Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843) c.1792-3. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The First Duke of Sussex

In light of the news that His Royal Highness, Prince Harry, will become the Duke of Sussex upon his marriage to Meghan Markle, we thought we should take a brief look at the previous holder of the title.

Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Prince Augustus Frederick was the sixth son of King George III and had this title conferred upon him in November 1801. Even then there was fake news, as we quickly found out. The media were frantically reporting that Prince Augustus Frederick was to become the Duke of Cambridge and that his brother Adolphus was to be the Duke of Sussex. Quite how the media managed to get it back to front we’re really not sure, but it took them almost a month to get the titles correct. Either way, we have two brothers granted the titles Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex.

Finally, on 30th November 1801, this statement appeared naming the correct holders of the titles

The King has been pleased to grant his most dearly beloved son Prince Augustus Frederick and to the heirs male of his Royal Highness’s body lawfully begotten, the dignities of Baron of Arklow, Earl of Inverness and Duke of Sussex, of the United Kingdom and Great Britain and Ireland.

The King has also been pleased to grant to his most dearly beloved son Prince Adolphus Frederick and to the heirs male of his Royal Highness’s body lawfully begotten, the dignities of Baron of Culloden, Earl of Tipperary and Duke of Cambridge, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

The conferring of the title upon Prince Augustus Frederick meant that his heirs would also automatically be granted the title, but this was not to be the case as the prince married Lady Augusta Murray. Their marriage contravened the Royal Marriages Act  as they were first married abroad, then married in England but without fully identifying themselves, nor did they seek permission from the monarch.

Lady Augusta Murray by Richard Cosway. Gregory Allicar Museum of Art at Colorado State University
Lady Augusta Murray by Richard Cosway. Gregory Allicar Museum of Art at Colorado State University

The couple did, it was reported, attend church three times to have their banns read, but the clergyman who married them assumed that Frederick was the prince’s surname as no title was given.

5th December 1793 at St George's Hanover Square, the couple were married as Augustus Frederick and Augusta Murray
5th December 1793 at St George’s Hanover Square, the couple were married as Augustus Frederick and Augusta Murray

This married was annulled but the couple remained together and had two children, both of whom would of course now be illegitimate. However, the union was not to last and in 1801, the couple went their separate ways.

Prince Augustus was married a second time in 1831, to Lady Cecilia Gore, but managed a second marriage that contravened the Royal Marriage Act as once again he did not seek royal approval also and possibly, more importantly, the marriage was morganatic, i.e. she was not a royal princess. Despite this, they remained together until his death in April 1843.

Cecilia, Duchess of Inverness, miniature by Jane North. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Cecilia, Duchess of Inverness, miniature by Jane North.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

It has been announced that Apartment 1 at Kensington Palace is being renovated ready for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex to move into. Interestingly, this apartment was the former home of the first Duke of Sussex and his second wife, Cecilia, too.

London Courier and Evening Gazette 07 January 1805
London Courier and Evening Gazette 07 January 1805

When they occupied it the apartment was much larger and encompassed the one now known as 1A, which is currently the home of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and his family.

A Front View of the Royal Palace of Kensington, 1751. At the far left, at right angles, stands what is now Apartment 1 which is being renovated for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Linking that to the main palace is the apartment now occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Apartment 1A.
A Front View of the Royal Palace of Kensington, 1751. At the far left, at right angles, stands what is now Apartment 1 which is being renovated for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Linking that to the main palace is the apartment now occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Apartment 1A. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

We have written about other royal marriages too. Did you know that a Romany girl married one of Prince Harry’s direct ancestors? Which scandalous elopement is one of the skeletons in the royal family’s closet? Click here to find out more.

Sources Used 

Kentish Gazette 31 January 1794 

Chester Chronicle 31 January 1794

Featured Image

Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843)  c.1792-3, Watercolour on ivory | RCIN 420975 by Edward Miles (1752-1828). Courtesy of the Royal Collection.



Windsor Castle in the Georgian Era

Having looked at the landau and royal weddings, how could we not report on Windsor Castle. So, we have some news for you from the Georgian Era.

The Norman Gate and Deputy Governor's House, Windsor Castle; Paul Sandby
The Norman Gate and Deputy Governor’s House, Windsor Castle; Paul Sandby; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Breaking News

In October 1804 his Majesty, King George III was determined to no longer reside at the Queen’s House, in the Park, but to remain altogether at Windsor, those who have apartments in Windsor Castle, including the George, Prince of Wales and other Princes, have been desired to remove, as their apartments will in future be required for the accommodation of his Majesty’s family. Orders have been given, it is said, to remove the Royal Library, one of the finest in the country, and everything else connected with the convenience or pleasure of his Majesty’s residence at Windsor, from the Queen’s house, in the Park. The Duke of Gloucester will also quit Cranford Lodge, and the Honourable George Villiers, brother to Lord Clarendon, will in future reside there, and have a very confidential place in the superintendence of his Majesty’s private concerns. He will now come to town only on specific occasions.

View of Windsor Castle from the River Thames; British (English) School
View of Windsor Castle from the River Thames; British (English) School; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey.

In Traffic News

In our next piece of news, we hear of something which many of us living in the UK today will be familiar with – the high volumes of traffic. Clearly, it was no different in 1789!

Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane; Paul Sandby
Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane; Paul Sandby; Royal Collection Trust

The King’s most Excellent Majesty has been graciously pleased to make a road from Windsor over Cranbourn Chance thro’ Windsor Forest, leading to the rural villages of Winkfield, Warfield and Binfield to Reading, which is allowed to be the most delightful ride of any in this kingdom, from the many beautiful and picturesque views of seats and parks of several noblemen and gentleman the whole way.

The great annoyance generally complained of by persons travelling the other road, are the frequent obstruction by droves of oxen, sheep and cattle, stage-coaches, road-waggons and carriages, is such a to render if very disagreeable.

The pleasant and elevated situation of Windsor and its castle, dignified by royalty, has ever been the just admiration of foreigners and natives alike.

Windsor Castle from the Old Bridge; Augustus Wall Callcott
Windsor Castle from the Old Bridge; Augustus Wall Callcott; Laing Art Gallery.

Improvements to Windsor Castle

Also, from 1801 we hear the King finds much amusement in inspecting the improvements at Windsor Castle and the building of the Royal Palace at Kew. His Majesty, George III, rises regularly at seven o’clock, breakfasts at eight with the Royal family; from nine till eleven views the progress of the workmen. Every window in the castle is to be replaced with stained glass.

George III on on of Windsor Castle's terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling, c.1807
George III on one of Windsor Castle’s terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling; Royal Collection Trust

Visitors to Windsor

On 27th October 1804, the Kentish Gazette reported that:

Sunday morning the royal family attended divine service at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. As their majesties passed through the courtyard, the 10th Regiment of Light Dragoons and the Staffordshire militia were drawn up, the bands of each playing. A number of spectators were assembled to see their sovereign.

The Staffordshire Militia on Parade at Windsor Castle; Arthur William Devis
The Staffordshire Militia on Parade at Windsor Castle; Arthur William Devis; National Army Museum

We have some sad news to bring you from 18th May 1800.

William Dick Esquire, Governor of the Poor Knights and for nearly 40 years King’s Clerk, and Clerk of the papers at the Mint and the oldest messenger in his Majesty’s service has died at Windsor Castle, aged 91.

And finally, …

New for the 9th February 1801 was the production of:

Transparent Spring Blinds

Amongst the many ingenious and useful inventions which characterise the present age, the above new idea may be said to have a more than common share of attraction. Transparencies on a small scale drawn on silk, have been much admired; but the taste of the artist has been hitherto confined within very narrow bounds. The invention, above named, gives ample scope for the exercise of talents, and from a happy combination of art and nature, the glowing tints are preserved, and the perspective being kept up by a minute attention to trifling objects in the foreground, the general landscape appears with the happiest effects.

The elegance and utility of this article promise to render it of the first estimation in the eyes of the fashionable world. The Queen has already patronised the idea and a set being made already for Buckingham House and Windsor Castle, from drawings taken of different parts of the country to which her Majesty is most attached.

Windsor Castle; David Cox the elder
Windsor Castle; David Cox the elder; Lady Lever Art Gallery

Featured Image

British (English) School; View of Windsor Castle from the River Thames; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey.

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

Art Detectives: a new perspective on the portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle

In our previous blog about the turban that Dido Elizabeth Belle was wearing in the portrait of her with her cousin, the Honourable Lady Elizabeth Murray, we mentioned that the portrait was reputed to have been painted by Johann Zoffany and we promised to give you an update with some new information, so here we go.

We now know more about the turban, courtesy of one of our lovely readers, Etienne Daly, who has been diligently researching Dido for some considerable years now.

The turban that Dido was wearing was not merely a fashion statement but was a gift to her from her father, Sir John Lindsay, so it was not part of a portrait ‘costume’ as had been assumed.

Sir John was invested as a Knight of the Bath in an extravagant ceremony in India on 11th March 1771.

A sketch of Sir John Lindsay KB, Prince Of Arcot (and father of Dido Elizabeth Belle), as he would have looked around the time of his investiture at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, India on 11th March 1771 when he was the King's ambassador to India. By Ian Sciacaluga.
A sketch of Sir John Lindsay KB, Prince Of Arcot (and father of Dido Elizabeth Belle), as he would have looked around the time of his investiture at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, India on 11th March 1771 when he was the King’s ambassador to India.

At that time he was presented with ‘a very rich dress of gold brocade, made after the European manner with the star upon the left breast,’ a ring with several titles engraved on it in Persian and a turban, all given by Nawab Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah. It is also understood that, at the same time, Sir  John was bestowed the title of Prince of Arcot by the ruling Nawab who was an ally of the East India Company.

Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot by Tilly Kettle, c.1772-1776. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot by Tilly Kettle, c.1772-1776. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We think it seems a lovely gesture that she would wear it as a ‘nod’ to her father, in the only known portrait of her. 

Dido Elizabeth Belle

If you look closely at the turban you will notice that it sparkles; it was studded with gold and diamonds. You will also note the presence of a black ostrich feather at the back of the turban. Now, this was a fashion statement! It is also worth mentioning that the fashion of the day was to wear rouge and Dido was no exception to this.

Ostrich feathers were all the rage in the mid-1770s and Dido’s uncle, Viscount Stormont bought some back from Paris in 1774. Perhaps he gave one to Dido and following the fashion, she added it to the turban?

The preposterous head dress, or the featherd lady, 1776.
The preposterous headdress, or the featherd lady, 1776. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Viscount Stormont also presented one to the Duchess of Devonshire on his return, and being the fashion doyenne of the day, she sent the fashion world into a spin by adding it to her hat. This sparked the caricaturists into a frenzy, creating the most elaborate caricatures with the largest of plumes, as you can see above.

The Duchess of Devonshire by Joshua Reynolds.
The Duchess of Devonshire by Joshua Reynolds.

It has to be said that the Duchess of Devonshire was mocked mercilessly and according to the British Museum:

Lady Louisa Stuart wrote in her old age of “the outrageous zeal manifested against the first introduction of ostrich feathers as a headdress. This fashion was not attacked as fantastic or unbecoming or inconvenient or expensive, but as seriously wrong or immoral. The unfortunate feathers were insulted mobbed burned almost pelted…”. 

Massachusetts colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson by Edward Truman
Massachusetts colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson by Edward Truman. Massachusetts Historical Society

When Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts, dined with Lord Mansfield in 1779 he met Dido and recorded the following in his diary:

A black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies, and after coffee, walked with the company in the gardens, one of the young ladies having her arm within the other. She had a very high cap and her wool was much frizzled in her neck, but not enough to answer the large curls now in fashion. She is neither handsome nor genteel – pert enough.

We now move on to look at the artist of the portrait. It has long been reputed to have been painted by Johann (John) Zoffany, but this is now disputed, and to this day it remains ‘artist unknown’.

It is acknowledged that Zoffany went to Europe for several years, finally returning to England at some stage in 1779 the very year that the portrait was reputed to have been painted.

From the account of his life, John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810, it tells us that he remained in Coblenz well into the summer of 1779. Although not impossible, it certainly would have given him little time to have painted Dido on his return. So, if we discount Zoffany that leaves only a few other possible artists, two of whom we think were feasible. One would be Allan Ramsay’s protégé’s David Martin, who was known to the family as he painted the stunning portrait of Lord Mansfield.

William Murray (1705-1793), 1st Earl of Mansfield; David Martin
William Murray (1705-1793), 1st Earl of Mansfield; David Martin; English Heritage, Kenwood

The slight difficulty we have with the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth Murray being painted by Martin is that again there is a question as to whether he was still living in England in 1779 or if he had returned to his native Scotland. Certainly, we know that in 1780 Martin was in Scotland when he was admitted to the Royal Company of Archers. Again, the dates are tight.

If it was definitively painted in 1779, then it is feasible that he could have at least had some input into the work, especially as Ramsay had severely injured his hand a few years previously which stopped him taking on any major projects.

The other difficulty we have with Martin is that Etienne has checked Lord Mansfield’s accounts. There is no record of Lord Mansfield having paid him for such a work and it seems unlikely that Martin would have painted it for no recompense. So, that leaves only the principal painter to the King (George III), Allan Ramsay, and although we don’t have the expertise to validate this, with the research we have done it would appear far more likely that it was painted by him. Why? Well, there are several reasons to suppose this.

Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756.
Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756. National Galleries Scotland.

Firstly, we understand that the portrait was commissioned by Lord Mansfield, but there is no record in his accounts of him paying for any such portraiture.

Secondly, given the socially precarious position Dido held in Georgian society, then why not ‘keep it in the family’? Especially when you have an extremely distinguished portrait artist as an uncle to call upon, in the guise of none other than the Scottish portrait painter, Allan Ramsay who was married to Margaret Lindsay, the sister of Sir John Lindsay.

The Artist's Wife: Margaret Lindsay of Evelick, c 1726 - 1782 by Allan Ramsay.
The Artist’s Wife: Margaret Lindsay of Evelick, c 1726 – 1782 by Allan Ramsay. National Galleries Scotland

Thirdly, despite an earlier family ‘falling out’ over Ramsay being not regarded as a suitable match for Sir John’s sister, we know that the family had been reconciled and Ramsay was, at this time, close to Dido’s extended family. Amongst his paintings, there was one, if not two portraits of Sir John Lindsay himself, so again, it would seem natural for him to paint his illegitimate daughter. Ramsay also named Lord Mansfield and Sir John Lindsay in his will, another sign of the close familial ties.

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

Finally, the posing of the subjects in the painting appears very relaxed and informal as if being painted by someone the girls knew well and were comfortable with.

Hopefully one day someone will be able to validate the artist and settle that unanswered question once and for all.

To see the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth in situ, it would be well worth a visit to Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland or to the home, where she spent many of her years, Kenwood  House (Caenwood as it was formerly known as), Hampstead.


The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland by Sir James Balfour Paul

General Evening Post, September 14, 1771 – September 17, 1771

English Common Law in the Age of Mansfield, by James Oldham

John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810

Landscape with Carriage and Horses by William Ashford (1746-1824).

The Georgian Landau

It has been announced that HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have chosen to use the Ascot Landau carriage at their wedding, assuming the weather stays fine, so we thought we would take a very quick look at the Landau, as it was first used in Britain in the 18th-century, but  was named after the German city of Landau in the Rhenish Palatinate where it was first produced. Today, the royal family presently have five Landau’s, all of which are post-Georgian.

Miseries of human life, 1808.
Isaac Cruikshank c1808. Lewis Walpole Library

A Landau is a coachbuilding term for a four-wheeled luxury convertible carriage. Its main feature was that it had a low body which gave maximum visibility of the occupants and their clothing, so ideal for processions and for the gentry in all their finery to be seen by onlookers.

1827-1828 Landau. British Museum
1827-1828 Landau. British Museum

The earliest reference to a Landau being used in England that we have found dates to July 1738 in the London Evening Post.

Last night his Grace the Duke of Marlborough, accompanied by Lord Hervey, Henry Fox Esq and another person of distinction, arrived in town in a landau and six, from Sir Robert Walpole’s seat at Houghton Hall in Norfolk.

Princess Amelia (1711-1786) by Christian Friedrich Zincke, c.1729-30.
Princess Amelia (1711-1786) by Christian Friedrich Zincke, c.1729-30. Royal Collection Trust

Clearly even in the 1750s the public enjoyed catching a glimpse of members of the royal family as this report from Bath in August 1752 describes.

Princess Amelia, (daughter of George II) arrived here in an open Landau, attended by a large retinue, and escorted by some of the Oxford Blues. Her Royal Highness passed through the city and went on to the seat of Ralph Allen Esq. The bells rang, the cannon were fired, and the flag was displayed on the Tower. Her Royal Highness walked publicly about on Saturday and yesterday, and numbers of people flocked from all parts of the country to see her.

1809 - Patent Landau - Ackermann's Repository
1809 – Patent Landau – Ackermann’s Repository

Ascot, was, as it is today, the place to see and to be seen. Amongst others was have a report from June 1786 in the London Chronicle that ‘their majesties were yesterday on the Ascot race ground, in an open Landau, with the younger branches of the Royal family. They partook of a cold repast in their carriage, consisting of ham and chicken’. It seems highly unlikely that Prince Harry and his new bride will be dining in theirs, to be honest!

One clearly had to be looking at one’s best when on display as the comment about the Prince of Wales showed in this report from the Whitehall Evening Post of May 1800 ‘The Prince of Wales, on Friday, took an airing in his open landau and looked considerably better than his Royal Highness has been for some months past.’

The Vis-a-Vis Bisected

It was quite common for the newspapers to report when a member of the aristocracy had a new landau built as can be seen here in this advertisement in the Morning Post, 4th November 1818.It was quite common for the newspapers to report when a member of the aristocracy had a new landau built as can be seen here in this advertisement in the Morning Post, 4th November 1818.

This one gives you an idea of how much they cost from The Suffolk Chronicle; or Weekly General Advertiser & County Express. 13 April 1816


A very handsome Landau Barouche, town-built, nearly new, the property of a gentleman going abroad. Price 80 Guineas.

1816 Landau, wind-up side windows and fore-runner to the convertible car
1816 Landau, wind-up side windows and fore-runner to the convertible car

That was a cheap one in comparison to this one in the Hampshire Chronicle of July 1816 for a Landaulet, which was a cutdown or coupe version of the Landau


A handsome Landaulet, nearly as good as new on its first wheels; cost 320 guineas – lowest price 200 guineas.

It seems that no expense was spared when a new landau was required.

It seems that no expense was spared when a new landau was required.

Our final image is a sketch of  Landau by the coachbuilders Hooper & Co. Unfortunately, this sketch is not dated, but the company was founded in 1805. The seal says that by then they were ‘coachbuilders to her Majesty and the Prince of Wales’.

Carriage Design: A Square Landau undated Pen and black ink, watercolor and collage Sheet: 5 1/2 × 10 1/4 inches (14 × 26 cm) Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Carriage Design: A Square Landau undated Pen and black ink, watercolor and collage Sheet: 5 1/2 × 10 1/4 inches (14 × 26 cm) Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Sources used

London Evening Post (London, England), July 20, 1738 – July 22, 1738

General Advertiser (1744) (London, England), Thursday, August 13, 1752

Featured Image

Landscape with Carriage and Horses – William Ashford – Ulster Museum

Sketch of a ball at Almack's 1815, from The reminiscences and recollections of Captain Gronow, being anecdotes of the camp, court, clubs and society, 1810-1860. Beau Brummell is to the left, deep in conversation with the Duchess of Rutland.

The Cut of the Clothes: A Story of Prinny and Beau Brummell

It is our pleasure to welcome a new guest to our blog. She writes under the nom de plume of Erato. Her latest book is a fictional account of the relationship between Prinny, the Prince of Wales and the infamous George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell.

Why should a story about beauty and fashion be about a bunch of men? — When Beau Brummell takes centre stage, what else can the book be about?

The Regency Dandy, Beau Brummell
Beau Brummell

Many modern grooming habits, which we take for granted today, were established by Beau Brummell. These include the exclusively drab colours for men’s formalwear, the absence of lace and frills, and the practice of bathing daily. (Brummell’s bathing habits were so mystifying to the Regency gentlemen that they actually lined up at his house to watch him bathe every morning — a lengthy procedure, as the Beau was quite thorough about it, taking as much as two hours to complete his washing).

A Dandy, c.1818.
A Dandy c.1818. Lewis Walpole Library

In The Cut of the Clothes, we learn about Brummell from the viewpoint of his famous friend and rival, the Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent, later King George IV. It was the Prince’s support that allowed Brummell to claim the sort of influence he obtained over the London ton, but soon the young Beau began to overshadow his mentor’s influence. Famously, when someone once asked what Brummell would do if he lost the Prince’s support, he quipped, I’ll cut young George and make a fashion of the old one. (The old one being the Prince’s father, George III.)

The practice of social “cutting” was what led to perhaps the most famous piece of Brummelliana: when the Prince at last became fed up with Brummell’s insults, he cut Brummell, and made his decision clear at a party.

As it is told in The Cut of the Clothes, from the Prince’s viewpoint:

He had lately won an almost unheard of £20,000 at the table. To commemorate this achievement, he and his core dandy friends were to throw an extravagant ball; one which I daresay must have consumed a goodly portion of the funds it was meant to celebrate having gained. Every body who was any body in the ton was to be there. Frances, Isabella, even Caroline were invited (though I understood the lattermost to have left the country for Italy by then, praise be to God.) Lord Byron would be there. Frederica and my brother were to attend. Not a name was missing from the guest list, but for one. It was mine.

George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron, 1807-1809 by George Sanders.
George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron, 1807-1809 by George Sanders. Royal Collection Trust.

This was surely no oversight; the Beau must have known I had cut him, and have therefore influenced his friends (with whom I was still connected) not to invite me as any guest of their own. And yet, as Prince Regent, I did not need an invitation.

It was like a modern droit du seigneur: if I chose to attend at any ball or assembly, invited or not, it was considered an honor to the hosts to have me there. Naturally, Mr. Brummell was to be at this event, and I surely had no desire to see him again; but I took into consideration how many others whom I dearly loved and wish’d to see, would be there.

Was that wretch to deprive me of my company, of my happiness? Never! I wrote to the hosts of this party, announcing my plans to attend notwithstanding their little oversight about inviting me. There was no need to ask their permission.

George IV when Prince Regent by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1814.
George IV when Prince Regent by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1814.
© National Portrait Gallery, London

The fashionable Argyle [also Argyll] Rooms had been rented to accommodate this glorious event. It is a most splendid location: the entrance hall is painted with frescos of Corinthian pilasters and compartments, footed with green marble. It was there, waiting to greet the guests, that I saw my four hosts in all their tasteful finery: Alvanley, Mildmay, Pierrepoint and, naturally, the Beau himself. They were lined up, two to each side, in suits so well tailored that there was not a single wrinkle between them.

It was my polite duty to greet them. I began at the left side, speaking first to Mildmay; then across to Pierrepoint. Beside him was Brummell, eyes glaring at me despite his false smile. I passed him over, making every display of not having noticed him at all, as if the man were no more visible to me than a f–t. People around us saw what I had done; I could feel a sudden chill to course through the whole room. I had just affronted the great Beau Brummell, and made known to everybody my cut of his company. I crossed back to the left to greet Alvanley, and that done, was about to make my way up to the vestibule and stairs.

