Autumn fashion for 1822

Having taken a look at the summer fashions for 1822, it seems appropriate to follow it up with the autumn fashion for attending balls and court that year, with the help of the ever reliable guide by Rudolph Ackermann.

Rudolph Ackermann. NPG
Rudolph Ackermann. NPG

What were fashionable women wearing in autumn 1822 to ensure that they were fashionable and appropriate? Let’s find out:

Ball dresses were required each season and of course, you wouldn’t wish to wear the wrong one. Ackermann’s tells us that the dress below was the appropriate outfit to be seen in for September 1822.

A dress of fine tulle over a white satin slip, ornamented nearly half the centre, and a semicircle of small steel beads. Short full sleeve, composed of alternate rows of pink net and steel, and white tulle and steel scallops, confined by a band of pink net and steel. Tucker, a quilling of the finest tulle.

Tucker c1820. MetMuseum
Tucker c1820. MetMuseum

Sash of pink and white embroidered satin ribbon. Necklace, red cornelian and pearl. Gloves of white kids, shoes, white gros de Naples.

A wreath of roses confines the hair, which is in ringlets, as in the reign of Charles II and presented to our admiration in the beautiful paintings of Vandyke.

Below, although from slightly later, we can see the ringlet styled hair.

Wyatt, Henry; A Regency Lady; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum. c1828

Court Dress

This elegant robe and petticoat were made for a lady of high rank and taste, as a presentation dress at the palace of Holyrood. It is of pale blue silver lama, over a blue satin slip; thus, combining Scotland’s national colour of blue and white, now so prevalent among the leaders of haut ton; the waist is of that graceful length which cultivate taste has adopted, and which we hope will long be retained. The stomacher is of silver vandykes: a double row extends over the shoulders and back, united by silver roses. The sleeve is short, and of novel construction, consisting of dozens of rows of silver vandyke trimming, separated by blue satin pipings; confined by a silver band round the arm, and finished with the same trimming. The tucker is fine blond lace. The robe and petticoat have an elegant border of large roses, of blue gofre crape (crepe) and silver, half encircle with thistles, which form a kind of radii, giving lightness and effect to the trimming, which is edged with a silver wave, and finished with loped gofre crape. The headdress is of diamonds, with a superb plume of ostrich feathers. Necklace and earrings of diamonds and sapphires. White kid gloves; white satin shoes, with blue and silver roses.

General observations

Silk pelisses were vey much in vogue with summer hues moving into more autumnal shades. Waists remained long; tight back are rather more worn that full ones. Shawls and Spencer’s remained the fashion of the day. Bonnets remained of a moderate size. The cambric muslin capotes worn in dishabille began to replace the straw bonnets. Flowers remained the order of the day with them often being seen around the edges of small bonnets.

The colours most in favour were lemon, shades of green, lavender and deep rose.

Patrick Colquhoun on the criminal code relating to capital offences in the UK compared with that which prevailed in Austria

I am once again, delighted to welcome back a now regular guest to All Things Georgian, the historian, Mr R M Healey. Today his article is about Patrick Colquhoun on the criminal code relating to capital offences in the UK compared with that which prevailed in Austria.

unknown artist; Patrick Colquhoun (1745-1820); Thames Police Museum

One of the best-known facts about life in Georgian England was that so many seemingly minor crimes were punishable by death. From stealing goods worth a few shillings, to forgery, with many minor infractions in between, murdering someone was not the only crime that attracted the death penalty.

The famous magistrate (for Middlesex, Surrey, Kent and Essex) and commentator on the penal code, Patrick (later Sir Patrick) Colquhoun, devoted a good deal of his best-selling Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis to the question on whether the death penalty for seemingly trivial offences was justified.

Colquhoun’s Treatise (5th edition of 1797) is essential reading for anyone who wants to know what dangers lay in store for offenders, sometimes driven by poverty and desperation, to steal, lie and forge. But Colquhoun was a reformer, not a hanger and flogger.

He sought remedies for the prevention of crimes, and he saw the irrationality of executing someone for stealing property worth a certain amount. To show just how harsh the punishments were for comparatively minor violations he listed all those offences which carried the death penalty. Here is a selection of the most iniquitous:

Forgery of deeds, bonds, bills, notes etc., bankrupts not surrendering, or concealing their effects, house breaking in the day time, shop lifting above five shillings, stealing above 40 shillings in any house, stealing linen &c from bleaching grounds or destroying the linen therein, stealing horse, cattle or sheep, breaking down the head of a fish pond, whereby fish may be lost, maiming or killing cattle maliciously, stealing woollen cloth from tenter grounds, uttering counterfeit money ,servants purloining their masters’ goods to the value of 40 shillings, robbery of  the mail, cutting down trees in an avenue, sending threatening letters, riots by twelve or more and not dispersing in an hour after proclamation, sacrilege, destroying turnpikes or bridges, gates, weighing engine locks, sluices, concealing the death of a Bastard child…

 Of course, it did not follow that those convicted of some of the most trivial of these offences paid the ultimate penalty. When the Annual Register recorded the monthly county reports of those convicted of capital crimes it invariably declared that most offenders were reprieved. We can surmise that perhaps only those convicted of murder, large-scale forgery, coining, arson, highway robbery and serious housebreaking, to name but a few heinous crimes, were hanged.

Bizarrely, certain offences, though seemingly as serious, or more serious, than the crimes listed by Colquhoun, did not carry the death penalty, but were merely punishable by ‘transportation, whipping, imprisonment, the pillory and hard labour in houses of correction, according to the nature of the offence.’ These included ripping and stealing lead, iron, copper, &c, or buying or receiving, assaulting with intent to rob, stealing children with their apparel, stealing fish from a pond or river, bigamy, manslaughter and killing without malice.

by D.P. Pariset, after Pierre-Étienne Falconet, stipple engraving, circa 1768-1769. © National Portrait Gallery, London

However, most lawmakers agreed that the crime which most deserved the noose was forgery. The Georgian period saw a number of high profile forgery cases involving eminent men. These included Dr William Dodd, the high-living ‘macaroni parson’ who Dr Johnson failed to save from the gibbet in 1777; the celebrated ‘Engraver to the King’ and inventor of stipple, William Wynne Ryland, who tried to defraud the East India Company and was hanged in 1783; and finally, the banker Henry Fauntleroy who in 1824 became the last person to die on the gallows for the crime of forgery.

Colquhoun then compared the legal code instituted by Emperor Joseph II of Austria that related to murder, manslaughter and other violent offences, with that which prevailed in the United Kingdom.

In Austria not one offence was punishable by death, though in some cases, the alternative punishment, which might involve being chained up for thirty years, sometimes without proper food, could have seemed a far worse experience—a sort of living death. Here are some of the offences and the punishments they carried.


Imprisonment not less than 15, nor more than 30 years…When a criminal is condemned to severe imprisonment, he has no bed but the floor, no nourishment but bread and water, and all communication with relations or even strangers, is refused him. When condemned to milder imprisonment, better nourishment is allowed; but he has nothing to drink but water.

Killing a man in self-defence if the layer exceed the bounds of necessity

Imprisonment, not less than one month, nor more than five years, and condemnation to the public works

Murder—with an intention  to rob or steal the property of the person, or other property intrusted to his care

Imprisonment not less than 30 years, with the hot iron; in cruel cases, to be closely chained, with corporal punishment every year. This punishment was inflicted with a ‘whip, rod or stick publickly on the criminal’; the degree of punishment ( within 100 lashes or strokes at one time) depends on the sound prudence of the Judge.

Assassination by stratagem, arms or poison.

Condemnation to the Chain, not less than 30 years…the prisoner is closely chained, that he has no more liberty than serves for the indispensable motion of his body…

Inducing another to commit murder by caresses, promises, presents or threats, whether death is the result or not

Imprisonment, not less than 5, nor more than 8 years, and condemnation to the public works—if murder is committed, the criminal shall suffer as a murderer

Duelling—or challenging another to combat with murderous weapon on whatever pretence the challenge be grounded —the person accepting the challenge is equally guilty…

Imprisonment not more than 12, not less than 8 years…If death ensues; condemnation to the Chain for 30 years, where the survivor is the challenger if the survivor be the party challenged.

 A woman with child using means to procure abortion.

Imprisonment, not less than 15, nor more than 30 years; and condemnation to the public works: augmented when married women.

Not all countries were as lenient as Austria. In 1772 the Annual Register (1772, pp. 132- 133) reported that the punishment meted out to the Swiss manager of a French vineyard, who had been convicted of rape and murder, was decided under the Swiss military code. It was that the prisoner be sawn in half while still alive. This barbaric practice was not confined to Swiss law but can be found in other nations around the world. 

It is interesting to note that the offence of duelling in England seems not to have carried any penalty, unless it came under ‘manslaughter’.

Throughout the Georgian period this method of satisfying an injury to honour or reputation was often practiced, sometimes by leading politicians and members of the aristocracy. Possibly the most infamous literary duel of the period, which occurred at Chalk Farm, near the present Primrose Hill in 1821, was fought over a number of hostile remarks on ‘The Cockney School’ by the critic J. G. Lockhart in Blackwood’s Magazine.

John Scott, the editor of the famous London Magazine, where Lamb’s ‘Essays of Elia’ were appearing at the time, took umbrage and retaliated with his own imprecations. Lockhart travelled to London to challenge Scott, but his friend and second, Jonathan Christie, agreed to take his place. The first shots were deliberately aimed wide, which should have ended the matter.  Tragically, a second round ensued, and Scott was fatally wounded. Christie was apprehended but was later acquitted by a jury.


P (atrick) Colquhoun), A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis (fifth edition, 1797). See especially pages 284 – 288; 272 – 273.

Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics and Literature…( 1758 –  ) passim.

Samuel Beazley of the Berners Street Hoax

Before my summer break we took a look at the Berners Street Hoax, so it seems somewhat fitting that we return to that story.

In the previous post I wrote about the wager  itself and today we’ll take a look at  Samuel Beazley who reputed to have been involved in the wager along with Theodore Hook.

Whilst trying to establish whether the hoax could have been genuine it seemed relevant to try to find out more about Samuel, to ascertain whether he could have been present observing the hoax as it unfolded at 54 Berners Street. I didn’t intend to disappear down this proverbial rabbit hole looking for more about Samuel, however, as usual, here I am.

The answer remains that I still don’t know with any degree of certainty, but who was Beazley? a prankster like his friend, Theodore, or simply a respectable member of Regency London society whose name has become linked to the hoax. Overall, I would have to say the latter, so let’s take a look at his life.

Samuel was born 6 July 1786 to parents Samuel Beazley senior, an army accoutrement maker and his wife Ann nee Frith. Samuel and his two siblings, Nancy and Emily were presented for baptism in 1797.  On 6 January 1802, Samuel was apprenticed to his uncle, Charles, an apprenticeship architect, which would be expected to last about 7 years.

On completion of his apprenticeship in 1809 he wasted no time on marrying. On 9 August 1809, he married who would be his first wife, an Eliza Foster Richardson, the marriage taking place at St Martin in the Fields, as can be seen below which just shows their signatures. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

The Sun, 21 August 1809 also reported their wedding

However, a very curious entry which I can’t explain, appeared in the parish register of St Mary Abbots, Kensington on 10 August 1810 at St Martin in the Fields, so just under a year later, with completely different signatures, but for the same couple.

Samuel didn’t remain married for very long, as according to the newspapers, Eliza filed for divorce on grounds of his adulterous behaviour in 1813.

Having spent 7 years training to be an architect, for some unknown reason, Samuel then appears to have given that up and joined the navy around 1815, although there is no sign of him in naval records.

The only reason this is known about is because of a letter and account of his time onboard ship, written to his mother and published long after his death, by his daughter, Emily. Samuel confirmed his travels in part of his diary entitled ‘The escape of the Duchesse D’Angoulême during the hundred days’.

Queen Marie Antoinette of France and two of her Children Walking in The Park of Trianon NationalMuseum
Queen Marie Antoinette of France and two of her Children Walking in The Park of Trianon NationalMuseum

Samuel returned to England sometime around 1815 onboard the Myrmidon accompanied by the Duchesse D’Angoulême.

In 1816 he resumed his career as an architect, but he had another string to his bow too, he was also a dramatist.

His career flourished and he was involved in designing many of London’s theatres, but his personal life was less straightforward. In 1820 Samuel was responsible for the rebuilding after a fire, of the Theatre Royal in New Street, Birmingham, and provided a design for the Theatre Royal in Hawkins Street, Dublin.

Around 1824 he left England and headed for Scotland to further his career, where he met a young lady, Emily Frances Conway. The couple married in Edinburgh on 18 July 1824. One thing worth mentioning is the recording of his surname – Bearley rather than Beazley. How did this happen, just a clerical error or could it have been slightly more suspicious?

A rather obscure newspaper, Fleming’s British Farmers’ Chronicle 9 August 1824 also reported the marriage.

It wasn’t until 1831 that some light is shed on his marriage to Emily Frances Conway in the London Courier and Evening Gazette 23 May, which reported a court case. It reported that

Samuel married Eliza at Kensington in May 1810 (which agrees with 2nd of his two marriages to Eliza in the parish register).

In 1813, a divorce, at the suit of Mrs Beazley, was pronounced against her husband, on the ground of adultery, by the Commissary Court at Edinburgh, he being resident in Scotland at the time; and a sentence of divorce, under the law of Scotland, being not mere separation, as in the Ecclesiastical Courts of England. Mr Beazley married a second time, in Scotland, Miss Const (sic).

His former wife, who had died in 1830, being alive at the time of such second marriage. Miss Const, otherwise, Beazley, promotes this suit to annul her marriage with Mr Beazley, on the ground that a sentence of a Scottish Court cannot dissolve a marriage had in England; and consequently, at the time of her marriage with Mr Beazley he had a wife still living. The question immediately before the court was, the admission of libel pleading the facts.

The outcome of this case being, Miss Conway wanted their marriage annulled as his first wife was still living at the time they married and that Samuel’s divorce from Eliza was a ‘pretend’ divorce, which took place in Scotland.

As Samuel and Emily Frances married in Scotland, Scottish law applied and as she knew about his first wife, it couldn’t not be annulled, so, in conclusion the couple remained married.

Whether they knew that Samuel’s surname had been incorrectly written in the parish register and perhaps could have been used to annul the marriage, is another matter.

Samuel’s first wife, Eliza Foster Richardson was married a second time in March 1827 as a spinster, having used her maiden name, her husband became James Moggridge. It was to be a short marriage, though as Eliza died in December 1830, she was buried 20 December 1830, at St Mary’s church, Reading.

In 1836 Samuel wrote his will, in which, bizarrely one of his bequests was a mourning ring should be purchased in memory of his late wife, Emily Frances. In his will he also ensured provision for several children, possibly his, but by whom we may never know.

By the 1841 census Samuel was living at 29 Soho Square, London, with his mother and sister, Emily and their sibling, Nancy (Tribe) who was visiting them. Samuel was still working hard as an architect and playwright.

On 24 November 1841, his 3rd wife, the somewhat mysterious wife, Marianne, gave birth to a daughter, named Emily Ann. The child being baptised at Christ church, Hoxton. There is no sign of Marianne on the census return and there is no marriage entry for them, so it perhaps has to be assumed that they were cohabiting rather than legally married. ODNB states that his third wife was Marianne Joseph, but I’m not sure where that has come from and to date, I haven’t found their marriage.

Samuel’s mother lived until 1846 and clearly mother and son remained very close until her demise, as he lived with him at 29 Soho Square, London.

The 1851 census shows Samuel living with his considerably younger, third wife, Marianne and their daughter, Emily Ann, having moved to Kent by this time.

Samuel died of an apoplexy at his home in Tonbridge Castle, Kent on 12 October 1851. He was buried at Bermondsey Old Church, London.

Samuel wrote his own epitaph:

Here lies Samuel Beazley, who lived hard and died easily



Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Ecclesiastical Courts at Doctors Commons

 London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P90/PAN1/063

1841 census. Class: HO107; Piece: 730; Book: 2; Civil Parish: St Anne Soho; County: Middlesex; Enumeration District: 4; Folio: 34; Page: 17; Line: 25; GSU roll: 438833

1851 census. Class: HO107; Piece: 1616; Folio: 10; Page: 12; GSU roll: 193517

Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 2143

Berners Street Hoax – True or False?

Anyone familiar with the Georgian period will probably have heard of the Berners Street Hoax. So much has been written about this over the centuries that I was unsure as to whether it warranted yet another telling of the story, but as one of my lovely readers asked me about it, I felt it was worth checking out, if only for my own peace of mind and to confirm what everyone thought they knew about the story.

Let’s begin by setting the record straight about the name of the unfortunate recipient of  one of the most famous hoaxes. The lady in question was NOT, Mrs Tottenham, she was in fact Mrs Tottingham.

Almost all accounts I have read state that she was either just a Mrs T or Mrs Tottenham. I can now reveal that she was in fact, Mrs Mary Teresa Tottingham, a widow at the time the hoax is believed to have occurred, but as to why such a hoax was instigated, I have no idea. Nor do I know how Mary Teresa would have felt about such a prank or whether she even knew of it until she read it in the newspaper, as she would, no doubt, have had servants to receive guests and trades people.

Her late husband, John Tottingham (1735-1808) spent much of his life employed by the East India Company and was based in India, which is probably where he met his wife, Mary Teresa as there’s no record of them having married in England.

They had 4 children, Hester, born in India, Maria Teresia, born Sept 1773 in Munger in the Indian state of Bihar, followed closely by John James who was born in Danapur in October 1774. The couple’s youngest child being Jane Mary who was born in 1783 and baptised in London, so it’s fairly safe to assume that they had returned to England with their ever growing family by this time.

John, a retired colonel of the East India Company, died in 1808 and his will confirmed the street the couple lived in as being Berners Street, so I definitely had the correct family.

Mary Teresa remained at Berners Street until her death in 1833, at which time her 3 surviving, unmarried daughters, moved into their parents’ house where they remained until at least 1841 as we see here on the 1841 census.

Let’s now return to the prank itself; it is said to have taken place on 27 or 28 November 1809 or 1810, the year seems rather unclear, but the first public account of it  did not appear until  28 November 1810, in the Morning Post, which said that it

exceeded by far that in Bedford Street a few months since.  

Prankster and author, Theodore Edward Hook, apparently wagered a bet with a friend, Samuel Beazley, that

he could make any house in London the most talked about address in London within one week

He selected Mary Teresa’s home for this mischief.

Theodore Edward Hook, by Samuel De Wilde. Courtesy of Bonhams
Theodore Edward Hook, by Samuel De Wilde. Courtesy of Bonhams

To achieve this, he was said to have sent out around 4,000 letters to trades people who were to arrive throughout the day at the home of a Mrs T___, No. 54 Berners Street, London. This prank was said to have eventually created chaos on Berners Street, blocking the whole street with waggons laden with coals from Paddington wharf, upholsterers’ goods by the cartload, organs and pianofortes, linen, jewellery and a whole variety of furniture.

Even the Lord Mayor was invited to attend to house, but his stay was said to have been very short upon seeing the chaos being caused and he was driven to Marlborough Street police office to resolve the matter.

In case you needed any further proof as to the occupant of that now infamous address, here we have the burial register which confirms that Mary Teresa Tottingham lived at 54 Berners Street until her death at the age of 80. She was buried at the same church has her husband on 27 May 1833.

The Naval and Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service, 1 June 1833 also noted her demise, but no mention was made of the prank, perhaps it had faded from memory by this time, or perhaps it never really happened!

The 1841 census confirms that her three daughters, Maria, Jane and Hester took over the family home.

But was there really a hoax played upon the family, or, was the hoax something created for the newspapers only? I began to search the newspapers for similar such hoaxes and sure enough there were quite a few.

On 7 November 1809, one took place at 37 Bedford Street, near Covent Garden, at the home of a Mr Griffiths. Again, a mass of letters were sent out to trades people who were to attend 37 Bedford street bringing with them a diverse range of items.

Courtesy of Wiki Commons
Courtesy of Wiki Commons

They demanded to see Mr Griffiths, who, it transpired was out of town, leaving the servants to eventually lock and bolt the doors. His deliveries included a mangle, sofas, boots, tea and coffee, fiddles and flutes, pianofortes, prints and drawings, coal wagons and gigs to name but a few. Physicians, surgeons dentists and Pidock, of the Exeter Exchange Menagerie was required to purchase a live tiger. The most annoyed person, however, was an elderly man who had hobbled to town from Hammersmith to be paid a legacy of £700 which he was assured Mr Griffiths had received for him.

Edinburgh witnessed a very similar hoax, according to the Morning Post, 26 December 1810.

A singular hoax was practised on Tuesday, at Edinburgh. Cards were put into the post office, addressed to medical gentlemen, undertakers, upholsterers, grocers, confectioners, haberdashers, milliners, mantua makers, wig makers etc. desiring their attendance at a gentleman’s house, a few miles from Edinburgh, and requesting them to sen a hearse and mourning coaches for a funeral; and others to send out quantities of wine, grocery articles, etc.  In consequence of this the road was crowded with carriages, coaches, a hearse and twelve mourning coaches. After their arrival at the house to their utter astonishment they found the whole thing to be a hoax of some silly malicious wag!

Another one took place in London, according to the Evening Mail 14 March 1810:

Hoax – physicians, surgeons and apothecaries, jewellers, auctioneers and governesses, poulterers, pastry cooks, and undertakers etc have for the last four day besieged the house of Mr Hookham, 15 Old Bond Street, in consequence of two-penny and threepenny post letters, containing appointments, order etc.

Finally, the Suffolk Chronicle, 19 January 1811 reported the following hoax, which they believed to have been instigated by the same prankster as the Berners Street hoax:

On Sunday se’nnight every confectioner in the metropolis, from Whitechapel to Hyde Park, including the adjacent streets, to the amount of near 100, sent Twelfth Cakes of various dimensions, none less than 20 pounds weight, to Mr E I Samuel, West India merchant, Great Prescott Street, Goodman’s fields; circular letters having been sent to the different shops with the orders, stating that Mr S was recommended by an eminent city baronet. The whole of the gentleman’s friends were invited, most of whom did themselves the honour to accept the invitation, to the no small amusement of the authors, who it is suspected, attended as if invited. On Tuesday, circular letters were also sent to about 100 grocers, in consequence of which, from 9am to 9pm the neighbourhood was amused with arrival of parcels of tea and sugar about 30 pounds in weight each, and on Wednesday arrived, by the same plan, about one hundred fine large Cheshire cheeses, which cut a curious appearance from their uniformity, and sometimes 8 or 10 meetings at the door at one time!

From these, it would appear that 1809-1812 was a great time for carrying out hoaxes, if indeed any of them really happened, I remain unconvinced, what do you think?

Hoax at the Pavilion Sloane Street. August 31 1812. British Museum
Hoax at the Pavilion Sloane Street. August 31, 1812. British Museum

In the next article we will continue with this story by taking a look at Samuel Beazley, the other party involved in the Berners Street hoax, so do join me to find out more.


Hereford Journal 8 Nov 1809

Chester Chronicle 7 December 1810

Chester Courant 4 December 1810

Featured Image

By William Heath. Courtesy of British Museum

The Children of George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough

Today’s post is very much about the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough’s children, through art. I came across this copy of a portrait of George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough, his wife, Lady Caroline née Russell and six of their children by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which is now on view in the Red Drawing Room,  at the Marlborough family home, Blenheim Palace.

George and Caroline were married 23 August 1762, by Special Licence, Caroline being a minor at the time. Although the marriage was registered at the parish church of St Leonard, Streatham, Lambeth, they were married at Caroline’s family home, Bedford House.

It would be a little over a year later, on 20 October 1763, that their first child was born. Possibly somewhat annoying, the child was a girl and as such, there was no fanfare or great celebration following the birth.

Caroline Duchess of Marlborough, With Lady Caroline Spencer her Daughter NPG
Caroline Duchess of Marlborough, With Lady Caroline Spencer her Daughter NPG

The couple would ideally have hoped for a son and heir, but on this occasion, this was not to be, instead this child was Caroline, named in honour of her mother and the Oxford Journal, 29 October 1763 simply noted that

About nine o’clock, her Grace the Duchess of Marlborough was safely delivered of a daughter, at Marlborough House in Pall Mall.

Their next child was again a girl, Elizabeth, and once again, the Oxford Journal 22 December 1764, repeated the same information as they had done previously, word for word.

It would be in 1766 that fortune smiled upon the couple and their first son, George, was born. The Sussex Advertiser, 17 March 1766 carried the following account of the birth:

Woodstock, March 8. It is impossible to express the joy diffused over every countenance on the news of the happy addition of a son and Marquis to the illustrious family of the Duke of Marlborough. The illuminations, bonfires, ringing of bells, firing of cannons etc continued for two days upon this occasion.

This gives you a very clear indication of how important it was for a noble family to produce a son and heir; it demonstrates a totally different reaction by the family and the media of the day to that of Caroline giving birth to two girls.

The next task for Caroline was to continue producing offspring until she produced a ‘spare’ to the heir.

The Leeds Intelligencer confirms that around 24 October 1769

Birth. The Grace the Dutchess of Marlborough, of a daughter, at Marlborough House in Pall Mall.

Oh dear, another girl, Georgina Charlotte (as she was baptised, although known as Charlotte), that spare was somewhat illusive.

Baptism of Georgina Charlotte 1769 at St Martin in The Fields
Baptism of Georgina Charlotte 1769 at St Martin in The Fields

It would be December 1770 when the spare arrived, Henry John, once again, to a fanfare and celebrations.

The Reading Mercury 31 December 1770 reporting that

Last week her Grace the Duchess of Marlborough was safely delivered of a son, at Marlborough House, in Pall Mall. Upon the arrival of this news at Blenheim House, there were great rejoicings and festivity.

It’s feasible to see how close Georgina Charlotte and Henry John were from this painting entitled, ‘The Young Fortune Tellers’, at the Huntington Library and Art Museum, painted c1775, again by Reynolds and I have to say it’s one of the sweetest portraits I have seen in a long time.

So, we now have an heir and a spare, plus 3 daughters, but the couple didn’t stop there. 8 November 1773, according to the Hampshire Chronicle the couple produced another daughter, Ann and again, being a girl, it was a simple, formal statement of fact.

The Mask. Original by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Ann and Charlotte. YCBA
The Mask. Original by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Ann and Charlotte. YCBA

It must have appeared that their family was now complete until out of the blue, some 6 years later, another son, Francis Almeric, arrived. The Northampton Mercury, 3 January 1780 reported that:

Her Grace Duchess of Marlborough was safely delivered of a son at Marlborough House, London.

No fanfare for this child, after all, the heir and spare was still very much alive and the line of succession complete.

British Museum
British Museum

According to many articles I’ve read, there was another daughter, Amelia Sophia, said to have been born 1774/5, so let’s set the record straight, she was not born then.

Whilst searching for her baptism, it seemed strange that there was no newspaper report announcing her arrival, and no sign of a baptism. However the family tree at Blenheim, have it recorded as 1785, so I wanted to check which date was correct. There was a possible clue in the burial register of St Leonard’s, Streatham on 7 February 1829.

Amelia Sophia (married by this time), died at the age of 44. If her true age was given when she was buried, then she wasn’t born in 1775, but some 10 years later in 1785.  Checking the newspapers and sure enough, the Oxford Journal 17 September 1785 reported that:

On Thursday the 8th Instant, her Grace the Duchess of Marlborough was safely delivered of a daughter, at Blenheim.

Whilst searching for portraits of the children, I did come across this very famous painting by Reynolds, ‘Age of Innocence’ at Tate. There have been a variety of possible sitters suggested for the portrait, including Lady Ann Spencer.

However, that suggestion was correctly dismissed as she was born 1773 and would therefore have been in her teens by the time Reynolds painted this portrait, which was thought to have been either 1785 or 1788.

Knowing now that Amelia Sophia was the youngest daughter rather than Ann, and that she was born in 1785, it seems feasible that the portrait may well have been of her aged just 3, but more research is needed to try to prove that theory.

The Age of Innocence ?1788 Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723-1792 Presented by Robert Vernon 1847

I also came across this mezzotint on the National Galleries Scotland website  and I have been able to indicate each of the children on there, and of course we’re missing the last two – Francis and Amelia Sophia, who weren’t born when Reynolds painted it which ties in with the family portrait being painted about 1778.

In his Catalogue Raisonné or a list of the pictures in Blenheim Palace, Sir George Scharf also notes that the family portrait was painted prior to the births of Francis and Amelia which very helpfully confirms my research.

As is so often the case, this article leaves me with more questions than answers, but you never know, it might be feasible over time to ascertain one way or another whether ‘Age of Innocence‘ is Amelia Sophia. I really do hope so.

