilst Thomas, who appears to have been the youngest son, became an outstanding printer, said to be able to print French accurately.

Today though, we’re going to take a glimpse into the life of the John. In 1753 John began a seven year apprenticeship to Thomas Jefferys (1719-1771), Geographer to King George III.

John's Apprenticeship

John’s Apprenticeship

It would appear that John left London after completing his apprenticeship and travelled to Suffolk where he met Sarah, the daughter of John May with the couple marrying at Newmarket on 30 July 1761.

Just over a year after they married Sarah gave birth to an infant whose life was to be short lived, as was so common at that time, a daughter, Mary, however, two years later a second child, Sarah was born whilst the couple lived in Newmarket, Suffolk.

At some stage after this they moved back to London where John set up his own business using the skills learnt from Jefferys, but John was to take a slightly different route to his master, and created what would become known at the time as, ‘dissected maps’.

In the early 1760’s John decided to paste an engraved map onto a thin sheet of mahogany, cut it up along the country or county borders, jumbled the pieces together and advertised them for sale in a box, to be reassembled. With that the jigsaw began its life being sold from his print shop in Russell Court, London.

His trade card apparently listed some 30 different dissected maps on sale at his print shop, with prices ranging from 7 shilling and sixpence to £1 1 shilling. Such prices made them quite expensive, but this was due to the price of the wood use and the box used to house it. The puzzles were educational, to teach people about the known countries of the world, but as they were expensive, they were limited to only those with plenty of money to spare.

This cabinet belonged to Lady Charlotte Finch, Royal Governess to the children of George III. She had it commissioned to hold several dissected map puzzles, which she had created for the royal children. V&A

This cabinet belonged to Lady Charlotte Finch, Royal Governess to the children of George III. She had it commissioned to hold several dissected map puzzles, which she had created for the royal children. V&A

This diversion from his main print business wasn’t to last for very long as John died on 3 April 1769. Only six days after John’s death, newly widowed Sarah took their newborn son, also named John, to be baptised at St Martin in the Fields parish church, young John being born the previous day.

In December 1767 John wrote his will, in it he left his estate, including his business stock to his wife Sarah, plus £100 to his daughter, Sarah who was, by this time working in the family firm. The money was held in trust until she reached the full age of twenty one. He also left £20 to ‘each of my brothers and sisters’.  His will was proven 10 April 1769.

London Packet 5 April 1771

Sarah wasted little time in marrying for a second time, her new husband was Henry Ashby (1744-1818), who coincidently, had also worked with Thomas Jefferys with the couple marrying in November 1769.

Trade Card. British Museum

You can just see the Ashby name on this trade card, in tiny writing in the middle, at the bottom of the card.

Although Sarah took over her husband’s business of jigsaw making, it eventually merged into Henry’s engraving business, but it’s good to see Mrs Spilsbury’s name in print, this text appears just beneath the header image, as well as in the advert for the dissected maps, above.

Despite the businesses change of direction, the concept of jigsaw puzzles survived and here we have it referenced in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, when Fanny Price was derided by her cousin because she

cannot put the map of Europe together or my cousin cannot tell the principal rivers in Russia, or, she never heard of Asia Minor, or she does not know the or she does not know the difference between water-colours and crayons! How strange! Did you ever hear anything so stupid?’

Martin Van Butchell and his crowded marriage

It is likely that Martin born in 1736 and was the son of John Butchell of Flanders origin, who was believed to have been tapestry maker to King George II. Quite how accurate any of that is remains unknown as to date, as I have found nothing to confirm it.

Martin Van Butchell. Wellcome Collection
Martin Van Butchell. Wellcome Collection

Martin it appears had no wish to join his father’s trade and inadvertently, due to a broken tooth, decided to become a dentist and studied under the celebrated Dr Hunter after whom The Hunterian Museum is named. It would seem that Martin had a natural talent for this kind of work and acquired many clients due to his skill.

Real or Artificial Teeth from one to an entire set, with superlative gold pivots or springs, also gums, sockets and palate formed, fitted, finished and fixed without drawing stumps, or causing pain.

He then began to expand his skills and proved that he was proficient in making trusses for people suffering from hernia’s, so much so that his skills were actively sought ought and his fame stretched as far as Holland, with an eminent Dutch physician travelling to London to be treated by him. In return, the physician taught Martin how to cure fistulas.

Wellcome Collection
Wellcome Collection

Martin married in 1767, at the age of 31 Martin, his bride being Mary Billion, a widow, at St George’s, Hanover Square and we can only assume that they had a happy marriage until her death in 1775.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

When Martin’s wife died, he found fame again, but this time for something more macabre than dentistry. Martin loved his wife so much that he couldn’t bear to have her buried, but it is also said that there was a clause in their marriage certificate which provided income for Martin as long as Mary was ‘above ground’. Whichever story you believe, Martin did not have her buried, instead, he had her embalmed and dressed her in her wedding dress:

Mr Van Butchell a celebrated dentist, had the misfortune about five months ago to lose his wife, for whom he had the greatest regard. He sent for Dr Hunter, and his assistant Mr Crookshanks, and desired they would embalm Mrs Van Butchell, the lady deceased, which they did after an entire new method, invented by Dr Hunter, and made use of for embalming the late Lady Holland. The bowels were first taken out. The vessels were afterwards emptied as perfectly as possible, of the blood which they contained, and injected with the oil of turpentine. After the body was well impregnated with that powerful preservative, a large quantity of red waxy injection was thrown into the vessels, which entering their minute cavities and distending them, gave to the face and other parts of the body a most striking appearance of life.

The cavity of the body was filled with various aromatic ingredients, and she was decently laid in a handsome box, and under her there is some powder of the plaster of Paris to absorb any moisture which might drain from the embalmed boy. In the lids of the box are glasses over her face and legs. A physician, with whom I am intimately acquainted, saw her the other day, and informed me that the face of Mrs Butchell is not in the least shrunk; that it is not quite so fair as it was, but that the redness from the injection is very striking, and that the legs appear as perfectly natural as the first. Mr Van Butchell keeps her constant in the parlour where he sits, shows her to all his friends when they visit him, and says that it is the only consolation he had since her death.

On 29 Jun 1780 Martin married for a second time, his new wife being Elizabeth Sanders. He gave his first wife a choice in the colour of her clothing, either black or white, she chose black, so Elizabeth chose  the opposite, deciding on white.

As his first wife was still in the house, understandably, having three people in this relationship, albeit only two alive, wasn’t going to work for Elizabeth, and at some stage it was decided that his first wife, Mary, could no longer remain in their home and her body was removed to a museum, ultimately it ended up in the Royal College of Surgeon’s Museum where it remained until the museum was bombed in 1941.

Wellcome Collection
Wellcome Collection

The couple then settled down to have a very large family, four boys and five girls. Their eldest child being Edwin Martin was born in 1781, followed by Jacob John who died in infancy, Isaac, who tragically died in a boating accident in 1806, leaving Martin distraught, Sidney Job born 1789 and finally Daniel David, born 1795. Of the girls it appears only one survived into adulthood, Augusta Elizabeth, born 1784. The other girls who may or may not have survived infancy were not mentioned in his will, these being, Emma Lydy, born 1791, Celia Ann, 1793, Maria Susan, 1797 and Clara Flora 1799, making Martin 63 when the last child was born. Another of his idiosyncrasies was to summon his children by whistling rather than calling them.

 Le derniere ressource;-or- Van Buchells garters. British Museum
Le derniere ressource;-or- Van Buchells garters. British Museum

Martin continued to work until elderly, but trained up his two son, Edwin and Sidney to follow in his footsteps, with both coming surgeons.

Martin also owned a pony which he would often ride around Hyde Park, usually on Sundays. Sometimes he would paint the pony all purple, sometimes with purple spots, other times with black spots and with streaks and circles upon his face and hind parts and of the various colours, Martin told people that each spot cost him a guinea – so more money than sense.

The Morning Post 4 November 1814 carried the following notification:

Died, on Sunday evening, at his house in Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, in the 80th year of his age, Martin Van Butchell, well known for his numerous eccentricities, particularly for wearing a beard of twenty year’s growth.

On 11 March 1814, Martin sat down to write his will at his home 56, Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, London, which, as you would perhaps expect, the majority of it was to be left to his eldest son, Edwin Martin who was living at 24 Broad Street, Golden Square on the proviso that he provided for and supported his mother, Elizabeth. To his surviving two children Augusta Elizabeth, by then Mrs Jacobs and Sidney Job, who received £50 each.  What is slightly curious is that his will was witnessed by a Daniel David Van Butchell, was this his youngest son who was born in 1795, in which case he wasn’t provided for within the will?