Then loudly, loudly, oh! so loud, there was a cry from behind my shoulder in the voice which I knew belong’d to Brummell:

            Aw, Alvanley, who is your fat friend?

Every person who stood in that passageway cringed. There was a moment of silence as nobody knew what to do. Then I heard, dreadfully, the rising sound of a giggle: a crescendo that soon became a mighty roar of laughter. Everybody was laughing, and this delight was being had at my expense. Brummell was plainly quite pleased with himself to have thus humiliated me. 

If you have ever wondered “Who was Beau Brummell?” then you might like to read the account of his reign as the king of fashion in The Cut of the Clothes.


The Royal Ass, 1780.

A long-eared Aesculapius

Ok, we’ve got you interested now, we had to look up the word! The word Aesculapius being the Latin name for a god of medicine.  Whilst researching asses’ milk we came across a newspaper with that title as its heading.

The story was about a gentleman who took regular exercise on horseback and whose chief drink was asses’ milk. He was asked by an invalid friend, to whom a doctor was daily administering pills and potions, how he managed to keep in such excellent health. The gentleman’s reply was ‘my physician is a horse and my apothecary an ass’.

Whilst the poor ass was mocked by the public during the Georgian era for its stupidity and with comparison made to the Prince Regent, its milk was proving to be very beneficial.

At a time when more and more of us are becoming interested in nutrition and looking for more ‘superfoods’, it’s good to know that the Georgians were no different in their pursuit of a long and healthy life. Asses’ milk was believed to have a beneficial effect on the body, either to bathe in (Cleopatra style) or to drink. Napoleon’s sister is also reported to have used asses’ milk for her skin’s health care.

Pauline Bonaparte by François Joseph Kinson, 1808.
Pauline Bonaparte by François Joseph Kinson, 1808. Museo Napoleonico

It was highly recommended for gout, scurvy, coughs, colds and asthma, however, even then people were aware of the possibility of intolerance, with people raising the issue of ‘lactose intolerance’ even then, although the term itself wasn’t used and that it might cause stomach problems.

One of the main cures for venereal disease at that time was mercury, but who knew – asses’ milk could relieve the side effects of mercury! It was even recommended for women who were in pain after childbirth. For babies, asses’ milk was recommended if they suffered from wind or diarrhoea. It was even used to bathe in to relieve the pain of haemorrhoids too.

According to Oracle Bell’s New World of 1789, asses’ milk mixed with spa water was exceptionally beneficial.

A Glass of Milk; William Redmore Bigg
A Glass of Milk; William Redmore Bigg; Lancashire County Museum Service

Asses’ milk largely went out of fashion in the late 1790s when Sir John Hill’s Pectoral Balsam of Honey replaced it as a ‘cure for all ills’, as, whilst it looked like asses milk it was more palatable, and people were better able to tolerate it.

For those familiar with Teresa Cornleys, ‘the hostess with the mostest’, ultimately she fell out of favour with the great and the good and ended up in prison On her release, she became known as Mrs Smith seller of asses’ milk, in Knightsbridge. Even during this period of her life, she tried to restore her life to its former glory by hosting breakfasts for the people of fashion.

Certain City Macaronies, Drinking Asses Milk, 1770.
Certain City Macaronies, Drinking Asses Milk, 1770. LWL

In 1799, according to Courier and Evening Gazette:

A Parisian Journal says –

We are assured that a remedy had been discovered for disorders of the breast. His remedy is found at St. Domingo, where it is called the gum of the Bois de Cochon. It is produced from a tree, well known in the ci-devant Spanish part of the island. This gum, reduced to oil, and a coffee cup full taken in a basin of asses’ milk, morning and evening, produces a radical cure, provided the disorder is only at its second stage or even at the third. It procures considerable relief. It is for the faculty to judge of this receipt.

Portrait of Maria Luisa of Spain (1745-1792), Holy Roman Empress.
Portrait of Maria Luisa of Spain (1745-1792), Holy Roman Empress.

The St James’s Chronicle of June 1790 reported that the Queen of Hungary’s health was deteriorating since she arrived in Vienna, so much so that the doctors thought it necessary for her to drink asses’ milk.

Featured Image

The Royal Ass, 1780. Yale Centre for British Art

Sources Used

Observations on the theory and cure of venereal disease by John Andree. 1779

An essay concerning the nature of ailments and the choice of them, according to the different constitutions of human bodies by John Arbuthnot. 1731

An essay on the diseases most fatal to infants by George Armstrong. 1767

Daily Journal, Thursday, April 19, 1722

Riot at the King’s Theatre in 1813

On Saturday 1st May 1813 at the King’s theatre a serious disturbance broke out, proceeding apparently a call from the audience for the reappearance of Madame Catalani, who had withdrawn her services from the theatre as they had not paid her monies owed for previous performances.

Mme Angelique Catalani de Valabregue, J.F. Moeller (1797-1871). 1829
Mme Angelique Catalani de Valabregue, J.F. Moeller, 1829. Courtesy of National Museum of Denmark

At the start of the performance (Pucitta’s La caccia di Enrico IV), there were some hisses and boos, which increased as the performance continued, with calls of ‘Off, Off’ Taylor! Manager’. No-one took any notice and the curtain dropped amidst the noise, which rendered the latter part of the performance inaudible.

After a brief interval, the curtain rose again for the next part of the performance and the boos and hisses grew louder. The performance continued with the actors playing the role of dead French soldiers strewn across the stage, noises began behind the scenes too and the performance stopped. The audience had at this point stormed the stage, the scenery of trees and mountains now began to shake; the ‘dead’ French soldiers got up and joined their companions, the dancers fled the scene like a flock of sheep.

A riot at the King's theatre, Haymarket, London, on 1 May 1813.
A riot at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, London, on 1 May 1813. Coloured etching by W.H. Brooke after Satirist, 1813. Wellcome Collection

The actors in black formed a complete contrast to the soldiers. Here, in true Buonaparte style, the drop fell, to prevent the public discovery of the chaos ensuing on stage, but they could not hide it all, as the feet of the flying Frenchmen now visible due to the shortness of the drop. The drop was now torn to pieces and the audience discovered the victors who were cheered.

A gentleman now, for the time came forward, surrounded by the storming party, and after much difficulty was heard. He was addressed by an orator or two in the pit and was told that an apology for his misconduct would be expected in all the newspapers. He bowed submissively enough and gave a brief apology to the audience, although this was barely audible. The actors tried to tidy and clear the stage so that the performance could continue, but were stopped in their tracks by a party of guards who entered from the left of the stage with charged bayonets. Another fight broke out until the guards were ordered off the stage by their commanding officer. Some of the performers dressed as soldiers had their weapon thrown into the orchestra among the lamps and desks.  The orchestra panicked and fled the impending danger, gathering up every violin, bassoon and trombone and their music books as fast as possible.

Peace now seemed likely to be restored. Those who have fought bravely moved to the side boxes, shaking hands with those in the lower circle and bowing to those above, as if they had been actors performing a play. But this tranquillity was soon to come to an end as some in the gallery disapproved of the conduct of the conquerors and from among them, a short, young man walked backwards and forwards on the stage, in contempt of remonstrances, with triumphant insolence, shouting some unintelligible words in a vulgar manner. This offender was intoxicated and was dragged to the front of the proscenium and an apology insisted on upon his bended knee, or if he was not prepared to do this he would be thrown off the stage into the orchestra. They managed to get him down onto his knees, but he showed no remorse and was unwilling to apologise. His coat was pulled off, along with his waistcoat and his cravat was grabbed so tightly that he was almost throttled, he was twisted and squeezed about until he apologized properly.

The King's Theatre, Haymarket
The King’s Theatre, Haymarket by Bartholomew Howlett. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

All thoughts of resuming the performance were well and truly over, another spokesman made his appearance, none other than Mr Robert ‘Romeo’ Coates. Somewhat surprisingly, he quickly managed to get silence from the audience, which was somewhat surprising as he was usually received with laughter and ridicule (he really was the worst actor of the day).

Lothario, as performed by Mr Coates at the Haymarket Theatre Decemr 9th 1811
Lothario, as performed by Mr Coates at the Haymarket Theatre . © The Trustees of the British Museum

He began:

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great misfortune, we must allow, to be deprived of the talents of Madame Catalani, but it is of no use for us to go a rioting.

Here the party on the stage thought fit to be content with their own exertions, and with very little ceremony they drove Mr Coates off the stage. Many now left the stage and retired to the boxes. The clock was just striking twelve and the curtain finally fell.

Mr Coates again attempted to address the audience from the pit, but without any luck at all. The company departed.

Afterwards, the Lord Chamberlain issued an order, that no-one should ever be admitted behind the scenes, under penalty of withdrawing the licence from the theatre.

Sources Used

Windsor and Eton Express 2 May 1813

London Courier and Evening Gazette 3 May 1813

Featured Image

The Gay Lothario, 16th March 1813. Courtesy of the Met Museum


Church at Marylebone by James Miller.

Art Detectives: Miss Mary Hatton by George Romney

We came across this portrait by George Romney, in the Frick Collection purely by chance, and wanted to know more about who the sitter was, so off we disappeared down one of our proverbial rabbit hole in search of more information about her.

Miss Mary Finch Hatton by George Romney, 1788.
Miss Mary Finch Hatton by George Romney, 1788. The Frick Collection

Our first port of call was the Frick itself, who were extremely helpful and sent us all the information they had about the painting. So, exactly who was this enigmatic woman?

We knew that  Dido Elizabeth Belle’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray had married into the Finch-Hatton family, but we hadn’t come across this lady within the family, which slightly surprised us, as she would have been somewhere around the same sort of age as both Dido and Elizabeth, perhaps a little older, but not much.

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

Some sources had suggested that the portrait was possibly Lady Elizabeth Murray, but somehow that didn’t seem to fit, we couldn’t see a likeness at all.  There was another suggestion that she was a  different Lady Mary Hatton, the daughter of Daniel Finch-Hatton, 7th Earl of Winchilsea, but it couldn’t possibly be her, as she died in 1761 and the portrait wasn’t painting until 1788, also her appearance confirmed that it had to post-date 1761.

Eventually, we came across a book, Pictures in the Collection of Henry Clay Frick which contained the same portrait and confirmed for us that she was:

Miss Mary Hatton, the daughter of Sir John Finch-Hatton of Longstanton Hall, Cambridgeshire and wife of Hale Wortham Esq.

Further information from Romney’s own ledger tells us the number of sittings it took to complete the painting, where Mary was living at the time and how much was paid.

It seems quite feasible that this was a pre-wedding painting, as Mary married a gentleman named Hale Wortham at St Marylebone, on 4th December 1788, the very year it was painted or perhaps her mother wanted a painting of her daughter as a keepsake.

Church at Marylebone by James Miller.
The church at Marylebone by James Miller. Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Paul Mellon in memory of Dudley Snelgrove

However, with more research, we discovered that even this information wasn’t quite accurate, she was not the daughter of Sir John Finch-Hatton, but his sister and that she was the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Hatton, 8th Baron of Longstanton, Cambridgeshire (1728-1787).

The marriage allegation for Harriot Askham and Sir Thomas Hatton
The marriage allegation for Harriott Askham and Sir Thomas Hatton

Sir Thomas and his wife Harriott Dingley (daughter of Dingley Askham Esq), married 22nd April 1752 and had 8 children – Mary, in the portrait, was the eldest and born 4th October 1754 at Conington, Cambridgeshire.

Her siblings were Harriet (1755); Frances (1757); John (1758) later to become the 9th Baronet; Elizabeth Ann (1759); Susanna (1761); Anne (1763) and the youngest, Thomas Dingley Hatton (1771) who became the 10th and final Baronet.  When Sir Thomas died in 1788 he helpfully named all his children individually in his will, so we were now certain we had the correct person.

An entry in the Dictionary of National Biography suggests that before Mr Wortham, Mary’s hand in marriage had been sought by Dr Richard Farmer of Emanuel College, Cambridge.

At this time he [Farmer] formed an intimacy with Sir Thomas Hatton, bart., of Long Stanton, Cambridgeshire, and for some time aspired to the hand of his eldest daughter. The marriage was postponed on account of Farmer’s want of means, and when after many years this objection was removed, he found on mature reflection that his habits of life were too deeply rooted to be changed with any chance of perfect happiness to either party. Such is George Dyer’s version of the story; but Cole says: ‘Dr. Coleman told me, 3 May 1782, that he had it from sufficient authority, that Sir Thomas Hatton had refused his eldest daughter to Dr. Farmer, but upon what foundation he knew not. The lady is 27 or 28, and Dr. Farmer about 47 or 48. It will probably be a great mortification to both, as to every one it seemed that their regard for each other was reciprocal. Dr. Farmer’s preferment is equal to 800l. per annum; and I guess the lady’s fortune, there being six daughters and two sons, not very great’

Richard Farmer by George Romney. Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge
Richard Farmer by George Romney. Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

We still hadn’t worked out where the Finch-Hatton mistake had come from in her name, she was simply Mary Hatton, not Finch-Hatton. Even at her death, there was no reference to the Finch part of her surname. According to the Oxford Journal 1st November 1828 and the London Evening Standard, 21st October 1828:

Mary, relict of the late Colonel Wortham and eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Hatton, Baronet of LongStanton, died 17th October, aged 74.

So we moved on the checking her will which was proven on 20th November 1828. Mary left a number of bequests to each of her living sisters, Anne, Elizabeth Ann, Susanna and Frances, all just named as Hatton, not a ‘Finch-Hatton’ in sight. She also left £200 (which is around £13k in today’s money) to Addenbrookes hospital.

Finally, this led us to the will of one of her siblings, Anne who died in 1832 and in her will she left part of the family estate to a relative – Rev Daniel Heneage Finch-Hatton, the son of Lady Elizabeth Murray, so it seems likely that is where the erroneous addition to Mary’s surname came from, but quite what their connection was to the Finch-Hatton’s we still haven’t managed to confirm, so, more work required!

Sources and Notes:

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 18: Farmer, Richard by Thompson Cooper

A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland and Scotland by John Burke and Bernard Burke, 1841

Pictures in the Collection of Henry Clay Frick: at One East Seventieth Street, New York, 1910

Birth/baptism of Mary and her siblings – Familysearch online

The will of Sir Thomas Hatton (1788) – The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1161

The will of Mary Wortham nee Finch (1828) –  The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1748

The will  of Anne Finch (1832) – The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1799

Hale Wortham died February 19th, 1828 (Cambridge Chronicle and Journal 29 February 1828)

The Duties of a Georgian Footman

A Couple of Antiques or my Aunt and my Uncle.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

A while ago we took a  look at the below stairs roles of the household maid, the laundry maid and the cook, now we come to the role of the footman. Once again, we’re using the information provided by a certain Mrs William Parkes.

Charming well again.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

She firstly explains that the role of the footman varies greatly dependant upon the size of the household and its position within society. In a small household employing only one footman his typical morning would commence with the rougher part of the work of his department such as cleaning cutlery. Next, he would clean the household shoes and brush clothes.

He would also be required to assist the housemaid with cleaning the polished furniture in the library, dining and drawing room.

He would then prepare to serve breakfast by first making himself ready, then by setting the breakfast table, making sure that everything was ready on the table; seeing that the water was on the fire at the proper time so that no delay would arise when the family gathered in the breakfast room.  He would also be responsible for ensuring that crockery was clean by washing the china and ensuring that glassware was as bright as possible. After the family had eaten it was his role to clear everything away and ensure that the breakfast room was tidy. That would largely take up most of his morning, but he also had to be ready to answer the bells in the house and to open the hall door.

The Card Party or the Utility of Paper
© The Trustees of the British Museum

His next job was to wait at table. It was the footman’s responsibility to lay the dinner-cloth, set each place with the correct cutlery, a tumbler, wine-glass and a chair. He also had to announce dinner once everyone was present at the table.

He should remain quiet at all time but be ready to assist as soon as required. Bread, wine or water, when handed round, should be presented with the left hand and upon the left side of the person served. The footman should take care never to reach across the table, nor to put his hand or arm before anyone. He should tread lightly and speak quietly when answering a question.

The Last Gasp; or, toadstools mistaken for mushrooms.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

As great care was required when cleaning cutlery with ivory, ebony or silver handles this role also fell to the footman – there’s nothing more disagreeable than carelessly cleaned cutlery!

A good steady servant will keep his clothes and person clean and neat; he will be particularly careful in washing his hands, being called upon constantly to wait and hand so many various things. In many families, the footman, is very properly, not allowed to deliver any small thing, not even a card or letter, except on a waiter.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
The Favourite Footman; or, Miss Well Mounted. © The Trustees of the British Museum

A good footman, when sent out, will not waste his time but will execute his errands quickly, and return to his business. Punctuality is a very important quality in the footman, who must be ready to serve his master or mistress at any time required.

Within a large establishment, the footman would be under the constant watch of either the housekeeper or the steward and would probably never be seen by the master or mistress.

Kentish Gazette, 20 September 1780.
Kentish Gazette, 20 September 1780.

The newspapers of the day were full of adverts from people seeking employment as a footman and others from employers seeking a footman. The key attributes required appeared to be honesty, cleanliness and sobriety and for the prospective candidate to have worked for their previous employer for at least a year.

Featured Image

Taking an airing at Brighton, the donkies, or the humours of fashion. British Museum

18th Century Bristol

Many people immediately think of places such as Bath, Harrogate and Cheltenham when thinking about iconic eighteenth-century towns and cities, but Bristol still retains much of its Georgian era heritage. Following a trip to the city recently we thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the old buildings.

Bristol stands on the river Avon and is spanned by the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which opened in 1864, but was based on a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1753 as a means of crossing the Avon Gorge and the design was contributed to by the inventor, Sarah Guppy.

View of the Avon and Hotwells Showing the Foundations for Windsor Terrace by Thomas Leeso Rowbotham
View of the Avon and Hotwells Showing the Foundations for Windsor Terrace by Thomas Leeso Rowbotham; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives.

Bristol was well-known as a centre for trade and was the second largest port until the mid-eighteenth century when Liverpool took over the position as it had more capacity. Bristol’s main trades were in sugar, coffee, tobacco and chocolate which were produced in Caribbean by the slave trade.

One of the main streets in Bristol  that has survived largely intact is that of Corn Street, which now accommodates banks, shops, restaurants and an indoor market, known as St Nicholas Market.

Corn Street, Bristol © Sarah Murden
Corn Street, Bristol © Sarah Murden

Within the market itself there is an old pub, known as the Rummer, which has stood there since 1742 and is still open today.

The Rummer Hotel © Sarah Murden
The Rummer Hotel © Sarah Murden

The building had side structures with two storeys of shops and offices which were used by insurance dealers. One of these became the Corn Exchange and was formally opened on 18th October 1813.

The Exchange, Bristol © Sarah Murden
The Exchange, Bristol © Sarah Murden

From the Cheltenham Chronicle, 28 October 1813

On Monday last the new established Corn Market in the Exchange, Bristol was regularly opened. The boxes in which samples are exhibited upon the plan of Mark Lane, London, form a line on the south side. Considerable business was transacted; and no doubt great benefit will be derived from the establishment. The market days are Monday and Thursday. A very respectable party dined together at the Rummer Tavern, after business was over to celebrate the opening.

The Corn Exchange building which leads into the markets was built around 1740, by John Wood the Elder.  Outside the building are four pillars, known as ‘the nails’.

The Nails, Corn Street, Bristol © Sarah Murden
The Nails, Corn Street, Bristol © Sarah Murden

The oldest pillar is reputed to date back to the end of the Elizabethan era. The second oldest was given by Bristol merchant Robert Kitchen, who died in 1594. The other two are dated 1625 and 1631. On top of the pillars were ‘containers’ with slightly raised edges which were used by merchants, the money would be placed inside the container without risk of it falling out. It is said that the phrase ‘paying on the nail’ originates from the use of these (it’s a great story, but probably not true).

Also, on the front of the building there is a clock, You can see from this photo that there are two ‘minute’ hands, one in red, the other black. The reason for this is that Bristol had its own time which was ten minutes slower than Greenwich Mean Time but, with the advent of the railways, it was necessary to have a standard time, i.e. GMT, but Bristol also retained its own local time.

The Corn Exchange clock, showing the 2nd minute hand, ten minutes behind GMT © Sarah Murden
The Corn Exchange clock, showing the 2nd minute hand, ten minutes behind GMT © Sarah Murden

The Commercial Rooms

The Commercial Rooms, Bristol © Sarah Murden
The Commercial Rooms, Bristol © Sarah Murden

In November 1808 funds were raised to build an exclusive club for merchants to meet. The sum of £10,000 was raised within a 24-hour period, but it wasn’t until February 1810 that adverts began to appear in the newspapers for tradesmen to apply via sealed bids to carry out the work and the first stone was laid on 19th March 1810.  The portico is of the Grecian Ionic order, with the three statues above personifying the City, Commerce and Navigation. The first president of the Commercial Rooms was John Loudon McAdam, the inventor of Tarmac.

Fry’s Chocolate

Those like us who are lovers of chocolate, will be pleased to know that Bristol was also renowned for its chocolate manufacture; way back in the late 1720s Joseph Fry senior invested in an apothecary, Walter Churchman who found the ideal way to produce chocolate and set up a factory, Castle Mills. He then bought the patent and on his death his son, Joseph Storrs Fry inherited the business and eventually in 1847, the Fry’s chocolate cream bar as we know it today was born.

Below is an advert from 1750 for his chocolate detailing how to eat it and its benefits.

Chocolate advert, 1750

Advert for Frys chocolate - Caledonian Mercury 11 May 1801
Advert for Fry’s chocolate – Caledonian Mercury 11 May 1801

Royal York Crescent, Clifton

The Royal Crescent, Bristol perched high above the city. © Sarah Murden
The Royal Crescent, Bristol perched high above the city. © Sarah Murden

The area of Clifton stands above the city and was where the affluent of Bristol live, to avoid the squalor of the city itself in the Georgian Era. The main street was the Royal York Crescent. A plan, known as ‘The Bristol Tontine’ was devised on 26th December 1782 by Mr James Lockier, a merchant, to build the Crescent, consisting of 46 houses. There would be 700 shares at £100 each, after the properties were built they were to be sold making the shareholders a substantial profit.

Their aspect was to be nearly due south with views of the Clifton Hill. Each house was to be 25 feet in front and 54 feet in depth. They would have drawing room 27 feet by 23 feet, dining room 27 feet by 17 feet, with excellent lodging rooms, good offices and everything that can contribute to render them desirable dwellings for families of respectability and consequence, with a spacious terrace and shrubbery in front.

It was a fascinating city to visit and far too much to see to include everything in this post, but hopefully it gives a flavour of the city. It was an amazing to see places that would have been so familiar to our Georgian Heroine who lived there in the early 1800s, both in the city itself and also at Clifton.

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View over the Avon. British School. Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives

Ann Catley – The Feisty Diva

Ann was born around 1745, one of two daughters born to Robert Catley and his wife Jane. Her younger sibling was Mary, also known as Polly. Family life was not easy, her father was a coachman, then publican of a tavern in Norwood, London. Her mother was a washerwoman and expected Ann to follow in her footsteps. As a young girl, she was expected to help her mother with the laundry, washing it and returning it when clean.