Lavinia Spencer—amateur artist and Princess Diana’s great, great, great grandmother

I am delighted to welcome back R.M Healey, hot on the heels of his previous piece, A Georgian ‘Trip Advisor‘. Today’s topic is however very different, so I’ll hand over to him to tell you more:

I purchased this signed drawing below of Frances Molesworth by the talented amateur Lavinia Bingham a few years ago in a provincial auction house. It is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because the artist was Princess Diana’s great, great, great, grandmother.

The sketch shows Frances seated on a sofa, with a parrot perched on the top rail is dated 8 June 1780, when Lavinia was just eighteen years old and her sitter four years older.

However, the relationship between Lavinia and Frances is also significant, as the two girls were part of the same family.

Frances Molesworth, born in Wembury, near Plymouth, Devon, in 1758, the daughter of William Molesworth, and Elizabeth Smyth. Frances entered the household of her mother’s sister, Margaret Bingham (née Smyth), Lady Lucan, after the early deaths of her parents.

Margaret Bingham (née Smith), Countess of Lucan. NPG
Margaret Bingham (née Smith), Countess of Lucan. NPG

So, the two cousins grew up together and it is possible that among the archive of drawings by Lavinia at the Spencer seat of Althorp, there are others that depict Frances, for Lavinia was an enthusiastic sketcher, as we shall see. It would also be revealing to know how easily Lavinia accepted the introduction of Frances into the family circle. Perhaps the future discovery of such personal documents as letters and diaries, might shed some light. Unfortunately, although biographers, for obvious reasons, have focussed on Lavinia, nothing of significance has been published about Frances apart from the bare biographical facts. It is likely that the drawing, which Lavinia seemingly presented to Frances, was executed at the family home on the Thames at Laleham, though the present Laleham House dates from 1803.

Interestingly, the sitter seems to be wearing the same, or a very similar, wide brimmed hat trimmed with feathers that she was to wear in a later portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. No doubt at the time the two girls were rivals in the marriage stakes.

Both had striking good looks, but whereas less than a year after the sitting Lavinia had married George, the second Earl Spencer, brother of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Frances rejected two very eligible suitors, including Lord North, before she agreed to marry John Jeffreys, Marquess of Camden, in 1785 bringing with her a generous settlement of £40,000 from Lord Lucan.

Camden’s name lives on, of course, as the developer of London’s Camden Town, which began to be built around 1791. At the time the couple were living at Bayham Abbey.

As an amateur artist Lavinia evidently inherited some of the skills of her mother, Margaret Smyth, whose miniature portraits, landscapes and book illustration were admired by Horace Walpole.

The sketch of Frances Molesworth shows that though the draughtsmanship is weak in some areas, the potential for improvement was there, and indeed by the 1790’s such productions as ‘Nice Supper’ and ‘A Pinch of Snuff’, which were both considered good enough to be engraved, demonstrated a great advancement in technique.

On 10 January, six months after the drawing of Frances was executed, Lavinia, evidently a little infatuated with her future husband, wrote to him describing her daily regime after getting up:

…I then go to breakfast—then to draw, sing and play, in order to improve those talents for your future amusement—then I write to you for your present amusement, then I take the air, or a long walk to get good looks for you—then I eat my dinner where I think of you—then I sit and fret until the post brings me a letter from you which I devour and read over for an hour and a half, then I send mine to you—then I draw again or improve my mind by good Books for you the rest of the Evening—then I go to Bed, where I dream of you—so you see that you always are the burthen of my song. Have I told you that Lady Edgcombe & Dickey came here the other day to see my drawings?

The following day Lavinia looks forward to finishing her portrait of George:

…there will not be vermillion enough in London to paint your picture if you sit again when you return—and I am out of my senses when I think how will you be when I see you next.

In a postscript she refers to her two pet dogs, Bow-Wow and Salvatori, and the tiny drawings she did of them, are added to the letter. She pleads with George to keep the letter, as the drawings on it hadn’t been copied. Perhaps, she suggests, he might hang up the letter ‘among your other Originals’.

Less than two months later, on 6 March, the pair were married. At the end of November Lavinia was ‘with child ‘and on 6 December was still drawing, though evidently suffering from morning sickness. She wrote from her new home at Althorp:

I am drawing away, but if I continue so most sick, as Mother Roberts says, I shall not be able to finish a great many things to show you, although you expect them, you unreasonable dog—for “what is the use of having her if she does not draw”.

Who could not be charmed by these letters, especially those written before her marriage? At this time Lavinia was described as a ‘sweet creature’, but her personality seems to have altered somewhat following her arriving at Althorp, where she was described by some as bitchy and arrogant.

Amanda Foreman, biographer of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, called her ‘moody, vindictive, hypocritical ‘and ‘neurotically jealous’ of both Georgiana and the Countess of Bessborough. Certainly, she appears to have ruled her household at Althorp with a self confidence born of her elevated station. Nevertheless, her beauty and intelligence proved popular with her many guests and hers was generally a happy marriage.

She bore eight children and lived just long enough to see her eldest son, Viscount Althorp, become Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lavinia died in 1831, aged sixty-nine, two years after the death of Frances.


British Library Add MSS 75926 – 75938 1781 – 1830

Amanda Foreman, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.



A history of child maintenance

I am once again delighted to welcome back Melanie Barnes, who is bringing her legal brain to bear on the history of child maintenance.

Throughout history, the payment of child support has been a recurring issue, though the policies applied by either the church or government have been remarkably similar.

Early records reveal that even if the father of a child was not known, the parish would still support the mother by payment of ‘Poore Reliefe’.  This payment (typically very low) was raised from a tax upon the parish residents, and the church would then seek a contribution from the father or family member to mitigate the cost.  In medieval England, canon law placed all parents under a duty to support their legitimate children, but later, the duty to provide for ‘bastard’ children was introduced through various ‘Old Poor Laws’ which aimed to provide better relief to the mother of the child or those in need.

Throughout the 16th and 17th century, legislation was introduced to meet the costs of illegitimate children on the parish.  For example, in 1576, the Acte for Setting of the Poore on Work, and for the Avoiding of Ydleness punished both parents for having a bastard child and allowed the mother’s name and fact of pregnancy to be publicly announced, thus making her known to her neighbours who would be taxed for the support of her child.  The mere fact of publicity encouraged neighbours to pressure the mother into marriage or to filiate their children on men who could maintain them – an act that was a lot easier before DNA samples could determine paternity.

After 1609, a mother could be sent to a ‘House of Correction’ for a year unless she gave security for her bastard child.  So unpopular were women who became dependent on the parish that child infanticide became common so that mothers could avoid the shame and punishment of giving birth to an illegitimate child.  In response to this widespread issue, the 1624 Act to Prevent the Destroying and Murthering of Bastard Children was introduced to provide that a woman would face the punishment of death if she gave birth and thereafter concealed the dead body; introducing a presumption that any child buried or concealed after birth had been illegally killed.

Later Poor Acts rather harshly made provision for what became known as ‘badging up’ where a person would have to wear a badge with the first letter of their parish followed by a ‘P’ showing that they were poor.   Any ‘able-bodied’ pauper who refused to work was liable to be placed in prison, thus distinguishing between those who were unable to work, and those who were simply seen as idle, a distinction that appears to be accepted in modern politics where policy has once again reverted to the belief system that the unemployed are somehow irresponsible.

Bastardy Bonds

Legislation was also introduced to try and discourage the birth of illegitimate children.  In the Bastard Child Act of 1732, the law provided that any person charged with being the father of a bastard child should be imprisoned until he gave security to indemnify the parish from expense.  It also became the responsibility of the woman to name the father in order to deter both parties.

Published by W. Darling. The Young Repentent Brought to a Bed of Justice. 1772. Lewis Walpole Library, 772.12.15.1. © Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
Published by W. Darling. The Young Repentent Brought to a Bed of Justice. 1772. Lewis Walpole Library, 772.12.15.1. © Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

The indemnities that a father had to provide by law were known as ‘bastardy bonds’ and were registered in parish records.  Typically, the father was required to agree to pay the parish a lump sum if he failed to maintain the costs of bringing up a bastard child.  The following is an indemnification from parish records in the year of 1747:

 “I Abraham Atkinson of Cambridge, Cambridge apothecary am held and firmly bound unto the Churchwardens of the parish of Littlebury in Essex and the Overseers of the Poor of the said parish in the sum of 50 pounds of good and lawful money.  If this man and his heirs promise to support the child and all manner of costs, charges and expenses which shall or may in any wise hereafter means of the birth maintenance or bringing up of the said Bastard Child – then his obligation to be void

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the birth of an illegitimate child was not common.  However, as the church lost their moral hold over marital affairs, prenuptial sex became more accepted to the point where approximately half of all conceptions in the 18th century were out of wedlock.  Following pregnancy, it is estimated that around one in five actual births were recorded as illegitimate, which suggests that many prenuptial pregnancies were followed by a rather hasty marriage which under church law would legitimise the children – though not for the purposes of inheritance under Common Law.

Review of the Poor Laws

In the 1833 Poor Law Commission Report on Bastardy reported that the Poor Laws encouraged illegitimacy because parish relief was so readily accessible for bastards and their mothers.  It was thought that more relief was issued to maintain illegitimate children than to support legitimate children, and costs were rising because mothers were able to avoid responsibility by moving to their home parish.  This problem arose as at that time if a child was born legitimately then he would ‘inherit’ the parish of his parents.  If he was not legitimate, then a mother could move home to her own parish and leave responsibility of the child to the parish into which he was born.  In other words, the child would be considered a ‘no-one’ with no home and the parish into which he was born would have to maintain him.  Children and those who were vulnerable were generally cared for in what was known as an ‘alms house’ which still exist today and were similar to sheltered housing though no doubt very bleak.

Courtesy of Kindred Past website
Courtesy of Kindred Past website

The recommendations of the Poor Law Commission formed the basis of the Bastardy Clause in the New Poor Law of 1834 which provided that all illegitimate children were to be the sole responsibility of their mothers until they were 16 years old.   Shifting blame to the mother appears to be a direct result of the findings of the 1833 Poor Law Report which was led by Nassau Senior, an economist who was against the allowance system.

Instead of relief being readily available, it was recommended that those in need would first have to enter workhouses that were introduced nationally.  Through the Act, mothers of bastard children were expected to support themselves and their offspring and would have to enter the workhouse if they were unable to do so which ultimately was proposed in order to reduce the costs of children on the parish.  There would no longer be any penal sanctions against either the mother or the father for non-support of their illegitimate children and for the first time, the putative father was absolved of any responsibility for his illegitimate children.

The pass room, Bridewell
The passroom, Bridewell

It was hoped that the morality of women would be effected by such draconian laws, but the reality was that it led to many more men avoiding responsibility altogether and placed even greater financial pressure on a mother who already had the burden of an illegitimate child.  It is also thought that this Act may have led to the flourish of baby-farming in the Victorian age where discrete adverts were placed in journals or newspapers for ‘care’ of children which amounted to a sort of black-market trade in children.

The injustice caused by the Bastardy Clause, led to the 1844 Poor Law Amendment Act which provided that bastardy proceedings were to be a civil matter between parents.  Under this act, a mother could apply under oath for an ‘affiliation order’ which required the putative father to pay a weekly sum to the parish, although she still received maintenance from the church if this was not received.  It is thought that this law has probably come to reflect what has always been a de facto division of parental labour: mother as parent with care, and father as financial provider.

This of course, relates mostly to those children who are maintained by unmarried parents, although families who were poor would also receive relief from the parish.  Marriage was a clear advantage when it came to finance as a spouse had full property rights and legitimate children and widow could inherit or receive a pension through the rules of legislation, common and ecclesiastical law.  Given the importance of marriage, it was therefore crucial that any ceremony or union was seen as valid and legal.


Lawrence Stone “Uncertain Unions”

Marriage, Fertility, and Population Growth in Eighteenth-Century England (Marriage and Society 156-7, 162; E. A. Wrigley)

Gertrude Himmelfarb, The Idea of Poverty (New York: Random House, 1983),

Bastardy and baby-farming in Victorian England, Haller, DL

The Child Support Agency and the Old Poor Law (2006), Nutt, T

Gertrude Himmelfarb, The Idea of Poverty (New York: Random House, 1983)

Featured Image

Thomas Rowlandson, The Passroom at Bridewell


18th century trade cards for London book sellers

For those readers who are familiar with All Things Georgian, you will more than likely know of my passion for trade cards and the tiny clues they offer about the lives their former owners. Today we’re going to take a look at just a few of the booker sellers of 18th century London.

We begin with the card above which belonged to Mr George Sael of at No 192, the Strand, London, showing a female figure, possibly Minerva, seated to the right inscribing the text on an oval. George was not only a bookseller, but also sold stationery and purchased libraries or collections of books.

Although it’s not possible to date the card accurately, we do know from his will, that George died June 1799, at just 38 years of age, said to have been due to overwork. Before ‘going it alone’, George had been in partnership with another bookseller, Edward Jeffery, but they had mutually ended their business partnership in October 1788, so this narrows the window to around a ten year span. It would seem likely that George produced or acquired new business cards after the division of the company, to tells his customers where he was now to be found.

When George died, he left a wife, Sarah née Poole whom he had married in Chester on 19 April 1789, and three surviving daughters, Letitia Margaretta, (born 1790), Sarah (born1794), Elizabeth (born 1795) and a two year old son, George. In his will he specified that all his stock in trade and other financial assets should to go to his wife, then to the children when/if they reached the age of 21 and that his wearing apparel should go to his nephew. George was buried at St George’s Hanover Square on 17 June 1799.

As a former citizen of Chester, the Chester Chronicle provided the following notice of his death:

This next one was very attention grabbing, as it shows George III and Queen Charlotte, with an added name-check for the Prince of Wales. As can be seen in the bottom right hand corner this was advertising the bookseller, Alexander Hogg of Paternoster Row who had acquired a ‘New selection of British novels’



Alexander didn’t marry until he was aged, 56, his wife being Hannah May, of the parish of St Olave, Bermondsey. Rather unusually, it was Hannah who arranged the marriage licence on 15 September 1808, rather than Alexander. The couple then married at St Olave’s a couple of days later and on the day of their marriage Alexander also wrote his will, he clearly believed that he wouldn’t live for much longer and wanted to ensure that his new bride was provided for. Sure enough, their marriage was to be cut short, as Alexander died just over 3 months later, at the beginning of January 1809. This perhaps explains why Hannah organised the marriage licence, a ‘quickie’ wedding, Alexander was too ill to arrange it himself.

The Hull Packet, 17 January 1809 wrote:


On Sunday se’nnight, after a long and painful affliction, which he endured with exemplary fortitude, Mr Alexander Hogg, late a bookseller in Paternoster Row, London, in the 57th year of his age; whose strict adherence to honour and honesty, during life, rendered him universally respected and esteemed.

The next card belonged to a John Weble, bookseller at ‘The Pineapple’ in the City Road, London, showing the text inscribed on a sheet, a bookseller standing to right showing books to a gentleman and a lady; an ornamental border framing the image and is rather more elaborate and detailed than that of George Sael.

However, there’s a glaring error which doesn’t look very professional – have you spotted it yet? I think I might have been asking for a refund if I had paid for the card to be printed.

John ran his book selling and stationery business from at least 1770 and was based on Paternoster Row, London. The little we know of his life comes courtesy of the Oxford University and City Herald, 30 September 1820:

At Bromley, Kent, in his 74th year, John Wheble, Esq., the original projector, and till within these few years, the sole conductor, of the County Chronicle. Of an active, intelligent, and truly liberal mind, combined with generosity to a fault, it may be truly said that few men possessed in a greater degree the respect and esteem of the circle in which he moved, or quitted this transitory life more deeply or sincerely regretted. In 1805, Mr Wheble was chosen one of the Common Council of the war of Farringdon Within, an honour which he continue to enjoy until his death.

This one below belonged to a John Pridden, who operated his business in Fleet Street, from at least 1757 until his death in 1807. The card itself has text inscribed within a Rococo border, the Prince of Wales’s feathers in the upper section with piles of books at the sides and was dated 1757.

We know slightly more about John Pridden than we do about some of the other booksellers, courtesy of the Dictionary of National Biography which tells us that John was born in 1728 to a very affluent family, at Old Martin Hall, Ellesmere, Shropshire. He ran away from home to escape from his cruel step-father and headed for London, where he found employment working for Richard Manby, a book seller of Ludgate Hill, whom he eventually succeeded upon Manby’s death, in 1767.

John married Anne Gregory in 1757 and they had two sons, John and Humphry and six daughters, Anne, Elizabeth, Sarah, Frances, Isabella and Margaret. John outlived his wife, but only by a few years, Anne died in 1801 and John’s wish in his will was to be buried in the same grave as his wife so they could be reunited in death on 24 March 1807, at St Bride’s, Fleet Street.

An anecdote written upon his demise in the Oracle and Daily News, 17 March 1807.

Yesterday morning, in the 79th years of his age, Mr John Pridden, nearly half a century a bookseller in Fleet Street, who, by persevering industry, acquired an independent fortune, with strict integrity. The following anecdote of this worthy man must not go untold, as a specimen of the goodness of his heart: Seven years ago, on the failure of his less fortunate next-door neighbour, he invited him to his house, and relinquished business, to give him the opportunity of the remaining on the spot. His kind intentions met with success, and he frequently expressed the pleasure he felt on seeing his friend prosper under his roof.  

I have one final one to share, not because I had researched the books seller, rather that I am curious about a description on his trade card. He tells potential purchasers that he sells books bound in either calves or turkey leather – turkey leather is a new one to me, so if anyone knows about it, please do let me know.


All images are courtesy of the British Museum

London Gazette, 25 Oct 1788

George Sael.  Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; ClassPROB 11; Piece1326

Alexander Hogg. Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; ClassPROB 11; Piece1482

John Pridden.  Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; ClassPROB 11; Piece1460

Art Detective: the portrait of Catherine Clemens and her son, John Marcus Clemens

This post is very much about art and family connections, but I have a slight query with this first one, which is a miniature by Richard Cosway, that I first came came across on social media.

Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland Museum of Art

Being a big fan of miniatures, especially those by Cosway, I wanted to find out more about the sitter and her child, but with no real success, as yet, despite contacting The Cleveland Museum of Art, who own the miniature , and according to their website it is dated c1800 or possibly c1790.

They directed me to further information on their website which described the portrait, but it still provided no clues as to  who this Catherine Clemens or her son were. They were unable to tell me anything more and recommended I should buy their the book, British Portrait Miniatures: The Cleveland Museum of Art, which would tell me all I needed to know. I duly did this, in anticipation of it learning about these two people. However, when it arrived, like their website, it told me about the miniature, absolutely nothing about the sitters, so whilst, I am still not certain of my findings, I do now think I know know who they are, so let’s see where it leads and maybe one of my readers can shed some light on the mystery.

The online book, Portrait Miniatures: the Edward B Greene Collection, tells us it was painted c1790, so assuming the child was about five at the time, the gap between the website and their online book is quite a large gap given the appearance of the child.

Firstly, despite having read everywhere that Catherine and her son were named Clemens, I believe that somehow, over time, their surname has lost the letter ‘t’ and that it should be Clements. Why do I think that?

I began my search looking for anyone in the world named John Marcus Clemens who would have been born around 1785 – 1800, with a mother named Catherine, and not a single person appeared, despite a variety of searches, which struck me as very strange.

There was, however, a John Marcus Clements, born in 1789 in Dublin, to parents, Henry Theophilus Clements and his second wife, Catherine née de la Poer Beresford. It strikes me that this is ‘our’ Catherine and her son, but proving it is far more difficult.

If am I correct, then Catherine (1761-1836), was the daughter of John de la Poer Beresford (1737-1805), an Irish statesman, Barrister at Law, First Commissioner of the revenue board, Knight of the shire for Waterford, and second son of Marcus, Earl of Tyrone

A watercolour portrait of John Beresford, M.P. by Richard Crosse. Gallery of Ireland
A watercolour portrait of John Beresford, M.P. by Richard Crosse. Gallery of Ireland

and his French wife, Mademoiselle Anne Constantia de Ligondes, who died towards the end of 1772, when Catherine was about eleven, leaving John with nine children to raise and needing a new wife as quickly as possible to help with his offspring.

Along came his second wife, and stepmother to Catherine, the celebrated beauty, Barbara Montgomery (1737-1788), who was immortalised in art, as one of the Montgomery sisters (Barbara, Elizabeth and Anne), in the famous painting by Joshua Reynolds, ‘Three Ladies Adorning A Term of Hymen.’

Reynolds, Joshua; Three Ladies Adorning a Term of Hymen; Tate

John and Barbara were married in 1774 and went on to produce a further eight children, so 17 known children in total – that was quite some family to support.

Returning to Catherine, in August 1778, aged just 16, she married, and married very well, her husband being the widower, Henry Theophilus Clements (1750-1795), son of Nathaniel Clements (1705-1777) and his wife, Hannah Gore (1710-1781).

Nathaniel Clements and Hannah Gore

Nathaniel had risen through the political ranks to become the main financial manager of the British and Irish Government in Ireland and Minister for Finance from 1740 to 1777.

The Viceregal Lodge in Phoenix Park, Dublin dated 1849 by Henry Newton. Royal Collection Trust
The Viceregal Lodge in Phoenix Park, Dublin dated 1849 by Henry Newton. Royal Collection Trust

Nathaniel was appointed to the office of Chief Ranger of the Phoenix Park and Master of Game and built the Ranger’s lodge to his own design in 1751, which is now Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland.

Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park

He also had an extensive property portfolio, including Abbotstown, County Dublin, estates in County Leitrim and County Cavan and was a developer of property in Georgian Dublin, including part of Henrietta Street. Nathaniel was described one of the richest commoners in Ireland.

Henry Theophilus and Catherine settled into married life and produced at least seven known children, several of whom died young, but it is their son, John Marcus who appears in the miniature by Cosway with Catherine.

Just four years before the birth of Catherine’s son, John Marcus, we have a portrait of her, which is now at the Lady Lever Gallery, ‘in the style of Thomas Gainsborough’. This portrait seems to have originally simply been title ‘Portrait of a Lady’ but subsequently identified as Catherine. As we can see here, she would have been aged just 24. Having contacted the gallery they very kindly sent me more information about this portrait which does in fact dispute that it was Catherine, rather that it was more likely to have been Henry Theophilus’ first wife, Mary Webb, who died c1777. It is difficult to age her, as the fashion of the day dictated that women wore hair powder, which perhaps makes her appearance seem older than she was was.

Gainsborough, Thomas; Portrait of a Lady; Lady Lever Art Gallery

In 1788, just one year before the birth of John Marcus, when Catherine was aged 28, her portrait was painted again, this time by George Romney. We know this to be Catherine from Arthur Chamberlain’s book of 1910, George Romney, which confirms that:

Among his portraits of 1788 were Mrs. Clements, a half-length, sent to Dublin.

To have been painted by such famous artists tells us that Catherine was not only regarded as a beauty, but that the family must have been very affluent.

The couple had eight known children, their first being Anne Barbara, born just a year after her marriage and named after Catherine’s mother and her stepmother.

Just as an aside, another of their children, Selina (1780-1805) went on to marry Sir William Mordaunt Sturt Milner (1779-1855). When I came across his name, it rang very distinct, if distant bells.

With further investigation I soon realised that he was the great nephew of Dame Mary Lindsay (née Milner), who was Dido Elizabeth Belle’s stepmother. This was not an avenue I was expecting to travel along for one minute, and it just goes to what a very small world it was at that time, with so many of the upper class being related by marriage.

Catherine’s husband, Henry Theophilus died in 1795, as did one of their sons, but Catherine lived until 1836.

Her will, as you can see, was exceptionally brief, just seven lines, in which she stated that she wished to be buried near her daughter, Selina, at Harrow Road (Kensal Green Cemetery). However, Selina was buried in 1805, at Bolton Percy, Yorkshire, home to the Milner family so that makes Catherine’s request somewhat strange, unless the Selina she named was her granddaughter who died 1834 and who was buried at Kensal Green, which would make more sense.

Her will confirmed that her surviving son, was a colonel in India, this would have been Henry John (1781-1843) who we see below in a portrait by Martin Cregan.

Colonel Henry John Clements by Martin Cregan. Sold by Christies
Colonel Henry John Clements by Martin Cregan. Sold by Christies

The son in the portrait with Catherine, John Marcus, having died two years previously, in 1834. John Marcus left a widow, Catherine Frances nee Wentworth, daughter of Godfrey Wentworth Esq. of Woolley Park, Wakefield, Yorkshire and two surviving sons.

Catherine specifically asked that her son Colonel Clements, to ‘see that Harriet Cogan does not want, until her bother returns from India when he will be able to take care of her should she be alive.’ Unfortunately, it is not clear from Catherine’s will who this Harriet was, it may be another of Catherine’s children, but so far, I can’t find any Harriet Clements married to a Mr Cogan, so another mystery.

To finish, I thought it would be interesting to group all three portraits said to be of Catherine together, to see whether they were all of the same person. I am not convinced.

We know for certain that the middle one, by Romney is definitely a Mrs Clements and is confirmed as such not only by the reference in the book, but also from the portrait itself, in which the sitter has a letter on her lap with the name Clements on it.

As stated earlier, the Lady Lever Gallery have not been able to confirm the attribution of their portrait, but a leading art expert, Dr Alex Kitson, doesn’t believe it to be a Gainsborough, either, leaving yet another mystery to unravel.

Sadly, despite the book by Cleveland Art Museum, providing no information about the sitters, I still can’t say for certain that I’m correct, but I am pretty certain that there was only ever one Catherine Clements living at that time with a son named John Marcus, and that was Catherine Clements – with a ‘t’, so I can only conclude that it must have been the woman in the one in the centre and to the right of that group.

If anyone else can find a Catherine Clemens with a son named John Marcus Clemens, do please let me know.

A Georgian ‘Trip Advisor’ – Part Two

Today we’re following on from the previous article by R. M Healey with some more places in London to enjoy dining in the 18th century.

August 1788 

Windsor Castle, Richmond. 

Long has this house been in estimation. Rigby, who often formerly used to bait here, en tête-à-tête, used to say “ that further up you may fare worse! “. The apartments are all spacious, and the view from behind a most luxurious landscape! Good eels, good fowls, and good venison, are found here. The various courses are all served up in style, and there is not a wine but what is of the highest flavour, and best quality. The stables too are excellent in equestrian accommodation; and that is no secondary consideration with a man of feeling, who feeds his horse himself, while the cuisineur is preparing his own feed. The charge is by no means extortionate, and there is as grateful a fair hair’d curtsey at the bar to be had for a shilling as for a guinea. In the left front parlour is a room befitting even Middleton himself. It was lined by India, at least in painting—the panels were formed for the room, and then sent out for Asiatic gilding!

Three Tuns, Strand.

The fragments of royalty smoke here; and smoke, too, in additional perfume. It is a royal larder. Besides this luxurious conveniency, every choice article is to be had in season. The expence being tacked to the bill of fare, is no inconsiderable invitation to sit down. Bricklayers in their bills manage it otherwise. If Mr Hodd says that your demand is to cost ten pounds, it is ten to one that it will be thirty. The Lord Mayor himself cannot deny this. As for the Tuns, both upstairs and down stairs, all is activity, civility and good service too; nor should the company pass unnoticed, who though motley, are generally accomplished ; and where is the man of sense that would not choose  his company before his food? As to the bill, it is very moderate.

Below we have a snippet about a young man who couldn’t pay for  his meal at the Three Tuns:

Kentish Gazette 08 June 1768
Kentish Gazette 08 June 1768

Walker’s, the Assembly Rooms, Blackheath.

This tavern is very pleasantly situated on the Heath. The prospect to the north is rich, variegated and delightful; and this must certainly please the Scotch Golf Club, that when they look towards home from hence, it is viewing Thule in idea, through the most grand and attractive medium. The prospect to the south is not half so charming. It seems only a pleasing waste, not from sterility, but from the folly of continuing waste-grounds in a fertile country, mainly because we are free to do as absurd actions as we please. This liberal policy is a determined, though not rooted enmity against the wants of man. Why does not our patriot minister make all England yield that equal burthen which nature has intended?

As to Walker’s, they dress very good dinners. It is an excellent house for turbot. The Kentish Dispensary, it would appear, know this truism; for besides its being a centrical (sic) house for their dinners, it is an excellent and a reasonable house for making out a bill. All guests know that when a house is unreasonable, however wise it may appear in it’s (sic) own eyes, it ought either to be sent to Bridewell or Bedlam. Moderate profits, ready attendance and good cheer can only ensure business; and these recommendations, it may be with truth affirmed, are the characteristics of the Blackheath Assembly Rooms.

