The Apotheosis of Prince Octavius (1779-83) by Benjamin west, 1783. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The Death of Princes Alfred & Octavius and Queen Charlotte’s mysterious pregnancies

Our present Queen was not the only one to have an ‘Annus horribilis’, for King George III and Queen Charlotte theirs, however, lasted somewhat longer than one year. For them, the years between 1781-1783 could, without a doubt be described as being some of the worst years of their lives with the loss of their two youngest sons. Both parents were devastated by such tragic events.

We begin at the end of March 1781 when the newspapers reported that the queen was once again pregnant with what would be her fifteenth child and that a public announcement would be made at court after the Easter holidays. No announcement came – did the queen miscarry or was it merely ‘fake news’?

Kentish Gazette 28 March 1781
Kentish Gazette 28 March 1781

Early autumn of 1781 it was reported that young Prince Alfred (born 1780) was dangerously ill and that the queen was constantly attending to her youngest children in the nursery. By October Alfred was deemed to be much better and out of danger. All fourteen children were now doing well, even if the Prince of Wales (later George IV) was giving concern to his parents over his scandalous relationship with Grace Dalrymple Elliott who, at the end of March 1782, produced her one and only daughter reputedly as a result of her liaison with the Prince.

Prince Alfred (1780-1782). Miniature painted c.1782, British School. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Prince Alfred (1780-1782). Miniature painted c.1782, British School. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Prince Alfred’s health remained something of a cause for concern and in May 1782, it was agreed that he should be taken to Deal Castle to make use of the salt water there for the benefit of his health. Mid-August his health again deteriorated and on August 20th, 1782, despite Dr Heberden attending to him throughout the night, young Prince Alfred, aged one year and eleven months died of ‘a consumption’; other reports stated that whilst perfectly healthy when he was born, he became weak and died from ‘an atrophy’. A report given in the Reading Mercury amongst several other newspapers stated that:

The queen is much affected at this calamity, probably more so on account of its being the only one she has experienced after a marriage of 20 years, and have been the mother of fourteen children. There will be no general mourning for the death of Prince Alfred, it being an established etiquette never to go into mourning for any of the royal blood of England under fourteen years of age, unless for the heir apparent to the crown.

The young prince’s body will be removed from Windsor to the Prince’s chamber next the House of Lords, where it will be till the time of internment in Henry the VIIth chapel, Westminster Abbey. The queen is now pregnant of her fifteenth children, thirteen of which are living.

The queen – pregnant! We had to find out more.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 29 August 1782
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 29 August 1782

 

A lock of Prince Alfred's hair given to Lady Charlotte Finch
A lock of Prince Alfred’s hair given to Lady Charlotte Finch

History tells us that the next child born to Queen Charlotte was Princess Amelia in August 1783, so what of the reported pregnancy in 1782. We thought it must be another piece of ‘fake news’, but seemingly not. The Norfolk Chronicle at the end of April 1782 stated that the queen was ‘in her fifth month of her fifteenth child’.

Another newspaper report regarding the death of Prince Alfred also pointed out that the queen was now ‘big with her fifteenth child’ and another confirmed her to be ‘in the seventh month of her pregnancy’ at that time. So, you would have expected reports in the press about the birth of this child about September or even October – but nothing, not a word, and if a royal child was stillborn, confirmation would still usually appear in the newspapers – very strange!

Although there was no official period of mourning the Royals were not seen out until 7th September when they travelled to Buckingham House from Kew. There are several reports of the queen continuing with her usual duties but still no mention of the pregnancy.

The Apotheosis of Prince Octavius (1779-83) by Benjamin west, 1783. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
The Apotheosis of Prince Octavius (1779-83) by Benjamin West, 1783. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Early May 1783, disaster struck the royal family again when the young Prince Octavius was taken from them.