Miss Ann Catley in the Character of Euphrosyne, 1777.
Miss Ann Catley in the Character of Euphrosyne, 1777. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

When she was fifteen she was regarded as a talented singer and was apprenticed for £200, to a William Bates, a music teacher. This was the start of her career in the theatre and one to which she would become very accomplished and one which would serve her well. Her first appearance was aged seventeen, at Vauxhall in the summer of 1762 and later that year she appeared for the first time on the stage at Covent Garden and remained with the company until 1784.

Covent Garden Piazza and Market by John Collet
Covent Garden Piazza and Market by John Collet; Museum of London

However, unknown to her father things were not quite as they seemed with Bates, the two did not get on well, and he regarded Ann as difficult and threatened to return her to her father and to sue him, instead in 1763, he sent her to Sir Francis Delaval, allegedly to continue her education, but the reality was somewhat different.

Francis Blake Delaval (1727-1771) (after Joshua Reynolds, 18th century)
Francis Blake Delaval (1727-1771) (after Joshua Reynolds, 18th century); Wikimedia

This whole sorry saga made headline news when a court case ensued, heard before the leading judge of the day, Lord Mansfield who was shocked by what had been going on. Behind the scenes a lawyer had drawn up a contract which stipulated that Bates should receive profits from Ann’s signing, Delaval should pay Bates £200 for Ann.  Ann had effectively been sold as a mistress. The judge was appalled by this and declared that the sale of Ann was grossly against common decency. He ordered that Ann be released from Delaval and that she should not be returned to her father.

During her time with Delaval she reputedly had two children and another, Edward, who, she claimed was the son of King George III’s son Edward, Duke of York, this seems unlikely as he died 1767, and there appears to be no evidence of Ann having children until the end of 1768, but rumours abounded about her having relationships with a variety of gentlemen. Ann was now left to her own devices with three children to provide for she continued working in theatres around Britain, earning significant sums of money, so the likelihood of her need to make money in other ways seems unlikely.

Ann, took her sister Mary in to look after her children, but, by all accounts, she treated her sibling dreadfully. Mary was abused both verbally, Ann had a very sharp tongue and even sharper nails. She frequently caused Mary to have a black eye or a bloody nose.

Ann, did, however, have some sort of moral compass as this anecdote confirms. A married and somewhat debauched gentleman paid a great deal of attention to Ann. Ann repelled his advances, but he kept trying and on this occasion sent her a hamper of champagne of the most expensive champagne money could buy. Ann had had enough of this, she received the hamper with thanks. But that evening she sent it back to his home address, with a card directed to his wife informing her of the fact. At supper that night at dinner, the wife proposed a glass of champagne. Her husband was furious at his wife’s extravagance and she said that it had been given to her as a present and showed him the card, sent by Ann. The outcome of that is left to your imagination.

A Priestess of Bacchus (Anne Catley), c.1779; John Raphael Smith after John Dowman.
A Priestess of Bacchus (Ann Catley), c.1779; John Raphael Smith after John Dowman. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Ann was very much the ‘darling of the theatre’ at that time and a fashion icon, with ladies wishing to emulate her, having their hair ‘Catleyfied’. Whilst working in Dublin, there were in 1763, rumours that Ann was pregnant, but if so, no proof of a birth seems to exist, but ‘fake news’ is nothing new. Around 1767, Ann met Francis Lascelles and to the world, they appeared as husband and wife, however, to date, no proof of this marriage exists.

Francis, whether the father to all of Ann’s eleven children or not, accepted responsibility for them when he gave his name as father at their baptisms, the children were Rowland (1768), Edward Paoli (1770), Hugh (1772), Frances (1774), Rowley and Francis (both 1775), Jane (1776), Elizabeth (1784), Edward Robert (1787), Charlotte and George Robert, for whom no baptisms can be found, but who were named in her will.

In 1780, some difference had arisen between Ann and the theatre managers concerning the terms upon which she was to be engaged, for the season. One of the managers called upon her, at her lodgings on Drury Lane to settle it. The maid was going to show the gentleman upstairs and to call the mistress ‘No, no’ cried the actress, who was in the kitchen, and heard the Manager’s voice,

‘there is no occasion to show the gentleman to a room, I am busy below making apple dumplings for my brats. You know whether you have a mind to give me the money I ask, or not. I am not one of your fine ladies, who get a cold or a toothache and can’t sing. If you have a mind to give me the money, say so; my mouth shall not open for a farthing less. So good morning to you – and don’t keep the girl there in the passage; for I want her to put the dumplings in the post while I nurse the child’.

We can only assume that Ann got her own way on that occasion as she appeared to do with most things, she was nothing, if not feisty. The couple seemed to live in harmony with their brood and during her later years, Ann had become very charitable and frequently helped the poor with gifts and money.

Helpfully, Ann left a will, which, without saying as much, confirms her status as being unmarried, it was written as Miss Ann Cately (sic). At that time, had she been married her estate would have automatically transferred to her husband, whereas Ann was able to make her own will and left virtually everything to her surviving children including a house that she purchased for her daughters.

The couple owned a handsome house near Brentford where Ann was to spend her remaining days until her death in 1789 from consumption which she had suffered from for some considerable time.

UPDATE 18.4.2018

Thanks to one of our lovely readers we have been alerted to the above portrait which appears to be a relatively unknown painting of Ann (Nancy) Catley. It was loaned by John Rhodes of Potternewton House, Leeds, (a major art collector in the north of England), to the National Exhibition of 1867.

The label on the reverse of the painting records it as having been painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, We finally managed to track down a record of it exhibited at the above exhibition. So hopefully this really is a portrait of Ann.

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Portrait of Ann Catley courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library


Eighteenth Century Agony Aunts, Part Two

We continue our look at the replies to questions by our eighteenth-century agony aunts, we hope you enjoy them. We have to confess, the first one caused much hilarity here at All Things Georgian, both in terms of the question and its response!

Be not over hasty to bury those who die from an apoplexy

Question: A friend of mine was watching her friend who was busy making cheese when he suddenly fell head first into the vat of curd with just his feet sticking out. Someone went to fetch help and managed to get him out. The doctor tried to bleed him, but to no avail, so he was put to bed to get warm, but nothing would revive him, so he was pronounced dead. When it came time to bury him, a knocking could be heard on the coffin. The coffin was opened, and he was alive. Could you tell me how he managed to stay so still as to be presumed dead?

Answer: This must have been a very strong apoplectic fit during which time spirits entered his body, chiefly into his heart, making it seem to have stopped. Our advice is not to be too hasty to bury someone, make sure they are in fact dead first.

The Dead Alive!
The Dead Alive! Lewis Walpole Library

A young woman will not bed with her husband

Question: We have been married for a while now and my wife promised she would never change once married, but now we are married she won’t sleep with me. Can she lawfully do this?

Answer: NO! she entered a contract with you in the presence of God,  ‘to obey, to serve, honour and keep you, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live’, so she is in breach of that contract.

Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700
Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700; V&A

A gentleman of 500 pounds a year keeps me company

Question: I am a young woman with about 500 pounds in my account. A very charming young man of about the same wealth keeps me company, but he is adamant that he won’t marry. I love him very much but I’m not sure it is reciprocated. What should I do?

Answer: – Get rid of him, he’s not worth the trouble, look for someone worthy who will love you and marry you.

A beau desires to make himself acceptable to the ladies

Question: You give such wise advice that I simply had to write to you to ask what I need to do to create a good impression of myself amongst the Beau Monde. Please help me.

Answer: From the tone of your question it does sound as if you need some assistance. We would recommend that you are brisk in your repartee; let every action captivate the air, the flourish when taking snuff, the twirl of the wig will work wonders. Be witty, but not impertinent. Make sure that you are right on point when following the fashion of the day. Make sure you write your letters neatly and fold them nicely and ideally add a drop of scent to them. We hope these suggestions will be of assistance to your future happiness.

A young lady with 800 pounds pines for a husband

Question: I live in the country but do visit the town. I have 800 pounds, but I still can’t find myself a husband, why is that?

Answer: We see two issues with this –  firstly, you live in the country so unless you are able to spend more time in the town you will never meet a suitable husband as he will need time to get to know you. Secondly, 800 pounds really isn’t enough to catch a good husband, you need at least 1,000 pounds, so get saving.

In Fashion, Out of Fashion.
In Fashion, Out of Fashion. Lewis Walpole Library

Love more difficult to conceal than reveal

Question: There is a young lady that I am in love with, but I don’t think she even realizes it, she doesn’t know me, and I am not acquainted with anyone in her household. I am going abroad shortly, and I would like her to know before I depart. What should I do?

Answer: It is harder to conceal your feelings than to reveal them, so if she isn’t aware by now of your existence or your feelings by now then we feel that she isn’t worth your trouble.

Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740
Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740

 A wife desires to know if she should live with her husband

Question: My husband has been cheating on me and now has an illegitimate child with the other woman which he denies. He has also had other affairs and has acquired something worse. He says he is sorry and it won’t happen again, so should I forgive him? Your speedy answer is sincerely sought.

Answer:  We would recommend keeping him on a tight rein. If he truly reforms then maybe remain with him, if not, you need a ‘plan B’.

Husband discovered in act of kissing a maid . Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Husband discovered in the act of kissing a maid. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

An ugly old maid

Question: What is unhappier than an ugly old maid?

Answer: It is possible for a handsome young maid, to be unhappier than an ugly old one; for happiness consists in our own mind and not in the opinion of others. Therefore, an ugly old maid, who thinks she neither looks old or ugly is happier than a handsome young maid, who is not content with the beauty nature has given her and is continually trying to improve it.

An Old Maid on a Journey by James Gillray


The Misses Van by Lady Salisbury, 1791.

Eighteenth Century Agony Aunts

We came across the following publication which caused us more than a little amusement, so we thought we would share a few snippets with you. The Gentleman and Lady of Pleasure’s Amusement published 1759. The book is a series of questions about eighteenth-century dilemmas with the author(s) offering replies – something akin to agony aunts of the day.

For ease of reading, we have updated the questions and their replies into today’s language. So, here below is a sample of the 80 questions in the book, with more to follow next week.

A woman swearing a child.
A woman swearing a child. Lewis Walpole Library

A young lady is pregnant and not sure how it happened.

Question: I am in the prime of life and not unattractive, one of two daughters to a loving and industrious father. I now think I am pregnant, not sure how or when it happened, but I’m worried that my father will disinherit me.  My question being, is it possible for me to have become pregnant whilst asleep as that is the only way it could have happened, and didn’t know about it? Also, is it legal for me to kill the embryo so that my father doesn’t find out?

Answer: It is highly unlikely that you could have become pregnant without knowing it unless you were very drunk or having a swooning fit. Given that neither of these seem likely, we are sure that you will be fine, so stop worrying about it. In answer to your second question – that would be murder and treated accordingly.

A gentleman in love with two sisters.

Question: I’ve been dating two sisters, both equally beautiful and talented. I know I can’t have them both, what should I do?

Answer: As you appear to love them both, you can’t pretend to either, as we presume you expect a whole heart in return for only half of yours!

The Misses Van by Lady Salisbury, 1791.
The Misses Van by Lady Salisbury, 1791. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

A young gentleman twice married to one lady

Question: Before I reached the age of consent (21) I married a young lady, without telling my family. Now that I am of the age of consent, can I lawfully marry her a second time in the presence of my parents?

Answer: Yes, effectively you are renewing your vows, it is not illegal to marry the same person twice, it is only illegal to marry someone else whilst still married to the first person.

The Village Wedding, Thomas Falcon Marshall
The Village Wedding, Thomas Falcon Marshall; Fylde Borough Council

An Old Maid has an inclination for a young man

Question: I’m an old maid and going grey, but I’d like to marry a ‘toy boy’, but I’m not sure he would want me, although I have plenty of money, but … there’s a wretched old bachelor in the way who declares his love for me – or perhaps just my money. What should I do?

Answer: As you’re grey already, speed is necessary for any decision, so we’ll reply with haste. Whichever appears first, lock them in, throw away the key and keep them there – haste is paramount.

An advertisement for a husband! Lewis Walpole Library
An advertisement for a husband. Lewis Walpole Library

The Devil

Question: What sex is the devil?

Answer: By his roughness one assumes male, but as he often appears in petticoats, we believe him a hermaphrodite.

A wife wants to read her husband’s mail

Question: Is it acceptable for me to read his mail without his consent?

Answer: Goodness, if you opened his mail once, where could that lead? But seriously, a good husband wouldn’t object to you reading his mail – once opened by him, of course.

Anonymous Letter by Thomas Rowlandson
Anonymous Letter by Thomas Rowlandson. Lewis Walpole Library

I promised to marry her

Question: I made a promise to marry a young lady whilst under the influence of drink, although I didn’t really mean it. My uncle, who is my guardian expects me to marry a young, wealthy widow, what should I do as the young lady says I’m committed to her and that I can’t go back on my promise which I did repeat again when sober?

Answer: Whilst it wasn’t very clever to have proposed to her when under the influence, you did repeat it when sober. Hard luck, you’ve made the commitment, so you must follow it through.

The Proposal by Thomas Clater
The Proposal by Thomas Clater; Stockport Heritage Services

An apprentice to trade for himself

Question: I’m not asking for myself, but, an acquaintance of mine is an apprentice to a surgeon and a friend of his contracted a disease from a young girl. He approached the apprentice for a cure for the condition. The apprentice provided the cure and was paid for it. Is it acceptable for him to keep the payment or should it belong to his master?

Answer: Whilst employed by the master they are duty bound to give it to their master or to advise their master what has occurred and find out how the master wishes to deal with it.

We do hope you have enjoyed some of these anecdotes from our eighteenth-century agony aunts.

The trial of Lord Baltimore for alleged rape

Frederick Calvert was born in the early 1730s, son of Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore. His father was a Gentleman of the Bedchamber in the service of Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, the son of King George II. Educated at Eton, Frederick Calvert was subsequently described as being ‘one of their less reputable pupils’ for reasons which will become clear.

Frederick Calvert, 6th Baltimore.
Frederick Calvert, 6th Baltimore. Wikimedia Commons

In his early twenties upon the death of his father, Frederick inherited the title 6th Lord Baltimore and shortly after married Diana Egerton, the daughter of Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgewater. This marriage was a disaster and the couple formally separated after only three years of marriage due to his obsession with other women. He was very much a young man of means, spending money like water, taking mistresses left, right and centre, with forging a career full of extravagance and licentiousness.

Frederick Calvert, 6th Lord Baltimore. Courtesy of
Frederick Calvert, 6th Lord Baltimore. Courtesy of

It is reputed that his obsession for sexual gratification was such that he converted his house into a something more akin to a seraglio and that it was most certainly not the sort of place that any respectable woman would consider visiting. He even used Elizabeth Griffenberg, wife of Dr Griffenberg and Anne Harvey otherwise known as Anne Darby to find suitable women for his pleasure.

It was in 1768 however, that he found fame, but for all the wrong reasons. In March 1768, he found himself on trial, accused of raping a young woman, Miss Sarah Woodcock. Also accused, as accessories to the fact, were Griffenberg and Harvey.

A Perspective View of Tower Hill and the Place of Execution of the Lords Kilmarnock and Balmerino on Monday 18 of August 1746.
A Perspective View of Tower Hill. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Sarah, the daughter of Joseph Woodcock was a milliner and lived near Tower Hill in London with her father and sister. It was in November 1767 that Mrs Harvey visited her shop, was impressed by her beauty and recommended her to Lord Baltimore as someone he might enjoy meeting. With that, he visited her shop twice on the pretext of buying articles from her. He then invited her to attend the theatre with him, but she said that due to her strict upbringing she refused to attend such a venue.

Baltimore, not one to accept failure, was alleged to have hatched a plan to get Sarah to his house by using Mrs Harvey, who was to visit Sarah and persuade Sarah to make up a pair of bespoke laced ruffles for a lady who, if she liked them would become a good customer. Harvey called the next day and paid for the ruffles and asked that they plus some other items be brought to her house in Shoreditch, to which Sarah duly complied. Sarah was then persuaded to travel with Harvey to meet the lady she had spoken of. On reaching the destination she was greeted by Baltimore and Dr Griffenberg and persuade to stay for tea. The evening drew on and Sarah explained that her absence would be noticed, and she needed to get home. Somehow, despite her anxiety, Baltimore persuaded Sarah to stay longer and to have supper with them.

A Milliner's Shop.
A Milliner’s Shop. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

At this stage, Baltimore began to behave improperly toward her with assistance from Harvey and Mrs Griffenberg. Sarah again attempted to leave but was told that no coach could be summoned to take her home and that she would have to stay. They all tried to persuade her to go to bed, but Sarah would not settle and walked about the entire night. In the morning Sarah spotted a young woman walking past the window, she tried to summon her to ask her to let her father know that she was being held there against her will. This attempt to free herself proved unsuccessful.

Baltimore and Dr Griffenberg appeared and were astonished at her behaviour as Baltimore had promised that she could go home at twelve o’clock. Sarah said she wished to leave immediately. Baltimore, on the other hand, had other ideas and declared his undying love for her and showed her a letter he had prepared to send to her father, along with two hundred pounds, reassuring him that his daughter was safe. Sarah disbelieved him, again she tried to reach the window to shout for help but in vain. Sarah by then realised that she could not escape and wept for hours. A letter, it appeared had been sent to her father to meet someone named Smith for Sarah received a reply not from her father, but from her sister.

Sarah was then to spend another night under the roof Baltimore, still distressed, she only calmed when talking to Harvey about a young man who she was very fond of and that they were to settle in business as soon as the marriage should take place.

The following morning Sarah again pleaded with Baltimore to let her go home. At this stage, he became angry and threatened to either throw her out of the window, or send her home in a wheelbarrow, with her petticoats tied over her head, but still, he would not let her leave. Sarah by this time was becoming ill and Baltimore insisted she drink some medicine. After supper he made six several attempts to ravish her within two hours; but she repulsed by him in such a determined manner, that it was impossible for him to accomplish his dishonourable purpose. The following day she was taken to his country estate at Epsom, where she experienced several more acts of indecency. They then returned to London, where Sarah hope to attract the attention of someone she knew in her bid for freedom.

William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield by Jean Baptiste van Loo
William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield by Jean Baptiste van Loo. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Sarah’s friends, especially a Mr Davis worked out where she might be being held, so went to Baltimore’s house and briefly attracted her attention before Harvey stopped this dialogue. Mr Davis then informed her father of his discovery who immediately took advice from a friend who recommended he apply to Lord Mansfield for a writ of habeas corpus. In the meantime, Baltimore told her that she should see her father and he said he would make a settlement on her for life if she would acknowledge that she had been well treated. This she agreed to, in the hope of obtaining her freedom. She was then told that Mrs Harvey had been taken into custody. The attorney called at Lord Baltimore’s house with a writ of habeas corpus.

A View of Bloomsbury Square in London, 1787.
A View of Bloomsbury Square in London, 1787. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Eventually, he was permitted to speak to Sarah and seemingly ascertained that she was there by her own consent, but that she was anxious to see her father. With this he left, but all parties were summoned to Lord Mansfield’s house in Bloomsbury Square, where Sarah was examined by Lord Mansfield and she told him that she was willing to live with his lordship, but that she desperately wished to see her family and friends first until she realised that he had the power to free her from the situation.

Mrs Griffenberg and Harvey were arrested and taken into custody, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Baltimore. Having been apprehended Baltimore and the women were granted bail to appear at trial in Kingston, Surrey.  The case with all its graphic detail was heard and somehow Baltimore appeared totally convincing. It took the jury just one hour and twenty minutes to reach their verdict – all three were found – not guilty.

Have escaped conviction he decided that there was nothing more for him in England, so sold his entire estate, packed his bags and left for Europe accompanied by an entourage of women. In 1770 he wrote his will, perhaps knowing that his life was to be short-lived. To give him his due, he tried to ensure that as many of his illegitimate children would benefit from his estate. Quite whether he made provision for all of them, remains unknown.

On 4th September 1771 Frederick, Lord Baltimore, proprietor and Governor of Maryland died in Naples from a fever.

The City of Naples.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

His body was returned to London, where it lay in state at the Great Room of Exeter Exchange on the Strand. After mourners had retired, a mob broke into the room where the body lay, stripped the room of everything and were preparing to throw the corpse and coffin out of the window, but were prevented at the last minute by a guard who spotted them. Ultimately, he was taken for burial in the family vault.

That concludes the life the of Frederick Calvert, but what became of Sarah after her ordeal? Well, reader, you may well be relieved to know that she found happiness as just a few months later, on 2nd August 1768 Sarah’s name appeared in the marriage register at St Botolph Without Bishopsgate.  She married the young man John Davis. If that name looks familiar it is because he was the gentleman referred to in the court case.

Marriage of John Davis to Sarah Woodcock in the presence of her father Joseph
Marriage of John Davis to Sarah Woodcock in the presence of her father Joseph

Sources used:

Manchester Mercury 15 October 1771

Middlesex Journal or Chronicle of Liberty, January 23, 1772 – January 25, 1772

Eton School Archives

The Ipswich Journal 26 October 1771

Newgate Calendar online – full trial


Wagers at White’s

White’s is the oldest gentleman’s club in London. It was founded in 1693 when it was a chocolate house where people visited to drink hot chocolate and have a chat. Towards the end of the 1700s White’s took rooms on St. James’s at which time they limited membership to a certain number of male subscribers and remains exclusive today.

In the second half of the Eighteenth Century, the passion for making wagers reached its height, in those days many members of White’s were almost addicted to chance. Men would stake their guineas lavishly on any chance that might occur to them, bets ranged from a few shillings to hundreds of pounds.

White's Club Coat of Arms by Grignion, Charles, 1721-1810, printmaker. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
White’s Club Coat of Arms by Grignion, Charles, 1721-1810, printmaker. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Never failing subjects for wagers were the duration of a person’s life, the increase of a lady’s family right through to which raindrop on a window pane would reach the bottom first, but curiously enough the Betting Book contained very few wagers on legitimate matters such as sport and athletics. We thought we would share with you some of the bets placed.

William, the 5th Lord Bryon’s love affairs always proved a popular topic for discussion and therefore an obvious choice to place a wager on. Who would he marry?

September 12th, 1746 – Mr James Jeffreys bets Mr John Jeffreys one hundred guineas that Lord Byron is married to Miss Shaw before Michaelmas 1748. If Lord Byron or Miss Shaw die or either of them marries any other person Mr James Jeffreys loses his hundred guineas.

A kick-up at a hazard table! Rowlandson. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
A kick-up at a hazard table! Rowlandson. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

October 20th, 1746 – Mr James Jeffreys bets Mr Fanshaw fifty guineas that Lord Byron is married to Miss Shaw on or before Lady-day next.  A Captain Draper also went five guineas with Mr Jeffreys in this bet.

It appears that Mr James Jeffreys won his bet as Lord Byron did, in fact, marry Miss Elizabeth Shaw, the daughter and heiress of Besthorpe, Norfolk on March 28th, 1747.

A Worn Out Debauchée. Duke of Queensbury. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
A Worn Out Debauchée. Duke of Queensbury. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

March 3rd, 1784 – The Duke of Queensbury bets Mr Grenville ten guineas that Mr Fox does not stand a poll for Westminster if the parliament should be dissolved within a month from today. If a coalition takes place between Mr Pitt and Mr Fox this bet is to be off.

