Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns. These sweet, spiced buns were also popular throughout the Georgian era, known both as cross buns as well as hot cross buns, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The well-known song relating to them has its origins in the eighteenth-century.
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
This started out as a London street cry, used by the sellers of the buns. The Oxford English Dictionary references a street cry dating to 1733, printed in Poor Robin’s Almanack:
Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs,
With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns.
So, when did the street cry become a ditty? Wikipedia (not always the most reliable, we know!) dates the earliest recorded version of the rhyme to its appearance in The Christmas Box, published in London, 1798. However, we have found mention of a ‘catch’ (a round song; two or more voices singing the same song but beginning at different times) dating from 1767 and printed in the London Chronicle newspaper (2-4 June 1767).
A Catch that won the Prize at the Boarded Bagnio:
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross-buns;
If you’ve no daughters, give them to your sons;
And if you’ve no kind of pretty little elves,
Why then good faith, e’en eat them all yourselves.
One a penny, two a penny, &c.
(Da capo is an Italian term meaning to repeat from the beginning. The Boarded Bagnio was located in Banister’s Alley, St Giles.)
We’re not sure what exactly was going on at the Boarded Bagnio to merit the hot cross bun rhyme winning a prize, but this version of the popular ditty predates its appearance in The Christmas Box by over three decades and is the earliest reference to it that we can find. Is this the origin of the song?
What of the origins of the buns themselves? One writer, in 1777, refers to the custom in Greece to make presents of coloured eggs, and cakes of Easter bread. He continues:
Probably the Cross Buns made at present on Good Friday have been derived from these or such like Cakes of Easter Bread. The Country People in the North make with a knife many little Cross Marks on their Cakes, before they put them into the Oven, &c. – I have no doubt but that this too, trifling as the Remark may appear, is a Relique of Popery. Thus also persons, who cannot write, instead of signing their Names, are bid to make their Mark, which is generally done in the form of a Cross.
We’ve searched for an authentic recipe for the cross buns of the era, but the closest we have found is this from the Morning Chronicle, 23 April 1791:
GOOD FRIDAY ADVERTISEMENTS
A person, well known at Leicester, lately took this mode of informing the public, ‘that his Buns, made of the best Flour, and the genuine spices of the East, would be ready for delivery by six in the morning’. After desiring them to be aware of imposters, he concluded as follows:
GOOD FRIDAY approaches, and hard have I strove,
My highest respect for the Public to prove;
And to make my commodity worth approbation,
Collected the sweets of each spice-breathing nation.
What tho’ some base Gingerbread Weavers, for fun,
In their ribaldry, call me a Cake and a Bun;
In the making of Buns, there’s no rival I fear,
I’ve in mine, no mix’d Butter, nor rot-gut Small Beer –
But there’s everything genuine! Look at their size,
For they’ll melt in your mouth, and swell proud to your eyes.
And so, while I exist, you shall never lay fault on
Your Cross-bun Distributer, fam’d EDIS WATTON.
There was a tradition, probably harking back to the religious connotations with the buns, that stale and mouldy cross buns would cure many childhood ailments. Luckily the child does not seem to have been expected to eat the buns – sometimes several years old – but instead they would be bandaged to their body.
Sources not referenced in the text:
Observations on popular antiquities: including the whole of Mr. Bourne’s Antiquitates vulgares, with addenda to every chapter of that work: as also, an appendix, containing such articles on the subject, as have been omitted by that author. By John Brand, A. B. Of Lincoln College, Oxford. 1777
In our latest book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, we recount the adventures of Sarah Wilson, aka Lady Wilbrahammon… amongst other aliases! Sarah was a very convincing impostress and her life is one of those cases when fact proves to be far stranger than fiction. But, although rare, Sarah was certainly not unique. She was perhaps inspired to commit her grand fraud after reading of a girl named Mary Ramsay in the broadsheets. Mary’s story dated to April 1738, but it was widely reported in 1764 just before Sarah’s own antics.
* * *
In a ditch, between St Albans and Colney Heath in Hertfordshire, lay a poor starving girl, half-naked and too weak to move. Two bakers were travelling along the road, and they heard the girl’s groans and rescued her, taking her to an alehouse near the turnpike. The surgeon and apothecary, Mr Humphries, was sent for and under his care, the girl recovered.
Then the girl told her story. She was Mary Ramsay, nineteen years of age and from Hull in East Yorkshire. Her father had been an eminent surgeon and man-midwife who, when he died, had left Mary, his younger daughter, a fortune of £7,000 and trusted her to the care of his brother (there was an elder daughter living in London who was married to a wealthy Suffolk gentleman named Mr Cooke). Mary’s uncle was kindness itself to his young charge and so Mary suspected nothing when he sent her to London to board with a gentlewoman who kept a school in order that she could learn the manners required for a young lady of fashion. Dressed in a new riding habit and jockey cap, Mary was placed in a stagecoach and given a letter of introduction addressed to the schoolmistress. At the coaching inn at Stamford in Lincolnshire, where Mary had stopped to dine, she accidentally dropped the letter; it was found by a fellow passenger, a sea captain whose name Mary had forgotten. Upon hearing Mary’s story, the sea captain persuaded her to open it. The note – signed by her uncle – was brief and to the point.
The person who brings you this is the young woman I told you of. I acknowledge receipt of half the money agreed on, and expect the remainder as soon as convenient.
Mary had been effectively sold, to a man she did not know. With no-one looking she made her escape, slipped away and travelled on foot for a couple of days. In need of funds, she sold her jockey cap to an old woman and then exchanged her riding habit for a gown and some money, enough to get her to London to find her sister. It proved a fruitless search and so she set out once again, penniless now, resolving to return to Hull. Mary managed to trek as far as St Albans where – in her distressed state – she had been found.
She was the very picture of innocence and the good townsfolk of St Albans rallied around Mary, raising a subscription to clothe her and pay for her journey back to Hull. In the meantime, she lived in the mayor’s house with his family. All was going very well for young Mary until one voice of dissent was heard. A man recently returned from London cast doubt on her story, to the fury of the mayor and the inhabitants of St Albans. This man remembered that he had an acquaintance in Hull and so he wrote to him, to establish the truth of the matter. The reply was unfortunate for Mary. The acquaintance in Hull stated that:
… a surgeon of the name of Ramsay had formerly lived in the neighbourhood of Hull, who was very poor all his life-time, and who was confined for debt in the castle of Lincoln, and died there about ten years before; that he had two daughters, abandoned wretches and common prostitutes, who strolled about the country under various and fallacious pretences; that upon the strictest enquiry, he could not find that Ramsay had a brother; and that if the people of St Albans would pass her to Hull, [Mary] would there meet with her dessert.
Mary protested; the man who had written the letter was a particular friend of her uncle and had colluded in the deception practised upon her. The mayor – not knowing who to believe – directed two letters to gentlemen in Hull, asking for clarification. The answers came back, confirming that Mary was lying. The mayor wasted no time and Mary found herself in the Bridewell where she confessed all. She was a dupe, an impostor, and she was whipped at the cross as a vagrant on the next market day before being packed off back to Hull.
That Mary received her comeuppance didn’t deter Sarah Wilson who, just two years after this tale had been published, embarked on her own fantastical adventures. In fact, we suspect the tall-tale about Mary Ramsay to be a complete work of fiction as we can find no proof to substantiate any of it, but that probably doesn’t matter. It was reported as fact and the tale took on a life of its own in the imagination of Sarah Wilson, alias Lady Wilbrahammon, whose story is most definitely true, even though it is not quite as has been reported over the centuries. But, to discover the amazing adventures of ‘Lady Wilbrahammon’, you’ll have to read our book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century.
The Beauties of all the Magazines, selected for the year 1764, vol. iii
In an earlier blog, we looked at the life of Charlotte Williams, illegitimate daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire; Charlotte was brought up in the duke’s household by his beleaguered wife, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. It has proved to be one of our most popular blogs, so we thought it was worth trying to shed a little more light on Charlotte’s mother, a milliner named Charlotte Spencer.
If you’ve watched the film, The Duchess, you will no doubt remember the scene early on when Georgiana, pregnant with her first child, is introduced to her husband’s young daughter, who is brought to Devonshire House in London following the death of her mother. Using artistic licence, the timings are, however, slightly out in the film.
On 5 June 1774, at Wimbledon, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, married Georgiana Spencer, d/o John, Earl Spencer and his wife Georgiana (née Poyntz). The groom’s parish was stated to be St George, Hanover Square, that of the bride Westminster St James. Charlotte Williams was known to be born a few months before this grand union; just weeks earlier, on 20 March, a little girl named Charlotte had been christened at St George, Hanover Square, her parents named as William and Charlotte Cavendish (and her birthdate given as 22 February).
All we really know of the mother, Charlotte Spencer, comes from one of the Town and Country Magazine’s gossipy tête-à-tête articles which appeared in the spring of 1777; Memoirs of the D___ of D___ and Miss Charlotte S____r. If Georgiana had been in the dark about her husband’s mistress, she would certainly have known all about it when this magazine hit the streets.
Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, William Cavendish had succeeded to his title, on the death of his father. Left an orphan, he was raised by three bachelor uncles who sent him abroad on the aristocratic ‘gap year’, the Grand Tour. The tête-à-tête article claimed that while in Paris, Cavendish captured the heart of Louis XV’s maîtresse-en-titre, Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry, some five years older than the duke but much more worldly wise. The duke’s uncles got wind of things, and rushed him home.
Finding she [Madame du Barry] had built too much upon her charms, influence, and attractions; and, at the same time, that her heart was too far engaged in the conflict, she became the dupe to her own artifice; and the young English nobleman had his vanity so far gratified as to be the rival of the grand monarque.
Returning to London, the duke made the acquaintance of a pretty milliner who had ‘the finest eyes he had ever beheld’. He became a customer, and then her lover. Charlotte Spencer was the daughter of a country curate whose situation had allowed of nothing more than a ‘tolerable education’ for his daughter. After his death, Charlotte travelled to London where she fell into the clutches of ‘a veteran procuress, who, under the veil of religion, prevailed upon Charlotte to be a lodger in her house, that she might take care of her salvation’. It is suggested that Charlotte had at least one pregnancy (and possibly a termination) while lodged in this brothel before leaving, only to fall into the hands of ‘an old debauchee, who pretended to adore her mental, as well as her personal attractions’. This old rake gave Charlotte a handsome allowance and set her up in an elegant house, but she hated the life; after a few months her ‘keeper’ died and left her mistress of a fortune enough for her to set up a milliner’s shop. Where, soon afterwards, the 5th Duke of Devonshire found her…
The duke and Miss Spencer seem to have lived happily together for some years; she left the milliner’s shop behind and the duke provided for her. He set her up in a discreet rented villa.
We may now suppose our hero in full possession of all Charlotte’s charms, and that she was happy in an alliance with a young nobleman every way amiable. Yet a paradox still remains to be solved; which is, that after some years intercourse with Miss S___r, who was now rather approaching the decline of beauty, our hero should marry a nobleman’s daughter, a universal toast, still in her teens, with every personal accomplishment, who gives the Ton wherever she goes, and that he should still be fond of his antiquated (by comparison) Charlotte?
The truth is that the duke needed a male heir, and while he was clearly fond of Charlotte Spencer, the teenaged, wealthy and well-connected Miss Georgiana Spencer (it is an ironic coincidence that the two ladies bore the same surname) was the more suitable bride and prospective mother for a son and heir. Poor Charlotte had only given him a daughter.
Georgiana married her duke in May 1774, and this little scandal broke in the press almost three years later. Popular gossip said that the duke continued to see Charlotte regularly during the first years of his marriage.
There is a caprice in mankind, it is true, that cannot be accounted for – whim prevails more than reason – but that the blooming, the blythe, and beautiful D___ should be neglected for Charlotte S___r is really astonishing!
The duke’s affair with Charlotte Spencer fizzled out after 1778, and all available evidence suggests that she had died by May 1780 when the six-year-old Charlotte Williams was brought, with her nurse, Mrs Gardner, into the Cavendish household.
Despite her unhappy marriage, the Duchess of Devonshire was the toast of the town. Extravagant, vivacious and addicted to gambling, Georgiana was also compassionate and caring; when the young and motherless Charlotte Williams was presented to her, Georgiana took the girl to her heart and brought her up as her own daughter. In time, Georgiana had three children of her own by the duke, Georgiana (Little G) born 1783, Harriet (Harry-O) in 1785 and William (known as Hart, as his courtesy title was Marquess of Hartington) who was born in 1790. (Georgiana suffered many miscarriages during her marriage.)
A couple of years or so after Charlotte Spencer’s death, Georgiana met Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster at Bath; Bess quickly became an indispensable member of the Cavendish household, given a role as Charlotte Williams governess and replacing Charlotte Spencer in the duke’s affections. Something of a ménage à trois developed. Georgiana retaliated with an affair of her own, falling in love with the future prime minister, Charles Grey; in 1792 and in exile from her husband and children, Georgiana gave birth to Grey’s daughter. Known as Eliza Courtney, this girl was brought up by Grey’s family although Georgiana did manage to make secret visits to her. Bess Foster accompanied Georgiana during these years of exile before the two returned to the duke in 1793. Bess, after Georgiana’s death, would become the duke’s next wife.
And, you can find out what became of Charlotte Williams in our earlier blog.
Town and Country Magazine, March 1777
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman (Flamingo/Harper Collins, 1999)
We have some exciting news to share with you, our readers, today. As well as writing our bi-weekly blog posts, we have also been working on our fourth book together… and this one is based on our blog! In fact, we’ve reused the name, and the title of our new book is All Things Georgian: Tales From the Long Eighteenth-Century.
It contains 25 tales that you won’t find on our blog already, all a little longer in length but, as ever, lavishly illustrated, predominantly in colour. In fact, we’ve got over 100 gorgeous colour pictures scattered throughout the text. The tales are all in roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830 and set within the framework of the main events of the era.
So, what stories can you expect to find inside? We bill ourselves as historical super-sleuths and we’ve dug into various archives to discover the weird, the wonderful and the downright strange side of long eighteenth-century.
Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Marvel at the Queen’s Ass, gaze at the celestial heavens through the eyes of the past and be amazed by the equestrian feats of the Norwich Nymph. Journey to the debauched French court at Versailles, travel to Covent Garden and take your seat in a box at the theatre and, afterwards, join the mile-high club in a new-fangled hot air balloon. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory.
Out in the UK by the end of April, 2019. Click here to discover more.
For a woman who was noted as such a beauty, it has always frustrated us that there are not more surviving portraits and drawings of our ‘infamous mistress’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. There is a miniature by Cosway, painted around the time of her marriage with Dr (later Sir) John Eliot, and the two well-known portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, plus a disputed chalk drawing by John Hoppner which may or may not depict Grace.
Imagine our surprise and delight then, to come across the drawing below by the caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson which purports to depict ‘Lady Elliott, otherwise Dally the Tall’. The inscription contains one glaring error; Grace was never Lady Eliot, her husband had divorced her well before he became a baronet but, nevertheless, this could indeed be Grace (her nickname was Dally the Tall, a play upon her surname and height), probably drawn sometime around 1782-1786 and wearing a chemise à la reine. We know that she was famous for bringing the dress into fashion here in the UK.
After her divorce, Grace had been the Earl of Cholmondeley’s mistress, before leaving his arms for the protection of Philippe d’Orléans, then the duc de Chartres (later duc d’Orléans and, during the Revoution, Philippe Égalité). Grace then snared British royalty when, for just a few short weeks, she enjoyed a relationship with the young Prince of Wales (later King George IV). During the summer of 1782, Grace gave birth to the prince’s daughter.
In February 1783, Grace appeared at a masquerade ball held at the Pantheon arm-in-arm with Charles Wyndam, 3rd son of the 2nd Earl of Egremont. Also present were Perdita (Mary Robinson), Grace’s one-time rival for the Prince of Wales, but now with her new lover, Colonel Banastre Tarleton, Lady Grosvenor and Mary (Moll) Benwell with Colonel Richard FitzPatrick.
A few of the Cyprian Corps in elevated life were present – Mrs Elliott’s dress, the chemise de la reine, and Miss Sheppard’s were the most elegant of the whole group. The Perdita and the T__le__n paired off very early. Mrs B__nw__ll, and Col. F___tz__ck were in close Teˆte-a`-Teˆte all the evening, also Mr W___nd__m and Mrs Elliot, Lady Gr__v__r likewise perambulated the circle for a considerable time.
The company were very sociable, and the dances continued till past seven in the morning.
The chemise à la reine, was the height of fashion. A diaphanous white muslin gown with a coloured sash ribbon tied high on the waist, the wearer appeared fashionably déshabillé or undressed; the chemise had, until this time, been used as an undergarment but now it was worn as a dress in its own right with no corset underneath. It was popularized in France during the early 1780s by Queen Marie Antoinette who was painted wearing such a dress by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (to the outrage of her subjects who were scandalized to see their queen dressed in such a simple and romantic way).
Marie Antoinette had sent a few of these chemises to her aristocratic friends in England, in particular to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. The duchess and Mary Robinson are usually credited with introducing the fashion to England but Grace was also an early devotee of the style. She had spent time at the French court as the mistress of the duc de Chartres; had she too been sent a chemise à la reine from friends in France?
With the Prince of Wales no longer interested in Grace, and the Earl of Cholmondeley having also moved on, Grace found herself in Paris… and with a new rival: the beautiful and ‘celebrated’ Moll Benwell, a courtesan at least a decade younger than Grace. If Grace wanted to renew her relationship with the duc de Chartres she was out of luck, for Moll Benwell stole her thunder. There began a tit-for-tat game between the two women, played out in London and Paris.
If we may credit our intelligence from France, English beauties are not less admired in Paris, than in their native kingdom – the reigning toasts there at present are, the Benwell, and the Elliot; the former is allowed to be by far the most elegant woman that has appeared there these many years, they term her the Kitty Fisher of her time, from her likeness to that beautiful woman. The Duc de Chartres has made himself extremely ridiculous on her account, following her to all public places; to the contempt with which she treats him and his promises (which that nobleman is but too apt to make) she may attribute his constant attendance on her.
The fortunes of the handsome Colonel Richard FitzPatrick (second son of the Earl of Upper Ossory) fluctuated wildly. He was a close and loyal friend of Charles James Fox (the two men had known each other since their schooldays) and one of the intimate group that included the Earl of Cholmondeley, the Prince of Wales and Charles Wyndham. An ofﬁcer with the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, the dashing colonel was also an inveterate gambler, a solo balloonist, bon viveur and wit.