The queen never left him from Thursday night till Saturday, when he died; his majesty also continued with him from Friday evening till his death. Their majesties are almost inconsolable for the loss of the amiable young prince. Princess Sophia, who was inoculated at the same time it was feared would not recover; but yesterday it was thought the disorder had taken a favourable turn. Prince Octavius is to be interred privately in Westminster Abbey with his late deceased brother Alfred.

The Three Youngest Daughters of George III, John Singleton Copley, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
The Three Youngest Daughters of George III, John Singleton Copley, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

After these tragedies, life was to improve for the royal family with the birth of Princess Amelia almost one year after the death of Prince Alfred meaning she was conceived just after the queen would have given birth to the child she had been reported to have been bearing in 1782 – all very strange!

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Three eldest princesses by Thomas Gainsborough. Royal Collection Trust

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs – cover reveal

We’re massively excited to reveal the cover for our next book A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs which is due to be published later this year, again by Pen & Sword Books. It is now available to pre-order via Pen & Swords Books or Amazon and all other bookshops.
A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden

Rachel or Charlotte as she preferred to be known, really has tested our detective skills as she spent her life ‘under the radar’ despite everything she actually achieved in life and remained something of an enigma.

Lambeth Palace and St Mary's Church with St Paul's by William Marlow
Lambeth Palace and St Mary’s Church with St Paul’s by William Marlow; Government Art Collection

This book really has been a long time in the writing, as every time we thought we had found out all there was to know about her, Charlotte threw us another snippet, as if from nowhere, and off we disappeared again down yet another rabbit hole.

Putney Bridge and Village from Fulham, London
Putney Bridge and Village from Fulham, London; Museum of London

We thought we would share with you a little about how we came across Charlotte and what a complete nightmare and joy she has proved to be. We have gone through so many emotions we can’t begin to describe whilst piecing together her life.

Briton Ferry, Glamorgan by Julius Caesar Ibbetson
Briton Ferry, Glamorgan by Julius Caesar Ibbetson; Tate

Whilst researching Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s life (for our first book, An Infamous Mistress) we came across Charlotte’s name in connection with the home of one of Grace’s relatives. Our first thought was that it was a vaguely interesting snippet of information and perhaps worth, at the very most, a paragraph in Grace’s book, but absolutely nothing more than that.

An Account of the Celebration of George III's Jubilee in 1809

We then came across Charlotte’s ‘Testament’, her version of events that took place during her teenage years. At this point we knew her full life story needed to be told – she would either be immensely proud or absolutely furious that we haven’t left her to rest in peace (probably the former, if we’re honest).

Covent Garden Theatre from Microcosm of London, courtesy of British Library
Covent Garden Theatre from Microcosm of London, courtesy of British Library

At first, we couldn’t decide whether her Testament was a work of fiction or a factual account of shocking events that took place during her teenage years. We debated for months about her, swaying from completely believing her account, to thinking it was mere fiction as it read so much like a tragic Samuel Richardson novel.

Hotwells and Rownham Ferry by William Williams; Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives
Hotwells and Rownham Ferry by William Williams; Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives

I (Sarah) was less convinced than Jo that she was telling the truth, but the more we uncovered the more persuaded I became that the majority of it was true, too many of the facts checked out for it to be fiction.

House of Commons from Microcosm of London. Courtesy of the British Library
House of Commons from Microcosm of London. Courtesy of the British Library

So, with that one part of her life pieced together, in our usual detective fashion we simply had to find out more, where did she come from and what happened to her after this shocking ordeal? So off we went, desperate to find the missing pieces of the jigsaw.

The Conciergerie, Paris, by Henry Edridge,. Courtesy of The Yale Center for British Art
The Conciergerie, Paris, by Henry Edridge,. Courtesy of The Yale Center for British Art

What we discovered about her was far from anything we could ever have imagined. After a horrendous ordeal, she completely reinvented herself.