A more curious bet Mr Talbot bets Mr Beau Brummell five guineas that one of the editors of the three papers, the Examiner, the British Press and the Chronicle, is committed to prison for libellous matter contained in one of the said three papers before March 29th, 1812.

November 18th, 1817 Mr Bouverie bets Ld. Yarmouth a hundred and fifty that H.R.H the Duke of Clarence has not a legitimate child within 2 years of this day.

Mr Bouverie must have won, as the Duke of Clarence, who became King William IV had no legitimate children.

William IV, when Duke of Clarence (1765-1837). Signed and dated 1791 by Richard Cosway. Courtesy of Royal Collection
William IV, when Duke of Clarence (1765-1837). Signed and dated 1791 by Richard Cosway. Courtesy of Royal Collection

On November 4th, 1754, is entered the following wager, Lord Montfort wagers Sir John Bland one hundred guineas that Mr Nash outlives Mr Cibber. This refers to two very old men, Colley Cibber the actor, and Beau Nash. Below this entry is written in a different hand ‘Both Lord M. and Sir John Bland put an end to their own lives before the bet was decided’.

The first of these tragedies took place on New Year’s Day, 1755. Lord Montfort’s death and the circumstances of it attracted great attention.  He had come to the end of his fortune and had spent vast sums of money on his house, lived in extravagance and no doubt lost heavily at White’s.

The final blow seems to have been the loss of sixteen hundred a year by the deaths on the same day of the Earl of Albemarle and Lord Gage, who presumably paid him annuities during their lives. After this, he became reckless and even staked his life on receiving a government appointment. He hoped to be appointed as the governor of Virginia or to be granted Mastership of the Royal Hounds – he received neither. Immediately after this, he enquired of his friends as to the easiest mode of self-destruction. He allayed these suspicions by asking the same friends to dine with him at White’s that evening. He and his friends saw in the new year together. The following morning Lord Montfort sent for his lawyers and witnesses and having made a will, asked if it would hold good even though a man should shoot himself. He was informed that it would. On receiving this, he asked the lawyer to wait for a minute, stepped into an adjoining room and shot himself.

In September of the same year, the second party to this wager, Sir John Bland of Kippax Park, found himself in financial difficulties reputed to be due entirely to gambling. Walpole said that he had flirted away his whole fortune and that during a single sitting had lost about thirty-two thousand pounds. Sir John shot himself on the road from Calais to Paris.

It could be argued that given members ability to bet on virtually anything that possibly they found it difficult to amuse themselves!

Sources Used

London Evening Standard 22 September 1892

Bourke, Algernon Henry, 1854-1922. The history of Whites [with the Betting Book from 1743 to 1878 and a list of members from 1736 to 1892]

Featured Image

A Club of Gentlemen. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Hellgate – He Lived for The Moment

Once upon a time, there were three brothers, with the surname Barry and with the nicknames ‘Newgate ’alias Augustus, as this was said to be the only prison he had been in.  Henry, known as ‘Cripplegate’ due to his club foot and then there is the one we are going to look at, Richard Barry, the 7th Earl of Barrymore, better known as ‘Hellgate’ as this was the gateway he was destined to enter.

Richard as a child - how angelic! © National Portrait Gallery, London
Richard as a child – how angelic! © National Portrait Gallery, London

Richard was born 1769, the eldest surviving of the four sons born to the 6th Earl of Barrymore and his wife Lady Amelia Stanhope during their short marriage. As the eldest son, Richard naturally inherited his father’s title when he died in August 1773 in Ireland from a fever.

The death of the 6th Earl left Amelia in their London home at Portman Square, to raise alone, a daughter plus the three boys. The youngest, Augustus was born only a few days before his father’s death.

This must have been a dreadful time for her, so she placed Richard under the care of the Reverend John Tickell, Wargrave, Berkshire until he was old enough to go up to Eton which he duly did from 1784 until he was 18.  However, in 1780 Lady Barrymore, aged just 31, died in France, after a lingering illness, her body, preserved in spirits was returned to England for burial. This left the four children, orphans, who were in part raised by their grandmother, Countess Harrington, who appeared to have little control of them allowing them free reign to do as they pleased, so of course, they ran wild.  The death of both parents must have had a profound effect on the children, especially Richard, which might explain the way he lived the rest of his life, for live his life he did in a way that today we call ‘living life on the edge’.

Scrub & Bonniface, or, Three brave lads against one poor Roscius Newgate invt. ; Cripplegate direxit ; Hellgate fecit. Lewis Walpole Library.
Scrub & Bonniface, or, Three brave lads against one poor Roscius Newgate invt. ; Cripplegate direxit ; Hellgate fecit. Lewis Walpole Library.

He rented a house in Wargrave and with his passion for the theatre he borrowed an advance on his inheritance which he would receive when aged twenty-one and had a theatre built opposite the house to indulge his passion. His inheritance was estimated to be around eleven thousand pounds a year, a nest egg which had been accumulating year on year since the death of his father, so around £190,000 when he reached his majority and from then on around £24,000 per year.

Richard certainly enjoyed the finer things in life and was a prolific gambler, lover of horse racing and of boxing and bare fist fighting, both watching and participating in as well as hosting parties for the great and the good of the day including the Prince Regent. He lived at a time when clubs were all the rage and he was a member of most, and if they did not exist he created them, such as the ‘Two O’Clock Club’, which was named for the hour of the morning they met. The ‘Star and Garter’ which was a tavern they met in.

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence. © National Portrait Gallery, London
George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence. © National Portrait Gallery, London

He had an immense passion for gambling and would gamble on virtually anything. One of his more obscure bets took place in 1788 when the newspapers reported a bet between Richard and the Duke of Bedford, that he could produce a man who could eat a live cat. Quite what the sum of this wager was we may never know but he did win his bet two weeks later by producing a man who tore the cat limb from limb and devoured every morsel.  Later that year Richard continued with another of his passions, that of the theatre by performing at the theatre in Brighton.

A Royal Salute
Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

On another occasion, he wagered that he could beat a Mr Bullock in a race around Brighton. Richard left the gentleman to set the course, the gentleman was somewhat rotund and set the course in incorporate a very narrow lane that Richard was unaware of. Richard gave him a thirty-five-yard start, then he set off, assuming this race would be easy to win. However, when they reached the narrow lane he could not pass Mr Bullock and so Richard lost the bet.

To add to his many vices, Richard had a fondness for the ladies and they for him in return, after all what was there not to like him, on receiving his inheritance he would be exceptionally wealthy, he was tall, very handsome, excellent physique, charming, witty, a skilled boxer, handy with a sword and an excellent horseman. He even learnt a language, which he was reputedly taught by the Duchess of Bolton, which was unintelligible to anyone who was not a party to the secret language, thereby allowing those ‘in the know’ to converse about everyone around them without them understanding a word of it.

His love of women led him to have several liaisons with women, married or otherwise including a Miss Ponsonby who had a connection to the Dukes of Devonshire, but her father put a stop to this liaison as Richard was not a wealthy or possibly suitable match for his daughter. He then had a brief, but intense relationship with a Mary Ann Pearce who benefitted from the luxurious lifestyle, living with him in his splendid house and with her own carriage.

Their relationship came to an end when he eloped in 1792, aged twenty-two, to Gretna Green where he married Charlotte Goulding, the daughter of a London sedan chairman and niece to Lady Letitia (Letty) Lade who had made a scandalous marriage with Sir John Lade, one of the inner circle of the Prince of Wales. In 1791, owing a great deal of money, and in order to stave off his creditors, Richard decided to become a member of Parliament for Heytesbury.

Letitia, Lady Lade by George Stubbs, 1793. Royal Collection
Letitia, Lady Lade by George Stubbs, 1793. Royal Collection

He was a Captain in the Royal Berkshire Militia and had been driving a gig which was taking French prisoners of war to Dover when his musket accidentally discharged. He was buried at Wargrave, Berkshire on 17th March 1793, so didn’t quite make it to his 24th birthday. Even after his death, there were rumours that he had been buried in secret to prevent his creditors from taking his corpse until his considerable debts had been paid. As he died intestate his estate was administered in March 1794 and valued at under £5,000, so did he gamble away all his wealth? It certainly would appear to be the case.

Sources Used

Pasquin, Anthony. The life of the late Earl of Barrymore

A Personal Observer. Truth Opposed to Fiction: Or, An Authentic and Impartial Review of the Life of the Late, Right Honourable the Earl of Barrymore

Saint Martin in the Fields, Westminster, marriage register

The Ipswich Journal 18 September 1773

Stamford Mercury 11 April 1788

Ipswich Journal 29 August 1789

Bury and Norwich Post 23 September 1789

Featured Image

Theatrical peer of Berks/ Theatrical peer of Berkshire. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

An Elephant Never Forgets

The adage that an elephant never forgets seems very appropriate given the following accounts.

The scientific elephant now displays his sagacity and the uncommon improvement of his natural powers, at Pidcock’s Grand Menageries, Exeter ‘Change, Strand, where, at the desire of the company and command of the keeper, he exhibits a perfect knowledge of the value of different pieces of money; tells with the greatest precision the hour and minutes of the day, when shown a watch by any of the spectators; locks and unlocks doors, takes off and puts on any lady’s or gentleman’s bonnet or hat, that he may be requested of him, with a great and pleasing variety of other performances. His improvement in the space of the last six months exceeds all belief.

Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

In another story to confirm that an elephant never forgets, we offer this account which was reported in an English newspaper, although the event took place in Paris, 1799.

A sentinel on duty at the menagerie, agreeably to the orders he had received, was always particularly careful to caution the visitors not to feed the elephants. However, his behaviour was not calculated to gain him the favour of the elephants. One of the females especially resented his officious zeal to enforce his orders and several times she attempted to correct his bad habits by throwing water on his head with her trunk.

A few days ago, a great number of people came to see the elephants, which the latter considered a fine opportunity to receive, by stealth, plenty of scraps of bread. Unfortunately, for her, however, the officious sentinel was on guard that day.

The female took her station beside him, watched all his words and gestures, and the first time he began to give his usual notice she squirted him in the face with her trunk full of water much to the immense amusement of the audience. The sentinel quietly wiped his face and retiring a little way, he continued to give his notice to everyone informing them not to give any bread to the elephants and the elephants were likewise instructed not to take any.

This time, however, the female was ready and waiting, she took hold of his musket, whirled it around with her trunk, then trod on it, it was not until she had twisted it like a screw did she return it.

Destruction of the noble elephant at Mr Cross's, Exeter 'Change
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole

From the Bath Chronicle of August 1791, we offer a somewhat tragic story.

Among the elephants that were sent to Madras with the troops in 1781, under the command of the late Colonel Pearce, there was apparently one keeper who it was reported was quite neglectful and who pilfered from his drams on the line of march. Upon every such occasion, the elephant discovered signs of anger and resentment, as if he was insensible to negligence, nor ignorant of the mal-practices, of his keeper.

One morning the cattle etc. were ordered to be mustered for review and when the commanding officer, in going along the line, passed in front of the elephant, the animal roared out as if to attract the commanding officer’s attention. When he caught the eye of the Colonel the elephant took hold of his keeper with his trunk, put him under his feet and instantly crushed him to death.

The elephant then immediately fell upon his knees and salaamed to the Colonel for pardon. The singularity of this act induced Colonel Pearce to make an immediate enquiry respecting it, when he learnt that the elephant had been forced, contrary to his natural disposition, to inflict this punishment on his keeper, for the incorrigible neglect he was prone to commit and the frauds practised on his daily allowance. Unfortunately, we do not know the outcome of this investigation, but punishment had already been served.


The Bum Shop, 1785 Lewis Walpole Library

False Rumps!

Fashions are continually changing but briefly, during the 1770s and early 1780s, women wore the most amazing items known as false rumps. They were large pieces of cork worn in ‘pockets’ under the straps of their stays, which enhanced the lady’s posterior and made her waist look smaller and more delicate. Think Kim Kardashian: does she know that she would have been the ultimate late eighteenth-century fashion icon, we wonder? False rumps were mocked mercilessly by the press and in satirical caricatures (the old-fashioned way of breaking the internet!), and there was even a suggestion that they should be taxed to raise money for the government.

Captain Cork Rump. Yale Center for British Art
Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

Surely, they can’t have been comfortable but, on at least one occasion, the wearing of a cork rump acted as a life preserver (Norfolk Chronicle 04 July 1778).

On Sunday evening a very ludicrous accident happened at Henley upon Thames. A large party from town went after tea to enjoy the coolness of the evening on the banks of the river. Youth and spirits hurried them into such sallies of vivacity, that in running with too much precipitation, a lady’s foot tripped and she fell into the Thames. The consternation was general; but somehow everyone was surprised to see her swim like a fishing float, half immersed, and half above the water. It seems that the lady had been furnished with an immoderate sized cork rump, which buoyed her up so completely that she looked like Venus rising from the water. She was towed to shore by a gentleman’s cane without the least injury but wet petticoats.

So, fashion it seems did have its uses.

Chloe's Cushion, or, the Cork Rump. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Chloe’s Cushion, or, the Cork Rump. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Your fake derriere was also a great place to hide contraband according to a report from Paris:

The present fashionable protuberances, so much in vogue among the females, have by the adroitness of two dressy fair ones of this capital, been turned to a profitable instead of expensive fashion and gave rise to a laughable adventure: the females in question had contrived to fill bladders with brandy, which they substituted for cork, wool wire etc and thus equipped in the most outré prominence of the mode, they passed several times daily unsuspected through the gates of Paris, smuggling no inconsiderable quantity of brandy.  The frequency of their excursions caused suspicion among the officers at the gates, who attempted to touch their garments, but this was resisted by the fair ones with every appearance of affected modesty. However, one of the officers, having sufficient information of what was going on determined to detect them, and providing himself with a sharp pointed instrument, he slyly pierced what nowadays is usually made from cork, when lo! A fountain of brandy played from the orifice to the great diversion of the spectators, and to no small confusion of the fair one. The result was rather serious, as they were both confined; and there are now actually females at the gates, whose business it is as decently as possible, to examine into the protuberances of such ladies as appear to be in outré of the present fashion. What a pity, as there are so few means for females to gain a decent living, that they should not be permitted to dress to advantage when fashion will admit of it.

The Gates of Paris, or, Brandy Rumps Detected. Lewis Walpole Library
The Gates of Paris, or, Brandy Rumps Detected. Lewis Walpole Library

When a riot broke out in Covent Garden during the hustings for the election of 1784, it was reported that one lady’s cork rump was shot off and an elderly woman, who was not so fashion forward and whose behind was not so well padded, received a bullet in her… ahem, well! We’re sure you can guess!

The back-biters, or High bum-fiddle pig bow wow. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
The back-biters, or High bum-fiddle pig bow wow. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

As a fashion accessory, the cork rump was short lived and by the end of the 1780s ‘bum-less beauties’ became all the rage.

Featured Image

Courtesy of the British Museum


The story of a domesticated tiger

On December 26th, 1788 the ship, Pitt East Indiaman, which was owned by the East India Company and captained by Edward Manning set sail for St Helena, Benkulen and then China. She reached St Helena in March 1789, Benkulen in July, arriving in China November 1789.

The 'Pitt' near Dover returning from China, 1787. Wikimedia Commons.
The ‘Pitt’ near Dover returning from China, 1787. Wikimedia Commons.

In China, she collected her cargo began the return journey back to England via St Helena, reaching England in August 1790.  There was nothing unusual in journey except that when they arrived in China they acquired an additional piece of cargo – a tiger.

A Tiger Resting: the frontispiece for "Oriental Field Sports", 1805, Samuel Howitt. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
A Tiger Resting: the frontispiece for “Oriental Field Sports”, Samuel Howitt. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

When first brought on board, the tiger was no larger than a puppy of one month to six weeks old, and the ship’s company were determined, if possible, to tame him. The familiarities used with this creature grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength until by the time he was almost a year old he was harmless and as playful as a young kitten.

We have no explanation as to why this tiger was onboard, whether it was destined for a circus in England we cannot say. The animal was described by the newspapers as:

a beautiful young male tiger, about ten or twelve months old and nearly the size of a large mastiff dog.

The Kentish Gazette in its coverage described the animal as being:

a singular instance of the practicability of taming and domesticating wild beasts, a tiger being allowed to be the most ferocious of the savage creatures.

Until he grew too large he lived in the carpenter’s cabin and frequently slept with the sailors in their hammocks, each becoming very fond of the animal.

During the passage home, he was mischievous as most young animals are and frequently stole the sailor’s shoes and hid their clothes, at one time he had in his concealment no less than twenty-five pairs of silk breeches.

He was extremely playful and would often climb about the ship like a cat and perform antics which you would have to have seen to believe.  He was known to play with the dog on board, tossing him in the air and catching him in his paws. The sailors used to make him lie down on the deck and three of them at one time would rest their heads on him using him as a pillow, the tiger never stirred until the sailors had taken their nap.

In return for this familiarity he was known to steal their meat – they became so fond of the creature that he was never really punished. One day during the voyage, however, he also stole the carpenter’s favourite roast beef, the carpenter followed the tiger and retrieved the piece of meat. On this occasion, the animal was punished but apparently ‘took it with the patience of a spaniel’.

Caricature of a sailor. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Caricature of a sailor. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Mr Murray, the purser, having left his cabin door open, the tiger jumped into the cot whilst he was asleep, but not liking his bedfellow Murray hastily jumped out leaving the tiger in full possession of both his cot and his cabin.

When the ship arrived at Gravesend, an old woman came on board with a basket of gingerbread to sell, the tiger set upon the old woman as a cat does when chasing a mouse, seized its opportunity, sprang at her, jumped upon her from behind and threw his paws around her neck. This unexpected attack, on the part of the woman was depicted with every tragic emotion; the basket, gingerbread, fruit and all its contents fell on the deck, which when done, as if conscious of the woman’s situation, he released his prisoner and wandered off to find something else to do in another part of the ship.

Six or eight sailors, part of the men put on board the ship to work her up to the moorings at Deptford, had at this time their portion of fresh beef served to them; and whilst they were debating whether it should be boiled or roasted, a diversity of opinions having taken place, the tiger who lay close by watched for a favourable opportunity, made a sudden spring and seized it, which not only ended the contest, but even saved them the trouble of preparing it, as the tiger it had been observed, preferred his meat  raw rather than boiled or roasted.

A Tiger by Charles Towne, 1818; Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage
A Tiger by Charles Towne; Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage

The above story was reputed to be true and was verified by a gentleman who went on board the Pitt. This gentleman wishing to see this domesticated tiger was led to the carpenter’s cabin, where the tiger lay sleeping at the feet of the carpenter’s wife and sister. Encouraged by the account he was given of this docility, he first ventured to touch him, and after growling a little, which he always did when disturbed from sleep, he patted him in the most familiar manner and then proceeded to put his hand into the tiger’s mouth. The tiger was perfectly content with this.

What became of the tiger we have no idea, but presumably he came part of the circus, but it would be nice to think he remained on board with the carpenter, but it seems unlikely as only a few months later the ship, still under Manning’s command became a convict ship.

Sources Used

Kentish Gazette 31 August 1790

Featured Image

Three Tigers in a Rocky Landscape by Sawrey Gilpin. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

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

The Life of Actress, Mary Wells

Mary Stephens Davies was baptised on 14th December 1761 in the village of Little Haywood near Colwich, Staffordshire, the daughter of Thomas Davies and his wife, Anna. At the tender age of just six, Mary had visited the theatre for the first time and the following day, much to the annoyance of everyone in the household, she kept singing one of the songs she had heard the night before. Her potential future in the theatre was secured.

John Edwin and Mrs. Mary Wells as Lingo and Cowslip in "The Agreeable Surprise". Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
John Edwin and Mrs Mary Wells as Lingo and Cowslip in “The Agreeable Surprise”. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Thomas Davies was a skilled gilder and woodcarver who operated with a partner, a Mr Griffith; Davies was employed to make a box from the wood of the mulberry tree which had reputedly been planted by William Shakespeare himself in his garden at nearby Stratford-upon-Avon. This casket was presented to the Shakespearian actor – and theatre manager – David Garrick, an act which initiated Garrick’s three-day Shakespeare Jubilee extravaganza in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1769 (the mulberry wood casket is now in the care of the British Museum).

A short time later, Mr Griffith, who had his eye on Mrs Davies, contrived to have Thomas Davies sent to prison and then judged to be insane and committed to the asylum in Birmingham, where he died. Mrs Davies spurned Griffiths’ advances and, to support Mary and her siblings, one brother and sister ran a tavern frequented by the acting fraternity and then embarked on a modest stage career, playing provincial towns. According to Mary’s memoirs, her mother arranged for the children go to London with their servant, Sally. So, off they went to Warwick Street, London but Mary led an unhappy existence as she was ill-treated by Sally.

Mary Stephens Wells, née Davies (1762–1829), as Mrs Page (from The Merry Wives of Windsor) by William Hamilton. Royal Shakespeare Company Collection
Mary Stephens Wells, née Davies (1762–1829), as Mrs Page (from The Merry Wives of Windsor) by William Hamilton. Royal Shakespeare Company Collection

At the age of fourteen, Mary followed her mother on to the stage and was playing the role of Juliet in a theatre in Gloucester when she met her Romeo, Ezra Wells. After a whirlwind romance, the couple married by licence in 1778 at St Chads, Shrewsbury, apparently against her mother’s better judgment although Anna Davies did give her consent to the union.

Her mother clearly knew best in this instance and she should have listened to her,  for Ezra soon deserted his young bride and wrote the following letter to her mother.

Madame, – As your daughter is too young and childish, I beg you will for the present take her again under your protection; and be assured I shall return to her soon, as I am now going on a short journey.

As you may have anticipated, Ezra never returned for his bride but instead ran away with one of the bridesmaids.

Mary continued with her acting career, touring around the country until finally, in 1781, making it onto the London stage where she gained fame playing a wide variety of roles, both male and female.  She acted under her married name (perhaps in the hope that Ezra would return) and was sometimes billed as Becky instead of Mary Wells.  The nickname Cowslip, her role in The Agreeable Surprise, persisted for many years.

Captain Epilogue

Toward the end of the 1780s, Mary met a fashionable young gentleman named Captain Edward Topham, (the tip-top adjutant), an Eton educated bewhiskered officer in the lifeguards who would become a playwright and journalist: he started The World and Fashionable Advisor newspaper in 1787, primarily to print puff pieces about his Cowslip (or Pud, as he also affectionately called her; she termed him Whiskerandos). Mary was captivated by the beauty of his mind but, as she could not legally be married to him, the relationship eventually fizzled out but not before Mary had given Topham four daughters, Juliet, Harriet, Maria Cowslip and the last who was born two months prematurely ‘in consequence of a fright’ and did not survive. In his book, Retrospections of the Stage, John Bernard later wrote that:

Of all Becky’s peculiarities, perhaps the greatest was her imagining that every man she saw or spoke to, fell in love with her…  Becky’s malady reached its climax in her supposing that our late beloved and most virtuous monarch was among the number of her victims.

At Weymouth in 1789, Mary spectacularly embarrassed herself on the esplanade in her efforts to attract the attention of George III and his queen and then chartered a yacht on which she sat astride a gun mounted on the deck and sang God Save the King as she chased the royal party to Plymouth. Public opinion was divided as to whether Mary had inherited her father’s insanity or if her eccentric behaviour was because she was too fond of a drink.

