We will be taking our usual summer blog break until the end of August when we’ll be back with more Georgian stories for you, but in the meantime, we’ll leave you with this one.
Monday, 1st August 1814 was both the anniversary of the Battle of the Nile and the centenary of the ascension to the throne of the Hanoverian monarchs; to celebrate these and the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended hostilities between Britain and France, the day was chosen for a grand national Jubilee. (British weather being what it is, in the run-up to the event it was advertised that the date was moveable, depending on predicted rainfall but all went to plan and the 1st August proved to be dry.)
London virtually shut up shop for a day out at the three parks chosen to host the celebrations, Green Park, St James’s Park and Hyde Park, and people journeyed from miles around to witness the spectacle.
Thomas Smith of Marylebone, in his Historical Recollections of Hyde Park, left us a detailed account of the day.
Many hundreds of workmen had been employed for several weeks in making the necessary preparations, while a numerous body of artists from the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich were occupied in arranging the fire-works under the superintendence of Sir W. Congreve, in temporary buildings erected for that purpose in the Green Park. The most judicious precautions were adopted to prevent accidents from the pressure of the crowd, by taking down the iron railings and part of the wall in several places, thus affording free access to the immense multitude that had been attracted from all parts of the country. It is an indisputable fact, that such a number of persons were never brought together on any former occasion of public rejoicing.
In St. James’s Park, the principal object was a bridge thrown across the canal on which an elegant Chinese pagoda of seven stories was erected, profusely ornamented and hung with lamps, with fire-works affixed to various parts, the interior of the enclosure being appropriated to those who paid for admission; numerous booths and tents were pitched, while boats filled with elegantly dressed females on the canal, presented to the eye a scene of enchantment not easily to be imagined or described.
The illuminations formed a complete blaze of light, the trees in the Mall and Bird-cage walk, being encircled with lamps, and Chinese lanterns fancifully painted, glittered among the foliage. Her Majesty and the Princesses entertained a party of 250 of the nobility at dinner in Buckingham House, the front of which was also brilliantly illuminated, in uniformity with the Royal Booth in the Green Park, the devices exhibiting the names of our most celebrated military and naval heroes.
In the early part of the evening Mr. Sadler ascended with his balloon from the space in front of Buckingham House to the great gratification of the royal party, who had taken a lively interest in witnessing the preparations for the ascent; at a later period of the evening, an unfortunate accident happened which threw a damp over the whole proceedings at this point, the fire-works having set fire to the pagoda; two of the men employed were so seriously injured that they expired on the following day; and before the fire could be got under, five stories of the pagoda were consumed.
A revolving temple was erected in Green Park. This edifice was the work of Sir William Congreve, Baronet, of Congreve’s Rockets fame. Not surprisingly, a very loud and impressive display of artillery and fireworks was planned for the evening’s entertainment.
At ten o’clock a long and continued discharge of artillery announced the commencement of the pyrotechnic display; a grand discharge of fire-works from the battlements and walls continued for two hours, when the metamorphosis of the fortress was effected during the prevalence of a dense cloud of smoke created for the purpose of concealing the method by which it was accomplished. The smoke having cleared off, the Temple of Concord, brilliantly illuminated, and ornamented by numerous transparent allegorical paintings burst forth to the delighted gaze of the multitude. By an ingenious contrivance the Temple was rendered moveable on an axis, each face being presented at intervals and in succession to every point of the compass.
In Hyde Park booths were erected for a Great Fair (which descended, after nightfall, into a scene of drunken dissipation); the highlight of the day at this location was a mock sea-battle, to be held on the Serpentine.
The entertainments in Hyde Park although of a different description, were not the less interesting, the whole space being converted into an extensive fair; between 400 and 500 booths were erected, where every delicacy that could please the eye or suit the taste of the most fastidious gourmand might be obtained. The liberty of the press was here also proudly recognised, a number of printing presses being set up, whence issued with great rapidity engraved views of the Temple, Pagoda, &c. and random records of great variety, which were eagerly purchased by the visitors as mementos of the pleasurable sensations they experienced. Many shows and theatres were also to be seen where the heroes of the sock and buskin, afforded infinite amusement to His Majesty’s lieges.
Unusual anxiety was however evinced to witness a mimic naval engagement on the Serpentine river; this splendid sheet of water, presented the singular spectacle of two hostile fleets, viz. an English and American, riding in proud defiance on its bosom, both shores being lined with a dense mass of people assembled to witness this novel scene.
Built at Greenwich out of timber from old ships, each miniature frigate was manned by three sailors; they fired blank ammunition at each other.
About six o’clock the action commenced by a cannonading by the ships in the van of the opposing fleets, until the whole line gradually neared each other; after a severe struggle the Americans were ultimately driven on shore; at dark, however, the British line formed and bore down upon the American fleet then lying at anchor, and set fire to the whole of their ships which were burnt to the water’s edge. The effect of this conflagration was surprizingly magnificent, indeed the whole of this exhibition was calculated to afford infinite gratification to the middling and lower classes of a maritime nation like Great Britain. The entertainment terminated at this point by a display of fire-works, among which the water-rockets, a new species of combustible, attracted much notice.
This day all business appeared to have been suspended in London and the suburbs, and John Bull, Mrs. Bull, and their numerous progeny, seemed to have thrown themselves with perfect good humour into the vortex of public rejoicing and festivity, and in spite of the eccentricities of his nature, gave vent to feelings and expressions of joy and gladness, at the restoration of peace and harmony to his native land.
The fair was allowed to continue during the whole of the week; the park being cleared by order of the Secretary of State on Monday the 8th, and such was the injury done to this beautiful spot by the influx of so many visitors, that a lapse of two years passed away ere it recovered its pristine beauty.
We all know of the famous (or infamous) Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Cavendish née Spencer. But, what of the other Duchesses of Devonshire during the long eighteenth-century? Today, we are taking a whistle-stop tour to look at them one-by-one.
We start with Lady Mary Butler (1646-1710), daughter of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. In 1662 she married William Cavendish (1640-1707), then merely Lord Cavendish, the eldest son of William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire; in 1684 Mary became the Countess of Devonshire when her husband succeeded to the earldom. His support of the Glorious Revolution in 1688 brought him the support of William III (of Orange) and in 1694 the Earl and Countess of Devonshire became, additionally, the 1st Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
Next is the Honourable Rachel Russell (1674-1725), daughter of William Russell, Lord Russell and the wife of William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire (c.1672-1729) (you might be gathering by this point that the Cavendish family weren’t that imaginative when it came to naming the heir!). William and Rachel married on 21st June 1688 and had five children.
The eldest son of the 2nd Duke and Duchess was… you’ve guessed it! William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire (1698-1755). At a young age, he married Katherine Hoskins or Hoskyn (c.1698-1777) of whom little appears to be known.
An interesting snippet concerning the 3rd Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, they are the most recent common ancestors of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer; Charles is descended from the 3rd duke’s eldest son (who we will come onto next, go on, have a guess at his name!) and the second eldest daughter of the family, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish (who married John Ponsonby) was the direct ancestor of Diana.
Katherine outlived her husband by more than 20 years.
Yes, you’re correct! The next to hold the title was William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire who, when Marquess of Hartington, married Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Boyle, the only surviving daughter of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (it was a wedding which had been planned since they were both children, and was a very happy one). Charlotte inherited all her father’s estates and the title of Baroness Clifford in her own right.
Now, strictly speaking, Charlotte should not be included here as she never actually became the Duchess of Devonshire. She died of smallpox at Uppingham in Rutland at the beginning of December 1754, mere months before her husband became the duke upon the death of his father (and tragically, she died just over 8 months after the birth of her fourth child). So, Charlotte was only ever Marchioness of Hartington, but we felt she should take her place on this blog.
And so we come to William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748-1811), who married Lady Georgiana Spencer (1757-1806) in 1774, on her 17th birthday at Wimbledon parish church. It is well-known that the marriage was unhappy; the duke was emotionally cold to Georgiana although he continued to entertain mistresses.
In 1782, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire made the acquaintance of Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster née Hervey (1758-1824), the daughter of Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol who was separated from her own husband (and three sons). The two ladies became friends, and Bess and the duke more than that; Bess went to live with the couple and something of a ménage à trois developed, reluctantly tolerated by Georgiana (Bess and the duke had two illegitimate children together).
Georgiana embarked upon an affair of her own after having given birth to two daughters (Lady Georgiana Dorothy Cavendish, known as Little G and Lady Harriet Elizabeth Cavendish, or Harryo) and a son and heir, William George Spencer Cavendish, aka Hart (as his title from birth was Marquess of Hartington). Her lover was the politician Charles Grey (later Earl Grey), and the affair resulted in a daughter, known as Eliza Courtney, in 1792, resulting in the duchess being banished abroad for a period of time before she was allowed home to live with her husband, children and Bess.
After Georgiana’s early death in 1806 (she was 48), the 5th Duke of Devonshire married Bess, so she too gained the title of Duchess of Devonshire although the duke died just two years after their wedding.
Hart (otherwise William Cavendish, 1790-1858), the eldest son of the 5th Duke of Devonshire and Georgiana did in time become the 6th Duke (in 1811) but he never married.
After Hart’s death, in 1858, the title passed to the eldest son of George Cavendish, 1st Earl of Burlington who, in turn, was the eldest son of the 4th Duke of Devonshire and Lady Charlotte Boyle. With excellent forward planning, he too was named William Cavendish and, although we’re well out of the ‘long eighteenth-century’ now, we’ll share one last image with you, of another woman who took her place in the Cavendish family tree but who never became Duchess of Devonshire.
In 1829, the 7th Duke, before he had come into his estates and titles (he was, from 1834, the 2nd Earl of Burlington), married Blanche Georgiana Howard (1812-1840), the daughter of George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle and Georgiana Cavendish who we have already mentioned above as ‘Little G’, the eldest daughter of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
It was to be a short but happy marriage, engineered by Hart, the childless 6th Duke of Devonshire; five children were born to the couple before Blanche died in 1840, aged just 28. For the last two years of her life, Blanche, Countess of Burlington, was one of Queen Victoria’s Ladies of the Bedchamber.
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Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire with her infant daughter Lady Georgiana Cavendish by Joshua Reynolds; Chatsworth House.
An old custom, practised in Dunmow in Essex, entailed the award of a flitch (or side) of bacon (essentially half a pig, cut sideways) to any couple who had been married for at least a year and a day and who could prove that they had never had a cross word nor repented of their marriage.
The origins of this custom are murky. It may date to as early as 1104 and the foundation of Little Dunmow Priory by Lady Juga Baynard and as a practice to encourage church weddings as opposed to less formal marriage contracts like handfasting. Other sources say that Reginald Fitzwalter, the Lord of the Manor, and his wife appeared at the gates of the Priory a year and a day after their marriage, dressed as peasants and begging the Prior’s blessing. The Prior did not recognise the petitioners and – impressed by their devotion – he made a gift to them of a flitch of bacon. Fitzwalter, in return, bestowed land on the Priory with one very explicit condition: a similar flitch must be awarded to any couple who presented themselves at the Priory and could claim, after a year and a day’s marriage, to be as devoted as he was to his own wife.
Whatever its origins, the Dunmow flitch was well known enough by 1387 to be mentioned by Geoffrey Chaucer in Canterbury Tales. The wife of Bath said:
The bacon was not set for him, I trow,
That som men have in Essex at Dunmow.
Little Dunmow Priory fell victim to the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixeenth-century and the custom lapsed into abeyance until 1701.
That year, at Dunmow, the flitch of bacon was awarded twice, once to John Reynolds of Hatfield Regis and his wife Ann, wed for ten years, and secondly to a butcher from Much Easton named William Parsley and his wife Jane who had been married – quietly, peaceably, tenderly and lovingly – for around three years. (The Parsley’s marriage is probably the one which took place at Hatfield Broad Oak in 1698, between Will. Parsley and Jean Judd.)
Bringing witnesses with them to prove their marriage and their fidelity to each other, and to their conjugal bliss in their marriage, the couples were brought before a ‘judge and jury’ where they were questioned. The jury who sat to decide if the Parsleys qualified for the flitch of bacon were five spinsters, Elizabeth, Henrietta, Annabella and Jane Beaumont, and Mary Wheeler. Upon passing this ‘trial’ the man and wife knelt on two pointed stones placed near the door of the church and an oath was administered (the Lady Chapel of the old Priory remains in use as the parish church).
You do swear by custom of confession
That you ne’er made nuptual transgression
Nor since you were married man and wife
By household brawls or contentious strife
Or otherwise in bed or at board
Offended each other in deed or in word
Or in a twelve months time and a day
Repented not in any way
Or since the church clerk said Amen
Wish’t yourselves unmarried again
But continue true and in desire
As when you joined hands in holy quire.
After the oath came the sentence. Then, the pair were borne aloft in a wooden chair and carried around the village to the general acclaim of the gathered crowd, and merry-making commenced.
Since these conditions without any fear
Of your own accords you do freely swear
A whole Flitch of Bacon you do receive
And bear it away with love and good leave
For this is the Custom of Dunmow well known
Tho’ the pleasure be ours, the Bacon’s your own.
Next to receive a flitch of bacon in Dunmow were Thomas Shakeshaft and his wife, Anne, née Amis, who had married in the village of Wethersfield in Essex in 1744. Thomas, an eminent weaver (or woolcomber) was, in one report, said to be 80 years of age and Anne was his second wife. After they had been married for seven years, on the 20th June 1751 they journeyed to Dunmow together with witnesses to make their oath.
It had been fifty years since the last claimants, and the Shakeshafts were treated as minor celebrities. Supposedly a crowd of 5,000 people from all over the country came to see the ceremony and when Anne was examined by a jury she admitted that she had only repented once since her marriage; she wished that she had married sooner.
The canny couple cashed in on their windfall. They sold slices of their ham to several of the ladies and gentlemen who had come to Dunmow to join in the celebrations, most of whom were ‘whimsically merry on the occasion’. On returning to their cottage in Wethersfield, the Shakeshafts were £50 richer than when they had set off.
If the newspaper who reported Thomas’ age as 80 was anywhere close, then his second wife must have been quite a few decades younger: it was claimed that, on the 18th July 1753, Anne and Thomas became the proud parents of twin sons, named George and Edward. Supposedly baptised at Wethersfield (we have been unable to verify this), their godfathers were the Hon Charles Grey, Esq and Hugh Brampton, Esq and Lady Abdy was godmother (the Abdy’s estate was Felix Hall in Essex). (NB. there is a burial at Wethersfield in 1773 for a Thomas Shakeshaft; unless he reached his centenary and then some, it is likely he was, in fact, a fair bit younger than 80 when he journeyed to Dunmow with his wife.)
Although there are reports of other couples claiming the flitch of bacon at Dunmow during the Georgian era, they appear to be fictional. In 1767 it was said that an Irish nobleman and his wife had headed to the village to undertake the trial, the first instance of anyone of rank to do so.
Five years later, the lord of the manor refused admittance to John and Susan Gilder of Tarling in Essex when they made a very public entry into Dunmow at the head of a great concourse of spectators and supporters, demanding to be allowed to take the oath and receive the bacon. They found the gates of the old priory nailed shut and returned home empty handed.
The last noted report concerned Montagu Burgoyne, Esq, named as a commissioner with the Victualling Board and who was later a politician. He had actually demanded – and, it is claimed, received – the flitch, after going through all the requisite ceremonies and oaths. The Burgoynes’ marriage was described as a ‘pattern of conjugal affection’ and so perhaps that gave rise to the notion that the couple had journeyed to Dunmow.
Even King George III and Queen Charlotte were not immune to the tradition. A paragraph had appeared in a newspaper suggesting that ‘two Great Personages’ who intended to tour England during the summer of 1770 would make a stop at Dunmow to claim the flitch of bacon.
The Great Personage on reading it shewed it to his consort, who smiled and said, on its being explained to her, that his Majesty should not have it all, for she would have half of it. The person who was in waiting at the time, said, he supposed it was some nonsense of Mr Such-a-one’s. Nonsense, replied the Great Personage, you may call it what you please, but whoever the author of it is, he has paid me a greater compliment than I have ever received since I was King of England.
The eighteenth-century gossip, Horace Walpole, noted that in Wychnor, Staffordshire where the tradition was also reputedly followed, a flitch was awarded c.1730. However, after 1760 Wychnor didn’t even bother to keep a flitch ready at the manor for any claimants but instead merely displayed a carved wooden replacement over the fireplace in the main hall to pay lip service to the old custom.
In the Victorian period, the tradition was revived at Dunmow and continues to this day with the ‘trials’ now carried out every four years (in mid-July during a leap year).
History of the Dunmow Flitch of Bacon, William Andrews, 1878
Popular Antiquities, vol 2, J Brand, 1841
Derby Mercury 7th June 1751, 3rd August 1753 and 6th July 1764
Ipswich Journal 29th June 1751
Caledonian Mercury, 13th June 1767
Kentish Gazette 18th September 1770
Hereford Journal 12th October 1786
[Anon.] (2004-09-23). Burgoyne, Montagu (1750–1836), politician. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
With the commencement of Wimbledon, our thoughts – naturally – turn towards that perennial British summer favourite, fresh strawberries and cream.
Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (or rather, his cook!) is often credited with first serving this treat; legend has it that the king and court descended on Wolsey’s home, Hampton Court and the harassed cook, in an inventive moment, decided to serve wild strawberries and cream as one of the desserts at the banquet. Perhaps he was running out of time to produce anything more complicated? Dairy produce was considered ‘peasant food’ but, if the king ate it, then everyone else was going to as well. And so the combination gained popularity which continued, and during the long eighteenth-century people enjoyed their strawberries and cream just as much as we do today.
A popular cookbook, Cookery reformed; or, The Lady’s assistant, 1755, had this advice:
There are two sorts of strawberries, those that grow in gardens, and those that will not. The garden strawberries are best, and most in esteem, of which some are red, and some are white. They should be chosen large, ripe, full of juice, with a fragrant smell, and a vinous taste. They are cooling, quench thirst, promote urine and take off the heat of the stomach. They may be eaten after dinner with cream, and sugar, or with wine, without any prejudice, avoiding excess. They are very useful in hot weather, especially to those of warm constitutions.
STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM
ARCHIBALD DICK informs his friends, and the public in general, that he continues as formerly to sell STRAWBERRIES and CREAM, at his house on Leith Walk, the first above the Botanic Garden. Besides the different apartments in the house, he has pitched two Marquees in his garden, for the better accommodation of company.
Families in the New Town may be served with the above, at his Spirit Shop, west end of Register Street, where the fruit will arrive fresh from the garden three times every day, viz. at six o’clock in the morning, one o’clock in the afternoon, and seven in the evening. Other FRUITS likewise in their season.
Calendonian Mercury, 19th June 1788
The basket in hands of the seller above is a pottle, and up to around 50 or 60 of these would be carried in the large basket balanced on her head.
Strawberries – Brought fresh gathered to the markets in the height of their season, both morning and afternoon, they are sold in pottles containing something less than a quart each. The crier adds one penny to the price of the strawberries for the pottle which if returned by her customer, she abates. Great numbers of men and women are employed in crying strawberries during their season through the streets of London at sixpence per pottle.