The York to London Coach at Bedale, c.1840; The British Postal Museum
The York to London Coach at Bedale by Anson Ambrose Martin; The British Postal Museum & Archive; c1840 (not quite Georgian)

We came across Professor Linda Colley’s book ‘Britons: Forging The Nation 1707-1837’ in which our heroine gets a mention. Colley describes her as:

an obscure, middle-class widow from the Welsh border’

From the Welsh borders – almost true. Obscure – well perhaps, she shunned the limelight, not that limelight was easy to achieve at that time for a woman. Middle class – probably. A widow – well, that’s another mystery which we’ll reveal in our book!

Rather than tell you more about the story itself we have included rather a lot of what appear to be random images, for which we offer no explanation, apart from to say that if you read the book they will make sense to you.

Louis XVI of France bids his farewell to the people of Paris, 1793. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Louis XVI of France bids his farewell to the people of Paris, 1793. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Charlotte was in fact, the instigator of our ‘All Things Georgian‘ blog as we needed to find somewhere to store pieces of information we had found about her, so we have been writing about events in Charlotte’s life in a variety of blogs for quite some time now as we’ve pieced together her life, these include:

Reverend William Dodd

‘Clarissa’ and ‘ Pamela’ by Samuel Richardson

Countess Leonor D’Oeynhausen (1750-1839)

Rolinda Sharples (1793-1838)

Helen Maria Williams

Arabella Williams – Le Petit Matelot

Robert Carpenter, Drury Lane actor

Rehab for 18th-century prostitutes – The Magdalen Hospital

The Dunston Pillar: celebrating the 50 year reign of King George III

Finally, to whet your appetite we’ll leave you with the back of the jacket.

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden

Header image: The three eldest princesses by Thomas Gainsborough. Royal Collection Trust.

Horse Race at Newmarket (The Duke of Bolton's 'Bay Bolton' defeating the Duke of Somerset's Grey 'Windham' at Newmarket on either 12th November 1712 or 4th April 1713) John Wootton (c.1682–1764) National Trust, Petworth House

The Jockey Club and the 2nd Earl of Godolphin (1678-1766)

Now, we will begin this article with a ‘rider’ (excuse the pun); we freely admit to knowing about as much as you could write on the back of a postage stamp on the subject of horse racing, however, we felt this was something we had to write about. Our previous post was about Dennis O’Kelly and his connection with horse racing which has led us off down yet another rabbit hole, to an earlier period.

According to the Jockey Club itself, it was established in 1753 at Newmarket, however, purely by chance we came across this newspaper article in the Daily Advertiser of Wednesday, March 10, 1731, which gives a much earlier reference to the club, the implication in the article being that by this date the club was already established.

The picture of the Lord James Cavendish’s horse, which his Lordship rode on some time since, for a very considerable wager to Windsor being near finish’d, we hear the same will be plac’d in the Jockey Club Room at William’s Coffee House, St. James’s.

Having read this of course we needed to know more. We knew that ‘clubs’ were increasing in popularity in the early 1700s with many being established in coffee houses, but we came across this image in ‘The History of the London Clubs 1709′ by Edward Ward.

The History of the London Clubs 1709 by Edward Ward
The History of the London Clubs 1709 by Edward Ward

There is no further information about the club, simply this image, so could it be that it was established earlier than originally assumed and if so, who was a member? We know that racing has always been regarded as the ‘Sport of Kings’ therefore you needed to be affluent to own your own race horse, so in all likelihood, the ‘club’ would have consisted of nobility who had a penchant for gambling. A few names came to mind including the likes of the 3rd Duke of Bolton (1685- 1754), who we knew enjoyed a flutter and was wealthy, obviously, Lord James Cavendish (bef. 1707-1751), as he is mentioned above and the 2nd Earl of Godolphin, who was renowned as being the owner of the stallion ‘The Godolphin Arabian’ who was one of three stallions who founded the modern thoroughbred racehorse stock.