As beﬁtted such a great friend of Charles James Fox, FitzPatrick had stood as a Member of Parliament, holding the borough of Tavistock from 1774, but gave as little time as he could to matters of business, preferring to devote himself to pleasure instead. He lived on his credit and tradesmen were always denied access to his house when they called to press their bills. Because of her own debts, Moll had left the colonel in the spring of 1783; she couldn’t pay them and neither could he, and so she journeyed to Paris at the same time as Grace.
With an improvement in FitzPatrick’s ability to procure credit, Moll returned to London; Grace must have been pleased to see the back of her and the way to the duc de Chartres left clear once more.
The winter of 1783 found the tables turned and Grace in London with Mary Benwell back in Paris; King George III was on the verge of dismissing the government and so FitzPatrick’s credit would once more be on hold. With her rival once more stealing her thunder in Paris, Grace, in London, exacted her tit-for-tat revenge and found herself a new protector, snaring for herself the Honourable Colonel Richard FitzPatrick.
During the 1784 election, Grace was by FitzPatrick’s side campaigning for the Whigs and Charles James Fox on the streets of Westminster (as, famously, did Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). The supporters of Charles James Fox took to wearing ‘true blue’ colours and favours on the streets, denoting their support of American Independents and their hostility to Pitt and his ministers, and Grace was no exception.
Miss Dalrymple is so azurized, that nothing under the blue sky can exceed her; she wears a blue hat; her eyes are blue, her breast-bows and ribbons are the same colour; her carriage is also blue; and she is called by way of distinction the ‘Blue Belle of Scotland, &c. &c’.
Was the Rowlandson caricature drawn around this time?
In An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, you can discover Grace, and her equally fascinating relations. It is available at all good bookshops worldwide, including Amazon, in hardback and as an eBook.
Courtesan. Spy. Survivor. A gripping and meticulously researched account of the swashbuckling life of one of history’s most overlooked heroines: Hallie Rubenhold, author of The Scandalous Lady W
At the time of writing, you can download An Infamous Mistress as either a Kindle or ePub from our publisher, Pen & Sword Books, for just £4.99.
We’ve written about Georgian era riding habits in an earlier blog, but this time we’re looking at the practicalities of wearing one. Female equestrians in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries were certainly hampered by their clothes, in comparison to men, and needed assistance just to mount and dismount. Then, once in the saddle, they had to arrange themselves to be perfectly positioned with their skirts all in place.
The young horsewoman’s compendium of the modern art of riding; comprising a progressive course of lessons; designed to give ladies a secure and graceful seat on horseback; at the same time, so effectively to form the hand, that they may, in a short time, acquire perfect command of their horses, (1827) gives the following instructions for a novice horsewoman.
Two persons are necessary to assist in putting a Lady on Horseback; one to hold up the Horse’s head, standing immediately in front, with a hand on each Bridoon Rein, close to the Horse’s mouth; the other to life the Lady up to the Saddle.
The Lady having first adjusted her Habit, is to place her right shoulder against the Saddle, her face turned a little from the Horse. Her right hand, with the Bridoon Rein hanging loosely on the fore-finger, or thumb, to be placed on the upright Horn, and to stand perfectly erect, resting the whole weight of the body on the right foot.
The person lifting our equestrian up, now stoops down and cups his hands together; the lady places her left foot in his hands and keeps her left knee as straight as possible.
If the left knee be much bent, the person lifting the Lady up, has very little command of her weight; she is, therefore, compelled to drag herself up in the most ungraceful manner possible… by attention to the foregoing rules, the most heavy, or inactive person, may be lifted up at the first attempt, if the pressure in the man’s hands is correctly perpendicular, and the Lady stands so close to the Saddle as to touch it with her right shoulder.
Before all this, however, thought needs to be given to the riding habit… specifically keeping it out of the way.
[When being lifted onto the saddle] care must be taken, that no part of the Habit is under the Lady’s foot when placed in the man’s hands; as it acts as a check, and prevents her taking a sufficient spring, which must be proportioned to the height of the Horse the Lady is to be put on.
On arriving in the Saddle, the right knee must be put into the crutch as soon as possible; but, previously to doing so, it will be advisable to take hold of the Habit and under garments with the right hand, close to the right knee, to ease them up, in order to allow sufficient room for the knee to come quite down in the crutch, where it must remain perfectly stationary.
Should the Habit require any regulating behind, the Lady must take hold of the crutch with her right hand, and gently raise herself from the Saddle, and smooth it down with her left hand; but if it is properly adjusted, previously to being lifted up, it will require very little alteration after arriving in the Saddle.
Great care must be observed, that the Habit and under garments are particularly full and easy, in order that the Lady may be at perfect liberty, and not, in the most trifling degree, confined by them.
It is a much safer plan, to put that part of the Habit which hangs near the Horse’s side, round the foot, previously to putting it into the Stirrup, than to fasten it down with a clasp, or a pin; as, in the event of a Lady being thrown from her Horse, the Habit disengages itself with the foot.
The Skirt to the Riding Habit should not be too long, as there is a possibility of its getting between the Horse’s fore-legs, or being blown across them, so as to check his action, and throw him down. It also makes a Lady’s figure appear disproportionate.
There is also advice as to headgear, but not relating to safety as we’d understand it. No hard hats here, and we do wonder what the writer would have made of a lady carrying a parasol while hawking, as in this portrait below.
Long veils are also dangerous on Horseback, as they get entangled with the Reins, confuse the Rider, and cause her to lose the command of her Horse.
Never lift the right hand up, with the Whip in it, to adjust the Hat; it not only looks extremely awkward, but will sometimes cause a Horse to shy. Place the Whip under the thumb of the Bridle Hand; and should there be a Rein in the right hand, it may either be dropped, or placed under the forefinger of the Bridle Hand. This leaves the right hand quite at liberty.
This lady, then, is doing everything wrong!
It was advised that, as with getting into the saddle, at least two men should be present to help our lady dismount from her horse and that:
before springing from the Saddle, [she should] draw the right hand down under the right leg, to feel that the Habit is quite clear of it and the Stirrup.
It wasn’t unheard of for women to ride astride a horse rather than side-saddle. An early nineteenth-century caricature, full of innuendo, jokes about the practice.
It was more commonplace on mainland Europe for ladies to ‘ride astride’ or en cavalier (literally, as a rider or horseman). There are famous portraits of both Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great riding in male clothing in this way. The ill-fated Caroline Matilda, George III’s younger sister, embraced the custom after she married the Danish king.
The [Danish] Queen Consort, young, gay, affable and obliging, gained all hearts by her assiduity to please. It is no wonder that such a person should give occasion for censure to those who were already disposed to find fault… The ladies of Denmark, unlike our countrywomen, when they ride, bestride their horses like men; but to preserve the decorum of the sex, they wear a petticoat over their drawers or breeches. Unhappily her Majesty looked upon the petticoat as an incumbrance, and when she hunted, dressed herself en cavalier. This was immediately taken notice of by her enemies as a great act of indecency.
Nevertheless, riding in this way caused much astonishment and excitement in England.
A German Lady who dresses, and rides en cavalier, has for several days past attracted the attention of the beaux and belles in Hyde-park. She is well mounted, takes her morning rides without any attendant, and leaps over the different bars in the park with all imaginable coolness, and resolution.
And, just slipping in within our timeframe, is this account of the trend-setting Lady Mary Deerhurst, taking full advantage of her freedoms while living and travelling abroad.
The lady alluded to in the Morning Post as astonishing the natives of Rome by riding in the public streets in Turkish trowsers, and en cavalier, with her daughter in a similar costume is Lady Mary Deerhurst, the lively daughter of Aubrey, Duke of St Albans. Her elopement with Viscount Deerhurst was followed in a few years by separation between the parties; since which period, being in possession of a splendid fortune, she has lived an independent life in Italy, somewhat after the fashion of Lady Hester Stanhope. In her exploring parties in the vicinity of Rome, Lady Mary frequently remains on horseback from twelve to sixteen hours, to the no small consternation of her languid Italian attendants.
The person, Sir, who I informed you had last year swallowed a fork on Shrove Tuesday, discharged it by the anus the same year, (1715) on the 25th June.
Ahem! Now we’ve got your attention, today being Shrove Tuesday, we’re taking a look at some of the events which occurred on the day in the Georgian era. Often celebrated as a half-holiday with bell-ringing and games, we all know of the custom of pancakes; today pancake races are still often held. But, what about other traditions? And no, fork swallowing wasn’t one of them; that was just an accident which occurred on the day. Mind you, some of the customs were just as awful…
An old custom around the mid-1700s was to throw sticks at cocks on this day… no, we don’t know why either. One theory, given in a letter in the Stamford Mercury of 1768 said that:
Gallieide, or cock-throwing, was first introduced by way of contempt to the French, and to exasperate the minds of the people against that nation: but why should the custom be continued when we are no longer at war with them?
A cockerel would be tied to a post and then coksteles (weighted sticks) thrown at the bird until, inevitably, it died. In 1763, the mayor and justices of Bath printed an appeal for this practice to end, it being ‘barbarous, and therefore doubtless offensive to Almighty God’. They asked the country folk who lived nearby the city not to bring their cocks to market and sell them for this purpose. Possibly their plea went largely unheeded, as they were forced to repeat their appeal the following year too. In 1753, a riot broke out in Dublin when some soldiers, who were watching the proceedings, expressed their distaste at the practice. In 1766, at Blackburn in Lancashire, some of the local lads were throwing sticks at a cock in the churchyard, but their aim was off and instead they hit a woman walking past.
The stick flew into her eye, and up into her head, which put her into very great torture, and after languishing some time, she died.
Mind you, with the custom of throwing at cocks all but forgotten by the end of the eighteenth-century, the Justices of Derby worried instead about the practice of:
…playing at Foot Ball on Shrove Tuesdays; a custom which whilst it has no better recommendation than its antiquity, for its further continuance, is disgraceful to humanity, and civilization; subversive of good order, and Government, and destructive of the morals, properties, and very lives of our inhabitants.
The year before, it seems, one John Sneap had lost his life while indulging in the game on Shrove Tuesday. Rowdy ‘mob football’ games were yet another odd Shrove Tuesday tradition. And so the city of Derby:
… being fully satisfied that many public and private evils have been occasioned by the custom of playing at FOOT BALL in this Borough on Shrove Tuesdays.
We have unanimously resolved, THAT SUCH CUSTOM SHALL FROM HENCEFORTH BE DISCONTINUED.
Some towns in England still continue this tradition. A much more satisfactory custom was gathering for drinks and a feast.
In Bury, on 24 February 1762, 72 people who all lived within a mile of the town met at the Old Hare and Hounds, to drink the health of the royal family. Amongst the crowed were 38 elderly folk, whose ages amounted to ‘upwards of 3040 years’. Adding the combined ages of those gathered to celebrate Shrove Tuesday seems to be of national interest. The following dates to 1759.
At an entertainment given by the Master of the Talbot Inn, at Ripley in Surrey, on Shrove Tuesday last, to twelve of his neighbours, inhabitants of the said parish, and who lived within five hundred yards distance, the age of the whole amounted to one thousand and eighteen years. What is most remarkable, one of the company is the mother of twelve children, the youngest of whom is sixty. She has within the fortnight walked to Guildford and back again (which is twelve miles) in one day. Another has worked as a journeyman with his Master (a shoemaker, who dined with him) forty-nine years. The all enjoyed their senses and not one made use of a crutch.
And, let’s not forget the poor fork swallower. He was reputed to be a Spanish officer who had accidentally gulped down the fork (it was only a small implement) while cleaning the root of his tongue with the end of the handle. And, the account we have read suggests he came to no permanent harm.
Derby Mercury, 16 March 1753, 7 March 1766 and 18 February 1796
Manchester Mercury, 6 March 1759 and 2 March 1762
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 10 February 1763 and 23 February 1764
There are many accounts of dogs seeking help for their owner following an accident. Here we’ve collected a few tales from contemporary newspapers.
In the early evening of a mid-November day in 1767, a man named Gabriel Park was walking to his home at Carntyne, a Glasgow mining area, when he fell into an old and deep abandoned coal pit by the roadside. Luckily it had no water in it, but he had no way of escape. Gabriel’s small pointer dog was with him, and all night it ran around the mouth of the pit, yelping and howling. This noise alerted several colliers who, early the next morning, were walking to their place of work; they came over to see what the commotion was. Gabriel was fair spent by this time, and had barely the strength left to call his name, but his rescuers heard his faint cries for help. They fetched ropes and brought him to safety; although he was in a bad state, Gabriel was expected to survive. And, if the Gabriel Park who was buried at Glasgow in 1794 at the age of 67 is him, then survive he did, thanks to his dog.
Another rescue by a dog also occurred in Scotland, on a similar winter’s evening in 1811. Andrew Frame and John Corbet, from Larkhall, were on their way home in an open cart together with their dog. They had to cross the Clyde, which was swollen, and by a mishap, cart, horse and the two men ended up in the river. John Corbet disappeared under the surface and was drowned, but his companion, Andrew, survived, thanks to the dog who grabbed hold of his master’s clothes and kept his head above the water until they got to the shore. The horse also managed to make it to safety; after getting away from his harness he swam to one side of the river only to find the bank too steep to escape, so made his way to the opposite side where he was able to scramble out.
When the Comet II paddle steamer collided with another steamer off Kempock Point, Gourock, Scotland, and sank with the loss of 62 of the 80 passengers on board, a lady named Jane Monro was saved when she managed to grab hold of a greyhound who had been onboard, and who kept her afloat. The fate of the greyhound was not recorded (but we hope he was pulled to safety too!).
Many other accounts relate stories of faithful hounds refusing to leave their dead masters. The following is from early February, 1799.
On Tuesday, an officer’s servant belonging to West Suffolk, was found near the Newmarket turnpike, supposed to have lain in the snow since Saturday. A faithful dog was found lying near his deceased master, buried in the snow by whose barking the body was discovered.
Several years earlier, in 1778, a Southampton man known as French Frank was sent on horseback to Stoke, accompanied by his faithful Newfoundland dog. Somehow met with an accident and both French Frank and the horse ended up tangled together in what was described as ‘the Barge River’ (possibly this means the Trent and Mersey Canal which was completed the year before and that French Frank was heading to Stoke-on-Trent). They both drowned, the bodies discovered due to the Newfoundland, who swam next to French Frank’s body and who could not be coaxed from the water until he was almost exhausted.
A clearly well-to-do gentleman from the London area (for the family had servants) had, in the summer of 1752, been missing for a fortnight. He had a favourite dog who rarely left his side, and this dog had also been absent, returning only for his dinner each day, then quickly vanishing again. Eventually, someone decided that it would be an idea to follow the dog, to see if he could lead them to the missing man. The dog led his owner’s relations to the side of a flooded gravel pit on the road to Marylebone where the dog’s master was found drowned.
Faithful dogs to guide the blind are nothing new.
In the summer of 1810, a blind man accepted a bet of seven shillings, that he could walk six miles in an hour and a half. In this undertaking, he would be guided by his faithful dog. The pair started at 8 o’clock in the morning, on the Fulham road, and walked one mile out and then one mile back in until the six miles was completed. There was a huge crowd of people gathered to watch the event and, to their surprise, the whole six miles was completed with fifteen minutes to spare. The spectators, so impressed by the blind man’s feat, hastily started a collection amongst themselves, and in no time at all they’d raised 40 shillings, which was handed over to the blind pedestrian. Let’s hope he treated his pooch to a good meal with some of the proceeds!
Things didn’t always go so well, though. In 1776, a blind woman was walking along Newcastle’s Quayside, led by her dog. Unfortunately, the dog got a bit too close to the edge, and the poor woman fell into the water. It was near full tide, and a passing stranger grabbed a boat hook, managed to get hold of her dress, and dragged her back to dry land before any great harm came to her.
We found another account of a blind man falling into a river, but this time you couldn’t blame his faithful dog as it was down to foul play.
Sunday night a poor blind man, who was led about the streets by a dog, fell into the Liffey, and was drowned. This was occasioned by some abominable villain cutting the cord with which the poor man was guided by the dog. The animal displayed astonishing affection to the body of his master, when taken out of the river, by licking it over, and signifying great concern at his fate.
We have the following odd affair transmitted to us from Windsor, viz. That a few days ago there died at Portsmouth a person who had lived at Windsor for many years, and by his will order’d that a relation of his (to whom he had bequeathed his all) should go to Portsmouth, bring his body from thence in a hearse, and bury it at six o’clock in the morning, in a grave ten feet deep, in his orchard, where he had himself buried a favourite dog some time ago…
The man was John Mathews, a hat maker from Windsor in Berkshire, who died sometime in late August 1741. (It’s hard to be sure, without a ‘regular’ burial in a churchyard, but his will was opened on 27 August and proved on 3 September 1741, and the newspaper report was dated two days later.) The Will actually stipulated that John should be buried in his ten foot deep grave in his garden under the mulberry tree. No more than a dozen of his friends ‘that have been used to sport with me’ were to be present. A French horn was to be played (the newspaper said it should sound the Death of the Hare while John’s body was being lowered into the ground).
Each mourner was to get a bottle of wine and the parson, who John’s executor should choose, should have a pair of gloves.
John specifically stipulated that if he died away from his home, his executor should bring his body back to be buried beneath the mulberry tree and, if he’d already been buried, to exhume his remains and rebury them as directed. If not, the executor would ‘answer it at the last day and forfeit ten pounds to my next heir at law in three months after my decease…’.
This executor was John’s nephew, William Mathews, who lived with his uncle at Windsor. In return for carrying out his uncle’s wishes, William got the bulk of John Mathew’s wealth and possessions.
We’re not sure what John’s wife, Martha, made of all this, but she was also named in his will, getting 5l. within twenty days of his death and then 20l. a year thereafter, to be paid quarterly unless she remarried in which case her annuity would cease.
There was one further condition placed on William Mathews.
The said relation (who is not of the Establish’d Church) should within three calendar months [of John’s death], receive the Sacrament according to the Ceremony of the Church of England; and upon neglecting to comply with these things, to be cut off from all that this whimsical person died possess’d of, which we hear is about 1000l.
Can we just say here, that if this was his true fortune, we feel for his wife Martha, described by John in his Will as his ‘loving wife’. She got just a fraction and, unless her nephew allowed otherwise, doesn’t seem to have had any right to remain in her home (assuming it was owned by John and not Martha). However, the newspaper wasn’t quite correct on one thing; if William didn’t take the Sacrament, he didn’t forfeit everything, just 100l. which was to go to whoever stood next in line as John’s ‘lawful heir’.
Oh, and as a quick postscript to his Will, John left just a shilling to a niece.