Life and character of the celebrated Mr. Martin Van Butchell, surgeon dentist and fistula curer, of Mount-street, Berkeley-square. 1803

Derby Mercury – Friday 12 May 1775

Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1567

Featured Image

Number 11 (centre left) – Martin Van Butchell. British Museum

The ventriloquist who made dead fish ‘speak’

Let me introduce you to James Burns, better known to all as ‘Squeaking Tommy’.

So, what do we know about this character?

We can see from the picture of Tommy that he carried around with him a doll with a broad face, wrapped in a piece of linen cloth which he exhibited at pubs on race days, at fairs, such as the famous Nottingham Goose Fair. He would use the doll as his assistant and projected his voice through it.

It is reported that in June 1789, at Week Day Cross in Nottingham, he used the doll to project his voice and it was so convincing that a child watching believed that the doll was actually talking to her. The child apparently became hysterical and caused her to have fits. The authorities were not impressed by this and Tommy was sent off for a spell in the House of Correction.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775–1851, British, Newark - upon - Trent, ca. 1796. Yale Center for British Art
Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775–1851, British, Newark – upon – Trent, ca. 1796. Yale Center for British Art

Undeterred however, Tommy continued to use his ventriloquists skill around the county.

In early 1790, Tommy called at Mr Barton’s grocers shop just outside Nottingham city centre. He purchased an ounce of tobacco, nothing odd about that, except, as he was leaving, he spotted a young employee with his hand in a large cannister on the opposite side of the shop. The young man was getting tea out of it and putting it into a smaller cannister. Tommy immediately threw a sound into the bottom of the container, imitating the sounds of a dying animal.

So, as you expect, the young man and Mr Barton stood aghast at the noise and were just about to start rummaging around in the container to find the source. Eventually, Tommy confessed that he was the real cause of the sound but not before enjoying this spectacle.

Wheatley, Francis; The Hay Cart; Government Art Collection

Another of his pranks is said to have taken place in August 1792. Tommy was travelling with a John Badderly, who was at the time servant to farmer from Car Colston, just outside Nottingham. John was driving a waggon which was full to the brim with hay. Tommy was so skilled at imitating the cry of a child that he was able to project his voice into the middle of the hay waggon causing John to stop several times between Bingham and Newark.

John was so convinced he could hear this sound in the hay that eventually he stopped and began to examine the hay more closely to find out where the sound was coming from and enlisted Tommy’s help to unload the waggon as he could bear this child’s crying no longer.  But as you can imagine, there was no child, leaving poor John to reassemble the contents of his waggon, much to Tommy’s amusement and John’s annoyance at being deceived.

Another prank took place in the house of a Mr Hogg, who kept the Milton’s Head Inn, Cow Lane, Nottingham, and who knew nothing of Tommy. A servant girl in the kitchen was about to dress some dead fish, not long having been caught in the river Trent, but obviously dead. Tommy, at the moment she laid the life knife on the fish’s neck, uttered ‘don’t cut my head off’. The girl as you can imagine was extremely startled and quickly removed the knife from the fish and just stood there in shock.

She eventually managed to compose herself, and as the fish didn’t move, she plucked up courage to continue with her work and remove the fish’s head. Tommy uttered rather sharply, but mournfully, ‘what, you will cut of my head?’ The girl was now terrified and threw down the knife and refused to dress the fish.

Kidd, William; The Fish Stall; Museum of London

Tommy eventually settled in Shelford, Nottingham, where, despite being extremely reluctant to settle, found himself a wife and married Elizabeth Munks, on Boxing Day 1794 at the parish church. According to his marriage entry, he was said to have been from King’s County, now County Offaly in Ireland. As to how accurate that is we will probably never know.

But marriage didn’t settle him too much and his travels continued, albeit quite locally, along with his pranks and the final one I have details of, took place in September 1795.

Tommy visited a fish stall in Sheffield and asked the price of a tench. The fish woman gave him the price of the tench, at which point he picked it up in his hand, crammed a finger into its gills and opened its mouth, at the same time asking whether it was fresh, to which the fish woman replied it certainly was, it was in the water yesterday.

Tommy immediately threw his voice into the fish’s mouth and it said,

it’s a damned lie, I have not been in the water this week, and you know that very well’

The woman, now aware that she hadn’t exactly been telling the truth, was aghast by this outburst, but she struggled to dispute it. She was said to have been much more careful in the future about the freshness of her fish – just in case!

I’m sure there must have been many more, similar tales, but they don’t seem to have survived into history.

Sadly, Tommy’s marriage was to be short lived as he died just two years later on 7 January 1796 and was buried in the parish church where the couple had recently married.


Stamford Mercury – Friday 22 January 1796

Kirkby’s Wonderful and Scientific Museum

Featured Image

Goodacre, William, 1803-1883; Nottingham Market Place

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu – a ‘bad mother’

I am delighted to welcome fellow author,  the lovely Jo Willet, to tell us about her book ‘The Pioneering Life of Mary Wortley Montagu: Scientist and Feminist‘ which has just been published by Pen and Sword Books.

Jo has been an award-winning TV drama and comedy producer all her working life. Her credits range from the recent ‘Manhunt‘, starring Martin Clunes, to ‘Birds of a Feather’ and has now ventured in writing. This is her first book and she’s now busy working on her second – also a historical biography. Jo is married with a daughter, a son and a step-son. She lives in London and Dorset. You can find out more about Jo by clicking on the link at the end.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu - wikimedia commons. Artist: Jonathan Richardson
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu – Wikimedia commons. Artist: Jonathan Richardson

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and her husband Edward had two children – confusingly called Edward and Mary. Lady Mary’s two children had starkly contrasting lives and their mother’s relationship with both of them, though loving, was often stormy. Even in her lifetime she was sensitive to criticism that she was that dreaded thing: a bad mother.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her son, Edward Wortley Montagu, and attendants. attributed to Jean Baptiste Vanmour. NPG
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her son, Edward Wortley Montagu, and attendants. attributed to Jean Baptiste Vanmour. NPG

Lady Mary is most famous for her contribution to the fight against smallpox.  Both her children were involved.  She inoculated her son Edward, aged nearly 5,  while the family were living in Turkey in 1718.  But this was common practice in Turkey at the time and Lady Mary was simply following in the footsteps of another Englishman, Sir Robert Sutton.

Lady Mary’s daughter, Countess of Bute - wikimedia commons. Artist - after Joshua Reynolds.
Lady Mary’s daughter, Countess of Bute – Wikimedia commons. Artist – after Joshua Reynolds.

Her ground-breaking decision was to inoculate her only daughter, young Mary, aged 3, once the family were back in England.  So young Mary became the first person in the west to be given protection against the smallpox. Young Mary was educated at home.  She enjoyed putting on theatrical productions.  Her mother, rather disloyally, described her as plain.

Lady Mary and Wortley set about finding a suitable husband for young Mary, once she reached the age of 18, as was the custom.  They themselves had eloped, but they clearly wanted something more respectable for their daughter.  Young Mary met a Scottish nobleman, John Stuart, Earl of Bute, in 1735, who also liked acting. The two fell in love but her parents were unhappy with the match.  Lady Mary made the mistake of telling her daughter what she thought of Bute.  He was honest, she said, but hot-tempered.  She would prefer young Mary to remain single. Needless to say, this did not go down well. The marriage nevertheless went ahead but without a formal wedding reception.

Lady Mary’s son-in-law, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute - wikimedia commons. Artist Joshua Reynolds.
Lady Mary’s son-in-law, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute – Wikimedia commons. Artist Joshua Reynolds.

The couple were exceptionally happy together and had eleven children. They initially lived at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, where Young Mary grew lonely and depressed.  Her mother – who was herself living far away by now, in France and Italy – worried about her. The two had quarrelled – we don’t know why – at the point when Lady Mary decided to leave her husband and live abroad.  Very gradually their letters trace an improved relationship.  Eventually, nearly 20 years later, Lady Mary was at a concert in Venice when someone told her how beautifully her daughter sang, and she burst into uncontrollable tears.

The Butes had meanwhile moved to London. Here, Bute became great friends with Frederick, Prince of Wales, and when the Prince died his widow, Princess Augusta, made him tutor to their oldest son. When this son then inherited the throne as George III he manoeuvred to have his former tutor made Prime Minister.  Unfounded rumours abounded that Bute was having an affair with Princess Augusta.  When the elderly Lady Mary arrived back in London at the time of Bute’s premiership, her daughter and son-in-law found her an eccentric embarrassment. On her death, they buried her quickly, to avoid controversy.