Kneller, Godfrey; Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin; National Portrait Gallery, London; 
Kneller, Godfrey; Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin; National Portrait Gallery, London;

The newspaper report above mentioned that the Jockey Club meeting was held at William’s Coffee House, so off we went to look for such a place and sure enough, there was a William’s Coffee House at 86, St James’s Street, owned by one, Roger Williams who died at the end of 1745. This led us off on a will hunting expedition.

According to his will, which was proven 15th January 1746, he left his family well provided for as you would expect or at least hope for, but also amongst other things, he left to a Mr Francis Pitt of Newmarket, his gold stop watch and to:

‘his great benefactor, the Earl of Godolphin all his pictures painted by Mr. Wootton’.

Mr Wootton would appear to be the artist, John Wootton (c. 1682-1764) who was renowned for his paintings of horses, unfortunately for us, Roger Williams remained vague as to which of his paintings he owned, which is such a shame, however it does rather seem to confirm that Williams had a strong connection with the horse racing fraternity.

As Williams also named a Francis Pitt of Newmarket, we set off to see if there was anything of interest in his will, he died in 1759. There was – he too made a bequest to the Earl of Godolphin.

Wootton, John; Tregonwell Frampton (1641-1727), 'Father of the Turf'; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey; 
Wootton, John; Tregonwell Frampton (1641-1727), ‘Father of the Turf’; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey;

Looking at the paintings by Wootton we spotted this one above, of the ‘Father of the Turf’, Tregonwell Frampton, who died at Newmarket in 1727, so decided that his will might be interesting and once again, sure enough the Earl of Godolphin’s name was there in black and white – he inherited all of Frampton’s estate, he inherited all Frampton’s horses, that were stabled at Gog Magog, Newmarket, plus two that he stated were originally to be left to the Marquis of Blandford, plus land he owned in Dorset and Wiltshire. *

This, in turn, led us to look at the will of Edward Coke, owner of Longford Hall, Derbyshire and former owner of the horse Godolphin, he died 1733 his bingo, yet again, look whose names appeared:

I give to the Right Honourable, the Earl of Godolphin all my running horses and mares and stud; to Mr Roger Williams all my stallions.

Butler, Thomas; The Godolphin Arabian; Norfolk Museums Service; 
Butler, Thomas; The Godolphin Arabian; Norfolk Museums Service;

So, yet again there was a connection between the 2nd Earl of Godolphin and Roger Williams.  This is nicely confirmed for us in this extract from The Turf Register, dated 1803. 

We also noticed another newspaper report in the Newcastle Courant dated 27 January 1733 which once again confirmed the Duke of Bolton’s connection to the Jockey Club.

The Duke of Bolton who has been dangerously ill, is pretty well recover’d and on Monday next is to dine with the Jockey Club, at William’s Coffee House, St. James’s.

This find, in turn, led us back to an even earlier entry for the Jockey Club itself, dated August 2nd, 1729 in the Daily Post which stated that:

The Jockey Club, consisting of several noblemen and gentlemen, are to meet one day next week at Hackwood, the Duke of Bolton’s seat in Hampshire, to consider methods for the better keeping of their respective strings of horses at Newmarket.

Wootton, John; Young True Blue at Newmarket; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; 
Wootton, John; Young True Blue at Newmarket; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology;

Then, we found that Williams Coffee House had strong connections with sport and Newmarket even earlier, as recorded in Mist’s Weekly Journal, Saturday, March 16, 1728.

We hear from William’s Coffee House, hat several matches re made already to be run at Newmarket, in next April and October; particularly, that Sir Edward O’Brien has laid a considerable wager that his little Sett of cropp’d Duns draw him, in his chariot, to Newmarket in 12 hours.

In conclusion, we are left with several questions –

Did the Jockey Club originate in 1753 or was it, as we suggest significantly earlier?

Why did the 2nd Earl of Godolphin benefit from so many people’s wills, was he a really nice person or was this gambling debts being paid off?

Could the 2nd Earl of Godolphin have been one of the founder members of the Jockey Club?

We will probably never know the answer to these for sure unless you have any information that may solve these!