The newspapers reported that the first part of this odd will had been complied with, and John had been laid to rest in his garden at 6 o’clock in the morning. A week later, twelve people were to assemble at the makeshift grave, the invites already having been sent (John’s Will, however, seems to suggest they should have been present at the burial itself), ‘and ‘tis not doubted but the last part will be perform’d in due time’.
John Mathews’ will had been written on 9 January 1738/9, but when he died just over two years later he was described as being ‘late of New Windsor in the county of Berkshire but at Portsmouth in the county of Southampton’. As a further clue to the date of John Mathew’s death, his nephew William swore that he had opened the cover in which the Will had been sealed on Thursday 27 August 1741.
We’re reminded of the phrase, mad as a hatter. Hatters, through their trade, were susceptible to mercury poisoning. Whether or not John Mathews suffered in this way, there’s no doubt he was an eccentric character both in life and in death.
National Archives, PROB 11/712/16 Will of John Mathews, Hat Maker of New Windsor, Berkshire, 3 September 1741
Elizabeth Frances Robertson was born c.1773, possibly in a humble house in the outskirts of the town of Huntingdon where her father worked as a porter to an oilman and her mother as a laundress. She clearly received an education somewhere for she gained employment as a teacher in a boarding school, and did so well that a lady from Cheshire recommended her to the attention of Miss Charlotte Sharpe who ran a boarding school for young ladies at Croom’s Hill in Greenwich. From 1795, Eliza and Charlotte ran the school in partnership.
Short and somewhat plain in appearance, and badly marked by smallpox, Eliza soon endeared herself to the staff and pupils, not least with the melancholy – but totally fictitious – tale of her childhood. Her father, she said, was dead. He’d upset her grandfather when he married against his wishes and was driven from his home and country, forced to wander as an exile. Mr Robertson ended up in the United States and – claimed Eliza – was given shelter at Mount Vernon by General Washington. There Mrs Robertson joined him and several children were born. An older brother, Eliza told her rapt audience, had been killed in battle, but not before he had married a woman of great fortune and even greater beauty. A sister had married a Captain Pigot who, shortly afterwards, had been killed in a duel, but nothing lost, then attracted the attention, and hand in marriage, of Lord Paget, heir apparent of the Earl of Uxbridge. Eliza was outwardly amiable and sensible, appeared very religious although later described as insinuating in her manner and speaking in an elevated tone of voice.
As everyone seemed to have swallowed these lies without murmur, Eliza went further. She claimed that she was entitled to an estate in Scotland, Fascally (it doesn’t exist but she said it was near Perth), after the death of an uncle, Alexander Stuart Robertson, and was an heiress. Lord Kenyon, Eliza asserted, had said she was entitled to this estate. Then, in 1799, Eliza received the news of her mother’s death. She was distraught, bought mourning rings for all her friends (on credit!) and announced that she had come into more money, around 700l. a year. When her grandfather died, she would receive even more, around 15 or 20,000l. Determined to enjoy her supposed new-found wealth, with the help of Charlotte Sharpe, Eliza contacted Mr Creasy of Greenwich, a man of business, to help her gain control of her Scottish estate. Mr Creasy was instantly duped. A surveyor was applied to, who would go to Fascally to give his opinion on the rents and value the timber. The surveyor also later added a somewhat gruesome piece of information to the tale: he recalled seeing a wax model of a dead child… Eliza, while weeping over it, claimed it was a (macabre!) present from Lord Paget and was the likeness of her sister’s child. Miss Robertson didn’t do things by halves! We almost suspect she began to believe her own lies.
Eliza planned to enjoy her good fortune; she wanted a fine house and fixed on a handsome one in the Paragon, an elegant crescent at Blackheath, which was half built. In early 1800, she bought it on credit… Mr Creasy had advanced her 2,000l. of his own money in lieu of her settling matters at Fascally. This Blackheath villa (it was no. 3 on the crescent) was to be finished in the most expensive style. Creasy hired bricklayers, carpenters and painters. The drawing rooms were painted in watercolours by one of the best artists money could buy, the walls in landscape and the ceiling composed of clouds. Floor to ceiling looking glasses in richly carved, burnished gold frames were hung on the walls in other rooms; six mirrors came to 1100l. Mr Driver, a nurseryman, planted the shrubberies and improved the extensive pleasure grounds. Meanwhile, Eliza set up three carriages, a coach, a sociable and a post-chariot and had a card printed which read, ‘Miss Robertson, of Fascally and Blackheath’ which she distributed around all the best houses in the neighbourhood. As we have already pointed out, why go small when you can go large.
Creasy also went to Thomas Haycraft’s ironmongery in Deptford; Mr Haycraft had gone to Bath, leaving his two sons in charge. After being assured of Eliza’s status by Mr Creasy, they extended her credit and supplied several items for her new house. In the end, across all the tradesmen, dressmakers and milliners who were approached by Eliza and Mr Creasy, she received credit amounting to an eye-watering 15,000l. against her future expectations.
During the building work, Eliza and Charlotte stayed at Croom’s Hill. (Charlotte Sharpe was later described, unkindly, as having large black eyes, with a rather ferocious expression, pallid skin and sharp features.) Towards the end of June, they set off for Brighton, where they ‘figured away with four horses and outriders’. In August they returned, and Eliza went to Hatchett’s the coachmaker and desired him to make her an elegant chariot, with silver mouldings and raised coronets of silver. A trip to Margate also took place, with Mr Creasy accompanying the ladies. Eliza realised that he might talk to people in Margate and unravel her tales so, near to Shooter’s Hill, she stopped the carriage and told her coachman not to announce Mr Creasy; he seems to have made no resistance to this. He was a married man so had no designs on her fortune, although he may have been in on the scam.
Furniture was supplied by Mr Oakley, an upholsterer who had a warehouse on Bond Street. Eliza told Oakley she had great expectations from rich relations in India and was continually receiving presents of great value. Among the number lately arrived was a chimneypiece then lying at India House, and she added that she intended to build a room in which to hold balls or musical evenings. Oakley’s order amounted to almost 4,000l., again, all on credit. With the house beginning to be furnished, servants were hired and Eliza and her ever-trusting companion, Miss Sharpe, moved into their fine new mansion. They were, perhaps, lovers.
John Cator, Esq., the wealthy Quaker timber merchant and MP who owned the land the villa stood on, had been a mortgagee on the house and became the landlord. Eliza told him she wanted 850l. to pay the workmen, and that she did not mean to have a lease, but to purchase the house. He loaned her the money.
Oakley was the first to grow suspicious and when half the order had been completed, asked for 1000l. Eliza was hurt by his lack of trust and indignantly said if he doubted her he could write to her sister, Lady Paget, or her cousin, the Bishop of London. If he had further doubts, he could apply to Sir Richard Hill who had known her from infancy or to Sir Edward Law, the present Attorney-General, who could vouch for her. Her boldness won the day, and Oakley proceeded without contacting anyone. But, as suspicions had started to be raised – somewhat too conveniently, perhaps – Eliza’s grandfather now died. She put her entire household into mourning while her creditors looked with interest at Eliza’s increasingly large inheritance.
‘From the manner in which she was going on, he [Oakley] took it for granted that she was a woman that had so much money that she did not know what to do with it, or that she had none at all.’
Then, just before everything was finished, Mr Oakley finally did what he should have done weeks earlier, and called on the Bishop of London and Sir Richard Hill; both gentleman only knew Eliza through her card, which she had left at their door. The game was finally up!
Oakley took out a writ and waited for Eliza and Charlotte to return home (she was dining out), but the crafty Eliza realised what was happening, sent her carriage home empty and vanished into the night. Oakley broke in and by 6 o’clock the next morning his men had cleared the mansion of its furniture. Three hours later came in an execution, by which the remaining part of the property was to be sold by auction on the premises.
Mr Creasey, at the last minute, had gained a warrant of attorney from Eliza and took two very heavy hampers from the Blackheath villa, part of the plunder. He also reportedly took the lease of the house, so that while the others were ruined, he was safe. Had he been in on the game, or truly a dupe? Eliza was spotted by a haberdasher in St Paul’s Churchyard who chanced on her in Bishopsgate Street, dressed in men’s clothes and boots, with Charlotte leaning on her arm. After that, the two women, both in their normal dress but heavily veiled, took the Devon mail-coach out of London. They eventually ended up in Penzance in Cornwall where they took rooms in a hotel, Miss Sharp going by the name of Sydenham and claiming Eliza as her distant relative and protégé Madame Douglas, a lady of large fortune from the north of England, travelling for the benefit of her health; being reclusive, Mme Douglas didn’t want to travel with a retinue as the anxiety that would produce would counterbalance any comforts. You bet it would!
They stayed in during the day, only going out at night with veils over their faces; during their week’s stay they saw no one and the staff grew suspicious. A chambermaid overheard a conversation in which the names of Oakley and Creasy were frequently mentioned, and she’d been reading the newspapers which had reported the swindle. A letter was written to Blackheath but the two ladies got wind of it and left the next day. At length, in early April 1801, Eliza and Charlotte were traced to Huntingdon where they were lodging under the name of Cunningham. Eliza, who had signed everything, was arrested and thrown into the town jail. There, the jailer made a tidy sum by charging people to see his notorious prisoner while Eliza maintained her pretence to the end, insisting she had property sufficient to meet all her debts. She managed to publish ‘an apology’, purportedly to raise money for the support of her friend, Charlotte, who was struggling to pay for lodgings.
Eliza was transferred to Bow Street in London to be examined and ended up in the Fleet Prison from where, with no prospect of repaying her debts, she knew she had little chance of escaping. Thomas Haycroft took out an action against Mr Creasy in the Court of the King’s Bench in the Guildhall. Haycroft was asking for – and won – damages of 485l. 9s. 4d., claiming that Creasy had been the one who vouched for Eliza and said she was good for credit. In a somewhat ironic twist, given that Eliza had claimed he had been the man who said she was entitled to her Scottish estate, Lord Kenyon presided at the hearing.
During August 1802, Eliza was represented by no less a person than the famed Mr Garrow in a case she brought to Maidstone assizes to try to recover the goods and furniture Mr Oakley had ‘unlawfully possessed himself of’. Some of the furniture, Eliza claimed, was Charlotte’s property, brought from Croom’s Hill, and she suggested Oakley and his men had helped themselves to more than they were entitled to. Charlotte took to the witness stand, well-dressed and demure, wearing a fashionable ‘gypsy hat’ and said that she had believed all Eliza’s tall tales, and was as hurt and surprised as anyone else to find them false. It didn’t help; Garrow lost this case.
Eliza remained in the Fleet and continued to publish several works. There, in June 1805, aged 32-years, Eliza died of a decline and was buried, on 11 June, in the churchyard of St Bride’s, the only mourners her father, mother and one of the turnkeys of the fleet.
Chester Courant, 24 March 1801
Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 6 April 1801
Caledonian Mercury, 9 April 1801
Morning Chronicle, 15 July 1801
Stamford Mercury, 17 July 1801
Caledonian Mercury, 14 September 1801
Oxford Journal, 20 March 1802
Morning Chronicle, 9 August 1802
Caledonian Mercury, 14 August 1802
Staffordshire Advertiser, 14 August 1802
The New Annual Register, Or General Repository of History, Politics, Arts, Sciences and Literature: For the Year 1805
The Paragon, Blackheath (published 16 September 2016 on The Regency Redingote website)
The Nottingham born artist, Paul Sandby, painted and drew many scenes in and around Windsor and also informal portraits of some of the inhabitants. One of his drawings, held in the Royal Collection, caught our eye: the Miss Isherwoods, the Brewer’s daughters, c.1770-1780. Isherwood is an uncommon surname, and with the father’s occupation, surely it would be possible to track down the forenames of these two young women and complete the attribution?
The father of these two young women was Henry Isherwood who owned an ale brewery which traded from premises on Datchet Lane/Lower Thames Street in Windsor (around where St George’s School now stands on Datchet Road). From the brewhouse yard, you had an excellent view of Windsor Castle.
Henry Isherwood was reputed to be ‘a poor lad’ from Yorkshire who had made his way to Eton in Berkshire where he found work at the Christopher Inn. He married well, to Sarah Kendal (on 5 May 1737 at Hedgerley in Buckinghamshire) whose money helped her husband establish his brewery at Windsor (the town had a thriving brewing industry).
The couple had three known children, a son, Henry (baptized 9 February 1739) and two daughters, the two young ladies in the drawing above, Sarah (born c.1743) and Christiana Maria (born c.1745). The family prospered and grew wealthy on their business’s profits.
Also in the Royal Collection is a drawing by Sandby which features another of the Isherwood family, although the name of the man depicted seems to have got muddled over time. When exhibited at the Royal Academy, the man stood on the far left was just denoted as ‘Isherwood the brewer’, a later mount now attached to the picture claims the man to be J. Isherwood and the notes on the RCT website mark the man out as Henry Isherwood senior. However, this drawing dates to 1760 and the man depicted looks to be very young; we believe that it is more likely the man shown is Henry Isherwood junior, who would have been around 21 years of age in 1760.
The four men are standing on Windsor Terrace; in the middle is Davis, Windsor Castle’s smith and to the right a man identified as Captain Archibald Campbell (the RCT notes suggest that he is possibly the same man who married Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the painter Allan Ramsay, but as Amelia Ramsay’s future husband saw action in the Seven Years’ War, we’re not totally sure about this).
Then tragedy struck the family. Henry Isherwood senior died suddenly in 1773… and it was hinted that he had been poisoned.
Henry Isherwood’s will left his family well provided for. His son took over the running of the brewery and also later – for just a short time – became New Windsor’s MP. Henry junior’s death, on 22 January 1797, cut short his parliamentary career. Sarah and Christiana Isherwood were both left financially secure by their father, each receiving 10,000l. They never married. Around 1790, the Isherwood family built a substantial mansion-house, situated in large grounds, at Bushey in Hertfordshire and named Laurel Lodge. There Sarah and Christiana lived in their old age, often visited by their brother’s children. (Laurel Lodge was remodelled in the late 1800s and has now been converted into flats known as Herne Mansions (formerly Sparrows Herne House); it stands in Bushey Heath down Fuller Close, a short distance from the junction of Little Bushey Lane and Elstree Road.) Sarah died in 1820 aged 77 and Christiana in 1827, aged 81. Both women are buried in the churchyard at New Windsor.
We’ve already mentioned Henry Isherwood senior’s melancholy end. We’ll relate the events leading up to his death and leave you to decide if he was indeed poisoned.
Henry was a member of the Colnbrook Turnpike Commission and on 29 March 1773, he and the other members dined at an inn named The Castle, at Salt Hill outside Slough. The men present were the Hon Mr O’Brien, the Hon Captain Thomas Needham (aged 33 and the eldest son of ‘Jack’, 10th Viscount Kilmorey), Edward Mason Esq, Major Mayne, Mr Cheshire, Walpole Eyre Esq (aged 38 and whose godfather was Sir Robert Walpole, hence his name), Captain Salter, Henry Isherwood, Mr Joseph Benwell, a draper from Eton who was the Commission’s treasure, Mr Pote senior (on business) and Mr Burcombe, the Commission’s surveyor. Over the course of the next two weeks, all but one of the gentlemen were taken seriously ill. At first, the wine was suspected to be the cause; Captain Salter had preferred to drink punch instead, and Mr Cheshire had drunk very little. Both men were only mildly ill. It was initially believed that Mrs Partridge, the landlady, had added a little arsenic to the wine, to ‘refine’ it.
The dinner was turtle soup, followed by fish, jack, perch and eel, spatchcock fowls, bacon and greens, veal cutlets, a ragout of pigs ears, a chine of mutton and salad, a course of lamb and cucumbers, crayfish and, as if you needed more after that feast, pastry and jellies. All was described as:
…plain and innocent, nothing high-seasoned, or that could give cause of suspicion of any bad consequence; the wine, Madeira and Port, of the best sorts. In both articles of meat and drink, the company were moderate, and no excess appeared.
After their dinner, some people were brought in to be examined before the members of the commission, among them a poor man, in a ‘distressed, miserable condition’. He seems to have been in ill-health. Mr Pote, perhaps wisely it seems, had gone out to the gardens of the inn to stretch his legs; he was there on other business relating to the commission but had no need to be present during the examinations. Mr Pote was the only one of the company not to suffer any ill effects, all the others fell ill to varying degrees. Four of the men died: Captain Needham, Joseph Benwell, Walpole Eyre and Henry Isherwood.
Mrs Partridge was horrified and willingly allowed her kitchen and cellar to be fully inspected. Major Mayne’s doctor, Dr James, was of the opinion that his patient’s illness was due to an infection; if it had been poison, he assured the public, the men would have fallen ill within hours, not days. There were reports that a Clerk of the Justices, a Mr Mason who had dined on beefsteaks in a private room in the inn (confusingly, an Edward Mason Esq was said to be present at the commission’s dinner too), was also dangerously ill; the Justices had examined a poor man, brought before them in a ‘dying condition’ from Taplow to be passed to his own parish. This man later died, as did the farmer at whose house he lodged on his journey. Local gossip also claimed that several prisoners had travelled from Reading gaol on their way to London, to be transported for their crimes, and stopped at the inn. Gaol fever could have been the cause.
In short, it appears from the newspapers of the day that there was certainly an outbreak of a contagious fever in the area, but nevertheless, with all the talk of poison, trade at the Castle Inn dropped dramatically and Mrs Partridge struggled for a good twelve months afterwards. And, rumours abounded years later. Years later, Queen Charlotte’s Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe, Charlotte Papendick, in her memoirs recounted the tale and claimed that Mrs Partridge, on her deathbed, confessed.
…she considered it right to disclose the secret of the poisoning now it could no longer hurt any individual, and was at the time purely accidental, she would confess that it arose from the turtle having been left in the stewpans cold, and then heated afresh for the dinner. The cook, renowned for the dressing of this favorite luxury, came down from London late the evening before, expressly for this purpose. He said that as the turtle was better for long stewing, he should do it through the night, during which time he would be preparing various other dainties. He didn’t keep to his word. He slept, let the fire out, and heated the turtle soup up again without removing it from the pan… From the acids used in dressing the turtle, the pan was covered with verdigris. When she showed it to the cook he said he wasn’t aware of harm…
In fairness, Mrs Papendick’s account contains many errors, so we’re not at all sure of her accuracy. Another account also blames the soup, however, again attributing the poisoning to an accidental cause. The soup had been allowed to stand in a copper vessel, and the gentlemen died of mineral poisoning. So, arsenic in the wine, mineral poisoning, a bad batch of turtle soup or an infectious pauper? Sadly, we’ll never know the true cause, but we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Sources not mentioned above:
The Bath Road: History, Fashion & Frivolity on an Old Highway by Charles G. Harper, 1899
Royal Academy: 1934 – Exhibition of British Art c.1000-1860, 6 January 1934 to 17 March 1934
Northampton Mercury, 26 April 1773
Reading Mercury, 26 April 1773
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 5 February 1820
The Scots Magazine, vol 35, 1773
Collectanea topographica et genealogica, 1837
Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte; Being the Journals of Mrs Papendick, Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe and Reader to Her Majesty, 1887
A few days ago, I was browsing through an 1819 copy of the Morning Advertiser looking for something completely different when this story caught my eye.