The Virginia, Newman’s Court, Cornhill.

This house is much frequented by ship carpenters, and ship brokers. Dinners are very well served up at 15d a head. Rural city merchants, that is, those who sleep in the country, generally dine here. The entertainment is good, and the charge moderate. As to the mistress at the bar, she is very obliging; she is as prolific in curtseys as a Frenchwoman, and as prolific in issue as a rabbit.

Mill’s, Gerrard Street, Soho

This house is remarkable for good red port, and good spirits. They dress dinners and suppers in style —and the breakfast are very comfortable. Several intelligent gentlemen, stricken in years, are it’s constant guests, and the conversation is both pleasing and instructive. The charges are indeed very reasonable, and the attention prompt and agreeable. It is celebrated for being the very first house that reduced the prices of wines and spirits, after the commencement of the French treaty.

Batson’s Coffee House, near ‘Change.

This is the English emporium for the Russian trade. The Baltic ships are regularly filed here. It is the great commercial mart, and city lounge for the Thornton’s. No dinners are dressed. Opulent and elegant clubs meet here. It is the coffee-house patron of Sunday schools. The ladies at the bar Flood their customers with good spirits, good coffee, and good looks. As to their proof brandy, it serves as excellent fur cloaks to the Russian captains.

Bull and Bush, North-End, Hampstead.

The bon-vivants for several miles around meet here every Friday. There is a very pleasant garden, in the midst of which is a bush, that can accommodate a dozen people to dinner. The rooms are cheerful, and the prospect, altho’ confined, is neatly rural, and somewhat romantic. Every article, both in eating and drinking is of the very best quality; and it being without the vortex of common Sunday pedestrians, it is a most delightful recess on that day as well as others. The bill is conscionable, and the service speedy.


The Windsor Castle inn seems to have disappeared.

Today, there are a couple of inns named The Three Tuns in the Strand area, but the one flourishing  in 1788, appears to have gone.

The Assembly Rooms in Blackheath have long disappeared, but The Royal Blackheath Golf Club, ancestor of the Blackheath Golf Club, still exists, though it has now moved to Eltham. This ‘Scotch Golf Club’ had its HQ at the Greenwich end of the heath. Although it could trace its origins to 1608, when Scottish courtiers based at Greenwich Palace practiced their skills on the nearby heath, it was formally established in the mid eighteenth century. The scathing reference to the free market ( ie ‘ liberal’) practice of concentrating waste-grounds in ‘ fertile ‘Blackheath reveals a sensibility towards the environment that was surely ahead of its time. The Kentish Dispensary was, like the voluntary hospitals of the period, a source of drugs and medical care that was funded by voluntary subscriptions. It’s good to discover that the tradition of City bankers living opulently in the shires and commuting into the square mile each morning was alive in the late eighteenth century, though the absence of a railway network in 1788 meant that the country in this period probably meant Edmonton, Woodford or Clapham, all villages that could be reached by a fast coach from the City. Soho continued to be a refuge for ‘intelligent gentlemen, stricken in years ‘where good conversation could be had right up to the early nineteen seventies. Alas, that reputation is no more. We confess to being perplexed by the references to the Thorntons and Flood, but perhaps historians of London will know more. According to a writer in the Connoisseur magazine for 1754 Batson’s was where physicians met their clients.  Food is still served at the famous Old Bull and Bush, and according to the deputy manager, there was once a bush in the garden. However, she could give no information on when it disappeared or whether it could once accommodate several customers.

A Georgian Trip Advisor – Part One

When we’re looking for somewhere to dine out, we often use a website, such as Trip Advisor (others available, of course), but did you know that something similar existed in the 18th century? Well, today’s guest, who I am delighted to welcome, is historian and biographer R. M Healey. He has also written and contributed to many books, journals, newspapers and magazines, during a long and varied life, including working in various museums and art galleries in the UK. With that, I’ll hand over to him to share some of these reviews with you.

Reviews of eating and drinking establishments are rare in any newspapers and magazines of the Georgian era. However, the idea was taken up in 1815 by the journalist George Rylance in his very extensive survey, The Epicure’s Almanack, a recent edition of which was edited by Janet Ing Freeman.

Here is a selection of the best descriptions of eating and drinking resorts taken from a ‘Review of Taverns, Inns, Coffee Houses and Genteel Eating Houses’ published anonymously in the New London Magazine in July and August 1788. Oddly, although she pays tribute to the many manifestations of similar reviews in earlier books on London, Ms Freeman neglects to mention this particular magazine’s earlier survey.

July 1788

 Brentford Eights, an island in the Thames off Brentford

This is rendered famous for pitch-cock eels. It is likewise celebrated for a very favourite Dutch dish called Vater Zuchee. This dish is composed of perch, parsley-roots and vinegar, served up in a deep dish, with slices of bread and butter. The visitors of the Eights, in gormandising this dish, have no occasion for any other knives and forks than what nature has given them. It is common to eat with digits only.

If any stripling of fortune, whether a coxswain of a barge, or the supercargo of a post chaise, wishes to be indulged, he may be served here with zouchee to the amount of eight shillings a head.

Marlborough Coffee-House, Bond Street

Lord George Gordon used to say that this house was excellent for good fish. Do they purchase it off Philips—the Carnaby-market Cat—the best of all anglers? The frequenters are fashionable, the fare is of the best quality, nor can ever the guests repine at summing up the total of their entertainment.

The Promenade in St. James's Park. 1793. Courtesy of YCBA
The Promenade in St. James’s Park. 1793. Courtesy of YCBA

New Spring Gardens, Chelsea

This is a foreign house where indeed, to do them justice, they dress all kinds of French dishes remarkably well. They have very good French and Portuguese wines. Their tevel is delicate and their red port strong and genuine, without the fiery aid of British brandy. This house is a bumper every Sunday, in the tea and ordinary style. The prospect from the pleasure ground is perhaps the richest rural view of any. In the fore-ground are the verdant lawns of Pimlico. In the side and backgrounds, St James’s Park, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s stand proudly pre-eminent. The service is neat, the entertainment good, the bill very moderate indeed! Excepting in rich eating and rich drinking, it is a complete rus in urbe.

Guildhall Coffee- House, King Street, Cheapside.

Frequented by all classes of luxurious citizens. Aldermen, Deputies, Common Councilmen, Gentlemen of the Long Robe attending the Courts, with a variety of others whose interest in pleasure leads them near the city senate. Here you may lodge and board —or you may dine in private, aux prix raisonable. Rich soup is made here in the season, which the lawyers devour as eagerly as their briefs. The Port is good and the Sherry most excellent. It is, indeed, pretty plentifully distributed to the neighbouring cits*. Sometimes the lawyers and common council gill it in a morning; and Pownall’s cellar has caused many a citizen’s question to be carried, and many a doubtful cause to be won. The address of Mr Pownal, and the attention of Mr Pugh give pleasure to all it’s (sic) visitants. The bill is very moderate.

Red Lion Inn, Hounslow.

A good house for post-chaises, good horses and good beds. There are two gardens belonging to it that are very pleasant for a solitary or a  tête-à-tête walk. The larder is not variegated, but what it contains is of the prime. The port wine is good, and the tea and coffee excellent, nor should the clotted cream be forgotten. It is unadulterated, although chalk may be had very reasonable. The bill is very moderate for the western road, and the attendance prompt and pleasing.

The Red Lion, Hounslow. Courtesy of British Listed Buildings 1973. No old image of it available
The Red Lion, Hounslow. Courtesy of British Listed Buildings 1973. No old image of it available

Spread Eagle, Strand.

Long noted among the society of the humorous and intelligent. The rooms are here remarkably spacious. Indeed, they are in stile. As to the bill of fare, it abounds with every article in the season, from a mutton chop to a bustard or John-dory. The wines are all pure and well flavoured. If there be any preferable to others, it is the sherry and the port. The master and waiters are as civil and patient at four in the morning as at eight in the evening; and the prices of the various articles are very moderate.

Toy, Hampton-court.

Pitch-cock eels are here in the utmost perfection. Being in the vicinity of the palace, it is ever frequented in the summer months, by the great, the dissipated and the inquisitive. The apartments are airy, the bill of fare is rich and diversified. The wines are all excellent. If the bill appears stretched sometimes, strangers cannot much repine, as they have always the best of everything for their money, and likewise the utmost alacrity of attention. The guests would rather pay a guinea at the Toy, from experience, that fifteen shillings for the same fare any where contiguous.

Northampton Mercury 15 July 1771
Northampton Mercury 15 July 1771

Click on the highlighted link which will take you to Part Two


Today, young and monied men about town will no longer find local fish dishes being served on Brentford Ait, a long, narrow island in the Thames, lying opposite Kew Gardens and Brentford High Street, which is now just a greensward. However, Eel Pie Island, further downstream off Twickenham, got its name by offering similar fishy fare in Victorian times and became a trendy hot spot in the swinging sixties. Incidentally, it is slightly worrying to read that parsley root was an ingredient in Zucher Zee. Back in 1788, when the Thames was less polluted, the deadly poisonous Hemlock Water Dropwort (cicuta virosa) would have grown profusely along its banks; and in the annals of toxicology there are numerous cases of ignorant people mistaking the roots of this dangerous plant for parsnips. Many died horrible deaths. Let’s hope no cooks on the Brentford ‘Eights’ made the same mistake.

*A cit in Georgian slang was a ‘townsman ‘who traded. We would certainly like to know more about Philips, the ‘Carnaby-market cat’.

Not surprisingly, all of the eateries described have long vanished, although some of the buildings have survived. The Red Lion in Hounslow High Street, which Dickens knew, was flourishing (much changed) at least until the 1930s. It is now a Barclays bank. The original Toy inn, possibly dating from the time of Henry VIII, once stood close to the Hampton Court palace gates, where one of its regular customers was King William the Third. In The Epicure’s Handbook (1815) the Toy is described as being ‘on a larger scale than the King’s Arms, and the charges, we believe, are rather higher, but the fare is such to leave you no shadow of cause to repine at the expence ‘. By 1840, however, it had become ruinous, and it that year was reconstructed, relocated and renamed ‘Ye Old Toye’. It was still doing business until recently, but now seems to have closed. 

Feature Image

Eagle Tavern and Coffee House near Somerset House formerly Bath and Liverpool Hotel. YCBA

18th century marriage customs

When people marry today, they can choose where they marry, be it a religious building, registry office or even by taking their vows whilst sky diving and anywhere in between, as long as an officiating officer is present.

In the Georgian period marriages had to take place in a religious venue, presided over by a religious official, unless you chose to elope over the border to Gretna Green, Scotland.

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

Forthcoming marriages were usually announced by banns read out in church. If the couple wanted more privacy, then they would apply for a Marriage Licence, which, if you could afford it, could be purchased for a whole variety of reasons such as  – they were in a hurry as the bride being pregnant or that the couple were of different social standings, so perhaps a master marrying his servant,  or there was a large age gap. There may have been opposition from the family, or the parties may have been of different religions. It could even have been that they had married overseas and wanted it to be legitimatised by the Church of England. Paying for a licence made it a quicker and easier option.

According to the Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical, marriages could only take places between the hours of 8am and midday. So perhaps with a marriage licence you would opt for the earliest time available, so you could simply ‘tie the knot‘ and slip away without anyone noticing.

Usually there were only one or two marriages per day in London churches, far less in local parish churches, but on extremely rare occasions as many as 8 could take place, but this would have made each one an extremely hurried affair, literally giving the couple enough time to make their vows and leave in order to allow the next wedding to take place. Not ideal nor romantic, in my opinion.

I was recently  reading about the life story of the Scottish poet and ballad writer, David Love, who, although Scottish, spent much of his life in Nottingham, when I came across some details of his first marriage which took place in Scotland and he described how different marriage in Scotland was, compared to England.

Barber, Thomas; David Love (1750-1827), Ballad-Writer; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

In David’s own words:

Marriages in Scotland are not performed as is done in England, there is no ring put on the bride’s finger, no repeating of words after the minister, no common prayer book to read out of, nor any form of words till the minister bids them join their hands; the minister then says “Are you willing to have this woman to be your wedded wife” he bows as a token of his willingness: then he says to the woman “Are you willing to have this man to be your wedded husband” she makes a courtesy; the minister then says “ the presence of God and these witnesses I pronounce you man and wife, for whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” The minister then begins with an exhortation concerning the marriage-state, how each is to behave, respecting their duty to one another, concluding with prayers suitable to the occasion.

Today, the tradition is to throw the wedding bouquet, David tells us though, that in his time, the tradition was to throw one of  stockings of the bride. Then the process was repeated by the groom. (Hmm, I’m not so sure that throwing a man’s sock today would be seen as lucky though!)

Having read David’s account, I thought I would take a look at some of the other wedding customs of the Georgian period.

I came across this interesting piece in the Carlisle Journal, October 1846 which explains some of the tradition practised in the north of England (a similar article also appeared previously in 1823).

Marriage ceremonies in the north of England – The day of marriage has always been, and it is to be hoped, in spite of disconsolate old maids and love-crossed bachelors, will ever continue to be, a time of festivity.

Among the rustics in Cumberland, the is plentiful music, dancing and revelry. Early in the morning, the bridegroom, attended by his friends on horseback, proceeds in a gallop to the house of the bride’s father. Having alighted, he salutes her, and then the company breakfast together. The repast concluded, the whole nuptial party depart in cavalcade order towards the church, accompanied by a fiddler, who plays a succession of tunes appropriate to the occasion. Immediately after the performance of the ceremony, the company retire to some neighbouring ale house, and many a flowing bumper of home brewed is quaffed to the health of the happy pair. Animate with this earthy nectar, they set off at full speed towards the future residence of the bride, where a handkerchief is presented to the first who arrives.

The Village Wedding; National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

The Ribbon

In some of the country villages in the county of Durham, after the connubial knot is tied, a ribbon is proposed as the subject of contention, either for a foot or a horse race, supposed to be a delicate substitute for the bride’s garter, which used to be taken off while she knelt at the altar; and the practice being anticipated, the garter was generally found to do credit to her taste and skill in needlework.

In Craven, where this singular sport also prevails, whoever first reaches the bride’s habitation is ushered into the bridal chamber and having performed the ceremony of turning down the bedclothes, returns, carrying in his tankard of warm ale, previously prepared, to meet the bride, to whom he triumphantly offers his humble beverage, and by whom, in return, he is presented with the ribbon, as the honourable reward of his victory.

Lizars, William Home; A Scotch Wedding; National Galleries of Scotland

Riding for the kail

Another ancient marriage ceremony of the same sort, still observed in the remote parts of Northumberland, is that of ‘riding for the kail’, where the party, after kissing the bride, set off at full speed on horseback to the bridegroom’s, the winner of the race receiving the kail(today, written as kale), or dish of spice broth, as the chief prize.

The wedding ring

I have no idea whether there is any truth in this one from the Cheltenham Chronicle October 1815, but I do like it.

This custom was introduced by the ancients, who used to present their mistresses with a ring, meaning thereby to express as a ring has no end, so there shall be no end of that love which is necessary to constitute connubial felicity; and it was put upon the fourth finger of the left hand because anatomists affirm, that there is a vein in it having direct conveyance to the heart, which is the source of love and affection.

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

It was also custom to that ring was directed first to be put on the thumb, afterwards the second, then upon the third and lastly on the fourth finger, where it would remain. The Perthshire Courier of September 1824, also stated:

Married women are so rigid, not to say superstitious, in the notion concerning their wedding rings, that neither when they wash their hands, nor at any other time, will they displace it from this finger, extending, it should seem, the expression of ‘till death do us part’ even to this golden circlet, the token and pledge of matrimony.

Bride cake

I have previously written about wedding cakes and you find more about the first tiered wedding cake, by clicking on this link.

The bridal party after leaving the church repair to a neighbouring inn, where a thin currant cake, marked in squares, though not entirely cut through, is ready against the bride’s arrival. Over her head is spread a clean linen napkin; the bridegroom standing behind the bride, breaks the cake over her head, which is thrown over her and scrambled for by the attendants.

This sounds potentially rather messy, I would have thought, so perhaps not one for today’s brides given the cost of today’s wedding dresses.

The Country Wedding by John Lewis Krimmel, 1820

Bridal Pie

The bridal pie was so essential a dish on the dining table after the celebration of the marriage, that there was no prospect of happiness without it. This was always made round, with a very strong crust, ornamented with various devices. In the middle of it was a fat, laying hen, full of eggs, probably intended as an emblem of fertility, which was also garnished with minced and sweet meats. It would have been deemed an act of neglect or rudeness if any of the party omitted to partake of it. And on this occasion, it was the etiquette for the bridegroom always to wait upon the bride, from whence it is supposed the term bridegroom took its origin.


According to the Morning Post, December 1815:

Honey moon – it was the custom of the higher order of Teutonics, an ancient people who inhabited the northern parts of German, to drink mead, or Metheglin, a beverage made with honey, for thirty days after every wedding. From this custom comes the expression “to spend the Honey Moon”.


Constitutional Canons Ecclesiastical

Header Image

The Wedding Breakfast; National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Summer fashions of 1822

As usual, to find out what the fashionable woman of the 1820’s should be seen wearing in the summer of 1822, ‘The Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics’, comes to the rescue. Needless to say, for the fashion conscious woman two outfits were needed, one for the day and one for the evening.

Morning Dress

The morning dress is composed of colonnade stripe muslin, worked round the bottom to correspond with the stripe, and trimmed with four narrow worked flounces, the upper one finished with a double row of cord. The body fastens behind, plain and high, but a little open towards the throat; trimmed with the same delicate work that decorates the cape, in which there are two rows, separated by a puffing of plain book-muslin, through which a lilac ribbon is drawn. The cape is square at the shoulder, where it finishes; but the upper row of trimming is continued to the bottom of the waist, adding to the gracefulness of the form.

Mechlin lace. Courtesy of the Metmuseum
Mechlin lace. Courtesy of the Metmuseum

The sleeve is worked at the end and tied with lilac ribbon at the wrist; above which, the work is arranged in a double angle trimmed, from each of which is suspended a small cord tassel. The cap is elegantly simple, of the cottage form, and composed of beautiful India worked muslin and Mechlin lace, tastefully decorated with fancy lilac ribbon. Shoes, lilac kid.

Evening Dress

Round dress, of delicately stripped net, over a white satin slip; the bottom of the dress extended by a double rouleau of rich white satin; above which are elegant festoons, arranged transversely, of puffed crepe lisse, confined diagonally by three narrow rouleau’s of white satin, and finished at the top with small clusters of the blue convolvulus. The corsage displays the chastest taste, cut round, and edged with a quilling of the finest tulle; the stomacher is formed of four rows of six minute folds of white satin, net appearing between each row. The tasteful trimming round the back, over the shoulder, and uniting with the stomacher to the bottom of the waist, is composed of short rows of folded satin, separated by the net at equal distances, and edged with blond, of a rich and elegant pattern. The sleeve short and full, confined by convolvuluses and divisions of small folded satin, which is again intersected by cheveronels. Head dress, turban of cerulean blue and white crepe lisse, and two white ostrich feathers. The hair parted in front, and elegant ringlets on each side. White satin shoes, long white kid gloves. Necklace and ear-rings of pearl and cornelian.

General observations on fashion and dress

It is Brighton, Cheltenham etc that we must now resort for an account of the prevailing modes among the fair votaries of fashion. We find that muslin robes made in the style of pelisses are a good deal worn for the morning promenade: the one which we are about to described is the most novel that we have seen: it is an open dress composed of cambric muslin; the skirt is of an easy fulness and less gored than they have been worn lately; the waist is the usual length; the back full, and the fulness confined by a row of points, which cross each other, and fasten in the middle of the back by buttons; the points are edged with embroidery.

The sleeve is nearly tights to the arm; and it is finished at the hand to correspond with the back, but the points are small. The collar falls over, it is rounded at the corners, and terminates in a point in the middle of the back. The trimming, which is very deep, and goes all round, is formed of clear muslin let in in a wreath of leaves; between each of the windings of the wreath is a small rose, also of clear muslin.

Spencer jacket courtesy of the MetMuseum c1815
Spencer jacket courtesy of the MetMuseum c1815

Silk pelisses are likewise in favour for the more advanced part of the day, and spencers are very fashionable. A good many of the latter button behind and are ornamented in front either with braiding and brandenburgs, or else with the same material as the spencer, disposed in various ways.

If the trimming be of brandenburgs, the half-sleeve, which is always full, is interspersed with them. These spencers are made in general without collars and are worn either with a lace falling collar or a ruff. We have seen a spencer composed on white lace, and lined with coloured sarsnet, of a very novel and pretty description; the lining was of lemon colour; the back was formed by a row of small silk buttons on each side and had a little fulness at the bottom of the waist. A short lace jacket, composed of three falls, gives the spencer a very jaunty air.

The capote. Courtesy of the MetMuseum
The capote. Courtesy of the MetMuseum

The kind of bonnet which the French capote, is a good deal in favour for the morning walk, but then it is always worn with muslin dresses. It is composed of cambric muslin, in some instances with embroidery, but not in general and has rarely any embroidery.

Silk bonnets are fashionable, but not so much as those that are transparent. Toques and turban are in favour in full dress, but not so much as head dresses en cheveaux.

Here in the Morning Post we can see an example of a London store which stocked Mechlin lace, so fabrics were readily available for seamstresses.

Here in this portrait of Henrietta Howard, c1724, we can see how fashions evolved over the 100 years.

Gibson, Thomas; Henrietta Hobart (c.1688-1743), the Honourable Mrs Howard, Later Countess of Suffolk; National Trust, Blickling Hall;

A Mansion, a Grand Dame, and a Portrait by George Romney

Today, I’m delighted to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian, Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. to tell us more about a fascinating portrait by George Romney housed at DACOR Bacon House, Washington D.C.

DACOR Bacon House
DACOR Bacon House

An oil portrait by George Romney graces the second-floor dining room of the historic DACOR Bacon House at 1801 F Street, N.W., Washington, DC. It is one of the very few Romney paintings found in the US, and you won’t find it on the internet. The portrait, hanging above the sideboard, is the focal point in a room furnished with exquisite antiques. It is Romney’s portrait of Lady Augusta Murray, holding her infant son, Augustus Frederick d’Este.

Unlike Romney’s many famous paintings of Lady Emma Hamilton, the portrait of Lady Murray is obscure, familiar mainly to those who frequent the DACOR Bacon House and know something of the mansion’s history. On the other hand, like Emma, and many of Romney’s female subjects, Lady Murray is portrayed in a charming manner. With dark curls encircling her face, she looks directly at the viewer with a tilt of her head and a shy, captivating smile. She wears a white, short-sleeved, high-collared dress and a turban. The boy, in a white frock, gazes into the distance, somewhere behind the viewer.

Romney’s portrait of Lady Augusta Murray and her son
Romney’s portrait of Lady Augusta Murray and her son

The DACOR Bacon House, the woman who owned the house and the portrait, and the portrait itself, all have complex histories that make for rich and fascinating tales of the Georgian Era and beyond, reaching into the twentieth century. Here are those interrelated stories.

The DACOR Bacon House

Built in 1825, the DACOR Bacon House is an architectural treasure; one of the best-preserved nineteenth-century, Federal-style landmarks in Washington DC. Just a short distance from the White House, the Capitol building, and the Supreme Court, the venue can boast almost two centuries of connections to the influential and the powerful who have conducted the nation’s domestic and foreign affairs.

The Entrance to the Bacon DACOR House
The Entrance to the Bacon DACOR House

To enter the house is to walk in the footsteps of presidents, justices, governors, senators, diplomats, military leaders, and dignitaries who lived there or visited to attend dinners, balls, receptions, and musicales. As a family home and sometime boarding house, the structure has been the residence of a diplomat, a US Marshall, Supreme Court justices, an heiress and one-time English countess, and a New York congressman, as well as social and cultural leaders. The house is named after Congressman Robert Low Bacon, and his wife, Virginia Murray Bacon, who owned the house from 1925 until her death in 1980.

Today the stately, four-story, beautifully appointed mansion is the headquarters of the Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired foundation, known as DACOR, a non-profit educational and cultural institution dedicated to excellence in the field of international understanding and discourse in shaping US public policy. The foundation hosts meetings, dinners, receptions, and conferences for discussions of literature, history, and topics related to and bearing directly on current foreign affairs. The National Trust for Historic Preservation holds an easement to preserve the property and structure for future generations.

The property on which the house sits was once part of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Census records show that it was a farm tract owned by David Burnes who emigrated from Scotland in 1721. Burnes expanded his holdings to encompass much of the area that would eventually become Washington, DC. Upon his death, the land passed to his son, James, who expanded the holdings, and eventually, in 1772, to his grandson, David Burnes II, who served as a lieutenant in the War for American Independence. In 1790, Congress established a federal city on the banks of the Potomac River. Within the following year, Burnes sold a portion of his holdings to the newly formed federal government. That land today forms a segment of the Washington Mall and the south half of the White House grounds.

David Burnes II retained the remaining portion of his land that had become situated in the District of Columbia. When he died in 1800, his property passed to his teenaged daughter, Marcia Brown Burnes. In 1802, her guardian, John Oakley, sold three lots of the property to William Hammond Dorsey, a prominent member of the nearby Georgetown community and a judge of the Orphan’s Court of Washington County, Maryland.

Subsequently, the remaining property passed through additional owners. Respectively, they were: Jacob Wagner, chief clerk of the Department of State and the owner of the Federal Republican newspaper; Tobias Lear V, former private secretary to George Washington and, afterward, a US diplomat serving under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; and Mr. Tench Ringgold, US Marshall for the District of Columbia, appointed by President James Monroe.

In 1824, Ringgold built a three-story, Federal-style house on the property with borrowed money (from his daughter, Sarah) and slave labour. He added two outbuildings; a storage/gardening shed and a carriage house.

Ringgold was well-placed socially. He attended the inaugural ball for President John Quincy Adams in May 1825. He befriended Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams who both died in 1826, as did Ringgold’s wife, Mary, with whom he had five children. In keeping with local custom, the Ringgold’s opened their home as a boarding house to non-resident, government officials. Chief Justice John Marshall and numerous associate justices and their clerks boarded at the Ringgold home. Former President Monroe and his wife were guests in 1829 and 1830.

When President Andrew Jackson took office in 1831, he dismissed Ringgold from his post as US Marshall, despite Ringgold’s strenuous objections. Ringgold fell into financial difficulties and defaulted on the loan, urging Sarah and her husband, John M. Thomas, to foreclose on the property and take ownership. The Thomas’s held possession from 1833 to 1835, when they sold the house to Samuel Sprigg.

Sprigg, born about 1783, was a wealthy landowner. He was married to Violetta Lansdale with whom he had two children. He was the first governor of Maryland, a position he held until December 1822. At his death in 1855, his estate was valued at $50,000, including 61 slaves. He bought the house as a residence for his daughter, Sally, and her husband William Thomas Carroll, who was a Supreme Court clerk appointed by Chief Justice John Marshall, a position he held for 36 years. The F Street house, known as the Sprigg-Carroll House, stayed in Sprigg’s name until his death, when it went in trust to his daughter. During the Carroll’s occupancy, the house underwent expansion and many renovations to include connections to city’s new water and sewer system in the 1860s.

The Carroll’s enjoyed affluence and social prominence. They entertained lavishly and spent summers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. They had four daughters and three sons, two of whom died in childhood. The daughters all married well. The surviving son was an officer in the Union Army, wounded during the Civil War, retiring as a major-general.

William Carroll died in 1863 at age 61. Sally Carroll remained in the house until her death in 1895 at age 81. Her son-in-law and executor to her will then sold the house to Mary Ellen (Mollie) Fuller, the second wife of Melville Weston Fuller, Chief Justice to the Supreme Court, nominated by President Grover Cleveland in 1888. The Fuller family lived at the mansion for 14 years, enlarging and modernizing the living spaces and outbuildings.

The Fullers were a fixture of Washington high society. They entertained with grand fetes and, as the Chief Justice aged, small dinner parties for close friends. Justice Fuller also opened his home to weekly conferences with associate justices. The family spent the summers in Maine, where, in 1904, Mollie died of a heart attack. Justice Fuller died in 1910, replaced by Chief Justice Edward D. White, grandson of Tench Ringgold, who built the house on F. Street.