*We had come across the name Tregonwell Frampton in an earlier post ‘William Parsons: 18th Century highwayman, swindler and rogue, we’re sure that there must be a connection to Mary Tregonwell Frampton of Kensington, the daughter of John Frampton, but so far this is the only piece of evidence that appears to link them, but we cannot confirm this.

Notes and Queries Volume s13-1 Issue 3 21 July 1923
Notes and Queries Volume s13-1 Issue 3 21 July 1923

 

Sources

The Jockey Club

Pedigree Online all Breed Database

British History Online

The Jockey Club and its Founders: In Three Periods

Godolphin Club

 

Featured Image

Horse Race at Newmarket (The Duke of Bolton’s ‘Bay Bolton’ defeating the Duke of Somerset’s Grey ‘Windham’ at Newmarket on either 12th November 1712 or 4th April 1713) John Wootton (c.1682–1764) National Trust, Petworth House

Dennis O’Kelly and his horse ‘Eclipse’

For those of you who read our recent post ‘The Mysterious Marriages of Thomas Nelson you may have noticed the name Charlotte Hayes aka O’Kelly, well, for those who didn’t, Charlotte was a very successful brothel keeper, who co-habited (for there seems to be no proof that they married) with a gentleman by the name of Dennis O’Kelly, with whom they had one child Mary Charlotte.

Much has been written about O’Kelly, so we won’t re-tell the alleged story of his life as much more can be found by following this link, but suffice it say that he was born around 1725 in Ireland, moved to London where he became a sedan chair carrier, but found fame and wealth courtesy of horse racing. He as reputed to be quite a character – Mr, Captain, Major or Colonel, a disreputable adventurer.

Dennis O'Kelly ('The Eclipse Macarony') published by Matthew or Matthias Darly, after Richard St George Mansergh St George etching, published 12 May 1773. Courtesy of NPG
published by Matthew or Matthias Darly, after Richard St George Mansergh St George, etching, published 12 May 1773. Courtesy of NPG

Whilst reading about him, however, we came across several caricatures of him and one cameo, but then we came across a portrait of him in a 1932 newspaper, which states that the portrait was painted by Johan Zoffany which seems curious as it doesn’t appear to have been recorded anywhere so far as we can tell – so perhaps one of our lovely art historians may be able to shed some light as to its validity and possible location now. Whether the newspaper got their facts correct, who knows – possibly ‘fake news’, as it appears was this report about Charlotte having inherited the horse ‘Eclipse’.

Leeds Intelligencer 29 May 1770

A morning paper says, a Gentleman of the Turf, who died lately of a fit of the stone, has left his fortune, which is very considerable to the celebrated Charlotte Hayes; among this is his horse Eclipse.

There seems no other mention of Charlotte having had any part in the purchase of the horse, every source we have checked states that O’Kelly purchased him from his owner, William Wildman, a meat salesman of Newgate market, in two stages, 650 guineas in June 1769 and a further 1,100 guineas April 1770.

The only possibility could be that she did invest some of the money she apparently was left by Samuel Derrick, who died March 1769, but there were mixed rumours as to whether he actually left any money of where he died penniless, so who knows what the truth is.

Colonel Dennis O'Kelly by Johann Zoffany
Colonel Dennis O’Kelly by Johann Zoffany (image reproduced in the Illustrated London News, 4th June 1932).

O’Kelly became what today we would regard as nouveau riche as a result of his knowledge of horses and gambling made a small fortune and bought the famous horse ‘Eclipse’.

Eclipse, bred in 1764 by the Duke of Cumberland.
Eclipse, bred in 1764 by the Duke of Cumberland. Charles Hunt after George Stubbs.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

‘Eclipse’ was born 1764 and named after the solar eclipse that occurred on April 1st of that year. It seems that the horse could not be beaten and won 18 races and was then put out to stud and appears in the pedigree of most modern thoroughbreds. So, we thought we would take a look at some of the many paintings of him.