Around early July 1819, a pretty young woman, reckoned to be in her early 20s, turned up at a lodging house in George Court off Aylesbury Street in Clerkenwell. She was, she told the owner, a complete stranger in London, having just arrived from the country, and asked if she could take a room for a few weeks while she attended to some proceedings in Chancery.
The woman’s appearance was decent and, as she was happy to pay the rent on her lodgings in advance, she was accommodated in the house with no further ado.
It didn’t take the other women who lived there long, however, to notice that the lady was in the advanced stages of pregnancy, however well she might have tried to hide it. A nearby apothecary was called in to attend to her and, in the first week of August, this unnamed woman gave birth to a fine and healthy child (if the evidence we have is correct, on 2nd August 1819).
The next day, against all advice to the contrary, the new mother got up and dressed herself.
She was remonstrated with on the danger to which she exposed herself, but she made light of it. This and other circumstances drew the attention of the people in the house more particularly towards her…
Four days after the birth of her child, and under close observation from the family and other lodgers, the young woman was seen to leave George Court, carrying a small box under her arm. Two women who were fellow lodgers followed her, one of whom was a Mrs Baker, a printer’s wife. The mysterious young woman and her two spies wended their way some distance across the fields of rural Clerkenwell towards the New River (really a form of canal dating from 1613, created to supply London with fresh drinking water from a series of Hertfordshire springs). When near Sadler’s Wells, where the New River terminated in a reservoir known as the New River Head, it looked as if she was going to throw the box she carried into the water, but then changed her mind and instead veered away over the adjoining fields.
With Mrs Baker and her friend still in hot pursuit, our mystery lady headed across the fields towards Islington and made for a secluded area where she sat down, opened the box, took something out and tied it in her shawl. Then she closed the box, picked up both it and the bundle tied in her shawl, and walked on until she came to a gentleman’s house. There she put both the box and bundle down and was about to walk away when Mrs Baker and her accomplice caught up: they darted forward and grabbed hold of her. Once the box was opened, as they’d suspected, they found the baby, naked and gasping for breath. The infant’s clothes were wrapped in the shawl.
Mrs Baker called for a watchman and ‘the inhuman mother’ (as a newspaper report termed her) was apprehended and marched to the watch house.
It was now that a sensational twist to the tale was revealed, if we believe the reports which surfaced. During a search of the woman, ‘upwards of 1000l. in good Country and Bank of England notes were found in her possession’. To put that into perspective, it’s the equivalent of over £50,000 in today’s money, a small fortune then, as now. Certainly enough for her to have disappeared and set up in a house with her child, rather than abandon the babe at the doorway of a gentleman’s house.
Taken overnight to the workhouse, before she could be hauled before the Hatton Garden magistrates the woman fell into a fever. A reluctant inmate, she slowly recovered but stubbornly refused to answer any questions about her identity.
This snippet of factual evidence sounds like a great start to a work of historical fiction. We already have many different theories buzzing around our heads as to how the young woman had found herself in this position.
We’ve searched for more information on her, hoping to find out her name. That still, unfortunately, eludes us, but we did find one more newspaper report. The lady’s husband turned up to claim her! We’ll relate the report from the newspapers but, attempting to read between the lines, we are still left wondering as to the truth of the matter. Incidentally, no further mention was made of the huge sum of money that she was supposedly carrying: was this myth or just a further strand of the whole mystery? She had, remember, paid for her rent at George Court in advance. Money worries don’t seem to have been an issue for her.
The couple were from Yorkshire, and the husband was of ‘respectable appearance’ and seemed dutifully affected by his wife’s distress. He claimed that she was suffering from the ‘consequence of a severe hurt she had formerly received in her head, was at times deranged, and he could no otherwise account for her leaving a comfortable home, and acting in the extraordinary manner she had done, than by supposing she was under the influence of the disorder to which she was subject’.
The magistrate agreed to bail the woman as long as her husband entered into a recognizance for £50 and found two other householders who would each join him in promising £25 each, to secure her future appearance at the court. The Yorkshire husband pleaded against this: could he not provide the full £100 himself, for he didn’t know anybody in London who would be prepared to stand as the additional surety? He went further, urging as a reason:
the deplorable state of his family, one child having died since his wife left her home, and two lying at present in a state of imminent danger.
The magistrate commiserated with the man, but rules were rules. If he couldn’t meet the required bail conditions, then his wife must remain in custody.
And there, sadly, we must also leave her until such time as further information comes to light. In the meantime, we reckon there’s a novel in this story for anyone disposed to write it and rescue our mystery woman. Which way would you take it: was she fleeing from her husband or was his story of woe true? How did she come by the injury to her head in that case? Why did she want to give up her child? And, all that money! Where did that come from?
This is the third in a series of blogs in which we have taken a closer look at some of the staff and servants of the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire. Today we’re taking a look at the 6th duke’s trips to Russia and concentrating on just one man, a larger than life Russian coachman. He certainly merits his own blog.
In 1817, William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (known as Hart due to his former title, the Marquess of Hartington) travelled to St Petersburg in Russia with a whole host of attendants for the wedding of his friend, the Grand Duke Nicholas Pavolvich of Russia (later Czar Nicholas I and Catherine the Great’s grandson). The bride was Charlotte of Prussia (subsequently known as Alexandra Feodorovna); Hart loved St Petersburg and thought it ‘more beautiful than Paris’.
His Grace the Duke of Devonshire is about to sail for the Continent, in company with the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. His Grace has seceded to an invitation from the Grand Duke, to make a tour in Russia, and other parts of the Continent, which will occupy the whole of the ensuing summer.
During the trip, one of the duke’s attendants was his courier, Xavier Faldyer. He was ‘not agreeable, a sort of obstinate old Don Quixote, in an eternal wrangle with the Doctor, who had undertaken to regulate the expences and never ceased to exclaim, “terrible! terrible!”’ From the Chatsworth archives relating to the family’s servants, we can glean further information. Edwin Jones was the clearly long-suffering doctor who accompanied the duke.
Michael Lemm went along as a footman but didn’t think much of Russia, observing that ‘he would rather be hung in England than die in Russia’. Mr Worrall was the coachman.
Another expedition to Russia took place in 1826 when the 6th Duke of Devonshire travelled there to attend the coronation of Nicolas I. George Spencer Ridgway, the duke’s valet and ‘foster brother’ was by his side; George’s mother, Mrs Ridgway had been the duke’s wetnurse and George’s middle name, Spencer, indicates a close relationship with the family. He started at Devonshire House as a footman in 1802 and, when appointed the duke’s valet, Ridgway was his most trusted servant, acting as personal secretary, agent and steward too until 1858.
In Russia, the duke and George were given a Russian coach by the emperor, known as a droshky. They also acquired a coachman who they brought back to Chatsworth along with the droshky. Peter Wisternoff (also Westerney, Wisternou and Ustinowica and born c.1796) was known as Peter the Russian or just the Russian Coachman; his helper was a man named Thomas Hawkins (who seems to have ended up the Porter at Devonshire House). Wisternoff stayed at Chatsworth until the early 1840s, a brilliantly eccentric character, tall and with a fine, intelligent countenance who wore his traditional Russian clothes rather than livery and sported the biggest and bushiest of beards.
He is habited in the costume of his country, which consists of a large coat, generally green, which is gathered in folds round the waist, crimson sash, with an ample flow of black beard.
The Russian Coachman is one of the subjects in Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time by Sir Edwin Landseer, the original of which hangs in Chatsworth. The image below is a very good copy of the painting in tapestry; there are three men with beards but Peter the Russian is the one in the foreground, kneeling with the stag.
In 1832, Princess Victoria visited Chatsworth.
[Saturday 20th October, 1832] … we went to the stables where we saw some pretty ponies and a Russian coachman in his full dress, and the only Russian horse which remained reared at command; there were 3 other horses, English ones, but trained like the other.
[Sunday 21st October, 1832] … Mamma and me drove in front in the pony phaeton and the Duke and Lady Cavendish behind; Lady Catherine and Lehzen going in another little phaeton; while Lord Morpeth and Mr Cooper went in the Russian drotchky. This curious carriage is drawn by one horse (which was the piebald one) in the shafts with a houp over its head, and the harness is golden without and winkers, and the horse in the shafts always trots, while the other, a pretty chestnut one, always gallops and puts its head on one side; the coachman, called Peter, sitting in his full dress on the box and driving the horses without any whip.
Peter the Russian married a girl named Sarah from Clowne, Derbyshire by whom he had at least eight children, one of whom was disabled. He fell foul of the duke’s Steward, George Spencer Ridgway, who forbade Peter from taking beer from the cellar, a disagreement which seems to have culminated in Peter leaving the duke’s service.
In the early 1840s (certainly after the 1841 census when Peter was living with his family at the Chatsworth stables), the duke broke up his Russian establishment and granted a liberal pension to Peter who subsequently lived – rent-free – on a 10 acre farm at Nether Handley near Staveley where, in 1851, he described himself as a ‘retired gentleman’. One the 1861 and 1871 census returns his occupation was that of a farmer of 10 acres. Peter died on Saturday 4th May 1878 at the age of 82 years, having been a pensioner ‘on the bounty of the Dukes of Devonshire for nearly forty years’.
Sources for all three of our blogs on Chatsworth’s staff and servants not referenced in the relevant articles are:
The Eighteenth-century Woman by Olivier Bernier (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1981)
Queen Victoria’s Journals (online resource)
Chatsworth: Historic Staff and Servants database
Chatsworth blog: The Russian Coachman’s Beard
Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 18 May 1878
Carlisle Patriot, 15 March 1817
If you want to explore the database of staff and servants further, you can find it by clicking here. It lists those who have worked at Chatsworth or on the Cavendish estates going back to 1700, and will be added to over the coming years.
The excellent Chatsworth servants and staff database and associated blog posts on the Chatsworth website were created by Lauren Butler (@HistoryButler), Hannah Wallace (@hwallace24) and Fiona Clapperton (@feeclapperton) as part of a collaborative PhD with the University of Sheffield and is the culmination of many years work.
In a previous blog, we looked at a few of the staff and servants mentioned in a great new resource from the Chatsworth House archives which has been released online. It documents those who have worked for the family over the years, both at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, Devonshire House in London and elsewhere, shedding light on people who might otherwise have been forgotten. We’ve picked out a few of those mentioned for a closer look and in this blog, we’re taking a peek into the stables, and also examining just a few of the people who worked as a groom, valet, butler, steward and housekeeper.
Starting work in 1773 as a stable hand in the coach house of Devonshire House, Francis Beeston became the 2nd coachman in 1777 before being promoted to 1st coachman nine years later and a wage of £20 paid half-yearly. He continued as the 1st coachman at Devonshire House until 1814.
Francis must have driven coaches carrying Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, her husband the 5th duke and Georgiana’s rival for the duke’s affection, Lady Bess Foster (later also Duchess of Devonshire); Georgiana married the duke in 1774, the year after Francis had begun his employment in the stables.
Besides Chatsworth in Derbyshire and Devonshire House in Piccadilly, the Cavendish family also owned Burlington House and Chiswick House. Both houses were built in the Palladian style and were inherited by the Dukes of Devonshire via Lady Charlotte Boyle, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Burlington. Lady Charlotte, who died in 1753, was the wife of the 4th Duke of Devonshire (however, as she died before he became duke, Lady Charlotte’s title was the Marchioness of Hartington).
Robert Hunter was one of the duke’s coachmen from 1759; from 1760 to 1765 he worked at Burlington House and later he was employed at Chiswick. Ann Hunter, who is mentioned in the accounts books for Chiswick and Burlington House between 1770 and 1774 is possibly his wife.
Devonshire House was also located in Piccadilly, very close to Burlington House. Later, Burlington House was rented out (from 1770 was the London home of the 4th Duke of Devonshire’s brother-in-law, the 3rd Duke of Portland). However, between 1760 and 1765, the Cavendish family clearly had need of a paid coachman at the property to retain Robert Hunter there. The Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire used Chiswick House as a country retreat.
Besides Robert Hunter, one other employee in Burlington House’s stables was John Higgs (between 1759 and 1765) who was employed as a postilion and worked his way up to coachman.
Joseph Marsden began working in Chatsworth House’s stables in 1757 when he was just a boy. Becoming a footman and then ‘his Grace’s Gent’ and ‘travelling gent’, Joseph ended up at Devonshire House as the duke’s Valet de Chambre. He was employed as such until 1798, a career spanning 41 years in the duke’s service.
Grooms, footmen and valet
Another man employed at Devonshire House was David Bovey, or Beauvais, a ‘snuffy old French-man’ according to the 6th Duke of Devonshire. David’s role was Groom of the Chamber, a function he fulfilled from 1774 to 1801. As he entered Devonshire House in the year of Georgiana Spencer’s marriage to the 5th Duke, it is likely that David Bovey was Groom of the Chamber to the new Duchess of Devonshire. The position was considered so vital to the family that Georgiana’s niece, Lady Caroline Lamb, who spent a large part of her childhood at Devonshire House, once remarked on the extreme poverty of an acquaintance: “Would you believe that the unfortunate lady didn’t even have a Groom of the Chamber?”
The duties of the ‘snuffy French-man’ included announcing company, managing the duchess’ invitations and visitors and overseeing her receiving-rooms. He eventually was promoted to the position of Attendant.
Possibly he is the same 28-year-old David Bovey who married Jane Bache, by licence, at St George’s in Hanover Square on the 25th February 1775? Unusually, it was Jane Bache, aged 21 and upwards, who applied for the marriage bond and not David Bovey. And, a David Bovey was paying rates at a house on Little Jermyn Street North in St James, Piccadilly in 1783 so it appears that, as a married man, he lived in his own home, just a short distance from Devonshire House.
David was succeeded in the position by James Lawton, who also was also a Groom of the Chambers and Attendant until 1811; in contrast to the ‘snuffy’ David, James Lawton was described as being very polite.
John Brown was a footman in Devonshire House’s dining room from 1773; in 1784 he became the 5th Duke of Devonshire’s footman. His wages included a yearly sum of 16s 6d for powder and shoes. In autumn 1798, John Brown landed the role of valet to the duke and, from the following year until 1804, when he was last recorded at Devonshire House, he received an annual salary of £42.
John Hawkins was Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’s groom at Chatsworth between 1793 and 1797. He had started out as one of Chatsworth’s stable hands in 1771.
The 6th Duke of Devonshire’s valet, Robert Meynell, seems to have been something of a rogue. Despite this, he served the duke from 1823 for at least 27 years, abroad and at home. Meynell drank, smoked, gambled and whored; at one Derby inn, the duke had to calm an irate innkeeper who took offence at being called a fool by the valet when he refused Meynell’s request for a woman to be sent to him. The final straw came in 1851 when Meynell was discovered in a London brothel. That in itself might have been overlooked, but Meynell had taken the duke’s dog, Vio, along with him. Even so, he received a pension from the duke which enabled him to live in comfort for the remainder of his life.
Meynell was responsible for getting another of the duke’s servants into trouble. Paul Santi, ‘a very handsome and picturesque person, with clever wicked eye’ was employed as a courier and attendant by the 6th Duke of Devonshire between 1825 and 1838, when he was dismissed, probably for gambling. In 1836, Santi had threatened to do away with himself when he was discovered to have been pilfering the housekeeping money to fund his gambling, a vice he blamed Meynell and George Spencer Ridgway (respectively the duke’s valet and steward) for encouraging.
Butler and steward
The position of Butler was, besides that of the Housekeeper, the most important in the household. Devonshire House’s butler, for six years from 1805, was James Duncan who, by 1811, was paid £80 a year.
Decades earlier, in the 1750s, Devonshire House’s Butler was a man named Thomas Elmes. As odd as it may sound, there was a clear ladder of promotion from starting out as a stable lad to becoming a footman indoors. A footman could aspire to become a butler and this is exactly the route Thomas Elmes took. In 1719 he began working at Chatsworth as a stable hand and by 1730 he was a Stud Groom. He was still there in 1743. In 1751 he became the Under Butler at Devonshire House and by 1759 was at the top of the ladder, as Butler.
John Edwards was the House Steward in 1792 and 1793 and, before that, he possibly worked in Devonshire House’s kitchens for several decades, starting as the Under Cook and eventually becoming the Head Cook. It is mentioned in the notes against John Edwards’ name that House Stewards are usually invisible in the wage books of stately homes, as they were in charge of these and did not often record themselves. But, during his tenure as Steward, John fell ill and the payments for doctors to attend to him are recorded. Sadly, it seems they could not help and John died in 1794; the 5th Duke of Devonshire paid for his funeral (which cost £32 12s 6d).
To leave you, we’ll just mention one other servant who, while just out of our period, merits a mention because the description of her made us smile. In the 1st Duke of Devonshire’s lifetime, Mary Hacket was the ‘angry housekeeper’ at Chatsworth between 1685 and 1697.
In a future blog, we’ll be looking at the servant from overseas who joined the family and became something of a celebrity. If you haven’t already done so, please do consider subscribing to our blog to be alerted to all our new posts.
In the meantime, if you want to explore the database of staff and servants further, you can find it by clicking here. It lists those who have worked at Chatsworth or on the Cavendish estates going back to 1700, and will be added to over the coming years.
The excellent Chatsworth servants and staff database and associated blog posts on the Chatsworth website were created by Lauren Butler (@HistoryButler), Hannah Wallace (@hwallace24) and Fiona Clapperton (@feeclapperton) as part of a collaborative PhD with the University of Sheffield and is the culmination of many years work.
A wonderful new resource from the Chatsworth House archives has been released online, looking at the staff and servants who have worked for the family, both at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, Devonshire House in London and elsewhere. It sheds light on people who might otherwise have been forgotten; we’ve picked out some for a closer look. In this blog, we’re concentrating on just a few of those who worked as maids, governess and in the kitchen.