In 1911, a new owner took residence. Alice Copely Thaw was one of 10 children born to William Thaw, a wealthy capitalist who left a fortune to his heirs upon his death in 1889. In 1903, she married George Francis Alexander (Seymour), Earl of Yarmouth and relocated to England. When the marriage failed in 1908, she returned to the US, bought the mansion in 1911, and retained ownership until 1923. She continued remodelling and improvements, to include installing electricity throughout the house. In 1912, she married Geoffrey Whitney, a broker from New York. The Whitney’s moved to New York and rented the home on F Street to various tenants.

In 1923, the newly elected US congressman from New York’s First District, Robert Low Bacon, and his wife, Virginia Murray Bacon, rented the house. They bought it from Alice Thaw Whitney in 1925.

Virginia Murray Bacon

Virginia Murray was born in New York City in 1890. Her father’s family was descended from Scottish nobility; her great-great-grandfather was Lord John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia. He fled the colonies under protection of the Royal Navy. Subsequently, he became the royal governor of the Bahamas.

Her father, Henry Murray, was the son of an English diplomat. As a young man, Henry moved from England to Canada, and eventually to New York, where he found work with a securities firm. In 1889, he married Fannie Morris Babcock, an heiress from a family of wealthy landowners, soldiers, bankers, and businessmen. Henry Murray enjoyed a successful career in finance and the couple quickly rose to social prominence. The Murrays had three children. The eldest was Virginia, born in 1890.

Virginia Murray Bacon as a young woman
Virginia Murray Bacon as a young woman

Virginia Murray was beautiful, well-educated, and well-connected. Her marriage to Congressman Robert Bacon was the highlight of the New York social season. Born in 1884, Robert was the son of a successful banker, soldier, and diplomat. Robert, himself, was a Harvard graduate and successful banker who went into politics and served in the Army Officer Reserve Corps.

Virginia rapidly became a grand dame of Washington society. She hosted presidents, noted musicians, statesmen, and social leaders. She generously supported organizations concerned with world affairs and the arts. She was named to several boards and committees and received prestigious awards.

She remodelled the mansion and planted majestic trees in the garden, where she often hosted buffet luncheons during World War II, inviting weary officials to drop by, unannounced, for a midday respite. She filled the rooms with tasteful furniture, much of it imported from Europe and England, and objects of art, especially historic lithographs, and family portraits.

The Bacon House Foundation

Robert Bacon served eight terms and died in office in 1938 at age 54. His wife remained in residence until her death in 1980 at age 89. Prior to her death, she considered options for leaving the building to an organization that would preserve its history and character. She wanted the Bacon house to “enjoy a lively existence consistent with the interests and connections of its occupants through the years, and be characterized by dignity, taste and intelligence.” In 1975, she established the Bacon House Foundation to that end.

The foundation took ownership of the house, with a permanent deed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The foundation then purchased adjoining lots, razed the homes on these lots, and sold the lots to the Organization of American States for the organization’s headquarters and offices. In 1980, with Virginia Bacon’s blessing, the foundation partnered with DACOR and the DACOR Educational and Welfare Foundation, to convert the home, upon her demise, from a residence to offices and an educational center. The DACOR Bacon House merger was finalized in 1985.

The house and outbuildings have undergone extensive renovations since 1980. DACOR added a library and a collection of diplomatic memorabilia. Every effort has been made to give the home a nineteenth century atmosphere and to preserve the beautiful furnishings and works of art that once belonged to the Bacon family. One such piece is the Romney portrait of Lady Augusta Murray and her son.

The History of the Romney Painting

The Romney oil painting that hangs in the DACOR Bacon House dining room has a small, gold plaque mounted on the bottom of the frame that reads:

George Romney R.A. 1734 – 1802. Lady Augusta Murray, 2nd Daughter of the Fourth Earl of Dunmore. Married the Duke of Sussex. Holding on her lap her infant son Sir Augustus Frederick d’Este in white frock. Collection of Lord Truro.

Lady Augusta Murray (1768 – 1830) was the daughter of John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (hence, the connection to Virginia Murray Bacon, as described above). Her mother was Lady Charlotte Stewart, daughter of Alexander Stewart, 6th Earl of Galloway. She and Prince August Frederick (1773 – 1843), sixth son of King George III, met while he was a young man vacationing in Rome. They married in 1793 in a private ceremony in Rome in opposition to the Royal Marriage Act. They later married again in a religious ceremony in London, without revealing their true identities.

The royal family declared the marriage null and void. The couple remained together for eight years, producing two children: Augustus Frederick d’Este (1794 – 1848) and Augusta Emma d’Este (1801 – 1866). While the Romney painting is not dated, it was most likely painted in 1795 or 1796, in that the infant, Augustus Frederick, looks to be about 18 months old.

The couple parted company in 1801, when the prince grew frustrated with the monarch’s refusal to grant him a dukedom. The prince gave Augusta custody of the children, at which point she and the children took the surname d’Este (some sources say Ameland). In 1809, the prince took custody of the children, arranging a pension for his former wife. He became the Duke of Sussex.

After Augusta’s death, Prince Augustus married Lady Cecelia Buggin, daughter of the second Earl of Arron. Again, the marriage was contrary to the Royal Marriage Act. However, in 1837, Queen Victoria dubbed Lady Cecilia as Duchess of Inverness, granting a royal favor to her favourite uncle, and acquiring royal precedence for her consort, Prince Albert.

At age 18, the younger Augustus was commissioned in the Seventh Royal Fusiliers and fought in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Although he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, he was known for his unlikable, pretentious personality. He died in 1848, unmarried, with no heirs, and crippled by the first-ever diagnosed case of multiple sclerosis.

His sister, Emma, was the second wife to Thomas Wilde (1782 – 1855), 1st Baron Truro, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain 1850 – 1852, formerly the Solicitor General, Attorney General, and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. They married in 1845. She had no children. She inherited the Romney portrait of her mother and brother. Thus, it became part of the Truro Collection.

The Romney portrait hangs on the left wall of the DACOR Bacon House second floor dining room
The Romney portrait hangs on the left wall of the DACOR Bacon House second floor dining room

Little else is known about the portrait, until 1921, when Charles W. Schwab, a wealthy American industrialist, bought it at an auction in London. Three years after Schwab’s death in 1939, the portrait again came up for auction in New York. Virginia Bacon bought it and placed it in the second-floor dining room of her home at 1801 F Street, Washington, DC where it remains today.

The portrait delights all visitors who appreciate seeing one of the few works by Romney to be found in a private collection in the US.


Since Judith wrote this article I have been made aware that there has been some doubt as to the identity of the portrait, which led me to carry out some of my own research.
DACOR Bacon House understands it to be Lady Augusta Murray, as you can see on the plaque beneath it, and it was certainly believed to have been that of Lady Augusta Murray, when it was sold by auctioneers, Christie’s in 1900.
The portrait formed part of a collection belonging to the estate of the then, late Lord Truro. The painting achieved a mere 500 guineas in comparison to another portrait of her which sold for £3,800 guineas, some 6 years previously.
The Illustrated London News, 30 June 1900, included a copy of the portrait, as can be seen below:
The Morning Post described it thus:
Morning Post 29 April 1901
Could this reduction in sale price indicate that it was of interior quality in comparison to the other known portrait of Lady Augusta Murray, whose whereabouts are still unknown? 
Art historian, Dr Alex Kidson, who has recently produced the catalogue raisonné  of Romney’s painting, did not include this portrait in his catalogue, as he did not believe it to be by Romney.  Therefore, if not by Romney, then it would appear that more work needs to be carried out to ascertain who painted it.
The is another portrait of Lady Augusta by Romney which was sold back in the 1960’s and has since disappeared from public view, so if anyone knows where it is please do let me know.
Romney - The Graphic 1923
Romney – The Graphic 1923


William D. Calerhead, DACOR Bacon House. (Archetype Press, Inc. Washington, D.C. 1999)

Lady Augusta Murray Wikipedia

Lady Truro of Bowes Augusta Emma d’Este Wilde.

Thomas Wilde, 1st Baron Truro. Wikipedia

Harriet Bouverie of Delapre Abbey

A while ago I wrote about an article about the ‘scale of Bon Ton’ which was used to rank twelve high society ladies for their ‘virtues’. It was subsequently published in the Morning Post of 2 October 1776. Coming in at number 4 was Mrs Harriet Bouverie, one place above the famous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

I was then contacted by Avril Gilbert, who is a volunteer at Delapre Abbey in Northampton where Harriet Bouverie lived. During lockdown, Avril was part of a group that researched her life  and she’s with us today to tell us more about their scandalous findings, but to begin with, we have a portrait of  Harriet.

 Harriet Bouverie (née Fawkener, later Lady Robert Spencer); Edward Bouverie. Courtesy of NPG
Harriet Bouverie (née Fawkener, later Lady Robert Spencer); Edward Bouverie. Courtesy of NPG

So who was Harriet, a mere ‘Mrs’ surrounded by five Duchesses, a Countess and three Ladies?

In Northampton, a group of volunteers at Delapré Abbey, the home of Harriet’s husband Hon Edward Bouverie, spent lockdown piecing together her life story and we think that the scandal we discovered makes for very interesting reading!

Harriet was born in 1750 to Sir Everard Fawkener and his wife Harriet Churchill. However, in 1758 Sir Everard died leaving his widow with a mass of debts. It was probably due to this that Harriet needed to marry at just fourteen. Whilst she had no wealth to offer a husband, Harriet certainly had the right family connections; through her mother’s line, she was related to the Churchills of Blenheim and connected to the Spencer’s of Althorp.

Harriet’s prospective husband was Mr Edward Bouverie, an eligible bachelor from a wealthy Huguenot refugee family.

A copy of a portrait of Edward Bouverie (left) hanging at Delapré Abbey. Courtesy of the website Helpful Hiker
A copy of a portrait of Edward Bouverie (left) hanging at Delapré Abbey. Courtesy of the website Helpful Hiker

Edward’s grandfather had purchased the title Viscount Folkestone and his older brother was the first Earl of Radnor. Although Edward did not have a title, his mother had left him her land and property in Northamptonshire and when neighbouring Delapré Abbey came up for sale, it was purchased, creating an estate of considerable size. All that he needed was a suitable bride, someone with the right connections.

Courtesy of Delapre Abbey
Courtesy of Delapre Abbey

On 17th June 1764, the twenty-six-year-old Hon. Edward Bouverie married the fourteen-year-old Harriet Fawkener by special license at St George’s Church in Hanover Square, Westminster.

Aged 16, Harriet fell pregnant and delivered Edward an heir, the healthy baby boy shown in the Reynolds portrait above. Over the next twenty-two years, Harriet had 7 more children, five daughters named Harriet, Frances, Mary Charlotte, Jane, and Diana, and two sons named John and Henry Frederick.

This is where the story gets really interesting! During our research, we discovered a letter written by Lady Louisa Stuart in 1802 which stated 

Mrs Maxwell is the tell-tale Bouverie, for there never was such a perfect indisputable Spencer, Lord Robert’s walking picture, the very prettier creature that ever was seen.

We realised that Mrs Maxwell was Harriet’s fourth child, Mary Charlotte,  who married William Maxwell Esq in 1799. This raised a number of questions:

  • Who was Lord Robert Spencer?
  • How did he and Harriet meet?
  • Was there any evidence of an affair?
  • What was Edward’s reaction?
  • If Robert was the father of Mary, which other Bouverie children did he father?

Robert was the youngest son of Charles Spencer, the third Duke of Marlborough who lived a very privileged life. Educated at Harrow then on to Christ Church College, Oxford, where he met and made a lifelong long friend, Charles James Fox. In 1766, Robert went on a grand tour arriving back in England in 1768 when he was ‘elected’ MP for Woodstock.

Reynolds, Joshua; Lord Robert Spencer (1747-1831); National Trust, Woolbeding

Harriet and Robert must have met at some point afterwards. By the 1770’s they were both key members of the Devonshire House ‘circle’, Robert a close relative of Georgiana and Harriet a member of Georgiana’s inner circle. (Edward also hovered somewhere in ‘the circle’).

Both Robert and Harriet shared a passion for Whig politics. Whilst researching her life, we uncovered the following in a letter dated 1793 written by Sylvester Douglas, Baron Glenbervie:

“Mrs Bouverie… looked very handsome and is still armed with a great deal of matron-like seduction….Lord Orford (Horace Wimpole) said a good, though very severe thing about her… Mrs Bouverie had been talking a great deal of democratical language and had declared that she hoped to see the time when there would be no overgrown fortunes, and when the poor would be in easy circumstances and the fine ladies would lay down their coaches and walk the streets.”

Had she been allowed to stand for Parliament, we would have voted for her!

However, Lord Orford went on to say:

“he had no doubt a great deal of regard for his relation Mrs Bouverie”, but that he “always thought she had turn for street walking”.

Ouch! Was he hinting at her adultery?

In 1784, Harriet and Robert must have spent a lot of time in each other’s company owing to the snap general election that was called. The ladies of the Devonshire House Circle were determined to get Robert’s great friend and fellow Whig, Charles James Fox, elected as MP for the Westminster constituency and they canvassed hard for him, perhaps even more so than the men!

Unfortunately, our research didn’t lead us to a love letter, but we did find further gossip about Harriet and Robert’s relationship in letters from the time.

Our earliest source was a letter from 1777 in which George Selwyn, a well-known gossip, mentioned that Robert, Edward and Harriet had been at Brighthelmstone together at the home of Lady Holland.

In November 1781, Selwyn wrote:

“Bob’s political tenants will be very tardy in remitting him their rents. but between Foley House and the run of Mrs Bouverie’s kitchen, with his own credit at Brookes’s and his shares in and an affinity to an opulent bank, and flourishing trade, he may find subsistence.”

Selwyn certainly knew that Robert was very well acquainted with Harriet!

Although a few years after the deaths of Harriet and Robert, in 1844 letters of the former celebrity gossip Beau Brummell were published. He wrote:

“Mrs Bouverie was a very attractive and engaging woman, and her conduct when living with Lord Robert, who was very constant to her, was in other respects so amiable and exemplary, that it elicited from Charles Fox, the paradoxical remark that “they made adultery respectable”.

In Brummell’s collection there was also this poem about Harriet written by Charles James Fox.

She loves the truth, though she lies till she’s black in the face;

She loves virtue, though none in her conduct you trace;

Her delicate feelings all wickedness shocks;

 Though her lover’s Lord Robert, and her friend is Charles Fox!

Whilst we discovered much about Harriet and Robert, very little was written about Edward, perhaps because he was a very quiet man, never once speaking in all his years in Parliament.

We found a letter written in 1803 by the MP Thomas Creevey which stated that he had supped with Fox and the Whig leaders at Mrs Bouverie’s house and noted that Mrs Bouverie lived in tranquil amity with Lord Robert, Mr Bouverie raising no objection.

Brummell wrote that, sometime after her last child was born, Harriet “placed herself under the protection of Lord Robert”. This was not as harsh as it sounds. Harriet went to live with Robert, yet Edward still spent a lot of time with them both! A letter written in 1808 by Lady Lyttleton following a visit to Robert’s house at Woolbeding in Sussex revealed that Edward was there too and told us more about him:

“The honours of the house were done by Mrs Bouverie, a lady still very beautiful though past fifty, and who is in more than one sense the mistress of that abode. Her ill-fated husband, a poor old twaddler, was there too.”

Edward died in 1810 and a year afterwards, Harriet finally married Robert, the love of her life. They had a further fourteen years together before Harriet passed away in 1825. Robert lived on until 1831 and was buried next to Harriet in the grounds of All Hallows Church on his Woolbeding estate.

In Lady Lyttleton’s letter, she also wrote

“Papa saw several children playing about but thought it not prudent to inquire minutely into their heritage for fear of getting into some scrape.”

So how many of the children were Edward’s and how many were Robert’s?  We know that Harriet fell pregnant with Edward, her first child, in 1767 whilst Robert was on his Grand Tour of Europe, so baby Edward was Edward’s legitimate son.

The first daughter, Harriet, was born in 1771 but we can’t be sure that the affair had started by then. Harriet married James St Clair, the Earl of Roslyn. Although she died before Robert, her husband James is mentioned in Robert’s will. Was that an acknowledgment of paternity?

Frances Bouverie never married. She died in1848 and was buried with Harriet and Robert at Woolbeding. Could she be Robert’s child?

Mary Charlotte, the tell-tale Bouverie, was highly likely to have been Robert’s child.

John Bouverie became the Rector of Woolbeding and was also buried with Harriet and Robert. Given that he was born after Mary, he probably was Robert’s child.

Jane Bouverie was born in 1781, so probably Robert’s.

Sir Henry Frederick Bouverie was born in 1783. At the time it was rumoured that he was Robert’s son, and he probably was. He was also mentioned in Robert’s will.

Diana Bouverie was definitely Robert’s child. What more evidence do you need than the fact that he left Woolbeding to her.

Earlier we mentioned the story of Lord Melbourne, a silent character who visitors to Devonshire House barely noticed, who once Lady Melbourne had presented him with an heir, allowed her the freedom to do and see whom she pleased. Perhaps this was the same for Edward; maybe once he had his heir, he allowed his young wife to follow her heart? We will leave you to make up your own minds!

If you would like to find out more about Delapre Abbey and the lives of the people who lived there, please click on this link.

Finding Adelaide O’Keeffe in 2021

Lynda A. O’Keeffe is a researcher/writer who lives between England and Ireland. She has contributed to numerous publications including History Ireland and various online publications including the Irish Literary Society. She has recently completed a historical novel about the life and works of John O’Keeffe and is currently writing a stage play about John’s extraordinary life reflecting the effect of blindness in shaping his work, and intends to write about Adelaide.

Lynda has joined me a couple of times now to share some of her research into the lives of John O’Keeffe, the blind playwright and his devoted daughter, Adelaide. Well, she’s back with  lovely story about one of her discoveries – the gravestone of Adelaide. So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Lynda:

Under what guise would the intention of grave hunting be labelled? Some may say, curiosity, even morbid curiosity, familial research, genealogy or just the simple desire to reify a particular relationship?

In the case of Adelaide it was a stubborn desire to know more about an extraordinary woman. A woman who from the age of twelve years worked for forty five years as her blind father’s amanuensis, companion and carer. Although as his amanuensis she  lived in the shadow of his playwright fame, she shone her own bright light in the books she authored. In 1833, Adelaide’s father died leaving the then fifty seven year old spinster alone and in poverty. She had declined offers of marriage to care for her father, and some may say, she sacrificed her entire life for him.

Courtesy of NPG
Courtesy of NPG

After her fathers death, Adelaide led a somewhat itinerant life, staying for short periods around the villages on the Sussex coastline. There are so many questions about the day to day circumstances of a woman who played an important and vital role in the education of children, yet as a person remained somewhat unknown and now forgotten. Like so many women in the 18th and 19th century, Adelaide must have battled hard for recognition in a gender biased society, were the employment of women was frowned upon.

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

Did the income from her writing provide periods of relief from her poverty, did she work as a governess, have  friends to support her, and did she ever regret the sacrifices she made on account of her father’s disability? There is something there that demands respect and admiration for a woman living alone in a time that cannot be compared with life today.

Adelaide, her life and work is an enigma, with a thought and a whisper, Adelaide should have recognition. With so many unanswered questions, the quest to find her final resting place began. A quick trawl on Ancestry showed that she died in Brighton. On the 1861 Census, she is listed as a boarder aged eighty five; the other boarders are women half a century or more younger than her.

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

Armed with the date of Adelaide’s passing, an email was sent to Brighton cemeteries and shortly after a reply, stating Adelaide’s final resting place as the Extra Mural Cemetery on Lewes Road, Brighton. The kindly man in the office, listened patiently as the story of Adelaide was told, persuading him to dig out the burial records from 1865. Adelaide’s burial was not that of a pauper, he said, but of average cost, her casket was oak and the funeral rites were led by a chaplain. There is no indication of who attended her funeral, bought the burial plot or placed the gravestone with its tender inscription.

A strong urge, or perhaps a compulsion, a nagging insistence that Adelaide’s grave needed to be visited, to say that first hello, utter a prayer and lay flowers for a person who gave up so much for her father, and gave so much to the world through her literary genius. This compulsion was not borne of pity, but of admiration for a woman who quietly achieved. The kindly man in the cemetery office dug out a map of the burial grounds and thereupon the location of Adelaide’s grave was revealed, but only literally, not physically!

The pandemic struck and all notions of locating and visiting Adelaide’s grave were put on hold, as the world hunkered down in terror of this ghost like virus that lurked unseen, devastating lives in its wake. A miserable, dark time when visiting a cemetery seemed the last thing on anyone’s mind.

In November 2021, the world seemed to relax and the virus loosened its grip and the terror began to dissipate, as if in celebration the sky was blue, hardly a cloud in the sky and the sun shone on the day the long journey to the Extra Mural Cemetery in Brighton began.  With a car packed with spade, forks, secateurs, trowel, gardening gloves, the obligatory hand sanitiser, face masks and a box of chocolate truffles to thank kindly man for his help; all set for the long awaited discovery of Adelaide’s grave. However, now reading this back, it sounds more like preparations for a grave robbery or that of a body snatcher.

Arriving promptly at 12 noon as pre arranged with kindly man in the cemetery office and with all the ‘grave-hunters’ paraphernalia slung over a shoulder, said kindly man proceeds to march in an authoritative fashion in the direction of where Adelaide’s grave should be. Up a slightly hilly road, turning left and down a steep gravelly path it was becoming increasingly difficult to balance with one heavy spade in left hand and large bag with gardening tools in right, but onwards kindly man marched without a thought for the ‘pack person’ struggling behind him. You might well ask where the chocolate truffles were at this stage of the journey, I had given them on meeting kindly man.

Back to our story, it was at this point that the questioning began for the the reasoning  behind this unlikely excursion. Upon reaching the end of the gravelly path, he turned sharp right onto a tarmac path and comes to an abrupt halt and points to a wall, saying, ‘Her grave is somewhere over there.’ The sight of the wall presented a conundrum…a ladder had not been thought of, how to get over the wall? So near, yet so far. Recognising the concern about the wall, kindly man, then marches further along the tarmac path and says, ‘No need for a ladder, we can go this way’.

Further we yomp, until arriving at a small muddy track that leads upwards into an area of thick undergrowth, a luxurious green carpet woven with ivy, bramble and periwinkle – all made treacherous by their ability to tangle around an unsuspecting foot, the area was also on a slope! The only paths that criss crossed the green carpet, were those of rabbits. There were no headstones that could be used as markers, it was only then that the reality kicked in that it was going to be near impossible to find Adelaide in this overgrown wilderness with it’s residents sleeping silently underfoot.

Kindly man stops and stretching out his arms, announces, ‘Her grave should be somewhere around here.’ This somewhere could have been one hundred metres radius or half a metre, what difference did it make? The challenge was there, we had come so far… In desperation, a plea, which was intended to be silent, poured forth, ‘Oh come on, Adelaide. show us where you are.’

Kindly man, looked concerned and in an attempt to ignore, busied himself by pushing and clearing the undergrowth with his booted foot. ‘Hang on’ he says, ‘Here’s something, it says authoress.’ Of course it had to be Adelaide! Further clearance of the tangled ivy and bramble revealed part of the inscription of the gravestone – Adelaide, we had found her, hooray.

Now dear reader picture this, sloping ground covered in undergrowth and one  person on hands and knees with secateurs excitedly cutting away the  ivy, whilst trying to maintain an element of dignity whilst slipping down the slope, being watched over by a solemn cemetery officer. How glorious were the words when, kindly man says…’Excuse me, if you don’t mind…’ At last he was to take charge of the spade, clear the undergrowth, oh the delight…he continued,  ‘…I will go for my lunch.’ ‘Oh…’ was the slightly miffed reply, ‘Is it safe here, in this secluded part of the cemetery?’ As he strode off in his authoritarian gait in search of his lunchbox, he stopped and turned for a second to say,  ‘We’ve never had any trouble, you have my telephone number if you do have a problem.’

Now alone with Adelaide in her secret garden, her gravestone revealed, and  the inscription exposed.  A prayer was uttered and flowers laid and somewhere in a far away place, perhaps in one’s psyche or imagination, or maybe, Adelaide was there, laughter could be heard and a smile imagined.

Did Adelaide regret the sacrifices she made? Read the inscription and then conclude.

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

Rest in peace, dear Adelaide

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

Featured Image

View of Brighton Extra Mural Cemetery


The Original Chelsea Bun House

As it  is approaching Good Friday I thought I would share some information about the original Chelsea Bun House. Easter is traditionally the time for hot cross buns which are slightly different to Chelsea buns as the Chelsea bun is made of a rich yeast dough flavoured with lemon peel, cinnamon or mixed spice and are much sweeter and stickier than hot cross buns.

The Chelsea Bun House is believed to have originated in the early 1700s and was run by the same family for over 100 years, producing what we still know today as Chelsea Buns, although the recipe may have changed slightly over the centuries to cater for modern tastes.

The shop was owned by the Hand family and for some considerable time was run by Richard and Margaret Hand. Richard died in 1767 leaving the business to his second wife, Margaret. The couple raised two sons, but according to Richard his eldest son, Richard Gideon, was by his first wife, Ann, although he was baptised in 1752 stating Richard and Margaret were his parents. Their second son, somewhat confusingly was named Gideon Richard and was born 1760, clearly they weren’t very inventive in their name choices.

Margaret died 1798 at which time she left the shop which made buns, to her step son Richard Gideon, and should he decide he didn’t want to continue running it, then he should assign it to their other son, Gideon Richard. When Margaret died The Gentleman’s Magazine noted:

At Chelsea, Mrs Margaret Hand, who for more than 60 years kept the Royal Bun-House there (so denominated by express permission).

Their elder son, Richard, was a military man and served for many years, joining as an ensign in 1773, in the 13th Regiment of foot. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1776. He remained in the military until at least the turn of the century, leaving his brother, Gideon continued to run the bun shop and who was described as

An eccentric character ad used to dress in a very peculiar manner. He dealt largely in butter which he carried about the streets in a basket on his head.

Bun Man by John Dempsey
Bun Man by John Dempsey

The Chelsea Bun House was so successful that even royalty and the nobility visited, including George II and Queen Caroline and the princesses, as did George III and Queen Charlotte. Queen Charlotte presented Mrs Hands with a silver half-gallon mug with five guineas in it.

On Good Friday mornings, upwards of 50,000 people assembled to buy buns, when disturbances broke out among the people gathered there. In one day, more than £250 was taken in sales.


Interior 1838
Interior of the Bun House. 1838

Gideon died 19 February 1820, so it would appear that his brother took over running the business, although it isn’t quite clear.

Around that time there were two bun shops on the same street, Grosvenor Row, selling Chelsea buns  in direct competition with each other. The rates return from 1821 show that Richard was living at Grosvenor Row, as was possibly his competitor, Edward Chapman.

The above rates also show, although faint, the name Martin, which may well have been Mr Martin of Martin’s Tea Warehouse, whose name appears in the picture of the bun shop.

Richard died at the ripe old age of 84 and was buried at the same cemetery as his brother, on 2 March 1836.

Following his death there was a court case bought against a David Loudon who claimed to have lived with the Hands and whom he said Richard, who died intestate, had given him all his money.

Loudon claimed he was related to Richard by marriage, he claimed to have married Richard’s daughter who was ‘born in indignant circumstances‘, but this appears to have been proved false. The man who was trying to claim the whole of Richard’s estate describing Richard as being ‘of eccentric habits‘ and that he was one of ‘the Poor Knights of Windsor’.

Loudon was found guilty and sent to prison for seven months for breach of trust in obtaining Richard’s money and remaining at the Bun House. It was proven to the court that Richard had no heirs.

The Bun House had been frequented by visitors to Ranelagh, but after it closed in 1803, trade began to decline, but apparently on Good Friday, April 18, 1839, about 240,000 buns were sold.

Given that both Richard and Gideon Hand were both dead by this time, it’s difficult to know who was running the Bun House, unless Loudon returned there after his spell in prison. Soon after this the Bun House was sold and demolished to make way for improvements to the neighbourhood.

The Globe 10 April 1839
The Globe 10 April 1839


Timbs, John. Curiosities of London: exhibiting the most rare and remarkable objects of interest in the metropolis 

The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction: VOL.XXXIII

London Courier and Evening Gazette – 30 April 1838

Morning Advertiser 28 May 1838


Courtesy of The Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington

Death by burning – Elizabeth Boardingham 1742-1776

Elizabeth Boardingham was one of the last women in England to be sentenced to death by burning, but was this really how her life came to an end?  Today, we’ll take a look at her life and discover a little more about its end.

Elizabeth, you would imagine, was happily married to her husband, John, with the couple living in the picturesque costal fishing village of Flamborough, Yorkshire. During their marriage the couple had five children, the eldest, Mary, born in 1766, followed by Ann, John, Robert and Thomas, the youngest, who was born early summer 1775.