Lady Mary’s only son, Edward Wortley Montagu, showing his love of the East - wikimedia common. Artist Matthew William Peters
Lady Mary’s only son, Edward Wortley Montagu, showing his love of the East – Wikimedia common. Artist Matthew William Peters

Lady Mary’s only son, Edward Wortley Montagu, could not have been more different from his goody goody sister.  He caused his parents heart-ache from the start.  He accompanied his parents in their carriage all the way from London to Constantinople, and a love of the East remained with him all his life.  Back home in England, though, he was sent to Westminster School, which he hated.  He ran away, swapping clothes with an urchin in Whitechapel and getting a job as a cabin boy on a ship bound for Gibraltar.  He was missing for five months and his mother wrote that: ‘Nothing that ever happened to me has touched me so much.’  My own instinct – although there is no evidence to support this – is that Edward was probably abused around this time.

His parents, unsure what to do with him, gave Edward a series of tutors and sent him off to the West Indies.  When he returned, aged 17, he provoked controversy by marrying a washerwoman and then immediately abandoning her.  He was sent abroad again, with a new tutor, where he went through a period of religious fanaticism and began drinking heavily. His father avoided having any direct contact with him, but Edward did have a stormy meeting with his mother in London, where he demanded more money.  He was already heavily in debt.

In 1741 Lady Mary – now living in France –  received a letter from her son, asking for her help in dissolving his marriage so he could find an heiress to marry instead.  Mary was sceptical but Wortley pressurised her to meet him.  Eventually the two did spend a couple of days together in a village near Avignon.  Edward, aged 29, had lost his looks and put on weight, Mary wrote to his father and ‘He has a flattering, insinuating manner which naturally prejudices strangers’. Things went relatively well until Edward broached the difficult subject of whether Wortley would leave his by now vast fortune to Edward as their only son. He indicated he would ensure Mary were taken care of, were that to be the case.  This attitude infuriated her and so they parted.

Family connections procured an army commission for Edward, and he even served in battle at Fontenoy in France.  Mary had to wait a month before hearing that he had survived.  He was a prisoner of war for a time but then returned to England.

Again, Wortley exerted family pressure to ensure he was given a safe parliamentary seat, so as to escape prosecution. But Edward fell into bad company again, forging a friendship with a notorious highwayman, James McLean, who was then sent to the gallows.  He made a bigamous marriage with a friend of McLean’s, Miss Elizabeth Ashe, and embarked with her on a career of swindling, gambling, extortion and physical violence. He was thrown into the Châtelet prison in Paris, but released on bail and sent back to England.  As Mary wrote to Wortley:

The only way to avoid disappointment is never to Indulge any Hope on his Account.

Having not seen either of her children for many years, Mary’s death brought them back into her life. Wortley died in 1761 and  defied convention by leaving his fortune to their daughter not their son. Inevitably Edward challenged this.  Mary, who by now had breast cancer, made the long journey across Europe to London to be reunited with her daughter’s family and fight Edward’s lawsuit. She admitted that Edward had broken her heart. But relations with the Butes were not easy either.  Whether or not she was indeed a Bad Mother, Mary’s relationships with her children ultimately brought her precious little happiness.

You can find out much more about Mary Wortley Montagu and her family in Jo’s book and check out her website  here.

Dr James Barlow and the caesarean section

Giving birth by caesarean section was carried out during the Georgian era, however, it was rarely successful and certainly far less glamorous than the header image would imply.

Having a read through the newspapers, many confirm just how life threatening this procedure was, especially given the lack of skill of the surgeon and the distinct lack of any form of effective anaesthetic. As this was such a dangerous procedure it was often one which was carried immediately following the  death of the woman, in a last-ditch attempt to save the unborn child.

I was searching for something completely different when I stumbled across a reference to one such successful caesarean in the Lancashire Gazette which tells us that this baby was born on 24 July 1817:

On the 24th ult. The caesarean operation was performed on the wife of Edmund Hacking, of Blackburn, in this county, by Mr Barlow, surgeon of this town. The woman is at present apparently doing well. The child is a fine healthy boy, and was baptised the following day, by the Rev J Price, and named Julius Caesar. This gentleman performed a similar operation at Blackrod, in this county, more than twenty years since, and the woman is now living.

We learn from an account written by Mr James Barlow, in 1822, that Ann was aged 42 and this was to be her third child. Her two older children were born with little difficulty; however, she did suffer from a prolapse as a result of the birth of the first child which limited Ann’s ability to walk and she spent much time bedbound. Over the years she became lame and walked with a crutch to assist her. A natural birth was not possible for baby Julius, given Ann’s physical health, so Mr Barlow opted for a method he had used before, a caesarean section. The procedure went well, but sadly however, on checking the burial register Julius Caesar survived for just 13 months.

The Lancaster Gazette 21 April 1821 reported another instance of this man’s work:

The caesarean operation was performed on the wife of George Ridgedale, of Blackburn, by J Barlow, Esq. in the presence of J Chew M.D and Mr Dugdale, surgeon. The child is a fine boy, and likely for life, but the mother had long laboured under great disease, and only survived the operation 52 hours.

Like Ann Hacking, this lady was also 42 years old and had had several child previously, but again like Ann, she was struggling with walk difficulties and constant pain. Due to her physical difficulties Barlow decided that the only way to safely deliver this child was by the caesarean procedure, saving the child, but not the mother, on this occasion.

I began to wonder who this Mr Barlow was and whether anything else was known about him and sure enough there was, so let me introduce you to Dr James Barlow (1767-1839) and here we have his portrait. I had assumed he was a local surgeon in Lancashire, but there was more to him than that.

unknown artist; Dr James Barlow (1767-1815); Bolton Library & Museum Services, Bolton Council

James Barlow first began practising as a surgeon in Chorley, Lancashire where he ran a large and highly successful practise in Blackburn, which eventually grew so large that he built his own premises, known as Spring Mount.

He was the first surgeon know to successfully perform a caesarean operation in the United Kingdom. Back in 1793 he first performed the procedure on a Jane Foster, aged 40, of Blackrod, Lancashire. Jane had had a fall from her cart, which had caused damage to her pelvis and on this occasion when she became pregnant it meant that she was unable to give birth naturally and this is where James stepped in to deliver the child by caesarean with the assistance of a local doctor, who unfortunately fainted, so James had to rely on a female assistant to help him.  Jane survived, but sadly the child didn’t.

Wellcome Collection
Wellcome Collection

In 1829, James had worked his magic again and Mr Edmund Forrest’s wife was delivered of a child, both mother and child were said to be doing well. This was apparently the fourth successful surgery performed by Mr Barlow.

The Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser, 27 August 1839 reported

Died on 20 August, at his residence, Spring Mount, near Blackburn, aged 73, James Barlow, a celebrated and talented surgeon.

The Blackburn Standard, 28 August 1839, reported

The funeral of James Barlow Esq. The remains of this lamented gentleman were interred yesterday, in a vault recently made in the parish churchyard. His funeral was attended by a numerous concourse of those who had respected him during his life. Twelve carriages accompanied the hearse in is mournful course to its final resting place, which was thronged by thousands, many of whom no doubt benefitted by the gratuitous exercise of the skill of the deceased.


Essays on Surgery & Midwifery: With Practical Observations, and Select Cases By James Barlow (1822)

Featured Image

Wellcome Collection

Tibby Tinkler, bookseller of Richmond, Yorkshire

What an amazing aquatint of a woman I would love to have met. It was produced after her death, but it’s full of such character, but who was she?  Her name was Isabella, known to all as Tibby Tinkler.

Isabella Tinkler bookseller Richmond North Yorkshire
Isabella Tinkler bookseller Richmond North Yorkshire

The image itself does provide a few clues about her. We know that she was a bookseller in the town of Richmond, North Yorkshire and possibly the very first in Richmond and that the image above by George Cuitt, of Richmond, tells us that it was produced after her death in 1794 when she was aged 92.

Now, firstly, was she really 92 when she died? well yes, for a change we know that this to have been accurate.

She was born Isabel, rather than Isabella Foster, and her baptism tells us that she was baptised on 15 June 1702 in Richmond, North Yorkshire, her father being named as Francis, so perhaps she simply preferred the extended name, so we’ll continue to use that.

Isabella was the middle of five children, her siblings being Mary, Ann, Elizabeth and Menhill. On 30 July 1732 she married Robert Tinkler and the couple lived in Richmond for the rest of their lives, although Robert originated from Darlington, North Yorkshire.