View of the inner court of the Fleet Prison, with the prisoners playing rackets and skittles on the left, 1807.
View of the inner court of the Fleet Prison, with the prisoners playing rackets and skittles on the left, 1807. © The Trustees of the British Museum

As the century drew to its conclusion so did her wealth, despite still performing on the stage and we arrive a point when Mary ran out of money and men to support her, partly due to the fact she had bailed her brother-in-law Emmanuel Samuel out of his own money woes. Mary now found herself in the confines of the Fleet debtors’ prison, and said of her sorry circumstance that,

I came to London to see one of Mr Reynolds plays, How to Grow Rich, struck by the name, I determined to learn a lesson; but, notwithstanding the attention I paid, I benefitted nothing by it.

Whilst in the Fleet her life made a dramatic change, for she met a wealthy Jewish gentleman, Joseph Haim Sumbel, ‘rich, young and handsome; but haughty, irascible, and jealous, to the greatest degree’. Formerly the secretary to the Moroccan ambassador, Sumbel was in prison for contempt of court. They fell in love but once again there was the obstacle of her first husband who she claimed not to have seen for over 20 years.

Desperately seeking the security of a marriage (Sumbel was reputed to be a millionaire), she was brushed off any worries about committing bigamy and converted to Judaism so that she could marry Sumbel in a traditional Jewish ceremony in October 1797. As part of her conversion to Judaism, Mary, aka Becky Wells, took a new name, Leah Sumbel.  The newspapers wrote of the marriage that they followed the full Jewish wedding ceremony in the presence of ten witnesses.

Any happiness was short lived. A year after the wedding, Mary applied to the magistrate for her husband’s arrest on the grounds of his attempted murder of her, saying that he was ‘tainted by the green-eyed monster’. Joseph retaliated and put a notice in the newspaper advising people not to give his ‘wife’ credit as she was using his name unlawfully to which Mary responded with another advert stating that she was seeking a divorce and maintenance. So began a lengthy game of both Sumbel and Mary hurling insults at each other in the press. Mary claimed that Sumbel had tried to strangle her and, on another occasion, the owner of the house they were living in took them both to court for destruction of his property after Joseph threw a chamber pot (hopefully empty!) at Mary, breaking it in the process. Sumbel made a futile attempt to shut Mary up in a madhouse, and when that failed he sought to annul his ill-fated marriage. Despairing of legal redress in the matter, Sumbel chose to end the matter simply, with a hand-written slip of paper:

When a man hath taken a wife and married her and it comes to pass that she hath no favour in his eyes because he hath found some uncleanness in her, then let him write her a bill of divorcement and give it in her hand and send her out of his house.

Eventually, Sumbel slipped out of the country on a passport acquired by his friend, the Duke of Portland, and Mary, who renounced Judaism, saw no more of him although she continued to use his surname.

Mary Wells - unattributed portrait of Edward Topham after the original by John Russel RA - The Life of George Brummell esq vol 1, 1886
Mary Wells – unattributed portrait of Edward Topham after the original by John Russel RA – The Life of George Brummell esq vol 1, 1886

As a way of making some money, Mary published her memoirs: there’s nothing like selling your soul but even this was not sufficient to pay off her creditors. She spent her remaining days in lodgings with her elderly mother, living on little more than the £55 a year she received from the charitable Covent Garden Theatrical Fund: The Wells’ landlady, a Mrs Bellini, became a great friend. Mary’s three daughters by Topham grew up in Doncaster and were reckoned ‘the best horsewomen in Yorkshire’.

They all made good marriages, and this was perhaps some comfort to Mary, who died on 23 January 1829 aged 67, and was buried at St Pancras church. She is remembered as a great actress whose eccentricity and misfortunes prevented her from reaching her full potential.

Sources Used

Dallas, Eneas Sweetland. Once a Week, Volume 11

Highfill, Philip H. Burnim, Kalman A. Langhans, Edward A.  A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers

St Chads Shrewsbury, Marriage Register

Morning Star, Tuesday, June 2, 1789;

Oracle and Daily Advertiser, Monday, December 31, 1798

Oracle and Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, December 5, 1798

Craftsman or Say’s Weekly Journal, Sunday, October 22, 1797

True Briton (1793), Wednesday, December 5, 1798

Morning Post and Gazetteer, Monday, December 17, 1798

London Packet or New Lloyd’s Evening Post, December 24, 1798 – December 26, 1798

Morning Post and Gazetteer, Wednesday, December 26, 1798

True Briton (1793), Thursday, August 29, 1799

Featured Image – Microcosm of London


Anyone for 18th Century Tennis?

Tennis was all the rage in the mid-1700s, as was gambling, so put the two together and you have a winning combination. The game itself was somewhat different to its format today, however, the concept was the same, with professional players being able to command a high price to display their talent.

For the British, the major competitor was a Mr Tompkyns, but the French dominated the tennis scene, led by Monsieur Masson, born around 1740 and from Paris.

Monsieur Masson, the tennis player. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

In 1767 Masson arranged for another French tennis player to compete, a Monsieur Macon, he took on the British champion Tompkyns. They played four sets on the Friday, three of which Macon won, the remaining sets were played the following Monday and once again Macon won. Reports saying that he won due to the superiority in his management of his strokes. Tompkyns was more active at catching balls, but Macon had the racquet and ball so much at his command, that he could almost strike it to within an inch of where he wanted it to go and that he noticed that there were two ‘dead places’ where the ball would not rebound which allowed him to drop it perpendicularly down so that Tompkyns had no chance of returning it.  Had Tompkyns won he would have received five hundred guineas, so he suffered quite a loss.

Tennis was a sport for both sexes though and the name which appeared in the press in the late 1760s was a Madame Bunell, aged, apparently about sixty, again from France, who was more than happy to take on any man at the game.  Madame Bunell was reputed to be able to play fairly well, but would never wear the male attire to play but instated upon wearing a short skirt and a light jacket, which would allow her to move freely around the court. She was, somewhat derogatorily described as resembling a scarecrow.

Reports stated that she had been seen practising at the tennis court in James Street every morning, from five o’clock until seven. That practise paid dividends, as in February 1768 Madame Bunell competed against Mr Tompkyns at the tennis court in James Street, where she beat him fairly and squarely two sets to one. Let’s hope that you had put your money on Madame Bunell as considerable bets were placed on that match. A week later there was a re-match, perhaps Mr Tompkyns hoped to redress the balance. It was not the outcome he had perhaps hoped for as Madame Bunell beat him again, this time six sets were played of which she won four. Maybe he had hoped for a ‘third time lucky’ but there are no references for a third attempt.

Fives played at The Tennis Court, Leicester Fields by Robert Dighton, c.1784.
Fives played at The Tennis Court, Leicester Fields (a similar game) by Robert Dighton, c.1784. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The next big name to arrive on the tennis scene in the 1790s was Madame Masson, from Paris, who was said to be related to Monsieur Masson through marriage. She was described as around thirty years of age, of short stature and was dressed á la grecque with a short petticoat and drawers. She was said to possess such uncommon powers, that she could beat any man at a stroke; and in addition to that, she knew how to manage the balls better than any gentleman who attended the courts.

According to the Caledonian Mercury:

Madame Masson, the celebrated tennis-player, lately arrived from Paris, has had an audience with his Royal Highness the Duke of York. This Gallic heroine of the racquet, it seems challenges to play with any person in Europe for one thousand guineas.

The Royal Duke is to have the honour of first entering the lists with her: She plays in her female attire, a la Grecque, with a short petticoat and drawers.

In March 1790, she took on the notorious Colonel Banastre Tarleton with resounding success.

Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1782.
Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1782.

She was also challenged by a Mr Bisset, who was described as:

a young man of good fortune, who was in a gown and cap at Oxford about five years ago. We know not the gentleman’s degree, but the lady is apparently an undergraduate at tennis.

On this occasion, Bisset won.

Charles James Fox. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Charles James Fox. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

We will leave you with this image to conjure with, from the Morning Post of July 1777

Charles Fox is become conspicuous at the tennis court. When he leaves off play, being generally in a violent perspiration, he wraps himself up in a loose fur coat, and in this garb, is conveyed to his lodgings.


Marshall, Julian. The Annals of Tennis

Public Advertiser, Tuesday, February 14, 1758;

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Monday, April 13, 1767

Derby Mercury 24 April 1767

Lloyd’s Evening Post, May 20, 1767 – May 22, 1767.

Public Advertiser, Thursday, February 25, 1768

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Monday, March 7, 1768

Caledonian Mercury 12 March 1768

Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, July 2, 1777

Public Advertiser, Friday, February 19, 1790

Chester Chronicle 19 March 1790

Caledonia Mercury, 4th March 1790

Caledonian Mercury 10 September 1795

Featured Image


A prospect of the city of Dublin from the Magazine Hill in his Majesty's Phoenix Park. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

‘Darkey Kelly’, Brothel Keeper of Dublin

Dorcas Kelly aka Stuart, aka ‘Darkey Kelly’ was a brothel keeper and reputed witch in Dublin in the late 1750s but found notoriety on 7th January 1761 when she was partially hanged then burned at the stake, for allegedly murdering shoemaker, John Dowling on St Patrick’s Day 1760. Her ghost is still said to haunt the city.

Simon Luttrell of Luttrellstown in Turkish Costume Jean-Étienne Liotard - date unknown. The Athanaeum.
Simon Luttrell of Lutrellstown in Turkish Costume Jean-Étienne Liotard – date unknown. The Athanaeum.

Over time, however, the story of her demise took on a life of its own which has now become entrenched into Dublin folklore, so much so that a pub in the city has been named after her. It was reputed that Kelly, whose brothel was in Copper Alley, Dublin became pregnant with the child of Simon Luttrell, Lord Carhampton, a member of the Irish Hellfire Club and that she had demanded he pay maintenance for the child. Legend has it that he not only refused to pay but accused her of witchcraft and that she sacrificed her child in some sort of bizarre satanic ritual. The body of this alleged child was never found, but nevertheless, Kelly was sentenced to death.

This account from the Leeds Intelligencer, 21st September 1773 gives an account of the method used to sentence Elizabeth Herring to death; it appears that a similar method was used for Kelly.

It is only recently that more accurate accounts of her crime have come to light. As to whether she did in fact murder John Dowling, we will never know, but true or false, she was sentenced to death. At her trial, she had pleaded her belly, but a jury of midwives ascertained that she was not, in fact, pregnant; had she been, she would have given her a reprieve. It is interesting to note that women were both strangled and then burned, whereas men guilty of murder were hanged without the additional torture.

A prospect of the city of Dublin from the Magazine Hill in his Majesty's Phoenix Park. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
A prospect of the city of Dublin from the Magazine Hill in his Majesty’s Phoenix Park. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

It was almost thirty years later the World newspaper of 27th August 1788 carried an historical account of her death, which added fuel to the story. It was claimed that in the vaults of her house in Copper Alley, were found the bodies of five murdered gentleman and amongst them was supposed to be that of Surgeon Tuckey’s son, who went missing and had never been found.  So not only was she a witch but now a serial killer – but was she? No mention was made of this at the time of her death.

Interestingly this latter part of the story only came to light when her ‘sister’ and successor, Maria Lewellin (Llewellyn) found herself accused of procuring a child aged twelve or thirteen, Mary Neal (Neill) for the use of Lord Carhampton’s son, Henry Luttrell. So far there has been no way to ascertain whether Kelly and Lewellin were biological sisters or merely described as such because they ran the same brothel.

A Rake's Progress: The Orgy by William Hogarth. Sir John Soane's Museum.
A Rake’s Progress: The Orgy by William Hogarth. Sir John Soane’s Museum.

The story tells that John Neal and his second wife, Anne, lived close to Lewellin’s brothel. John was a hairdresser who was apparently rather too fond of a drink and somewhat neglectful of his family and customers. He had a young daughter, Mary, by his first wife. Reports state that Mary was enticed into delivering a letter to the house of Madame Lewellin. On arriving there she was taken inside, and it was then that she was allegedly raped by Henry, Lord Carhampton. Afterwards, she managed to leave the house but didn’t tell her parents what had happened for some time. Lewellin was arrested, tried and sentenced to death for her part in the crime. However, proof seemed to appear from other prostitutes who supported Lewellin, claiming that the child was lying about the whole thing and that she was actually, at the tender age of twelve or thirteen, a prostitute. Needless to say, Carhampton denied even knowing the child and so Lewellin was released and ultimately freed.

In the meantime, both of Mary’s parents were arrested for robbery and imprisoned, where Anne, who was heavily pregnant, died. What became of Mary and her father we may never know.

Other Sources used

An Authentic Narrative; being an investigation of the trial and proceedings in the case of Neill and Lewellin.

Curious Family History: Or Ireland Before the Union by the author of the Sham Squire

Ireland before the Union: with extracts from the unpublished diary of John Scott, Earl of Clonmell, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, 1774-1798. A sequel to The sham squire and the Informers of 1798

A Brief Investigation of the sufferings of John, Anne and Mary Neal by Archibald Hamilton Rowan


The Arsenic Poisoner

Elizabeth Hinchcliff, aged 14, stood before the court at the Old Bailey, on September 19th, 1810, indicted, that, on August 16th, 1810 she administered a deadly poison, arsenic, with the intent of murdering her employer, Ann Parker, two children in her employer’s care, Christopher John Stanley and Samuel Smith.

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

Ann Parker was a spinster living a quiet life at 14, Tavistock Row, in the heart of Covent Garden, she also ran a school and a shop which sold perfumes and medicines.

A Perspective View of Covent Garden. Courtesy of Yale Center British Art
A Perspective View of Covent Garden. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

According to Ann Parker, Elizabeth had been telling her for a couple of months that the lower part of the house was overrun with rats, so Elizabeth sent her off to Mr Midgley in the Strand to fetch some poison to deal with the situation.

Cries of London: buy a trap, a rat trap, buy my trap. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Cries of London: buy a trap, a rat trap, buy my trap. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

When Elizabeth returned Ann put the poison in the back locker of a large writing desk but did not lock it and sent Elizabeth off to make tea for her and the school children. Elizabeth returned with the tea and was then sent to buy some mortar to put over the rat-holes after the poison had been administered. Ann then prepared food for the children, poured her cup of tea which was left to cool during this time. When she finally came to drink it, it tasted normal whilst in her mouth, but as soon as she removed the cup she felt a sort of heat in her throat and exclaimed ‘there is pepper in this tea’.

 Taking an emetic. Courtesy of Wellcome Library
Taking an emetic. Courtesy of Wellcome Library

The children continued taking their tea as Ann became more unwell, with pain in her stomach, back and thighs. During this time two of the children were also taken ill. There was no sign of Elizabeth, Ann assumed she was still out buying the mortar and initially thought that Elizabeth had added pepper to the tea as a trick, but she checked that the poison had not been opened, just to be sure and convinced herself that it hadn’t. Elizabeth returned and was confronted by Ann and denied having tampered with the tea. Ann quickly put on her hat and pelisse and rushed to the chemist to ask how the poison had been packaged to make sure it had not been tampered with and en route she was violently sick. She was worried that both she and children would die before she could get to the chemist.

Mr Midgley, the chemist was summoned to appear before the court to give his account of the packaging:

I am a chemist and druggist in the Strand. On the 16th of August, I received a note from Mrs Parker, the prisoner brought it; she says, I will be obliged to you to favour me with some more poison to kill the rats, as I am overrun. Upon which I put up a parcel of two ounces of arsenic. The prisoner requested to have more than the usual quantity, as they were dreadfully overrun. I put up two ounces in one parcel, that was all that she had; it was marked on the outside, poison, on the outer paper, and the inside paper, arsenic, poison.

He was asked how the package was tied and if it had been altered:

The knot was twisted when it was returned by Mrs Parker; it was tied in my usual way, a double knot, not twisted. When I arrived at Mrs Parker’s, the child Stanley was very sick. I tasted the tea, it had a strong metallic taste, I boiled some arsenic in the same herbs, which I bought of Mr Butler, the appearance of the tea is not altered by the infusion of arsenic.

Elizabeth was immediately found GUILTY of attempted murder and sentenced to death. It was asked that the court should show her mercy because her age and her parents being honest people. The jury did take account of her age and her sentence was changed to transportation.

Elizabeth left England on May 9th, 1812 on board the convict ship, The Minstrel, which, accompanied by another convict ship, The Indefatigable, sailed via Rio de Janeiro to New South Wales, arriving almost four months later. We have no idea what her life would have been like on board, but certainly not an easy one, certainly according to ship records there were deaths during that passage.

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

The following year, on July 24th, 1813 Elizabeth was issued with a Ticket of Leave, but for some unknown reason, it was subsequently withdrawn, until it was reissued on January 6th, 1820.

Whatever the reason, Elizabeth remained in Australia and she obviously did find happiness though, as in April 1824 she received permission to marry fellow convict, George Greenhill, a young man, slightly younger than her.

South view of Sydney, New South Wales, 1819, taken from the Surry Hills [picture] / J.L. pinxt. Courtesy of National Library of Australia
South view of Sydney, New South Wales, 1819, taken from the Surry Hills / J.L. pinxt. Courtesy of National Library of Australia
George too had demonstrated good behaviour and had been appointed to the post of police constable. He was described in the records as being five feet eight inches, with light brown hair and blue eyes. Sadly, we have no physical description of Elizabeth.  George had arrived onboard the Hadlow, having been sentenced to death for burglary, commuted to transportation, in 1818.

Liverpool, New South Wales [picture] / I. Lycett delt. et execute. Courtesy of National Library of Australia
Liverpool, New South Wales I. Lycett delt. et execute. Courtesy of National Library of Australia
The couple married at the recently opened St Luke’s church, Liverpool, on the outskirts of Sydney. The only other sighting of the couple was on the 1828 census when George’s occupation was that of a labourer and in 1829, George was issued with a Ticket of Leave, then in 1836, he was given a conditional discharge. Elizabeth remained in Australia with George until her death at aged 50, in 1846.

No record of the couple having had any children remains, so we can only assume that there were none. Shortly after her death George, who had become an upstanding member of the community, remarried and lived out his days in Sydney.

Sources used

Old Bailey Online

Convict registers for Australia

Featured Image

A woman suffering the pain of colic. Etching after G Cruikshank. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library


The Truth about the Eccentric Jane Lewson who died aged 116

Where do we begin with this story? Let’s begin with the accounts of Jane’s life as repeatedly recorded ad nauseum since her death in 1816 and which has entered into folklore … after all, why let the facts get in the way of a good story! Except that for those who read our articles will know we have a penchant for setting records straight.

Jane Lewson, remarkable for her age and peculiarities. © The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Jane Lewson died on 28th May 1816, at her home, no. 12 Coldbath Square, Clerkenwell, aged 116. She was reputedly one of the figures who may have provided the inspiration for Dickens’s Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. She was known in the local area as Lady Lewson due to her eccentric appearance: she chose to wear clothes that would have been worn during the reign of George I.

Clerkenwell c1806. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Clerkenwell c1806. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

Jane Vaughan was born in 1700, in Essex Street, The Strand of most respectable parents. She married a wealthy gentleman, Mr Lewson, who died when she was only 26, leaving her to raise her daughter alone.  Jane apparently had many suitors but never remarried. When her daughter married, Jane became almost a recluse, rarely going out or allowing visitors and as the years passed, Jane became more and more eccentric and retained no servants except one old female servant and then, after this lady’s death, an old man who looked after several houses in the square and who would go on errands for her, clean shoes etc. Jane eventually took this man into her house where he acted as her steward, butler, cook and housemaid, and, with the exception of two old lap-dogs and a cat, he was her only companion.

A later depiction of The Strand, Looking Eastwards from Exeter Change, London; Caleb Robert Stanley; Museum of London. Exeter Exchange was a shopping centre. The church in the centre is St Mary-le-Strand and the tower behind it is that of St Clement Danes.
A later depiction of The Strand, Looking Eastwards from Exeter Change, London; Caleb Robert Stanley; Museum of London. Exeter Exchange was a shopping centre. The church in the centre is St Mary-le-Strand and the tower behind it is that of St Clement Danes.

The house was large and elegantly furnished but very run down. The beds were kept constantly made, although they had not been slept in for about 50 years. Despite the attention of the old lady and gentleman retained as a servant, Jane’s apartment was only occasionally swept out but never washed, the windows were so crusted with dirt, that they let in virtually no light.

Jane never washed as she believed that those who did so caught colds, so instead smeared herself with hog’s lard because it was soft and lubricating Her overall health was good, and she apparently cut two teeth when aged 87.  She would only drink tea from her favourite cup and always sat in her favourite chair. She lived through five reigns and was supposed to be the most faithful historian of her time, the events of 1715 being fresh in her recollection. Jane loved her garden and that was the only part of her home that was well maintained.

She always wore powder, with a large téte, made of horse hair, on her head, near half a foot high, over which her hair was turned up; a cap over it, which knotted under her chin and three or four curls hanging down her neck. She generally wore silk gowns, and a long train with a deep flounce all round; a very long waist and very tightly laced up to her neck, round which was a kind of ruff or frill. The sleeves of her gown came below the elbow. A large straw bonnet, high-heeled shoes, a large black silk cloak, trimmed with lace and a gold-headed cane, completed her everyday costume for around 80 years.
The Met Museum.

Her funeral consisted of a hearse and four, and two morning carriages, containing Mr Anthony, of Clerkenwell, her executor and some relatives.

Charing Cross looking up The Strand. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Charing Cross looking up The Strand. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

After her death, a witness recalled visiting the house and was shocked to find the number of bolts and bars fitted to the doors and windows. The ceiling of the upper floors lined with bars to prevent anyone getting into the property through the ceiling. The cinder ashes had not been removed for many years and were piled up as if to form beds.

Right, so we’ve finished with the fiction, let’s get down to the facts. The ODNB gave us a slightly cryptic clue that all may not be well the existing information about Jane, but it stopped short of following it through. Had further investigation been carried out the clues contained in the 1846 book The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk by Alfred Inigo Suckling would have been found. Suckling also placed Jane’s husband in a very wealthy family with links to the house of Cromwell.

Robert's first family. Click to enlarge
Robert’s first family. Click to enlarge


Robert and Jane's family tree. Click to enlarge
Robert and Jane’s family tree. Click to enlarge

Jane Vaughan, according to her burial at Bunhill Fields was buried as Jane Luson, not Lewson and was aged 96, not 117, making her birth closer to 1720, rather than 1700.

3rd June 1816. Luson, Jane. Coldbath Square
3rd June 1816. Luson, Jane. Coldbath Square

She did not marry until 21 July 1751, so if she had been born in 1700, then she must have been 51 when they married and in her sixties when she gave birth to three daughters, Maria, Elizabeth, Hepzibah and a son Robert (buried 1759). Her husband was Robert Luson, a very wealthy merchant from Great Yarmouth and the couple were married at St Mary-Le-Strand, Somerset House Chapel.

Robert had previously been married in Great Yarmouth, but his wife Hepzibah had died some years previously. Robert then died in 1769 almost 20 years after their marriage and left Jane well provided, but his estate Blundeston Hall he left to his eldest daughter, Maria, who married George Nicholls in 1778 and his other estates in Blundeston to his second daughter Hepzibah, who married Nathaniel Rix in 1777 and a further estate to his third daughter, Elizabeth who married Cammant Money in 1776.