However, life for Elizabeth was no bed of roses, as her husband sailed rather close to the wind and found himself in court on occasion, reputedly for smuggling, thereby leaving Elizabeth to run the home and care for their children.

Eventually Elizabeth had had enough, and despite having five children, all aged under 10, she took up with a man, some six years her senior, a Thomas Aikney of Thwing, Yorkshire, some 12 miles away from where she lived, according to the newspapers, although his correct surname was Hakeney.  Perhaps she was hoping for a better life with him, but the choice she made was to elope with him, leaving her young family and fleeing to Lincolnshire for about three months, but was this in reality everything she had hoped for? Elizabeth reputedly told Thomas that,

if her husband was dead, Tom and her would be married, and no longer live like a whore and rogue as they had done for some time.

According to Thomas’s account of events, he didn’t want to go through with such an horrendous act as killing Elizabeth’s husband, rather, it would be much better if they simply eloped to be free of him, which they did.

This elopement didn’t last long, and Elizabeth returned to John, who it seems welcomed her back into the marital home. Thomas however, remained in her life and Elizabeth could bear life with John no longer, and with those few words from Elizabeth about wishing her husband dead, ringing  Thomas’s ears, a plot was hatched.

Eight days after she returned home, on the 14 February 1776, about eleven at night, Elizabeth woke her husband, telling him that there was an intruder.  She had already persuaded Thomas to go along with her plan and had left the door unlock to make it easy for him to enter the house unnoticed.

Quickly dressing in his coat and waistcoat, John went downstairs after Elizabeth told him she could a noise at the door. Thomas was waiting for him and stabbed him, firstly in his thigh, then one of the left side, leaving the knife in the wound. Elizabeth headed outside crying ‘murder’ and a neighbour immediately came to her assistance, but of course, it was too late.

John's burial at Flamborough. 17 February 1776
John’s burial at Flamborough. 17 February 1776

Thomas and Elizabeth were captured and charged with the murder of John Boardingham and convicted on the clearest of evidence.

York Castle. York Museums Trust
York Castle. York Museums Trust

During the trial Elizabeth claimed that she knew nothing of Thomas’s plan to kill her husband. Thomas however, showed remorse for his actions and acknowledged that the sentence was just. Elizabeth it is reported, showed no remorse what so ever, declaring right until the very end that she knew nothing about his intention to kill her husband.

Thomas was ordered to be hanged, and his body was then taken to the surgeon for dissection, Elizabeth was to be ‘burnt with fire till you are dead‘.

The couple were transported from York castle to Tyburn, near the city, Thomas in a cart, Elizabeth drawn on a sledge, where they were executed amidst one of the largest crowds ever seen there.

The press also stated that during their time in York Castle gaol, the couple cohabited and that Elizabeth admitted that she liked Thomas and that she would like to be buried in the same grave as him, that that was never going to happen does not appear to have entered her head.

According to the newspapers, just before the unhappy couple died, they shook hands and saluted each other.

An account of the sentenced passed on the pair was recounted well over a century later, in 1909, which stated that the judge was Sir Henry Goulding, who, when sentencing Elizabeth to death for aiding and abetting in the murder of her husband, observed:

The sentence which the law obliges me to pass upon you is, that you, Elizabeth Boardingham, shall be led from here to the gaol, whence you came, and from thence upon Wednesday next, you shall be drawn upon a hurdle to the place of execution and there you are to be burnt with fire till you are dead, and your body consumed to ashes.

There is nevertheless such a spirit of lenity in the common law of this country, though this is the sentence you have received, and for my own part, do not believe that sentence could ever be more properly executed, in the strict letter thereof, than upon you, however severe the punishment is, that you would have been found guilty of a crime of the great magnitude, are condemned to undergo the law has allowed some mitigation.

You are first to be strangled at a stake and then burnt with fire. You have reason to admire the excellency of that consideration by which you have been tried and found guilty.

As we can see though, the judge showed leniency, so it appears that Elizabeth was strangled first, then her body then burned, not the other way around, as has been noted in other accounts, thereby making the first sentence of this account not strictly accurate.

John was buried in the graveyard of St Oswald’s church, Flamborough, Yorkshire, but as Elizabeth was burnt there appears to have been nothing to mark her grave.


Derby Mercury 22 March 1776

Leeds Intelligencer, 27 February 1776

Yorkshire Gazette 12 March 1887

Western Daily Press 15 May 1909

Featured Image

Richardson I, Thomas Miles; Off the Coast near Flamborough Head; National Trust, Cragside

A very public and messy divorce – Beaufort v Beaufort

Today’s post is a little unusual, as I welcome back legal eagle, Mel Barnes who has worked with me in a joint article, to tell the story of a very messy divorce (quite literally), as you’ll discover later.

As most of us know from experience, the golden rule when talking to someone about their divorce is that almost always, ‘the other spouse is always to blame’, a principle enshrined in natural law when Adam pointed his apple-scented finger at Eve and told God it was all her fault.  But that’s all about to change with the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 on 6 April 2022 with a no-fact, no-fault, quickie online divorce.  While the country perhaps celebrates this long-awaited change, in this post we will instead commiserate with a divorcing couple from the eighteenth century.

Historically, the Ecclesiastical Court could only pronounce a divorce mensa et thoro, separation from bed and board, now known in law as judicial separation for couples who do not want to divorce for religious reasons.

A divorce à vinculo matrimonii, one that dissolved the marriage, was only possible with a private member’s bill and were very rare, with only sixty divorce acts were passed between 1715 and 1775.

Holland House, Kensington. Yale Center for British Art
Holland House, Kensington. Yale Center for British Art

This brings us to our unhappy couple who wed on 14 June 1729 at Holland House in Kensington: Henry Somerset, the 3rd Duke of Beaufort (aged 22), and Frances Scudamore (aged 18); otherwise, Lord and Lady Beaumont.

Henry Somerset, the 3rd Duke of Beaufort
Henry Somerset, the 3rd Duke of Beaufort

Sadly, for the young couple, their respective fathers both died young, but fortunately at a time when they were fantastically rich.  This was the marriage of two extremely affluent families, bringing to it both money and land and a union of wealth and assets, though Henry gifted jewellery with a value of £500 to Frances (about £60,000 today), which shows he was committed to the union.

Part of the marriage agreement included the requirement for Henry to also take Frances’ surname:

Obliging the duke and Duchess of Beaufort and her children to take the additional surname and bear the arms of Scudamore, pursuant to a settlement made by James, late Lord Scudamore and vesting in the duke in fee the manors of Wickhall and Ditton Camois and lands in Cambridgeshire, late the testate of Lord Scudamore, in lieu of the portion provided by him for his daughter, the said Duchess and other provisions.

As the years went by, the couple’s separate lives and absence of the pattering of small feet began to attract attention.  The lack of an heir and a spare would have been seen as a major problem for these two dynasties, and it was highly likely that medical advice would have been sought about why Fanny couldn’t conceive (obviously, this was automatically assumed to be her fault).

Married life wasn’t great for Frances and Henry  and it became a whole lot worse when, in 1736 Frances it would appear, contracted small pox and returned to the family home, Holme Lacy in Herefordshire to rest and be treated by the Scudamore physician, but she did recover from this.

Holme Lacy
Holme Lacy

In 1740, Frances met William, Lord Talbot (1710-1782), at that time a lawyer and politician referred to by Horace Walpole as having

some wit, and a little tincture of a disordered understanding; but was better known as a boxer and man of pleasure than in the light of a statesman.

William had also married for money, his wife being Mary de Cardonnel, but after two children (a daughter, Cecil (1735-1793) and a son, William who only survived until 1742), she was advised that she was unlikely to survive another pregnancy, so with that, he declared that he was ‘deprived of her sexual services’ and sought solace elsewhere.

Ramsay, Allan; Mary de Cardonnel (c.1719-1787), Countess Talbot; National Trust, Newton House, Dinefwr Park and Castle

With Frances looking for love and William for pleasure, the couple made a perfect match.  They began an indiscrete relationship, which soon led to tongues wagging and an open secret that they were having an affair.

Initially, Henry was pragmatic about the affair and he and Frances executed a Deed of Separation under which each agreed not to make a claim against the other’s estate.  This amicable relationship would not last long, as just few months later, Frances discovered that she was pregnant to William – this was not good!

As far as high society was concerned, indiscretion was forgivable, but public adultery was not.  On 13 September 1741, Frances gave birth to a daughter who she named Fanny Matthews to hide her real identity.  With Henry being in poor health, Frances hoped that he would soon die, so she could pass off her daughter as his, but alas, he recovered!

Meanwhile, William had grown bored with Frances, and he ended their relationship, but it’s not clear at that stage what became of their daughter, was she raised by Frances or perhaps William who had returned to his wife, something which was not unusual at that time.

Henry, continued with his mission and by June 1742, had obtained all the damning statements and evidence he could against Frances, and issued divorce proceedings against her for adultery.

What he hadn’t bargained on though, was that Frances would make a counter-application on the basis of his impotency, a claim that she knew would involve humiliating Henry with a very intimate examination.

In his Reply, Henry claimed that they had slept together in one bed for ten years and produced witness statements from servants swearing that they had ‘actually seen the stains’ on the bedding, proving their intimacy.

None of the evidence was given much weight, and a judge eventually held that Henry needed to prove once and for all that ‘duke-junior’ could ‘rise to the occasion‘.

This would involve either: masturbating and ejaculating, or having sex with a woman before court-appointed witnesses.  Soul-crushing shame aside, what we want to know is whether the woman was also to have been appointed by the court.  What sort of terrible employment would she have agreed to? However, a very embarrassed Henry eventually decided on the former and was successful.  Thereby, winning his case, which gave him damages and costs of £80,000 (about £1 million in today’s money).

After a protracted bill through Parliament, the parties were finally divorced in March 1744, when the Act took effect.  Any happiness with the freedom to marry would be short lived for our unhappy couple, as Henry died less than a year later, in February 1745.

As for Frances, well, she married again, not to Lord William Talbot, but to Colonel Charles Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of the 2nd Duke of Grafton. The couple married on 4 July 1748, at Holme Lacy, Herefordshire.

Francs died just seven months later, and was buried on 27 February 1749 at Holme Lacy, aged just 38. This was just six days after giving birth to another daughter, Frances, who was presented for baptism at St George’s, Hanover Square on 14 February 1749.

Derby Mercury 16 February 1749
Derby Mercury 16 February 1749

For anyone recently separated, know that everything will now be a lot easier in terms of the process, and be thankful for a divorce that no longer has anything to do with ‘private members!’.

As for Frances’s illegitimate daughter, Fanny, little is known about her life, but in his Will of 1782, William referred to his daughter Cecil, but, also, more curiously, ‘my very dear daughter, Miss Fanny Talbot, now living with me’.

So, it looks as if his illegitimate daughter ended up being cared for in a loving home, which means we can end on a happy note.


Hansard debates 3 June 1830 

The Story of Bathsheba Spooner

I am delighted to welcome, author, Andrew Noone, whose book, ‘Bathsheba Spooner, A Revolutionary Murder Conspiracy’ makes for a fascinating read. Bathsheba was was the first woman in American history to be executed following the Declaration of Independence. Today Andrew is going to share with us a little about Bathsheba, followed by some questions and answers.

Bathsheba Spooner was the next-to-last of seven children born to Timothy Ruggles and Bathsheba Bourne Newcomb; Mrs. Ruggles had birthed eight children from her first marriage. Her mother’s roots were firmly planted in one of Cape Cod’s oldest families, her father’s from Roxbury. Timothy was born in 1711, descendant of a family long involved in Massachusetts politics, but none enjoyed the status to which he would rise.

A Brigadier General in the French and Indian War, he had also served as Speaker of the House for two years. His reputation suffered dramatically when, as delegate to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 in New York, he refused to join those protesting the actions of Parliament and King George III. Now firmly placed in the camp of those loyal to the king, he freely accepted the position of mandamus councillor, one of the men who were appointed by the king’s governor to the upper Massachusetts house,
to do the king’s bidding.

Few men were as loathed in Massachusetts in the year 1774. That year, he was banished from his new hometown of Hardwick, a town his ancestors had
founded and he himself nurtured. He remained in British controlled Boston until Evacuation Day, March 17, 1776, when he was removed with most Tories to Staten Island.

In the meantime, daughter Bathsheba had married Joshua Spooner of Boston, a
businessman/land speculator/lumber salesman.

The couple settled in Brookfield, not far from nearby Hardwick; the marriage may have been an arranged one, a marriage which gossipers usually characterized as inharmonious.

Sixteen- year- old militiaman Ezra Ross of Topsfield (a native of Ipswich) left his hospital camp in 1777 in Peekskill, NY to venture home. En route, he was taken in by Bathsheba in Brookfield, and nursed back to health. He returned to Topsfield, then headed west again that fall to join what would become the Battle of Saratoga. The British had hoped to cut New England off from the remaining nine colonies, General Burgoyne’s troops heading south to meet up with General Howe’s troops heading north. It was not to be; Howe instead focused on Philadelphia, leaving
Burgoyne to fend off the increasing masses of American troops north of Albany. His entire army surrendered to American General Gates. Marched to Boston, the British prisoners of war were quartered in Cambridge and Charlestown.

Both Sgt. James Buchanan and Private William Brooks managed to escape (not a difficult task), and likely met each other in Worcester for the first time. Now February 1778, the men were apparently headed to Springfield for work when during a fierce snowstorm, they were called in to the Spooner home.

They remained there for the next few weeks, Bathsheba plotting her husband’s
murder with them. In the meantime, young Ezra Ross, just having attempted to poison Mr. Spooner, left with him to prepare his Princeton property, soon to be handed over to Spooner’s brother.

Ross never made it to Princeton, apparently, borrowing Spooner’s horse to return to Topsfield. All rendezvoused in Brookfield the evening of March 1, 1778; it is unclear if their meeting was coincidental or arranged. Having dined with a friend and his wife, Joshua returned home alone through the snow, and was assaulted at his well, beaten to death, and thrown in while his wife finished eating her dinner.
The clothes he wore and those from his chamber, along with his cash, were distributed among the three men, who fled on horseback and foot.

All were arrested the next day. The trial took place in late April, Abraham Lincoln’s distant cousin as defence attorney, Robert Treat Paine, a signer of the Declaration as prosecutor, in a trial organized by Gov. John Hancock. With a trial lasting just over a day plus, all were found guilty.

Courtesy of Historic Ipswich
Courtesy of Historic Ipswich

The date of execution was originally set for early June, but the four received a stay until July 2.

Bathsheba claimed pregnancy; the officials in Boston allowed an exam to be done, proving that she was not with child. She insisted; a second exam, not authorized, instead confirmed her pregnancy, but the Boston authorities would not relent.

Despite an informal third exam proving her right, her execution date was not changed.

On June 10, Abigail Adams wrote to her son John Quincy, with his father in Paris:

… the Modern History of our own times furnishes as black a list of crimes as can be paralleled in ancient time, even if going back to Nero, Caligula, or Cesare Borgia.

All four accomplices were hanged July 2; an autopsy requested by Bathsheba confirmed her pregnancy of five months, with a male child.

Timothy Ruggles eventually found his way to Nova Scotia, where as a loyal servant to the Crown he was granted a multi-hundred acre estate which he fostered as he had his legendary estate in Hardwick; his wife chose to stay behind in Massachusetts with their son. Timothy died in 1795, and was buried near his home in Nova Scotia.

Timothy Ruggles. Library of Congress
Timothy Ruggles. Library of Congress

To this day, the burial site in Green Hill Park of Bathsheba and her unborn son has never been located; it remains Worcester County’s favourite mystery.

What inspired you to write this book?
When my family bought our first home across the street from Green Hill Park, a friend came by for dinner a few weeks later. He reminded me of the infamous tale of Bathsheba Spooner. A lifelong devotee of Worcester’s history, especially as a village during the Revolution, I wanted to learn more. This being the late 90’s, besides a mid-19th c. essay and the odd article or two, no full scale study had ever been done. I decided that my first book would tackle the notorious episode. While in the middle of research, and with the book about a third written, Deborah Navas’ book appeared in 1999. Well written and scholarly, I admired her contribution, yet I still
hungered for a less academic approach, one which would comprehensively relate the details of the case; while nonfiction, I wanted to tell the story more like a novel. And I wanted to do more than just relate a true-to-life melodrama. Since the early 19th century, historians, poets and other writers from eastern Massachusetts have been Boston-centric in their retelling of the colony’s role in the Revolution, to the neglect of many other towns. Worcester’s contribution to the conflict and the events leading up to the opening gunshot looms dramatically larger than the mere 1,800 residents of 1778. I chose the tale of Bathsheba and her murderous lovers as the frame upon which to re-construct Worcester’s significant role in the rebellion.

Was Bathsheba insane?
Playing armchair psychologist from nearly two-and-a-half centuries away is tenuous for a professional; for me, impossible. We can only speculate, and the facts might lend themselves to characterizing Ms. Spooner as imbalanced. She had a sharp temper, and was involved sexually with at least two, and more likely five men, none of whom were her husband. She freely welcomed two enemy prisoners of war into her home, and on occasion, a handsome teenager, in her husband’s presence. Her actions were often erratic. She allowed her two-year-old daughter to touch her husband’s corpse. She jeopardized the future lives of her three surviving children. She lied incessantly. Would we be safe in assuming that she at least exhibited signs of a disordered personality? Although her attorney suggested insanity during the trial, it would take many more decades before such a defence would be admissible in a court of law.

Was teenager Ezra Ross truly guilty? And of what?
This is one of the hardest to answer, and the overall situation perhaps the most poignant of the saga. Age wise, the eighteenth-century freely condemned teenagers. But what exactly was his role? It appears that he had no knowledge of the murderous March 1 plot before that date. He had spent many days before at his Topsfield home (had Bathsheba sent him any letters while there? Given the slow pace of mail, it’s unlikely). He turned up in Brookfield only hours before
the murder, which he did discuss with the two British men, and Bathsheba. And keeping in mind that weeks earlier he had tried to poison Spooner, and had planned to try again before leaving for Topsfield, his background certainly did not incline the jury to consider his role more leniently.

To read the whole story Andrew’s book is available via the link at the beginning of the story.

Featured Image

Homestead of General Timothy Ruggles, Hardwick, Massachusetts Worcester Art Museum

The mystery of John Edward Despard

So far we have looked at Catherine Despard’s life and the demise of her husband, Colonel Edward Marcus Despard, but of course there was a son, John Edward  which today’s post will take a brief look at. If you have missed the three articles about Catherine this link here will take you back to the beginning of her story.

But what became their son, John Edward Despard?

If you watched Poldark, you would know that Edward and Catherine had a son, but he didn’t make his appearance into the world until about 1801, whereas in reality he was born in the late 1780’s and joined the army in England. However, there remains a great deal of confusion about his life and his military career.

His grandmother, Sarah confirmed in her will that he was serving as a lieutenant in his Majesty’s East London Regiment, but it’s impossible to make out his middle name. It would make sense for it to have been John, after his famous uncle, General John Despard and his father Edward, but the middle name in his grandmother’s will begins with B, which is  of no help at all.

Trying to track down John Edward Despard however, has become somewhat problematic. His grandmother was very specific about his rank and regiment, which I thought would surely simplify things – but no!

In December 1799 a John Edward Despard joined army as an ensign in 62nd Regiment, without purchase, but wasn’t promoted to lieutenant until 1801 i.e., after Sarah’s death. This one listed in the army records, was aged 19 when he joined up, so born c1780.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Having chased this John Edward Despard’s life up hills and down dales, it appears that on 12 May of 1799 he had married a Mary Hilder and was then promoted to lieutenant in 1801. According to his military records, he remained with the same regiment throughout his career, until his death in 1836.

In the letter from Joseph Plymley, mentioned previously, Plymley made specific reference to Edward’s son, who he said, had arrived at Shrewsbury gaol and wishing to see his father. Plymley confirmed the boy had arrived from Ireland upon military duty and was in Shrewsbury to receive volunteers from the Glamorgan Militia, was then heading to South Wales.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Now, we know from John Edward’s military record below, that he sustained an eye injury whilst serving in Ireland.  This document of 1828 confirms not only his marriage in 1799, but that they had no children, so I thought I had correct person. His address was given as 50 Britannia Terrace.

He stated that he had never been able to receive any augmentation on his half pay and that the injury he sustained in Ireland was the loss of his left eye. He received no grant or civil employment, so was utterly reliant upon just the half pension.

This John Edward died in 1836, leaving Mary to apply for a widows pension. Again, she confirmed everything exactly as above, about her husband, and here we have his burial, Friday 6 May 1836, Lieutenant John, otherwise John Edward Despard, aged 58 of Britannia Terrace, London. Mary also confirmed that her husband died from dropsy.

I was quite happy, with what I had discovered although unsure about his grandmothers account of his rank and regiment, until I found another John Edward Despard, in the army at the same time.

For this second one we know nothing of his early career i.e., when he joined or at what rank, but we do know that in 1813 this one was serving in the East London Militia and was promoted to Captain following death of a Captain Benwell.

On 11 September 1820, The British Press noted that

Captain John Edward Despard, late of the Royal East Regiment of London Militia, to be quartermaster.

This one had been a lieutenant and served in the East London Militia, so was this someone else with the same name, and was this Catherine and Edwards’ son? If so, who was the other Edward John Despard?

Several newspapers reported on 29 June 1828 that at the Court of King’s Bench amongst others a John Edward Despard was brought up for judgement, having been convicted for the illegal sale of a cadetship, in the East Indian Company’s service. Despard was sent to King’s Bench prison for six weeks. Now, as to which John Edward Despard that account related to, I really don’t have a clue.

On Sunday night last, about 12 o’clock, the London Courier and Evening Gazette, of 29 January 1830, reported that

As Captain J.E Despard, residing at No 50, Britannia Terrace, Hoxton Old-Town, was going from Pittfield Street, towards his residence, he was met by two ruffians …

the story continued, but either the newspaper got his rank wrong or John Edward had been promoted, which seems unlikely.

There were either two John Edward Despard’s about the same age, both in the military, both in London at the same time, but of different ranks or the whole thing has got into quite a tangle.

The final snippet of information about Edwards’ son appears in Mike Jay’s book and which apparently came from Edward’s older brother, General John Despard.

He was leaving a London theatre with another of his brothers when they heard a waiting carriage-driver calling the name ‘Despard’. They made their way towards the carriage, which has been ordered in their name, ‘and there appeared a flashy Creole and a flashy young lady on his arm, they both stepped into it’.

I really don’t know which was John and Catherine’s son, so if anyone can untangle this, I would love to hear from you. Maybe this mystery is one for someone with military knowledge.


All sources not included elsewhere in the articles about Catherine, Edward and their son:


Bannantine, James. Memories of Edward Marcus Despard.

Cloncurry, Valentine, Baron (1773-1853) Personal Recollections of the life and times, with extracts from the correspondence of Valentine, Lord Cloncurry.

Connor, Clifford C. Colonel Despard: the life and death of an English/Irish Jacobin. P137

Gurney, Joseph & Gurney, William. The trial of Edward Marcus Despard for high treason: at the Session House, Newington, Surry, on Monday the seventh of February 1803

Jay, Mike. The Unfortunate Colonel Despard: And the British Revolution that never happened

Linebaugh, Peter. The many-headed hydra: sailors, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic

Linebaugh, Peter. Red Round Globe Hot Burning

Omen, Charles. The Unfortunate Colonel Despard and Other Studies

Trahey, Erin. Free Women and the Making of Colonial Jamaican Economy and Society (1760-1834) (PhD thesis, History Department, University of Cambridge, 2018).  Will of Sarah Gordon, 19 May 1799, LOS66, fol 6. Register General, Twickenham Park, Jamaica

Oracle and the Daily Advertiser 22 February 1803

Letter from the Venerable Joseph Plymley, Archdeacon of Shropshire and Visiting Magistrate of Salop County Gaol. 12 June 1800. HO 42/50/81

Letter by Catherine Despard – HO 42/43/127. Folio 291-293.

Letter by Attorney General, Spencer Percival. HO 42/70. Folio 77-80.

Edward Despard’s Petition HO42/70. Folio 81-85

Letter from Lord Mayor to Lord Pelham HO42/70 Folio 181

Letter regarding Catherine HO 42/70. Folio 77-80 and 101-104

Letter regarding Despard’s request for Catherine to visit. HO 42/48. Folio 188-190

True Briton. 15 July 1795

Catherine, the wife of Colonel Edward Marcus Despard – Part 3

Today we are concluding the story of Catherine Despard, but if you missed the previous articles, part one can be found here and part two here.

In February 1799 the Whitehall Evening Post provided a transcript of events in Parliament including a speech by Mr Courtenay M.P, supporter of Edward and Catherine, which was stated to be Colonel Despard’s petition, in which Edward said he was aware of letters being written by Catherine which had been published in the newspaper and that he concurred with the contents of them. Edward stated that he had only been able to see Catherine through an iron grate and that his son, who had travelled a great distance had been denied permission to see him. He also confirmed that the Duke of Portland had refused to see Catherine.

The Courier, 22 August 1799, tell us that Edward was transferred over 100 miles away to Shrewsbury gaol, but there appears little by way of explanation as to why this should have occurred, it simply says:

At five in the morning, a King’s messenger and Bow Street officer took Edward out of the house of correction, Cold Bath Fields where he had been incarcerated for the past 17 months. They set off in a post-chaise for Shrewsbury gaol.

Catherine must have been aware of this where did that leave her, apart from being all alone in London without her beloved husband and fighting for his freedom?

On 2 October 1799, whilst Edward was still in gaol at Shrewsbury, a letter sent on his behalf, by the visiting magistrates, Reverend John Rocke and the Reverend Edmund Dana, asks:

In case Mrs Despard should come to Shrewsbury, in what manner and for what length of time will she be permitted to have access to him?

The original letter in Edward’s hand appears to be quite scribbled with crossing outs throughout it, but clearly, Edward was anxious that Catherine should visit him whilst there.

So, despite a notice in the Star and Evening Advertiser just a month earlier saying that

the orders strictly prohibit any communication either with persons without or prisoners in the gaol

it would appear from the letter that Edward was making representation to have Catherine visit him, so clearly, he wanted to see his wife and it’s probably safe to assume the feeling would have been mutual.

In his recent book, Red Round Globe Hot Burning, Linebaugh states that:

Catherine visited her husband in three prisons that we know of: Cold Bath Fields, the Tower and Horsemonger Lane Gaol. He was incarcerated between 1798 to 1799 in Cold Bath Fields, in the Tower in 1802 and in Horsemonger Lane for his trial and execution in 1803. In these years he was also imprisoned in Shrewsbury, in Tothill Fields, and in Newgate, though we do not have documentary evidence that Catherine visited him in those places.

Despite Lineburgh’s observation and the content of the piece in the Star and Evening Advertiser, saying that he was not to be permitted visitors, we do now have evidence that Catherine visited her husband whilst he was in Shrewsbury.

This comes courtesy of a letter written on 12 June 1800, to the Home Secretary, from Venerable Joseph Plymley, who was the Archdeacon of Shropshire and visiting magistrate of Shropshire County Gaol. He stated that Catherine was Edward’s only visitor at Shrewsbury, apart from the chaplain of the goal and quarterly visits by magistrates.

However, Plymley, also helpfully provided a snippet of information about their son being briefly in Shrewsbury:

Last night Colonel Despard’s son, an officer in His Majesty’s Service, arrived in this town from Ireland, upon military duty, viz to receive volunteers from the Glamorganshire Militia.

Edward’s son was then travelling on to South Wales and wished to see his father whilst he was in town, but the gaoler refused him admission. The gaoler immediately contacted Plymley who, in turn urgently wrote to the Home Secretary to find out if this would be acceptable. Plymley stressed that Edward was a model prisoner and only spent time with Catherine and suggested that any message for Edward from their son, could be conveyed by Catherine and therefore their son was not permitted to visit his father.

Given that we now know that Catherine visited him whilst in Shrewsbury, she must have travelled there by the regular coach service, or mail coach similar to the one below.

The journey from London to Shrewsbury was extremely long and arduous given the condition of the roads at that time.  There was usually a ‘stop over’ enroute of a night, so the journey could well have taken at least two, very long days each way. A journey following the same route today, would take about four hours today by car, so we can only begin to imagine how hard this would have been for Catherine.

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

There was, however, a regular coach which travelled from London to Shrewsbury three times a week, via Henley on Thames, Oxford, Stratford upon Avon and finally arriving in Shrewsbury.