For how many years they owned and ran the bookshop is unclear, but Isabella was definitely trading under her own name, in August 1769, according to the Newcastle Courant, which was quite unusual for a woman of that period and her name stands out here, as the only woman listed.

We know that Isabella was widowed April 1782 and that her husband Robert was buried in the parish church which would have meant that Isabella was left to continue running the book shop alone, as they had no children to help her.

In Harry Speight’s book, Romantic Richmondshire, written in 1897, Isabella was described as being:

Quite a character in her way. Her real name was Isabella Tinkler, but she was always known as ‘Tibby’ and few in her trade knew more of books, their histories, mysteries, prices current etc. George Cuitt, the artist etched her portrait in a characteristic attitude in her shop.

On 29 April 1791, Isabella sat down and dictated her last will and testament. She was clearly unable to write as she marked it with a X, the standard way to sign your name if unable to write it, which begs the question as to whether she could read – an interesting thought in light of her occupation or maybe her inability to write her name was simply down to her age.

Isabella made provision for what appears to be quite a number of friends, so she was obviously a popular woman.  She named some 14 people in her will leaving them a variety of sums of money, from one guinea to ten guineas each and named an Isabella Brough, who lived with her, as her executrix and to Isabella she left the remainder of her goods and effects, but no explanation as to who she was, a servant, nurse or simply a friend.

Another indication that she was well known being that the Newcastle Courant of 11 October 1794, published news of her demise.

After her death, the bookshop was taken over by Mr John Bell, who was father to the well known George Bell of the well known London publishers.

If anyone knows anything more about her, I would love to hear from you.


Yorkshire Notes and Queries Vol 1-2. 1888

Featured Image

Easby Hall and Easby Abbey with Richmond, Yorkshire in the Background by George Cuitt (1743-1818)

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray

To date, I have written quite a few articles about Dido Elizabeth Belle, along with guest posts by Etienne Daly, but suddenly realised that I have largely ignored the co-sitter in the famous portrait, her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray, so it’s time to rectify this, but of course it wouldn’t be complete without a snippet of new information about Dido, so do read on!

If we think today’s families are complicated, this might give you a clue that little has really changed since the 1700s.

Lady Elizabeth Mary’s father was David, the 7th Viscount Stormont, later to become the 2nd Earl of Mansfield. It was whilst he was ambassador to the Elector of Saxony that he met his first wife, Henrietta Frederica, the daughter of Henry Graf Bunau. By the time they met, Henrietta was a  widow, her husband Frederik de Berregaard, having died two years previously.

The couple married on 16 August 1759 and almost nine months to the day, on 18 May 1760, Lady Elizabeth Mary was born in Warsaw, Poland.  The couple went on to have another daughter, Henrietta, born 16 October 1763, but sadly, she died  in Vienna, whilst an infant, closely followed by Henrietta herself, who died on 16 March 1766 also in Vienna, aged just 29.

Henrietta was interred at the Protestant churchyard in Vienna, with minimal fuss and ceremony, but her heart was removed, embalmed and taken to Scone at the request of her husband.

Henrietta daughter of Henry Graf Bunau. Painted by Marcello Bacciarelli in Warsaw in 1759. Countrylife June 10, 2013
Henrietta daughter of Henry Graf Bunau. Painted by Marcello Bacciarelli in Warsaw in 1759. Country Life June 10, 2013

This left David with a daughter to raise alone, a situation which would be almost impossible, so he did what he thought was for the best and brought Lady Elizabeth Mary  back to England in May 1766, and took her to Lord and Lady Mansfield at Kenwood House, who were able to give her a more stable upbringing, something that would have been extremely difficult given her father’s ambassadorial post.

Caenwood House 1786 European Magazine Volume 9 - January-June
Caenwood House 1786 European Magazine Volume 9 – January-June

On 6 May 1776 at St George’s Hanover Square, David married for a second time. His second wife being the Honourable Louisa Cathcart (1758-1843), thirty years his junior and just two years older than his daughter, Lady Elizabeth Mary who would have been just sixteen at this time.

They went on to have a further five children –David (1777-1840), George (1780-1848), Charles (1781-1859), Henry (1784-1860) and lastly, Caroline (1789-1867).

Their eldest son, David, Elizabeth Mary’s half-brother, would, in due course, become the 3rd Earl of Mansfield.

In September 1796, David, 2nd Earl of Mansfield, died suddenly in September 1796, whilst at Brighton, from a stomach spasm.

When the 2nd Earl of Mansfield was buried at Westminster Abbey, he specifically requested that his heart should be removed, embalmed and take to Scone to be reunited with that of his first wife. There is a memorial to both the earl and Henrietta at Scone. I do wonder how his second wife must have felt about that!

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

From the Hampshire Chronicle 17 September 1796 account it would appear that the 2nd Earl’s funeral didn’t go quite as planned. His remains were brought from Brighton where he died, to his residence in Portland Place and from there to Westminster Abbey with all the pomp and ceremony you would expect for such an eminent person.

Crowds of people gathered jostling to get a better view of the proceedings outside the abbey. The hearse door was opened, two of the bearers drew out the coffin, and had got it on their shoulders, but through the indecency of the multitude who pressed forward to teat off the ornaments, the horses took fright, and ran off before the other men were ready, consequently the corpse fell to the ground, and the coffin was shattered so much so that the foot part bulged, and a number of the nails and ornaments were forced out.

The concussion must have broken the leaden receptacle, as a large amount of water poured from it. It was all repaired as quickly as possible and his body was interred in the family vault. The former lord and his lady were the only two, beside his Lordship, who were buried in the tomb contiguous to the Earl of Chatham’s monument, on the north-west side of the chancel.

Louisa survived her husband by 47 years and didn’t waste much time in marrying again. On 19 October 1797, her second husband became Robert Fulke Greville (1751-1824), the son of Francis Greville, 1st Earl of Warwick. Robert was known to have been a favourite at court, initially an equerry to King George III, later becoming Groom of the Bedchamber.

Abbott, Lemuel Francis; The Honourable Robert Fulke Greville (1751-1797); National Trust, Calke Abbey

Louisa and Robert went on to have a further three children – Lady Georgiana (1798-1871), Lady Louisa (1800-1883) and finally, the Honourable Robert (1800-1867).

Returning to Lady Elizabeth Mary, she married into another long-established family, the Finch-Hattons. On 15 December 1785, at Lord Mansfield’s town house she married George Finch-Hatton by special licence, her fortune upon marriage was said to be £17,000 – £10,000 from Lord Mansfield plus £7,000 from her father (about 1.5 million pounds in today’s money).

Lady Elizabeth Murray marriage entry in parish register of St Gile's in the Fields, Holborn, confirming that they married in the home of Lord Mansfield
Lady Elizabeth Murray marriage entry in parish register of St Gile’s in the Fields, Holborn, confirming that they married at the home of Lord Mansfield

Following the service performed by the Archbishop of York, the couple set off for celebrations at Kenwood House. There is no indication as to whether Dido Elizabeth Belle would have attended the wedding itself, but she would almost certainly have been present for the celebrations at Kenwood.

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

Whether this marriage was a love match or arguably, more about ‘keeping it in the family’ who knows, as Lady Elizabeth’s husband George, was the son of Edward Finch-Hatton, who was the son of Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham and 7th Earl of Winchilsea. Daniel’s youngest daughter was, co-incidentally, also the father of Elizabeth Finch, wife of Lord Mansfield.

Most places seem to show that Elizabeth Mary and George had just three children, so let’s set this record straight – they had seven.

Their first child was a daughter, Louisa, who was born 12 November 1786. Louisa married the Honourable Charles Hope (1768-1828), the son of John Hope, 2nd Earl of Hopetoun (1704-1781) and his third wife, Lady Elizabeth Leslie. The couple married on 30 April 1807 at the church at St. Marylebone, although their marriage was also registered at Aberlady, Scotland.

27 October 1788 at Gretton, Northamptonshire, their second child, Anna Maria was born. Anna Maria never married and died on 2 December 1837 and was buried a few days later at All Saints, Leamington Priors, Warwickshire.

Most records seem to have written Anna Maria out of history, and yet she was mentioned by the author Jane Austen in somewhat less than flattering terms, in a letter to her sister Cassandra on 6 November 1813:

Lady Eliz. Hatton and Annamaria called here this morning. Yes, they called; but I do not think I can say anything more about them. They came, and they sat, and they went.

It would be two years after the birth of Anna Maria, that their third child was born, Elizabeth Henrietta, who was born on 19 January 1790. Elizabeth never married and died at the age of 30, in 1820. Elizabeth helpfully left a will, in which she left bequests for all her siblings.