Housemaids, laundrymaids, dairymaids and lady’s maids
Mary Austwick began working at the Cavendishes London residence, Devonshire House as a housemaid in 1795; eight years later she took over the duties of laundrymaid before, in 1811 (the year that the 5th Duke of Devonshire died), returning to her former occupation of housemaid at a yearly wage of £16. She was last recorded as an employee in 1814 but was remembered after her death by the 6th Duke of Devonshire with a clear fondness, despite her obvious quirks. He had known Mary for most of his life (the 6th Duke was born in 1795) and described her as ‘the swarthy, venerable, and cross housemaid, peace be to her soul!’. Perhaps, with his ascension to the dukedom, the 6th duke rescued Mary from the laundry?
Between 1803 and 1805, Maria Foley was Lady Harriet’s woman and, from 1800 to 1801, Elizabeth Winchester was Lady Georgiana’s dressing maid. Lady Harriet and Lady Georgiana were the daughters of the 5th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Elizabeth remained with Little G, as Lady Georgiana was known when she married. It was another Elizabeth, Elizabeth Olenrainshaw, who was Little G’s maid from 1790 to 1799. She’s probably the Elizabeth Ollenranshaw who married the Nottinghamshire born Pinder Simpson, a solicitor, at St George’s, Hanover Square on the 23rd July 1799. Pinder Simpson and John Simpson had offices at Burlington Street, Piccadilly close to Devonshire House. The couple’s first child was a daughter who they named Georgiana.
The extended Furniss/Furness family appear to have provided many of Chatsworth’s servants; the surname crops up time and time again over a period of several decades. Two of the earliest were sisters, Barbara and Alice. Barbara was one of Chatsworth’s Dairy Maids from 1793 to 1797 when she left to marry Thomas Pursglove (in London and at St Martin in the Field). She was replaced by her sister, Alice, who worked in the dairy until 1803; a year later Alice married a man named John Thornhill in the same church as her sister had wed.
Governess and nursery maids
Selina Trimmer, daughter of Sarah Trimmer, was the governess between 1789 and 1805, based mainly at Devonshire House.
During 1762, the 12-year-old Lady Dorothy Cavendish, eldest daughter of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire was tutored in the nursery by a lady named Anne Gibbon. Lady Dorothy would go on to marry William Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland; it is her descendants that we have written about in A Right Royal Scandal.
Mary Griffiths started working at Devonshire House in 1787 as a maid in the Still Room. Two years later she became a housemaid and then, in 1790, nursery maid to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’s children.
A Frenchman worked as a confectioner in the kitchens between 1790 and 1805. Monsieur A Caille (his forename has not been recorded) once rushed to the rescue when a small fire broke out. He did so by pouring on to the flames ‘the contents of the kettle he was carrying’. His kettle contained melted sugar, which only made things worse.
In forthcoming blogs, we’ll turn our attention to the family’s coachmen and stables, and grooms, valets, butlers and stewards. If you haven’t already done so, please do consider subscribing to our blog to be alerted to all our new posts.
In the meantime, if you want to explore the database of staff and servants further, you can find it by clicking here. It lists those who have worked at Chatsworth or on the Cavendish estates going back to 1700, and will be added to over the coming years.
The excellent Chatsworth servants and staff database and associated blog posts on the Chatsworth website were created by Lauren Butler (@HistoryButler), Hannah Wallace (@hwallace24) and Fiona Clapperton (@feeclapperton) as part of a collaborative PhD with the University of Sheffield and is the culmination of many years work.
Sir Joshua Reynolds painted the courtesan, Nelly O’Brien twice, between 1762 and 1764. Both paintings were paid for by her lover, Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke, although she was introduced to Reynolds by Admiral Augustus Keppel, 1st Viscount Keppel. (Keppel was the great-grandson of Charles II by his mistress, Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth.)
Bolingbroke also commissioned Reynolds to paint a picture of his wife, Diana Spencer, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Marlborough at the same time. Horace Walpole claimed that Bolingbroke had asked Reynolds to give Diana’s ‘eyes something of Nelly O’Brien, or it will not do’. Walpole continued, ‘as he has given Nelly something of his wife’s, it was but fair to give her something of Nelly’s; and my Lady will not throw away the present!’.
Frederick and Diana’s marriage was a disaster; he took lovers and so did she, famously having an affair with Topham Beauclerk (like Keppel also a great-grandson of Charles II, but by Nell Gwyn). When Bolingbroke divorced his wife in 1768, she promptly married her lover.
Frederick and Nelly (whose origins remain obscure) were an item certainly by 1763. Most sources seem to suggest that Nelly bore Bolingbroke a son, born c.1764, supposedly named Arthur and of whom nothing else is known. If she did bear a child by Bolingbroke, it’s more likely that he was born a year or two earlier. It was not Bolingbroke who fathered a child on Nelly in 1764, it was her new love, the splendidly named Sackville Tufton, 8th Earl of Thanet.
Alfred (not Arthur) Tufton was born 23rd November 1764, and baptised almost a month later, on 20th December, at St George, Hanover Square. His birth was hardly a secret; Nelly was named alongside Sackville in the baptism register. The wit, George James ‘Gilly’ Williams, writing to his friend, George Selwyn on Christmas Day, 1764, said:
I told you Nelly O’Brien has a son. It was christened yesterday. Bunny and his trull were sponsors. Now for his name; guess it if you can; it is of no less consequence in this country than Alfred; but Magill was so drunk he had like to have named it Hiccup!
(Bunny is thought to be Sir Charles Bunbury, who had recently married Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond. Magill, the drunk, was Henry Magill, curate of St George’s.)
A year later, on 4 December 1765, a second son was born; this one was given his father’s name, Sackville Tufton, and baptised at the same church as his elder brother on New Years’ Day, 1766.
After that, things rapidly went downhill for Nelly. Her earl was seeking a wife, and his family would certainly not countenance a union with a courtesan. In the summer of 1767 (on 30th July), Sackville Tufton married Mary daughter of Lord John Sackville. Beforehand, Nelly had been turned out of his Grosvenor Square house to make way for the new bride, although she appears to have moved only a few streets away and taken rooms on Park Street, almost certainly provided for her by the earl as Nelly was once again carrying his child.
Nearly six months after Sackville’s marriage to Mary, Nelly was delivered of a third son. Stanley Tufton was born 18th January 1768 and baptised 5th February. In the baptism register at St George’s, his parents were described as they had been with the older boys, Sackville Tufton, Earl of Thanet and Elinor O’Brien. Presumably, the new Countess of Thanet was fully aware. She was also pregnant herself and her daughter, Lady Elizabeth Tufton, was born that spring. Nelly was, however, furious at having to leave Grosvenor Square. As she complained to anyone who would listen, her former lover had a good precedent to follow: when the wife of Augustus Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of Grafton was pregnant in 1764, the duke moved his lover, the courtesan Nancy Parsons, into their London home where they lived together openly. The Earl of Thanet had moved his courtesan out!
A few weeks after Stanley’s birth, realising that she would never reclaim her position as the earl’s mistress and facing an uncertain future, Nelly wrote her will. All her wealth appeared to be in the form of fine clothes and a quantity of valuable diamond jewellery which, besides her three sons, were all that she had been left with. Her star, which had shone so brightly, was looking decidedly dimmed.
I Elinor O Brien do leave to my mother all my best cloaths, to my maid Ann Dixon all my old cloaths, to Miss ?Pyrott one of my best diamond rings, to Nurse Duran such token or legacy as they can chuse out. I beg Lord Thanet will take care of his children and believe them his own. To my children I give my diamonds to be equally divided between the three and I beg my ready money will be sent to my mother and some to poor Molly and I hope all my debts will be paid immediately my ??
Could ‘poor Molly’ possibly be Nelly’s sister? The will is frustrating in its ambiguity. Another mystery concerns the nurse, was she there for Nelly, or for her newborn son. Was Nelly ill? Although still just a young woman, she would be dead before the year was out. While she was afterwards said to have died in childbirth, and in anguish from being abandoned by her earl, the fact she wrote her will, to try to safeguard her children’s future, could indicate that she had indeed been unwell for several months. In March the Public Advertiser newspaper reported her demise, followed by a retraction:
Wed. March 23, 1768. Sunday last died in Park Street, Grosvenor Square, the celebrated Miss Nelly O’Brien.
Friday, 1 April, 1768. The account inserted in the Papers of the Death of Miss Nelly O’Brien in Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, is premature; that lady being in perfect health.
Unfortunately for Nelly, the account was not premature. On Saturday 2nd April 1768, Nelly O’Brien was buried at St George’s, Hanover Square (a new burial ground attached to the church had been consecrated in Bayswater three years earlier).
(A burial at St Ann, Rotherhithe on 29th December 1768 is often mistakenly thought to be hers. Likewise, Nelly’s assumed birth year of 1739 is taken from incorrect burial: the Elinor O’Brien buried in Rotherhithe was 29 years old. We still have no true idea of Nelly’s birth date.)
On 4th May 1768, one of her creditors was granted administration of her estate; the whereabouts of her diamonds are now unknown.
The two elder sons, Sackville and Alfred Tufton, joined the East India Company, Sackville in their naval service and Alfred as a writer, based at Kolkata. When his brother Sackville wrote his will in October 1788, Alfred was left the bulk of his wealth.
Stanley was not mentioned and, although we have not been able to trace him further, it would seem likely that he died young. In a later codicil, Sackville left bequests to his half-brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters from his father’s marriage to Mary Sackville, so it looks like he had been brought up as their sibling.
He also left legacies to his O’Brien aunts and uncles (sadly not named!), his mother Nelly’s siblings and to his grandmother (Nelly’s mother) who was still clearly alive in 1794. Sackville died the same year. Alfred lived to 1812; he had been promoted to the position of Judge at Gya but had returned home in the early 1800s in ill-health, and had never fully recovered. He was only 47-years of age when he died. Both Sackville and Alfred’s resting place is a shared grave in the church at Hothfield in Kent, where his ancestors, the Earls of Thanet, have their seat.
In September 1809, almost 41 years after Nelly’s death, a gentleman named Edward Jeremiah Curteis wrote to Alfred Tufton, who had been detained in London due to illness. There had clearly been some conversation between the two, and Alfred had been under the illusion that his long-dead mother, who he hardly recalled, had died around the time of Sackville’s birth.
Mrs Curteis, Edward’s wife or mother, recalled that:
your mother did not die until about the period of Lord Tufton’s marriage, which was more than two years later than you suppose – she was then great with child and the probable cause of death was grief and vexation at the marriage and desertion of the Earl of Thanet.
She went on to say that the earl had been persuaded to marry by his family, but before that, he had previously taken a ‘small but elegant’ and admirably furnished house in Brook Street for his mistress (which Lady Thanet went to see incognita). A Mrs Toke had told Mrs Curteis that Lord Thanet had snubbed Nelly in public which ’caused chagrin and mortification to such a degree as that a miscarriage ensued, and that having miscarried a third infant she died in childbed’.
It’s possible that Nelly had been pregnant again, but her third child was Stanley, born a year before her own premature death. Mrs Curteis’ memories had possibly become confused.
Sources not mentioned above:
George Selwyn and his contemporaries, with memoirs and notes, vol. 1, John Heneage Jesse (1843)
Correspondence of the Curteis family of Windmill Hill, Battle, East Sussex Record Office, AMS 5995/5/8
The Diaries of a Duchess: extracts from the diaries of the first Duchess of Northumberland (1716-1776), edited by James Greig (1926)
National Archives wills: PROB 11/1247/21 and PROB 11/939/51
The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, vol 82, part 1 (1812)
The letters of Horace Walpole (ed by J Wright), 1842
We would like to thank the staff at the City of Westminster Archives for confirming the record of Nelly’s burial for us.
I’ve long been intrigued by a portrait on the Art UK website of a rather dishevelled and – quite frankly – eccentric figure, which, so the label claims, depicts William Hornby (incorrectly labelled as Hornsby) of Hornby’s Bank in Gainsborough, a market town in North Lincolnshire.
The archives office in Lincoln claims differently; they believe it depicts William’s brother, Joseph who, they suggest, was a well-known eccentric character in these parts.
Which brother, then, is in the rather cruel portrait?
Joseph was born at Gainsborough in 1729, the eldest child of Joseph Hornby senior, a prosperous mercer in the town. Seven more children followed but all except two, William (born in 1732) and John (1739), died in infancy. The elder two of the three sons, Joseph and William, followed their father into the mercantile trade.
At his death in 1762, Joseph Hornby senior left considerable inheritances to his three sons.
Gainsborough was a thriving and prosperous town in the eighteenth-century, boosted by trade from the busy River Trent which passes through. The Hornby family’s wealth grew and, together with Sir Joseph Esdaile, Esq, William opened a bank, the first known to exist in the town. In partnership with two other gentlemen, they also established the Chesterfield Bank in Derbyshire.
In 1760, William Hornby took out a lease on the medieval timber-framed Gainsborough Old Hall and established a coarse linen factory in part of the building and sublet the rest. The factory lost money and the old manor house was in a poor state of repair.
You peeped in and saw its great ground floor apartments occupied by joiners, and coopers and bricklayers – depositories for lime, hair, and bricks – and you turned away disgusted.
By 1790, Hornby had wound up his factory and sublet the Great Hall of the manor house to a Mr West, who used it as a theatre. The staircase which was temporarily added at this time to access the theatre can be seen on the print below.
By the end of the century, troubles were mounting up. The partnership which ran the Chesterfield Bank (William Hornby, Joseph Esdaile, Samuel Raynes and Richard Gillett) was dissolved in 1799. By 1803, William Hornby could no longer meet his creditors’ demands and he was declared bankrupt. The Gainsborough Bank was no more.
William Hornby is reputed to have ended his days in penury, being cared for by a woman who had formerly been his cook, dying ‘at an advanced age’ (he was 72) in February 1805 at Doncaster, just over the county border in South Yorkshire.
After all this, are we any closer to identifying which Hornby brother is shown in the painting? Well, there is no contemporary mention of Joseph being an eccentric. At his death in 1811 (he was buried in the churchyard of Gainsborough All Saints) he is described as formerly being ‘an eminent merchant’. No hint of madness or eccentricity.
It seems more likely that the painting is a cruel depiction of William Hornby. Perhaps in his pursuit of wealth and in his running of the bank, he made an enemy of someone who commissioned this painting in revenge? Or, was it painted after Hornby’s bankruptcy, the work of a creditor who was left out-of-pocket and wanted to leave a lasting visual legacy of the former banker, that of a miserly man down on his luck.
At this distance in time, and with no other evidence to hand, we are simply left to wonder.
Quilted petticoats were an item of clothing that transcended any notions of class or status; they were worn throughout most of the eighteenth-century by all women from nobility down to fish-wives and had a variety of uses. Usually tied at either side of the waistband, they had a gap in the side seams which allowed access to a pair of pockets worn underneath.
Clearly, the primary function of the garment was that of warmth; in colder climates (and here in Britain we’re always complaining about the weather!) the padding provided an extra layer to insulate the wearer.
By the mid-eighteenth century, women’s gowns were worn open at the front and the petticoat underneath became a decorative item. Well-to-do ladies wore petticoats made of silk or satin, often in contrasting colours to their robe, although the backing was often made of a more robust material such as calico or coarse linen.
The courtesan, Nelly O’Brien is famously depicted wearing a simple diamond patterned pink quilted petticoat in her portrait by Joshua Reynolds, but embellishment is added with an embroidered gauzy apron worn over the top. Note the contrasting blue and white striped gown.
Flat quilting, whereby two or three layers were stitched through using a running or backstitch, and corded quilted which involved parallel channels being sown through which cord was inserted from the reverse, were the most popular forms. The latter provided a textured relief.
The designs used were often more decorative and elaborate than the simple pattern on the petticoat worn by Nelly O’Brien; flowers, intricate geometric patterns and even animals all featured.
The following image gives an example of a linen quilted petticoat dating to c.1700-1725, designed to be worn under a mantua. Backed with linen, the quilting pattern was worked first and then both layers of linen were overstitched with embroidery. The notes against this petticoat suggest it was made domestically rather than professionally as the join and certain other details are clumsy.
When just the front of the petticoat would be glimpsed, the decoration was concentrated on that area. As polonaise gowns became fashionable, where the skirts were gathered and looped up at the back, the full hemline of the petticoat was visible. This led to a trend for decoration all around the undergarment. John Wilkes’ daughter, Mary, in this next portrait, demonstrates the fashion; her green quilted petticoat, contrasting sharply with her pink gown, has the addition of a deep frill all around the hemline.
Marseille (or French) quilting is a term used to describe the distinctive cotton quilting which was a feature of the Provence area of southern France, known for fine cording and stuffed designs. There, textiles were made for export, and the London weavers suffered as a result.
In the 1740s, a solution was found: a weaving technique was developed in England using a loom which imitated hand quilting, making the process both quick and inexpensive although it was not true quilting. Usually made with linen, while the fabric appeared to be quilted there was no middle layer of woollen wadding so, although cheap, petticoats made this way lacked the warmth of their ‘Marseilles’ counterparts.
A Sale of Ready Made Goods, &c. by JONAS CLIFTON, SILK-WEAVER and WAREHOUSE-MAN, from SHOREDITCH, LONDON: who now sells at the FOUNTAIN in MARGATE, His CURIOUS BRITISH LOOM QUILTING, for Ladies Petticoats, Bed-gowns, and Gentleman’s Winter Waistcoats, exceeding rich, neat and serviceable…
Kentish Gazette, 9th December 1769
The profession of quilted petticoat maker is described in the London Tradesman, 1747. It was not a lucrative one.
I must just peep under the Quilted-Petticoat. Every one knows the materials they are made of: they are made mostly by women, and some men, who are employed by the shops and earn but little. They quilt likewise quilts for beds for the upholder. This they make more of than of the petticoats, but not very considerable, nothing to get rich by unless they are able to purchase the materials and sell them finished to the shops, which few of them do. They rarely take apprentices, and the women they employ to help them, earn three or four shillings a week and their diet.
An extra cost to the manufacturers of quilted petticoats was the price of the wool used for the wadding, which was subject to the attention of customs.
Last week, the Prince Frederick, a Collier, lately arriv’d from Newcastle, was searched by a custom-house officer, who found about 200 weight of the combings of wool, in two bags, the property of a female passenger on board the said ship, who follows the business of making quilted petticoats; whereupon he seiz’d the same, together with the ship and all her cargo, as forfeited by law, for bringing wool from any part of England without entering it at the custom-house and clearing it from thence; and modestly demanded 600l. of the owners for clearing her, which was refus’d…
Ipswich Journal, 29th October 1743
Quilted petticoats provided shape to the skirts worn over them. Often the wadding used in the manufacture of these petticoats did not extend all the way to the waistband, so they were less bulky at the waistline. But, in an era when women wore a variety of hoops, bum rolls and panniers to enhance and alter their natural forms, quilted petticoats were a useful tool, providing a little extra padding where needed. In fact, evidence shows that they were worn in a variety of different ways throughout the century, both with and without a little extra support and definition beneath them depending on the desired silhouette. Perhaps, when Mary Hobbins went missing, she was trying to disguise her slim frame by wearing multiple quilted petticoats: even for late September, wearing two of these garments must have been quite warm.