Blundeston Hall, Blundeston. Courtesy of Adrian S Pye under Creative Commons Licence
Blundeston Hall, Blundeston. Courtesy of Adrian S Pye under Creative Commons Licence

There is one baptism which could feasibly be Jane’s, but we are unable to confirm that it is her. It is dated 3rd February 1720 and took place at the Temple Church, The Strand, London with the parents named as Thomas and Jane.  Temple Church is only a few minutes’ walk away from St Clement Danes which Jane gave as her home parish when she married and Essex Street where she was reputed to have been born.

Temple Church. Picturesque Views with an Historical Account of the Inns of Court in London and Westminster by Samuel Ireland. courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Temple Church. Picturesque Views with an Historical Account of the Inns of Court in London and Westminster by Samuel Ireland. courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

Jane did leave a will, dated 11th May 1816 in which she named her servant William Brunton who received many of the household belongings plus an annual payment for the remainder of his life and one or two friends, but no provision was made for any family members.


The Edinburgh Annual Register, Volume 9 edited by Walter Scott

Records of longevity: with an introductory discourse on vital statistics by Bailey, Thomas, 1785-1856

Clerkenwell News 08 November 1870

Lancaster Gazette 22 June 1816

Liverpool Mercury 28 June 1816

Featured Image

Fleet Street and Temple Bar by Samuel Scott. Courtesy of the Walker Art Gallery

The humble apron of the 18th century

Many of us have at least one apron, how often it’s worn will vary greatly. Today they are usually colourful with motifs, some plastic, some cotton. Protection for clothing has been used for centuries so we thought we would take a look at some other uses for the humble apron back in the Georgian Era.

The Unwilling Bridegroom or Forc'd Meat will never digest by William Murray, 1778. Courtesy of the British Museum. The apron covering a multitude of sins!
The Unwilling Bridegroom or Forc’d Meat will never digest by William Murray, 1778. Courtesy of the British Museum. The apron covering a multitude of sins!

We were quite surprised to see just how many accounts there were of aprons being stolen, for example, a report in The News of January 23rd, 1738 when Elizabeth Swann was committed to gaol for stealing a basket and an apron. Gruesome accounts sadly exist where an apron was used to stifle the screams when a woman was being raped. Others told of how aprons caught fire with disastrous consequences or to help extinguish a fire, but we thought we would look at some more unusual ones.

This is a very sad account of its use. In June of 1726, a brazier’s apprentice near Smithfield and a fellow servant had an argument. In a fit of passion, the female servant told the young apprentice to ‘go hang himself’. He took her harsh words quite literally and was found dead with her apron strings tied to his bedstead.

Apron dating back to the first quarter 18th century made from silk, metal thread. Courtesy of The MetMuseum
Apron dating back to the first quarter 18th century made from silk, metal thread. Courtesy of The MetMuseum

In September 1738, a Barbara Balingal stood bare-headed at the cross between the hours of 11 and 12, with two dozen herrings put about her neck by the executioner (no explanation given as to why, unfortunately!) and the following label on her apron

‘I Barbara Balingal stand here for cheating and beating the servants of the neighbourhood’

Afterwards, Barbara was remanded to prison until she paid the complainer ten shillings sterling damages.

The Careless Servant by Francis Wheatley, Francis. Courtesy of the  Walker Art Gallery
The Careless Servant by Francis Wheatley, Francis. Courtesy of the  Walker Art Gallery

Around mid-October 1750 a woman was found dead in one of the new houses in Parliament Street, Westminster; her apron was full of shavings and sticks and it is supposed that whilst gathering them she fell, which occasioned her death.

A Peasant Girl Gathering Faggots in a Wood by Thomas Gainsborough. Courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery.

One common theme appears is that the type of apron worn seems to denote the occupation, this theme recurs when identifying dead bodies ‘he was wearing a leather apron’, the conclusion, in this case, being that he must have been a carpenter.

Edward Prince (b.1718/1719), Carpenter, Aged 73 by John Walters. Courtesy of the National Trust, Erddig.  His apron showing the tools of his trade.
Edward Prince (b.1718/1719), Carpenter, Aged 73 by John Walters. Courtesy of the National Trust, Erddig. His apron showing the tools of his trade.

Aprons were also symbolic as can be seen below by the Freemason wearing an apron as part of his regalia of office, the different aprons denoting their position within the brotherhood.

Portrait of a Freemason.  Artist unknown. Courtesy of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

We don’t think we’ve ever come across an article like before. It relates to a dinner given by King George II in 1730 for an Indian king, a prince and 5 chiefs of his court. When introduced to the king at Windsor, the Indian king wore a scarlet jacket, but all the rest of the entourage were naked, except for an apron about their middles and a horse-tail hung down behind, their faces and shoulders were painted and spotted with red, blue and green. They had bows in their hands and painted feathers on their heads. Whatever must the monarch have thought?

Miniature of George II by Christian Friedrich Zincke, c.1727. Royal Collection Trust.
Miniature of George II by Christian Friedrich Zincke, c.1727. Royal Collection Trust.

We end with a story from the newspapers of January 1790 and a lovely scene of domesticity in the royal household. The Princess Royal surprised her royal mother with a present, which, though of no great value in itself, was rendered highly pleasing to her Majesty, by the manner in which it was made. Her Royal Highness had procured some beautiful muslin, which she got made up into four aprons, three of which were for herself, and for the Princesses Augusta and Elizabeth. The fourth was for her majesty. The last had a much richer trimming than the other three.  It was bound with ribband and trimmed with a broad and beautiful blond lace, to which was added a rich fringe.  When the Queen was going to sit down to breakfast, the Princess Royal presented her with the apron and begged her Majesty would do her the pleasure of wearing it. The Queen, charmed both with the apron and with the attention of her lovely daughter immediately put it on, and said that in her life that she had never worn an apron which she prized so highly.

Charlotte, Princess Royal by Sir William Beechey. Royal Collection Trust.
Charlotte, Princess Royal by Sir William Beechey. Royal Collection Trust.

Sources Used  

Sheffield Register, Yorkshire, Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire Universal Advertiser 22 January 1790

Caledonian Mercury 30 June 1730

Whitehall Evening Post or London Intelligencer, October 18, 1750 – October 20, 1750

Ipswich Journal 04 June 1726

Daily Gazetteer, Monday, January 23, 1738

Daily Gazetteer, Thursday, September 14, 1738

Featured Image

Allan, William; The Ballad of Old Robin Gray. Courtesy of University of Aberdeen

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

The 18th Century fashion for Turbans

It’s been a while since we wrote a fashion post, so to make up for that we’re going to take a look at a piece of headgear – the turban, a piece of headwear that according to Vogue is making a comeback for this Spring and Summer.

We were inspired to write this post having watched Amber Butchart’s fascinating programme on BBC4, ‘A Stitch In Time’, during which she looked at the outfit worn by Miss Dido Elizabeth Belle. Nina Mikhaila, historical costumier and her team recreated the outfit including the turban, which proved to be quite a challenge, trying to find the correct fabric and to recreate the style itself.

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

Amber speculated that the turban was perhaps worn as part of a fancy-dress costume and made Dido appear even more exotic; whilst in part she is correct, there is something a little more significant about the origin of Dido’s turban which Amber  wasn’t aware of at the time making the programme (she does now, however, but we can’t spill the beans on that one yet, so it will be a story for another time!).

Dido Elizabeth Belle


The portrait of Dido is so unusual in so much as that Dido was not a servant but the daughter of Sir John Lindsay. The painting depicts her with her cousin Miss Elizabeth Murray was reputed to have been painted by Zoffany c.1778. Whilst the turban had been worn by men in the UK during the earlier parts of the eighteenth-century, along with oriental-inspired banyans or wrapping gowns, it was not yet a common sight as a fashion accessory for women. There were, as always, a few exceptions, with the likes of Margaret Kemble Gage, sporting a turban in this portrait by John Singleton Copley c.1771, but examples like this were unusual.

Mrs Thomas Gage by John Singleton Copley, 1771.
Mrs Thomas Gage by John Singleton Copley, 1771. Timken Museum of Art, San Diego.

Turbans didn’t take centre stage until towards the end of the century as wigs and ‘high hair’ had been the predominant fashion statement – a turban plonked on top of one of those wigs wouldn’t really have worked!

A lady in a fine room dressed in macaroni style with high hair standing in profile to left looks directly out with her fan held open. January or February 1773.
A lady in a fine room dressed in macaroni style with high hair standing in profile to left looks directly out with her fan held open. January or February 1773. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The turban presented an image of Turkey and the exotic east; it was something worn at a fancy-dress ball rather than everyday wear, as you can see from this extract in the Stamford Mercury of 1773 which was attended by one of Lord Mansfield’s nieces.

Lord Chief Baron’s daughters, Miss Nancy a Sultana, with a turban quite brilliant with a profusion of diamonds and Miss Betsey, a country girl selling eggs and the other two also in pretty attire. Hon. Miss Kitty MacKenzie, sister to the Earl of Seaforth, a milkmaid; Miss Fletcher, a Sultana; Miss Lindsay, niece to Lord Mansfield, a shepherdess.

Portrait of a woman, traditionally identified as Lady Hervey by Angelica Kauffmann c1770. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Portrait of a woman, traditionally identified as Lady Hervey by Angelica Kauffmann c1770. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

Just a few years later, however, an advert in the Ipswich Journal September 1778, implied that the turban was the latest fashion statement when attending a ball and was linked to the artist, Johann Zoffany.

Loiacon, Ladies Hair Dresser, begs leave to acquaint his customers and those ladies that will honour him with their commands, that he has with him an assortment of powders and pomatums, at 15 shillings each, French powder at 1 shilling. During the fair, he intends to dress ladies’ hair on a ball day, at 2 shilling and 6 pence.  The Zoffany with Rubin, as the newest fashion, like a turban (he likewise differs various ways in dress or undress) which appear neater than any cap whatever.

We move on to January 1787 when the turban was very much the headgear to be seen wearing for balls as we found at this account.

The ball on Thursday night, in honour of her Majesty’s birthday, fell nothing short of general expectation. The number and brilliancy of the company attending having never been equalled in this country upon any similar occasion. The Ladies were dressed with great neatness and elegance. Many of the Ladies of fashion in different coloured satins, ornamented with festoons of flowers, crepe, foil etc. A very prevailing headdress was the turban cap, decorated with feathers, cut steel, pearls and diamonds.

Over in Paris by 1790, the turban was all the rage:

The caterers of fashion in Paris, have availed themselves of the late grand spectacle at the Champs de Mars by introducing a new head-dress for the ladies, called the ‘Confederation Turban’ and the volatile beaux of fashion have just introduced the national colours in their striped silk stockings, which are termed the ‘National Gaitars’.

Lady Henrietta Cavendish-Bentinck (1737-1827), Countess of Stamford by George Romney
Lady Henrietta Cavendish-Bentinck (1737-1827), Countess of Stamford by George Romney; National Trust, Dunham Massey.

In 1795 newspapers offered helpful, detailed guides as to the correct items of fashion to be worn and for what occasion, just so that you didn’t get it wrong.

An Evening Dress

The hair dressed in light curls and ringlets, Turban of light blue crepe; bandeau of gold foil, set with diamonds and pearls; the hair turned up, mixed with the turban, and the ends returned in ringlets. Jacket and petticoat, of muslin; four plaits across the petticoat; the jacket turned on the back with lace; Sash of blue satin ribband; three strings of pearls round the neck; pearly ear-rings; blue satin shoes; white gloves; Swandown muff.

Mrs Mary Chatfield by John Opie
Mrs Mary Chatfield by John Opie; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

At the turn of the century, we find that turbans are no longer the domain of evening dress but are now entering everyday wear from around 1802 onwards.

We finish with this self-portrait of the artist Marie-Elizabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun who also followed the turban fashion as we see in this self-portrait of 1800.

Self portrait of Marie-Elizabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, 1800. Courtesy of the State Hermitage Museum
Self-portrait of Marie-Elizabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, 1800. Courtesy of the State Hermitage Museum

To discover more, we recommend the book by Paula Byrne, Belle: The True Story of Dido Elizabeth Belle.

If stories about women whose lives didn’t conform to the norm of the day interest you, then you might enjoy two of our biographies:  An Infamous Mistress and A Georgian Heroine.


Richard Wroughton (1749-1822): Actor

In a previous blog post ‘Miss Jenny Davis as a bride’ we briefly mentioned Richard Wroughton, so thought we would take a closer look at him to see if we could find out anything more about his life.

Richard Wroughton as Barnwell. courtesy of V&A Museum
Richard Wroughton as Barnwell. courtesy of V&A Museum

Little is known of Richard’s early life. He was born in Bath, Somerset the son of Charles Rotton, or Rotten as recorded in the baptism register of St James’s church, Bath, 22nd October 1749. A small entry for a man who was to become one of the leading players of the London theatre circuit.  Quite why he changed his name we can only speculate, perhaps Wroughton appeared more suitable for the theatre than Rotten!

It is reputed that whilst Richard was ill he fell in love with his nurse, Joanna Townley, and later married her. We know he was under 21 as the parish registers of 1769 tell us that his father needed to give his consent. There was no such entry for his bride to be, however, implying that she was older than him.

Richard Wroughton as Essex in "The Earl of Essex". Courtesy of University of Illinois
Richard Wroughton as Essex in “The Earl of Essex”. Courtesy of University of Illinois

Richard and Joanna left the confines of Bath so that Richard could pursue his passion for the theatre, and so they set off for the glamorous life in London. Reading about him, Richard was clearly never short of work taking on a wide variety of predominantly Shakespearian roles at both Covent Garden and Drury Lane from the late 1760s until his retirement from the stage in 1798. He also performed in Liverpool and was the manager of Sadler’s Wells.

Ipswich Journal 22 July 1786
Ipswich Journal 22 July 1786

However, his ‘exit stage left’ was a little premature as he returned to acting a year or so later and remained an actor until 1815 when he finally retired, exhausted.

We tracked down his will, in which he left everything to his ‘beloved wife Elizabeth’ – who? He had remarried, so we began to search for the death of his nurse, later to be his wife, Joanna and found a curious burial entry in the parish register of Speenhamland, Berkshire for the 14th November 1810, the burial of a Joanna Wroughton, her residence given as Bath, Somerset. Her age at the time of her death was given as 71, making her birth 1739. Was this Richard’s wife? It would certainly appear to have been, so she was a good ten years his senior.

A theatrical candidate for manager of Drury Lane including Wroughton
A theatrical candidate for manager of Drury Lane including Wroughton

This entry makes sense when you check the newspapers for February 1811. A mere three months later Richard married for a second time, his new bride being Miss Elizabeth Thomas, daughter of Reverend Dr Thomas. He didn’t exactly waste any time finding a replacement which when you read Michael Kelly’s description of him, doesn’t exactly make him a great ‘catch’ –

a sterling person, sound and sensible. His person was bad, he was knock-kneed, his face was round and inexpressive, and his voice was not good. He had, however, an easy and embarrassed carriage and deportment, was never offensive’.

Richard was clearly a popular man as he was named as a beneficiary in several wills we have come across, most notable being that of the renowned actor Robert Baddeley.

Richard was buried 22nd February 1822 at St George, Bloomsbury, Camden.

Featured Image

Richard Wroughton, by Robert Laurie, published by William Richardson, after Robert Dighton mezzotint, published 10 July 1779. Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery

Runaway Spouses – Naming and Shaming

1753 saw the arrival of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke’s Marriage Act. This was seen to be a way of banning clandestine marriages once and for all. Parental consent was required for any person wishing to marry below the age of consent, i.e. 21. The marriage had to be conducted in church during the day by a clergyman, banns had to be read or a license issued. Falsification or errors made could result in the marriage being nullified.

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Libary
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Libary

Those unable to afford to buy the license could risk going to a city parish where they would not be known and have the banns published by a clerk, who was perhaps a little less vigilant than in your local area and who might not check the validity of your residence.

If all else failed there was always the option to make the potentially long journey to Gretna Green where, due to a loophole in the law, you could marry with few questions asked, although the validity of such a marriage might be questionable.

Gretna Green, or, the red-hot marriage, c.1795. Lewis Walpole Library
Gretna Green, or, the red-hot marriage, c.1795. Lewis Walpole Library

So, you have found yourself married and now decided it’s not for you. Your wife is nagging you and the children are screaming, the baby is crying. How to escape this intolerable situation. As a woman, there was little choice. Very few mothers would walk away from their offspring and as a wife you were as good as owned by your husband, but for a man, if wealthy you could divorce your wife. If the financial means for divorce were lacking, then one further option was simply to run away.

Before and after marriage
Before and after marriage.

It was, however, a crime in the Georgian Era for men to abandon their wife and family, as by doing so the family would become reliant upon the parish to support them, so it was important to have these men apprehended and returned to the bosom of their family as soon as possible. The way to try and trace these men was by naming and shaming in the newspapers, complete with name, age, occupation and a brief physical description. How many of these men did return home is unknown, but clearly obtaining their safe return was not through lack of trying on the part of the authorities. Here is an example from the Kentish Gazette, October 1st, 1816

Run Away

And left his wife and family chargeable to the parish of Frindsbury, James Apsly, known by the name of ‘Jemmy Rags’, he is about five feet ten inches high, a native of Aylesford, dark complexion, scar on his left cheek and a mole on the tip of his nose. Whoever will give information where he may be found, to Mr Edward Ross, Overseer of Frindsbury, shall, on his apprehension, be rewarded for their trouble.

Women did run away from their husbands, the difference being that if the husband wished his wife to return he would most likely put an advertisement in the local paper, something like this one reported in the Chester Chronicle, September 27th, 1799, along with a comment by the newspaper itself

A man at Condover, near Shrewsbury, advertising his runaway wife, thus concludes:

he will not be answerable for any debts she may contract until she returns to him again, and make him some acknowledgement for her misconduct.

We are at a loss to know what sort of acknowledgement it should be that would entirely satisfy a man in such a situation!

A Nincompoop, or Henpecked Husband. © The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

And, from the Leeds Intelligencer July 17th, 1797:

A Runaway wife

Whereas Elizabeth, the wife of me, Eli Baron, of Hunslet, in the parish of Leeds, Pot Vender, has absconded without any cause or provocation of my part:

Notice is therefore hereby given,

That whoever harbours her after this notice will be prosecuted: – she is about fifty-three years of age, broad set and dark complexioned.

He will not be answerable for any debts she may hereafter contract.

As Witness of his hand                                                        Eli Baron

The interesting point to note about many of these appeals for the wife to return is that they appear in almost the same format each time, the man’s priority is not necessarily the safe return of his wife, but that people are publicly made aware that their spouse has left them and that they are therefore no longer financially responsible for them. The majority also seem to wish to share the fact that it was not their fault, that they had done nothing to provoke their wife to leave them.

Husband discovered in act of kissing a maid . Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Husband discovered in an act of kissing a maid. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Fight with Cudgels, Francisco de Goya. Prado Museum.

18th Century Cudgelling Matches

This is a sport that seems unlikely to make a comeback anytime soon – hopefully.  Cudgelling was a type of duel fought with wooden weapons and was also known as ‘single stick’, with its origin dating back to around Tudor times.

The aim of the competition was to break your opponent’s head with a single stick i.e. to cut the skin on the head, face or neck so that blood was drawn. When the crowd saw blood, they would shout ‘a head’.  What a relaxing pastime this sounds, those Georgians sure knew how to have fun!

A Cudgelling Match between English and French Negroes in the Island of Dominica. courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art
A Cudgelling Match between English and French Negroes in the Island of Dominica. courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art

Competitors needed to be both strong and agile and have great speed as it could take quite some time to hit your opponent hard enough to draw blood.

The newspapers carried reports of this combative sport, so we thought we would share a few with you.

Reading Mercury 13 May 1799

On Whit-Thursday the 16th May 1799, will be given a very good hat of 15-shilling value to be played at cudgels for, the man that breaks most heads to have their prize; the blood to run one inch or be deemed no head, which is to be decided by the umpires. No counterfeit play will be allowed.

From 'Chairing the Member, from The Humours of an Election series', 1755 by William Hogarth. Wikipedia
From ‘Chairing the Member, from The Humours of an Election series’, 1755 by William Hogarth. Wikipedia

Reading Mercury 21 May 1798

On Whit- Monday the 28th of May 1798, will be given One Guinea to be played for at Cudgels, for the best man; two Shillings for the man that break a head; and One Shilling for the man that has his head broken for the first seven couples that play. No man to have the two shillings, unless he plays the ties off, with the consent of the umpires.

Fight with Cudgels, Francisco de Goya. Prado Museum.
Fight with Cudgels, Francisco de Goya. Prado Museum.

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Thursday, September 26, 1765

Monday afternoon a cudgelling match was fought on Wandsworth hill, for a laced hat, for the value of one moidore. The opponents on each side were nine, one part of which were named the London side and the other the Wandsworth side. Great dexterity was displayed during the contest by both parties, particularly by a dyer, a sugar cooper and a carpenter, on the London side; and by a maltster, a gardener and a farmer’s labourer on the Wandsworth side. When, after the whose eighteen had undergone a very severe drubbing, each from his antagonist, fortune though proper to bestow the hat on the countrymen, by a small pimple under the eye of one of the London side, breaking through his overstretching, from which sprung a little bloody tinged matter, which the umpire was held to be broken head.

Public Advertiser (London, England), Thursday, August 28, 1755

On Wednesday, there was a cudgelling match for a hat, on the Strand, near the ferryboat slip, when a quarrel ensued, several were wounded, and a woman killed by a stone being thrown at her.

London Evening Post, September 6, 1733 – September 8, 1733

There will be a cudgelling match each forenoon on the Race Days for two Guineas to him that breaks most heads, half a Guinea to the second person that breaks most heads, and Five Shillings to the third.

London Evening Post, August 14, 1733 – August 16, 1733

Hindon Races

There will be a cudgel match each forenoon (from nine to one o’clock) on the race days, for very considerable prizes.

Guest Post by William Ellis-Rees – ‘Empress Josephine and the creation of Malmaison’

We would once again like to welcome back to our blog, Classics teacher and author of  The Elephant of Exeter Change: A Tale of Cruelty and Confinement in Georgian LondonWilliam Ellis-Rees.

William’s guest post this time has as its subject, Empress Josephine, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.  Josephine is of course extraordinarily famous, and many biographies of her have appeared over the years.  However, William’s research has unearthed a curious story which does not appear in the standard works, and which sheds light on a fascinating corner of her life. His fascinating book tells more about her obsession with the collecting of animals and plants, Josephine in the Mountains: The curious story of the Empress’s journey from Paris to the Alps.

For most visitors to Paris, the château of Malmaison will not be high on their list of must-sees.  There are perhaps more obvious attractions: museums and churches, the Seine and its bridges, the grand boulevards and the romantic back-streets.

Vue du château de Malmaison (façade sur le parc) by Pierre-Joseph Petit. Musées nationaux de Malmaison, France.
Vue du château de Malmaison (façade sur le parc) by Pierre-Joseph Petit. Musées nationaux de Malmaison, France.

But Malmaison, bought by Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Josephine in 1799, is for those who make the pilgrimage to the outskirts of the city quite simply fascinating.  I first fell under its spell many years ago when I embarked on extensive researches into its history, and I still find that it has the power to evoke the atmosphere of the Consulate and the First Empire.  The château is crammed with images of Napoleon’s military exploits, and the furniture and furnishings showcase the opulent decorative style he made fashionable.