George Finch Hatton 10th Earl. National Portrait Gallery
George Finch Hatton 10th Earl. National Portrait Gallery

Their fourth child was their son and heir, George, who was born on 19 May 1791. He attended Westminster school, then Cambridge university. He then went on to have a military career, before becoming a politician and became well known for a duel with the then Prime Minister, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

The field of Battersea. Duke of Wellington as a lobster. British Museum
The field of Battersea. Duke of Wellington as a lobster. British Museum

George married three times, his first wife being Georgiana Charlotte Graham (1791-1835), his second wife being Emily Georgiana Bagot, who died in 1848 and finally Fanny Margaretta Rice, who outlived George who died in 1858. George and his first two wives died at Haverholme Priory, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

Haverholme Priory in an 1826 sketch in The Gentleman's Magazine
Haverholme Priory in an 1826 sketch in The Gentleman’s Magazine, now a ruin

Today, in the neighbouring village of Ewerby, is a village pub named after the family, The Finch Hatton Arms, which was apparently used by the family as a hunting lodge.

Their fifth child and second son was Edward Frederick, who was baptised at Eastwell, Kent on 16 January 1793. Edward Frederick’s life was cut short, when he died at the age of just 20, and was buried 8 September 1813 at Eastwell. No cause of death was provided for Frederick, but the Kentish Gazette, 7 September 1813, reported that he was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and was much lamented by his family and friends.

Their sixth child and third son was Daniel Heneage, who was born at the family home, Eastwell, Kent on 5 May 1795. Daniel went into the church and eventually married on 15 December 1825 at St George’s, Hanover Square and kept his marriage ‘in the family’ so to speak. As noted earlier, Daniel’s maternal step grandmother was Louisa, 2nd Lady Mansfield. On the death of Lady Elizabeth’s father, she married again. Her second husband being Robert Fulke Greville. Together they had three children. Daniel Heneage married the middle child, Lady Louisa Greville. Daniel died in 1866 at Weldon, Northamptonshire.

Emily was their seventh and youngest child and, who, like several of the others, appears to have been all but written out of history. Emily was born 12 Oct 1797 and baptised at Eastwell. In 18126, she married a vicar, Alfred Charnley Lawrence, who was the rector of Sandhurst, Kent.  The couple had three children and Emily died in 1868.

Lady Elizabeth Finch Hatton calling card British Museum
Lady Elizabeth Finch Hatton’s calling card British Museum

From the newspapers of the day you get the impression that Elizabeth Mary was something of a social butterfly, frequently paying visits to people within in her social circle, being seen in all the ‘right places’, attending and hosting balls, one of which that warrants mention, held for her three younger daughters:

Saint James Chronicle 10 May 1817

Lady Finch Hatton’s Ball – this elegant Lady opened Mansfield House, in Portland Place, on Thursday evening, with a ball and supper. It was a juvenile party, for the express purpose of introducing the three accomplished Misses Hatton into the fashionable world.

We must also remember that when Lady Anne Murray, Lady Elizabeth’s paternal aunt, died on 3 July 1817 at her Brighton home, leaving many bequests to faithful servants, she left the bulk of her estate to Lady Elizabeth Mary’s husband, George, along with bequests for all of their children.

Samuel Hieronymus Grimm’s 1787 depiction of Marlborough House, Brighton. Illustration: courtesy of the British Library. Previously owned, until his death by W G Hamilton MP (1729-1796)
Samuel Hieronymus Grimm’s 1787 depiction of Marlborough House, Brighton. Illustration: courtesy of the British Library. Previously owned, until his death by W G Hamilton MP (1729-1796) Shortly after it was purchased by Lady Anne Murray.

Lady Anne also left £50 to each of Dido Elizabeth’s 3 boys. This implies that in late 1804, when she wrote her will, that Dido’s son John, believed to have died in infancy was in fact still alive at that time. Lady Anne must have kept in touch with Dido’s family, as she knew Dido had died, but what became of her son John remains unsolved.

Lady Anne’s sister, Lady Margery, who died in 1799, was also clearly very fond of Dido as she too left her £100 in her will.

To the late Mrs Daviniere's three boys fifty pounds each
Click to enlarge. ‘To the late Mrs Daviniere’s three boys fifty pounds each’

George Finch Hatton died in 1823 and Lady Elizabeth Mary, just two years later in Edinburgh.

Old Parish Registers Deaths 685/1 1000 17 Edinburgh
Old Parish Registers Deaths 685/1 1000 17 Edinburgh

She left a very detailed will, ensuring that all her surviving children were well provided for. In her will, there is a lovely mention of her late mother, Henrietta when she specifically left Anna Maria a miniature portrait of her, a memory of her mother kept safe for almost 60 years.

Extract from Elizabeth's will re miniature of her mother for Anna Maria. Click to enlarge
Extract from Elizabeth’s will re miniature of her mother for Anna Maria. Click to enlarge

One final snippet of information, Lady Elizabeth Mary’s great grandson, Denys Finch Hatton (1887-1931) the son of Henry Stormont Finch-Hatton, 13th Earl of Winchilsea and 8th Earl of Nottingham (1852 – 1927), had a relationship with Karen Blixen, who wrote her autobiography – Out of Africa. The film of the same name was loosely based on her book.

As well


Paul. Sir James Balfour. The Scots peerage; founded on Wood’s edition of Sir Robert Douglas’s peerage of Scotland; containing an historical and genealogical account of the nobility of that kingdom. Volume 8. Page 208-209

Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1280

The Scots Magazine 7 November 1763

Caledonian Mercury 14 April 1766

Oxford Journal 31 May 1766

Dublin Evening Post – Tuesday 27 December 1785

Hereford Journal – Thursday 22 December 1785

Bolton Chronicle 9 December 1837

Edinburgh Sheriff Court Inventories SC70/1/33

Feltham, John. A Guide to all the watering and sea bathing places 1813. p87

The portrait of Lady Brisco (1755-1822) by Gainsborough

This portrait caught my eye recently whilst looking at portraits by Gainsborough and I was curious to know a little more about her, especially as she was sporting the high hair fashion of the day.

Gainsborough, Thomas; Lady Brisco; English Heritage, Kenwood

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

She was Carolina (not Caroline as noted in many places) Alicia Fleming, born in 1755 to parents Gilbert Fane Fleming and Camilla Bennet. It’s worth mentioning that Carolina’s maternal grandparents were Charles, Bennet, 2nd Earl of Tankerville (1697-1753) and Camilla Colville (1698 -1775). Camilla being a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Caroline and afterwards to the Princess Augusta.

In July 1776 Carolina married the baronet, John Brisco (1739-1805).  It was just one year after their marriage that Carolina’s father died, and in his will he made provision for Carolina’s husband to take over ownership of his two plantations on the island of St Christopher, Westhope in St Peters Basseterre and Salt Ponds in St Geo. Basseterre.

Of course, along with the plantations were slaves, in this case the couple inherited a considerable number to work on the plantations. So far as I can tell the couple spent no time at their plantations, presumably preferring to leave them to be managed on their behalf and simply reaping the rewards from the crops. The couple owned several properties around the country including their country estate, Crofton Hall in Cumbria and a house on Wimpole Street in London.

The couple had seven known children, although most sources imply that there were just three. The seven being, Camilla born 1777, their son and heir Wastel in 1778, Caroline the following year, Fleming John in 1781, Augusta in 1783, Emma the next year, followed by Frederick in 1790 and finally, Henry in 1796.

In 1804 just prior to his death, Sir John Briscoe also purchased Alexander Pope’s house at Twickenham, which Lady Briscoe retained for just a couple of years after his death before selling it in 1807 to Baroness Howe of Langar, who, having already demolished Langar Hall, went on to demolish Pope’s house too.

Scott, Samuel; Pope’s Villa, Twickenham; Yale Center for British Art

After the death of Sir John, his son and heir, Wastel, inherited all the estates and in November 1806 he married Sarah Lester, daughter of a Mr Ladbrook. Now, despite producing three children including a son and heir, this marriage that proved to be something of a disaster. It is from this point onwards that Lady Carolina’s story has, I’m afraid, been hijacked by that of her son, Wastel. Please be aware, it does not make for pleasant reading from this point onwards.

By 1813, Lady Sarah had had more than enough of her husband and took him to court for cruelty and adultery. This was to prove to be an incredibly lengthy affair lasting for over ten years. Lady Sarah remained at their home in London, whilst her erstwhile husband went to live in their country estate in Cumbria.