September 26, 1724. Whereas one Thomas Robinson… went away with one Mary Hobbins of Swineshead near Boston in Lincolnshire: She is a slender thin-vizzag’d Woman, had two quilted petticoats on, viz. one green, and the other red and blue, with a white Gown with small Stripes or a Popple and white with broad Stripes…
Stamford Mercury, 29th October 1724
The painter Arthur Devis depicted women wearing quilted petticoats over hoops and panniers which gave definition and decoration to the fine silk gowns they wore, which are clearly very wide in the hips.
Towards the 1770s, it was common for fashionable ladies to wear a bum roll underneath their quilted petticoat, to add emphasis to their rear (think Kim Kardashian today!), others simply wore only their shift or another petticoat underneath.
A working woman would, of course, need to be able to move freely; they would wear very little under their quilted petticoats, relying on the bulkiness of the garment to provide any necessary shape, more concerned with practicalities than fashion.
By the end of the eighteenth century, women’s silhouettes became more slender and quilted petticoats were no longer in vogue with women of fashion although lower class women still clung to the practical, hard wearing and warm garment.
So, we’ve looked at quilted petticoats being worn for decoration, for warmth and to add shape to gowns, what other possible reason could there be to wear one? Well, they were handy when smuggling items such as tea or lace past the strict customs officials of the day!
Another smuggler is committed to the Castle of Norwich; from whence ‘tis added, that the Officers of the Customs there had seized a considerable Quantity of Tea, India Silk Handkerchiefs brought up from Yarmouth by a Woman, who, when taken, had several Pounds of Tea quilted in her Petticoats.
Ipswich Journal, 9th January 1731
Thursday a Gentleman and Lady put up at an inn at Dover, where they had just landed from France; when two Custom-house Officers came in, and insisted upon searching the Lady, on whom they found a quantity of Brussels lace, to the value of near 300l. which was concealed in her quilted petticoat… Some of our Nobility, it seems are suspected and even accused of harbouring smuggled goods. The truth is, so many Nobility and Gentry deal so much in smuggling, that a Correspondent says, he will venture to affirm that one half of the foreign lace that shall appear at Court on the ensuing birth-day, is smuggled.
Stamford Mercury, 4th June 1772
Patchwork and Quilting in Britain, Heather Audin, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013
The Dreamstress: What to wear under a quilted petticoat, 6th January 2012
FIDM Museum: Quilted petticoat, c.1840-45
Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium, Collections Database: Object Accession No. HD F.495A
The London Tradesman: Being a Compendious View of All the Trades, Professions, Arts, Both Liberal and Mechanic, Now Practised in the Cities of London and Westminster. Calculated for the Information of Parents, and Instruction of Youth in Their Choice of Business, R. Campbell, Esq, 1747
We’re just going to give you this letter, printed in the Reading Mercury on the 25th October 1773, in full. The author has quite clearly had his fill of the fawning sycophancy over the nobility in his morning paper. The article that sparked his ire concerned Charles Bennet, 4th Earl of Tankerville who was a noted cricketer (a good fielder rather than a batter or bowler) and patron of Surrey cricket.
To the PRINTER
It was with the utmost pleasure, and with infinite surprise, that I read the following paragraph in a London paper a few days ago:
“At the cricket match between Kent and Surrey, a few days ago, Lord T__ker__e (as we can assure the public from the best authority) caught two very difficult balls, with his own hands.”
Earth! Air! Water! And fire! Is it possible – what!! Lord T__ker__e! – Lord T__ker__e himself! – to catch two balls – nay, two very difficult balls too – and with his own hands! – Immortal tidings, and more than Elysian raptures, welcome, welcome to our land, and let England ring from shore to shore! Happy for Britain, and very happy for Europe! Why, Mr Printer, if his Lordship is already so alert at catching, who knows but he will in time, instead of catching two cricket balls, catch – three? And if he does this with ease, who knows but he may next attempt the immortal feat of swinging on a gate? And if he swings upon a gate, who knows but he will give the finishing stroke to his reputation by leaping over a stile? And if he rises this length, the L__d only knows where his glories will end.
After all, Mr Printer, and to be serious with you, it gives me pleasure to hear that such actions of our illustrious nobility are recorded as the vulgar dare not, cannot rival them in; for where is the scoundrel commoner that will even pretend to catch two cricket balls? The historian of the day, however, has omitted some very material incidents in the description; such as, whether his Lordship caught the balls with one or with both hands; which parts of his Lordship’s sacred fist the balls first hit; whether they came in a south or north, east or west direction; what was his Lordship’s attitude, &c &c and these circumstances would have certainly made the matter much more important and interesting to mankind.
To conclude I repeat the immensity of my joy. For though some of our nobility have excelled in spitting maggots and burning mice, the act of catching a cricket ball was never before performed by mankind – no, nor the nobility themselves.
While I was ruminating on these things, Sir, it occurred to me, that publishing all such like acts and feats of our nobility and gentry, would be of the greatest service to the community, by inspiring a rivalship among them to excel in deeds of such singular praise; and this scheme I myself begun in the following part of my letter, a careful perusal of which will show at once to you and your readers, both the manner and the merit of recording such important incidents. In humble imitation, therefore, of the T__ker__e paragraph, I insert the following:
Last night, at the door of Drury Lane Theatre, Lord F___ was observed actually to lift his lapdog into the chariot, without once seeking the footman’s assistance.
We have it from the best authority, that his Grace the Duke of St A____s precisely at eleven yesterday morning, picked his teeth without drawing blood from his gums, which is very singular.
Lord T____t was observed yesterday to swallow a spoonful of soup, in the king’s kitchen, without chewing it.
The king actually pares his nails twice a week.
Lord C____e has slept very soundly these three nights past which is a thing he has not done these three years before.
It is not true that one of her Majesty’s right fingers, as was villainously reported, is affected with a pimple. It is one of her left fingers.
This morning S___n F_x stepped over the kennel at Charing Cross, though it is both deep and broad, without being drowned in it.
Lord S_ff__k has of late dedicated his whole time to trap-ball, in which science he has made a prodigious progress. It is said that he will next study the noble game of cricket; and after he has studied it three years, it is not doubted but he will catch a ball with all the dexterity of Lord T___ker__e.
It is remarkable that Lord M____d was not yesterday, when he appeared in the Court of King’s Bench, so close shaved as usual. The reason is not known. Some attribute it to his barber’s razor having been blunt, and other to his Lordship’s chin increasing in wrinkles.
The Lord Chancellor drinks asses-mile every morning for the establishment of his health, his physicians being of the opinion that it is the food most natural to him.
We are informed that the Premier eats a very hearty breakfast every day before dinner.
Lord S____t, the publick may be assured, is come to town: And it is thought he will continue in it – till he goes out of it.
It’s a well-known fact that we Brits are obsessed with the weather… and with talking about it. Being an island, the old saying of ‘four seasons in a day’ sometimes seems more than a little accurate, and the weather can – on occasion – change quite dramatically in the space of a few hours. However, despite this, more often than not, the climate is generally reasonably calm and mild. Still, we love nothing better than a grumble about the rain and it’s quite frequently either ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’ for us.
One theory is that the British are known for polite detachment when dealing with others, and hate to show too much emotion. The weather is a safe and neutral topic of conversation… but we think it’s more than that. We are, as a nation, genuinely fascinated by the subject. And so, it came as quite a delight to find that the Reverend Samuel Oliver (c.1756-1847), the curate of St Mary’s church at Whaplode in the remote Lincolnshire fenland, was obsessed to such a degree that he carefully recorded information about the climate in the spare pages of his parish burial registers.
Sunday, February 2nd, 1817
During the last ten days, the weather has been more serene; warm; & remarkably mild; than ever I knew it in the month of May, during the term of my residence here; which is nearly fifteen years.
Sunday, February 9th, 1817
Last night, for the first time (I think) these twenty years, the atmosphere was very strongly illuminated with Aurora Borealis. The moon entered her last quarter yesternight, a 46 min. past 7 o’clock. Today has been exceeding warm, & mild.
Monday, March 29th, 1819
This last has been the most mild, warm, & open winter ever known, in the memory of any man living. Polyanthuses & Anemonies have always been in flower.
Friday, June 29th, 1821
The season has been so excessively cold, that we were under the necessity of having large fires in the Keeping Room up to this day; when, suddenly, it became very hot!
Friday, July 6th, 1821
The cold weather has returned, so violently, as obliges us to rekindle our K. Room fire.
Thursday, July 25th, 1822
The former part of last winter was excessively wet, the new year brought fine weather, the spring was uncommonly dry & warm; & the season altogether the most forward & plentiful ever known.
Friday, November 7th, 1823
From the first week in July to the first week in September, we were scarcely 12 hours without rain; from thence to October 30 was remarkably fine; October 31 and November 1 were most excessively tempestuous.
Thursday, July 22nd, 1824
The last winter very much resembled that [of] 1821, 2; the spring was indescribably dry, cold, & unhealthy; the wind being nearly due east for the space of two months. Midsummer brought fine weather, & the prospective harvest is good as a human heart could wish.
Friday, December 31st, 1824
There have been more storms, tempests, inundations, & shipwrecks; & a greater quantity of rain has fallen this year, in various parts of Europe, than for a century back. Yet we had a fine spring seed time, hay time, & harvest. Not many apples.
Thursday, March 22nd, 1827
From the beginning of March 1826 to this day, has been the driest year ever known. Hay, oats, beans, & barley, were very deficient, so were potatoes, wheat good, both crop & quality.
Saturday, September 15th & Tuesday, September 18th, 1827
These two evenings the Aurora Borealis was remarkably brilliant; & merry dancers, very active.
This was an excessive wet, cold, & stormy summer. Wheat good, crops & quality. About November 18, the snow & frost commenced, & was not completely gone before March 1st, 1830.
Monday, August 27th, 1832
We have had four very cold, wet, & luxuriant summers, in succession; wheat is generally well got in. Last winter was very much like that of 1818, 19.
Thursday, July 22nd 1824, Dr Goddard the Archdeacon made his Parochial Visitation; & ordered repairs of the Vestry Room, a new fence to the Vicarage yard, & all necessary repairs to the House & Premises.
March 20th, 1835
The dykes, within the last three weeks, have become tolerably full of water, at least a foot deep; where, for the last three years, the water has never stood, 12 hours together, at the depth of six inches.
November 20th, 1839
These two last summers have been remarkably wet & cold.
And, from the back of the marriage register, we find this entry. Not about the weather but also clearly a subject of huge importance to the curate, judging by his increasing use of exclamation marks.
May 28th, 1821
On this, & the three subsequent days, the population of the parish was taken (by Act of Parliament). Mr Longstaff, the Overseer of the Poor, taking Mr Roberts, the Vestry Clerk, to assist him. I also went round the Parish, in my Ecclesiastical capacity, & found 154 Persons unXtned; & eight couples who notoriously cohabit, as Man & Wife, together! Four of these couples call themselves Methodists, & regularly attend the Meeting Houses! One couple holds a Meeting in their own House! Two couples are within the degrees of Affinity! And five couples have had children born!! I likewise found another couple, who will not acknowledge that they sleep together, tho’ they both sleep in one room!!!
Reverend Samuel Oliver, Curate
Rev Oliver was the curate at Whaplode for 42 years, preaching three times every Sunday, until, in 1842 the vicar of the parish died and the Rev Oliver was removed from his curacy. A few months later, and despite his advanced years (he was 84), Rev Oliver was appointed to the living of Lambley in Nottinghamshire, worth £1,000 per year. There he died on the 9th August 1847.
Sir Cecil Wray, 13th Baronet Wray of Glentworth, was born in 1734 into an ancient Lincolnshire family. In 1752, still some months away from his eighteenth birthday, Cecil inherited the baronetcy and the family estates (in Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Yorkshire) when his father, Sir John Wray, 12th Baronet died.
Sir Cecil stood for parliament as a Whig representing Retford in Nottinghamshire (he won the seat in 1768) and then Westminster between 1782 and 1784. However, during this latter period, Sir Cecil stood up in the House of Commons to oppose the East India Bill proposed by Charles James Fox and he denounced the coalition between Fox and Lord North; subsequently – and with the support of the Tory party – at the 1784 election, Sir Cecil tried to oust Fox from representing Westminster. In the print below, the naval officer Sir Samuel Hood (Tory) is shown as Themistocles, Charles James Fox, the Whig candidate is Demosthenes and Sir Cecil Wray, who had switched allegiance from the Whigs to the Tories is depicted as Judas Iscariot. In the end, Sir Cecil finished last, a result which he contested for some time.
The wits and wags of the day had a field time with Sir Cecil after the 1784 election; not only had he appeared to betray Charles James Fox but he was also – reputedly – a bit of a skinflint. He drank ‘small beer’, his grand house in Pall Mall was left unfinished and he proposed plans to abolish Chelsea Hospital and to tax maid-servants in order to ease the National Debt.
We have a different reason to pour scorn upon Sir Cecil, however. In 1750 he built a house on Eastgate in Lincoln, to the northeast of the Cathedral. This house, named Eastgate House, was extended in 1763 but an old stone structure interrupted Sir Cecil’s views of Lincoln Cathedral. That couldn’t be allowed, and so the edifice was demolished… unfortunately for us today, that structure was the remains of the Roman Upper East Gate to the city.
This particular gate had only been rediscovered in 1730 as it had been walled up and formed part of the north gable end of a house on one side and a stable on the other.
Eastgate House was further added to in the nineteenth-century; Sir Cecil’s original house has gone the same way as the remains of the Roman Upper East Gate and no longer survives but one of the later wings can still be seen. It is now part of the Lincoln Hotel and, in front of the hotel, the foundations of the old East Gate – all that remained after Sir Cecil’s handiwork – are visible. They were uncovered in 1945 during excavations to lay new sewers. Before it was pulled down, the East Gate looked very similar to the nearby Newport Gate, which – as it was not blocking an important view – has managed so far to stand the test of time, although, in recent years, lorries have been known to get stuck beneath it, causing damage.
Around the same time as he was destroying the Roman heritage of the city of Lincoln, Sir Cecil started building a country seat at Fillingham, about ten miles north. This fine house, built in the style of a Gothic castle, he named Somers or Summer Castle after his wife, Dame Esther Wray née Summers (or Somers), although it is also now known as Fillingham Castle.
Little is known of Dame Esther; she was born around 1735 and is said to be the daughter of a James Summers. We love a challenge, and have tried our hardest to uncover Dame Esther’s origins but – at the moment – we are having to admit defeat although we can add a little more information to her story. From our research, it appears likely that she is from Essex and certainly the Wrays were married by the summer of 1763 for the Leeds Intelligencer newspaper recorded ‘Sir Cecil Wray and Lady’ amongst the arrivals in Scarborough in their 19th July edition.
Her brother John Summers (variously recorded as Sumers and Sommers) lived at Fairsted in Essex in the mid-1760s. There, together with his wife, Jane, he baptised three children, Esther and Eades in 1764 and a second daughter, Charlotte a year later. Eades and Charlotte later lived with their aunt at Summer Castle. Another of her nieces, who also lived at the castle, was Esther Taylor who, in 1785, married Captain Charles Hare, RN; various others of this family lived at Billericay in Essex.
On the 11th January 1804, when Sir Cecil Wray wrote his will, he named his wife’s great-niece, Elizabeth Ann Jeffries who was residing at his castle. Elizabeth Ann was born c.1786 in Essex; during 1804 she made not one but two marriages, both – luckily – to the same man, William Thomas Goodchild, a naval officer who had been born on Christmas Day 1777 at Christiansted, St Croix in the Virgin Islands. Goodchild was the grandson of Isabella Wray, the sister of Sir John Wray, 12th Baronet.
Sir Cecil Wray died in 1805 and was buried at Fillingham; his wife, Dame Esther Wray lived at Summer Castle until her death in 1825, aged 89 years. What remains of Summer Castle is now a private residence: the remains of a gatehouse and lodge can be seen on the side of the A15.
Sources not mentioned above:
Will of Sir Cecil Wray of Fillingham, Lincolnshire, National Archives PROB 11/1421/217
Will of Dame Esther Wray, Dowager of Summer Castle, Lincolnshire, National Archives PROB 11/1697/79
On the 25th October 1809, the jubilee of King George III was celebrated across the nation. Opinion was divided as to whether the jubilee had been celebrated a year too early; 25th October 1809 was the first day of the 50th year of George III’s reign, he had not actually reigned yet for a full fifty years. It was a grand project instigated – and to a large degree planned – by a middle-aged, middle-class lady living in the Welsh borders, a truly amazing woman who is the subject of our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs.
The jubilee was celebrated across the nation, and even on board ships and in foreign territories under British rule. Today, we are going to look at the celebrations that took place in Bath 209 years ago today.
The Jubilee was this day celebrated here with every demonstration of loyalty. The festival was ushered in by the ringing of bells, and display of flags on the different churches. At eleven o’clock the Mayor and Corporation, accompanied by the Bath Volunteer reg. of Infantry, the Young Gentleman of the Grammar School, the children of the Charity Schools, and the Friendly Societies, (33 in number, containing 2,487 members, each Society distinguished by its particular banner and colours,) went in grand procession to the Abbey Church where an admirable sermon was preached by the Rev Mr Marshall. Part of the Societies went to Walcot Church, where an equally excellent discourse was delivered by the Rev Mr Barry. Collections were made at the doors of both churches for the benevolent purpose of releasing the debtors in the County Gaol.
On returning to the Hall, cakes and wine were given to the juvenile part of the procession. The Volunteers marched to the Crescent Field, where they fired a feu de joie; and the members of the Friendly Societies departed to their respective club-rooms, in which they dined together in much harmony; each man received towards his expenses 1s. 6d. from the public subscription for that purpose. The Children of the Blue Coat Charity School, about 120 in number, sat down in their school-room to a plentiful dinner of roast beef and plumb pudding, provided at the expense of a highly-respected and loyal gentleman, a resident of this city.
The Mayor and Corporation, the clergy, with a select party, dined at the White Hart. In the evening there was a ball at the Town Hall. Jubilee medals, with ribbons having suitable mottos in gold letters, were generally worn.
John Jones, esq, of Woolley, near Bradford, gave to 800 poor persons of that neighbourhood, a sufficient quantity of bread, strong beer, and mutton, in the presence of a large concourse of loyal subjects.