Design for the library at Malmaison in Recueil de Décorations Intérieures by Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine.
Design for the library at Malmaison in Recueil de Décorations Intérieures by Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine.

But above all it is Josephine’s role in this particular story — a role made possible by her ambition and energy — that gives Malmaison its special appeal.

Plants and animals 

Josephine, who is not always remembered in the most favourable light, was, in fact, a very considerable connoisseur of landscaped gardens.

Josephine as botanist by Robert Lefèvre. Museo Napoleonico, Rome.
Josephine as botanist by Robert Lefèvre. Museo Napoleonico, Rome.

She employed a succession of designers to lay out the park of Malmaison in the ‘English’ style, which called for purling streams, follies and toy farms and apparently natural arrangements of trees and plants.

The ‘English’ garden at Malmaison by Auguste-Siméon Garneray. Musées nationaux de Malmaison, France.
The ‘English’ garden at Malmaison by Auguste-Siméon Garneray. Musées nationaux de Malmaison, France.

Josephine was in her element.  She used her influence and wealth to turn Malmaison into the centre of an extensive scientific network, along which plants flowed into Paris from the furthest corners of the earth, and then, once acclimatised in her magnificent glasshouses, out to municipal gardens in every region of France.

The Great Glasshouse at Malmaison by Auguste-Siméon Garneray. Musées nationaux de Malmaison, France.
The Great Glasshouse at Malmaison by Auguste-Siméon Garneray. Musées nationaux de Malmaison, France.

She collected animals, too, and her exotic creatures turned the park into something not unlike an Old Master’s vision of the Garden of Eden.

New Holland  

Josephine’s interest in natural history found triumphant expression in her patronage of the 1800 expedition to Australia, which Europeans then called New Holland.

Headed notepaper used by Nicolas Baudin. Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Le Havre, France.
Headed notepaper used by Nicolas Baudin. Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Le Havre, France.

The expedition, sailing in two ships, was led by a seasoned captain, Nicolas Baudin, but he clashed with members of the scientific team — the mariner and the intellectual were not obvious travelling companions!  Although the voyage was arduous, New Holland proved to be a land of almost magical beauty, and the ships carried back to France a rich haul of exciting new plants and animals.  These had been earmarked for the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, but Josephine was quick to claim her share.  And so it was that the glasshouses at Malmaison boasted numerous New Holland species.  So it was, too, that black swans floated on the ‘English’ river, and kangaroos hopped about their enclosure in the park.

New Holland animals and plants at Malmaison depicted in frontispiece of Atlas du Voyage aux Terres Australes by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit.
New Holland animals and plants at Malmaison depicted in frontispiece of Atlas du Voyage aux Terres Australes by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit.

Journey to the mountains

Josephine shared with many of her contemporaries a passion for mountain landscapes — she built a Swiss chalet at Malmaison and kept a herd of Swiss cows — and in 1810 she set off for the Alps.  She had only recently been divorced by Napoleon, and her journey to the mountains may be seen as in some sense deeply personal, and maybe even as a spiritual process of self-discovery.  Given the circumstances — she had been rejected in favour of the powerfully connected Marie Louise — Josephine must strike us as a rather forlorn figure.  Even so, she travelled with a graceful entourage and was fêted along the way.

Josephine picnicking with her companions at Servoz in the Chamonix valley by Lancelot-Théodore Turpin de Crissé. Musées nationaux de Malmaison, France.
Josephine picnicking with her companions at Servoz in the Chamonix valley by Lancelot-Théodore Turpin de Crissé. Musées nationaux de Malmaison, France.

One day a young man by the name of Joseph-Louis Bonjean was introduced to her.  What happened as a result of this meeting is an intriguing story, and, if you want to find out more, I would urge you read my recently published Josephine in the Mountains!

The Mer de Glace in the Chamonix valley by Lancelot-Théodore Turpin de Crissé. Musées nationaux de Malmaison, France.
The Mer de Glace in the Chamonix valley by Lancelot-Théodore Turpin de Crissé. Musées nationaux de Malmaison, France.


Suffice it to say here that for one of the two travellers, the illustrious Josephine and the humble Bonjean, nothing was ever the same again.  As one might expect, they later went their separate ways, but, as I show in my book, Bonjean’s name was not entirely lost.  What we have here is perhaps not the obvious story of Josephine.  My concern is not principally her rise to prominence, nor her marriage to and her divorce from Napoleon.  My story is about another — the other — Josephine.

One of the miseries of life – Gout

In the Georgian era, if you weren’t afflicted by gout you were nobody, it was very much a statement of wealth and class, something to aspire to have. Most sufferers of this complaint ate too much rich food and drank even more – port being regarded as one of the most common causes.

Gout was described in ‘A Treatise on the Nature and Cure of Gout’ by Charles Scudamore, written in 1816, as

a constitutional disease, producing an external inflammation of a specific kind; the susceptibility to it often depending on hereditary conformation and constitution, but more frequently wholly acquired; not occurring before the age of puberty, seldom under the age of five and twenty; and most frequently between the ages of twenty-five an thirty-five; affecting chiefly the male sex; and particularly persons of capacious chest and plethoric habit; in the first attack invading usually one foot only and most frequently at the first joint of the great toe; but in its return affecting both feet, the hands, knees and elbows, often accompanied by a fever.

Today, of course, medical knowledge has moved on and we now know that gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid which the body cannot break down and presents as a swelling in a joint, usually the big toe with red skin around the affected joint, as can be seen in this caricature by James Gillray. This being only one of countless caricatures of the day, mocking sufferers.

Nobody laughs at a touch of the gout.
Courtesy of Wellcome Collection

Where there was illness there were plenty of so-called doctors ready to offer you a quick fix. So much so that they proudly advertised the efficacy of their product in the newspapers, with claims that they could not just ease the condition, but totally cure it. So confident were they with their products that they provided testimonies apparently from people they had treated such as this one for ‘Mr Gardner’s Pills and Plaisters’.

Wright Esq. No. 40 Duke Street, Manchester Square, was many years afflicted with the gout, is cured by Gardener’s Pills and will with pleasure satisfy the afflicted.

Mr. Watson, Merchant and Underwriter, No. 25 Mincing Lane, seven years afflicted.

Mr. Purser, Talbot Innkeeper, Whitechapel, twenty years afflicted.

If that didn’t take you fancy, then no problem, why not try a more palatable cure?

Spilsbury’s Antiscorbutic Drops. This medicine had undergone a series of trials and held a variety of certificated of efficacy and could cure scurvy, gout, leprosy, rheumatism etc. The drops themselves were reputed to be pleasant to take, required no confinement. They were supplied in moulded bottles, with fluted corners and the words Francis Spilsbury, chemist, his Antiscorbutic Drops, by the King’s Patent, indented on each 5-shilling bottle and were supplied with directions to usage.

The Gout.
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Collection

Interesting to note that almost half the advertisement seemed to focus on the appearance of the container rather than the product it contained. Whilst it seems feasible that these drops could help to prevent or cure scurvy, as they were predominantly a form of vitamin C tablets, there seems little evidence that they could have any effect on gout.

So, who amongst the great and the good of the day suffered from gout – well naturally the Prince Regent with his excessive lifestyle was a prime candidate and the newspapers reported instances of him having suffered ‘a slight attack of gout in his knee’.  Sir Joseph Banks whose gout became so debilitating that he had to resort to using a wheelchair. Both William Pitt, the elder and the younger were both troubled by the complaint. Pitt, the younger being advised to avoid port and to drink wine instead. If you read the letters of Horace Walpole, you will find countless references on the subject of gout!

Lord Bryon, noted in 1814 that King Louis XVIII of France was another sufferer of gout and nicknamed him ‘Louis the Gouty’.

We will finish with an extract from the work of Rev. Jonathan Swift

As, if the gout should seize the head,
Doctors pronounce the patient dead;
But, if they can, by all their arts,
Eject it to th’extremest parts,
They give the sick man joy, and praise
The gout that will prolong his days.


Featured Image

Courtesy of Welcome Collection

Merry Christmas: Reviews, Guest Blogs and More

We’re now ending yet another year of blogging. It’s true, as you get older time goes faster. It feels like five minutes ago that we were wishing everyone a Happy 2017 and we’re now almost at the end of it. We’re taking our usual break until January to spend time with our families and to draw breath, but of course, we’ll  be back next year with even more stories from the Georgian era – we already have plenty in the pipeline.

We have just launched our third book, so if you’re still looking for that last-minute Christmas present or just a treat for yourself, then you may wish to check out A Georgian Heroine. There’s also a direct link on the right-hand side of the blog to all our books.

The bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man's world. A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs.

We are delighted with the first reviews of A Georgian Heroine. Regan Walker, author of Georgian, Regency and Medieval romances had this to say:

We authors try and cast our heroines as noble women who overcome great odds to lead significant lives and win the hero’s love. Though she never found true love, Charlotte was just such a woman. I could not recommend a more delightful heroine to you than Charlotte. The authors have done a thoroughly researched job of bringing her story to light in a fast-paced narrative. I recommend it!

You can read the full review on Regan’s website.

We’ve been guest blogging to promote A Georgian Heroine so, if you’d like to discover more about this truly amazing woman, the links you need are below.

Charlotte, as our Georgian Heroine preferred to be known, suffered a tortured existence at the hands of a man she should have been able to trust when she was in her late teens. On Naomi Clifford’s blog, we discuss Abduction and Rape in 18th Century London: The Multiple Misfortunes of Charlotte Williams.

Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa by Francis Hayman, Southampton City Art Gallery.
Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa by Francis Hayman, Southampton City Art Gallery.

Charlotte grew up in Lambeth on the banks of the River Thames and her close neighbour was the Georgian era businesswoman, Eleanor Coade, a lady we looked at in more detail in our post on Sue Wilkes’ site.

Coade Stone Factory, Narrow Wall, Lambeth, anonymous, 1790s.
Coade Stone Factory, Narrow Wall, Lambeth, anonymous, 1790s.

Finally, we headed over to Anna M. Thane’s website, Regency Explorer for a look at a daring scheme to end Napoleon Bonaparte’s life, The Plot of The Infernal Machine, which Charlotte had links to. You can find out more in The Lady is a Spy.

Hortense de Beauharnais - Rijksmuseum
Hortense de Beauharnais – Rijksmuseum

In other news, our first book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott is now a bargain £4.99 in eBook format for a limited time (click here for more).

Before we leave you for the year,  we would like to say a huge ‘Thank You’, to all our lovely readers who have taken the time to read our stories and to comment on them and to wish you a very Happy Christmas. We’ve had some lovely comments from people so hopefully, we’re writing things that interest or intrigue you, our lovely readers. We must also say a massive ‘Thank You‘ to our guest writers who have provided us with yet more amazing stories from the Georgian era.



The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking: a review

Have you ever wanted to dress like a gorgeous Georgian? Well, now help is at hand in the form of the The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking by Lauren Stowell and Abby Cox. It is released here in the UK on 13th December 2017, just in time for Christmas.

The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.
The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.

Lauren and Abby are owners of the historical footwear online store, ‘American Duchess’ who ship worldwide and sell the most amazing shoes. They have now used their research and experience to complete your outfit and enable you to make the most amazing dresses (and accessories) to go with those fantastic shoes.

The American Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking

Divided into four chapters, this book takes you step-by-step through making four gowns representing four different eras of the eighteenth-century plus all the accessories you could need to go with them. If, like us, your dressmaking skills are a little rusty or even rudimentary, don’t be put off. The book is written in a friendly style with basic details such as the different types of stitches covered as well as more detailed instructions, and all with a multitude of helpful diagrams and images so it doesn’t seem as daunting as you’d think.

There are instructions for making four gowns in the book. © American Duchess
There are instructions for making four gowns in the book. © American Duchess

And, even for a non-sewer, the book is still an entertaining and informative read if you are interested in the period. It’s interspersed with sumptuous pictures and lots of amusing asides (for instance, discover why one of Madame Pompadour’s maids inspired the name for the new short sacque gown being worn by her mistress, ‘pet en l’air’).

Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame, 1763-4 by François-Hubert Drouais. The National Gallery
Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame,
1763-4 by François-Hubert Drouais. The National Gallery

The book begins with a simple English gown from the 1740s complete with neckerchief, apron, mitts and hat. Then we go onto a much more extravagant ruffled and flounced dress, a sacque gown dating from the 1760s-1770s inspired by Francis Cote’s A Portrait of a Lady, plus underpinnings and accessories.

Portrait of a Lady, 1768 by Francis Cotes. The Tate
Portrait of a Lady, 1768 by Francis Cotes. The Tate

An Italian gown in printed cotton which follows the style of the 1770s-1790s and accommodates a ‘false rump’ is the third project. Again, you are given instructions for everything from the false rump to a silk covered ‘brain hat’, described as ‘fluffy, puffy and never stuffy’.

At the end of each section, you are shown how to wear your gown with style.
At the end of each section, you are shown how to wear your gown with style.

The last gown to be featured is the 1790s round gown, a much different silhouette from the preceding dresses.

Plate 034, N. Heideloff, February 1, 1795, Thomas J. Weston Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. One of the images given as inspiration for the 1790s round gown in the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmkaing.
Plate 034, N. Heideloff, February 1, 1795, Thomas J. Weston Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. One of the images given as inspiration for the 1790s round gown in the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.

To build confidence, we’d recommend starting with some of the simpler projects: now the weather has turned cold we’re looking with extreme interest at the 1790s giant (faux) fur muff… that’s a fashion that needs to be brought back, right?

The American Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking

This is a book that will be a permanent fixture on our bookshelf. It is a brilliant reference book on the fashions of the eighteenth-century and the history of dressmaking of the period and, as such, invaluable for anyone who writes about the era and wants to understand more about the clothes women wore. And, if you are an eighteenth-century re-enactor or lucky enough to be attending a Georgian dinner, ball or festival where it is requisite to look the part, then this wonderful guide will ensure that you stand out from the crowd in the latest fashions.

The Family of the Duke of Penthièvre in 1768 by Jean-Baptiste Charpentier the Elder, 1768, Château de Versailles.
The Family of the Duke of Penthièvre in 1768 by Jean-Baptiste Charpentier the Elder, 1768, Château de Versailles.

Now, where are our needles? That fur muff is not going to make itself and it’s beginning to snow outside!

We received a copy of this book in return for an unbiased review on our blog.

The Orangery in Georgian Scotland

We are absolutely thrilled to be welcoming back the author Regan Walker whose latest book has just been released – A Secret Scottish Christmas and today she’s written a guest blog about orangeries.

A Secret Scottish Christmas by Regan Walker

Whether you call them orangeries, hothouses, greenhouses or conservatories, buildings in which plants were allowed to grow in an environment sheltered from the weather were much in vogue in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the warm air of these glassed buildings, one could grow flowers (oleander, hibiscus, lily of the valley and camellias, among others), vegetables (kale would have been popular in Scotland), oranges and other citrus as well as other fruits (cherries, peaches, plums, pomegranates and figs). Perhaps most favoured of all were the exotic pineapples.

Orangery at Dyrham Park in South Gloucestershire, England
Orangery at Dyrham Park in South Gloucestershire, England

The name “orangery” reflects the original use of the building as a place where citrus trees were often wintered in tubs under cover, surviving through harsh frosts and snow, as they do in my story, A Secret Scottish Christmas. It is there the heroine often takes her morning runs.

The Romans are credited with the first greenhouses to grow fruits and vegetables, but the Italians are given credit for the orangery during the Renaissance when glassmaking techniques enabled sufficiently large expanses of clear glass to be produced. Though some in Scotland imported citrus trees from Spain, at least one of my sources said it was from Italy the Scots imported small budded orange trees.


Originally built to protect Queen Anne’s citrus trees from the harmful winter weather, orangeries in Britain became status symbols among the wealthy in Scotland as well as England. Early orangeries were built as extensions to the house, heated by charcoal braziers. But, as time went on, it became the fashion to have a separate “greenhouse” and, after 1816 when hot water heating came into being, the heating source might be outside the building.

Orangery at Heveningham Hall in Suffolk built about 1760
Orangery at Heveningham Hall in Suffolk built about 1760, designed by the architect Samuel Wyatt

Growing Pineapples in a “Pinery”

Discovered by Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1493, pineapples became a rare delicacy in Europe and were associated with power, wealth, and hospitality. In Britain, the practice of bringing pineapples to the dining table was not just for the aristocracy but extended to the gentry. The list of gentlemen engaged in this horticultural activity includes such notables of Georgian society as the poets William Cowper and Alexander Pope and the architect Lord Burlington.

Pineapple by Theodorus Netscher, 1720
Pineapple by Theodorus Netscher, 1720

The pineapple was a testament to the owner’s wealth and to his gardener’s skill and experience. Producing a crop of tropical fruit in Scotland before the advent of the hot water heating system in 1816 was a remarkable achievement. Several varieties were grown, but the one most common in Scotland was the Queen pine.

Dunmore pineapple building
Dunmore pineapple building

The Dunmore Pineapple, a folly ranked “as the most bizarre building in Scotland”, is located in Stirlingshire, Scotland. Dunmore Park, the ancestral home of the Earls of Dunmore, includes a building containing a hothouse constructed in 1761 by John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore. There, among other plants, he grew pineapples.

The south-facing ground floor was originally covered with glass windows. Heat was provided by a furnace-driven system that circulated hot air through cavities in the wall. The smoke from the furnace was expelled through four chimneys cleverly disguised as Grecian urns.

Sir James Justice, an 18th-century Scottish horticulturalist and gardener, developed an incredibly efficient glasshouse on his estate at Crichton, combining the bark pits for succession and fruiting plants under one roof. In a letter to Philip Miller and other members of the Royal Society in 1728, he proudly announced,

I have eight of the Ananas in fine fruit.

Glasshouse cultivation was an important part of 18th-century horticulture and many of the inventions we now take for granted were developed or refined during this period, such as the use of angled glazing, spirit thermometers and the furnace-heated greenhouses called hothouses.

Pineapples growing in pits
Pineapples growing in pits

Young pineapple plants were often grown in “tan pits” lined with pebbles at the bottom followed by a layer of manure and then topped with a layer of tanners’ bark into which the pots were plunged. The tanners’ bark, oak bark soaked in water and used in leather tanning, was the most important as it fermented slowly, steadily producing a constant temperature for two to three months. It remained in use until the end of the 19th century.

Three developments changed pineapple cultivation: hot water heating in 1816 (allowing the stove and its fumes to be located outside the orangery), sheet glass in 1833, and the abolition of the glass tax in 1845. With these, glasshouses for pineapple cultivation became very large structures.

Enjoy your trip through the orangery at the Stephen estate in Arbroath, Scotland in A Secret Scottish Christmas!

Spies and Scots and Shipmasters, oh my!

A Secret Scottish Christmas by Regan Walker

Scotland 1819

Twin brothers Nash and Robbie Powell of Powell & Sons Shipping, London, sail with their fellow Agents of the Crown to Scotland for a secret celebration of Christmastide, a holiday long frowned upon by the Scottish Kirk. But more than Christmas is being kept secret. The two brothers have accepted an assignment from the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to ferret out a fugitive fomenting rebellion among the Scots.

Aileen Stephen, the only daughter of an Aberdeen shipbuilder, had to be clever, devious and determined to gain her place in the family business. She succeeded to become a designer of highly coveted ships. One night, a man’s handsome face appears to her in a dream. When two men having that same face arrive on a ship full of Londoners, Ailie wonders what her second sight is telling her. Is the face she saw a portender of the future, a harbinger of danger, or both? And which of the two Englishmen is the one in her dream?

Older than Nash by a mere five minutes, Robbie has always been protective of his twin. When he realizes Nash is attracted to the sister of their Scottish host, he thinks to help matters along. But Nash wants no help from his brother, not where Ailie Stephen is concerned because Robbie is attracted to the girl himself!

Two brothers vie for the affection of the Scottish lass but only one stirs her passion. Which one will it be? And what will she do when she learns they are spies?

Discover more on the links below:

Regan’s website

Amazon links to buy Regan’s book:

To buy in the US, click here

To buy in the UK, click here

To buy in Canada, click here

To buy in Australia, click here

Regan’s Facebook page

Pinterest Storyboard for the book

Find on Goodreads


An Account of British Horticulture, drawn up for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia by Patrick Neill, 1817

The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Andrea Wulf

The Science of Horticulture including A Practical System for the Management of Fruit Trees by Joseph Hayward, 1818

Gardener’s Magazine by J.C. Loudon, 1839

Hardwood Orangeries

Glasshouses: A History in Pictures – The Telegraph

Dunmore Park – Wikimedia

A Taste for the Exotic: Pineapple Cultivation in Britain – Building Conservation

18th century orangery – Jane Austen’s World

A Scottish Pineapple – JK Gillon

A Taste for Pineapple – The World of Heyerwood

Vintage Christmas Flowers – Growing with Plants



The Bonassus.

The Bonassus

According to a book by John Barrow of 1749, the Bonassus was

a kind of wild ox, as high as a bull and bigger than a common ox. His flesh is very good. His horns are an astringent.

For a travelling fair owner, Earl James and Sons, the creature was far, far more than that very plain description. In the early 1820s Earl James acquired this amazing beast and described it in the following glowing terms:

This huge, terrific and extraordinary animal, which has, for the last eighteen months, occupied the attention of the naturalist, the historian and the whole of the cognoscenti and literati of the age and more particularly the inhabitants and visitors of the greatest metropolis in the world, who, from his hitherto unknown and unparalleled nature, has been the subject of editorial observations in the London newspapers. This most wonderful and interesting beast has been visited in London by upwards of 200,000 persons. In this wonderful phenomenon of nature is combined all the terrific grandeur of the animal creation: having the head of the elephant, the fore part of the bison, the mane and hind part of the lion, the eye on the cheekbone, and an ear similar to that of a human. He stands six feet high and weighs two tons! His consumption of daily food exceeds that of the elephant; he is not a carnivorous animal, but is particularly fond of fruit and vegetable; of the latter, he is most partial to onions and frequently consumes a bushel and a half at a meal.

The Bonassus.
The Bonassus. New York Public Library.

Needless to say, there was great excitement whenever a new animal was brought to the country and this one was no exception. This extract below is from a letter written by a Mrs Winifred Lloyd to her friend Mr Price at the Parsonage House somewhere in Monmouthshire, which was published in the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, 16 May 1822.

She began her letter by telling her friend that she and her children were having a wonderful time seeing everything London had to offer and added the following postscript which was published by the newspaper replete with her own unique spelling of words.

I forgot to say that we had seen Mr. Martin’s expedition, we went from the Bullock’s to the Bonassus, as it is but a step from wan to the other. The man says tis a perfect picter, and so it is, for sartain, and ought to be painted. It is like a bull, only quite different, and cums from the Appellation Mountings. My Humphry (son) thought it must have been catcht in a pound and I wundered the child could make such a natural idear, but he is a sweet boy, and very foreward in his larning. He was elely delited at the site you may be sure but Betty being tiresome shut her eyes all the time she was seeing it. But, saving his push now and then, the anymil is no ways veracious and eats nothing but vegetables. The man showed us some outlandish sort of pees that it lives upon, but he gave it two hole pales of rare carrots besides. It must be a handsome customer to the green grocer and a pretty penny I warrant it costs for vittles’.