As well as the issue of adultery the tricky subject of money reared its ugly head and how much money each of them had and how much they believed they should have as a result of a possible divorce.

Lady Sarah made quite a few purchases for items she needed, not least clothes, as it would appear that during their dispute, Sir Wastel burnt most of her clothes which were valued at in excess of £200 (which is about £10,000 in today’s money).

Sir Wastel however, disputed, not the burning, but the value of the said clothing, and according to him they were worth a mere £10 or £500 in today’s money. Lady Sarah stressed that she not only required new clothes, but that she needed sufficient money from him to live in the lifestyle she was accustomed to and to ensure that his children were well provided for.

Eventually the court allocated Lady Sarah £200 a year, plus £200 a year pin money, but the battles over money continued for years, with Lady Sarah claiming that her husband had been having a relationship with a servant at their home in London, one Sarah Stow of Norfolk. He in turn, accused her of adultery.

Image courtesy of Crofton Hall estate. Just behind the stairs can be seen the portrait of Lady Brisco
Image courtesy of Crofton Hall estate. Just behind the stairs can be seen the portrait of Lady Brisco

Sir Wastel moving out of the marital home and set up home with his mistress, eventually moving to their country residence in Cumbria, where Sarah Stow continued to live as his ‘housekeeper’. Sarah Stow by this time also used the surname Stageman.

The couple, once free of Lady Sarah, although not legally, went on to have at least eleven children, all baptised with just Sarah Stow’s name, no father was named, but you would have thought everyone in the local area would have easily put two and two together to work out who the father was.

It isn’t until you look at her will, which was proven 1853, that you notice that she referred to herself as Sarah Stageman, otherwise Stow. There’s no explanation as to why she used the name Stageman, but  it’s you take a look at the slavery register for 1827-1828 for slaves owned by Sir Wastel, that a familiar name appears, in the form of his attorney – a James Stageman. It’s such an unusual surname that he must surely, in some way be connected to Sarah, but to date I’ve no idea how.

St Christopher Slave Register 1827-1828. click to enlarge
St Christopher Slave Register 1827-1828. click to enlarge

Sir Wastel died 1 October 1862 at his country home, at which time his son and heir inherited the title and estate, but what became of  his wife, Lady Sarah?

After several years spent intermittently living apart, Sir Wastel stopped paying alimony and found himself back in court, well he would have, had he bothered to appear, instead found himself in contempt of court.

Doctors' Commons in the early 19th century. Thomas Rowlandson
Doctors’ Commons in the early 19th century. Thomas Rowlandson

It was in June 1826, that Lady Sarah found herself accused of adultery with the Sir John Winnington, by his wife. In this instance Lady Winnington was granted her divorce as the evidence was clear, he was guilty of adultery with Lady Sarah.

Lady Sarah’s battle with her husband, as they were still not divorced, continued to rage, so much so that he took out the following advertisement in the local newspaper.

Carlisle Patriot 20 September 1828
Carlisle Patriot 20 September 1828

Yet again, in 1830, Sir Wastel found himself in court this time, it was a case against him for non-payment of accounts due to a Mr David,  that had been accrued by Lady Sarah. On this occasion a number of witnesses were called who testified about the nature of Lady Sarah’s relationship with her husband.

One witness said she had seen him in a compromising position with another woman, another witness, that she had seen Lady Sarah coming downstairs with blood pouring from her mouth and how cruelly she was treated by her husband. Another that she often had cuts and bruises on her body, had her hair pulled  out in handfuls, and had been locked in her room with no food or water, the list went on and made for shocking reading.  In a nutshell he said that he would persecute her for as long as she lived, which seemingly he did. The judge found in favour of Sir Wastel and that he was not liable for Lady Sarah’s debts.

Life just even worse for Lady Sarah when in 1833 she found herself spending two months in the house of correction at Coldbath Fields, for libel. A few years later she found herself in court once more, again for libel. Lady Sarah died in 1840 and had spent the majority of her life living in fear of her husband and being pursued by him to the end.


Legacy of British Slave-Ownership

The Annual Register 1817

Office of Registry of Colonial Slaves and Slave Compensation Commission: Records; Class: T 71; Piece Number: 258

Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 2173

Saint James’s Chronicle 23 April 1825

British Press 24 June 1826

Evening Mail 13 December 1830

Featured Image

Carlisle Cathedral and Deanery above Old Caldew Bridge. Matthew Ellis Nutter (1795–1862) (attributed to). Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery


Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire’s travels in exile

Georgiana had three legitimate children with William, 5th Duke of Devonshire, Georgiana, known as ‘Little G’ born 1783, followed by Harriet, known affectionately as ‘Harryo’, born 1785 and finally, a son and heir William, who was born in May 1790, whilst the couple were in Paris and who would later become 6th Duke of Devonshire. The 5th Duke also had an illegitimate daughter, Charlotte Williams, about whom I have written previously (see highlighted link)..

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The couple waited until 20 May 1791 to have their son baptised at St George’s Hanover Square and the following month attended court to celebrate King George III’s birthday. It would have been around this time that Georgiana found herself pregnant again, this child however, was the result of her affair with Charles Grey.

Lawrence, Thomas; Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey; National Portrait Gallery, London

The child, named Elizabeth Courtney, was said to have been born on 20 February 1792, at Aix de Provence, France. She was then taken back to England to be raised by Charles Grey’s parents, as his sibling, rather than his daughter. Eliza, as she was known, although seeing her mother, was unaware of the familial connection until after the death of Georgiana.

The disgraced, Georgiana was given a choice by her husband, either a divorce which would give him the ability to remarry, or to go into exile. In order to protect her children, she chose the latter.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire after 1778. Royal Collection Trust
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire after 1778. Royal Collection Trust

In October 1791 she left England for Paris, accompanied by Lord and Lady Duncannon, probably better known as Bessborough, Georgiana’s sister and brother-in-law, which would have been an interesting journey, given that Lord Bessborough had begun divorce proceeding against Henrietta the previous year. By this time Georgiana would have been about five months pregnant.

Her poem, The Passage of the Mountain of Saint Gothard, was based on her passage of the Saint Gotthard Pass in August 1793 on her return to England.

The Hampshire Chronicle, 6 January 1800, along with other newspapers printed the poem in full accompanied by a brief extract about her travels. This was just over one year after the birth of Elizabeth Courtney.

The extract gives us a fleeting glimpse into where she visited and who she travelled with, although it’s not entirely clear who all her companions were. The newspaper article began with an advisory, that publication was delayed for the following reason:

We have, through the length of the French Constitution, and other important, but temporary matter, deferred till now inserting the above elegant piece of composition; confident that its merits would render it acceptable to our readers at any time. Her Grace has adopted the measure, and justice compels us to add, caught the spirit of Gray’s Elegy. There are many passage, which in sublimity, beauty and classic allusion, divide approbation even with that celebrated performance.

In 1799 her most famous poem was published, not only in book form but also in the newspaper and can be read in full by following this link.

The published extract from her journal which gives us a very brief glimpse into what her journey would have been like at that time:

We quitted Italy in August 1793 and passed into Switzerland over the mountain of St Gothard. The third crop of corn was already standing in Lombardy.

We left Lady Spencer and Lady Bessborough at the Baths of Lucca, intending to pass the winter at Naples.

The contrast between Switzerland and the Milanese appeared very striking. The Milanese were infested with a band of robbers that caused us some alarm and obliged us to use some precautions; but from the moment we entered the mountains of Switzerland, we travelled without fear, and felt perfectly secure. Death is the punishment of robbers; this punishment, however, very rarely occurs. At Lausanne there had been but one execution in fifteen years.

On the 9th we embarked upon Lago Maggiore, at the little town of Sisto, situated where the Tesino runs out of the lake. In the course of two days navigation, we particularly admired the striking and colossal statue of St. Charles Borromeo (with its pedestal two feet from the ground). The beautiful Borromean Islands, and the shores of the lake, are interspersed with towns and wood, and crowned with the distant view of the Alps.

On the evening of the 10th, we landed at Magadino, one of the three Cisalpine Baliages belonging to Switzerland; and as the air was too noxious for us to venture to sleep there, we sent for horses to conduct us to Belinzona, a pretty town in the midst of high mountains, under the jurisdiction of three of the Swiss Cantons, Switz, Underald and Uri. From hence (after having prepared horses, chairs and guides, and having our carriages taken in pieces) we set out on the evening of the 12th to enter the mountain and ascended gradually by a road that nearly followed the course of the Tesino.  The Tesino takes its rise not far from the summit of St. Gothard and joins the Po near Pavia.