Portrait of Eclipse in a landscape with Mr William Wildman and his sons by George Stubbs
Portrait of Eclipse in a landscape with Mr William Wildman and his sons by George Stubbs (image reproduced in The London Illustrated News, 4th June 1932).
Eclipse with her mother Spiletta
Eclipse with her mother Spiletta

O’Kelly died December 28th, 1787 and Eclipse died February 26th, 1789. Upon the death of O’Kelly, Charlotte was left well provided for in his will, but despite all her acquired wealth towards the end of her life, she found herself back in the debtors prison. Charlotte died in unknown circumstances in 1813.

Featured Image

‘Eclipse’ by John Nost Sartorius (1759–1828), National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art

Cheltenham High Street, Gloucestershire; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

18th Century ‘Flying Machines’

No, not aeroplanes – coaches. The concept of flying coaches seems to date back to the late 1600s when there were advertisements in the newspapers for lengthy journeys being undertaken by means of these. Looking at these adverts there must have been coaches crisscrossing the country all day every day, so we thought we would share a few with you.

City Mercury, Monday, July 4, 1692

Post Man and the Historical Account, June 21, 1698

Nottingham Flying Coach in two days twice every week. Sets out from Nottingham every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 4 o’clock and will be at the Ram Inn West Smithfield, London the next day, and set out from The Ram Inn, West Smithfield, every Tuesday and Thursday.

Performed if God permit, by Charles Hood, Richard Tuffin and Edward Wilkinson.

Miseries of Travelling
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole

Daily Post, Saturday, April 3, 1731

Daventry Flying stage-coach in one day with three sets of able horses. Begins on Saturday 17th April from The Ram Inn in West-Smithfield, London to Mr James Pratt’s at The Black Boy, Daventry; and returns to The Ram Inn in West-Smithfield on Mondays and will continue all the Summer Season, at Fifteen Shillings each passenger. The coach sets out at Two in the morning precisely. Performed, if God permit, by Thomas Smith.

Francis Blewitt's Coach 'The Abingdon Machine' on its first journey from London, 1767 (although the first journey was actually made in 1761)
British (English) School; Francis Blewitt’s Coach, ‘The Abingdon Machine’, on Its First Journey from London; Abingdon Town Council;  Dated 1767, however, according to this advert below, the first journey was in fact made in 1761.

1761  – The Abingdon coach began flying on Wednesday 8th April according to the Oxford Journal

Sets out from the New Inn, in Abingdon every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 5 o’clock in the morning, to the Black Bull in Holborn; and returns every Monday. Wednesday and Friday. The far to and from Abingdon –

Ten Shillings: children in lap and outside passengers Five Shillings. Inside passengers are allowed to carry Fourteen Pounds in weight, all above to pay for.

N.B No plate, jewels, writings or other things of great value to be paid for, if left, unless entered and paid for as such.

Performed, if God permits by Francis Blewitt.

The Henley Coach Ten Miles from London
British (English) School; The Henley Coach Ten Miles from London; Henley Town Council;

On the same day, the same newspaper also carried this advert –

 Bew’s flying machine to London was advertised, again travelling three time a week. Sets out from The Bear Inn, in the High Street, Oxford, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to The Black Bull Inn, in Holborn; and returns to Oxford every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Sets out at six o’clock in the morning.

Performed by John Bew

The London to Birmingham Stage Coach
Cordrey, John; The London to Birmingham Stage Coach; Science Museum, London

These coaches were built to carry four passengers inside and no more than six riding on top, but like public transport today there was over crowding, so a contraption was added to the rear, which was a type of basket, known as the rumble tumble that designed to carry the luggage. It was not meant to carry passengers, but as you can see from this picture by Hogarth perhaps it did, but it would have been extremely uncomfortable, worse than riding inside with no springs or on top where you would have been exposed to the elements.