An old Friend with a new Face or the Baron in Disguise Caroline kneeling in front of Bartolommeo Bergami, disguised as a bison, figure of a Beefeater and figure of a man with his hands in the air. Brighton Museums.
An old Friend with a new Face or the Baron in Disguise
Caroline kneeling in front of Bartolommeo Bergami, disguised as a bison, the figure of a Beefeater and figure of a man with his hands in the air. Brighton Museums.

However, not everyone was quite so enamoured with the creature, as this letter reprinted in the John Bull of January 1824 confirms.

‘Gentlemen, I am sorry to trouble you but I am so annoy’d by next door neighbour the Bonassus and with beasts, that cannot live in my house, for the stench of the beast is so great and there is only a slight petition betwixt the houses and the beast are continually breaking through in my different rooms and I am always losing my lodgers in consequence of the beast first a monkey made its way in my bedroom, next the jackall came into the yard and this last week the people in my second floor have been alarmed in the dead of night by the monkey breaking through into the closet and are going to leave in consequence, this being the third lodgers I have lost on account of the beast and I have been letting my second floor at half the rent – and those men of Mr James are bawling the whole day against my window and continually taking people’s attention from window – and I am quite pestered with rats and I am confidence they came from the Exhibition and in short the injury and nuisance is so great as almost impossible to describe, but to be so annoy’d by such an imposter I think is very hard – Gentlemen your inquiry will oblige. Your servant T.W. And if I mention anything to Mr. James he only abuses me with the most uncouth language’.

A claim for compensation if ever there was one!

Two murders in a Derbyshire village 1815 and 1819

The first murder took place about a couple of miles from the murderer’s home of Litton, a pretty village in the middle of the Peak district, a mere stone’s throw from the beautiful Chatsworth House. The murderer, one Anthony Lingard was one of the several children born to Anthony Lingard senior and his wife Elizabeth.

Anthony Lingard, the younger, reputed to be aged 21 but who was in fact 25, was charged with the murder, by strangulation, of one Hannah Oliver, a widow aged 48. Hannah was the keeper of the turnpike gate at Wardlow Mires, in the parish of Tideswell.

Wardlow Mires, Derbyshire
Wardlow Mires, Derbyshire

According to the evidence given, Lingard committed the robbery and subsequent murder on the night of 15th January 1815. Having killed Hannah, he left her house taking with him several pounds and a pair of new, red, women’s shoes. He immediately went to see a young woman, Rebecca Nall, in the village who was pregnant with his child and offered her some money and a pair of new shoes if she would agree to say someone else was the father of her unborn child. Rumour of the murder spread quickly, and mention of the shoes convinced the young woman that Anthony had committed the crime. She tried to return them to him but he merely said that it was nothing to do with him and that he had got the shoes in exchange for a pair of stockings form a travelling packman.

In court, no-one believed his story and judge summed up the evidence for the jury, who took a matter of minutes to conclude that he was guilty. The judge, Mr Justice Bayley, then proceeded to pass the death sentence upon Anthony.

Anthony resigned himself to his fate and forgave the girl who gave evidence against him, before being taken to the drop in front of the county gaol, Derby. After a short time occupied in prayer, he was launched into eternity. He met his fate with a firmness and seemed very calm at the end, which was on 28th March, 1815.

Before the judge left town, he directed that the body should be hung in chains in the most convenient place near the spot where the murder was committed, instead of being dissected and anatomised.

The treasurer’s accounts for Derbyshire 1815-16, show that the punishment of gibbeting cost a considerable amount of money. The expenses for apprehending Lingard amounted to £31 5 shillings and 5 pence, but the expenses incurred in the gibbeting reached a total of £85 4 shilling and 1 penny, and this was in addition to the ten guineas charged by the gaoler for conveying the body from Derby to Wardlow.

Subsequent toll -keepers apparently complained about the noise of his bones creaking in the wind, so after some considerable time, his remains were cut down and buried. There remain even today rumours of ghosts and people avoid that area after dark.

The body of Hannah Oliver neé Richardson, widow of Joseph Oliver was buried at the parish church in neighbouring Stoney Middleton.

Burial of Hannah Oliver January 17th 1815 at Stoney Middleton
Burial of Hannah Oliver January 17th, 1815 at Stoney Middleton

Some four years later Hannah Bocking, another local girl from the village of Litton, aged just sixteen, was also to meet the same fate as Anthony Lingard.

Hannah was tried for the poisoning of her friend, Jane Grant, who had angered her as Jane had succeeded in securing a job and Hannah had not.  She purchased arsenic on the basis that she had rats she needed to kill some ten weeks prior to committing the crime. She added the arsenic into a cake which, under the guise of civility, she offered to her victim. The excruciating torment in which Jane Grant died seemed to awaken no remorse in the guilty mind of Hannah.

During the long imprisonment which preceded the trial, Hannah showed no contrition. She showed no emotion when the sentence was passed and simply accepted her fate. During the night preceding her execution she slept soundly, and when the time arrived she ascended the platform with a steady step.

At the trial, Hannah implicated other members of her family, including her sister. It was not until the sentence of death was passed that Hannah retracted this and claimed sole responsibility for her actions. She was hanged at Derby on 22nd March, 1819. After hanging the usual time her body was taken down to be delivered to the surgeons for dissection. Great anxiety was expressed by her friends who wished to have the consolation of interring her body, however, the law at this time would not permit it.

St John the Baptist, Tideswell
St John the Baptist, Tideswell

Her victim, Jane Grant was buried at the neighbouring church in Tideswell, her entry unmistakably noted by the vicar denoting how she died – by arsenic poisoning and who it was that took her young life.

Burial of Jane daughter of Jane Grant of Litton
Burial of Jane daughter of Jane Grant of Litton, which took place September 19th, some considerable time after her death.

Sources used

Parish Registers for Tideswell & Litton.

Parish Registers for Stoney Middleton

Nottingham Gazette, and Political, Literary, Agricultural & Commercial Register for the  Midland Counties. 31 March 1815

Derby Mercury 09 January 1878

Northampton Mercury 28 January 1815

The execution and confession of Hannah Bocking, aged 16, of Litton

Bristol Mirror 03 April 1819 

Derby Mercury 25 March 1819

Give us our Daily Bread

Bread, a staple of part of the diet today as much as it was in the Georgian era. Hardly something controversial or so you would think.

Kitchen Interior with Still Life by Samuel Smith; Bury Art Museum
Kitchen Interior with Still Life by Samuel Smith; Bury Art Museum

In 1757 the weight of a penny loaf was set to reflect the local cost of wheat. Parliament tried to get people to eat lower quality bread by creating the ‘Household Bread’ Act, which stated that half of all bread sold must contain a high proportion of coarse grain – this proved extremely unpopular. Bakers, on the other hand, began to adulterate the basic bread mixture with the addition of less wholesome ingredients such as alum, which they used to make bread appear whiter.

In order to prevent such bad practice it was decided that bakers convicted of adulterating their bread, or of having in their possession any mixture or ingredients with an intention to adulterate the purity of meal, flour or bread, should forfeit a sum not exceeding ten shilling, nor less than two shillings and by the same statute, that the magistrate before whom any such conviction should be made, could cause the offender’s name and place of abode to be published in or near the county, city or place where the offence was committed.

Last Wednesday Thomas Smithers, baker near the butcher row in East Smithfield, was convicted before John Fielding Esq; in the penalty of five shillings for having in his possession a quantity of undissolved alum and a quantity of dissolved alum, with an intention to mix and adulterate the purity of the product. The penalty of 5 shilling was repaid to Mr Fielding, for the use of Magdalen House.

Substitutes for bread by James Gillray. courtesy of Yale Centre for British Art
Substitutes for bread by James Gillray. courtesy of Yale Centre for British Art

There was an interesting article on this subject, in the Hampshire Chronicle dated 27th July 1795 regarding the Prince of Wales who, as we know, was a lover of food; was he trying to improve his diet or simply trying to cut down on the spending?

The Prince of Wales has ordered brown bread to be introduced at his own table at Brighton and forbidden the use of any other amongst his household. At Brighton camp, the officers have been given orders that they had resolved on the use of brown bread only, at their tables, under forfeiture of one month’s pay from each who shall break this resolution. The allowance of bread to each man at the above camp has been reduced from a pound and a half to one pound per day. The deficiency of bread has been made up for with meat and vegetables.

Bread was a continual source of angst for the government of the day. Towards the end of the century, there were successive bad wheat harvests resulting in the price of wheat doubling and with it pushing up the price of bread. This ultimately caused food riots up and down the country. The country turned against King George III attacking his carriage when he went to open Parliament, so again it was debated to work out what grain could be used as an alternative product.

Breakfast Still Life; Pieter Claesz; Roebuck Collection
Breakfast Still Life; Pieter Claesz; Roebuck Collection

The debate in the House of Commons went something like this:

The speaker of the House of Commons, Henry Addington, proposed that where families made use of vegetables in their diet the consumption of bread should be restrained to a quartern loaf (i.e. one weighing four pounds) a head per week. The harvest was looking better for this year so it was anticipated that the scarcity of bread would diminish.

However, he felt that bread made from full grain, bran as well as flour would be more nutritious. His wish was to remove the prejudice against brown bread. There was, of course, an objection to this proposal, that being that mixed bread was likely to be subject to adulteration than white bread. His opinion was that this notion was incorrect and that was easier to detect ingredients in brown rather than in white.

Lord Hawkesbury agreed to a certain extent but felt that such advantage might be over-rated, because swine and other creatures, whose flesh constituted part of human food, were fed by the very part of the meal, which was separated from the white flour, and thus possibly, the very article of bread itself might become scarcer if the practice of making white bread was totally discontinued; for a certain class of persons would be compelled to consume more bread than they do now if they had less animal food.  In a word, he thought there was sufficient to make it a matter of recommendation, but not of compulsion, to make bread of the whole meal.

Still life with Bread by Ceruti 1750
Still life with Bread by Ceruti 1750

After much debate, the Speaker strongly recommended Lord Sheffield was fully persuaded of the necessity of making a compulsory law to enforce the use of only one kind of bread. Mr Wilberforce agreed and gave notice that he would bring in a Bill. The report was agreed to and ordered to be printed.

So, in 1800, the ‘Making of Bread’ Act, also known as the ‘Brown Bread Act’ or the ‘Poison Act’ came into effect which prohibited millers from producing flour other than wholemeal. For many people, bread formed almost half of their diet and this Act proved so unpopular and difficult to enforce that on November 6th, 1801 it was repealed.

Featured Image

Still Life with Bread and Wine, Henri Horace Roland de la Porte (c.1724–1793), York Museums Trust

The Last Days of Mary Ann Burdock

We are delighted to welcome back to our blog, the author Naomi Clifford. For her book Women and the Gallows 1797-1837: Unfortunate Wretches, Naomi researched the stories of the 131 women who were hanged in England and Wales between 1797 and 1837. Here she outlines the last days of the notorious poisoner Mary Ann Burdock.

Women and the Gallows 1797-1837: Unfortunate Wretches by Naomi Clifford

For 25% off the RRP and free UK P&P phone 01226 73422 or visit Pen and Sword Books and use discount code WATG25 on the checkout page.

People passing by the solid stone gatehouse on Cumberland Road in Bristol would not necessarily be aware that it is all that remains of the city’s New Gaol and that it holds a truly grisly history. Two women were executed on the flat roof above the entrance: Sarah Harriet Thomas, the last person publicly hanged in Bristol, in 1849, and Mary Ann Burdock in 1835. [1]

Gateway to Bristol's Gaol, by Linda Bailey, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikicommons.
Gateway to Bristol’s Gaol, by Linda Bailey, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikicommons

A record crowd waited hours in the rain to witness Mary Ann’s final moments, at 1.40pm on 15 April 1835. The Bristol Mirror estimated the numbers at 50,000 and described it as ‘the largest assemblage of human beings we ever beheld’, their mass stretching ‘the entire line of Coronation Road, from the distance of 200 yards beyond the New Church, to the Bridges, and from the top of the river banks down nearly to the water’s edge’. While they assembled there was a bit of a carnival atmosphere; people did not seem overly impressed with the seriousness of what was about to happen.

Then at about 1.30pm, if they were close enough to get a good view of proceedings, they watched a small female figure dressed in black appear on the platform accompanied by the prison Governor, under-sheriff, turnkeys, executioner and the chaplain, the Rev Jenning. They might have heard Jenning intoning the funeral service… ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life…’ At this point, as understanding that events were reaching a climax rippled through the crowd, the feeling amongst the spectators changed. A ‘shuddering and anxious silence’ pervaded.

Bristol New Cut showing the New Gaol and gateway
Bristol New Cut showing the New Gaol and gateway

Those close enough to the gatehouse would have perceived that there was a hiatus on the platform while an umbrella was called for – whether for Mary Ann or for the Chaplain was unclear. Probably only the official entourage on the platform and the newspaper reporters, who were allowed special access, would have heard the Governor ask Mary to move to her place on the trapdoor and her refusal: ‘I will wait for the umbrella.’ The Governor again insisted and again she refused. But the Rev Jenning resumed reading the service and Mary Ann was led reluctantly but not resisting to the drop. The journalists noted that her face suddenly drained of colour.

Why was there such a degree of interest in this particular execution? Why such enormous crowds? Certainly, Mary Ann’s gender was a draw. This was the first hanging of a female in Bristol since 1802 when friends Maria Davis and Charlotte Bobbett were dispatched on St Michael’s Hill holding hands, punishment for abandoning Davis’s 15-month-old son on Brandon Hill where he died of exposure, and the first since 1832 when William Clarke, Thomas Gregory, Christopher Davis and Joseph Kayes were hanged for rioting. There was the added factor that Mary Ann was young – 30 or 35 at most – and attractive, and her crime had given her a new level of local notoriety. The public was much exercised at the time by an apparent spike in poisoning murders by women.

Mary Ann Burdock in court, Bristol Mirror, 18 April 1835
Mary Ann Burdock in court, Bristol Mirror, 18 April 1835

Burdock was born Mary Ann Williams at Urcop near Ross on Wye in Herefordshire. Aged 19, she joined the household of Mr Plumley, a poulterer living in Nicholas Street, Bristol but was abruptly sacked for petty theft and ‘other improper acts’. Soon afterwards she married Charles Agar, a tailor, but he left her and she then lived with Mr Thomas, a married gentleman’s servant. Later, she ‘formed a connection’ with Mr Wade, who kept a lodging house at 17 Trinity Street. A son and daughter were born but it is not clear who their fathers were. Mary Ann appeared to live by her wits. She was illiterate and, as the middle classes tut-tutted to each other, had no knowledge of religion.

It was in the Trinity Street house, in October 1833, that one of the lodgers, Mrs Clara Smith, a widow in her fifties, was suddenly taken ill with severe stomach pains and expired soon afterwards. Mary Ann told anyone who was interested that Mrs Smith had died in poverty and had no relations and she herself hastily arranged a burial for her lodger at St Augustine’s Church.

But Mrs Smith was not poor. Quite the opposite. She was known to hoard large quantities of cash because she did not trust banks and kept her money, possibly as much as £3,000, in a locked box in her room. It did not go unnoticed that soon after her death, Mr Wade and Mary Ann started doing noticeably well: Wade was able to pay off his debts and bought £400 worth of stock to start a business. But Wade’s own run of luck was short. By April 1834 he too was dead and within weeks Mary Ann was bigamously married to Paul Burdock. She was still legally married to Charles Agar, of course.[2]

A few months later, Mrs Smith’s relatives, who had been living abroad, arrived in Bristol and started making inquiries about her estate. Suspicions were aroused. Mrs Smith’s body was exhumed and the contents of the stomach sent to the analytical chemist William Herapath of Bristol Medical School, who identified arsenic.

On 10 April 1835 Mary Ann came to trial at the Guildhall before Sir Charles Wetherell, the same hardline anti-Reform Recorder of Bristol whose arrival in Bristol for the assize in 1831 had provoked civil disturbance during which four people were killed and 86 wounded and after which Clarke, Gregory, Davis and Kayes were hanged.

Bristol Riots: The Burning of the New Gaol from Canon's Mars by William James Muller
Bristol Riots: The Burning of the New Gaol from Canon’s Marsh by William James Muller; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives

Mary Ann’s trial lasted three days, ending with a nine-hour summing up by Wetherell, after which the jury retired for 15 minutes and returned a verdict of Guilty. Execution was inevitable [2].

Two days later, on the morning of her death, dressed in a black dress, bonnet and veil and wrapped in a dark shawl, Mary Ann attended the condemned service in the prison. She sat in chapel ‘sullenly silent, never once rising or kneeling’. At one o’clock, leaning on the Governor’s arm, she was led out to the press room situated under the platform in the gatehouse to be prepared for the gallows. Her bonnet and shawl were removed, her arms pinioned, a white cap placed on her head and the rope put around her head. According to newspaper reports, it was only then that she responded to Jenning’s prayers and uttered loudly ‘Lord have mercy on my soul’ and ‘Christ have mercy on my soul.’

Understandably, she was in no hurry to proceed to the next stage and when reminded that it was time to go said, ‘Dear gentlemen, the time is short – it is hard to die.’ She asked to be remembered to her husband, who seems to have abandoned her, and friends. Faced with the stairs up through the gatehouse to the roof, she again hesitated but when the Governor offered assistance, declared that she could manage.

On the platform, the executioner William Calcraft fastened the rope to the gallows, pulled the white cap over her face and placed a handkerchief in her hand. This was to be the signal she was ready for him to release the trap door. Within seconds she dropped the handkerchief and was hanged. ‘A thrill of terror pervaded every countenance,’ according to the Bristol Mirror. Mary Ann died relatively quickly ‘with a slight convulsive movement of the hands’, her ‘stoutness’ apparently helping to speed her end.

Mary Ann Burdock’s body was taken down from the gallows and casts were made of her head and bust for the use of doctors at Bristol Royal Infirmary, after which it was buried within the precincts of the gaol, the Anatomy Act of 1832 having ended the practice of dissection of murderers’ corpses. Three weeks later ‘P.R’ wrote to Richard Smith, chief surgeon of the Infirmary, with the conclusions of a phrenological analysis of the casts, which concluded that they indicated Destructiveness, Combativeness, Secretiveness, a lack of Benevolence as well as ‘a masculine degree of force and energy’. That energy was, of course, now extinguished.[3]

The next and last person executed on the roof of the gatehouse was 19-year-old Sarah Harriet Thomas, convicted of bludgeoning her elderly employer to death. It was a traumatising scene. Sarah was dragged struggling and screaming to the roof of the gatehouse, pleading for mercy until the end. The prison governor fainted.[4]

The gaol closed in 1883, replaced by the prison at Horfield, and the site was sold to Great Western Railway. The gaol ruins were gradually removed and the ground levelled for rail yards and buildings. The gatehouse, now Grade II listed, is all that remains. Now a shiny new development is planned, the entrance to which will be through the gatehouse. As they pass through perhaps residents and visitors will spare a thought for the souls who were dispatched just a few metres above them.


[1] A total of nine people were executed on the flat roof above the entrance to the gaol. The original gatehouse, first built in 1820, was demolished in 1831, having been damaged in riots, and was rebuilt in 1832. Historic England.

[2] Bristol Mirror, Royal Cornwall Gazette 18 April 1835.

[3] Charles Agar, Burdock’s legal spouse, later sued Stuckey’s bank for the contents of Mary Ann’s bank account, some of which was probably ill-gotten gains from Mrs Smith. He won.

[4] Bristol Mirror, 2 May 1835.


Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700

The Life of Viscount Mordaunt of Avalon

In our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, we uncover Grace’s maternal family for the first time and reveal that her aunt was the Countess of Peterborough. Robinaiana Brown was, for many years, the mistress of Charles Mordaunt, 4th Earl of Peterborough (and 2nd Earl of Monmouth): he could not marry her for he already had a wife. When that wife died he married Robinaiana with indecent haste, anxious that the child she was carrying could be born legitimate.

The 4th Earl of Peterborough was not the only member of his family to have marital misadventures, for three successive generations of the House of Mordaunt made irregular marriages. We’re going to slip in to the end of the reign of Queen Anne to have a look at the 4th earl’s father, John, wonderfully titled the Viscount Mordaunt of Avalon in the county of Somerset (c.1681-1710), who, like his own father Charles Mordaunt (1658-1735), the ‘celebrated’ 3rd Earl of Peterborough (and 1st Earl of Monmouth), was a noted military commander.

Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough (1658-1735) by Charles Jervas (c.1675-1739). Burghley House Collections.
Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough (1658-1735) by Charles Jervas (c.1675-1739). Burghley House Collections.

John was a Colonel in the army, fighting bravely with the Duke of Marlborough’s forces: a wound received during the Battle of Blenheim (August 1704) caused him to lose his left arm.   He also followed the example of his father when it came to matters of matrimony. The 3rd Earl of Peterborough had eloped with John’s mother, Carey Fraser and initially kept the marriage secret. (Carey Fraser the daughter of Sir Alexander Fraser was, by her mother, a descendant of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne, as was the 3rd earl’s mother, Elizabeth Carey.)[i]

The Battle of Blenheim, 13 August 1704 by John Ross.
The Battle of Blenheim, 13 August 1704 by John Ross. Government Art Collection.

Following John’s rejection (in 1703) as a suitor for the hand the Duke of Marlborough’s daughter, Mary, the duke wrote:

I have heard that he is what they call a rascal, which can never make a good husband.

In 1705 history repeated itself and John Mordaunt eloped with Lady Frances, daughter of Charles Powlett, 2nd Duke of Bolton. His parents, despite their own elopement, disapproved. Lady Frances might have been the daughter of a duke but she had brought no money to the marriage and there were no expectations of a later settlement from her father. John’s mother was especially displeased, writing to Lord Shaftesbury that her son’s:

unhappy marriage had shown the deepest ‘ingratitude’: ‘O that Heaven had left him no hand to dispose of!

Their marriage has not yet been discovered and possibly it was conducted abroad, for Lord Mordaunt was neglecting his military duties in 1706 to attend to ‘his lady, who is at Ghent’.

Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700; V&A.
Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700; V&A.

By April 1708 Lord Mordaunt and his regiment were quartered in York. As well as his military career he had also entered the political arena, but now he stood down. The parish register of St Mary Bishophill Senior in York contains the baptism entry, on 19th Oct 1708, of Charles, son of Lord Mordon [sic] and on 16th Dec 1709 the baptism of John, son of the same. John, Lord Mordaunt and his wife Frances were living at Middlethorpe Hall at the time, a beautiful William and Mary country house located about two miles from York city centre, built in 1699 for Thomas Barlow, a master cutler from Sheffield.[ii] We have a brief description of the Hall dating from 1702 recorded in the diary of the Yorkshire antiquarian Ralph Thoresby:

17th September 1702. ‘Received a visit from Mr. Barlow, of Middlethorp, near York, which very curious house he built after the Italian mode he had observed in his travels to Rome…

As the Barlow’s retained custody of the hall well into the latter years of the eighteenth-century, the Mordaunt’s were temporarily renting the residence. (Following the Mordaunts’ residence there, in 1712 Thomas Barlow embarked upon the Grand Tour with his son Francis and the hall was let to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.)