In June 1813, Lady Smith Burges held a public breakfast on the terrace of her Piccadilly townhouse, resembling a fête champêtre. As the guests arrived, at the fashionably late hour (for a breakfast) of 3 o’clock in the afternoon, serenaded by Mr Gow’s Band, they were provided with delicacies laid out on various tables, all provided by the well-known Regency caterers, Gunters. Strawberry and cream ices were a highlight of the repast.
Frederick Nutt, formerly apprenticed to the confectioner Domenico Negri (who sold ice cream from his shop under the sign of The Pot and Pineapple in Berkeley Square from the 1760s), published a recipe book, The Complete Confectioner, in 1789. From that book, we have a recipe for strawberry ice cream which may be similar to that served by Gunters.
Strawberry Ice Cream
Take a large spoonful of strawberry jam, add a pint of cream and a little cochineal; put it into your freezing pot and cover it; put the freezing pot into a pail, and some ice all round the pot; throw a good deal of salt on the ice in the pail, turning the pot round for ten minutes, then open your pot, and scrape it from the sides, cover it up again, and keep turning it for some time, till your cream is like butter, and as thick; put it in your moulds, put them into a pail, and cover it with ice and salt for three quarters of an hour, till you find the water is come to the top of the pail; do not be sparing of salt, for if you do not use enough it will not freeze: dip your mould into water, and turn it out on your plate to send to table.
So, in what other ways did the Georgians devour strawberries. Well, never mind deep fried Mars Bars today, how about battered strawberries? From Cookery reformed; or, The Lady’s assistant, 1755, we offer a recipe for Strawberry Fritters.
Having made a batter with flour, a spoonful of sweet oil, another of white wine, a little rasped lemon-peel, and the whites of two or three eggs, make it pretty soft, so as just to drop with a spoon. Mix it with some large strawberries, and drop them with a spoon into the hot fritters. When they are of a good colour, take them out, and drain them on a sieve. When they are done, strew some sugar over them, and glaze them.
The 1808 (unofficial) edition of Elizabeth Raffald’s, The Experienced English Housekeeper (first published in 1769) contains recipes for preserving strawberries and for making strawberry jam, both perfect to make the fruit last through to the colder months.
To preserve strawberries whole
Get the finest scarlet strawberries with their stalks on before they are too ripe, then lay them separately on a china dish, beat and sift twice their weight of double refined sugar, and strew it over them, then take a few ripe scarlet strawberries, crush them, and put them into a jar, with their weight of double refined sugar beat small, cover them close, and let them stand in a kettle of boiling water till they are soft, and the syrup is come out of them, then strain them through a muslin rag into a tossing-pan, boil and skim it well, when it is cold put in your whole strawberries, and set them over the fire till they are milk warm, then take them off, and let them stand till they are quite cold, then set them on again and make them a little hotter, do so several times till they look clear, but do not let them boil, it will fetch the stalks off; when the strawberries are cold, put them into jelly glasses, with the stalks downwards, and fill up your glasses with the syrup; tie them down with brandy papers over them.
They are very pretty among jellies and creams, and proper for setting out a dessert of any kind.
To make Red Strawberry Jam
Gather the scarlet strawberries very ripe, bruise them very fine, and put to them a little juice of raspberries, beat and sift their weight in sugar, strew it among them, and put them in the preserving pan, set them over a clear slow fire, skim them and boil them twenty minutes, then put them into pots or glasses for use.
Sources not mentioned above:
Morning Post, 24th June 1813
Itinerant Traders of London in their Ordinary Costume with Notices of Remarkable Places given in the Background, William Marshall Craig, 1804
The nine pins used in the game of skittles were originally known as kayle pins, a term derived from the French word for bowling, quilles.
The kayle-pins were afterwards called kettle, or kittle-pins; and hence, by an easy corruption, skittle-pins, an appellation well known in the present day.
It is a game similar to bowling; the player stands at a predetermined distance and bowls a ball at the pins; the winner is the person who knocks them all down in the fewest throws. And, while you might have thought it quite a simple game, in 1786 a quite comprehensive list of rules and instructions were issued by a Society of Gentlemen.
During the eighteenth-century, and especially in and around London, skittles was a popular pastime, often played in the grounds of public houses and accompanied by gambling upon the outcome of the game. Although pictured here being played by gentlemen, the game was known as one which was notorious among the lower classes.
Lewdness, profaneness, Sabbath-breaking, and gaming, are by all good men, reckoned to be the cause of so much distress among the lower ranks of society. Of these vices none are more destructive to the poor families, than the Skittle and Nine-pin Alleys, Cards and other games at low Public houses.
(Kentish Gazette, 14th July 1784)
As if this wasn’t enough, with the skittle grounds a known haunt for ne’er-do-wells, they featured on the radar of the press gangs. Further distress must have been caused to families when their menfolk were taken up from skittle grounds and impressed into the armed or naval services, a practice which happened not infrequently as reports in the newspapers record.
Monday and Tuesday the Constables were very assiduous about Moorfields and the Publick Houses, especially about those that had skittle grounds, where they impressed several for the army and navy, by virtue of impress warrants delivered to them, and backed by the justices of the peace for that division. Several also, who were found gambling in the fields were laid hold of, as useful hands to serve his Majesty.
(Sussex Advertiser, 26th April 1762)
In the notorious Fleet Prison and also the King’s Bench Prison, where people were held for debt, they were afforded the opportunity to squander more of what they didn’t have by betting on the outcome of various games. Of course, skittles – and a similar game named bumble-puppy – were two of those. A writer claimed that:
Here racquets are played against the wall, – also cards, bumble-puppy and skittles.
(Bristol Mirror, 23rd November 1811)
Nine holes, otherwise bumble-puppy, was a childhood game; known to have been played in the early seventeenth-century, it met with a revival, particularly in London, in the late eighteenth-century. Around 1780, the magistrates caused the skittle grounds to be levelled in an attempt to stop the ‘lower orders’ playing the game in the gardens of London pubs, and losing whatever income they had on the outcome of the games. Into the breach stepped the game of nine-holes.
The game is simply this: nine holes are made in a square board, and disposed in three rows, three holes in each row, all of them at equal distances, about twelve or fourteen inches apart; to every hole is affixed a numeral, from one to nine, so placed as to form fifteen in every row. The board, thus prepared, is fixed horizontally upon the ground, and surrounded on three sides with a gentle acclivity. Every one of the players being furnished with a certain number of small metal balls, stands in his turn, by a mark made upon the ground, about five or six feet from the board; at which he bowls the balls; and according to the value of the figures belonging to the holes into which they roll, his game is reckoned; and he who obtains the highest number is the winner.
It is suggested that the game of nine holes was also known as ‘Bubble the Justice’ as it could not be banned by the magistrates because nine holes was not named in the prohibitory statutes. Another popular name for it was, however, bumble-puppy.
Justice: Hallo there, what game do you call that, I’ll have you all taken up for disturbing the Neighbourhood.
Player: No Sir you won’t – It’s Bumble Puppy an please your Worship
Justice: O’ Lounds, I’m smoked here I must be off.
By the early nineteenth-century, skittle alleys had once more become common-place in public houses, although no less notorious.
Nine-pins, Dutch-pins and Four Corners (which we have blogged about before) are all variations of skittles which is now mainly played indoors, the practice still kept alive in several public houses which retain a skittles alley.
Sources not mentioned above:
Curiosities of London: exhibiting the most rare and remarkable objects of interest in the metropolis, John Timbes, 1855
We’re very excited to be able to bring you some new information about Dido Elizabeth Belle.
Dido was the natural daughter of a former African slave woman and Sir John Lindsay; she was brought up alongside her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray at their great-uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield’s estate, Kenwood House in Hampstead, London. You may have seen the film about Dido’s life, Belle (2013).
Well, today you are going to be the first to know a little bit more about Dido’s family.
Her father, John Lindsay, from a well-connected Scottish family, was a career naval officer who, in the summer of 1764, was knighted and eventually became an admiral.
It is well-known that he fathered Dido; less well-known are his other illegitimate children. In his will, written in 1783, Lindsay left a sum of money for the benefit of his two ‘reputed’ children, John and Elizabeth (he didn’t mention Dido in this document as she was provided for by the Earl of Mansfield and his family).
Speculation has long been rife as to the birthplace and true identity of John and Elizabeth… well, we can shed some light on this, and share some information about two further children as well.
Dido Elizabeth Belle was the eldest of Lindsay’s brood of illegitimate offspring, and she was born in June 1761, if the notation against her baptism is correct. Lindsay had arrived in Jamaica in the summer of 1760 aboard HMS Trent (1757), a Royal Naval 28-gun Coventry-class sixth-rate frigate of which he was captain. He had been appointed to the ship since its launch and had already seen action off Cape Finisterre, Spain in 1759 and at the Siege of Quebec (Battle of the Plains of Abraham) in the same year. During the September of 1760 (Dido, if she was born in June 1761, must have been conceived around this time), the Trent was patrolling off the coast of Senegal, returning back to Jamaica at the end of the year.
On 4th January 1761, the Trent, captained by John Lindsay, captured the richly laden French merchant frigate Bien Aimè off Cape Tiburon after a forty-five-minute duel, arriving back in Port Royal, Jamaica with his prize later that month.
At Dido Elizabeth Belle’s baptism, which took place in England some five years after her birth, her mother was named as Maria Bell. Reputedly, Maria was a slave being transported in a Spanish galleon which Lindsay had captured.
Thomas Hutchinson, the former governor of Massachusetts met Dido and recounted something of her background in his diary. He claimed that Maria Bell was brought to London on board the slave ship, heavily pregnant. However, it was not a slave ship but the captured Bien Aimè carrying sugar (which had been destined for France), which was the Trent’s prize and which sailed into the Downs under convoy in May 1761.
And, far from travelling home to England himself, Lindsay appears to be fully occupied elsewhere. In the early summer of 1761, the Trent captured a French slave ship off the coast of Guinea-Bissau and brought her into Bunce Island, off Sierra Leone.
On 31st October, he brought two prizes into port at Kingston, Jamaica, a Dutch schooner and a sloop richly laden with indigo, which he took near Haiti. And, there is one further pressing reason why John Lindsay must have been present on the island of Jamaica around May 1761.
Between March and July 1762, John Lindsay participated in the Siege of Havana under Vice-Admiral Sir George Pocock. Just before he had sailed from Jamaica, however, he had welcomed the arrival of a second child, a son named John Edward Lindsay who had been born on 19th February 1762. This child was not baptized until 6th November that year, in the church at Port Royal; the record in the baptism register described him as John Edward, son of John Lindsay and Mary Vellet, a mulatto.
Unfortunately, little John Edward was destined to die just over a month later. He was buried on 16th December 1762 at the Palisadoes Cemetery at Port Royal, aged almost ten months.
Captain Lindsay returned to England where, on 10th February 1764, he was knighted. Subsequently, he served during 1764 and 1765 at Pensacola in Florida as the senior officer.
It is not known whether he took Dido and her mother with him, but a Scotsman named George Gauld did make the journey. Working as a surveyor, Gauld made a sketch of the harbour at Pensacola, so we are able to see the scene which would have greeted Sir John Lindsay as he arrived there.
The last two months of 1766 saw three events which had an impact on Lindsay’s life, although he may not have immediately been aware of all of them; while we cannot be sure of Lindsay’s whereabouts, Dido was certainly in London at the time.
Dido Elizabeth Belle was finally baptised on 20th November 1766 at 5-years of age; the ceremony took place at St George’s Church in Bloomsbury. Her father, now Sir John Lindsay, was not present nor did he bestow his surname upon Dido.
However, five days earlier, on 15th November 1766, another daughter had been born to Lindsay. The girl was named Ann and her mother was ‘Sarah Gandwell, a free negro’. It appears that Lindsay must have been in Jamaica in the first months of that year and that, nine months later, Ann was born on the island.
On 8th December 1766, yet another daughter was born, Elizabeth whose mother was simply named as Martha G. Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Lindsay was baptised a month later, on 10th January 1767, at Port Royal.
Where was Sir John Lindsay at this time? Had he travelled back to Jamaica after Dido’s baptism, in time to be present to bestow his name on his third daughter at her own baptism ceremony?
If so, then he soon crisscrossed back across the ocean for, during 1767 and 1768, Sir John served as MP for Aberdeen and Montrose. A very big clue that he had indeed been present in Jamaica during the January and February of 1767 can be found in the birth of yet another child.
John Lindsay, son of Sir John Lindsay and Francis [sic] Edwards, a ‘free mulatto woman’ was born on 28th November 1767. Both he and Elizabeth are the two youngsters Lindsay referred to as his ‘reputed children’ in his 1783 will. It had previously been thought – erroneously – that Elizabeth and John had been born in Scotland.
Frances Edwards was around 18-years of age and had been baptised herself in the church at Kingston just two years earlier.
At Kingston, on 2nd March 1768, we find John’s baptism recorded in the church registers; Ann was not baptised until 10th July 1768 at Port Royal, when she was 20 months of age. As she was not acknowledged in Lindsay’s will at all, possibly she died young although we have not found a burial for her on Jamaica.
After years of ‘sowing his wild oats’, Sir John Lindsay married Mary Milner on 17th September 1768. The couple had no children of their own and we have to assume that Lindsay was a faithful husband as we have found no further records of illegitimate children belonging to him. But, with Dido settled at Kenwood with her great-uncle, the Earl of Mansfield and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, Lindsay did not neglect his former lover, Maria Bell, Dido’s mother.
In 1773 Lindsay began a process to transfer a piece of property he owned in Pensacola, Florida to Maria Bell, with the requirement that she build a house there. At the time, Maria Bell was living in London but a year later, when the deal was finalised, she had travelled to America. In the document, she was referred to as ‘a Negro woman of Pensacola, formerly of Pensacola, and then residing in London’.
The house that Maria built and lived in was on the corner of Lindsay and Mansfield streets (now Reus and Zaragoza streets), in what was then a high-class area owned by the British. But, during the War of Independence, the Spanish gained control after the 1781 Battle of Pensacola; they compiled a list of property owners which included a Mrs Bell, widow. This is probably Dido’s mother and, if so, is the last known sighting of her.
Elizabeth (born 1766) ended up in Edinburgh in the 1780s where, for reasons as yet unknown, she used the surname Palmer. On the 3rd May 1783, she married.
Peter Hill, merchant, New Kirk Parish & Elizabeth Palmer (same parish) alias Lindsay, daughter of Sir John Lindsay.
Peter Hill (1754-1837) was an Edinburgh bookseller and a great friend of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Elizabeth died at Dalmarnock, Glasgow on 26th January 1842, at the age of 76, of ‘decline’, and was buried by the side of her husband in the Canongate, Edinburgh.
John Lindsay (born 1767), retained the Lindsay name and joined the East India Company’s army on the Madras Establishment in 1788. In 1803, he wrote his will, naming his sister Eliza Hill, her husband Peter and his ‘girl and child’, as he referred to his young daughter and her Indian parent.
Lindsay’s own mother, Frances Edwards was still alive and named in his will; she was residing on Rum Lane in Kingston, Jamaica, a thoroughfare leading to the harbour, so he clearly never forgot his Jamaican roots.
It would be a further 18 years before Lindsay died; by that time he had risen from a captain to a brevet colonel. He met his end either at Chitradurga (or Chittledroog as Lindsay knew it) in Karnataka or at Kannur (Cannanore), India (sources disagree on the exact place) on 30th January 1821; he was buried the next day at Kannur. Lindsay’s statement of accounts shows that he died a wealthy man owning two properties, ensuring that his daughter would have been well-provided for.
At Cannanore, while commanding the Provinces of Malabar and Canara, Col. John Lindsay, of the 7th regt. N.I.
To a mild, amiable and benevolent disposition, he added gallantry, firmness and manly conduct, which rendered him as valuable to society and his friends as he was to his profession.
To recap, we are now able to give the following children for Sir John Lindsay, all, with the possible exception of Dido, we believe to have been born on the island of Jamaica.
Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761 – 1804) (married John Daviniere, 1793), mother: Maria Bell
John Edward Lindsay (1762 – 1762), mother: Mary Vellet
Ann Lindsay (1766 – unknown), mother: Sarah Gandwell
Elizabeth Lindsay or Palmer (1766 – 1842) (married Peter Hill, 1783), mother: Martha G
John Lindsay (1767 – 1821), mother: Francis [Frances] Edwards
N.B. In the List of Inscriptions on Tombs and Monuments in Madras, vol. 2, by Julian James Cotton (Madras, 1946), under the entry for John Lindsay’s burial in 1821, it is asserted that he married a Miss Diana Bunbury in Madras on 15th January 1816; this is incorrect. The John Lindsay who married Diana Bunbury was John Francis Vesey Lindsay (1783-1830).
More Than Nelson (www.morethannelson.com)
Real Story of ‘Belle’ Has Pensacola Connections by Sandra Averhart, 23rd May 2014
National Archives: PROB 11/1665/109, Will of John Lindsay, Colonel by Brevet in the service of the Honorable East India Company on their Madras Establishment of Madras, East Indies, 9th January 1823
British India Office deaths, burials and ecclesiastical returns
The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and its Dependencies, volume XII, July to December 1821
In an earlier blog, we looked at the first three in a series of six prints by Robert Dighton, held in the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, which illustrate a selection of the sports played during the latter half of the eighteenth-century, some now better known than others. Today, we turn our attention to the remaining prints, depicting fives, quoits and cricket.
Fives, a racquet sport, was played at the Tennis Court, Leicester Fields and elsewhere (there are many different variations of the game). It is believed that the name signifies that it was played with five competitors on either side.
The custom of playing fives in churchyards continued in many a country district until quite recent years, notably in Somersetshire and Staffordshire. Ball-playing in such a place no doubt prevailed because the church tower often afforded so suitable a wall for fives. It was usually practised on the north side, because there were generally no graves on that side, and the sport created less scandal. A painted line for the game still remains on some of our church towers, but a string-course of suitable elevation more usually sufficed. Fives used to be played at Eton between the buttresses on the north wall of the college chapel, and the “pepper box” peculiar to Eton fives courts had its origin in a natural angle in one of these buttresses.
The players are represented as using tennis rackets and playing against only one wall of the tennis court, on which is chalked out a certain area within which the balls had to be driven. Mr Marshall has thus clearly defined the sequence of the game:–“First came fives, played with the hand against any available wall. Then came bat-fives, in which a wooden instrument, roughly imitated from the tennis racket, was employed. That was a good game; and it is still played in many places, and notably at some of our great schools, Rugby, Westminster, Cheltenham, and others. Not content with the wooden bat, players acquainted with the tennis racket seem to have adopted that instrument about 1749, or a little earlier . . . so it continued to be played until 1788, the date of the print mentioned above, which the players still called the game fives.”
With the introduction of the racket, the change in the name gradually followed. It used to be popular in the prisons of the Fleet and King’s Bench, and afterwards in the gardens of some of the great London taverns. A special form of the real game became localised at Harrow about 1822. With its later history we are not here concerned, nor with the various developments of the present game of fives, which is essentially a pastime for boys.
The next print depicts a group of men contesting a game of quoits at The Horn on Kennington Common. The game was possibly first played with horseshoes, but by the eighteenth-century a metal ring was used, which was thrown to land over on near a spike set into the ground.
The game of quoits, or coits, as an amusement, is superior to any of the foregoing pastimes; the exertion required is more moderate, because this exercise does not depend so much upon superior strength as upon superior skill. The quoit seems evidently to have derived its origin from the ancient discus, and with us in the present day it is a circular plate of iron perforated in the middle, not always of one size, but larger or smaller to suit the strength or conveniency of the several candidates. It is further to be observed, that quoits are not only made of different magnitudes to suit the poise of the players, but sometimes the marks are placed at extravagant distances, so as to require great strength to throw the quoit home; this, however, is contrary to the general rule, and depends upon the caprice of the parties engaged in the contest.
Because the quoits were made of iron, there are not infrequent reports in the newspapers of injuries incurred to the incautious who, for whatever reason, wandered into the field of play.
And while, like all sports, various wagers were placed on the outcome of the game, on one occasion in Chester things went a little too far.
A game of quoits was played last week by two persons, for no less a stake than the leg of the one against the arm of the other – but there was nothing very sanguinary in the case, as they were wooden ones. The contest ended in the loss of the leg.
(Chester Chronicle, 26th May 1797)
And so we come to the sixth and last print which shows a cricket match. In the eighteenth-century, cricket was the country’s most popular sport, not least because of the wagers placed upon the games. Even royalty were fans, with Frederick, Prince of Wales (the eldest son of George II) a keen player and patron. The following is the first reference to a trophy (other than cash) being contested in a game of cricket.
On Tuesday last a silver cup, given by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, was play’d for at cricket on Moulsey Hurst near Hampton Court, by eleven men on a side; eleven were pitch’d on one side by Mr Stede of Kent, and the other eleven were pick’d out of the twenty-two that play;d at the same place about three weeks ago (and were call’d the Prince’s Men) which latter won, tho’ not with so much east as was expected, the odds being against Mr Stede’s men at the beginning.
(Derby Mercury, 23rd August 1733)
In 1745, the young women of two Surrey villages picked up their bats and faced each other in a game of cricket.
The greatest Cricket Match that ever was played in the south part of England, was on Friday the 26th of last month, on Golden Common near Guildford in Surrey, between eleven maids of Bramley, and eleven maids of Hambleton, all dressed in white, the Bramley Maids had blue ribbons, and the Hambleton Maids red ribbons on their heads, the Bramley Girls got 119 notches, and the Hambleton Girls 127; there was of both sexes the greatest number that ever was seen on such an occasion, the girls bowled, batted, ran, and catched, as well as any man could do in that game.
(Derby Mercury, 9th August 1745)
While the Gentleman’s Club at White Conduit House might have witnessed scenes similar to the one above, earlier matches played there were not quite so sporting or peaceful.
Thursday last, a cricket match was played behind White-Conduit House, between 11 Master Butchers of Newgate Market, and 11 of Clare Market, for 50l. When the Clare Market Butchers found that the Newgate ones had so few to get the last innings, they began to wrangle, when both parties came to blows, and the Newgate Men came off victorious.
(Derby Mercury 21st August 1772)
Sources not mentioned above:
Sports and Pastimes of the People of England by Joseph Strutt [2nd ed., 1903]
The Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and other European sovereigns landed at Dover on the 6th of June 1814 for a visit lasting just over two weeks to celebrate the Peace of Paris and the abdication of Napoléon Bonaparte, who had been exiled to Elba.
The pursuits of the illustrious strangers while in London, consisted of visiting our public institutions; and their total indifference to pomp and parade, with the consequent facility afforded to exhibit the national good feeling and respect, elicited the admiration of the entire population, manifested by the loud shouts of welcome with which they were universally greeted.
In the painting above, you can see the young Prince Augustus of Prussia (on the left-hand side of the portrait) turning his head to speak to Lord Charles Bentinck who is standing directly behind him. Lord Charles was the Prince Regent’s friend, equerry and putative former son-in-law and was a constant presence throughout the festivities, often found at the prince’s side. He is also the direct ancestor of the royal family and one of the subjects of our second book, A Right Royal Scandal. No doubt, Lord Charles Bentinck was present at the review which took place in Hyde Park, attended by the Allied Sovereigns, on 20th June 1814. But, before that, the dignitaries had been seen out riding.
The Emperor Alexander, in the dress of a private gentleman, and accompanied by the Duchess of Oldenburgh, his sister, frequently promenaded in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, at an early hour in the morning; and their Majesties, accompanied by the officers of the household, took an airing on horse-back in Hyde Park on the 12th of June, remaining nearly three hours, much to the gratification of the company there assembled.
All was pomp and ceremony on the day of the review, however.
But the review of the household cavalry, and volunteer and regular infantry of the metropolis ordered for the 20th of June, was probably the most interesting exhibition that occurred during their stay in London; the novelty of the assemblage of two foreign crowned heads, accompanied by veteran leaders of their armies, to witness a military spectacle in the suburbs of our metropolis, and in the presence of the Prince Regent: with the singular coincidence of the proclamation of peace on the same day, at the usual places, and at which ceremony also, a portion of those troops were afterwards called upon to assist, combined to produce a general feeling of pride and satisfaction, as shewn in the faces of the countless multitudes who were seen hurrying at an early hour towards the scene of action.
The various regiments took up their position by 9 o’clock in the morning, and the arrangements being completed soon after ten, a scene then presented itself which was never surpassed on a similar occasion, being greatly enhanced by the serenity of the weather, the sun beaming in all his glory, shedding his bright refulgence on the scene. At half-past eleven a royal salute of twenty-one guns announced the arrival of the royal party at the park gate, at the same moment the deafening cheers of the populace were heard at all parts of the park.
The Prince Regent entered the park with his hat off, bowing to the vast assembly, the Emperor Alexander riding on his right hand, and the king of Prussia on his left, the magnificent Staff which followed, comprised nearly three hundred persons, of all nations, among whom the veteran Field-Marshal Blucher, and the Hetman Platoff shone conspicuous.
After their Majesties had inspected the line, a general feu de joie was discharged, and the regiments afterwards passed in review order. The illustrious visitors having expressed the greatest satisfaction at the discipline and general appearance of the troops to the officer in command, the corps marched off the ground, highly gratified by the flattering encomiums passed upon them by some of the greatest warriors of the age.
The public anxiety was so great on this occasion, to witness the proceedings, that every tree was filled with people, and in consequence several melancholy accidents happened, by limbs of the trees breaking and falling on the heads of those standing beneath, the pressure of the crowd rendering it impossible to escape.
We have also written about the visit of the Allied Sovereigns for our great friend and fellow author, Laurie Benson. You can find our guest blog in her Cozy Drawing Room.
Source: Historical Recollections of Hyde Park by Thomas Smith (of Mary-le-bone), 1836
A series of six prints by Robert Dighton, held in the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, illustrate a selection of the sports played during the latter half of the eighteenth-century, some now better known than others.
First, we have four corners, a form of skittles.
FOUR-CORNERS – Is so called from four large pins which are placed singly at each angle of a square frame. The players stand at a distance, which may be varied by joint consent, and throw at the pins a large heavy bowl, which sometimes weighs six or eight pounds. The excellency of the game consists in beating them down by the fewest casts of the bowl.
We have found conflicting sources which say that it could be played with a smaller ball that could rebound off either the surrounding wall or the pins and knock down as many as possible, or a larger, heavier one similar to a bowling ball.
The game was played in Kent, and certainly with a ball heavy enough to inflict an injury; a correspondent wrote from Chatham on July 29th to say that:
On Saturday evening as some persons were playing at four corners, near this town, unfortunately a child about three years old ran across the alley, just as a man was bowling, the bowl hit the child upon the head, and it was thought it had been killed on the spot – but being placed under the care of an eminent surgeon, we since hear, there are great hopes of its recovery.
(Kentish Gazette, 3rd August 1787)
Next, there is football, which needs little introduction. The game has been around for centuries (in England, the first documented use of the term ‘football’ dates to 1408). Despite being frequently outlawed during the seventeenth-century, the game continued in popularity; it was in this period that the first references to scoring a goal are to be found.
And it was not just the men who played the sport.
Bath, Oct 4. Yesterday a new and extraordinary entertainment was set on foot for the diversion of our polite gentry; and what should it be but a Match at Foot-Ball, play’d by six young women of a side at the Bowling Green: cards, dice, concerts, plays, balls, &c are the common entertainments of the week; but for want of these, in publick, on Sundays, the meeting sometimes serves for an amusement.
(Ipswich Journal, 8th October 1726)
Trap ball is similar to cricket, rounders or baseball but with a mechanised bowling system and without the need for running after hitting the ball. It is described as a game played with a levered wooden trap by means of which a small ball is launched straight up into the air so as to be struck by a player with a bat. The aim is to hit the ball furthest, either in one or several turns. From Dighton’s print, it would seem that an additional object is for others to catch the ball.
TRAP-BALL, AND KNUR AND SPELL.–The game of trap-ball, or trap-bat-and-ball, which can be traced back to at least the beginning of the fourteenth century, afterwards developed into the northern game of knur and spell. The knur, or ball, used in the game, was made of various hard materials. It was sometimes carved by hand out of a hard wood, such as holly, or engine-turned out of lignum-vitæ; in the pottery districts it was commonly made of white Wedgewood material, and usually called a “pottie”; whilst in its most scientific form the knur was made out of stag-horn and weighted with lead. The spell, or trap, was of varying design, sometimes assuming the shoe form, which could commonly be obtained in toy shops in the middle of the last century and later; but ingenuity devised a spring spell, which, being set and detached by means of a toothed click, could be regulated so as to always raise the knur to the same height, thus greatly increasing the certainty of the player hitting it. The third implement required for this game is the trip-stick used for striking the ball. It differs much from the old form of short bat, and consists of two parts, the stick and the pomel. The former is made of ash or lance wood, so as to combine stiffness and elasticity, and for a two-handed player is about four feet in length. The widened end, or pomel, is made of any hard heavy wood that will not easily split. The main point of the game is the distance to which the player can strike the knur; a first-rate hand is said to have been able to send a loaded ball as far as sixteen score yards.
An early – and somewhat gruesome – account of trap-ball relates an accident during play.
One day last week, some boys in Cold Bath Fields, being at play at Trap-Ball, the boy who was striking at the ball accidentally hit another with the stick at the corner of his eye, which instantly fell out of his head on the ground.
(Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 1st June 1752)
The game was still going strong at the end of the Georgian era, as this advert in a Sheffield newspaper attests.
SELECT TRAP BALL CLUB
A number of Gentlemen having expressed their wish to form a respectable Private Club, for the practice of some healthful game which requires less exertion than Cricket, it is respectfully announced that a select Trap Ball Club, to be called the ‘Hallamshire’ will commence playing on Thursday, June 14th.
The Game will be played according to the improved London method; and Gentleman will be supplied on the Ground with Traps, Bats, Balls, Rules, &c. free of expense.
Subscription for the Season, to be paid at its close, 10s. 6d.
After the commencement of the Club, no additional Members to be admitted but by ballot.
At half-past six, on each evening of the playing days, tea and coffee, ham, &c will be set out in the Great Room, solely for the Gentlemen of the Club, at 1s. each.
On the day of playing, the Ground will be free only to the Members of the Club; all others to pay 6d. each admission, to be allowed at the Bar of the House for Refreshment.
Names of the Gentlemen desirous of joining any of the Clubs, will be received by Mr WOODHEAD, King’s Head, Change Alley; and at the House on the Playing Ground, any afternoon after 3 o’clock.
(Sheffield Independent, 9th June 1827)
We’ll look at the other three prints in a later blog.
Sources not quoted above:
Illustrated London News, 22nd August 1931
Sports and Pastimes of the People of England by Joseph Strutt [2nd ed., 1903]
The Boy’s Book of Sports, Games, Exercises, and Pursuits, 1869
There were a number of establishments known as Almack’s over the years; today we are focusing on the famous Assembly Rooms on King Street, St James.
Opened in 1765 by a Yorkshireman named William Almack (often mistakenly claimed to be a Scot named William MacCall) the assembly rooms consisted of a ballroom (balls were held on a Wednesday evening during the season), supper room (where a rather meager repast was to be found) and game room. From the outset, Almack allowed his rooms to be goverened by a clique of titled and influential Lady Patronesses; entry to the hallowed inner rooms was strictly policed and good breeding rather than wealth was the key to a ticket. Inside was to be found dancing, gossiping and match-making; according to Captain Gronow, an officer in the guards and a friend to many of the elite including the famed Beau Brummell, Almack’s was ‘the seventh heaven of the fashionable world’.
Today, from one of Captain Gronow’s reminscences, we are going to take a closer look at an account of a Regency ball held at Almack’s during 1815. By this date, the assembly rooms were owned by Almack’s daughter, Elizabeth Pitcairn (her husband, David Pitcairn, physician extraordinary to the Prince of Wales, was first cousin to our ‘infamous mistress’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott).
The image above accompanied Gronow’s reminiscence, although the outfits worn are clearly later than 1815. Nevertheless, it depicts the dandy, Beau Brummell deep in conversation with the Duchess of Rutland. In the centre, the Comte de Saint Antonio, later the Duke of Cannizarro, is leading the Princess Esterhazy, who was the youngest Lady Patroness of Almack’s during the Regency, into a waltz. The princess, whose husband was the Austrian Ambassador to England, was described as being, ‘black, animated, and somewhat spiteful’ by Dorothea, Princess Lieven, wife of the Russian ambassador and an influential figure amongst the corps diplomatique, who nevertheless cheerfully admitted that she got on well with her. Sir George Warrender and the Comte de Sainte-Alegonde stand together on the right. The former was once a great friend of both Beau Brummell and the Prince Regent; a generous host, he gained the nickname, Sir George Provender.
Almack’s in 1815. — The personages delineated on the cover are well worthy of notice, both from the position they held in the fashionable world, and from their being represented with great truth and accuracy. The great George Brummell, the admirable Crichton of the age, stands in a dégagé attitude, with his fingers in his waistcoat pocket. His neckcloth is inimitable, and must have cost him much time and trouble to arrive at such perfection; as the following anecdote shows. A friend calling on the beau saw the valet with an armful of flowing white cravats, and asked him if his master wanted so many at once. “These, sir, are our failures,” was the reply. “Clean linen, and plenty of it,” was Brummell’s maxim. He is talking earnestly to the charming Duchess of Rutland, who was a Howard, and mother to the present Duke.
The tall man, in a black coat, who is preparing to waltz with Princess Esterhazy, so long ambassadress of Austria in London, is the Comte de St Antonio, afterwards Duke of Canizzaro. He resided many years in England, was a very handsome man, and a great lady-killer; he married an English heiress, Miss Johnson.
The original sketch from which these figures are taken, included also portraits of Charles, Marquis of Queensberry, Baron Neumann, at that time secretary of the Austrian Embassy; the late Sir George Warrender (who was styled by his friends Sir George Provender, being famed for his good dinners); and the handsome Comte St Aldegonde, afterwards a general, and at this period aide-de-camp to Louis Philippe, then Duke of Orleans.
The sketch was made in water-colours, from a group of these celebrities at a ball at Almack’s, and was given to Brummell by the artist who executed it; it was highly prized by the king of the dandies, and was purchased at the sale of his effects in Chapel Street by the person who gave it to me.
NB: Gronow talks about an ‘original sketch’ which included other Regency personalities and which had been owned by Brummell and later given to Gronow. For some reason, it would appear that Gronow had the sketch redrawn and possibly from memory? If so, it would be wonderful to rediscover the one which presumably shows those at the ball attired in full Regency fashion.
Museum of Painting and Sculpture, Or, Collection of the Principal Pictures, Statues and Bas-reliefs in the Public and Private Galleries of Europe, Volume 6 by Etienne Achille Réveil, 1829.
Letters of Dorothea, Princess Lieven, during her residence in London, 1812-1834. Edited by Lionel G. Robinson, 1902.
Anecdotes of celebrities of London and Paris: to which are added the last recollections of Captain Gronow, formerly of the First Foot Guards, volume 2, 1870.
Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, formerly of the Grenadier Guards: and M.P. for Stafford: being Anecdotes of the Camp, the Court and the Clubs at the close of the last war with France, Pickle Partners Publishing, 2011
In the late 1750s, Mr Richard Heppenstall caused a sensation when he toured England with a ‘wonderful’ dromedary from Persia and a ‘surprizing’ camel from Grand Cairo, Egypt. If you know anything at all about camels, you’re probably already shouting, ‘stop right there!‘. Yes, we know, we’ll get to that shortly.
A writer from The London Magazine, or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer caught up with Heppenstall at the Talbot Inn in the Strand, where the beasts were on show (the article was published in the May 1758 edition).
Heppenstall was, the writer notes, very communicative. Contrary to popular opinion, he did not believe that a camel had a ‘reservoir for water in the gullet’. His dromedary and camel devoured about five trusses of hay a week and shed their hair every year. A sketch of both the animals was taken, and at the time they were being exhibited in the Strand they were shedding ‘otherwise they would have been described as covered with an abundance of scrubbed, curling hair, of a sand hue, which renders colouring the print unnecessary’.
Because just about every print and article we’ve looked at for this blog mislabels the dromedary and camel in question, let’s just get the facts straight. The dromedary or Arabian camel, native to the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, has one hump and the Bactrian camel, native to Central Asia, has two. Heppenstall’s Surprizing Camel appears to be a dromedary from ‘Grand Cairo’, Egypt. Maybe that’s what was most surprising about it? His Wonderful Dromedary is, therefore, a two-humped Bactrian not an Arabian camel and from Iran (then Persia). Confused? You will be!
The print below is a later copy (by C. Randle and c.1813) of the drawings which accompanied the May 1758 edition of The London Magazine.
By the autumn of 1759, Heppenstall, with his dromedary and camel in tow, had reached Scotland. For a few weeks, he exhibited the animals in Edinburgh to much acclaim. On one day, a young lady in mourning asked some questions about these curious beasts of the gentleman standing next to her. Maybe she wanted to know whether it was the dromedary or the camel which had two humps? Hopefully, the gentleman in question knew his camel facts and managed to suitably impress the lady, for she certainly left an impression on him. Did he ever find his lady love again, one wonders?
If the lady who was on Thursday last, at the head of Craig’s close, to see the Dromedary and Camel, dressed in a black silk sack, be unmarried, and her affections disengaged, a gentleman then present, will think that meeting the happiest moment of his life. She may please to remember a young gentleman, in second mourning, whom she asked several questions with regard to the nature of those amazing creatures, their manner of travelling over desarts [sic], &c. If the said lady will please to leave a line, directed for F. W. at the Exchange Coffeehouse, opposite to the Cross, where he may be waited on, it will be esteemed the highest obligation, and such proposals will be immediately made, as he flatters himself will not be disagreeable. The strictest honour and secrecy will be observed.
(Caledonian Mercury, 27th October 1759)
By the following summer, the travelling show was back in northern England. Did Heppenstall really know his dromedaries from his Bactrian camels? We’re beginning to wonder…
Just arriv’d in this Town, and to be seen at the Sign of the Red-Bear, in Briggate, A Wonderful DROMEDARY and a Surprizing CAMEL. The DROMEDARY was brought from Persia, and is the only one that has appeared in this Kingdom for upwards of fifty years. He has two large protuberances on his back of sold gristle, with large tufts of hair around them, a small head, a fine eye, chews his cud like a cow, and is nineteen hands high. His leg is as fine as a deer’s, and his hind part resembles a mule; and, what is very remarkable, he will walk ten days successively, at the rate of six miles an hour, without drinking. The CAMEL was brought from Grand Cairo, in Egypt. He has only one protuberance, his head and neck resemble the DROMEDARY, and is 21 hands high. They live to a great age. Their common load in 12 or 14 hundred weight. They will continue here ‘till Saturday se’nnight, and then proceed for Bradford, in their way to Halifax.
(Leeds Intelligencer, 3rd June 1760)
This print by Robert Dighton depicts a travelling showman exhibiting his ‘surprizing camel’, maybe the same one albeit some years later (Dighton wasn’t born until 1752). And, as the sign in the etching clearly shows a dromedary and not a camel, perhaps Dighton was working from the same mislabelled copies of the 1758 prints as Mr Randle did in 1813? Or, maybe, Richard Heppenstall was still dragging his dromedary around the provinces of the country. With no further information, we’re not sure whether, if he was, he still thought it was an central Asian rather than a middle eastern variety of camel. We’re thoroughly confused now, as you probably are too!
Both camels and dromedaries can live up to 40 or 50 years; in 1780 a camel was depicted outside Dr Fountain’s Boarding School in Marylebone and perhaps this too was the Surprizing Camel which had toured England more than twenty years earlier?
And yes, despite any notations to the contrary on the original, which just names it as a camel, it is a dromedary, albeit one of the ‘Surprizing Camel’ variety.
On Tuesday 8th September 1761, in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, the new King George III (he had ascended the throne a little less than a year earlier) married Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The wedding took place only a few hours after their initial meeting.
The marriage ceremony began at 9 o’clock in the evening; beforehand the princess, attended by ten bridesmaids, sat under a white and silver canopy until the Duke of Cumberland conducted her to the side of the king and gave the bride’s hand to the bridegroom. Charlotte was nervous, and uncomfortably dressed on a hot evening in a heavy, sumptuous gown with a purple mantle laced with gold and lined with ermine, a diamond studded cap and small crown on her head. She spoke no English but was only required to say two words during the wedding; at the appropriate time and at the king’s prompting, she declared, ‘Ich will‘.
The new queen was just seventeen years old. Horace Walpole said of her that:
She is not tall nor a beauty. Pale and very thin; but looks sensible and genteel. Her hair is darkish and fine. Her forehead low, her nose very well except the nostrils spreading too wide. The mouth has the same fault, but her teeth are good. She talks a great deal, and French tolerably.
A kinder report, by the daughter of Charlotte’s German page, described Charlotte as having an ‘expressive and intelligent countenance… not tall, but of slight, pretty figure; her eyes bright and sparkling with good humour and vivacity’. Still, this same girl also claimed that George III was initially disappointed in his choice and by the bride’s appearance. In the end, however, none of this nor Walpole’s catty comments mattered: despite it being an arranged marriage, the royal couple quickly fell deeply in love with one another.
George III and Queen Charlotte’s long marriage produced a large family. In 1795, their eldest son, George, Prince of Wales (later the Prince Regent and George IV) married Caroline of Brunswick. There has always been intense interest in a royal bride’s wedding dress and in 1795 it was no different. This is how the media of the day reported on it.
The Princess of Wales was very superb indeed, and the dress was the most costly that could be made. The body and train were of silver tissue festooned on each side, and tied up with rich cord and tassels. The sleeves, and round the bottom of the robe, were covered with rows of the finest point lace. The petticoat was likewise of silver tissue, covered all over with silver Venetian net, and tassels hanging down the sides. The waist was not more than six inches in length. In the procession to the chapel, and during the ceremony, her Royal Highness wore a crimson velvet mantling, trimmed with ermine, and over the shoulders hung a rich silver cord and tassels. The hoop was very small, such as is used for morning dresses; and so were the hoops of the Bride-maids, that they might be as unencumbered as possible in the procession. Her Royal Highness wore a superb coronet of diamonds. She had on a very rich ornament of brilliants, resembling a knight’s collar, fastened upon the right shoulder by a brilliant bow, and long brilliant tassels; and on the left shoulder by a rich epaulette of brilliants; and in the centre, in the place of a stomacher, was the Prince’s picture richly set in brilliants.
The marriage took place on the evening of Wednesday, 8th April 1795, again in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace. Crowds lined the streets on the approach to the palace, and it was standing room only in the two ante-chambers leading to the drawing room where those lucky enough to have been issued with tickets to the event were congregating.
The king and queen, the Prince of Wales, Caroline and the rest of the royal family had dined at the Queen’s House (now Buckingham Palace), and around 6pm they left there in a procession of coaches for St James’s (or Carlton House in the case of the prince) where they dressed for the wedding.
The Prince, on leaving the Queen’s House, had a hearty shake of the hand from the King, which brought tears into his eyes. His Majesty saluted the Princess in the Hall, and then got into his carriage, The Prince, after seeing the Princess home, went to Carlton House.
The Prince of Wales wore a blue Genoa velvet coat and breeches, with a silver tissue waistcoat, and coat cuffs richly embroidered with silver and spangles. His Royal Highness wore a diamond star, with an embroidered garter at the knee; diamond shoe and knee-buckles and rich diamond hilted sword, and button and loop. His Royal Highness looked uncommonly well.
It was gone 9 o’clock before everyone was ready and the procession left the drawing room for the Chapel, the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) leading the bride. There was only one mishap. During the marriage ceremony, while kneeling in front of the Archbishop, the prince tried to stand up too soon and the service was stopped; the king noticed the dilemma, rose from his seat and whispered in his son’s ear. George kneeled once more and the service was concluded… was the Prince of Wales in a hurry to get the ceremony over and done with?
The wedding had been highly anticipated by everyone but the Prince of Wales! The following passage is from our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, which gives a different view of the wedding from that reported by the newspapers.
George IV, when the Prince of Wales, had married his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, under duress and because his father promised to sort out his debts and increase his allowance once he was wed. The marriage, as may have been predicted, was a total disaster. The exuberant Caroline was tactless and had a poor grasp of personal hygiene (she boasted that her personal toilette was but a ‘short’ one). The prince was rolling drunk during the wedding ceremony, recovering enough to consummate his marriage on the wedding night before falling drunk into the grate of the fireplace where Caroline left him. Later he was to claim that he had been intimate with his wife on only three occasions, twice on their wedding night and once on the following night but it proved enough and nine months later Caroline gave birth to a daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales.
To end this blog, we’ll also share with you an extract from the pages of our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, an anecdote relating to the marriage of George IV’s only legitimate child, his heir, Princess Charlotte of Wales. (George had several reputed illegitimate children; one that he acknowledged privately, if not publicly, was his daughter Georgiana Seymour whose mother was ‘the celebrated’ Grace Dalrymple Elliott.)
Back in London preparations were under way for the wedding of the Prince Regent’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, to the impoverished but handsome Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (later known as Saxe-Coburg and Gotha); they married at the beginning of May 1816 in the Crimson Drawing Room at the regent’s London residence, Carlton House. The young bride was heard to giggle during the marriage ceremony, which took place on 2 May 1816, when Prince Leopold promised to endow her with all his worldly goods.
An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Joanne Major & Sarah Murden, Pen & Sword, 2016
A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, Joanne Major & Sarah Murden, Pen & Sword, 2016
A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, Joanne Major & Sarah Murden, Pen & Sword, 2017
Scot’s Magazine, September 1761 and April 1795
George III: A Personal History, Christopher Hibbert, Viking, 1998
I’ve driven past the old – and now fairly derelict – Ram Jam Inn on the A1 many times, and have always been intrigued by the name (largely because I can’t ever see the inn without hearing Black Betty by Ram Jam in my head!). But, I’ve never looked into the history of the Ram Jam Inn until now when it popped up during research into the old Great North Road.
Next time I travel past, instead of singing Black Betty, I’ll picture the notorious eighteenth-century highwayman Dick Turpin galloping into the inn yard for it turns out that he was a frequent guest there at the height of his ‘fame’.
The Great North Road linked London to Edinburgh, via York amongst other towns, and in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries the mail and stage coaches regularly drove up and down its length. Now the A1 (the longest numbered road in the UK) has replaced the Great North Road, in places taking a slightly different route and bypassing most of the smaller towns and villages where the old coaching inns were to be found. But not all…
The Ram Jam in Rutland is one of the few coaching inns which can be seen by the side of the A1. Standing at Stretton, midway between the market towns of Stamford and Grantham in Lincolnshire, it was originally known as the Winchelsea Arms, named for the Earls of Winchelsea who were local landowners. By 1802 however, it was unofficially known as the Ram Jam House.
There are many stories detailing how this unassuming inn in sleepy Rutland acquired such an unusual name. One version has it that Dick Turpin himself was the root cause. He taught the landlady, a Mrs Spring, how to draw mild and bitter ale from a single barrel, telling her to “ram one thumb in here whilst I make a hole… now jam your other thumb in this hole while I find the spile pegs…”. Turpin then made off without paying his bill while the unfortunate landlady was stuck with her thumbs fast in the barrel. A slightly different version of this tale has the landlord trapped by his thumbs while the trickster, Dick Turpin or otherwise, escorts the landlady upstairs to the bedroom.
A sign which hangs outside the inn – now very weatherworn – depicts the unfortunate landlady. However, a correspondent to the Grantham Journal newspaper, writing in 1878, revealed that this may have been a relatively recent addition to the frontage.
It may be worth noting, that the sign of ‘The Ram Jam’ has never appeared on the front of the house, until September last; and the old sign, painted with the full coat of arms of the Earls of Winchelsea, remained up to last June, when it was replaced by a new sign-board, on which was painted (without the heraldic devices) ‘The Winchilsea Arms’. The sign only remained up for a few weeks, when it was repainted with the words ‘The Ram Jam Inn’ for the first time in its history. By the way, it was generally known as ‘The Ram Jam House’ and not ‘Inn’.
Grantham Journal, 26th October 1878
The most likely reason for the unusual name is a little less prosaic, however. Charles Blake was the landlord around the turn of the century, certainly by 1802, and he developed either a spirit or liqueur which he sold in bottles packed in small hampers for the convenience of the stagecoach passengers who alighted at his inn while the horses were changed. This drink he named Ram Jam, but again there is disagreement as to why. Some claim it is a variant of an Indian term for a table servant which the English soldiers in India corrupted to Rum John or Rum Johnnie. Others clearly thought differently.
The word is properly Ramzan, derived from Ramazan, the name of the month of fasting in the Mohammedan calendar. The custom among the natives of India, as well as in the case of the English people, was to pronounce the ‘z’ as ‘j’, hence the name became ‘Ramjan’. The change of the final ‘n’ to ‘m’ was an accident or a piece of fun to bring it into easy rhyming form. We can reasonably assume that the liqueur sold to travellers brought to the house the like celebrity enjoyed by the Bell at Stilton for the cheese that was to be purchased there.
Grantham Journal, 15th May 1937
Blake had, it is suggested, picked up the term during an earlier career as an Indian Army Officer’s batman. With the death of Charles Blake in 1810 however, the recipe for Ram Jam was lost, but the inn retained its moniker.
On the 4th November 1810, at Stretton in Rutland, Mr Charles Blake, gentleman, was buried.
While Ram Jam of Black Betty fame, despite the name, have no association with the inn, the soul singer Geno Washington named his backing band the Ram Jam Band after it. As this is a blog dedicated to the Georgian era, I won’t treat you to a rendition of Black Betty, even though it is now firmly lodged as an earworm after writing this. Instead, enjoy the legend of Dick Turpin as performed by the Horrible Histories gang!
Cary’s New Itinerary: Or, An Accurate Delineation of the Great Roads, Both Direct and Cross, Throughout England and Wales; with Many of the Principal Roads in Scotland, 1802.
Inns and Inn Signs of Leicestershire and Rutland by Eric Swift.
waymarking.com: Ram Jam Inn – A1, Stretton, Leicestershire, UK
Around midnight, or just shortly thereafter, Miss Mary Burton crept out of her father’s house at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, into the waiting arms of her lover, William Fields, a draper from Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
William must have had a carriage waiting for his lady, but the Stamford Mercury newspaper described their escape much more poetically.
WE FLY BY NIGHT… on “the wings of love”
It is possibly a slight disappointment, after knowing that they flew through the midnight hours on the wings of love, to find that their destination was not more glamorous than William’s home town, Hull. Mary’s father, Mr Burton, a miller and baker (Mary was his only daughter), certainly knew where his errant daughter had gone to and, as soon as he discovered that she was missing, he set off for Hull in hot pursuit.
But he was too late, the couple had already exchanged their vows to one another at the altar of Holy Trinity church and had married, by licence, on the same day that they had entered Hull, the 25th November 1812 in front of two witnesses, William Sotheran and Esther Fox.
Mary, it would appear, was just over 21 years of age; there is a baptism at All Saints in Gainsborough for Mary, daughter of William and Ann Burton (William’s trade is given as a baker) on the 29th October 1791.
William Fields was likely the same man who traded with a partner, George Benjamin Everington as Everington and Fields, linen drapers of Kingston-upon-Hull. Their partnership was dissolved shortly after William’s hasty marriage, on the 18th December 1812, with William alone carrying on the business and promising to pay all debts owing. He traded from no. 9, Whitefriargate. It is also likely that it was the same William Fields who, in February 1814, announced that he had taken the grocery shop formerly occupied by a Mr Smith at no. 3 North Bridge, Witham, where tea, coffee, spices and sugars could be purchased and if so, he was declared bankrupt before the end of 1815. Perhaps his irate father-in-law was right in his initial judgment of his son-in-law?
William and Mary Fields baptised a son, named William Burton Fields, in Hull on the 11th January 1814. He was to die young, aged only 11 years, and was buried in the churchyard at All Saints in Gainsborough on the 29th December 1825. We have so far been unable to trace the Fields further but, as William Burton Fields was living back in Gainsborough with his grandfather, we suspect that Mary had either sadly died or that she had returned, with her son, to her father’s home.
Stamford Mercury, 4th December 1812
Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, 5th December 1812 and 2nd January 1813
Hull Packet, 17th August 1813, 1st February 1814 and 5th December 1815
Parson’s Green in Fulham still has two green, open spaces in the heart of its residential area. Back in the eighteenth-century, Fulham was a pleasant rural village outside the bustle of London complete with farms and market gardens that supplied the capital with fruit and vegetables, and Parson’s Green was a hamlet within the manor of Fulham where several fine villas were located.
Named after the village green and the parsonage where the rectors of St Anne’s, the Fulham parish church lived, it is perhaps best remembered today as the home of the novelist, Samuel Richardson.
Nearby was Peterborough House, a grand mansion set within large – and once immaculately designed – gardens. The house (originally called Brightwells, or Rightwells) was a large square building with a gallery around the rooftop, many large rooms and furnished with taste; rich frescos decorated the walls and a collection of fine paintings also hung there. Originally a fourteenth-century building, it had been remodelled and rebuilt in the early Stuart style. Passing through several owners, eventually it was inherited by Margaret (née Smith), wife of Thomas Carey, second son of Robert, Earl of Monmouth who refurbished the building and renamed it Villa Carey. By descent it passed to Charles, the celebrated 3rd Earl of Peterborough and Monmouth, and it was under his watch that the house enjoyed its heyday. Alexander Pope was a frequent visitor and a musical academy was instituted by the earl’s second – but secret – wife, the singer, Anastasia Robinson. Although Anastasia and her mother discreetly lived nearby rather than under the earl’s roof, she presided at his side as mistress of the house during entertainments.
Peterborough House passed to the 4th Earl of Peterborough and after his death, his widow Robinaiana (Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s maternal aunt) leased it to Richard Heaviside, a rich Lambeth timber merchant who was climbing the social ladder.
Although now fading into disrepair, the real beauty of Peterborough House, the impressive pleasure grounds which surrounded it, were still largely intact. By the 1780s, some of the land had been leased to market gardeners but there remained much of the former glory of this garden, a pleasant wilderness with shady cypress trees, inset with statues and fountains. Beyond the high brick walls on three sides of the mansion, market gardens dominated down to the riverbank while the front of the mansion faced the green with its picturesque pond. It was perfectly secluded and that was perfect for Heaviside’s nefarious activities. As we relate in our latest book, A Georgian Heroine, he abducted – for the second time! – a young girl who was a neighbour of his in Lambeth, Charlotte Williams and had her brought by boat to Peterborough House. You can discover more about Charlotte’s ordeal by clicking here. Suffice to say, it was akin to the plot of Clarissa, one of Samuel Richardson’s novels, the irony in the situation being that Richardson had lived, and written many of his works, in a villa which stood close by Peterborough House in Parson’s Green.
In time, and with the house and estate in ruins (part of the house had been torn down) Heaviside sold Peterborough House to John Meyrick who razed what was still standing to the ground and had a new mansion constructed in its stead.
The parsonage from which the hamlet took its name stood on the west side of the green until it was demolished around 1740 and replaced with two new houses. Writing of it in 1705, Bowack said, “the house in which the rectors of Fulham used to reside, is now very old, and much decayed. There is, adjoining to it, an old stonebuilding, which seems to be of about three hundred or four hundered years standing, and designed for religious use; in all probability, a chapel for the rectors and their domestics. Before the said house is a large common, which, within the memory of several ancient inhabitants now living, was used for a bowling-green”.
Cricket matches were also held on the green; two notable matches between teams from Fulham and Chelsea were contested there in 1731 and 1733.
In later years, Maria Fitzherbert, George IV’s ‘clandestine’ wife lived in East End House on the east side of Parson’s Green
Fulham, pp.344-424, The Environs of London: Volume 2, County of Middlesex. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1795
An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Joanne Major and Sarah Murden, Pen and Sword, 2015
A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, Joanne Major and Sarah Murden, Pen and Sword, 2017
Oxford holds the distinction of being the location of the first coffee-house in England; an establishment trading under the sign of the Angel was opened in 1650, acting as a centre for gossip, news and academic discussions in equal measure. Coffee-houses were soon open in London and elsewhere and their popularity grew. Their heyday was the eighteenth-century. In time, they adapted to meet the requirements of their clientele; Lloyd’s Coffee House was a favourite haunt of merchants and sailors and so shipping information was shared and deals conducted. It is better known today as the insurer, Lloyd’s of London. The Grecian Coffee-House in Devereux Court just off Fleet Street catered for the Whigs while the nearby Rainbow attracted Freemasons and French refugee Huguenots. Slaughter’s (later Old Slaughter’s) establishment, on St Martin’s Lane, boasted an artistic clientele while the British Coffee-House on Cockspur Street was popular with the Scots in London and privy to Jacobite plotting. Some, such as Moll King’s coffee-house in Covent Garden, catered for lower tastes.
So, how to make the perfect cup of Georgian era coffee? Mrs Maria Eliza Rundell, in A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1808, gives us a recipe.
To make Coffee
Put two ounces of fresh ground coffee, of the best quality, into a coffee-pot, and pour eight coffee-cups of boiling water on it; let it boil six minutes, pour out a cupful two or three times, and return it again; then put two or three isinglass-chips into it, and pour one large spoonful of boiling water on it; boil it five minutes more, and set the pot by the fire to keep it hot for ten minutes, and you will have coffee of a beautiful clearness.
Fine cream should always be served with coffee, and either pounded sugar-candy, or fine Lisbon sugar.
If for foreigners, or those who like it extremely strong, make only eight dishes from three ounces. If not fresh roasted, ay it before a fire until perfectly hot and dry; or you may put the smallest bit of fresh butter into a preserving pan of a small size, and, when hot, throw the coffee in it, and toss it about until it be freshened, letting it be cold before ground.
Isinglass is a clarifying collagen, produced from the swim bladders of fish, prior to 1795 from sturgeon but after that also from cod; nowadays we’d use gelatin. Lisbon sugar, otherwise known as clayed sugar, was manufactured in the colonies of France, Spain and, as the name suggests, Portugal. Wet pipe-clay was laid on top of the sugar and water poured over which removed the molasses. Sugar candy is formed of large crystals of sugar, today known as rock candy or sugar.
Coffee, then as now, was a popular breakfast drink and an alternative to chocolate. Mrs Rundell also gives us a recipe for the ideal breakfast coffee.
Boil a desert-spoonful of ground coffee, in nearly a pint of milk, a quarter of an hour; then put into it a shaving or two of isinglass, and clear it; let it boil a few minutes, and set it on the side of the fire to grow fine.
This is a very fine breakfast; it should be sweetened with real Lisbon sugar of a good quality.
While tea was often drunk from a dish, or saucer, coffee (and chocolate) was usually – but not exclusively – drunk from cups with or without handles (often referred to as a coffee can). Saucers of the time were generally deeper than those we use today, and where coffee was tipped from the cup into the saucer, it was possibly in order to cool the drink more quickly.
An advert for a sale of chinaware in 1750 suggests that handled coffee cups were sold without saucers and that those with saucers were predominantly intended for breakfast.
A neat assortment of CHINA WARE, consisting of Table and Tea Table China, Soup Dishes, Fruit or Salad ditto, Bowls of all Sizes, Tea Pots, Milk Pots, Spoon Boats, Variety of Tea Cups and Saucers, Handled Coffee Cups, Coffees and Saucers, or Breakfast Cups, Chocolates and Saucers, Water Plates, Bread and Butter, or Breakfast ditto, Quart and Pint Mugs, Coffee Pots, Sauce Boats; with several other Pieces too tedious to mention.
Newcastle Courant, 28th July 1750
We’ve all heard of reading your fortune in the tea leaves in the bottom of your cup, but coffee grounds prove just as useful.
Here’s luck in the bottom, dear Jane, only see!
My dream & my coffee in a wedding agree.
But ah! my dear Sister, what fate me befall.
I fear I can wait, for no wedding at all.
In coffee ‘tasseography’ it is generally considered unlucky to read your own cup. If you want to know how to read fortunes in coffee, it is explained in the book, The Fortune-teller; or, Peeps into futurity by Louisa Lawford. Wavy lines are good, straight ones bad, circles denote money and human figures are positive omens, as are dogs but other animals are not so lucky.
In the 1770s, advertisements began to appear for English coffee, made to a balsamic recipe from herbs, barks and plants which extolled a myriad of health benefits for those who partook. A typical letter of fawning recommendation, published in regional newspapers alongside information on where the coffee could be bought, described the grateful customer as previously suffering from headaches, drowsiness, trembling, belching, wandering pains which flew from one part of the body to another, loss of appetite and more. A canister of this magical coffee, and a cup morning and evening, instantly banished all the complaints. (It perhaps was akin to dandelion coffee, a known coffee substitute.)
Towards the end of the eighteenth-century, in Britain coffee declined somewhat in popularity, losing out to tea which was cheaper and simpler to make.
In our earlier blog, looking at entertainments in Regency London, it was remarked that the Marchioness of Salisbury was unusual in opening her house to guests upon a Sunday. She always held a musical conversazione upon that day during the London season, attended by those of high rank and the best musicians.
Mary Amelia Hill (known as Emily Mary) was born in 1750, the daughter of Wills Hill, 2nd Viscount Hillsborough (later 1st Earl of Hillsborough and 1st Marquess of Downshire). In 1773 she married James Cecil, Viscount Cranborn of Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. Her new husband was the only son and heir of the 6th Earl of Salisbury and, just seven years after their marriage, James became the 7th earl and Emily Mary his countess (the couple were later elevated in the peerage to the 1st Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury). Lady Salisbury was known as a prominent political hostess (a Tory and a fervent supporter of the monarchy) and was also a keen and talented sportswoman. It is perhaps unkind to describe her as eccentric, but she certainly paid little heed to many conventional norms as she determinedly walked her own path.
Lady Salisbury was seen as the political opposite to the Whig supporting Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and noted as a model female canvasser.
Her proceedings have been marked with such delicacy and dignity, as to shame the mobbing conduct of her rivals.
A trendsetter rather than a follower, Lady Salisbury was often to be seen in clothes of her own design and she rode enthusiastically to hounds well into her dotage, dressed in a sky blue riding habit with black collar and cuffs, a hunting cap on her head. Her slight frame belied her strength and she had an almost limitless energy. She took over the ownership of the Hertfordshire hounds in 1793 when her husband was forced by ill-health to resign his mastership and moved the kennels lock, stock and barrel to Hatfield House; they were subsequently known as the Hatfield hounds.
Archery was another of Lady Salisbury’s passions and she was also a talented artist.
Described as pretty, witty, intelligent and outspoken, she was married – reasonably happily it would seem – for thirteen years before having four children in quick succession, Georgiana Charlotte Augusta (1786), Emily (1789), James Brownlow William (1792) and Caroline (1793). Sadly, the youngest, Caroline, died in childhood and Lady Salisbury was widowed in 1823.
As the years passed and, well into her 70s, Lady Salisbury continued to run rings around people half her age; she was affectionately known as ‘Old Sally’. Even when her eyesight was failing and she had to be tied into her saddle, she still rode with the hunt.
The manner of Old Sally’s death was just as unconventional as her life had been. She had remained at Hatfield House after her husband’s death, living with her son, his wife and her grandchildren in her own apartments consisting of two suites of rooms. At 6 o’clock on the evening of the 27th November 1835, Lady Salisbury, after dressing for dinner, sat down at her writing desk. It is thought that some item of her clothing, perhaps the feathers she was wearing in her hair, caught alight from the three candles burning beside her but, whatever the cause, an intense fire broke out in her suite. By the time it was discovered (by a needlewoman named Brown who noticed the passageway was full of smoke), the room in which Lady Salisbury had been sitting was a mass of flames and so densely filled with smoke that it was impossible for anyone to enter.
A female servant, and one of old Lady Salisbury’s men-servants, attempted to do so; but the man fell down stupefied by the smoke, as soon as he had crossed the threshold, and was with difficulty saved. It appears certain that the fire must have commenced about twenty minutes before it was discovered; and the apartments being all wainscoted, its progress was terrifically rapid. No vestige of the Marchioness was discovered by any one; nor was a sound heard by those who first approached the room, except the moaning of an old favourite dog who was shut up with her.
Lord Salisbury arrived on the scene and had to be forcibly held back from attempts to rush into the flames and save his mother. The west wing of Hatfield House was destroyed and all that remained of the dowager marchioness were a few fragments of bone.
Spectator, 5th December 1835
Cecil [née Hill], Mary Amelia [Emily Mary], marchioness of Salisbury by E H Chalus, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The social meetings of the fashionable world consist of balls, musical parties, and routs. The latter appear to be formed on the model of the Italian conversaziones; except that they are in general so crowded, as entirely to preclude conversation. Cards, upon these occasions, are usually provided for the senior part of the company.
General Expense of these Entertainments
The expense attendant on these entertainments depends entirely on the species of amusement which is provided. If balls are given, the expense is very considerable, as it is usual to give a supper to the company; and if in the early part of the season, April and May, the fruit is necessarily very scarce, and of high price. It is said, that a ball given by the Marquess of Anglesea [sic] cost 1,500l. These repasts are generally provided by some confectioner of repute, at a stipulated sum, (from 400l. to 1,000l.) who also provides chairs, glasses, and plates. The most celebrated of these are Gunter and Grange.
General Time of Assembling
The time for assembling is generally from ten to twelve o’clock, or even later, as many persons visit several of these places in one evening. The hours of departure are various and uncertain; but from balls, the latest being sometimes seven or eight o’clock in the morning before the whole have separated. In this case, it is usual to cause coffee, tea, &c. to be handed to the company.
The dress for these entertainments is that of the most reigning fashion. The persons who provide most fashionable for ladies on these occasions, are Mrs Gill, Cork Street; Mrs Griffiths, Little Ryder Street; Mrs Lacon, Albermarle Street; Miss Steward, &c. &c. The principal hairdressers and perfumers are, Woodman, in Piccadilly; Marshall, Wynne, Smyth, Rigge, &c.
Parties on Sundays are not very common. The Marchioness of Salisbury, however, has always a conversazione during the season on that day. It is usually attended by great numbers of persons of rank and distinction, and frequently some eminent musical professors are attendant on the occasion. The Countess St Antonio also sometimes gives musical parties on Sundays.
Many grand dinners are constantly given on this day.
Leigh’s New Picture of London: or, a view of the political, religious, medical, literary, municipal, commercial, and moral state of the British Metropolis: presenting a brief and luminous guide to the stranger, on all subjects connected with general information, business, or amusement. 1818
Courtesan, dancer and – reputedly – the first ‘dumb blonde’, Catherine-Rosalie Duthé was a true eighteenth-century celebrity.
She was born on the 23rd November 1748, in Versailles to Jean-François Gérard, an ‘officier’ or gentleman servant to the king at the royal palace, and his wife, Louise-Rosalie Caumont. At the registration of her birth four days later, Catherine-Rosalie’s father was absent – perhaps away in attendance upon Louis XV – and the official document was signed by her grandmother and Christophe Broilleux, her godfather.
After being educated at the convent of Saint Aure in Paris she was sent, aged 15, to live with an aunt, Madame Duval. It is claimed that Catherine-Rosalie’s aunt introduced her to two well-known courtesans and actresses, Marie and Géneviève Rinteau of Verrières, the beautiful daughters of a lemonade merchant who caught the eye of men such as Maurice, Count of Saxony. (In 1748, the same year as Catherine-Rosalie’s birth, Marie had given birth to an illegitimate daughter, Marie Aurore by the Count of Saxony.)
Marie and Géneviève took the young, pink-cheeked and fair-haired Catherine-Rosalie under their wing, and, at their home on the rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, taught her the tricks of their trade. Under their tutelage, she learnt signing, comedy and gallantry. Probably very intelligent, the tag of being the ‘first dumb blonde’ was given as Catherine-Rosalie was lampooned in her day due to her habit of leaving long pregnant pauses before speaking. Soon, the young Mademoiselle Gérard was dancing at the Paris Opera and adopted the name by which she is remembered, Rosalie Duthé.
She had watched Marie and Géneviève profit from their various lovers and determined to follow in their path. Arthur Richard Dillon, Archbishop of Narbonne, the French born son of Count Dillon (an Irish Jacobite), was her first protector; Rosalie was just 17, he was 44.
Many men were then seduced by Rosalie’s youthful beauty and she even captivated the young Duke of Chartres (the future Philippe, Duke of Orléans, Philippe Égalité). With this royal approval, even more men hastened to pay court to Rosalie, and the more lovers she collected, the wealthier she became. Even Christian VII of Denmark, on a visit to Paris, fell for her charms.
With her new found money and fame, Rosalie was painted by many of the best artists in France. The Count of Artois, youngest brother to Louis XVI (and the future Charles X) saw her portrait and hastened to Paris to court the beauty (his wife, Marie Thérèse of Savoy, was pregnant with their first child at the time).
Every night he came to follow her in the alleys of the Palais-Royal, publicly displaying a passion that he should have hidden for the sake of his rank.
Showering Rosalie with jewels and money, Artois conquered her affections and the two enjoyed a six month affair, from July 1775 to February 1776. One story relates that during these months, Rosalie was turned out of the Champs Elysées by Queen Marie Antoinette when she appeared with her carriage and equipage more sumptuously decorated with rare and expensive flowers than that of the Queen. Marie Thérèse of Savoy could not compete with Rosalie in terms of beauty. Playing on her surname (thé means tea in French) critics unkindly remarked that:
The prince, having had an indigestion with the cake of Savoy, comes to take tea in Paris.
Artois commissioned Lié Louis Périn-Salbreux to paint Rosalie sitting naked on the end of her bath, a work of art which the count displayed in the bathroom at château de Bagatelle, his pleasure house in the Bois de Boulogne. Another portrait of Rosalie by Périn-Salbreux, possibly also painted for her royal lover, depicts her laying semi-naked on a bed, her hair loose and falling around her shoulders.
Criss-crossing the Channel, Rosalie entertained a succession of wealthy and influential men both in Paris and in London. Paris was her home though, and it was there that she invested her money is a series of fine mansions but, in 1786, she sailed once again for England, imported, as it were, by George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont whom she ruined financially.
During the summer of 1786, the 4th Earl of Cholmondeley and Madame Saint-Albin were to be found in Kingsgate at Margate. The earl had been the former lover of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, until that infamous courtesan left for Paris and the arms of the Duke of Orléans. Marie-Françoise Henriette, Madame Saint-Albin had supplanted Grace in the earl’s affections and they were taking the sea air in the same house he had spent a summer of pleasure in with Grace almost a decade earlier. The couple were joined there by Lord Coleraine, another disreputable rake accompanied by his new courtesan of choice, Marie-Françoise Henriette’s countrywoman and compatriot, Rosalie Duthé. The two Frenchwomen moved in England, as they had in France, in similar circles. Mrs Elliott was also Rosalie’s contemporary; they both shared a lover in the person of the Duke of Orléans so were rivals, if not friends.
Rosalie escaped the terrors of the French Revolution, remaining in safety in England although she was declared an émigré and her house which she had owned since 1775 on rue du Mont-Blanc (at the corner of rue Saint-Lazare, formerly the rue de la Chaussée d’Antin and where she had lived with Marie and Géneviève Rinteau) was forfeit and declared ‘national goods’ in her absence.
She returned to Paris briefly to try to reclaim her property, aided by her friend and banker Jean-Frédéric Perregaux who commissioned a portrait of Rosalie by Danloux which was painted in London during 1792.
Perregaux was the banker of choice for foreign travellers to Paris including Rosalie’s friend, Lord Cholmondeley and of known spies, as well as of courtesans like Rosalie. He lived on the same Parisian street, the rue de la Chaussée d’Antin. It is said that when Perregaux died, in 1808, he did so while contemplating his portrait of Rosalie Duthé who had remained one of his greatest friends.
Rosalie remained in London until 1816, then returned to Paris. She continued to receive many visitors and lived peacefully although in her later years she was almost blind. She died 24th September 1830 aged 82 years and was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery underneath two cedar trees. Rosalie left no will but two of her cousins, Madame Malacrida, a widow living in the Rue Laffitte, and Marie-Angélique Malacrida profited from the sale of her furniture which made 9,000 francs.
Catherine-Rosalie’s father is named as Jean-Baptiste Gérard in many sources, but on the register of her birth, it is Jean-François.
The rue de la Chaussée d’Antin was renamed the rue de Mirabeau in 1793 in honour of the revolutionary leader Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Count of Mirabeau and then, when Mirabeau was proscribed in 1793, the rue du Mont-Blanc in 1793, but it reverted to its former name in 1815.
Marie Rinteau is the great-grandmother of the writer, George Sand.
Souvenirs de Mlle Duthé de l’Opéra (1748-1830), Louis-Michaud, 1909
Archives nationales, Paris
Registres paroissiaux et d’état civil, St Louis, Versailles
The Morning Post, 15th September, 1786
On Blondes by Joanne Pitman, 2004
Christmas Festivities: Tales, Sketches, and Characters with Beauties of the Modern Drama, in Four Specimens by John Poole, 1845
This is a little extra blog as, for those who have not yet read our books, we would like to let you know of not one, not two, but THREE money-saving offers across our titles; one of our books is now less than £1.
First, our publisher Pen & Sword is offering a ‘buy 2 get 1 free’ deal when you buy An Infamous Mistress, A Right Royal Scandal and our latest title, A Georgian Heroine together, saving an incredible £19.99. This offer comes with free UK P&P too, and you can take advantage by clicking here.
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We’re not sure how long the bargain offers on the eBooks are going to be available for, so it’s a case of grab them while you can.
If you take advantage of any of these offers, we’d love to hear from our readers; you can contact us via this blog or find us on Twitter or Facebook. And, if you enjoyed reading, please do consider leaving a review online; it’s the best way you can thank an author.
Our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: the intriguing life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs is out now here in the UK and available to pre-order elsewhere (it’s due for release in the US in May). If you are outside the UK, Wordery is good value and offers free delivery worldwide.
A Georgian Heroine, the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.
In 1745, Joseph D’Acre of Kirklinton Hall in Cumbria, was one of His Majesty’s troops defending Carlisle Castle from the approaching Jacobite army. He had left his wife, Catherine and young children in the care of his father-in-law, Sir George Fleming, Bishop of Carlisle, and they were at Fleming’s Cumbrian estate, Rose Castle: Mrs D’Acre was in the late stages of pregnancy and about to be confined.
Bonnie Prince Charlie, Charles Edward Stuart, also known as the Young Pretender, had raised his standard at Glenfinnan in the Highlands on the 19th August 1745 and many of the clans had gathered at his side. The prince claimed the thrones of Scotland and England in the name of his father, James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender.
After taking Edinburgh – although not the castle – and vanquishing the government army at Prestonpans, the Highland army travelled south to invade England. One column reached the strategically important city of Carlisle on the 10th November 1745. They surrounded the city on the 13th and Carlisle Castle surrendered with surprisingly little resistance the next day. The men and garrison were allowed to leave a day or two later, on the condition that they did not bear arms against the bonnie prince’s army for twelve months (or, if they preferred, for a handsome bounty they could agree to be conscripted into the Highland army).
A letter to the newspapers, written in the aftermath of the Siege of Carlisle Castle, gave details of the marauding which had taken place in the immediate vicinity.
Hexham, Nov. 19th
I am sorry to tell you that CARLISLE is taken by the Rebels. They have plundered and destroyed all our Country. I was a Prisoner amongst them on Saturday sen’night, and made my escape from them with extream hazard of my life; I left them on Sunday sen’night. The Pretender’s son lay at my house all the last week. I left my brother and a servant maid to take care of my house; but they have destroy’d all my meat, drink, corn and hay…
Rose Castle lies a few miles south of Carlisle. On 15th November 1745, with her husband’s fate still in the hands of the Jacobite army, Catherine D’Acre went into labour and was delivered of a baby girl, who she named Rosemary. An hour after the birth, a company of Highlanders, led by a Captain Macdonald, arrived at the gates of Rose Castle, intending to plunder it of the plate and other valuables they had heard lay inside. A servant, old and grey-haired, bravely stopped the Scots and asked them not to venture inside, knowing that the new mother would be alarmed at their presence. Captain Macdonald asked when the lady had been confined and upon being told ‘within this hour’, he halted his men. The servant added, ‘They are just going to christen the infant’. Perhaps Rosemary was sickly at birth to warrant such a hasty, private baptism, hence the extra impetus to keep the troops from the door? Captain Macdonald swept off his bonnet and removed the white cockade from it, presenting the knot of ribbons to the old servant and saying, ‘Let her be christened with this cockade in her cap; it will be her protection now, and after, if any of our stragglers should come this way: we will await the ceremony in silence’.
The Highlanders withdrew to the coach-yard where beef, cheese and ale was sent out to them: after eating their fill they left without further disturbing mother and daughter.