The Stage Coach, or Country Inn Yard, by Hogarth, 1748
The Stage Coach, or Country Inn Yard, by Hogarth, 1748. Courtesy of the Met Museum

 

Featured Image

Cheltenham High Street, Gloucestershire; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

The Tragic Tale of the Death of Ann Hoon, 1796

When aged just twenty-one years of age, Ann Rollstone was married to Thomas Hoon, a labourer, at the parish church in Longford, Derbyshire, about six miles from the town of Ashbourne. Just nine months later the couple produced their first child, a beautiful baby girl whom they named, Elizabeth.

Longford Church. © sarumsleuth via Flickr
Longford Church. © sarumsleuth via Flickr

Tragically though their joy at this birth was to be short-lived as the child died the following April. Despite this loss and unknown to Ann at the time, she was already pregnant with their second child, another daughter whom they named Ann, after her mother. Ann was born at the end of January 1795.

The couple’s life continued as it did for most people, with Ann looking after the home and raising their daughter and Thomas going out to work.

In March 1796, this picture of domestic bliss was about to end abruptly as the story will now show from Ann’s trial at Derby Assizes. This tragic story came to the attention of the newspapers of the day due to its unusual nature.

On Friday last this poor creature, who is the wife of a laboring man, was about to heat her oven, and being short of wood, had broken down a rail or two from the fencing round the plantation of a gentleman in the neighbourhood, some of her neighbours threatened her with prosecution and told her she would be transported for it.

This so much alarmed her mind and the idea of being separated from her child, whom she had always appeared remarkably fond of, so wrought on her imagination, that she formed the horrible design of putting her to death, in order that, by surrendering herself into the hands of justice, she might be executed for the murder, and so be forever reunited in heaven with the baby whom she had loved more than life.

(Kentish Gazette, 22nd March 1796)

Her story continues – no sooner had her husband had gone to work she began to hatch a plan to put this dreadful thing into action. She decided that the best way to do this was to fill a large tub with water and plunge the child into to it causing it to drown. However, when she took the child in her arms and was just about to plunge her into the water, the baby, smiling up at the mother’s face, disarmed her for the moment, and Anne found herself unable to commit the dreadful act.

Having composed herself, she then lulled the baby to sleep at her breast, wrapped a cloth around her and plunged her into the tub, and held her under water till life became extinct.

She took the baby out of the tub and carefully laid her dead body on the bed. She then collected up her hat and cloak, went outside, locking her street door after her, and took the key to a neighbours for her husband to collect when he returned from work.

She then proceeded to walk about eight miles to a magistrate (which would, in all likelihood have been at Derby). When she arrived, she knocked on the door and asked to be admitted. Ann then proceeded to tell the magistrate the whole story, desperately wishing to be executed immediately for what she had done.

Derby Prison as it was previous to the riots of 1831.
Derby Prison. Courtesy of British Library

About an hour after she had left, her husband, Thomas, returned home from work and to his very great shock and dismay he found his dear little infant lying stretched out on the bed. It had such an effect upon Thomas, that he was insensible for quite some time. When he had composed himself he enquired of neighbours as to whether they knew where his wife was and was told that she went out about an hour earlier, but no-one knew where she had gone. Distraught he simply sat down by his dead infant and waited for Ann to return.

Derbyshire Assizes. © Enjoying Derby via Flickr
Derbyshire Assizes. © Enjoying Derby via Flickr

Ann did not get her wish of execution but was instead sent for trial at Derby Assizes whereupon it transpired that there had, in fact, been ‘many instances of insanity over the past four years’ and it was felt that this was the most likely cause of her dramatic action. This mitigating evidence was taken into consideration by the jury and somewhat surprisingly they found her … not guilty of such a heinous crime. It is well known that at that time many juries were reluctant to convict women of intentional killing and in fact, infanticide was not particularly rare during the Georgian Era and there are quite a few cases that appeared at The Old Bailey.