A google map image showing the long journey from London to Shrewsbury
A google map image showing the long journey from London to Shrewsbury

We can only assume that Catherine simply took lodgings and stayed in Shrewsbury for the duration of Edward’s time there, but it does appear from the letter, that she was a regular visitor.

The Ipswich Journal, Saturday 21 February 1801 reported that Edward had been held in gaol on charges of sedition from April 1798 until March 1801, but it doesn’t clarify exactly how much of that time was spent in Shrewsbury.

A report by James Ives, the keeper of the county gaol, Surrey, who wrote to the Northumberland, Durham Cumberland Gazette on 15 February 1803, wished to correct what he deemed misinformation about Edward’s accommodation in goal, he stated that:

Colonel Despard is confined in the attic story, in the same room as before his trial. It is a boarded floor, 80 feet square, with three large windows, framed and glazed, and a large fire constantly kept; his wife attends him daily.

Almost every report about Edward’s ‘domestic’ situation seems to make reference to Catherine being present, obviously they wanted to spend as much time together as possible. One account also mentioned that Edward made a lady, who accompanied Catherine, cut off some of his hair, which she was to distribute to some of his friends as a keepsake. A token which I sure must have been of some small comfort to Catherine too.

Baron Cloncurry noted that he didn’t see Edward between 1797 and spring 1801 and that he passed through London on his travels in 1802 at which time Edward called to see him. There was no mention of Catherine being present at this visit. He described Edward as:

So wan and worn, that he looked like a man risen from the grave. Of the unsound state of his mind, the following anecdote may convey some notion. In talking over the condition of Ireland, he told me that though he had not seen his country for thirty years, he never ceased thinking of it.

This would seem to confirm that since arriving from overseas that by 1802 Catherine must have remained in England and not have visited Edward’s relatives in Ireland as had been suggested elsewhere.

Baron Cloncurry, who was to become a good friend to the couple, described Catherine in about 1800, as:

A Spanish Creole, a remarkably fine woman, much younger than her husband, who then appeared to be about sixty years of age.

Edward was only 52 when he died, so he must have looked much older than his actual age, which provides no clues as to Catherine’s age, she may simply have looked younger than her age.

Edward and his reputed co-conspirators were arrested again on 16 November 1802 at the Oakley Arms public house for their part in Edward’s plot to assassinate King George III and were taken to Newgate prison.

Whilst back in gaol Catherine was still permitted to visit Edward, this may well have come about via the Attorney General, Spencer Percival, who wrote a letter on 15 February 1803, which confirmed that Catherine was being closely watched in case she smuggled papers out of the prison on Edward’s behalf and ultimately decided that whilst she could still visit, she should no longer be permitted to carry any papers for him. We don’t know how complicit Catherine was in doing Edwards’ bidding, so she must have either been very brave or completely unaware how closely she was being watched. Either way she must surely have feared for her own safety or perhaps so devoted that Edward that she wasn’t at all concerned.

Edward and his co-conspirators were tried on Monday 7 February 1803. From his Petition dated 16 February 1803, he stated that from September 1790 to September 1791 he was employed in London at the wish of government ministers, particularly furnishing details which had occupied many months of his helping to plan an attack on the Spanish Main.

For his work Edward was promised upwards of £2,000 and the first vacant consularship on the Barbary Coast, but that neither of these promises were kept. Overall, Edward stated that during his time in King’s Bench his debts amounted to some £3,000. There is no mention of Catherine, so how did she manage for money? It begs the question of who was financially supporting her at this time, friends and/or family? Someone was, for sure, perhaps her son.

On 20 February 1803, we have a letter from Sir Richard Ford, the chief magistrate at Bow Street, who referred to crowds gathering at the prison etc, but then made specific reference to Catherine, describing her as having been:

very troublesome, but at last has gone away’.

Catherine was piling on the pressure to have her husband released, she was utterly convinced of his innocence and willing to do as much as she could to persuade those in authority of her views, but to no avail. As her hopes of mercy vanished, Catherine, it is said, became almost delirious, her emotions, when the order for his execution arrived can hardly be imagined.

Morning Post 21 February 1803

Colonel Despard was strictly searched to discover whether he had any knife or meals of self-destruction concealed about him, and everything that it was though might enable him to put an end to his existence was conveyed out of his reach. There was no reason to suppose he had the slightest decision of committing suicide, but it was standard procedure.

Mrs Despard was greatly affected when he first heard that his fate was sealed, but yesterday, she recovered her fortitude. Accompanied by another lady, she had her last meeting with him on 20 February 1803. It is said that the other, unnamed woman wept bitterly. But first Mrs Despard, and then the colonel, reproached her with her weakness. Mr and Mrs Despard bore up with great firmness, even in parting. When Catherine got into the coach, as it drove off, she waved her handkerchief out of the window.

In the vivid newspaper accounts of the hangings that took place on 21 February 1803, there appears no mention of Catherine being present, although given her commitment to him during his life and her courage, it appears likely that she would have been there.

On a slight lighter but macabre note, the Gloucester Journal, (amongst others) of 28 February 1803 reported this reputed conversation (how very British, a conversation about the weather):

The following anecdote respecting Col. Despard immediately previous to the instant of his execution, is not generally known. When Macnamara was brought out, he said, upon seeing Despard, “I am afraid, Colonel, we have go into a bad situation”. The answer was very characteristic of the man, ‘There are many better, and some worse”. He was extremely anxious to assist the executioner in adjusting the rope about his neck and placed himself the noose under his left ear. When he was on the point of being launched into eternity he said to Francis, who stood next to him – “What an amazing crowd” and looking up, he observed, with the greatest indifference ‘Tis very cold, I think we shall have some rain”.

The sentence included disembowelment, but with the assistance of Lord Nelson, Catherine was able to have this part of the torture removed, instead he was hanged, and his head severed.  An horrific sight whichever it was carried out, for Catherine to witness.

The day arrived for Catherine to say her final farewell to Edward and for his remains to be buried. About ten o’clock in on the morning of Tuesday 1 March 1803, just over a week after Edward’s death, several hundred people congregated near Lambeth asylum, at the property Catherine and Edward had lived in, but not where Catherine was living by that time of the funeral.

After fifteen minutes a hackney coach arrived, Catherine was inconsolable and almost fainted when the coach arrived and had to be supported by two female friends; sadly, no names were given for the female friends.

The Ipswich Journal, 5 March 1803, tells us that

An artist, it is said, took a cast of Mr Despard’s face, a few minutes before the lid of the coffin was screwed down.

This artist was Madame Tussaud.

Edward’s remains were taken away through the streets of London to be buried. Twelve of his friends arrived about eleven, with four gentlemen in each of the mourning coaches. Newspapers confirm that there were no women mourners. This was quite normal at that time for women not to attend funerals. Graveyards were not really places deemed safe or suitable for women.

It was reported that the procession initially headed for St Pancras for Edward’s final resting place, but this was a ruse, instead he was taken from where his body had been kept, near Lambeth, across the river, to St Faith’s Chapel, St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Lord Mayor of London immediately wrote to Lord Pelham, in a polite, but clearly furious tone, asking why Edward’s place of burial had been changed and wanting to know why no-one had bothered to tell him! This change of burial appears to have been instigated by Catherine who felt that it was Edward’s hereditary right to be buried there.

Shortly after Edward’s death, the Morning Post stated:

It has been reported that Mrs Despard, since the execution of her husband, has been taken under the protection of Lady Nelson. We have authority to state that the circumstances is holly untrue, and we much fear that the rumour has been propagated by the enemies of the virtuous an amiable Viscountess.

However, the Dairies of James Harris, 1st Earl of Malmesbury confirm that it was not Lady Nelson, rather Nelson’s lover, Lady Hamilton who visited Catherine, so it was she who took Catherine under her wing.

Monday Feb 21 – Lady Hamilton, whom Lady Malmesbury met in the evening of this day at Lady Abercorn’s, after singing etc said she had gone to see poor Mrs Despard in the morning – she did not know her, but she went to comfort her, and that she found her much better since the body had been brought back to her. This is the consequence of Lord Nelson having spoken to his character.

The Morning Post 21 February 1803 provided confirmation that a musical event was held at Marchioness of Abercorn’s that day, so that would tally with Harris’s diary entry.

Following the execution of Edward, Catherine was left virtually destitute and possibly heading for the workhouse, were it not for a pension being agreed for Catherine by Sir Francis Burdett and the kindness of 2nd Baron, Valentine Cloncurry, who offered her a safe haven at his estate in Dublin, Ireland, his father having died in 1799.

A year after this conversation, this poor madman made mad by official persecution, was executed for a plot to take the Tower. I was afterwards able to afford his wife an asylum from destitution. She lived in my family at Lyons for some years.

Lord Cloncurry doesn’t provide any clues as to how long ‘some years’ was, but we know that at some stage she returned to London, where she died. Catherine’s fight was over, and she died in 1815 in the Somerstown district.

She was buried at St Pancras parish chapel, Camden on 9 September 1815. Her address is almost impossible to read, but it looks like Elmore Street, so if anyone is able to decipher it, please do let me know.

Many newspapers nationally, noted Catherine’s death, all carrying the same few, simple words:

As to who notified the press we will never know, but someone certainly did, perhaps it was her son, I’d like to think so.

There remain a myriad of questions about Catherine’s life, but just maybe this has filled in a few of the gaps … for now. You can find out more about her mysterious son by following this link.

Catherine, the wife of Colonel Edward Marcus Despard – Part 2

Following on from Part 1 of this story, which can be read here if you missed it, we now move on to

Catherine’s arrival in England

The Dictionary of Irish Biography states that Edward and Catherine married in 1786, Jamaica, but having contacted them, in order to check their source, they now plan to amend the entry to reflect the vagueness of that information. Their source being from Colonel Despard: the life and death of an English/Irish Jacobin, which suggests that it must have been between November 1785 and April 1786. None of the available Jamaican parish registers sadly show any marriage for them in any parish (believe me, I’ve read every single one of  entry to check!), so it would appear more likely that if they actually married, that it took place in Honduras.

The Caledonian Mercury, 17 May 1790, tells us that Edward’s post as Superintendent of the settlement in the Bay of Honduras had been filled by a Colonel Hunter and that Edward and Catherine had returned to England, under something of a cloud, the authorities unhappy with Edward’s management style there, having apparently become something of an autocrat.

Arriving in England in 1790, must have been quite a culture shock for Catherine, sailing all that way to a new country, the sights, sounds, smells, climate, clothing, the list goes on and of course and probably one of the most important things being, the lack of people who looked like her, in the social society that Edward would have mixed, all of which must have been completely disorientating. There were of course, black people in London, but most of them would have been servants, working for affluent aristocrats.

Being a woman of colour living in London would not have been easy, especially given the trade in enslaved people, but Catherine seems to have risen above any preconceived notions about the colour of her skin, perhaps helped by her position as having married into Irish gentry. Catherine’s sole aim was to care for her husband, but she couldn’t possibly have imagined in 1790 how this new life in London would have panned out.

On arrival in England, Edward was merely expecting them to only remain there briefly, just long enough to sort out the financial issues pertaining to his time abroad, his plan being to return to Honduras, which makes it somewhat curious as to why Catherine and their son would have accompanied him on such a long voyage, but accompany him they certainly did.

This brief sojourn to England did not transpire the way Edward planned at all.

Edward, it seems, proved to be something of a thorn in the side of the government, he bombarded them with demands for compensation and vindication for what he viewed to be unfair dismissal from his post, no charges were brought against him, but no compensation either, leaving him with little more than his salary as a half pay colonel which wouldn’t amount to very much, probably insufficient to support Edward, let alone his Catherine and their son.

What was he going to do to rectify this matter?  There was little he could do, he tried to seek employment, but nothing was forthcoming. This dispute between Edward and the government continued for two long years.

We can only imagine what Catherine must have made of this terrible situation that she had now found herself in, after all, she thought the visit to England was only going to be a short one, so there was nowhere she could now call home.  There is no sign of them in rate books, so it has to be assumed that they were renting somewhere or living with friends.  We know that Edward was a close acquaintance of Lord Nelson, having served together previously, so perhaps he helped them find lodgings.

On 28 November 1792 Edward was sentenced to two years in prison and the 1794 prison records for King’s Bench and Fleet prison discharge book, noted his release in 1794. With Edward incarcerated this would have left poor Catherine to fend for herself in this new country with presumably few, if any friends to assist her, this must have been immensely difficult for her.

We know that during Edward’s various court cases, Catherine was constantly referred to as his wife, which I do suspect was not done so as merely a courtesy title, but as I’ve said, proof  of such a marriage is sadly lacking.

Besides being described as his wife, Catherine was described in a variety of ways by the press, some of which today we do, of course, deem derogatory, ‘a negress, a mulatto, a woman of the Caribbean and a woman of colour’. Her skin colour must have been an important fact for readers of the day, otherwise why would they feel the need to mention it? Mike Jay in ‘The Unfortunate Colonel Despard’ states that:

Family memoirs referred to Catherine as his “black housekeeper”, and “the poor woman who called herself his wife”. James was ascribed to a previous lover, both of whom were written out of the family tree.

It appears that parts of Edward’s family found it difficult to acknowledge Edward’s choice of wife given her colour, referring to her as his ‘black housekeeper’.

In July 1795, the True Briton, provided the first sighting of where Edward and Catherine were living in London, courtesy of the address ‘34 London Road, St George’s Fields’ an address provided by Edward in court, where he had been charged with allegedly being involved in the Charing Cross Riot.

Edward claimed that he was merely an onlooker and was on his way home. This was not believed, as he was apparently heard to say, ‘No King, No Pitt’. Edward was detained for further questioning.

When not in gaol, did Edward and Catherine appear to have spent their time trying to evade Edward’s recapture? At least, it would certainly appear that way, from this snippet, of 10 March 1798 in the Express and Evening Chronicle which reported that:

It was Colonel Despard, whom the King’s Messengers seized on Sunday in Meards Court, Dean Street, Soho. His house was entered by four Messengers, and several Bow Street Officers. The Colonel and Mrs Despard were both in bed when the former was arrested.

Dean Street was a location well known to Lord Nelson, as he stayed there the day before the Battle of Trafalgar, so perhaps Edward and Catherine were staying close by. Whilst this gives us an address for Catherine, the rates returns show that they must have been staying with someone living there. The residents around that time were George Campbell, Thomas Melhuish, Joel Clifford Mr Miles and John Dealtry, but none of them as far as I can tell, appear to have had any connection to Edward and Catherine.

Given the closeness of the date between the above report to this one from Lloyd’s Evening Post, 12 March 1798, it can only be assumed that the reference to Bath, was not the place, rather, Cold Bath Fields:

Yesterday, Mr Higgins, one of the King’s Messengers, arrived at the Duke of Portland’s office, having in charge Colonel Despard, whom he brought from Bath, after a search of two days.

Having caught Edward, he was brought before the Privy Council, underwent a short examination and was remanded into the custody of the Messengers.

It’s always lovely to come across letter written in the person’s own hand, especially by Catherine as we have little information about her life, but we see from this, that she was educated, fluent in English, articulate and confident in her own ability, assuming this was written in her hand rather than dictated by her. It was not in Edward’s hand; the style is completely different. It also demonstrates that Catherine didn’t remain at Meards Court, with the address, but moved very quickly to Upper Berkeley Street.

This letter, although undated, appears to have been written April – early May 1798, and the full letter tells us that Catherine was trying to establish whether there had been any response from the Duke of Portland regarding the payment of Edward’s pension.

She also wrote that Edward had been moved within Cold Bath Fields prison, from a comfortable, upper floor, to a lower room. Catherine described how awful Edward’s room was, no table, no chair nor a fire to warm himself. She continued to say that he was only allowed to see her briefly and described his care being more akin to that of a vagabond rather the gentleman he was.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

We know from this letter written by Catherine that she was living in lodgings at 41 Upper Berkeley Street, where by 1801, the property itself appears to have been empty, but living a few doors away was Henry Austen Esq. at 24, the brother of the author Jane Austen, perhaps indicating that at least, that at that time, Catherine was living in a pleasant area of London, so, once again who was funding this?

This link will take you to the final part of Catherine’s story.

Catherine, the wife of Colonel Edward Marcus Despard – Part 1

As there is so much to tell in this story, during the next articles I will be taking a look at the life of Catherine Despard and that of her son, so do keep an eye out for the following parts.

Firstly though, I  would like to give a massive ‘Thank you’ to the kindness and generosity of Mike Jay, author of The Unfortunate Colonel Despard, who kindly shared with me Sarah Gordon’s will, which helped to open some doors.  To Mish Holman, who, despite being busy with her own research, found time to check out some documents at the National Archives for me and to Professor Gretchen Gerzina for telling me to ‘go for it’ when I initially thought everything known about Catherine had already been written.

For fans of the programme, Poldark, you may well have seen the episode about Edward (Ned) Marcus Despard and his wife, Catherine and her valiant, but unsuccessful, attempt to save her husband’s life.

Whilst Poldark is fiction, the lives of Edward (Ned) and Catherine were real. The programme, as you might expect, used quite a bit of creative licence in the telling of their story, especially as neither character appeared in the books by Winston Graham.

Much has been written about the life and more dramatically, the death of Edward, who, for those who don’t know, was found guilty of high treason and met his end courtesy of the hangman’s noose, closely followed by the removal of his head, which was placed on a spike as a warning to others.

Edward allegedly plotted along with his co-conspirators, to kill George III whilst on his way to Parliament on 23 November 1802, then to seize the Tower, and the Bank of England. Whether he was guilty or not is another story, as he refused to admit to anything, perhaps to avoid implicating his co-accused. I’ll leave you to read more about the trial for yourselves, as the focus in tis post is really upon his wife, Catherine.

Fewer than a handful of writers have attempted to record in any detail Catherine’s life, and so, always being one for a challenge, it was suggested that I try to see if I could piece together a little more about the life of the woman who stood beside Edward every step of the way, until he mounted those final steps on 21 February 1803.

Not only did Catherine seem to be a dutiful and loving wife, but she also acted as a courier and campaigner, visiting her husband, writing letters on his behalf and fighting as hard as she could to gain his freedom.

Who was Mrs Catherine Despard?

Accounts vary but, she is often described ‘a former black slave‘, from somewhere in the Caribbean, but we do know a little more about her than just those few words.

Catherine’s early life

To begin with though, we don’t know exactly when, or for sure where Catherine was born, but it now seems fairly safe to assume she was born around 1760, give or take a few years, in Jamaica.

Having trawled through the baptism parish registers for Jamaica, there are a few possible matches for Catherine, as below, from the parish register of St Catherine’s Jamaica, but there is nothing conclusive. This entry provides no parents being named but describes her ‘a mulatto child’ meaning one white parent, one black which could possibly be hers.

It is now known that Catherine’s mother was Sarah Gordon of St Andrew’s, Jamaica, who was buried on 25 July 1799 at Long Mountain, St Andrews, as can be seen here.

The parish register of St Andrew’s clearly states any person of colour or black and as you can see the entry directly above Sarah Gordon’s, states that Martha was ‘a free black woman’, the next but one entries after Sarah’s name, tells us of two women who were buried as ‘a woman of colour’ and yet there is nothing against Sarah’s name, which is unusual in light of the other burials recorded at St Andrews, but this could simply have been an omission. The burial entry also tells us she was not buried in the church graveyard, but at Long Mountain.

Sarah left a will, of which I was extremely kindly sent a copy, by Mike Jay (see bibliography at end of the whole article). The handwriting not the easiest to decipher and is quite faint, but it does tell us that Sarah was a ‘free black woman’.

I have read that Catherine’s father was a church minister, but I haven’t as yet been able to confirm the source. Mike Jay also said that ‘There was a claim in the London pamphlets of 1802 that her father was a Jamaican preacher and her mother a Spanish creole’ but he had no luck confirming this either.

When writing her will, Sarah was ‘sickly state of health, but sound of mind.’  She was a land owner of the parish of St Andrews, and sadly no mention of a husband, it simply describes her as being a relic i.e., widow.

Although very difficult to read, the will tells us that at some stage in the past Sarah had borrowed money from a friend or possibly a relative, Hannah Williams, a ‘free sambo woman’. Sarah part purchased three pieces of land in Kingston, half of the money for the three plots was funded by her, the remainder of the money borrowed from Hannah, which Sarah wished to be paid to Hannah upon her death. She also names Hannah’s two children, Eleanor and Benjamin Pierce, who, in the event of Hannah’s death, would take over ownership of the land, assuming they were aged 21 or over.

Both children named in the will were born in St Andrews, Jamaica, Eleanor in 1783 followed by Benjamin, 1791, but what is confusing is that both children shared the same father, a Benjamin Pierce, but the mother of Eleanor was named as Johanna Williams, whilst Benjamin’s mother was a Hannah Pierce. It’s interesting to note in the parish register, just below Sarah’s burial was that of a Joanna Williams, was this Eleanor’s mother? once again, we may never know.

The children were baptised on the same day in January 1799, a fact that Sarah would, in all likelihood have been aware of. Whilst that is a slight aside, Sarah also names her sister, Catherine Pierce (surname illegible), so quite who her middle name, Pierce was in honour of, I don’t know, but what does seems highly probable is that Sarah named her daughter, Catherine, in honour of her sister.

Sarah also left a legacy for her daughter, Catherine:

to my dear daughter, Catherine Gordon Despard, now in London … four negroes, who had been in my possession, a negro man named Jack and a negro woman, named Maria and a little boy, her child, named December and a negro woman, named Louisa.

It has not been possible to find out anything more about the enslaved people or what became of them, unless Catherine bought them over to England, which seems rather unlikely.  Sarah also described Catherine as

my beloved daughter and best of friends, Catherine Gordon Despard of the city of London

It would seem clear from Sarah’s will, that Catherine was very much loved, but perhaps more importantly that her mother knew about her husband, Edward, where they were living and also that Catherine and Edward had a son, Sarah’s grandson, John (illegible) Despard.

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Click to enlarge

Sarah knew that her grandson was a lieutenant in His Majesty’s East London Regiment, so despite Catherine having left Jamaica almost 10 years previously she was aware of her grandson’s military rank prior to her death, which must mean that they retained communications after Catherine left the island, so presumably Catherine wrote to her mother with news from England.

This link will take you to Part 2 and Catherine’s arrival in England and this one to part 3.

Pancake Day in the early 1800s

Tomorrow is Pancake day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, which may well feel of little consequence in light of the current situation in Ukraine, but I’ll share it anyway. Like so many, my thoughts and prayers are very much with those in Ukraine. For those who know All Things Georgian well, you will know that my comments have always remained firmly rooted in the 18th century and never write or comment on current events, so for once, I make an exception. Now back to pancake day:

The word ‘shrive’ means to give absolution after hearing a confession, so people would historically attend confession in order to prepare themselves for Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday.

The earliest English recipe for pancakes is believed to date back to about the 15th century, but today we’re going to take a quick look at what the newspapers of the early 1800s had to say about Pancake day.

To begin, I came across this variation on the origins of Pancake day in the Cumberland Pacquet 12 March 1821:

Pancake Tuesday – The custom of eating pancakes on this day is believed to have originated from the following circumstances. One, Simon Eyre, a shoemaker, being chosen Lord Mayor of London, made a pan-cake feast, on Shrove Tuesday, for all the apprentices in London; and ordered that upon ringing a bell in every parish, which is still called the pan-cake bell in the city, they should leave work for the day. In the year 1446, Mr Eyre built Leadenhall.

We have an interesting report on the Derby Mercury 19 February 1823 which reported that the type of people ate pancakes by 1823 was largely governed by social class!

The custom of eating pancakes on this day, arose from the discipline of the ancient church, which, though it allowed the people to indulge in festive amusements after their confession, did not permit them to eat flesh meat. Recourse was therefore had, to pancakes and fritters; and the custom of eating them peculiarly on this day, though the decline among the great, is still maintained by many families of the better sort; but more especially among the lower class through the Kingdom.

Was there anything those Georgians thought unacceptable?

Shrove Tuesday all the year round - a cock wot every one throws at.
Shrove Tuesday all the year round – a cock wot every one throws at. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Not only, like us today, they enjoyed pancakes, but also, they had another tradition that took place on that day – cock throwing, but it would appear that by 1803 they were society was beginning to disagree with this long established practice on Shrove Tuesdays, if this report in the True Briton, of 19 February is to be believed:

As Shrove Tuesday us approaching, we hope some steps will be taken to abolish the barbarous practice of throwing cocks.

The Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser of February 1823 waxed lyrical about pancakes, although I’m not sure I like the idea of adding vinegar – it’s lemon juice for me, for sure.

Woman Baking Pancakes, Adriaan de Lelie, c. 1790 – c. 1810

Shrove Tuesday is a relic of the carnival, and is more properly called, in some parts of the country, Pancake Tuesday, the shriving, or confessions of sin, taking place in the Shrove-tide, or Lent, which follows it; it was the interval between flesh-eating and fish-eating, and so they judiciously filled up the time with pudding.

The making of the pancakes used to furnish as much amusement in the kitchen as their mastication did in the parlour – the operators piquing themselves on tossing them skilfully in the pan; but the custom is too much gone out. We see many reasons for the discontinuance of some customs – of cock fighting, for instance, which use to be the disgrace, and which is the pastime of cowards; but why we should give up our pancakes, unless we have lost our gums as well as our teeth, or are subject to heartburn we see no reason upon the table. They are of taste “not inelegant” as Milton says. They are a nice variety – their entrance is a prodigious moment for the children – they can accommodate themselves to sophisticated palates by means of lemon juice or vinegar, the rolling of one of them up, and then cutting it with a knife and fork, and dipping the slice into plenty of sugar, is a thing not be to slightly praised.

To end with, I wonder what event this child baptised on February 26, 1775, could possibly have been named after? Mary Pancake, illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth Staines was baptised at Cowley, St James, Oxford.


The recipe book of Sarah Tully (Lady Hoare)

As we are approaching Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake day, I thought we would take a look at Sarah Tully, later to become Lady Hoare about whom the Wellcome Collection have a book of recipes from the 1730’s in Sarah’s name. It’s not clear whether Sarah wrote the book itself, or her name simply appeared on the front of it, especially as there appears to be a variety of handwriting in it.

From this portrait of Sarah though, it does look as if she’s holding the recipe book itself, purely a guess on my part, of course.

Philips, Charles; Sarah Tully (1708/1709-1736), Lady Hoare; National Trust, Stourhead

Amongst the countless recipes of receipts as they were then known, we have one for pancakes. For any chefs out there they are perhaps worth a try on Pancake Day.

Who was Sarah? 

James Tully died in August 1731, leaving a wife, Sarah and several daughters including our lady in question, Sarah.

Upon the death of her father, who died suddenly from an apoplectic fit and fell of his horse, Sarah and her siblings became extremely wealthy heiresses. Her father’s wealth was estimated to have been around at least £5 million in today’s money.

In his will James, an attorney, left lands at Wood End, Ravensden, Bedfordshire to his wife and also his lands at Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex which he had purchased from Richard Hoare. To his daughter Sarah he directly left land in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Berkshire and Middlesex, plus properties on Bow Street Convent Garden and Poland Street in Westminster. Even just some of this would have made Sarah an extremely affluent heiress.  His other daughters, Charlotte, Anne and Elizabeth he also left various estates.  James was one, exceptionally wealthy man, whose will runs to about 8 pages, with further legacies to different people.

Ramsay, Allan; Sir Richard Hoare II (1709-1754), Kt, as Lord Mayor of London; National Trust, Stourhead

It would just eight months later that Miss Sarah Tully was married to a member of the banking dynasty Hoares. She married Richard Hoare, on 24 April 1732. Richard was also the Lord Mayor of London in 1745. The couple had just one child, a son, Richard.

Woodforde, Samuel; Sir Richard Hoare (1735-1787), 1st Bt of Barn Elms; National Trust, Stourhead

Sadly, Sarah’s married life was extremely short as she died September 1736, but Richard wasted little time marrying for a second time. His second wife being a Miss Elizabeth Rust, described in the press as being a ‘beautiful lady of great merit, find accomplishments, and a considerable fortune’. So, Richard clearly married well twice.

For anyone interested in 18th century recipes I would highly recommend reading this book, a direct link is highlighted the start of this article.

Not only did Sarah’s book contain recipes, a few household tips and also health remedies, such as this one for ‘buggs‘.

and this one which was specifically for Richard to ‘keep him free from oppression, lowness and flatulence‘.

Finally, this is not a remedy I will be trying, under any circumstances. I can’t imagine anything worse than a concoction made from earth worms and garden snails to be drunk as a cure for a consumptive cough!


Brides and Bigamy

I am delighted to welcome back, ‘legal eagle’ Melanie Barnes, who, with today being Valentine’s Day, is taking a look at brides and bigamy.