The following year, on the 3rd November and shortly before her first birthday, Rosemary was publicly christened in the church at Kirklinton (as Mary D’Acre). Of course, in the first twelve months of Rosemary’s life, the Jacobite army had been defeated at Culloden (on the 16th April 1746), the survivors of that battle vanishing into the Highlands in the hope of outrunning the British troops who were ruthlessly hunting them down.
The white cockade was the symbol of the Jacobites, usually worn on a blue bonnet. There are a few myths and legends about this emblem, but it is often said to have come about because Bonnie Prince Charlie picked a wild, white rose and pinned it to his hat. The captain’s gift was preserved by the D’Acre family and, as an old lady, Rosemary recalled that:
My white cockade was safely preserved, and shewn to me from time to time, always reminding me to respect the Scotch, and the Highlanders in particular. I think I have obeyed the injunction, by spending my life in Scotland, and also by hoping at last to die there.
Rosemary, or Molly, as she was known to her friends and family, lived a long and happy life. In December 1777, at the age of 32, she married John Clerk of Penicuik (pronounced Pennycook) in Midlothian, Scotland, an officer in the navy and heir to the baronetcy of Penicuik.
Last week at Kirklington, in Cumberland, Capt. Clarke, to Miss Molly Dacre, daughter of Jos. Dacre, of that place, Esq; a young lady whose engaging temper and disposition, cannot fail of securing every wish’d for happiness in the marriage state.
In 1817, Rosemary sent an account of the particulars surrounding her birth to the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, in which they were published. She did so, she wrote, with infinite pleasure, ‘as it reflects great honour on the Highlanders, (to whom I always feel the greatest gratitude,) that at the time when their hearts were set on plunder, the fear of hurting a sick lady and child instantly stopped their intentions’.
The subject of our first biography, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, was descended from a lowland family who had served in the military during the 1700s. But on which side? To discover more, click here.
N.B. Joseph D’Acre was also known as Joseph D’Acre Appleby.
Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, volume 1
The History and Antiquities of Carlisle: with an Account of the Castle, Gentlemen’s Seats and Antiquities in the Vicinity and Biographical Memoirs of Eminent Men Connected with the Locality by Samuel Jefferson, 1838.
One Wolfgang Mozart, a German Boy, of about eight Years old, is arrived here, who can play upon various sorts of Instruments of Music, in Concert, or Solo, and can compose Music surprisingly; so that he may be reckoned a Wonder at his Age.
The Mozart family made a grand journey around Europe during the 1760s and early 1770s which became a concert tour in which Wolfgang and his elder sister Maria Anna (Nannerl) performed under the supervision of their father.
After visiting various German towns, Brussels and then Paris, the Mozarts arrived in London in April 1764. It was something of an impromptu addition to the schedule: the family had not planned on performing in the British capital but after calls to do so after their performances in Paris, they hastily crossed the Channel.
An advertisement for these concerts announced that “the girl, in her twelfth year, and the boy, in his seventh will not only play on the harpsichord or the fortepiano, the former playing the most difficult pieces by the greatest masters, but the boy will also play a concerto on the violin, accompany symphonies on the keyboard and play with the keyboard completely covered by a cloth as well as though he could see the keyboard; he will also name, most accurately, from a distance, any note that may be sounded for him, singly or in chords on the keyboard, or on any conceivable instrument, including bells, glasses or clocks. Finally, he will improvise out of his head, not only on the fortepiano but also on the organ (for as long as anyone wants to listen, and in all the keys, even the most difficult, that he may be asked).”
Leopold wrote that he was ‘in a city that no-one from our Salzburg court has yet dared visit and to which perhaps no-one ever will go in the future’. He had high hopes of making a fortune while in the city but it did not go as planned. The London season was all but over and the nobility were retreating from the capital to their country estates, but Wolfgang appeared before the king and queen and made his debut in the concert rooms at Spring Gardens. Wolfgang and Nannerl then played at Ranelagh and Vauxhall: Leopold was awestruck at the sheer size of London and the multitude of people living in the city. One thing that did not impress Wolfgang’s father was, however, the English weather: Leopold fell ill with a ‘kind of native complaint, which is called a cold’. By the beginning of August, the Mozart family were lodging at a house in Ebury Row, Chelsea so that Leopold could recover in the country.
The London season began again in November and so, in anticipation of that, the family relocated during September back to London and took rooms in the house of Thomas Williamson and his wife, Jane, in Frith Street, Soho.
Frith Street, at the time, was known as Thrift Street and bounded at one end by Monmouth House, beyond which lay Soho Square, or King Square as it was then known. The Williamsons house, no. 15, was a brick built dwelling, three or four storeys high and dating from the 1720s. (Following the demolition of Monmouth House in 1773, the houses on Frith Street were renumbered: no. 15 is no longer standing, but its site is now occupied by no. 20 which is the back of the Prince Edward Theatre and opposite Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club.)
Thomas Williamson followed the joint and somewhat incongruous professions of staymaker and wax and spermaceti candle chandler, trading as Williamson & Tonson in the latter capacity by 1777.
Spermaceti candles – made from a waxy substance found in the head cavities of sperm whales – were preferred by those who could afford them as they were odourless: Thomas had royal patronage as two of George III’s younger brothers purchased their candles from him, Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn. A Daniel Williamson in Hull, East Yorkshire appears to have manufactured the candles and sold them from his premises. Possibly he was Thomas’ brother, the two siblings running a joint operation.
The London season normally began when parliament reconvened but that winter, due to tensions between King George III and his government, the opening was delayed until 10th January, a further setback for the finances of the Mozarts, additionally so when their concerts during the rest of their stay were not as well attended as they had hoped they would be. They performed at private houses and their final public concert was on 13th May 1765: thereafter they continued performances for which the public was charged admission at their rooms in Frith Street until June.
The family left London at the end of July and sailed for France on 1st August 1765. Thomas Williamson continued his joint professions from Frith Street until his death in the summer of 1778. By his will, he left his businesses and stock in trade to his wife and to his son, John.
The subject of our latest biography, Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs owned two houses on Frith Street in the early 1800s, inherited from her father. They stood about where Ronnie Scott’s is, so opposite the house in which Mozart had lodged. A relation had lived on Frith Street in the 1780s, so it is entirely possible that our Mrs Biggs had heard tales of the child prodigy’s stay in Soho from someone who had personally known the Williamson family.
Oxford Journal, 23rd February 1765
Newcastle Chronicle, 14th May 1768
Mozart, Stanley Sadie, Oxford University Press, 2006
We never initially set out to research Mughal India and the East India Company (EIC) but, time and time again, the people we were looking at took us east. It all started with the eighteenth-century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s family. Grace had a brother and three male cousins who all ventured to India in different capacities with the EIC. Perhaps best known of these is Colonel John (Jack) Mordaunt, who has been captured for posterity in the middle of a cock match against Asaf-ud-daula, Nawab Wazir of Oudh. Mordaunt, a keen cock-fighter, had imported birds from Europe which he thought were superior to those of the Nawab’s.
And as well as her male cousins out in India, Grace also had two female cousins – sisters – who travelled to the country on an ultimately successful husband-hunting trip. The EIC was concerned about its officers taking Indian women as wives and adopting Mughal dress and habits. In an effort to stem this, they encouraged British girls and young women to embark on ships for an Indian adventure and to provide suitable marriage material.
You can find more on Grace and her relations, who travelled the globe, in An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott.
Our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, looks at the ancestors of the British royal family, specifically Anne Wellesley, her second husband Lord Charles Bentinck and their son, the Reverend Charles Cavendish Bentinck but, first, we examined Anne’s background. She was the daughter of Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington’s older brother) and Hyacinthe Gabrielle Rolland, a Parisian opera dancer whom the marquess fell in love with as a young man. Richard was posted to India as Governor-General but Hyacinthe Gabrielle, chronically afraid of the sea voyage, refused to accompany him, a decision which would ultimately lead to the break-up of their marriage.
And so we come to our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs. Charlotte, as our heroine preferred to be known, fell in love when she was only sixteen years of age with a young lad who left her behind when he sailed to India in search of adventure, subsequently joining the EIC as a junior officer and rising to become a general and a baronet. This man, Sir David Ochterlony, remained Charlotte’s one true love throughout all her many adventures and exploits. Towards the end of their lives, David and Charlotte once again reached out to each other, albeit by letter and from one side of the globe to the other. Ochterlony, like so many before him, had ‘gone native’, dressing in flowing Mughal robes and smoking a hookah pipe while sitting cross-legged on his diwan, watching dancing girls. He could be spotted each evening with his multiple Indian wives, each atop an elephant as they perambulated around Delhi. Did Charlotte dare to dream that the only man she had ever loved would return to England to claim her, in her dotage?
If you’d like to discover more about Charlotte, all is revealed in our book. A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs is out now in the UK (and coming soon worldwide) and can be found at Pen & Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs lived an incredible life, one which proved that fact is often much stranger than fiction. As a young woman she endured a tortured existence at the hands of a male tormentor, but emerged from that to reinvent herself as a playwright and author; a political pamphleteer and a spy, working for the British Government and later singlehandedly organising George III’s jubilee celebrations. Trapped in France during the revolutionary years of 1792-95, she published an anonymous account of her adventures. However, was everything as it seemed? The extraordinary Mrs Biggs lived life upon her own terms in an age when it was a man’s world, using politicians as her mouthpiece in the Houses of Parliament and corresponding with the greatest men of the day. Throughout it all though, she held on to the ideal of her one youthful true love, a man who abandoned her to her fate and spent his entire adult life in India. Who was this amazing lady?
In A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, we delve into her life to reveal her accomplishments and lay bare Mrs Biggs’ continued re-invention of herself. This is the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.
Colonel Mordaunt and Nawab Asaf al-Daula of Oudh at a Cock Fight, Company School, Patna, circa 1840, after Richard Earlom’s mezzotint of Zoffany’s ‘Col. Mordaunt’s Cock Match’, via Sotheby’s website.
Cuper’s Gardens were described as a ‘scene of low dissipation… noted for its fireworks, and the great resort of the profligate of both sexes’. Opened in the late 17th century, they were pleasure gardens (and later a tea garden) in Lambeth on the Thames shoreline and named after Abraham Boydell Cuper, the original proprietor of the land which he leased from Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel (Cuper was the earl’s gardener). In the early days, the site was also known as Cupid’s Gardens.
Last Monday in the Evening, a Gentleman dropt down dead at Cupid’s Gardens, just as he was going to drink a Glass of Wine, having the Glass in his Hand.
Stamford Mercury, 21st May 1724
The ‘Georgian Heroine’ of our latest book, Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, was born in the early 1760s and grew up in a house on Narrow Wall in Lambeth, close by Cuper’s Gardens, but this was after its days as a pleasure ground. Instead, Charlotte knew the land as a scene of industry, the once ornate grounds dominated by a vinegar and ‘mimicked wine’ factory owned by Mark Beaufoy who was a great friend to the Williams family. No doubt Charlotte heard the tales of the great entertainments which had taken place at Cuper’s Gardens, though.
Here are pleasant Walks and Places of great Report, particularly Cuper’s Garden, Spring-Garden, and Lambeth Wells, where they drink the purging Waters. Here, in the fine Season of the Year, a Multitude of young people from London divert themselves; and there is every Evening Musick, Dancing, &c.
The guests to the gardens even included royalty, for Frederick, Prince of Wales was known to occasionally frequent them. (Frederick, the heir to the throne, predeceased his father, King George II whom he was famously at loggerheads with.)
From 1738 until 1740 Cuper’s Gardens were owned by a man named Ephraim Evans who improved them by installing a bandstand from which he offered concerts in the evening; after his death his widow, Nem became the proprietor. Nem Evans was described as ‘a woman of discretion’ and ‘a well-looking comely person’ and she played the hostess behind the bar during the musical entertainments. Under her direction, the gardens continued their heyday, for a time at least.
We hear that at Cuper’s Gardens last Night, among several favourite Pieces of Musick, Mr Handell’s Fire Musick, with the Fireworks, as originally perform’d in the Opera of Atalanta, was received with great Applause by a numerous Audience.
London Daily Post, 10th July 1741
There is every Evening a very great Resort of Company at Cuper’s Gardens. The extraordinary Fireworks, which are almost every Night different, are allow’d to excel all that ever were before exhibited in this Kingdom.
Daily Advertiser, 3rd June 1743
On Monday next will be opened CUPER-GARDENS, kept by the Widow Evans; where there are great Alterations and Decorations in an elegant manner, and hopes the Continuance of the Favours of her Friends and Acquaintance, who may depend upon good Entertainment of all sorts, with a good Band of Musick, and Fireworks, with great Improvements; and the Bowling Green is in good Order.
General Advertiser, 4th May 1744
On the 1st May 1749, the gardens opened for the summer season with a recreation of the temple and fireworks which had been seen at Green Park to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.
The extravagant fireworks came at something of a cost, however, and accidents did occur.
On Monday Morning, as four Men were preparing the Fire-works to be exhibited in the Evening at Cuper’s Gardens, the Powder by some Accident took fire, and two or three of the Men were much hurt by the Explosion.
Remembrancer, 2nd June 1750
The Licensing Act came into effect in 1752 and Nem Evans was refused a licence for Cuper’s Gardens on the grounds – which she disputed – that the gardens were no longer ‘respectable’. In the summer of 1753, she reopened them as a tea garden and held occasional private evening entertainments for subscribers.
“I dined the other day with a lady of quality, who told me she was going that evening to see the ‘finest fireworks!’ at Marybone. I said fireworks was a very odd refreshment for this sultry weather; that, indeed, Cuper’s-gardens had been once famous for this summer entertainment; but then his fireworks were so well understood, and conducted with so superior an understanding, that they never made their appearance to the company till they had been well cooled, by being drawn through a long canal of water, with the same kind of refinement that the Eastern people smoke their tobacco through the same medium.”—Warburton to Hurd, July 9th, 1753.
By the time of Nem Evans’ death in July 1760, the gardens had closed for good. She was buried alongside her husband in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Newington and changes were soon afoot in her former pleasure ground.
It is said a new Street is going to be made from one End of Cuper’s Gardens to the other, and that each House will have a pretty Garden behind it.
St James’s Chronicle, 17th June 1761
They have for some time been cutting down the Trees in Cuper’s Gardens, in order to build a handsome Street upon that Spot.
Public Advertiser, 11th March 1762
In the 1740s, Mark Beaufoy had established a vinegar and ‘mimicked wines’ distillery near his three-storey house at Cuper’s Bridge Lambeth and, following the closure of the adjoining pleasure ground, he took on the lease, expanding his business.
There is a magnificence of business, in this ocean of sweets and sours, that cannot fail exciting the greatest admiration: whether we consider the number of vessels or their size. The boasted tun at Heydelberg does not surpass them. On first entering the yard, two rise before you, covered at the top with a thatched dome; between them is a circular turret, including a winding staircase, which brings you to their summits, which are above 24ft in diameter. One of these conservatories is full of sweet wine and contains 58,109 gallons; or 1,815 barrels of Winchester measure. Its superb associate is full of vinegar, to the amount of 56,799 gallons, or 1,774 barrels, of the same standard as the former.
Besides these, is an avenue of lesser vessels… After quitting this Brobdignagian scene, we pass to the acres covered with common barrels: we cannot diminish our ideas so suddenly, but at first we imagined we could quaff them off as easily as Gulliver did the little hogsheads of the kingdom of Lilliput.
In 1813, part of Cuper’s Gardens was bought for the construction of what is now Waterloo Bridge Road and the Beaufoys relocated to land off Walnut Tree Walk.
We’ll leave you with a little premonition of the future, which was displayed in Cuper’s Gardens.
Mr Moore’s undertaking to make carriages go without horses, having engrossed a large share of public attention, a Correspondent assures us, that something of the same nature was done several years ago by Mr Arthur, the comedian, who constructed a chariot, which went of itself several times up and down the Mall in St James’s Park; and that a person at Trowbridge also contrived a waggon to go without horses, which was shewn to many hundreds of people in Cuper’s-gardens, and for some little time afforded great satisfaction; but one of the springs breaking, the whole machine became disordered, and the mob at length broke it all to pieces.
Kentish Gazette, 12th April 1769
A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs is available now in the UK and coming soon worldwide and is available from Pen & Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Will of Nem Evans, widow of Lambeth, PROB 11/857/434, National Archives
A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers, and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800: Eagan to Garrett, Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans, SIU Press, 1978
Le guide des etrangers: on le compagnon necessaire & instructif à l’etranger & au naturel du pays en faisant le tour des villes des Londres et de Westminstre. Joseph Pote, 1740
Handbook of London: past and present, Volume 1, Peter Cunningham, J. Murray, 1849
Beaufoys of Lambeth by David Thomas and Hugh Marks, Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society
London: Being an Accurate History and Description of the British Metropolis and Its Neighbourhood, to Thirty Miles Extent, from an Actual Perambulation, Volume 4, David Hughson, 1807
Cuper’s Gardens, John Cresswell, Vauxhall History online archive
London; or, An abridgement of the celebrated Pennant’s description of the British capital and its environs, John Wallis, 1790
We’re celebrating the release of our third biography, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs which is out now in the UK (and coming soon worldwide) and can be found at Pen & Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.
It has been an immense pleasure to research Charlotte’s life even if, at times, she has frustrated us beyond measure. Her almost pathological desire to remain anonymous in her lifetime tested our abilities to the limit, but we rarely admit defeat and eventually, we managed to piece together Charlotte’s story. And what a story it is!
If we had written her life as a novel, we’d probably have been accused of being too far-fetched but – amazingly – Charlotte’s story is all true, in parts tragically so but she triumphed over her adversities, continually adapted to her circumstances and succeeded in the most audacious ways possible.
We are also delighted to have finally given Charlotte ownership of her voice which, while it was heard during her lifetime across the country and in establishments ranging from the Houses of Parliament to royal palaces, was always heard anonymously, or at least so discreetly that the public at large were unaware of Charlotte’s identity. Because of this, she has been overlooked by history and her achievements remain largely unrecorded and, in some cases, wrongly ascribed to other women of her generation. Now we can finally put the record straight with the release of A Georgian Heroine.
Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs lived an incredible life, one which proved that fact is often much stranger than fiction. As a young woman she endured a tortured existence at the hands of a male tormentor, but emerged from that to reinvent herself as a playwright and author; a political pamphleteer and a spy, working for the British Government and later singlehandedly organising George III’s jubilee celebrations. Trapped in France during the revolutionary years of 1792-95, she published an anonymous account of her adventures. However, was everything as it seemed? The extraordinary Mrs Biggs lived life upon her own terms in an age when it was a man’s world, using politicians as her mouthpiece in the Houses of Parliament and corresponding with the greatest men of the day. Throughout it all though, she held on to the ideal of her one youthful true love, a man who abandoned her to her fate and spent his entire adult life in India. Who was this amazing lady?
In A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, we delve into her life to reveal her accomplishments and lay bare Mrs Biggs’ continued re-invention of herself. This is the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.
Featured image: Hotwells and Rownham Ferry by William Williams; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives. Charlotte lived in Bristol in later life.