What became of the couple after this terrible event remains a mystery, did they return to the marital home in Longford or did they move elsewhere? There are baptism records for a William and a Thomas Hoon at Derby in 1800 and 1805 respectively, with parents named as Thomas and Ann Hoon: could the couple have moved to Derby for a fresh start? We may never know, we can only hope.

 

Featured Image

Family Sitting Outside a Rural Cottage, Attributed to George Morland, Courtesy of Buxton Museum

Martha Gunn (1726-1815), Brighton 'dipper'

Martha Gunn – Brighton Celebrity

We’re not quite sure that Martha’s claim to fame would work in today’s celebrity culture, for Martha, who was born Martha Killick daughter of Friend and Anne Killick in 1726 (baptized 19 September 1731) , was a ‘dipper‘. Much has been written about her already, but we thought we would add a few extra bits.

'A Calm' by James Gillray (1810).
‘A Calm’ by James Gillray (1810). Courtesy of Princeton University Library

What was a ‘dipper’? Well, in the 1700 and early 1800s doctors would recommend that people bath in sea water to restore their health. Needless to say this concept was terrifying for many, so in places such as Brighton people were employed as ‘dippers‘.

Huts on wheels, like the one below were used to allow the bather to protect their modesty, the bather would climb into the hut, change into their swimming attire, the machine was then pulled by dippers into the sea. Dippers were also expected to ensure that people were not swept away by the current, arguably like a modern day lifeguard, so they would need to be very strong.

Bathing machine at Weymouth
Weymouth

This occupation in itself was never going to give Martha celebrity status, but her royal connection to the Prince of Wales, later George IV, did. She was a favourite of his and apparently enjoyed special privileges including free access to the kitchen at the Royal Pavilion.

The portrait of her below, is reputed to show Martha holding the Prince of Wales as a small child, however, this is not feasible as  the Prince did not visit Brighton until September 7th, 1783, he was 21. So despite the annotation at the top of the painting this must have been added at a later stage.

Todd’s print catalogue of 1799 simply described the painting as being with an unnamed child

There was also another copy of the piece produced by William Nutter which is now held by The Met, dated 1797. It does not state that the child was the Prince of Wales, but that the original was in his possession and this one was dedicated to the Prince of Wales.

V0017100 Martha Gunn, a Brighton bather holding a small child that she has just saved from drowning.
Coloured engraving by W. Nutter, 1797, after J. Russell.
1797 By: John Russellafter: William NutterPublished: 1 June 1797

It also appeared in the following catalogue which confirmed the artist to be John Russell – ‘A catalogue of all the capital and valuable finished and unfinished original works of the distinguished artist, John Russell, Esq. R.A where it was to be sold along with other paintings by Mr. Christie on February 14th, 1807.

Martha Gunn and the Prince of Wales by John Russell
Martha Gunn and the Prince of Wales by John Russell; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries
The Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV born 1762 and Mrs Gunn

Martha was a large and strong woman and was well respected by the town and she even featured in the caricature below.

A scene at Brighton; some Frenchmen have landed on the beach; others are in broad clumsy boats which have left French men-of-war. In the foreground old women and yokels are dealing with the invaders. A woman resembling Martha Gunn, the bathing-woman, trampling on prostrate bodies, holds out at arm's length a kicking French soldier. Courtesy of British Museum
A scene at Brighton; some Frenchmen have landed on the beach; others are in broad clumsy boats which have left French men-of-war. In the foreground old women and yokels are dealing with the invaders. A woman resembling Martha Gunn, the bathing-woman, trampling on prostrate bodies, holds out at arm’s length a kicking French soldier. Courtesy of British Museum

She died in May 1815 and was buried in the local churchyard.

Hampshire Chronicle, 15th May 1815

Long after her death a plaque was added to the house where she and her family lived.

Plaque on the Brighton house where Martha Gunn lived. It says: Martha Gunn 1727-1815, the original bathing woman lived here.

Featured Image

British School; Martha Gunn (1726-1815); Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries