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

‘Darkey Kelly’, Brothel Keeper of Dublin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Sources used

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

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

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

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

 

Advertisements

The Arsenic Poisoner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources used

Old Bailey Online

Convict registers for Australia

Featured Image

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

 

The Truth about the Eccentric Jane Lewson who died aged 116

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/392524
The Met Museum.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

The Edinburgh Annual Register, Volume 9 edited by Walter Scott

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

Clerkenwell News 08 November 1870

Lancaster Gazette 22 June 1816

Liverpool Mercury 28 June 1816

Featured Image

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

The humble apron of the 18th century

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources Used  

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

Caledonian Mercury 30 June 1730

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

Ipswich Journal 04 June 1726

Daily Gazetteer, Monday, January 23, 1738

Daily Gazetteer, Thursday, September 14, 1738

Featured Image

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

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

The 18th Century fashion for Turbans

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

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

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

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

Detail from the portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Evening Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Richard Wroughton (1749-1822): Actor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ipswich Journal 22 July 1786
Ipswich Journal 22 July 1786

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Image

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

Runaway Spouses – Naming and Shaming

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

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Libary
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Libary

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

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

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

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

Before and after marriage
Before and after marriage.

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

Run Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Runaway wife

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

Notice is therefore hereby given,

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

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

As Witness of his hand                                                        Eli Baron

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

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