As Lewis Troughton, the Beadle of Christ Church, Southwark walked along Blackfriars Road one crisp, fine November day in 1817, his attention was taken by a crowd gathered around two young and frightened boys who were dressed ‘in the French costume’. Only two years after the Battle of Waterloo, the youngsters garb might have excited some suspicions but when they began to explain their predicament the mystery only deepened. The younger of the two, aged around nine or ten years, was sitting in the road crying, his feet blistered and his legs swollen and no matter how much the elder lad, who looked to be about twelve, begged him to get up he refused; he could not, he cried, walk another step.
The beadle intervened and took the boys to Mr Evance, the Surrey magistrate where they were asked to give their names and the elder of the two, an intelligent lad, told their sorry tale, which was then reported in the newspapers as follows.
The two boys were brothers, Alexander and William Walker; their father had been an officer in a dragoon regiment and lived in County Tyrone, Ireland. Their maternal grandfather was a Frenchman who lived near to Amiens and, some four months earlier, the family had received news that the old man was dying and wanted to see his daughter one last time. Mrs Walker set off for her former homeland, taking her two sons with her, and they made it in time to pay their respects. However, a fortnight after her father’s death, Mrs Walker was taken ill and also died. The two boys were left all alone in a strange country, with no other relatives to care for them.
A French lady who had known their grandfather sold the clothes left by their mother, presumably fine ones, and dressed the two boys in poorer clothes. She then gave them a small sum of money, told them that it was all that was left and pointed them towards the road that led to Boulogne. Did she see an opportunity and cheat them or was this the best way she could provide for their journey home? However it came about, the brothers were destitute when they reached Boulogne but luckily they found a kindly captain of a Dover packet who took pity on them and allowed them to sail on board his ship.
From Dover, the boys decided to walk to London, begging their way and hoping to find a way to travel from there to Dublin where they had friends who would take them home to their father. And so they had been found, with their money spent and their legs so swollen that they could go no further. Luckily for them, the officers of Christ Church were charitable and, once the pair were recovered, they were helped to get back to Ireland and their home.
So, who was their father? Although the newspapers which reported on the story said he was an officer in a dragoon regiment, we do wonder if he was not the William Walker who was a private in the 8th (The King’s Royal Irish) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons? William Walker was born in Ballygreenan (Baile an Ghrianáin) in County Tyrone, c.1769, and enlisted at the age of nineteen. He was discharged in December 1814, at the age of 45, due to ill-health and in consequence of:
Asthma of long standing, worn out and lately returned from France where he has been a Prisoner several years.
This dragoon regiment had seen action at Bousbecque on the French/Belgian border in 1794 as part of the Flanders Campaign and had returned to England the following year. After that, they went to Africa and on to India where they remained until 1819. Had Private Walker been held a prisoner in northern France since the skirmish at Bousbecque until 1814? And had he met and married his French wife during that time, fathering two sons despite his status as a prisoner of war?
Finally in 1794 the 8th moved to the low countries for eighteen months of conflict. The first battle they fought on the continent in May surpassed even “The Charge of the Light Brigade” for bravery and devotion to duty. Two squadrons of the 8th charged a body of French infantry supported by four guns well positioned in a churchyard in the village of Bousbecque. The 8th Light Dragoons routed the infantry, jumped the churchyard walls and captured the guns. The casualties were staggering, of the 200 men who engaged the French, 186 were killed, wounded or captured. Lesser skirmishes followed for a year as the allies were pushed back into Germany and then left for England in November 1795.
NB: Private Walker’s discharge papers gave his birthplace as Ballygrina, Co. Tyrone, Ballygreenan is the closest approximation to this that we could find.
Evening Mail, 5th November 1817
The Queen’s Royal Hussar’s Association – click here for more
National Archives, British Army Service Records WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760-1913, WO 97/137/100
Blackfriars Bridge and St. Paul’s by Francis Nicholson, c.1790. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
As the nights start to draw in, it’s a perfect time to curl up in the warmth by your fireside with a book or two and so we’re delighted that our publisher, Pen & Sword, have chosen to offer both our current biographies as a discounted bundle deal. Even more so as they are perfect companion books to each other, together telling the full story of the infamous eighteenth-century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott and her extended Scottish family as well as documenting the life of her daughter and granddaughter, continuing into the Regency and Victorian eras and culminating in a marriage into the British royal family.
And, is it yet too early to mention Christmas and Christmas shopping? These two books would make the perfect festive present for anyone who is interested in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century history, the French Revolution or indeed anyone who has an interest in the royal family or has enjoyed watching period dramas such as Victoria on ITV.
You can buy both An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott and A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, in hardback, with a saving of 30% off RRP when bought together for a limited time by clicking here and selecting the ‘get this product as part of a bundle’ offer at the top of the page.
If you have enjoyed An Infamous Mistress and A Right Royal Scandal, watch out for our third biography, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, coming soon.
The Pastor’s Fireside: The family of Sir Thomas Acland, 10th Bt, Being Read to by the Vicar of Silverton by Henry Singleton (1766–1839); National Trust, Killerton.
As we recounted in our earlier blog about David Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee held over three days in September 1769, the all too typical British weather meant that the pageant which was to have been the grand finale of the event had to be cancelled. Instead, Garrick turned his pageant into a play, The Jubilee, which premiered a month later at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane on the 14th October, running for over ninety performances.
The comedic actress Frances Abington was among the stars of the day who appeared; she played the Comic Muse, Thalia, a role in which she was depicted by Joshua Reynolds.
The play was based on Garrick’s planned pageant and was also something of a tongue-in-cheek retrospective on the celebrations which had taken place in Stratford when the town had been so crowded with visitors that many had to sleep in their coaches and the persistent rain had led to flooding.
“The Stratford Jubilee was, in October, transferred to Drury-Lane. In order to give it a dramatic form, Garrick invented a comic fable, in which the inferior people of Stratford and the visitors were exhibited with great pleasantry. As it was never published, an exact account is not to be expected. We remember a scene in an inn-yard, with a postchaise standing at the remote end: when a crowd, after much diverting talk, withdrew from the place, a voice was heard from the inside of the chaise. Moody was within; he let down the blind, and, in the character of an Irishman, complained, that not being able to get a lodging, be was obliged to sleep in his chaise. He then came forward amidst bursts of applause; King soon joined him, and they two were the life of the piece. The dialogue throughout was carried on in a vein of humour. The songs that had been heard at Stratford were, occasionally, intermixed; and the whole concluded with a grand procession, in which Shakspeare’s plays were exhibited in succession, with a banner displayed before each of them, and a scene painted on the canvas to mark the play intended. A train of performers, dressed in character, followed the colours, all in dumb shew acting their respective parts. Mrs. Abington, at last, in a triumphal car, represented the Comic Muse. Dr. Arne’s music, the magnificence of the scenery and decorations, and the abilities of the actors, conspired to establish the entertainment in the public opinion in so powerful a manner, that we are assured, by a gentleman who has a collection of the playbills, that it was repeated no less than one hundred times in the course of the season. During the run of the piece, Garrick, on several intermediate nights, ascended a pulpit raised on the stage, and there spoke his Ode to the Memory of Shakspeare in a style of graceful eloquence.
Garrick had lost a huge amount of his own money on the jubilee celebrations in Stratford upon Avon, but he recouped his losses and more besides during his play’s run at the Theatre Royal. Despite his losses, he would appear to have been less extravagant than his brother during the celebrations.
During the celebration of Garrick’s Jubilee, his brother George, purchased an inkstand, which the poet is said to have used, and a pair of fringed gloves, which it was assumed he had worn. David Garrick, notwithstanding all his enthusiasm for Shakspeare, was too careful of his purse to part with its contents for reliques, the genuineness of which was so questionable.
All in all, the play proved to be more of a success than the jubilee held in Stratford, at least for David Garrick.
This dramatic piece was revived by Mr. Kemble, on the 23d of April, 1816, exactly two hundred years after the death of Shakespeare, but it was not very favourably received.
The jubilee [manuscript], 1769byGarrick, David, 1717-1779; Britton, John, 1771-1857, former owner; Waldron, F. G. (Francis Godolphin), 1744-1818, former owner; Barton, Thomas Pennant, 1803-1869, former owner
Quotations from Shakespeariana: plays, Volume 1, 1825
The actor and theatre manager David Garrick as Shakespeare’s Richard III by William Hogarth, c.1745. Walker Art Gallery.
Thomas Carr of Lincoln was a hawker of almanacks and fish… and yes, we think that’s an odd combination too! He was well-known around the county’s markets, famous enough for a print to be made of him.
Underneath the print is some very helpful genealogical information about Thomas.
Thomas Carr of Lincoln
The well-known dealer in Almanacks & Fish being born at Hexthorpe near Doncaster and was christenened the 19th of October 1718.
So, Thomas wasn’t really a Lincolnshire man, but had obviously lived in the city of Lincoln for long enough that he was described as being of his adopted town. His baptism can be found, exactly as described on the print, in the parish registers of Hexthorpe, a small village on the outskirts of Doncaster in south Yorkshire.
He died in 1807, described as being of an advanced age: he was 89 years old, maybe not to us such an old age these days, but for someone back then, who had gained his living as a hawker which would have been a tough occupation for someone of advancing years, he didn’t do badly at all.
Last week died, at an advanced age, Thomas Carr, well known here, and to those who frequent Lincoln markets, as a vender of almanacks.
Stamford Mercury, 7th August 1807
Thomas’ funeral was held at St Swithin’s Church in Lincoln on the 26th July, and he was described in the burial register as a widower. St Swithin’s has undergone several reconstructions during its life. Originally located near the Sheep market, it was ravaged by fire in 1644 during the English Civil War and stood in ruins for just over a century and a half. The ruins can be seen in the drawing below, next to The Greyfriars, the remains of a Franciscan friary dating back to the 1200s.
In 1801 a new church was erected on Sheep Square; a pencil drawing of this church can be seen by clicking here. In the 1880s the present church was built. The old Greyfriars buildings still stand next to it.
But when he slipp’d fell – Scrub – Sneak – Last – and Binnacle
(Epitaph to Tom Weston)
Thomas Weston was an actor/comedian who graced the stage of the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane but so much of his life seems to be told in tall tales that he has, to a certain extent, remained a man of mystery. Two facts are certain, however. That he was a great comedic actor is unquestionable, as is the fact that he was a larger than life character.
Tom was born in 1737, the son of a man who was a cook to the court of George II. Shortly after Tom’s death, his Memoir was published, by an anonymous author. In this Memoir, his father is named as Thomas Weston. However, the only man with the surname Weston who was the cook to the king, and who appears on the lists of office holders at court, is a Charles Weston. There appear to be two possible baptisms in existence; the first took place on 31st August 1737, at St Paul’s, Covent Garden with the parents named as Thomas and Elizabeth and the second on 16th October 1737, at St James, Westminster, son of Charles and Elizabeth.
If he was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth, the parish records of St Paul, Covent Garden show burials for both parents, Elizabeth on 22nd January 1755, wife of Thomas, and then Thomas’s burial on the 24th September 1757 (though Tom’s Memoirs suggest his father was alive after this date). We theorize that Tom Weston’s father was actually Charles Weston.
Charles Weston started off as a kitchen boy in the king’s kitchen in 1724, rising to the position of master cook to King George II in the same establishment thirty years later. A tale about Mr Weston the master cook is told in The Table Book or Daily Recreation and Information: concerning remarkable men, manners, times, seasons, solemnities, merry-makings, antiquities and novelties, forming a complete history of the year, 1827.
The Royal Table
Origin of Making the King’s Dishes with the Cook’s Names
King George II was accustomed every other year to visit his German dominions with the greater part of the officers of his household and especially those belonging to the kitchen. Once on his passage at sea, his first cook was so ill with the sea-sickness, that he could not hold up his head to dress his majesty’s dinner; this being told to the king, he was exceedingly sorry for it, as he was famous for making a Rhenish soup, which his majesty was very fond of; he therefore ordered inquiry to be made among the assistant-cooks, if any of them could make the above soup. One named Weston (father of Tom Weston, the player) undertook it, and so pleased the king, that he declared it was full as good as that made by the first cook. Soon after the king’s return to England, the first cook died; when the king was informed of it, he said, that his steward of the household always appointed his cooks, but that he would now name one for himself, and therefore asking if one Weston was still in the kitchen, and being answered that he was, “That man,” said he, “shall be my first cook, for her makes the most excellent Rhenish soup.” This favour begot envy among all the servants, so that, when any dish was found fault with, they used to say it was Weston’s dressing: the king took notice of this, and said to the servants, it was very extraordinary, that every dish he disliked should happen to be Weston’s; “in future,” said he, “let every dish be marked with the name of the cook that makes it.” By this means the king detected their arts, and from that time Weston’s dishes pleased him most. The custom has continued ever since, and is still practised at the king’s table.
In 1754 Mr Weston obtained the position of turnbroach for his son in the palace kitchen, which entailed turning the spit on which meat or poultry was roasting, a lowly position but one which was actually executed by a deputy. The position paid £30 a year and, of this, the deputy was paid some £7 or £8. Tom Weston seems to have lucratively retained this position until his death. It is also reported that he was made under-clerk to the clerk of the kitchen and sailed, with his father and the royal household to Holland on the way to Hanover. George II made his last visit to Hanover in April 1755, returning in the September of that year, so if Tom did indeed travel with his household this must have been the date of his trip.
Back home Tom spent most of his time frequenting the local public houses and theatres. Soon he was dismissed from his position of under-clerk for misbehaviour and sent to sea as a midshipman instead (as his father was determined to keep him from the stage). Samuel Foote, the actor, playwright and theatre manager, recalled that Weston was placed aboard the Warspite under the command of Sir John Bentley and, as Bentley took command of this ship in 1759, so this must be the date of young Tom’s short-lived naval career.
Weston’s genius triumphed over his father’s determinations; as soon after he was stationed on board this ship he contrived to run away; and being afraid to meet his father after this conduct, he entered into one of the strolling companies of the north, where he experienced all those strange vicissitudes of life which are so peculiarly incident to that situation.
Tom enlisted a friend in the war office to help him escape from the Warspite. This friend was persuaded to write to him whilst the ship was docked in Long Reach on the Suffolk coast before it sailed for Portsmouth, sealing the letter with an official seal, telling Tom that there was an army commission waiting for him in London. Sir John Bentley allowed Tom to go to London, bidding him to return if he did not obtain the commission. There was no commission but Tom did not return. Instead, he travelled with several acting troops before setting off for London where the Covent Garden and Drury Lane actors Ned Shuter and Richard Yates had taken booths at the Bartholomew Fair, which began every year on the 24th August and ran for two weeks. Tom engaged to play with them.
From a booth in the George Inn yard, Shuter put on, in 1759, The French Flogg’d: or the English Sailors in America, a piece based on The Tempest. Yates had his own booth that year in the Greyhound Inn Yard where he put on a similar piece, The Ship-Wreck’d Lovers; or, French Perfidy Punished, ‘Interspersed with the comical and diverting Humours and Adventures of Lieutenant Fireball, a true English Tar; Noddy Nestlecock, a distress’d Beau; Snivel Thimble, a Taylor; Split-farthing, an old Userer; and Glisterpipe, a Finical Surgeon. Both were eminently suitable for a former young midshipman to take to the stage in. A friend got Tom an engagement with Samuel Foote and he made his first appearance on the London stage on the 28th September 1759, to the despair of his father, playing Sir Francis Gripe in Susannah Centilevre’s The Busy Body at the Haymarket. His next appearance in London was on the 28th June 1760, playing in Samuel Foote’s The Minor, and it is possible he returned to the strolling troop playing the provinces in the interim.
Reputedly, he now met and married a young lady who was a milliner in the Haymarket. This unnamed lady was encouraged by Tom to take to the stage too, appearing as Lucy in The Minor. Mr and Mrs Weston travelled the provinces, returning to London to play Jerry Sneak at the Haymarket. A sojourn at Dublin (without great success) followed and then Tom was hired at Drury Lane where he was paid £3 a week.
His wife, if indeed she was so far no proof of a marriage has yet been found, had departed: she and Tom had argued whilst on tour in Wiltshire with Johnson’s Company and she took up with another actor, a Mr Price with whom she had several children, and she died around 1774 in Sunderland whilst on tour.
Tom, back in London, lived in St James’s Street above a glass shop with a lady named Miss Lee during a short-lived liaison which reputedly saw her debut on stage at the Haymarket as Cherry in The Beaux’ Stratagem. She was mentioned in the 1773 edition of Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies.
Miss Lee. Glass Shop, St. James’s-street
“Doats upon the silliest things.”
This lady had a connexion with a comedian of Drury-lane, which has lately been broke off, for what cause we cannot say, and madam now depends upon the generous public for support; but she is not unacquainted with the business, she is only returned to her old calling. She is a pretty black girl, about the middle size, with remarkable find dark eyes and hair. Her skin is very good, a little pock-marked, and not a bad companion.
She has performed two or three little characters at Foote’s and came off decently; and ’tis said she intends to take up with the stage, and live honest:- Very honestly intended; but we are afraid it is not a school to cause such a happy reformation.
Always short of cash, Tom was perpetually chased by creditors and, to evade them, often missed rehearsals and even performances, behaviour which led to his discharge from the theatre but Samuel Foote stepped in to help, starting a subscription among the nobility to pay Tom’s debts and taking Tom with him to Edinburgh at £5 a week.
At this time, Tom’s boon companion was Dick Hughes, brother to Mrs Elizabeth Steele (who was the confidante of the actress Sophia Baddeley). Dick was, apparently, famed for being able to hop upon one leg for an hour without changing and able to scale a brick wall with ease, a trick which got him in and out of the King’s Bench prison where he was often held for debt. When Tom was drunk he was inclined to be saucy and to get himself into trouble; Dick Hughes was the one to pacify the situation before it came to blows.
On one night Tom and Dick had been out at The Black Lion tavern and were returning home in the early hours of the morning, rolling drunk, when they met two women, described in Tom’s Memoirs as ‘a couple of Dulcineas, whose garb did not promise any great things.’ Tom feeling amorous, they followed the women to their lodgings in Mutton Lane, Holborn, ‘a most desirable situation, being surrounded with dunghills, pig styes, slaughterhouses, and many other equally as agreeable neighbours.’ Tom, when he awoke in the morning, was rather pleased with his conquest for, although she was coarse in manner, she was young, pretty and in the full bloom of health. This girl was named Martha and continued as his lover for the rest of Tom’s life, taking his surname although we doubt there was a marriage.
Foote reconciled Tom and the managers of the Drury Lane Theatre and had his wage increased to £5 a week, with a further twenty shillings for the lady who called herself Mrs Weston. Tom was now a habitual drunkard, often appearing on-stage intoxicated but never forgetting his lines. He continued to evade his creditors which led to various adventures in getting to the theatre for his performance. For one whole season, he entered by the upper dressing room window which he was able to access, unnoticed, via the Tennis Court in St. James. Dick Hughes went ahead of him each time as an advance guard to make sure the coast was clear.
Tom’s drinking took its toll. The Public Advertiser on the 22nd December 1775, reported that The School for Wives, which had been deferred at the Drury Lane Theatre on account of Mr Weston’s illness, would be performed soon after Christmas.
Reports of his death at his lodgings in Newington appeared in the newspapers soon after, but the Morning Chronicle stated on the 3rd January 1776, that:
Mr. Weston, we hear, is not dead; but so dangerously ill, that he is given over by his physicians.
His death is generally acknowledged to have occurred on the 18th January 1776, although the newspapers were giving reports of his passing from the 30th December 1775. Even in the matter of his death, he continues to leave vague reports behind him!