St Gothard itself arises from the top of several other high mountains. Some have given 17,600 fee of perpendicular height from the level of the sea; but General Plyffer, who completed the celebrated model of that part of Switzerland surrounding Lucerne, makes it only 9,075 feet about the Mediterranean.

There is a small convent at the top of the mountain, where two monks reside and who are obliged to receive and entertain the poor traveller that passes that way. Padre Lorenzo had lived there for twenty years and seemed a sensible and benevolent man. They have a large dairy and make excellent cheese. Five small lakes which are at the top of the mountain supply them with fish. The monks are Capuchins and belong to a convent at Milan.

Although Georgiana returned in 1793, her mother and sister remained in Europe for a further year, with Georgiana meeting them at Harwich.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) c. 1774 Jeremiah Meyer. Royal Collection Trust
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) c. 1774 Jeremiah Meyer. Royal Collection Trust

Following this enforced exile, Georgiana returned to England to continue caring for her children, living in a ménage à trois and playing out the role of the dutiful wife, until her death in March 1806.


The Passage of the Mountain of Saint Gothard: A Poem; by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

Sketch of a descriptive journey through Switzerland to which is added a poem by her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire. Attributed to Rowley Lascelles 1816

Derby Mercury 9 June 1791

The World 24 November 1791

True Briton 11 August 1794

Featured Image

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, with her daughter Georgiana, later Countess of Carlisle 1807-08 by William Etty. Royal Collection Trust

Bold Bling, Romantic Posies and Star-Set Jewels, Georgian Jewellery That Would Even Make Even the Cast of Bridgerton Jealous!

Today I’m thrilled to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian,  Molly Chatterton of Lillicoco, antique and vintage jewellers, to talk about a subject close to my heart – 18th century jewellery, so without any further ado I’ll hand you straight over to Molly:

The explosion of Bridgerton on our screens late last year has brought a renewed interest to the Regency era. And whilst we were glued to our screens waiting for Daphne and Simon to just profess their undying love and devotion for one another, we couldn’t help but also be dazzled by the array of glittering jewellery.

Isabel de Farnesio. Museo del Prado
Isabel de Farnesio. Museo del Prado

Whilst some jewellery historians have already said that the jewellery within this TV series has taken the artistic licence quite liberally, it does make us wonder what kind of jewellery was worn in this period, and specifically, the types of jewellery worn to debutante balls and important occasions.

From Diamond sprays to stomachers and sevignes, there were an array of high Georgian jewellery that was pinned, clasped and sewn into a young woman’s eveningwear. Here, we focus specifically on three different types of sparkling Georgian jewellery that was front and centre at fashionable 18th century European balls.

Foiled Jewellery

If there was something that the Georgians specifically wanted from their jewellery, it was luminosity, vibrance and colour, and this was achieved through the ancient art of foiling.

V&A Museum
V&A Museum

18th and early 19th-century lapidaries could only do a few certain kinds of gemstone cuts. These included rose cut, table cut, and flat cut. Unlike more modern gemstone cuts, these gemstone cuts did not reveal the natural innate fire of certain gemstones. That being said, they certainly possessed their own romantic character and allure. To increase the gemstones vibrancy, and to add more colour and depth, the Georgians placed foils in the backs of the gemstone settings. These foils could be the same colour as the gemstone or they could be a different but complementary colour entirely.

Lillicoco - Georgian Portuguese Black Dot Foiled Paste Brooch and Georgian Foiled Garnet Paste Brooch
Lillicoco – Georgian Portuguese Black Dot Foiled Paste Brooch and Georgian Foiled Garnet Paste Brooch

The foils were designed to increase the refraction of light, creating an intense flash of colour and draw the eye to the centre. Some of our favourite foiled jewellery pieces in our collection have included pink-foiled Amethyst and Paste, peachy-foiled Diamonds and Paste, and sumptuous foiled Garnets.

Lillicoco - Georgian Foiled Paste Earrings with 18ct Gold Hooks
Lillicoco – Georgian Foiled Paste Earrings with 18ct Gold Hooks

Foiled pieces were highly fashionable and sought after for 18th and 19th-century balls, this is because the foils would literally come alive in candlelit rooms. 18th century and early 19th century fashions lowered the decollete of ballgowns, which, of course, led to more flesh on display. With this in mind, foiling was commonly used with earrings, riviere necklaces and pendants. So, if you wanted to attract a certain suitor, then this style of jewellery would literally catch their eye and draw their gaze towards your face and neck.

Lillicoco - Georgian 18ct Gold Perpignan Garnet Foiled Riviere
Lillicoco – Georgian 18ct Gold Perpignan Garnet Foiled Riviere

Celestial Jewellery

It is no secret that beautiful bejewelled jewellery and the night sky certainly have a stylistic affinity with one another. You can find a myriad of celestial fashion jewellery today but did you know that astrological themed jewellery was in vogue during the 18th and 19th century?

V&A Museum
V&A Museum

This rise in Georgian celestial jewellery coincided with the Age of Enlightenment (1650-1780). Just a century before, there were spectacular scientific discoveries made by Galileo about outer space. This clearly held huge weight within Georgian society, as the whole world was not only bedazzled by the universe, but also what part they played within it. With this in mind, the interest in astrology boomed, and it wasn’t long for the fascination with the heavens to pass through the minds of astronomers to the fingertips of jewellers.

Lillicoco - Georgian Green Paste Roundel Brooch, Georgian 18ct Gold Pearl Ring
Lillicoco – Georgian Green Paste Roundel Brooch, Georgian 18ct Gold Pearl Ring

One of the two most sought after pieces of Georgian celestial jewellery were Bagues Au Firmament and Halley’s Comet. Bagues Au Firmament were a fashionable ring trend first emerging in France, and were even worn by the Queen Marie Antoinette herself! Bagues Au Firmament dreamily translates to “Ring of the Heavens”, and they were a poetic rendition of the night sky. These rings were often a sea of blue Enamel or blue glass, and were speckled with Diamonds or Paste gems. Certainly a statement piece, these rings were a must-have for any regency ball. As not only did it show that you were learned in the art of the universe, but also that you had the taste of Parisian and French fashions at your fingertips.

Lillicoco - Bagues Au Firmament Ring
Lillicoco – Bagues Au Firmament Ring

The second type of Celestial jewellery that was a must for regency balls were Halley’s Comet jewellery. If you weren’t already aware, Halley’s Comet is one of the world’s most famous comets, circling the sun every 75-76 years. The comet was named after Sir Edmund Halley, a royal astronomer who accurately predicted all of the comet’s sightings. In 1759 and 1835, the comet made its regular appearance in a scheduled and timely manner. What resulted was an explosion of commemorative jewellery, from Diamond shooting stars, Paste-encrusted sunbursts and meticulously carved intaglio’s of Halley’s face. We can just imagine the numerous balls and parties that were thrown to celebrate the comet’s arrival, the long-awaited special VIP guest of the night!

Just like the Bagues Au Firmament, it was paramount to have these quintessentially romantic jewels at regency balls, especially if you wanted to have the gossip periodicals discussing your etoile-encrusted ensemble the next day!

Lillicoco - Georgian Black Dot Paste Star Pendant
Lillicoco – Georgian Black Dot Paste Star Pendant

Giardinetti Jewellery

Giardinetti jewellery is beautiful and captivating. Throughout the 18th and especially in the 19th century Flowers were a fashionable and symbolic bejewelled choice, especially when it comes to the art and ardours of love. So much so that this culminated in the Victorian language of flowers.

V&A Museum
V&A Museum

Giardinetti jewellery actually first became popular in Italy, with “Giardinetti” translating to “Little Garden”.

Lillicoco - Georgian Emerald Diamond Floral Brooch, Georgian Garnet Foiled Pansy Earrings
Lillicoco – Georgian Emerald Diamond Floral Brooch, Georgian Garnet Foiled Pansy Earrings

These were mainly rings and brooches that were speckled with tiny blossoms of Rubies, Emeralds, Diamonds and coloured Paste gems protruding from Silver and Gold flowerpots. This style of jewellery reflected the delicate and elegantly composed fashions of the Rococo period, as well as in keeping with the floral embroidered gowns that were in vogue from the 1740s to 1780s.

Giardinetti jewellery was a literal breath of fresh air in the world of 18th century fashion, adding an innocent soupçon of sparkle to a pastel silk gown. Giardinetti gems were also exchanged between lovers and friends, perhaps Simon would have given Daphne a Giardinetti ring or brooch to show the other suitors just what they were missing!