Ramsay, Allan; Lord Chancellor Hardwicke (1690-1764); Dover Collections

When the government introduced Lord Hardwicke’s Bill for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage in 1753, the whole country literally was livid.  Modern commentators have now acknowledged that in reality the Acts made little difference, but at the time the mere idea of marriages only in public led to widespread protests, a gazillion angry pamphlets and much debate.

Essentially, the Marriage Act introduced the structure for a valid marriage as we know it today with public banns and licence, but previously it was also possible to have a ‘clandestine marriage’ in secret.  You’ve probably already imagined a dashing young Master sneaking into the stables with a pretty young maid, and you’d be right, as the Bill was partly designed to prevent rich heirs from being seduced into clandestine marriages with their social and economic inferiors.

One of the problems is that a valid marriage attracted all sorts of financial goodies such as rights to maintenance, inheritance or property.  For example, a spouse could sue for ‘reinstatement of conjugal rights’ or bring a claim of ‘failure to maintain’ in order to receive regular support.  Or, a husband could sue for damages if the promised ‘portion’ or dowry was not paid.  Any valid marriage, for example, one that might quickly follow the tête-à-tête between the young heir and his maid, could also annul any future union which automatically made the children of the second marriage illegitimate.  Oh the shame!

Lewis Walpole Library
Lewis Walpole Library

In terms of punishment, the Act provided that any clergymen who performed clandestine marriages were to be transported to America for 14 years.  I like to think that this explains why there are so many Chapels of Love in Las Vegas.

It was also hoped that the Bill would prevent the problem of bigamy as marriage was a well-known remedy for women against debt.  Essentially, upon marriage in the 18th century, a man and woman became one legal entity under the doctrine of coverture and the husband would subsume his wife’s rights and obligations.  This prevented, for example, women from owning property in her own name without permission from her husband (though she could protect her money through a trust), but also made him solely responsible for their joint actions in crime, for example if they both committed murder.  Coverture is one of the reasons that gave men the right to physically chastise his wife – if there was a risk that the wife could break the law then she needs to be controlled!  It’s very hard for us now to get our heads around this doctrine, but at the time it was simply accepted.

Lewis Walpole Library
Lewis Walpole Library

In terms of liabilities, any debt accrued by a woman was the responsibility of her husband so, yep, you guessed it; all she needed to do in order to avoid liability was to marry.  This also wasn’t a problem for the new husband (who might have been paid for his services), as law suits were crazy-expensive and took years in court.  I am aware of one woman who went on to marry five times without a single divorce and in her memoir describes how she arranged the first simply to avoid prison.  In fact, her first husband was already married so when her second husband tried to argue that their marriage was void, the woman argued that this was impossible as her first union was already void so their marriage was valid and … yeah, it’s complicated.

Lord Hardwicke was aware of this particular case and referred to it in parliamentary debates.  Of course, he couldn’t say that the real reason the Act was needed was to stop rich people from marrying the poor, so much was made about bigamy, when in reality, fake marriages were probably not that widespread a problem, although they did happen.

But, it wasn’t all bad for those who opposed the Act as they had the final glorious protest.  On the day before the Marriage Act was introduced in 1754, in defiance of the new rules, hundreds of couples entered into a clandestine marriage.  I like to think that all of them ended up drinking and dancing in Covent Garden.  Thousands of people all coming together in a democratic demonstration of nuptial love and freedom.  I wonder how many of us were born of those unions.  It’s a lovely thought.

Featured Image

Hogarth’s Marriage a la Mode. Tate Gallery

Reece’s Medicinal Chests

I accidently came across this beautiful medicinal chest on the Wellcome collection website and decided to find out more about Reece.

Dr Richard Reece was born in 1775 and at the age of twenty was resident surgeon at Hereford Infirmary. He became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1796.

In 1799 Richard, by now a well-established doctor, married Kitty Blackborow, the daughter of Justice William Blackborow. The couple had 9 children, of which according to Richard’s will, 3 of the five girls survived into adulthood, along with 4 boys.

Not only was Richard a well-respected doctor, but he also wrote many papers and books about medicine and in 1813 wrote a Dictionary of Medicine.He also sold medicines and medical equipment from his premises, including medical chests, as we can see here, on his trade card.

His business operated from 170 Piccadilly and his medical chests were said to have been designed by a man with the flamboyant name of Francis Columbine Daniel who had an equally flamboyant life, but that’s another story.

Richard, it appears was also one of the doctors involved in the case of Joanna Southcott, who, aged 64 claimed to be pregnant, you can find out more about the story using the highlighted link. It always amazes me how I disappear down one proverbial rabbit hole and end up finding something I really wasn’t expecting.

Early September 1814 it was recorded in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, that Dr Richard Reece, of Piccadilly had ‘ascertained by personal examination and confirmed that Joanna Southcott was undoubtedly pregnant‘. This of course, it transpired was untrue. Richard was mocked for this as can be seen in this caricature.

Courtesy of British Museum
Courtesy of British Museum

However, perhaps in order to set the record straight, Richard was also the doctor who led the post mortem on Joanna. Perhaps this redeemed him from his initial mistake.

In 1827 the Morning Chronicle Richard suffered a break in at his premises. Lyon Lyons, a known receiver of stolen goods was charged with having stolen thirty smelling bottles, with gold and silver tops, valued at £15, two medicine chests, £8 in money and other articles. Instead of the focus being on the thief, Reece was challenged by counsel for the defence about swearing the oath on the bible. It was stated that perhaps as a follower of Joanna Southcote, this was inappropriate. So, there he stood some 14 years after Joanna’s death still being challenged about his view that she was pregnant and that he was one of her believers. Eventually Lyons was found guilty of the crime.

Wellcome Collection
Wellcome Collection

Richard died from a liver complaint in early October 1831, and, in his will, he stipulated that he should be buried at St George’s burial ground to join his two daughters, Emma and Kitty.  He left one shilling to his son William, a chemist at Worcester, he said that he couldn’t leave him more due to funding his son’s move to Worcester. He left his business in trust for his three remaining sons, George, Richard and Henry for at least two years until they were deemed worthy of it.  His wife Kitty lived until 1863.

Although not one of Richard’s cabinets, how wonderous is this example from the Rijksmuseum.

Finally, there is an interesting article on the website of New York City Museum about the restoration of one of Richard Reece’s cabinets – link.



Parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials

Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1791a

Harriette Wilson v Julia Johnstone – The Truth v Lies

Today, in this very long piece, for which I apologise in advance, we are going to take a look at arguably to the two most famous Regency courtesans, Harriette Wilson and her friend Julia Johnstone, or to be more accurate I’m going to try to establish some of the fact from fiction about Julia’s life, part of which was told by Harriette and part by Julia, so buckle up we’re in for a bumpy ride!

Who were these two women?

Julia Johnstone was the pseudonym of Julia Elizabeth Storer, born to Thomas James Storer and the Honourable Elizabeth Proby, a Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte. She was baptised on September 9, 1777, at Frensham, Surrey.

 Julia Johnstone (née Lady Julia Storer), in white dress with rouched sleeves, her brown hair curled by William wood, courtesy of Artnet
Julia Johnstone (née Lady Julia Storer), in white dress with rouched sleeves, her brown hair curled by William wood, courtesy of Artnet

Harriette Wilson was the pseudonym of Harriette Dubouchet, born 22 February 1786, St George’s, Hanover Square, the daughter of John and Amelia and about whom I have written previously, so rather than recap her life, there is a link to it here.

The courtesan, Harriette Wilson.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Despite everything I have read, I am convinced the pair met in the early 1810s when they became firm friends, visiting each other, mixing in the same social circles and sharing the gossip of the day, until that is, the friendship turned rather sour. Both were famous or infamous courtesans of the day; however, I am less convinced about Julia’s reputation.

Harriette’s Memoirs were first published in January 1825 and of which the Duke of Wellington, reputedly, if not accurately, said of her blackmail threats to include him in her book, ‘published and be damned’.

British Press 07 January 1825
British Press 07 January 1825

Julia’s Confessions, are a rebuttal of much of what Harriette had written about her, being published just two months later, with the subtitle of ‘In contradiction to the fables of Harriette Wilson’. Given the speed with which Julia wrote her book, she must have wasted absolutely no time whatsoever, after reading Harriette’s memoirs to write her own, a contradiction of the apparent lies that Harriette had written about her.

Morning Herald (London) 24 March 1825
Morning Herald (London) 24 March 1825

Julia would, no doubt, have been furious at Harriette’s portrayal of her and clearly wished to set the record straight, but this is where the problems begin, as some aspects of Julia’s account don’t stand up to close scrutiny, but then arguably, neither does Harriette’s.

I do have a major problem with Julia’s account, for a very specific reason which will become very clear at the end. Julia seems to have featured in several books, several of which have however, taken Julia’s account of her life at face value, but with a little more digging I have managed to rectify some of the reputed ‘facts’.

Who was Julia?

According to Julia, her mother, Elizabeth née Proby was a Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte, however I am struggling to find confirmation of this widely acknowledged fact. This list notes all of Queen Charlotte’s maids and there is simply no sign of her either under her maiden or married name. I’m not saying she lied, but rather, I can’t find supporting evidence.

John Joshua Proby and sister Elizabeth by Joshua Reynolds 1765. The Tate
John Joshua Proby and sister Elizabeth by Joshua Reynolds. 1765. The Tate

Her father was Thomas James’s Storer whose family lived in Jamaica and made their wealth owning slave plantations in Jamaica.

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

Apparently, Julia and her family lived at Hampton Court Palace, so the first thing to do was to check that out. However, this is where it begins to unravel, having checked the Grace and Favour handbook of people who lived in Hampton Court Palace it tells us that an Hon. Mrs Storer lived there from 1782 until 1808. Now this seems feasible as Elizabeth had married Thomas Storer in 1774 and she died in 1808, but the handbook itself suggests that the Hon. Mrs Storer was someone completely different. It is of course possible that Julia’s parents lived at another of the royal palaces. Sarah E Parker, author of Grace and Favour has picked up on the ODNB suggestion that a Rev. Francis Willis married a Mrs Storer who lived at Hampton Court Palace, however on closer examination that doesn’t quite add up either. Rev. Francis Willis, who treated King George III, married for the second time, in 1798, his wife was however, a Sarah Storr not Storer, a spinster of the parish of Greatford, Lincolnshire where both were living when they married, rather than at Hampton Court, although the possibly had rooms there too, it’s not clear.

Setting that aside, the author, Frances Wilson, in The Courtesan’s Revenge states that Julia had three siblings, but there is no sign of any other children, and certainly only three were named in her fathers will. Julia had just two younger siblings, a sister, Frances (1780-1821), who married a Richard Hutchins Whitelock and a brother, Anthony Gilbert (1782-1818), who inherited estates in Jamaica from his paternal uncle when just 17 years of age.  He married in 1806 at Westmoreland, Jamaica and he and his family remained there until his death, aged 36.

According to Julia her father ‘died abroad in embarrassed circumstances’ – this does not appear to be quite truthful, although just maybe that’s what she was led to believe, only being 15 at the time.

Her father wrote his will on 29 September 1792, and stated that whilst he had been in Lille, he had, by this time, returned to the parish of St Margaret’s, London, now whether his wife, Elizabeth was living with him, who knows, but he does not appear to have been in embarrassed circumstances and left both his wife and children provided for. Frances Wilson also states that Thomas died at ‘his family’s Belle Isle home’ i.e., in Jamaica, clearly that was not the case as we can see from the Public Advertiser, 14 November 1792:

Thomas James Storer was buried on 18 November 1792 at St James, Piccadilly.

Thomas’s father had returned from Jamaica and died the following year, having made his will on 22 June 1792, so just before his son, in which he left the majority of his estate in Jamaica, to his eldest son, Anthony Morris Storer, which in turn, he left in trust to Julia’s brother, Anthony Gilbert.

Anthony Morris Storer by Nathaniel Dance-Holland
Anthony Morris Storer by Nathaniel Dance-Holland

Julia never married but adopted the surname, Johnstone, we may never know why, but as suggested by Frances Wilson, the Johnstone surname was probably adopted by Julia in honour of her late aunt, Elizabeth Anna Maria Storer, who married a Thomas Gregory Johnstone and who died in 1791, although no definitive reason for this name change has ever come to light.

Julia’s formative years

Julia says that she was sent to a convent in the south of France to be educated and that:

At the age of thirteen I was sent for home and arrived at the Royal Palace (where my mother had apartments) to finish my education under an old ignorant Swiss governante, amidst the gloomy walls, and long avenues of trees.

Julia refers to the apartment as being at the Royal Palace, so they could have been living at Kensington perhaps, or maybe St James’s, which might explain why there’s no sign of them at Hampton Court Palace.

Julia also says that says that once her education was complete, she wanted her freedom and independence:

My governess complained, my mother scolded, I pouted, a carriage was drawn up to the palace gates, I entered it by word of command, put my head out of the window, ‘Good bye, mother’, ‘Adieu, daughter’ and went the horses full speed, and from that moment we never met again.’

She specifically said of this event:

We stopped at Hampton Court Palace. Another palace, thought I, pray heaven it proves less gloomy than the one I have turned my back upon.

This implies that this was Julia’s first visit to Hampton Court Palace, but offers no explanation as to why she would go there, who she was going to, it was all rather a strange and vague parting. Surely Julia didn’t simply have an argument with her mother, pack her bags and head off to Hampton Court Palace without any money or any idea why she was heading there – it doesn’t add up.

She says that on her arrival she moved in with a Josiah and Lavinia Cottin who, according to Harriette’s account, eventually had 9 children. It would appear that  Julia was to be a companion to Lavinia, although how this arrangement came about, we have no idea. Julia also said that she had met Josiah previously, in France when he had delivered letters to her from her mother, whether true or not, who knows, perhaps the families knew each other, and this is how it was arranged, rather than her simply packing up and leaving home for who knows where. According to Harriette’s account:

Poor Julia, all this time, did not receive the slightest compliment or attention from anybody. At last, she kissed her hand to someone in a neighbouring box.

“Whom are you bowing to?” I inquired.

“An old flame of mine, who was violently in love with me when I was a girl at Hampton Court,” whispered Julia. “I have never seen him since I knew Cotton.”

“What is his name?” I asked.

“George Brummell,” answered Julia

So perhaps Julia lived at Hampton for a few years earlier in her life, it feels almost impossible to distinguish fact from fiction here.

 Who was Josiah Cottin/Cotton?

Josiah Cottin by Andrew Plimmer. Sothebys
Josiah Cottin by Andrew Plimmer. Sothebys

Josiah Cottin was born in 1767 to Alexander Cottin of Cheverills, Hertfordshire, and his wife, Anne née Chapman, so some ten years Julia’s senior. He served in the 10th Light Dragoons, and in March 1792 he married Lavinia Chambers, the daughter of the famous architect, Sir William Chambers.

Sir William Chambers by Sir Joshua Reynolds Royal Academy
Reynolds, Joshua; Portrait of Sir William Chambers, R.A. (c) Royal Academy of Arts / Photographer credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited

Their first child, Anna, was born one year later, 1793. Anna was swiftly followed by Georgiana in 1794, John, 1795, Lavinia, 1796 and some five years later in 1800, Adolphus, therefore making just five in total, not the nine as has been claimed they had, unless they had other children who died in infancy, but certainly there is no evidence of the other four, but if they existed, they must have been born in the gap between 1796 and 1800.

Now, according to Julia, when she went to live with the Cottin’s at Hampton Court Palace, they did have children, daughters, but she didn’t specify how many. What Julia told readers was that she was only 16 at the time. However, if this were true it must have taken place in 1793, at which time the Cottin’s possibly had one baby, Anna, but certainly no more than that. The records for Hampton Court show Josiah and Lavinia not moving in to the palace until the end of 1797, this would have made Julia at least 21.

It seems far more plausible that Julia went there at that age, rather than aged 16 as she had said. By that time Lavinia would have 3 toddlers and a baby, which makes more sense of Julia’s statement when she described the children as being ‘too young for me to associate with’.

Julia described Josiah’s marriage to Lavinia as being ‘on the worst possible terms’. If that were the case, they still managed to resolve issues long enough to produce another child, perhaps that one was achieved more by accident than design.

Julia then asks her readers, not to judge her, when, ‘at the early age of sixteen I fell a victim to my own inexperience, and the passioned solicitations of a man’ – that man was Josiah Cottin and so their relationship began.

According to Ian Kelly’s book Beau Brummel, he states that:

Julia started her seventeenth year as a well-connected debutante, but ended it a “fallen woman, pregnant and disgraced”.

If Julia became pregnant in 1794, then there is absolutely no sign of a birth for this child, so whilst I’m not saying it was a lie, I’m suggesting that it seems highly unlikely.

It wasn’t until in June 1800, that we first have any tangible proof that Julia became pregnant, giving birth to a son, Josiah, naturally as their first born, it seems logical that the baby would be named after its father. This seems to have taken quite a long time for her to conceive assuming her relationship with Josiah began when implied. Julia would have been 22 when Josiah was born. Coincidently, Josiah’s wife also gave birth to their final child in September of the same year – awkward!

It would be a further five years before Julia and Josiah had more children, however they then went on to have Charles in 1805, with the couple’s address being given as Warwick Court at that time. George who was born in 1806, Julia Emma in 1807, but not baptised until August 1814, at St George’s Hanover Square, with Josiah stating his rank to be that of Captain. The couple, or at least Julia, were living at Chapel Street, Grosvenor Place.

Then in 1809, Lavinia, who was also baptised with her sister, Julia Emma. Coincidently, on the same day, the line below in the parish register there is an entry for the baptism of Harriette’s parents youngest child Julia Elizabeth Dubouchet, which perhaps shows the closeness of Julia and Harriette. It strikes me that it was rather cheeky of Julia and Josiah to have been having an affair yet feeling it appropriate to name one of their offspring after Josiah’s wife, Lavinia.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The following year, 1810, Josiah’s eldest daughter by this wife, Georgiana Maria, aged 16, married Sir John Fleming, 1st Baron De Tabley, with her father’s permission and at the family home, Hampton Court Palace. Josiah was named on her marriage entry as a ‘lieutenant colonel in his majesty’s army’.

Colonel Sir John Fleming Leicester (1762–1827), Bt Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) (after) and James Northcote (1746–1831) (after) Tabley House & Georgiana Maria Leicester (1793–1859), Lady de Tabley, as 'Hope' Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830) Tabley House
Colonel Sir John Fleming Leicester (1762–1827), Bt Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) (after) and James Northcote (1746–1831) (after) Tabley House & Georgiana Maria Leicester (1793–1859), Lady de Tabley, as ‘Hope’ Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830) Tabley House

Julia and Josiah’s final child was Sophia, who was born in 1811, so a total of 6 children altogether, as confirmed by Harriette in her memoirs:

“Certainly,” said I; “I do think it wicked to put ourselves in the way of increasing a large family of children, only to starve them. You are the mother of six already, which is five more than your slender fortune can support

By Harriette acknowledging that Julia had six children would place this part of her memoirs as being post 1811. According to Harriette it was around this time that Julia claimed to be pregnant by Sir Henry Mildmay, although in reality there is no evidence of there ever being a child as a result of the reputed relationship.

Julia said that Josiah had set up her and the children in Primrose Cottage at Primrose Hill and visited them as often as possible, which seems to confirm that he was still living with his wife and keeping Julia as his mistress. Julia did have some money of her own from an inheritance, from a family member, but she didn’t elaborate as to which member, but it has to be assumed that Josiah was helping to fund their family unit, as well as his main family, so he would have been supporting 11 children on an army salary – quite an achievement in my opinion.

According to Harriette, Lavinia was extremely angry when she found out about Josiah and Julia’s relationship and threw her out. Julia on the other hand said that Lavinia knew nothing about it, until months after she had moved out of their home, and that Lavinia and Josiah had separated. As to which version was true, who knows, but Julia’s account seems more plausible.

When Julia announced her first pregnancy, according to Harriette:

Julia could not attempt to describe the rage and fury either of her mother or brother. It was harsh, it was shocking, even as applied to the most hardened sinner, in such a state of mental and bodily suffering. Julia was, with her infant, by her noble relatives hurried into the country, almost at the risk of her life, and Colonel Cotton was called out by young Storer, Julia’s brother, and, I believe, wounded.

Julia completely dismissed this as rubbish, saying that her mother treated this information with complete apathy, rather she said that Julia was now completely on her own to fend for herself. The idea that Julia’s brother had a duel with Josiah she said was complete fiction, as her brother was out of the country. This could well be true, as we know that he had inherited estates in Jamaica, so it’s feasible that he had left for Jamaica by this time.

When did Harriette and Julia first meet?

According to Harriette’s memoirs:

Just as we were sitting down to dinner Mr. Johnstone arrived and was introduced to me. He was a particularly elegant, handsome man, about forty years of age.

If we assume that Harriette was correct about his age being about 40, then this must meeting must have taken place around 1810, ‘Mr Johnstone’ (Josiah Cottin) was born in 1767, so would have been 43, so not a bad guess on Harriette’s part.

At the time of their meeting, Julia would have been about 34 and Harriette 25. Frances Wilson stated that Julia and Harriette met as early as 1803, but that doesn’t really fit with Julia’s children’s ages, as, in 1803 Julia had just the one child, not the five Harriette said.

Circa 1810 would also  be a better match given Harriette’s remark if the couple had been together since about 1800:

I never saw such romantic people, after nine years and five children!

Harriette did say that at some stage during Julia’s relationship with Josiah that he waswas dismissed from his regiment by his royal commander’. I can find no evidence of this at all, and this remark angered Julia –

There never was a more cruelly false insinuation. I believe military law takes no cognizance of errors of the heart in any of its officers.

Josiah was a major in 1798, promoted to lieutenant colonel by 1804, then by 1814 he was a captain, or at least that is what was recorded on the baptism entries for Julia and Lavinia in 1814.

According to Julia, Josiah paid for the boys to attend a respectable public school. As for the girls, Julia said ‘he left me to dispose of, and assigned a very small annuity to each of them. As for me I was left to shift as I though proper’.

Having provided for them via his solicitor, Josiah left England with his regiment. This is likely to have been mid 1813 when the 10th Regiment were sent to Spain, at which time Julia described herself as a single woman again and decided at that time to move in with Harriette.

What became of Julia’s six children?

Josiah (junior) became a teacher in Twickenham, and died at just 27 years of age, leaving a widow, Eliza née Sandby and 3 children – Albany, Eliza and Ellen.

Josiah’s son, Albany would, as a young man of 22, appear in court for ‘begging letter imposition’. During the hearing Albany told the court of his family background which proved to be completely truthful and was verified in court, by the production of supporting documentation His mother, Eliza, his two sisters, Eliza and Ellen and wife, Mary Ann, were also present at the proceedings.  Albany told the court that he had trained as a dentist but found himself and his family in dire straits, so appealed to people living at Hampton Court Palace for financial help. The case against him was dismissed.

Eliza, Josiah junior’s eldest daughter,  married a widower, twice her age and they lived in Stepney, by 1861 she was living with her 3 children and her mother.

Ellen, Josiah junior’s youngest child, married in 1856, her husband, George Hyde Hambly, a law stationer, of Whitechapel.

Charles also became a school master and married in 1841. The couple lived in Chelsea before moving to Beaconsfield where they had at least two children. Charles died in in 1860.

George, little is known of him, he married a Mary Thorn May in 1829 and died in Hounslow in 1843, aged 36.

Julia Emma died aged 20 and Lavinia Mary died aged 32, both unmarried.

 What became of Julia and when did she die?

Julia seems to have disappeared from the radar after her book was published, according to her book she was living quietly in Hampstead, but that in itself raises questions.

Did she really write the book? My conclusion is that she didn’t, but rather, it was written by someone with a good knowledge of her life, family and her friendship with Harriette and that much of Julia’s story could well have been written constructing it from information taken from Harriette’s book.

The author, Angela Thirkell also felt that Julia was dead before her memoirs were written and questioned whether they could, according to John Stockdale, have been ghost written by Jack Mitford, to me, this does seem feasible.

My reasoning:

In June 1815, Harriette’s sister, Fanny, died (buried as Frances Parker, having taken her lover Colonel John Boetler Parker‘s surname) and Harriette confirmed that three months later (on 13 September 1815), her mother also died. She was buried at St George’s Hanover Square  – this was also true and is supported by evidence for both burials.

Harriette  said that following these deaths, she too became ill and was confined to her bed for two months which takes us to around November/December 1815.

Harriette then described visiting her friend Julia who was close to death.

When my spirits and health were at their very worst, I was informed that poor Julia was dying and wanted to see me. I could not refuse her request. Her features bore the fixed rigidity of death when I entered her room. Her complaint, like her late poor friend’s, was a disease of the heart, and there was no remedy.

Sir Charles James Napier
Sir Charles James Napier

Harriette’s story of Julia’s demise continues with a conversation with Napier* who said:

N: I had her laid out in state, and wax candles were kept burning round her coffin for a fortnight: and I paid half of all her debts!

H: Suppose you had paid the whole?

N: Nonsense! They were very thankful for half.

H: And what is to become of her poor children?

N:A noble relative has taken one, and Lord Folkestone another, and Mrs. Armstrong is consulting me about the rest.

The main reason I don’t believe Julia’s memoirs were written by her, is that according to the parish register of St George’s Hanover Square, Julia was buried on 28 January 1816 using the name with which she was baptised, Julia Elizabeth Storer, and coincidently, at the same church that several of her children were baptised. This also fits perfectly with the timescale Harriette gave.

I also noted that when Harriette was buried, she too was buried with her given name of Harriette Dubouchet rather than Harriette Wilson, so it would follow that Julia was also buried using her real name.

If that wasn’t her, then there was someone else with exactly the same name, Julia Elizabeth Storer, living in the same location. I have to say that I do find it too much of a coincidence and have found no other person buried at that time that it could have been.

The burial register for Julia Elizabeth Storer also provided the name of the street she was living on – Grosvenor Place, London. On checking the rates returns for around 1816, I had hoped to find her listed or a clue – sure enough, whilst there was no sign of her, her maternal uncle, Lord John Josiah Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort had his London house there, and it was also the road noted on the baptismal entry in 1814 for two of her daughters.

For me at least, this would confirm that Julia died there in 1816 which is why she had disappeared from the radar. Whoever actually raised her children though, I have no idea as yet apart from the comment above, made in Harriette’s book.

In Frances Wilson’s book, The Courtesan’s Revenge, she states that in 1824, Julia was charged with being drunk and disorderly, however, the person named was a Julia Johnson, without the ‘t’ and ‘e’, she was a different person altogether, who appeared in court quite regularly. This and other newspaper reports were also cited in Julia’s book too, and disputed by its author. Whoever wrote Julia’s book had also read the newspapers and knew they were two different women.

Frances Wilson also concludes from a baptism of 1823, that Julia and Josiah were still together at that time, some 10 years after the birth of their last child. She names the child as being Julia Storer Johnstone. This infant was however, one of Julia’s grandchildren, born to her eldest son Josiah and his wife Eliza nee Sandby. Baby Julia was their second of 5 children and not in fact ‘our’ Julia, but named in honour of her grandmother, Josiah knowing full well that his mother was dead by this time.

Josiah Cottin remained resident at Hampton Court until his death in 1843, living there with his wife and after her death in 1830, with their eldest daughter, Anna. Josiah’s will made provision for one person only – his eldest daughter, Anna who presumably was caring for him in old age, as he died aged 76. There was no reference made to his other living daughter, Georgiana, although as she was married, he must have sure she was already being very well provided for. There was absolutely no mention of Julia or his children with her at all.

To finish, there was an interesting piece in the Morning Herald, 21 October 1826

Some curiosity was excited, on a woman called Harriette Wilson, being placed at the bar, on a charge of felony, brought be a certain Julia Johnson, in the vague hope that the prisoner and prosecutrix might prove to be the ladies whose annals have made so much noise and scandal in the world. The parties, however turned out to be common-place people, one of whom stole a milk jug from the other, and was therefore found guilty, and sent to the mill for a week.

Again, this confirms that Julia Johnson was not ‘our’ Julia.

*Napier was Charles James Napier (1782-1853). Julia’s memoirs described Napier as being ‘Inspector General, Ionian Islands’.

A bronze statue of Charles James Napier stands in Trafalgar Square in London and occupies one of the four plinths in Trafalgar Square, the one to the southwest of Nelson's Column.Courtesy of Wikimedia
A bronze statue of Charles James Napier stands in Trafalgar Square in London and occupies one of the four plinths in Trafalgar Square, the one to the southwest of Nelson’s Column. Courtesy of Wikimedia

According to Harriette Napier was with Julia when she died, so we’re looking at about December 1815, I am struggling to place him in England at that time, although it’s not impossible. He was certainly in Paris during the earlier pat of 1815 according to his memoirs, so was this another piece of fiction? I suspect it was.