It was said that, in the days leading up to his death, Tom had drawn up a facetious mock last will and testament. This was vehemently denied by Martha Weston, and a document purporting to be his genuine will was given, one witnessed by his old friend Richard (Dick) Hughes. Richard Hughes also sent a letter to the papers in support of Martha Weston, affirming the truth of this. If this second will was genuine we can, however, find no record of it being proved and it was, after the religious preamble, particularly short and sweet.
First I give and bequeath my all to Martha Weston; and lastly my Scrub’s wig to Ned Shuter.
Witness, D. Holdstock, Richard Hughes and Henry Kaylock
For those who are interested, the mock will (which still has people arguing over its authenticity) is given below.
Mr. WESTON’s WILL
One afternoon, a few weeks before Mr. WESTON died, seeing a pen and ink upon the table, he said to a friend who was sitting with him, “If you’ll write for me, I’ll make my will,” which his friend accordingly did, and Tom dictated in the following manner:
I Thomas Weston, comedian, hating all form and ceremony, shall use none to my will, but proceed immediately to the explaining my intentions.
Imprimis. As from Mr. Foote I derived all my consequence in life, and as it is the best thing I am in possession of, I would, in gratitude at my decease, leave it to the said Mr. Foote, but I know he neither stands in need of it as a author, actor, or as a man; the public have fully proved it in the two first, and his good-nature and humanity have secured it to him in the last.
Item. I owe some obligations to Mr. Garrick, I therefore bequeath him all the money I die possessed of, as there is nothing on earth he is so very fond of.
Item. Though I own no obligations to Mr. Harris, yet his having shewn a sincere regard for the performers of his theatre, (by assisting them in their necessities, and yet taking no advantage thereof, by driving a Jew bargain at their signing fresh articles) demands from me, as an actor, some acknowledgement, I therefore leave him the entire possession of that satisfaction which must naturally result on reflecting, that during his management, he has never done any thing base or mean to sully his character as an honest man, or a gentleman.
Item. I having played under the management of Mr. Jefferson, at Richmond, and received from him every politeness, I therefore leave him all my stock of prudence, it being the only good quality I think he stands in need of.
Item. I give to Mr. Reddish a grain of honesty: ’tis indeed a small legacy, but being a rarity to him, I think he will not refuse to accept it.
Item. I leave to Mr. Yates all my spirit.
Item. I leave to Mrs. Yates all my humility.
Item. Upon reflection, I think it wrong to give separate legacies to a man and his wife, therefore I revoke the above bequests, and leave to be enjoyed by them jointly, peace, harmony, and good nature.
Item. Notwithstanding my illness, I think I shall outlive Ned Shuter; if I should not, I had thoughts of leaving him my example how to live, but that I am afraid would be of little use to him, I therefore leave him my example how to die.
Item. I leave Mr. Brereton a small portion of modesty. Too much of one thing is good for nothing.
Item. As Mr. Jacobs has been a long while eagerly waiting for dead mens shoes, I leave him two or three pair, (the worst I have) they being good enough in all conscience for him.
Item. Though the want of vanity be a proof of understanding, yet I would recommend to my old friend Baddeley to make use of a little of the first, though it cost him more than he would willingly pay for it. – It will encrease not only his consequence with the public, but his salary with the managers; but however, should his stomach turn against it, as nauseous, he may use for a succedaneum a small quantity of opinion, and it will answer the purpose as well.
Item. Mr. Quick has long laboured to obtain the applause of the public – the method he has taken is a vague one; the surest method to obtain his end is to copy Nature. – Experientia docet.
Item. Miss Young has had some disputes with the Managers, about dressing her tail, complaining of the want of fringe, as fringe seems to be an absolute requisite in the ornamenting ladies tails, and I always loved to see them as they ought to be; I leave her therefore the fringe about the flaps of my waistcoat, in which I usually played Jerry Sneak.
Item. As I would not forget my friends, particularly old ones, I leave Charles Bannister my portrait, to be taken when I am dead, and to be worn about his neck as a memento to him, that regularity is among the most certain methods to procure health and long life.
Item. Dibble Davis claims something at my hands from the length of our acquaintance, I therefore leave him my constitution; but I am afraid when I die, it will scarcely better than his own.
Item. I leave to the ladies in general, on the stage, (if not the reality, yet) the appearance of modesty; ’twill serve them on more occasions than they are aware of.
Item. To the gentlemen of the stage, some show of prudence.
Item. To the authors of the present times, a smattering of humour.
Item. To the public, a grateful heart.
Here his voice failing him, he told his friend he would finish it as the next day, and bade him put it into his pocket, which he did; but Tom left it, as he did all his promises of amendment, only just begun.
* * * * * * *
Apart from his Memoirs, a short account of Tom’s life was included in the book The Lives of The Players written by John Galt in 1831.
An Audience at Drury Lane Theatre, undated, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
During the autumn of 1806, the Prince of Wales (later George IV) and his brother William, Duke of Clarence (later William IV), undertook a tour of several of the counties of England. We are going to look at just one of their destinations today, their visit to the city of Liverpool and their stay at Knowsley, where they arrived on 16th September.
The royal brothers were travelling with a large retinue, including Colonel Leigh and Major Benjamin Bloomfield, one of the prince’s Gentlemen in Waiting. From Prescot onwards, they were escorted by a detachment of the Liverpool Light Horse Volunteers to Knowsley Hall, the Merseyside estate of Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby and his wife, Elizabeth. (The Countess of Derby was the actress Elizabeth Farren who had been the earl’s long-term mistress during his first – somewhat disastrous – marriage to Lady Elizabeth Hamilton.) The prince, duke and their retinue spent a week at Knowsley, enjoying the hospitality of the earl and countess.
The prince was in a low mood. He had lost two of his close friends within the space of a week with the deaths of Edward Thurlow, 1st Baron Thurlow and Charles James Fox; George had been told about the death of the latter as he left his previous host, George Granville Leveson-Gower, Marquess of Stafford (later 1st Duke of Sutherland) at Trentham Hall in Staffordshire, and it fell to him to tell the Earl and Countess of Derby the sad news as he arrived at Knowsley. It was, therefore, a gloomy party who entered the gates of Knowsley. (The Countess of Derby, then Miss Farren of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, had enjoyed a short-lived affair with Fox who reputedly said dismissively of Elizabeth that she had ‘no bum nor breasts!’)
The party spent the next day quietly and privately: Henry Clay was the mayor, and he and the Corporation of Liverpool turned up at the mansion to present an address to the prince and confer the freedom of the borough on him, presented in a handsome gold box.
Despite the prince’s private grief, the show had to go on. On Thursday 18th September, the royal entourage set out from Knowsley in the Earl of Derby’s coach and six, with twenty carriages following on behind. The vast crowds of people lining the route had hoped to see the prince, but to their disappointment, he was in a close carriage, virtually hidden from sight. Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester (George III’s nephew and son-in-law) greeted the party on their entrance into the city, along with various militia.
The prince was taken to inspect the docks and the Institution for the Relief of the Blind where he asked to become their patron and immediately donated one hundred guineas. After a cold luncheon at the mayor’s house, more visits and inspections followed throughout the afternoon. In the evening, the mayor hosted a grand dinner at Lillyman’s Hotel and the town was lit up afterwards with a magnificent illumination. The prince was delighted. On his return to Knowsley, he commented to the Earl of Derby that it had been ‘the proudest day of his life’.
To the delight of the citizens, on the following day, the prince paraded through Liverpool in an open carriage, drawn by six horses and with three postilions, to cheers and huzzahs. After calling on the mayor to thank him and the Corporation, the prince proceeded to the recently established Botanic Garden in the Mount Pleasant area of Liverpool (now incorporated within the Wavertree Botanic Gardens).
The visit was a great success but had come at a huge price. It was estimated that the Corporation of Liverpool had spent some 10,000l on the entertainments. Major Bloomfield wrote a letter of thanks to the mayor at the direction of the prince, from Knowsley where the Prince of Wales and Duke of Clarence remained, enjoying the hospitality of their hosts and friends, the Earl and Countess of Derby.
Knowsley, September 20th 1806
I am commanded by the Prince of Wales to express to you and the corporation of Liverpool, the strong sense his Royal Highness entertains of the very splendid and magnificent reception he has met with in your opulent and populous town. I have to lament the inadequacy of my powers to convey to you in the forcible language it requires, the feelings of his Royal Highness upon this occasion. The heartfelt satisfaction which seemed to pervade all ranks of people, could not fail to excite in his Royal Highness’s breast, the most sensible emotions of affection and regard, the impression of which, will ever remain indelible. His Royal Highness’s repeated exclamation, that “This is the proudest day of my life,” will, I trust, be sufficiently conclusive to you of the grateful sensations of his Royal Highness.
I am further commanded to request, that you will have the goodness to undertake the trouble of offering the subsequent bounties of his Royal Highness, to the following charities of Liverpool, viz.
One hundred guineas to the Infirmary
One hundred guineas to the Institution for the Blind
Fifty guineas to the Welch Charity
Fifty guineas to the poor debtors.
The Prince of Wales begs that you will personally accept the consideration of his high esteem and regard; and,
I have the honor to remain, &c.
H. Clay, Esq. &c, Liverpool.
The royal brothers, meanwhile, continued their tour into Cheshire and onwards through south Yorkshire and then on to Chatsworth in Derbyshire.
The History of Liverpool: from the earliest authenticated period down to the present times, 1810
Chester Courant, 23rd September 1806
Hampshire Chronicle, 29th September 1806
Leeds Intelligencer, 29th September 1806
Manchester Mercury, 30th September 1806
View of Liverpool Harbour by Robert Salmon, 1806. The Anathaeum.
ELOPEMENT IN HIGH LIFE – A young married Lady of rank, and highly distinguished in the fashionable circles by her personal attractions, absconded from the neighbourhood of Berkeley-square, a few days since, in order to throw herself into the arms of a noble gallant, the brother of an English Duke. The fair inconstant had shown a restless disposition for some time before her indiscreet departure, which took place by her going out immediately after breakfast, and walking to a street adjoining the New Road, where Lord ____ awaited her arrival in his gig, ascending which, she was instantly driven off to their amorous retreat, which the afflicted husband, Sir ____, has not yet been able to discover. Lady ____, either from hurry or singular design, went off without a single article of apparel besides the dress she wore. Her Ladyship is only in her 25th year, and in the full bloom of beauty; and the only palliation that can be offered for this indiscreet transfer of her charms, is, that “her mother did so before her!”
This salacious titbit of gossip was located in a provincial newspaper, the Bristol Mirror, on the 16th September 1815, on page 4.
Page 2 of the same issue had a refutation of the allegation, interestingly above one which related to the Duchess of Richmond’s ball held on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. The two claims, one spurious and one all too true, had something in common which would have been all too obvious to London high society. They both had a link to the Duke of Wellington.
LIES. – The statement of an elopement in high life, inserted in our fourth page (from a London paper) turns out to be UTTERLY FALSE. – The statement of a Female Conspiracy at Brussels, which has appeared in all the papers, and the object of which was said to be to make prisoners of the Duke of Wellington and his staff, at a ball given by the Duchess of Richmond, – is also a COMPLETE FICTION.
While the rumours of a conspiracy at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball might have been false, the former claim was, in fact, all too true. Let’s fill in the blanks on the names.
Lord ____ was Lord Charles Bentinck, younger brother of the 4th Duke of Portland. He was a widower with a young daughter (his first wife had been the former Miss Georgiana Seymour, daughter of the infamous eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott and – reputedly – the Prince of Wales, later George IV).
The afflicted husband, Sir ____ was Sir William Abdy, Baronet, reckoned as the richest commoner in England but rumoured to be impotent and unable to satisfy his gregarious young wife. And what of that wife? Lady ___ was, therefore, Lady Anne Abdy, née Wellesley, the daughter of Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley and his Parisian wife, Hyacinthe Gabrielle née Rolland. Although Anne was not exactly doing what ‘her mother [had done] before her’, Hyacinthe Gabrielle had been Wellesley’s mistress for many years before their marriage, and all their children had been born illegitimate. Hyacinthe Gabrielle might, in 1815, have been a marchioness but popular gossip still remembered her reputation as a courtesan.
Anne was the niece of the great Duke of Wellington who had been at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels on the 15th June 1815, when the news that Napoleon Bonaparte was on the march had reached him. He later victoriously commanded the allied forces at the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June where some of the officers, having not had time to change, fought in the clothes they had been attired in for the Duchess’ ball, and many young men never returned to waltz in a ballroom again.
Brussels was known to be sympathetic to Bonaparte; a story had spread that Bonaparte suggested to the ladies of Brussels that they should encourage the Duchess of Richmond to hold her ball. It was even rumoured that he had men hidden outside waiting for his arrival only for one of the ladies to give the plot away. These rumours were totally false, the duchess had actually applied to the Duke of Wellington himself, asking his permission to hold her ball as it was known that the French were drawing close to the Belgian capital city.
Charles and Anne’s elopement, just weeks after the great battle, caused a scandal which set the gossip’s tongues wagging; they had been discussing Wellington’s great victory, now instead they tattled about the marital indiscretions of his niece.
Our book, A Right Royal Scandal: two marriages that changed history, documents the elopement and the ensuing Criminal Conversation trial and divorce. It follows the family through to the next generation when Charles and Anne’s eldest son made a marriage which was equally scandalous, if for different reasons.
And why a Right Royal Scandal? Because this is a branch of the British royal family’s tree, ancestors of Queen Elizabeth II, one which has not been researched in-depth before.
Between the 6th and 8th of September 1769, the town of Stratford-upon-Avon held the first jubilee celebration commemorating the life of the great playwright, William Shakespeare. The event was organised by David Garrick, who was both an actor and the manager of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, Covent Garden. Garrick had portrayed many of Shakespeare’s best-known characters on the stages of London and of Dublin and so was invited to dedicate a statue of the bard at the new town hall: Garrick had other ideas however and turned the event into a three-day spectacular.
The 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee, also known as Garrick’s Jubilee, was ostensibly to celebrate Shakespeare’s birth but was held five years too late (Shakespeare was baptised in April 1564). Regardless of the discrepancy in dates, it was hugely popular and helped to fix Shakespeare as England’s national poet.
Stratford-upon-Avon was flooded – a somewhat unfortunate metaphor, as will be seen – with visitors for the duration of the Jubilee. The town’s only inn was fully booked and townspeople made a small fortune in renting out rooms (albeit while grumbling about the inconvenience to their daily lives) but even so, many visitors were forced to sleep in their carriages overnight. A masquerade warehouse had opened in the town, in anticipation of the extravaganza and, a new sight to the townsfolk, sedan chairs had been brought from London and Bath.
The celebrations opened on Wednesday 6th September to cannon fire and a breakfast at the town hall. A portrait of Shakespeare by Garrick’s friend Benjamin Wilson hung at one end of the dining room and one of Garrick by Thomas Gainsborough at the other (both portraits were sadly lost in a fire in 1946). At 11 o’clock Dr Thomas Arne’s Oratorio of Judith was performed in the church, featuring, amongst others, the celebrated Mrs Sophia Baddeley.
After that, attention turned to a specially built wooden structure on the banks of the River Avon, the Jubilee Pavilion or rotunda, where a dinner was held with almost a thousand ladies and gentlemen crammed in at the tables, many more than anticipated. The food was accompanied by the sound of workmen hammering in nails: the rotunda had not been completed in time and work was still ongoing to make it sound. Garrick, ever the showman, carried on regardless and proclaimed the toast while holding a goblet made of mulberry wood ‘cut out of the mulberry tree planted by Shakespeare’. Following the dinner was a ball which was opened by John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset and the Duke of Ancaster’s sister, Lady Mary Greathead.
The Jubilee, despite Garrick’s best-laid plans, now began to descend into a comedic farce and the typically British weather was to blame. It didn’t just rain, it poured and the pageant and attendant processions through the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon, with participants dressed as characters from Shakespeare’s plays, had to be abandoned. Instead, after a public breakfast, Garrick delivered an ode in honour of the bard, wearing a medallion of Shakespeare on his breast and brandishing a wand both made, like his goblet, from mulberry wood. In the window frames, were large transparent portraits representing the most popular Shakespearian characters.
The evening entertainment was a masquerade ball, held in the rotunda, and a planned firework display. Unfortunately, the masquerade guests had to be carried in, or risk their footwear as they waded ankle-deep through the river water which was rapidly rising, and the roof was discovered to leak in places. Despite this, a good time was had by all, with the guests attired in a myriad of fantastical costumes. James Boswell, newly returned from Corsica, and having just published a memoir of his travels, appeared finely dressed as a Corsican. He subsequently had his picture engraved and published in the London Magazine with a puff-piece of an article written by himself.
One of the most remarkable masks upon this occasion was James Boswell Esq.
The fireworks ended up being little more than damp squibs in the deluge. At the close of the festivities, various masked guests including drunken witches, harlequins, sultans and one Corsican had to wade knee-deep across the meadow on which the rotunda was sited to reach their carriages and beds.
It rained until midday on Friday 8th September. The River Avon had overflowed to such an extent that the rotunda was flooded. All that could be salvaged of the last day’s planned entertainment was an extremely waterlogged horse race on Shottery Meadow but by this time it was too late and many guests had abandoned the Jubilee altogether and were heading as fast as they could on jam-packed roads away from the town. As Boswell noted:
After the joy of the jubilee came the uneasy reflection that I was in a little village in wet weather and knew not how to get away.
Bizarrely, there had been no performance of a Shakespeare play planned for the event, not even one scene, a fact which garnered much criticism. Referring to the event afterwards as ‘my folly’, Garrick was forced to admit that, although this was an intended omission with the idea that people would discover the bard ‘all around them’ instead of through his plays, this was a glaring error and – coupled with the complete washout of the event – it marked a low point in his career. He also lost a large sum of his own money in staging the event. However, as we shall see in a later blog, all was not yet lost. The redoubtable Garrick had one more trick up his sleeve with which he hoped to salvage both his reputation and the Jubilee celebrations.
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 14th September 1769
Boswell’s Jubilee: against the backdrop of the 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee, James Boswell’s willpower is tested. Andrew McConnell Stott, 2016 (Lapham’s Quarterly)
‘The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespearean festivals and theatres’, in A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3, Barlichway Hundred, ed. Philip Styles (London, 1945), pp. 244-247. British History Online
The actor and theatre manager David Garrick as Shakespeare’s Richard III by William Hogarth, c.1745. Walker Art Gallery.
We are taking our annual summer holiday from blogging and so this will be our last post until September when we will be back with plenty of new posts and some exciting news (CLICK HERE for a teaser and there’s a little more to be found at the end of this blog!). In the meantime though, we have taken a look back at a few of our favourite blogs from this year, in a summer reading recap for our readers, old and new.
We invite you to discover Henry Cope, the Green Man of Brighton. He dressed in ‘green pantaloons, green waistcoat, green frock, green cravat… He eats nothing but greens, fruits and vegetables; has his apartments painted green, and furnished with a green sofa, green chairs, green tables, green bed and green curtains. His gig, his livery his portmanteau, his gloves and his whips, are all green. With a green silk handkerchief in his hand and a large watch chain with green seals, fastened to the green buttons of his green waistcoat he parades every day on the Steyne, Brighton’.