Messrs Divett, Price, Jackson, and Co. regaled nearly 500 persons employed in their manufactory at Bradford by giving them three fine fat sheep roasted whole, plenty of bread, and a large potion of good Wilthshire strong beer.
The debtors in our city gaol, five in number, were this morning liberated from confinement by the munificence of the sheriffs, Geo. Crook, and Geo. Lye, esqrs, who, from their private purse, settled the creditors’ claims, amounting to 80l.
Mrs Biggs was no radical in her political views, and she initially fought against the jubilee being used for charitable aims; she wanted to see grand and joyous celebrations, with people feasting well and toasting their king with a mug of ale or a glass of wine. Her plans were hijacked to a certain degree and she had to accept that money was put to other uses than celebrating on the day, but she lobbied – anonymously and successfully – for the continuation of her original aims. You can discover how in our book, A Georgian Heroine.
As some of our long-term readers will know, we also host a ‘sister-blog’, The Diaries of Fanny Chapman. Fanny was a middle-class spinster who lived in Bath through the late Georgian and into the Victorian eras, often in company with her aunts. Her diaries from 1807-1812 and 1837-1841 have survived and we were given permission to publish them; they are a wonderful first-hand resource.
Unfortunately, while Fanny heard the jubilee celebrations in Bath, and no doubt was told all about them by the family servants who took advantage of the impromptu holiday, she herself largely stayed indoors, only venturing out for a quick errand. Still, we thought it might be interesting to read her diary entries for the relevant days.
Tuesday, 24 October, 1809
A most beautiful day. My Aunt was so unwell she did not get up till near dinner time. Admiral and Mrs Phillip calld and sat some time. He came up stairs. They were both very friendly and kind. I went to Mrs Vassall’s to ask if she intended to fulfill her engagement of dinner with us today. She said she did. Saw Mrs Horne with her. I went and ordered a couple of chicken and then calld at my mother’s, but they were not at home. Only Mrs Vassall and Betsey dined here. Mr Wiltshire came in while we were at dinner, but did not stay long. It raind fast in the evening and Mrs Vassall and Betsey went home in a Chair between eight and nine o’clock. We went to bed early, but were disturbed after twelve o’clock by the ringing of bells and firing of guns to usher in the Jubilee, which is to take place tomorrow on the King’s entering the 50th year of his Reign. My Aunt heard from Cooper!!!
Wednesday, 25 October, 1809
A beautiful day. The whole town was in motion early to see the Processions of the Corporate Volunteers and different Clubs to Church. All the servants, except Kitty, went out before breakfast and did not return till after two o’clock. Mrs Gibson calld (for the first time) and sat an hour here. Miss Workman came in the morning, before we were up, to say she had got a room in the square to see the Procession, where she wishd us to come. My Aunt P was not well enough to go, but tried to persuade me. However, I had not the least inclination and was not sorry to be able to stay at home. I was obliged to go to the Sidney Hotel before dinner to enquire if Mr Gale had heard any thing about the house he mentiond to my Aunt. He told me the proprietor of it was come to Bath and would call on my Aunt today or tomorrow. There was a constant noise of ringing of bells and firing guns the whole day and the bouncing of squibs and crackers in the evening. I heard from my Uncle James to say all our shares, except one, were blanks and that one was only fifteen pounds. It began to rain about ten o’clock and continued, I believe, most part of the night.
(To discover more about Fanny Chapman and her diaries, follow the link at the bottom of this page.)
Sources not mentioned above:
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 26th October 1809
During research into Allan Ramsay, we have noticed that the information given online concerning his children is incorrect and – in some cases – missing altogether. So, today’s post is something of a genealogical exercise to fully document Ramsay’s twelve children, five sons and seven daughters, which, we hope, will prove informative for anyone else interested in Ramsay’s family. Plus, it is also just a fantastic opportunity to showcase some wonderful portraits and sketches.
Born in Edinburgh and baptised on 6th October 1713 (according to the Gregorian calendar; 11 days need to be added to correspond to the Julian calendar), Ramsay was the eldest son of the poet and bookseller, Allan Ramsay (who was a wigmaker at the time of Allan’s birth) and his wife Christian neé Ross. Three of his siblings survived into adulthood, Janet, Catherine and Anne.
Allan Ramsay junior’s talent was evident from an early age; his father described him as painting ‘like a Raphael’ and raised money to send Allan to Italy in order that he might study there.
By 1738, Ramsay was back in England, and he took rooms in the piazza in Covent Garden.
A year later, on 29 April 1739, Ramsay married Anne Bayne, a fellow Scot and the daughter of Alexander Bayne of Rires. Around the time of their wedding (which took place at St Benet, Paul Wharf), Ramsay painted Anne’s portrait.
Three children were born to the couple, two sons Allan and Bayne, who both died young before Anne herself died in childbirth early in 1743 giving birth to a daughter who was named Anne, for her mother. She survived, at least for a few years. On 11 January 1747 another Anne Ramsay was buried in the churchyard at Covent Garden, this one a spinster. It seems probable that this was Ramsay’s sister, Anne.
Ramsay spent much of the following years in Scotland, where his fame grew, if not his wealth. He was supporting not only his young daughter but his two spinster sisters too, Catherine and Janet. Certainly Sir Alexander Lindsay of Evelick didn’t consider Ramsay a suitable husband for his 26-year-old daughter, Margaret, whom Ramsay was teaching to draw. Denied her father’s approval, Margaret eloped with Ramsay and they married on 1 March 1752 at the Canongate in Edinburgh.
Later that year, just a day shy of 33 weeks after the marriage, Margaret gave birth to twins. In an attempt to placate her father, who still disapproved of her husband, the babes were named Alexander and Amelia after Margaret’s parents; they were baptized on 17 October 1752 at St Paul’s in Covent Garden and sadly buried there the very next day. By the end of 1753, the Ramsays were back in Scotland, living in Edinburgh and there, in February 1754, another son was born, again named Alexander. This infant was left behind in Scotland when his parents travelled to Italy the following year. Margaret was soon pregnant once again.
A daughter, Amelia was born in March 1755 at Rome but sadly, back in Edinburgh, little Alexander had died; he was buried on 23 June 1755.
By the end of 1758, Ramsay had brought his family back to London and taken lodgings on the western side of Soho Square (then called King’s Square, the name given because of the statue of Charles II which stood there).
On 9 November 1758, another daughter was born to Allan and Margaret Ramsay; she was baptized with the name Elisabeth eight days later at St. Anne’s, Soho. Two more daughters were to swiftly follow, Frances born 16 February 1760 and Grizelda on 19 July 1761. Sadly, none were destined to live long: Grizelda lived for less than six weeks and was buried (as Grizell Ramsay) at Chiswick on 29 August and Elisabeth died almost a year later at three years of age. She was laid to rest in the Soho churchyard on 22 August 1762 where her sister Frances joined her on 4 July 1765.
A ray of light amongst the darkness was the birth of Charlotte in 1765, the youngest daughter of the family. Charlotte was strong and healthy and would survive.
The final child born to Ramsay was a son, named John, who was baptized at St Marylebone on 14 June 1768. Probably he was named after his uncle, Margaret’s brother Sir John Lindsay who is perhaps better remembered as the father of Dido Elizabeth Belle (of whom we have written previously).
Allan Ramsay suffered ill health during his later years and died at Dover on his return to London from Florence on 10 August 1784; Ramsay’s wife, Margaret had passed away two years earlier. But, what of their three surviving children, Amelia, Charlotte and John?
All three Ramsay siblings appear to have shared a love of adventure, for they travelled the globe. Amelia married an army officer, Archibald Campbell (later General Sir Archibald Campbell) at St Marylebone on 8 July 1779. Campbell was posted abroad (he was governor of Jamaica between 1781 and 1784) and Amelia and her sister, Charlotte sailed to be with him in 1780. They were aboard the storeship, British Queen, captain Hodge, in a convoy of 63 ships bound for the West Indies.
The ships were East and West Indiamen, storeships, victuallers and transports (with the 90th Regiment of Foot on board), and while it might have been felt that there was safety in numbers, it was a perilous time. Spain had sided with the US in the American Revolutionary War and declared war on Britain. At Cape St Vincent in the Algarve, on 9 August 1780, the convoy of British ships met a combined Spanish and French fleet and it was disastrous. All but eight of the British vessels were captured.
The new Mrs Amelia Campbell and her sister, Charlotte Ramsay were incredibly lucky; their ship, the British Queen, was one of the eight which evaded capture and they managed to make it unscathed to Jamaica and Campbell’s protection.
Seven years later, on 1 February 1787 and possibly in India, Charlotte married Lieutenant Colonel Henry Malcolm, Adjutant-General to the East-India Company’s troops on the coast of Coromandel [New Zealand].
John Ramsay joined the army and he too made his way to India. In 1789 a ship returning to England from Madras via St Helena numbered among the passengers:
Sir Archibald Campbell, K.B, family and suite; Mrs Malcolm… Capt. John Ramsay…
Amelia and Sir Archibald Campbell had no children, but she did bring up two children as her own, a boy who shared her husband’s name, Archibald Campbell and a girl born c.1784, Mary Macleod, who Amelia thought of as her adopted daughter.
Amelia Campbell née Ramsay died in 1813 and was buried (on 15 July 1813) in Westminster Abbey alongside her husband, Sir Archibald who had died 23 years earlier. (Their grave is in the south transept of the abbey, next to that of George Frederic Handel.) After Amelia’s death, Mary Macleod went to live with Charlotte who became as close to the girl as her sister had been; both Amelia and Charlotte left the bulk of their wealth to Mary. Indeed, Charlotte, in her will, declared that she viewed Mary as a daughter.
On 6 January 1837, Charlotte Malcolm née Ramsay was buried at St Marylebone. John Ramsay, who was promoted to the rank of general, lived until 1845; he died in Geneva.
To recap, the children of Allan Ramsay are as follows:
By Anne Bayne:
Allan – 1740-1741
Bayne – 1741-? (died young)
Anne – 1743-? (died young after 1752)
By Margaret Lindsay:
Alexander and Amelia (twins) – 1752-1752
Alexander – 1754-1755
Amelia – 1755-1813
Elisabeth – 1758-1762
Frances – 1760-1765
Grizelda – 1761-1761
Charlotte – 1765-1837
John – 1768-1845
For ease, we have used new style rather than old style dates, except where noted.
Ramsay’s daughter Anne, from his first marriage, was alive when he remarried in 1752 as she was mentioned in a letter he wrote to his father-in-law, but she did not survive into adulthood.
Elisabeth, born 9 November 1758, seems to have been confused in most, if not all sources for Charlotte born 1765. In fact, the short-lived Elisabeth, Frances and Grizelda appear to have been totally overlooked and Charlotte, known as one of only two Ramsay’s daughters by Margaret Lindsay to have survived to adulthood, ascribed to the 1758 birth on the basis of a letter written by Ramsay to Sir Alexander Dick congratulating Sir Alexander on the birth of a daughter and remarking that he had recently been similarly blessed.
In the 1851 census, Mary Macleod said she had been born at sea but was a British subject.
Until 1745, Lincoln’s County Assembly Rooms were in a one-storied house on Eastgate (opposite James Street) which was known as Atton Place. (Atton Place was re-fronted in the late eighteenth-century and later had an extra storey added.)
The architect Joseph Hayward was responsible for the new Assembly Rooms, located on Bailgate, just a short distance from Newport Arch, the remains of a 3rd-century Roman gate. Bailgate was once the site of a Roman Colonnade, and the Forum stood opposite the site of the Assembly Rooms.
Featuring a spacious ballroom and ‘convenient refreshment rooms’ the building was opened to the public in 1745, and still stands to this day although it has been added to and adapted over the years.
Those who lived ‘downhill’ were not permitted to set foot in the ‘sacred’ precincts of the County Assembly Rooms, which were for the ‘uphill’ gentry and county magnates. A City Assembly Rooms was built in 1757 above the Butter Market on the High Street at the bottom of Steep Hill, for the Lincoln tradesmen and their wives; in appearance it was remarkably similar to the County Assembly Rooms as it appears today (the façade of the City Assembly Rooms still exists, but it has been located to the Central Market on Sincil Street).
During September 1776, George III’s brother, Prince Edward, Duke of York made a visit to Lincoln. He saw the play, Midas performed by Mr Steven’s Company and then ‘repaired to the grand assembly room above Hill, where a ball was prepared for his entertainment, which was very brilliant. There was a great appearance of Nobility and Gentry richly dressed. His Highness opened the ball with the Countess of Scarborough, and staid near two hours in the room.’
The Duke of York, after a short naval career, devoted himself to a life of pleasure. In the same year that he came to Lincoln, the duke was described by Horace Walpole as ‘a milk-white angel, white even to his eyes and eyelashes’; he died the following September in Monaco.
From 1789, the Lincolnshire Stuff Ball was held every October at the County Assembly Rooms. This was an annual event which encouraged and promoted the manufacture and industry of a fabric known as Lincolnshire stuff. Each year the lady patroness chose the colour theme for the ball and all the guests had to order new clothes made in good Lincolnshire stuff which came from Lincolnshire wool and had been manufactured and dyed – in the colour chosen – in the county. You can read more about the Lincolnshire Stuff Balls in a previous blog post.
During the Regency period, the people of Lincoln were tricked by a con man by the name of Jones. In October 1815, this man circulated bills in and around Lincoln, announcing his intention of giving a concert and ball at the County Assembly Rooms. A small company assembled on the night.
During the ball, the manager [Jones] took French leave of Lincoln, leaving the printer, the musicians and attendants engaged for the night, and some other persons whom he had duped, to make the most of the comfort of companionship in misery! He has been heard of in other parts of the county since. If he elude the grasp of those whom he has incensed, this notice of his tricks may at least be serviceable to others.
I took the chance to visit the Assembly Rooms recently; there is a tea room in the side of the building (the Arches Tearoom, which I highly recommend) and research is always best undertaken with a slice of cake and a cup of coffee, I find. By 1813 the state of the rooms had necessitated immediate repairs, funded by a subscription although we have no description of the works carried out.
Originally, the Assembly Rooms sat well back from the Bailgate, with a courtyard in front. Although we have been unable to find any contemporary image from the original building, we do know that a portico adorned the front in 1866 as it was specifically mentioned.
The County Assembly-rooms are being richly decorated for the Fancy Dress Ball to be given by the High Sheriff on the 19th[of January]. The portico will be closed in and used as an ante-room. A passage will also be made in the court-yard, and at the end of it will be the entrance. This promises to be a great improvement.
Renovations were carried out in 1908, to specifications by the Lincoln architect William Watkins, but a newspaper report at the time specifically mentions the exterior of the building and no additions were made to the frontage at that time.
Visitors to the Lincoln County Assembly Rooms during the coming winter season will recognise and appreciate a series of ingenious alterations and improvements that are just approaching completion. They are concerned with the entrance, and include the provision of a large crush-room and a more commodious gentleman’s cloak room, while the lighting and seating arrangements have been brought to perfection. The ballroom has, of course, long held the reputation of being one of the finest in the country, and the new additions to the premises (which have not, however, necessitated any external structural alterations) make the approach considerably better than previously. Under the old arrangement the cloak rooms bordered the entrance hall on either hand, and the main corridor was crowded at times of the departure and arrival of the company, often to the point of inconvenience.
The improvements will be admitted at once. On the right, the creation of a large lobby greatly increases the space, preventing any crowding near the door, and a gentleman’s cloak room has been evolved from a store room further back, which has been fitted with larger and deeper shelves, etc., and is altogether better than the old ones. But the chief improvement is obtained by the cutting out, further along the main corridor, of the wall separating the corridor from the gentleman’s waiting room. That room and the corridor are now thrown into one, making a very satisfactory crush-room, which has been very beautifully decorated and furnished.
However, in 1914, the Assembly Rooms received a substantial makeover. A new frontage and facade was added, covering the old courtyard and almost doubling the space within the building and bringing the front level to the Bailgate. (Pevsner says of this addition that ‘the front in dry classical style is of 1914, but some yards behind can be seen the bold quoins and fine entablature of the original front of 1745. The interior is certainly the finest Georgian room in Lincoln.).
If you look down the passage at the left-hand side of the Assembly Rooms, you can indeed see the ‘bold quoins and fine entablature’ of the original front.
Williamson’s Illustrated Guide to Lincoln, 4th Edition
The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, Nikolaus Pevsner and John Harris, second edition revised by Nicholas Antram, Yale University Press, 1989
History, gazetteer, and directory of Lincolnshire, and the city and diocese of Lincoln, William White, second edition, 1856
Stamford Mercury, 9th October 1766, 22nd October 1813, 13th October 1815 and 12th January 1866
In the early eighteenth-century, the women who sold butter, milk, poultry and eggs on Fridays at the Butter Market in Lincoln had to do so with no shelter from the elements. Until 1572 their forebears had sold their wares at the Butter Cross on Newland but when that was taken down the Butter Market moved to the churchyard of St Peter at Arches.
For ten years, the Corporation of Lincoln agreed, at the instance of the mayor, John Lobsey, Esq, to forego its annual feast, saving £1,000 (their feasts must have been something to behold!) and they donated this to pay for a new market, providing shelter for the traders, which was erected in 1736.
The Butter Market was located on the High Street in ‘downhill’ Lincoln, close to the junction with Silver Street and just behind St Peter at Arches church (the market still extended into the churchyard). The Stonebow is on the other side of Silver Street. Neither the Butter Market or St Peter’s still stand; for anyone who knows Lincoln, the corner building (dating to the 1930s but built in a Georgian style) which now houses The Works is where St Peter’s and the Butter Market once stood.
The openings along the side of the building were originally open arches but they were later glazed to make things more comfortable for the stallholders. The façade had a fine pediment made of Portland stone with the city shield carved into it.
In 1744, Lincoln gained an Assembly Room on Bailgate, in the ‘uphill’ area of the city (Lincoln is famous for the aptly named Steep Hill, neatly dividing the city into uphill and downhill sections). In the twentieth century, a newspaper columnist recalled that:
Those who lived ‘downhill’ were not permitted to set foot in the ‘sacred’ precincts of the County Assembly Rooms, which were for the ‘uphill’ people and county magnates.
And so, it was decided that the people living ‘downhill’ needed their own assembly room. Funds were raised by public subscription and, in 1757, the council allowed the upper floor of the Butter Market to be developed to include an assembly room with a tea room and a small card room, overlooking the street. Accessed by a staircase from the rear of the Butter Market, it was the finest ballroom in the lower part of Lincoln and the scene of many important gatherings. Subscription Assemblies were hugely popular and well attended by the ‘city’ tradesmen who, together with their wives, were not admitted to the County Assembly Rooms uphill. The façades of both buildings are strikingly similar.