This of course, still leaves many unanswered questions, but, I hope gives a little more clarity about the life of Julia Elizabeth Storer (Johnstone).

Georgian Mourning Rings

Thinking about the past couple of years living with the Covid situation and how we remember those we have lost during this time, led me to think about death in the Georgian period and I thought I would take a look at items used at that time as keepsakes and tokens of love.

This of course led me to mourning rings, objects which are rarely purchased today. We often think of such items as morbid, but they’re not, they are tokens of love and something the wearer has right next to them all the time as a permanent reminder of someone close who is no longer with them.

I found myself on the British Museum website looking at some of the mourning rings and have tried to find out a little more about some of them, not necessarily who owned them, rather, whose death had instigated the creation and purchase of them.

Many mourning rings include the person’s name, their age and the date they died, and money was often set aside in wills for the purchase of such items, so here we go with just a few of the many they hold in the collection.

The first ring was in memory of cordwainer, John Bignell/Bignall. John died on 3 August 1782, aged 56 and was buried at St Benet Fink church, London.

His will tells us that he set aside £10 for ‘mourning items’ for his brothers, which could, in all likelihood, have been for mourning ring(s) as well as perhaps items of clothing for the funeral itself. Of course we have no idea which brother this particular ring belonged to. The ring is a gold hoop with a floral design and an enamelled skull engraved on outside; floral design, enamelled, covering whole hoop.

The next ring was to commemorate the life of Judith Sheldrake.  Judith died on 26 October 1788 at the age of 44. The British Museum queried whether  she was from Hadleigh, Essex, but with a little research it would seem that she was actually from Hadleigh, near Ipswich and was buried at the parish church of Little Wenham, near Ipswich on 1 November 1788.

Judith was born Judith Everett, daughter of Isaac and Mary, but married into the Sheldrake family, her husband being Robert Sheldrake, a grocer and draper of Hadleigh, according to the Ipswich Journal which carried a notice of Judith’s death. The couple had married at Hadleigh in 1775, so relatively speaking their marriage was quite short, but during that time they had at least 5 children, Robert, Thomas, Isaac Everett, Jeremiah and finally, a daughter, also named Judith, who was born in 1786, so she was just under two years old when her mother died. All the children was baptised in the non-conformist church.

Judith and Robert’s place in the family tree was recorded in ‘Notes and Queries on subjects connected with the counties of Suffolk, Cambridge, Essex and Norfolk,’ as Robert’s brother was Thomas Sheldrake, of Wetheringsett Hall, who wrote about the family’s genealogy. Robert remained in Hadleigh until his death in 1818 and there is no record of him having married again, so perhaps the mourning ring was his, as a constant remainder of his beloved Judith.

We move on to Gilbert Allix, who died on 27 June 1767 at the age of 73 and was buried on 3 July 1767 at St Giles, Camberwell. We know little of his life, but we do know that he was a merchant and that he left a brief will in which he named his dearly beloved wife, Jane and his brother, William. His estate went to Jane, and he left twenty guineas for mourning to William, so it’s possible that the ring was purchased by William as a memento of his brother.

Our next ring was in memory of Barbara Davenport who died 4 November 1812 aged 57, according to the ring. Although the ring names her as Mrs Barbara Davenport, this would have been a courtesy title, as she was a spinster.

British (English) School; Reverend William Davenport (1725-1781); National Trust, Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Village

Barbara was born 28 June 1754, at Astley Abbots, Shropshire, the daughter of Rev Dr William Davenport and his wife, Martha of Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire.

Barbara left a will which tells us that one of her close friends was the MP Charles Bragge Bathurst of Lydney Park, Gloucester, but sadly there is nothing that specifically tells us to whom the ring was a gift to, but this link will take you to a fascinating story about the family and tells you a little more about Barbara.

The final ring was in memory of a John Higgs who died at the age of 53, on 12 May 1782. John’s will tells us that he was a bargemaster of Millbank Street, Westminster.

John was married to Hannah, and they had two sons, William and John and two daughters, Lydia and Mary. His wish was that his two son should continue to run his business after his death, which consisted of 5 barges and a punt.

This ring is a little more unusual and more elaborate than the others and the description from the British Museum tells us that it was

Gold, marquise bezel, urn on pedestal with monogram painted on white ground; above, a weeping willow executed in hair and inscription; inscription on black enamel round hoop

The fact that inscription on the ring says ‘in memory of a dear father’ means that it was purchased by one of the children, so perhaps each child received one and to date this is the one that has survived.

It’s been quite surprising how much information such a small object can tell us about the life of a person.

The fashions of January 1822

200 years ago in January 1822, Ackermann’s Repository provided detailed guidance for the ever so fashion conscious woman of the day to wear.

Morning Dress

A high gown composed of bright rose-coloured levantine; the bottom of the skirt is trimmed with a broad bouillonné of the same material, above which is a flounce edged with velvet to correspond and disposed in a scroll pattern; there are two rows, each turned the same way, and a rouleau of levantine placed between. The body meets in front: it is ornamented with straps placed bias, and each furnished with a Brandenbourg; the back is plain, and extremely narrow at the bottom. Spring collar, trimmed with a full fall of the same material. Sleeve moderately wide; cuff cut in the three points, finished by Brandenbourgs. The epaulette, for which we must refer to our print, is extremely novel and pretty.

Urling's Lace. British Museum
Urling’s Lace. British Museum

Headdress, a demi-cornette composed of Urling’s lace; the caul is something higher than they have been lately worn; narrow border, made very full. A bouquet of roses is placed rather far back. The hair is parted so as to display almost the whole of the forehead and is dressed lightly at the sides. Black kid shoes. Limerick gloves (Maria Edgeworth wrote in her ‘Popular Tales’ a story about such items. You can find out more here).

Full Dress

A white satin round gown; the bottom of the skirt is trimmed in a very novel style with blond intermixed with white satin. The corsage is cut low and square; the bust is edged with a plaiting of satin, and the lower part of it is ornamented in front with satin edged with narrow blond and disposed in a scroll pattern. The sleeve is a mixture of blond and white satin; the former full, and confined by lozenges of the latter, the point of each finished by a Provence rose; the bottom of the sleeve is confined by a band to correspond. White satin sash, embroidered at each end in a bouquet of roses, and tied in full bows and long ends.

Headdress, en cheveaux. The front of the hair is parted to display the forehead and falls very low at the sides of the face in light loose ringlets. The hind hair is disposed in plaits, through which a wreath of Provence roses is carelessly twisted. Earrings and necklace diamonds: the latter is a negligé. White kid gloves, and white gros de Naples slippers.

We are indebted to Miss Pierpoint of No. 12 Edwards Street, Portman Square, inventress of the corset à la Grecque, for both these dresses.

New Times (London) 15 May 1820
New Times (London) 15 May 1820

Although it’s not possible to establish exactly when Miss Pierpoint began trading, it is known that she was trading until 1818 at Southampton Street, then moved to No. 9 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.

Interestingly, No. 10, the property next door was occupied by the bankers Austen, Maunde and Tilson, of whom Jane Austen’s brother, Henry was a partner, with Jane staying here with her brother in 1813 and 1814, so it might just be feasible that she knew of Miss Pierpoint herself, if only be reputation, as she was clearly well known to the nobility and gentry, even though Miss Pierpoint didn’t move to Henrietta Street until after Jane’s death.  9 Henrietta Street is still linked to fashion, as it’s home to Fred Perry, Covent Garden branch.

We know that Miss Pierpoint moved to Edward Street, in 1822 from where she continued to successfully trade for many years. Catherine was actually married and described herself as a widow in her will but traded as Miss Pierpoint. She died in 1849, whilst still living and trading from Edward Street.

Many of images of Catherine’s fashions appeared in the Ladies’ Monthly Museum and more images can be found via this link.


The Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics by Ackermann, Rudolph, 1764-1834


Blood Brothers – 18th century martial punishment

I am thrilled to welcome to All Things Georgian a new guest, Melanie Barnes. Mel is is a lawyer and recent NFTS Screenwriting MA graduate, who has more than a passing interest in 18th century marriage law, military history and like myself, she loves all things Georgian.

Mel’s post today takes a look at punishment and so I should warn you that it includes images of violence, which many people may find upsetting.

The British Army, an elite unit of around 1000 “gentlemen volunteers” from Scottish, English, Irish and Welsh regiments, came into being with the restoration of Charles II.  According to those in power, by 1689 the army had expanded to a force of 74,000 unruly and untrained “common men” who we now know probably weren’t volunteers at all.  Perhaps suspecting that catchy ballads, inspirational drumming and the promise of non-existent bounty was unlikely to sustain the new recruits for long, in the same year Parliament introduced the Mutiny Act and made desertion punishable by death.

Discipline and obedience is the foundation of an army.  Otherwise, the theory goes, your large majority of murderous soldiers, all traumatised by war, will not easily be managed by the minority of posh blokes with authority.  Prior to 1689, regulations were in place to discourage insubordination and mutiny but during peace-time could only be dealt with under civil law.  The Mutiny Act introduced a much clearer distinction between military and civilian law, although there were occasions when civilians travelling with the army were also sentenced under Martial Law.

Death was the most extreme penalty of all, with beheading apparently reserved only for the most aristocratic.  This is surprising, as I’d always assumed that those who made it onto would prefer to be poisoned by sumptuous grapes or drowned in a pond of lilacs and flowers.  For those of us who only make it onto, I’m afraid punishment of death was the less honourable death by shooting or rope.

For anyone who has watched Handmaidens, you will already have a good idea of 18th century military punishments, and only have to reimagine most of the scenes with men wearing red coats instead of capes – the ceremony is very similar.  Troops would surround the prisoner in a semi-circle who would then be tied to a stake and blindfolded.  After (hopefully) being told by the Chaplain that that all would be forgiven and they were definitely going to heaven, the execution party would fire, followed by a reserve party if the target was missed.  In one case, a soldier was shot simply for grumbling about having to go on sentry duty –  I wouldn’t have lasted long!

Very occasionally, punishment would be by fire. The records show that on one occasion in Flanders, during the Nine Years War, a French spy was apprehended after throwing a fire bomb into a wagon of explosives.  In retaliation, he was burned slowly on a stake; a hideous and painful death.

Decimation (John Beaver, Roman Military Punishments, 1725) MetMuseum
Decimation (John Beaver, Roman Military Punishments, 1725) Metmuseum

The most terrifying punishment builds on the Roman punishment of decimation; death of a minority by chance.  This was usually ordered when a large group were considered culpable but it wasn’t feasible for them all to be killed.  For example, permission was sought in 1668 for several soldiers to “throw dice for their lives”, with the lowest score resulting in death.  There were several other instances of dice being used for this purpose.

A Sepoy Punishment. Robert Mahon. Yale Center for British Art
A Sepoy Punishment. Robert Mahon. Yale Center for British Art

In another case recorded at a Court Martial in Flanders in 1694, several men were caught deserting their post and one was ordered to be executed.  The remaining six had to draw lots, with two being executed, a scenario recorded several other times in the records.  In our day and age when an abusive tweet or harsh word is considered a crime, it is difficult to imagine the horror and dread experienced by the men who were killed for deserting out of fear, and later, bad luck.

A hangover from medieval torture was the punishment of disablement or mutilation.  The strappado is a form of torture in which the prisoner’s hands are tied behind their back and they are hoisted to the ceiling on a rope.  In medieval times, they would then be dropped, bottom-first, onto a large spike. OUCH!  In the army, the lucky devils were simply dropped to the ground, in a way that usually guaranteed a serious disability.

Courtesy of the National Review
Courtesy of the National Review

But it wasn’t just men who received corporal punishments.  Whipping was a common chastisement and records reveal that civilian women also received this treatment.   The amount of strokes, or stripes, depended on the crime, but often was based on the biblical “40 stripes save 1”, in other words, 39 strokes.  There were, however, instances where the sentence was for much more.  One story relates to a woman who was found guilty for inciting to mutiny.  Her sentence was that she should be gagged and receive 50 lashes on her bare back, 10 at 5 different spots, and then to be sent away from the garrison on the first available ship.   This wasn’t seen as enough, and she was also sentenced to being whipped all the way from the prison to the dock.  In Ireland, another woman was sentenced to death for inciting troops to desert their post, something I would be likely to do at the first sight of blood!

Courtesy of Wikimedia
Courtesy of Wikimedia

Most of us have heard the saying “running the gauntlet” but I never knew the ruthlessness of its origin.  The word Gatloup was used by the Roman Army, and is said to have derived from a Germanic word meaning “lane” and “run”.  Essentially, as seen in the picture, the regiment would line up and form a lane of men, all of whom would hold a cudgel or other weapon.  The prisoner would then have to run past them all, perhaps even a number of times, and be struck by each and every soldier.  It was an officer’s duty to make sure all of the soldiers adequately attacked the prisoner, so by the end the poor man would be very badly beaten.  By the Victorian times, the saying was already being used as a joke, perhaps signifying the lack of continued use as a punishment in the army.

Courtesy of the Revolutionary War Journal
Courtesy of the Revolutionary War Journal

Lesser sentences were also given for lesser crimes, for example, mutilation by branding, cutting off the ears or nose, or even temporary starvation.  Another sentence was time spent on the “wooden horse”, a punishment designed to humiliate the offender, usually with physical pain by tying guns or weights to his or her legs, or making them face the backside which might have been used for an officer.   All of these punishments were designed to deter others in a way that is less apparent in our sentencing system of “just deserts”,  Under this philosophy, the sentence should be commensurate with the offence, and cannot be ordered as a deterrent to the wider community.

Hanging by the Thumbs (Modern Military Punishments) William Hogarth MetMuseum
Hanging by the Thumbs (Modern Military Punishments) William Hogarth MetMuseum

The life of an 18th century soldier was harsh and unrelentingly brutal.  The wars of the Georgian period were less about freedom and more about power and wealth, so the hardships endured and the lives lost are difficult to justify.

When you next commemorate those who have fallen, take a moment to also remember the god-forsaken lives of the red-coated soldier in his thread-bare shirt:

Went to a tavern and I got drunk

That is where they found me

Back to barracks in chains I was sent

And there they did impound me.

Fifty (lashes) I got for selling me coat

Fifty I got for me blankets

If ever I ‘list for a soldier again

The devil will be my sergeant



The Oxford history of the British army (1996)

History of the British Standing Army (1894), Harrison & Sons, Walton, Clifford

Tried and Valiant (1972, Leo Cooper, Sutherland, Douglas

British Soldiers in the eighteenth century

British Army

Recruiting Citizens for Soldiers in Seventeenth-Century English Ballads

Featured image

Cat of Nine Tails, Wikimedia

Dido Elizabeth Belle – Ranelagh Street, Pimlico

As many of you will be aware, research into the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her family has been ongoing for quite some time now and today, at the suggestion of Etienne Daly, who has been researching the life of Dido for a number of years, we will take a look at some of Dido and John’s neighbours, in order to gain a glimpse into what living on Ranelagh Street would have been like for this newlywed couple.

When Dido Elizabeth Belle married John Daviniere in 1793, the couple set up home at 14 Ranelagh Street in Pimlico. It’s difficult to determine in which social circles Dido and John mixed after their wedding, or exactly where Dido lived immediately following the death of Lord Mansfield, earlier in 1793.

Her direct family, i.e., her father and Lord Mansfield had both died prior to her marriage, but her step mother, Lady Mary Lindsay was alive until 1799, but there is no surviving evidence to confirm that she and Dido had any contact at all.

Upon Lady Lindsay’s death, Dido’s half siblings, John (1767-1821) and Elizabeth Lindsay, later Hill (1766-1842) were named her will, but curiously, Dido was not.

Perhaps Lady Lindsay simply assumed her step daughter had been sufficiently provided for by both Lord Mansfield and her husband during their lives.

It’s very clear that Dido’s half siblings, John and Elizabeth were in contact with each other as noted in John’s will, left when he died in India.

I bequeath to my sister, Mrs Eliza Hill of Edinburgh ...
I bequeath to my sister, Mrs Eliza Hill of Edinburgh …

Curiously, John had named his half sister, Elizabeth who was by that time Mrs Peter Hill, but no mention was made of his other half sister, Dido.

Peter Hill, Merchant, New Kirk Parish and Elizabeth Palmer (same parish) alias Lindsay) Daughter of Sir John Lindsay
Peter Hill, Merchant, New Kirk Parish and Elizabeth Palmer (same parish) alias Lindsay) Daughter of Sir John Lindsay

We know for certain that Elizabeth was Sir John’s illegitimate daughter from her marriage entry above, (Scottish records being more detailed than English ones,) sadly, no such tangible documentary evidence exists from Dido’s marriage.

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.

Her cousin, Lady Elizabeth with whom she shared the famous portrait, had married George Finch-Hatton some eight year previously, and although they were obviously close whilst at Kenwood House, although there appears to be nothing left to history to confirm that they ever kept in touch after Lady Elizabeth married, but then their lives took very different paths, with Lady Elizabeth marrying into an aristocratic family and Dido marrying John Daviniere, who was a servant at the time of their marriage.

Sadly, there is also nothing tangible to confirm that Dido had any contact with her half siblings, but as Elizabeth was in Scotland and John, out in Indian with their respective families, so perhaps this is not really surprising given the geography. This would have left Dido with few known contracts, despite her previous social standing as the great niece of one of the most affluent and influential men in the country and living in the grand, Kenwood House.

With a lack of information about her possible acquaintances after her marriage, especially any contact with family and at present there is no knowledge of her  having many, if any, friends, the only things left to go by, are her neighbours in Pimlico.

Their new home on Ranelagh Street, Pimlico would have been similar to this one, advertised in the Morning Post, August 1800.

The search began with the rates book from 1794 when they moved there, up to around 1807, by which time it is known that John and their two sons had moved out after Dido’s death.

The first interesting piece of information I found, was that when John Daviniere left 14 Ranelagh Street North, Pimlico, the new occupants were a Martha and James White, a  gardener. Martha had married James in November 1794 at the same church that Dido and John had married at just a year previously.

Why is this relevant? Well, in the marriage register for Dido, the marriage was witnessed by a Martha Darnell, and it transpires that it was this Martha, who went on to marry James White, so it would certainly appear from this, that Dido and John remained in contact with Martha when she married her first husband and also through to her second marriage, with Martha and James moving into Dido and John’s property after John and the boys moved out.

After the death of James, Martha and her second husband, William Parkes remained in the property for a few years, until they completely vanished from the radar. It seems feasible that Dido knew Martha from Kenwood House, where it’s possible Martha was a dairymaid or a ladies’ maid, and that maybe her first husband was one of the gardeners at Kenwood House too – pure speculation at this stage, but hopefully at some point tangible proof will come to light.

Another neighbour who lived next door to Dido and John was a John Mann, who was initially described as a perfumer, but by 1808 he had become a hairdresser and barber. He was clearly not operating his business from home as it’s known that he was renting out part of him home by this time, perhaps business wasn’t going so well.

It was in December 1808 that Mann’s life came to something of an abrupt end as we will now discover. The Hull Packet newspaper of 10 January 1809, amongst others carried reports of his demise.

A melancholy event occurred a few days since, at Pimlico, near London, accompanied with very extraordinary circumstance. Mr Mann, a hairdresser, who resided in Ranelagh Street, had, in consequence of a domestic misfortune, suffered mental derangement; but being, by medical aid, recovered, he had again resumed his occupation. A few morning since, he attended, as usual, to dress and shave several gentlemen in his neighbourhood, by whom he was much esteemed. He had, in all, dressed and shaved nine of his customers, the last of whom was Mr Palmer, of Drury Lane Theatre. Immediately upon his leaving Mr Palmer, he returned home, without attending to any of his other employers, and cut his own throat with one of his razors. The wound was so deep and extensive that he died in a few moments.

The gentlemen with whom he had been, all observed something very singular in his conduct: and there is no doubt that, during the whole of the morning, he was labouring under the terrible malady which induced him to put a period to his existence. Each of the nine has reason, therefore, to be thankful, that the razor was not applied to his neck, before the unfortunate maniac raised it against his own.

It’s not clear what the ‘domestic misfortune’ was, but it could have been connected to the death of his wife, Ann, who had died the previous year. Both John and Ann were buried at St George’s in the Fields, the same graveyard that Dido had been buried in a few years previously, in 1804.

Another of Dido and John’s neighbours was Anthony Fabiani, who, research shows, was one of the Treasury messengers, working directly for the 3rd Duke of Portland. Ranelagh Street was close to the Queen’s house, so arguably, it was a convenient place for him to live. Bentinck was a close friend of Sir John in his lifetime and therefore may well have been aware of Dido living in Ranelagh Street through Fabiani or government spies, and that she had a French husband.

Fabiani’s role was to be responsible for seeking out felons and taking them to prison, along with carrying documents the length and breadth of the country and travelling on behalf of the King and ministers all over Europe.  I first spotted his name in the Hampshire Chronicle, 28 July 1798, which noted that:

Tuesday morning a Captain Coppinger, of Ireland, brought a few days since from Guernsey, where he had been arrested on suspicion of being one of the leading men in the rebellion in that Kingdom found means to effect his escape from the house of Mr Fabiani, at Pimlico, one of the Treasury Messengers, where he was in custody. The charges against him are said to be of a most serious nature.

With a little more searching I discovered several arrest warrants issued by the 3rd Duke of Portland, which bore Fabiani’s name, as the messenger sent to apprehend them; most being wanted for High Treason. Interestingly on the subsequent page of warrants was a name that jumped out at me – Edward Marcus Despard.

Despard was famously arrested in 1798, not by Fabiani, but one of his colleagues, George Higgins. Despard was hanged for treason in 1803, despite pleas from his wife, Catherine, who, like Dido was a woman of colour.  It would be interesting to know whether Dido was familiar with Despard’s case and of Catherine, but it does seem quite likely that she would have read about it in the newspaper. Etienne has suggested that Dido’s husband, could possibly have been a spy, but of course, as  you can imagine, there’s no tangible evidence yet to support this but it’s an avenue he is pursuing.

Fabiani lived at No. 3 Ranelagh Street until just after the turn of the century when he moved to Silver Street, Golden Square, where he died in 1810 and again, like Dido, he too was buried at St George in the Fields on 3 November 1810.

At No. 19, lived a music seller, dealer and chapman, Louis Von Esch, who was declared bankrupt in 1796, but presumably life began to dramatically improve, as by the turn of the century his musical talent was recognised.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales by George Dawe. © National Portrait Gallery, London.
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales by George Dawe. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Whilst it’s not conclusive, I’m fairly certain that this article in the Morning Chronicle of 1802, relates to Louis rather than his brother, Dominique, also a musician, and it would appear that he has become responsible for the musical education of Prince George’s daughter, Princess Charlotte:

It was around this time that he moved from Ranelagh Street and had moved to Edward Street.  The same year, Louis had joined the Freemasons at the Lodge De L’Esperance, an Ancient French Lodge, giving his occupation as composer of music, along with his brother, Dominique, a music master, the brothers being aged 37 and 33, respectively. Fellow members of the lodge included the artist, Domenico Pellegrini.

Pellegrini, Domenico; The Opera Box; Tabley House Collection

It would appear that Louis’s music was extremely popular at the time. He socialised in the upper echelons of society and would eventually travel to Milan and the Palace of Visconti, which was where his life reached its conclusion in 1829.

Another long term resident of Ranelagh Street, living at no. 22, so just a few door away from Dido and John, was the watch and clock maker, George Philip Strigel. The couple would, more than likely, have known him in passing at least, as the elderly gentleman who made clocks and Watchmaker to Queen Charlotte.

Courtesy of Tobias
Courtesy of Tobias

According to the Royal Collection Trust, Strigel was described as the ‘blunt, high-dried, honest German’ who ‘had the care of his majesty’s clocks’. He was apparently, once interrupted by the George III whilst attending to a clock dial at Buckingham House, ‘standing upon a stool, placed upon a table, his hands extended above his head’ as he adjusted a clock dial in Buckingham House.

He was made an honorary freeman of the Clockmakers’ Company in 1771 – conferred on those who the Company believed could help to advance its interests – socially and influentially.

Maybe John and Dido even purchased a clock from him for their new home, who knows.  Strigel died in 1798, and like other residents, was buried on 23 December 1798 at St George in the Fields.

In addition to these, Paula Byrne noted in her book, ‘Belle’, that other neighbours included the miniature painter and engraver, Charles Wilkins, an architect, George Shakespeare and probably the most interesting characters of all, was the herbalist, Mrs Ringenberig, who examined morning urine from which she could provide cures for female complaints – I wonder if Dido ever used her services?

Wednesday, June 19, 1793
Wednesday, June 19, 1793

Hopefully, this post will provide a glimpse into the lives of some of the people that Dido and John would have rubbed shoulders with whilst living in Pimlico and it would appear that several residents were employed by the royal family with others employed in a whole variety of roles. Needless to say, apart from her friend, Martha, no women are named, that is because none are known of as yet, but it would be difficult to believe that she had no female acquaintances.

Etienne Daly has found out that Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Portland was a close friend to Lord and Lady Mansfield, and that she was also a good friend to the ‘blue stocking’, Mary Delany and that both women visited Kenwood House whilst Dido was living there, so would most likely have met her, or at least been aware of her presence within the household.  The Dowager’s son, 3rd Duke of Portland was mentioned earlier, so would possibly have known that Dido lived in Pimlico, but there is no conclusive proof of this.

To find out more about the lives of Dido Elizabeth Belle, her family and descendants, click in this link. 


Manchester Mercury 9 August 1796

London Courier and Evening Gazette 29 June 1802

Royal Collection Trust

Byrne, Paula. Belle: The True Story of Dido Belle

The colour yellow – 18th century fashion

Gold always feels like such a luxurious colour, so today I thought I would take a quick look at some of the shades of yellow and gold used in Georgian fashion.

Sack dress, 1760 - 1765 (sewing), 1770 - 1775 (altered), 1870 - 1910 (altered) Victoria & Albert Museum
Sack dress, 1760 – 1765 (sewing), 1770 – 1775 (altered), 1870 – 1910 (altered) Victoria & Albert Museum

According to The Art of Dying of 1705, we know how fabric was dyed to create a wide variety of colours and it provides us with instructions  about how to create the colour, gold.

Take your ware after it is dyed yellow, hang fresh water over the fire and for every pound of ware, take one ounce of Fustel wood, commonly called Gelb Swane or yellowing shavings, and a sufficient quantity of coarse pot ashes, boil the dye for half an hour, then work the stuff into it.

Mrs Samuel Powel by Matthew Pratt c1793 PAFA Museum
Mrs Samuel Powel by Matthew Pratt c1793 PAFA Museum

To create a straw colour

Firstly, dye the article yellow, then add half a pint of urine and work it in for as long as deemed necessary. Some recipes recommend stale urine, perhaps that makes it more colourfast?

As there are no further instructions provided, personally, I can’t imagine anything worse than wearing an outfit that’s been dyed that colour using urine and not then washed thoroughly in several boil washes before even contemplating wearing, to say the least, so perhaps it assumes the reader will work out that bit for themselves.

I hasten to add that it doesn’t tell you whether it should be human or animal, so I think it’s probably best to draw a line under that one!

c1760. Metmuseum
c1760. Metmuseum

The finest yellow after being boiled with alum alone, or with alum and dry tartar, are coloured with Spanish broom, which grows in several provinces in France. Turmerick which comes from the Indies produces also a sort of yellow, which is none of the best colours, but serves to tinge yellows and brighten those colours.

Flame colour

For every pound of ware, take two ounces of fustel wood, one ounce of pot ashes, boil them for half an hour, then stir it very well, after which put in your ware, it being first dyed yellow, work it till the colour pleases you, then rinse it out.


The next method doesn’t elaborate as to what shade of yellow/gold it creates, but presumably that’s left for the dyer to decide.

Alum your ware as usual for half an hour. Then for every pound, take half a pound of yellow dye weed, a handful of wood ashes, boil them a quarter of an hour, then throw your rinse ware into the liquor.

Dahl I, Michael; Anne Coventry (1695/1696-1733), Lady Carew; National Trust, Antony

Over time new dying techniques were developed an according to the Ipswich Journal, October 1783,

A Mr Beckman, member of the Royal Society of Gottingen, has lately made a valuable discovery with respect to manufactures. He has found from repeated experiments that the Catharmus, or false flower, otherwise known as the false saffron plant, gives a most beautiful yellow dye to cotton, wool and even linen yarn.