From Left to Right, Lillicoco - Rare 18ct Gold Georgian Turquoise Ring, Georgian 12ct Gold Forget Me Not Ring, Late Georgian 18ct Gold Turquoise Pearl Mourning Ring
From Left to Right, Lillicoco – Rare 18ct Gold Georgian Turquoise Ring, Georgian 12ct Gold Forget Me Not Ring, Late Georgian 18ct Gold Turquoise Pearl Mourning Ring

We hope you have enjoyed reading all about fabulous glittering Georgian jewellery, you can see the current Lillicoco Georgian jewellery collection here!

Dr Joshua Ward, the ‘Friar’s Balsam’ man

I recently came across an advert in the Newcastle Courant, 24 November 1744 for a product I recalled from childhood, ‘Friar’s Balsam’. I have a vague recollection of adding it to hot water to inhale to ease the symptoms of a cold.

No individual claimed ownership of the product in the advert, but simply stated that the original recipe had come from a Father Gervase Cartwright and was approved and recommended by several eminent physicians as the best family medicine in the world.

Fryar’s Balsam, as it was written at that time, was capable for curing a whole host of ailments – bruises – if applied immediately it would remove the blackness of the bruise. It helped to heal cuts and green wounds, but only if applied with a feather or bit of lint. ‘tis good medicine for coughs, colds or consumption, asthma, gout and rheumatics. For the intestines it could aid colic, flux, piles, pains in the bowels or stomach. It instantly healed chapped hands, soreness of the breasts or nipples and on the face, it would remove scabs caused by small pox. It was conveniently packaged so could be carried in the pocket when travelling.

Twenty or thirty drops taken in the morning on a lump of sugar, will fortify the stomach against the inclemency of the weather, and is far better than a dram. ‘Tis likewise used with equal success on horses, dogs and other creatures: a few drops will cure a horse’s back when gall’d, a broken knee, or any wound in the foot, whether occasioned by a nail or otherwise. Price One shilling each bottle, with proper direction for its use in each distemper.

The advert gave no indication where the product could be purchased from, leaving a potential buyer deprived of any clue as to where to obtain this amazing product!

It is said that Isaac Newton used it as early as 1660 when working in the apothecary shop in Grantham.

The first reference however, I have come across appeared in an essay, ‘The Physician’s Pulse Watch’ Volume 2 by the physician, John Floyer, dated 1710.

Joshua Ward. Wellcome Collection
Joshua Ward. Wellcome Collection

Whoever ‘invented’ it, Dr Joshua Ward appears to have been given credit for it, but my initial searches reveal that it wasn’t attributed to him until around 1760, which was some 50 years after it was referenced by Floyer. So, did he invent it, or did he simply sell it? We may never truly know the answer to that, but one thing we do know is that it still exists today, which perhaps shows how effective it has been to survive for over 300 years, still bearing its original name.

Who was Joshua Ward, or Dr Joshua Ward, as he was better known?

Joshua was the son of William and his wife, Mary, of Guisborough, Yorkshire, with William being the owner of an alum works. The couple had at least four other children, Margaret, Ann, William and the MP John Ward, who had a something of a reputation for being an unscrupulous businessman, but that’s another story. Joshua was presented for baptism at the parish church on 22 July 1686.

Little is known of Joshua’s early life, but The London Gazette, 25 January 1715, confirms that he was elected as the MP for Marlborough, Wiltshire, but following a petition, he was declared not to have been elected in 1717 at which time, he was said to have fled to France, where he remained under the radar until about 1730.

According to the ODNB, it was whilst in France, Joshua was said to have invented the medicines, known as Ward’s Pill and Ward’s Drop.

Dr Misaubin and Dr Ward c1730
Dr Misaubin and Dr Ward c1730

The next reference to Joshua was about 1730 as can be seen in this portrait above in the Royal Collection.

In 1734, his name appeared in the Grub Street Journal as ‘dispenser of the famous pill and powder’, but still it made no mention of the balsam. The following year Joshua purchased a piece of land near to Buckingham House to erect a hospital for the poor.  Joshua raised funds from the nobility to fund this, including the likes of the Duke of Devonshire.

He then spent the money on the building and according to the General Evening Post, 10 July 1735, plus upwards of £200 on beds alone as part of fitting it out.

Joshua Ward by Agostini Carlini, c 1760, Victoria and Albert Museum
Joshua Ward by Agostini Carlini, c 1760, Victoria and Albert Museum

It was the following year that his name became known at the court of King George II, when he was sent for to cure a woman said to be suffering from a bladder stone. He gave her one of his pills and she was immediately cured. He seems to have been able to cure most ailments known to man at that time, with newspapers providing witness testimonies to his skill. His success in this instance enhanced his reputation no end.

Of course, Joshua would have his critics, describing his cures as ‘quackery’, with accusations that he hired patients for half a crown a week and taught them how to simulate symptoms of a disease which he would immediately cure. Others, however, were fervent supporters of his work including the likes of Horace Walpole who was impressed by Joshua’s ability to cure a headache by using his ointment.

Joshua continued to work as a physician until his death on 21 November 1761, bequeathing the secret of his pills, to his friend and admirer, John Page, MP for Chichester. His body was removed from his house in Whitehall and taken to Westminster Abbey to be interred in the choir, as per his request in his will.

An announcement of Joshua’s death appeared in The Annual Register, 1761 including a brief obituary:

Joshua Ward, Esq, so well-known by the name Doctor Ward, died, at Whitehall, aged 76. This gentleman was formerly a member of the House of Commons; but on account of a particular affair, was obliged to go abroad, where he remained some years; but at last received his late majesty’s pardon. He then came to England, where, soon after his arrival, he purchase three houses at Pimlico, near St James’s park, which he converted into an hospital for his poor patients and very soon became so eminent in his profession by all ranks and degrees of people. Meeting with great success in his practice, and the poor from all parts flocking to him for relief, he took part of a house in Threadneedle Street, for the better distribution of his medicines to the poor, which he gave generously to all who asked his advice, that, as well as his house in Whitehall, was every day crowded with objects of charity, to who he always gave, with the greatest humanity, his medicines, and advice gratis, and often relieve them with money. Of late years he was particularly applied to by the nobility and gentry, even after they had been given over by regular physicians, upon which account he used facetiously to call himself the scanger of the faculty. And it was well known that many who have been pronounced dead have been restored to life by his medicines. So that all allow he richly merited the great fortune he died possessed of.

In Joshua’s will, he specified that he wished to be buried in Westminster Abbey, a wish that was carried out. He made provision for his sisters, Margaret and Ann £500 each; his servants each received between £50 and £100 each. His nephews Ralph and Thomas Ward who were also the executors received £1,000 each, but the lions share went to his great niece Rebecca Ward –£ 2,000, her father, Knox Ward having already died, as had Knox’s father, the MP John Ward.

The London Chronicle 25 February 1762 reported that a monument would be erected in Westminster Abbey, next to John Dryden, on which would be a fine bust of Joshua which was already in his possession.

According to the Caledonian Mercury, 17 November 1762:

It is said his majesty has offered £10,000 to the executors of the late Dr Joshua Ward, as a gratuity for their publishing the several receipts for making his medicines.


Horace Walpole’s Correspondence

Westminster Abbey website

Featured Image 

Joshua Ward Receiving Money from Britannia (and Bestowing it as Charity on the Needy) Thomas Bardwell (1704–1767) Hunterian Museum

The Persistent Legend of Princess Elizabeth (1770-1840) and the mysterious George Ramus

Well, this certainly was not a proverbial rabbit hole I expected to find myself down when this beautiful portrait caught my eye. I simply wanted to know more about the young lady whose beauty had been captured by George Romney. The portrait is of ‘Elizabeth Ramus (1751-1848), the daughter of Nicholas Ramus and subsequently wife of Baron de Nougal’.

Portrait of Elizabeth Ramus (1751-1848), daughter of Nicholas Ramus and subsequently wife of Baron de Nougal, half-length, in a pink dress with gold trim and a green shawl, her hair tied with a gold-embroidered white muslin scarf by George Romney. Courtesy of Christie's auctioneers
Portrait of Elizabeth Ramus (1751-1848), daughter of Nicholas Ramus and subsequently wife of Baron de Nougal, half-length, in a pink dress with gold trim and a green shawl, her hair tied with a gold-embroidered white muslin scarf by George Romney. Courtesy of Christie’s auctioneers

Instead the research took something of a curious turn that I really could not have foreseen, and led to an ongoing piece of potentially ‘fake news’ regarding the young Princess Elizabeth (1770-1840), the third daughter of King George III.