In 1813, some bronze statues and elegant decorations were contributed by Lady Monson (Sarah Elizabeth Grevile, wife of John Monson, Baron Monson of Burton). Gradually though, over the decades, the building declined and while the ground floor continued to be used as a market hall (selling fruit and vegetables in the week as well as milk, butter, eggs and poultry on a Friday), the upper rooms saw service as a ‘People’s News Room’, were the home of the mechanics institute and housed the city library for a time; by 1934 the school medical service used the space.
A bugbear of any Lincoln resident to this day is traffic congestion in the city; in the 1930s Lincoln was undergoing redevelopment and the Ministry of Transport had stipulated that the roadway in that area had to be 50 feet wide. The Butter Market and St Peter at Arches were in the way and had to go, despite their history.
We have the Bishop of Grantham (the Right Rev E M Blackie) to thank for the fact that the façade of the Butter Market has survived. The bishop wrote a paper, Architecture and the Ordinary Man, in which he referred to the Butter Market as a fine specimen of eighteenth-century work, pointing out that very few towns in England possessed anything of its kind quite so good. He urged that the beautiful façade facing High-street should be taken down and carefully rebuilt.
“What is going to be its fate? Will it be pulled down and destroyed and forgotten? I am told that this is likely to happen, and I can only hope that the prophecy is not entirely true.”
The bishop’s advice was heeded and the façade was taken down, brick by brick, each carefully numbered, and it was rebuilt on Sincil Bank, the focal point of a new central market where the stallholders from the Butter Market could share the space with the vendors from the existing Cornhill Market. This new building, four times as big as the former market, was opened on the 18th May 1938. Within the fabric of the building, care had been given to provide space to continue an old custom which would have been familiar to the eighteenth-century residents of Lincoln.
An Old Custom: An interesting feature of the new market was the fact that the Corporation had provided sittings for the sale of butter, eggs and poultry, thus continuing an old-established custom, and indeed a custom which was almost unique in England.
The provision of these sittings on Fridays in each week had meant, of course, that the building had to be built sufficiently large to accommodate the sittings and ordinary stall-holders as well, the sittings were used only one day per week.
Lincolnshire Chronicle, 1st July 1904
Lincolnshire Echo, 19th February 1932
Lincolnshire Echo, 22nd January 1934
Lincolnshire Echo, 19th May 1938
Williamson’s Illustrated Guide through Lincoln, 4th Edition
A Survey of the Antiquities of Lincoln
Tudor and Stuart Lincoln, J.W.F Hill, Cambridge University Press, 1956
Battledore and shuttlecock was the forerunner of the game we now know as badminton; shuttlecock games go back around 2,000 years and are found in many different countries. Today, we are going to take a look at the game during the long eighteenth-century.
The battledores were small racquets, made of rows of gut or of parchment stretched across wooden frames. Shuttlecocks were made of cork, trimmed with feathers. The French botanist, zoologist and painter François Alexandre Pierre de Garsault described battledore and shuttlecock as it was played in France during the first half of the eighteenth-century (where it was known as jouer de volant) and he said feathers from pigeon’s wings were used in the shuttlecock.
The game was perennially popular, especially with children but also adults too and could be played with just two people or with more; the premise was simple, you kept the shuttlecock in the air for as long as possible by batting it from one to another player. No net was used.
As a cheap, easy and fun game, it was thought eminently suitable for children. It could be played anywhere, indoors or outdoors and developed hand to eye coordination while providing plenty of physical exercise too. For more of a challenge, if a group of friends were playing, two shuttlecocks could be used.
One contemporary account, somewhat disparagingly when talking of the game played by adults, says it was fit only for women to play; men required something more strenuous.
Jean Jacques Rousseau claimed that:
When a child plays shuttlecock he practices hand and eye co-ordination; but he learns nothing. You prefer the shuttlecock because it is harmless and less tiring? You are mistaken. The shuttlecock is a woman’s game; but there isn’t one who hits a moving ball. The white skins mustn’t be roughened by violence; but we, who are vigorous and robust, cannot be so without sweat and how do we expect to defend ourselves if we are never attacked?
Rousseau compared it to ‘real tennis’, jeu de paume (palm game, a variant played initially without racquets, instead hitting a small ball back and forth with just the palm of your hand), saying the latter, played mainly by men, required more skill and strength. (After a time, gloves began to be worn when playing jeu de paume and then racquets.)
The World newspaper, on the 13th January 1790, reported on Charles James Fox and his mistress (later his wife), the former courtesan Elizabeth Armistead (who had dallied with the Prince of Wales for a time). Ending their gossipy tidbit with a Latin motto, dulce est desipere in loco [it is pleasant to be frivolous at the appropriate time], they somewhat sarcastically reported on the pair leaving Bath, saying that:
Charles Fox and Mrs Armistead, set off for town yesterday, he, though in high health, has very rarely appeared abroad, and not once at any place of public resort. His mornings have been chiefly spent in sweet converse with his DULCINEA – occasionally, indeed, in the manly amusement of Battledore and Shuttlecock.
We’ll not get into arguments about it now, but we are pleased to say that Garsault, however, disagreed; his opinion was that more force not less was needed to propel a shuttlecock the same distance as the ball used in jeu de paume.
During the very early eighteenth-century, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans (1674-1723), who was Regent for the young Louis XV of France at the time, reportedly played a version of battledore and shuttlecock but on a tennis court, instead of ‘real tennis’. Garsault, in The Art of Tennis Racket Maker, 1767, said that this version was particularly fashionable at the French court and it was the duke’s favourite game. Comparing it to jeu de paume, this account is interesting as it describes battledore and shuttlecock being played on a court and using a net, some 150 years before badminton as we know it developed. Up to eight people could play indoors, Garsault said, but the game was best with just four or six.
Large shuttlecocks, two inches in diameter at the base, and with feathers 2½ inches long are used. One serves with the racket as in the Jeu de paume. From the sidewall of the service-side is stretched a second cord and net, three feet from the real one and parallel with it. An attendant of the court serves; for this he stands at the door of the hazard-side. The service is given in two ways; the attendant either throws the shuttlecock into the air with his hands to the server, or else he uses the crank. It is forbidden to send the shuttlecock against the walls or throw it between the two cords.
The earliest reference we have found to the game being described as badminton and played using a net (or string) comes from The Cornhill Magazine, volume 8, 1863.
Life in a Country House: After lunch, everybody is expected to hold themselves at the disposal of the lady of the house, for a ride, drive, or walk, as the case may be. If the weather be such as to induce you to remain within doors, your co-operation will be sought for in a game at pool, badminton (which is battledore and shuttlecock played with sides, across a string suspended some five feet from the ground), and similar amusements.
Sources not mentioned above:
Badminton: An Illustrated History – From ancient pastime to Olympic Sport, Jean-Yves Guillain
Notionnaire ou mémorial raisonneé de ce qu’il y a d’utile et d’intéressant dans les connoisances acuises depuis la création du monde jusqu’ à present, François Alexandre Pierre de Garsault, 1761
In our last blog, we looked at the Cheesecake House in Hyde Park where you could feast upon all manner of delicious cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs. Today, we thought we would share a few Georgian era recipes for these delicacies. One thing we need to get straight from the start, you don’t need cheese to make these cheesecakes… they were more akin to a Yorkshire curd tart.
Observations upon Creams, Custards, and Cheesecakes
When you make any kind of creams and custards, take great care your tossing-pan be well tinned, put a spoonful of water in it, to prevent the cream from sticking to the bottom of your pan, then beat your yolks of eggs, and strain out the treads, and follow the direction of your receipt.
As to cheesecakes they should not be made long before you bake them, particularly almond or lemon cheesecakes, for standing them makes them oil and look sad, a moderate oven bakes them best, if it is too hot it burns them and takes off the beauty, and a very slow oven makes them sad and look black: make your cheesecakes up just when the oven is of a proper heat, and they will rise well, and be of a proper colour.
To make Cheesecakes
Set a quart of new milk near the fire, with a spoonful of rennet, let the milk be blood warm, when it is broke drain the curd through a coarse cloth, now and then break the curd gently with your fingers, rub into the curd a quarter of a pound of butter, a quarter of a pound of sugar, a nutmeg and two Naples’ biscuits grated, the yolks of four eggs, and the white of one egg, one ounce of almonds well beat, with two spoonfuls of rose water, and two of sack, clean six ounces of currants very well, put them into your curd, and mix them all well together.
To make Citron Cheesecakes
Boil a quart of cream, beat the yolks of four eggs, mix them with your cream when it is cold, then set it on the fire, let it boil till it curds, blanch some almonds, beat them with orange-flower water, put them into the cream, with a few Naples’ biscuits, and green citron shred fine, sweeten it to your taste, and bake them in tea-cups.
To make Bread Cheesecakes
Slice a penny loaf as thin as possible, pour on it a pint of boiling cream, let it stand for two hours, then take eight eggs, half a pound of butter, and a nutmeg grated, beat them well together, put in half a pound of currants well washed, and dried before the fire, and a spoonful of brandy, or white wine, and bake them in raised crusts, or petty-pans.
To make an Apple Tart
Scald eight or ten large codlings, when cold skim them, take the pulp, and beat it as fine as you can with a silver spoon, then mix the yolks of six eggs, and the whites of four, beat all together as fine as possible, put in grated nutmeg, and sugar to your taste, melt some fine fresh butter, and beat it till it is like a fine thick cream, then make a fine puff paste, and cover a tin petty-pan with it, and pour in the ingredients, but do not cover it with your paste; bake it a quarter of an hour, then slip it out of the petty-pan on a dish, and strew fine sugar, finely beat and sifted all over it.
To make Solid Syllabubs
Take a quart of rich cream, and put in a pint of white wine, the juice of four lemons and sugar to your taste, whip it up very well, and take off the froth as it rises, put it upon a hair sieve, and let it stand till the next day in a cool place, fill your glasses better than half full with the thin, then put on the froth, and heap it as high as you can; the bottom will look clear, and keep several days.
To make Lemon Syllabubs
To a pint of cream put a pint of double refined sugar, the juice of seven lemons, and grate the rinds of two lemons into a pint of white wine, and half a pint of sack, then put them into a deep pot, and whisk them for half an hour, put it into glasses the night before you want it: it is better for standing two or three days, but it will keep a week, if required.
To make a common Custard
Take a quart of good cream, set it over a slow fire, with a little cinnamon, and four ounces of sugar; when it is boiled take it off the fire; beat the yolks of eight eggs, put to them a spoonful or orange-flower water to prevent the cream from cracking, stir them in by degrees as your cream cools, put the pan over a very slow fire, stir them carefully one way till it is almost boiling, then put it into cups, and serve them up.
Put a quart of cream into a tossing-pan, a stick of cinnamon, a blade or two of mace, boil it and set it to cool, blanch two ounces of almonds, beat them fine in a marble mortar with rose water, if you like a ratafia taste put in a few apricot kernels, or bitter almonds, mix them with your cream, sweeten it to your taste, set it on a slow fire, keep stirring it till it is pretty thick, if you let it boil it will curdle, pour it into cups, &c.
The experienced English house-keeper, consisting of near 800 original receipts by Elizabeth Raffald, 1808 (first published in 1769)
Today we are going to take a look at a building which stood in Hyde Park, on the north side of the Serpentine next to the Ring (a circular track around which the nobility could drive in their carriages). It was known as the Cheesecake House, (among other names) and was a place where refreshments could be purchased.
An ancient building, made of timber and plaster with a flat tiled roof, the Cheesecake House stood in the park from at least the reign of Charles II (and perhaps even earlier). To gain access to the front door, the visitor had to cross the small stream which ran in front of the building via a rudimentary wooden bridge. Samuel Pepys was a visitor; in 1669 he took his wife for a visit and they sat in their coach and ate ‘a cheesecake and drank a tankard of milk’.
In the time of Queen Anne, it was known as the Cake House or Minced-pie House and later was called Price’s Lodge (later sources say after Gervase Price, chief under-keeper of Hyde Park). By the late seventeenth-century Price’s Lodge was run by a widow named Frances Price.
St James’s Park is frequented by people of quality; who, if they have a mind to have better and freer air, drive to Hyde Park, where is a ring for the coaches to drive around; and hard by is Mrs Price’s where are incomparable syllabubs.
A Journey to London in the year 1698 by Dr William King (1663-1712)
But, it is best remembered as the Cheesecake House, after one of the delicacies which could be bought there as cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs were all on the menu.
Mrs Price was still the landlady in 1712 when a famous duel was fought literally on her doorstep in Hyde Park between James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton and Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun on 12th November 1712.
Lord Mohun’s coach was stopped by the keeper of Hyde Park but, telling him they were headed for Price’s Lodge, he allowed it to pass. Mohun and his second, an Irish officer named George Macartney, got out of the coach and walked away, bidding the coachman to go into the lodge and ask John Reynolds, the Drawer, to get some ‘burnt-wine’ ready for when they returned. Reynolds was wise to their tricks. He said he would not do so, ‘for very few came thither so soon in the morning but to fight…’.
The duel was fought with swords and the seconds joined in too; both Hamilton and Mohun were wounded, Mohun fatally but the Duke of Hamilton only received a cut on his arm, at least at that point. Accounts differ, but it was claimed that the duke then dropped his sword and Macartney, Mohun’s second, delivered a fatal blow to him. John Reynolds came out and tried to help the duke walk to the house but before they reached the bridge, Hamilton said ‘he could walk no further’ and died on the spot.
With both the main protagonists dead, the two seconds, Macartney and the duke’s man, Colonel Hamilton were charged with manslaughter; Macartney fled to Hanover but Hamilton stood trial and was found guilty.
Frances Price died around 1719 and her will, written seven years earlier, left Price’s Lodge to her grandson, John Price. However, Frances’ will stipulated that, if she wanted to take over the management, her widowed daughter, Anne Silver, who lived with her mother in Hyde Park, should be allowed to do so, paying John Price an annual sum of £10 a year for the use thereof. Sadly, Anne Silver was to predecease her mother.
By 1801 the Cheesecake House was in use as a boat-house and in the nineteenth-century was demolished altogether. Except when there was a fair, for around a hundred years no refreshments were allowed to be sold in Hyde Park, a situation which caused many complaints. Finally, on 1st April 1909, the Ring Tea House was opened, a newly built Georgian rustic style circular building which catered for the park’s visitors.
You might be interested to know that cheesecakes of the period contained no cheese and were akin to a Yorkshire curd tart. In our next blog post, we will take a look at some Georgian era recipes for cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs.
Edward Walford, ‘Hyde Park’, in Old and New London: Volume 4 (London, 1878), pp. 375-405. British History Online
The Gentleman’s Magazine, May 1801
London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions by Henry Benjamin Wheatley and Peter Cunningham, Cambridge University Press, 2011
Daily Telegraph and Courier (London), 9th April 1909
The Original Works in verse and prose of Dr William King, vol 1, 1776
The substance of all the depositions taken at the coroners’ inquest the 17th, 19th, and 21st of November, on the body of Duke Hamilton. And the 15th, 18th, 20th, and 22nd, on the body of my Lord Mohun, 1712
PROB 11/573/157, Will of Frances Price, widow of Hyde Park, 19 March 1719/1720
PROB 11/542/334, Will of Anne Silver, widow of Hyde Park, 25 October 1714
In the early eighteenth-century, the Serpentine in Hyde Park was no large and ornamental lake, but rather a series of ponds described as consisting of dirty and stagnant water which were supplied by the Westbourne, a river which originated in the Hampstead and which, before entering Hyde Park, was joined by the ‘Cool Bourne’ (Kilburn) and a tributary called the Tyburn Brook or Stream. The Westbourne carried on under Knightsbridge to meet the Thames near Chelsea Hospital but, in Hyde Park, it ‘wandered about in a series of ponds’ until in 1730 Queen Caroline, the wife of George II, ordered that it be banked, forming the artificial lake we know today as the Serpentine.
St Agnes’ Well was at the northern end of the lake (it was located about where the statue of Edward Jenner now stands). In the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries the springs of this well had two distinct uses.
St. Agnes’s Well, Hyde Park, considered one of the holy wells, existed as late as 1804, near the head of the Serpentine on its east bank, in a part of Hyde Park formerly known as Buckden Hill. There were two springs: one was used for bathing the eyes, and for the immersion of children, and is mentioned by Dr. Clippingdale in his paper on West London Rivers, as the ‘Dipping Well’; the water of the other, said to be medicinally potent, was sold in glasses by an attendant to visitors, amongst whom were many children of the richer classes, sent by their parents. The water was also taken away in jugs or bottles for consumption at home. It was probably mildly chalybeate.
The image above of the drinking well, showing a paid attendant allowing women and children to fill glasses from the small trough like well is an engraving from an original by the artist, Maria Spilsbury (1776-1820), who lived immediately opposite the site at her family’s house, 10 St George’s Row. Maria would have known this scene well.
The Illustrated London News, in 1908, contained an advert for Pears soap (invented in 1789) which waxed lyrical on the pastoral charms of old Hyde Park.
The spot was one of sweet sylvan beauty, to which mothers and nurses resorted in the morning hours with their infant charges, for the purpose of washing and bathing them in the fresh bubbling spring, caught at its source in a rustic open well. What more delightful mode of having a bath could be imagined than here in the pure open air, with the luxuriant glades dissolving into the distance behind, and deer loitering in the leafy shade? It is, indeed, a scene of grace, natural beauty, and enjoyment.
The dipping well may also be depicted in the painting Juvenile Tricks by Joseph Mallord William Turner, c.1808. The notes on the Tate website suggest that, as there appears to be a level of organisation in the boys’ activities in Turner’s depiction, that it might represent an apprentices’ initiation rite.
Illustrated London News, 20th June 1908
Old London’s spas, bath, and wells by Septimus Sunderland, 1915
Maria Spilsbury (1776-1820): Artist and Evangelist by Charlotte Yeldham, Routledge, 2017
Two Engravings (dated 1802) of the Drinking and Dipping Wells in Hyde Park by Sir StClair Thomson, M.D. (from the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine)
October is Huguenot Month and we’re delighted to promote this with Huguenots of Spitalfields who are holding a month of events to celebrate Huguenot history and enable people to discover more about these unique and talented people.
Huguenots were French Protestant refugees who fled persecution during the 16th to 18th centuries, many of whom settled in London. They contributed their skills to many fields, including silk weaving, furniture design, spinning and dyeing, silversmithing, clock making and jewellery.
A Georgian-style ‘Back in time for Dinner’. This talk will take a tour of a Georgian kitchen and dining table to describe the food on the table and explore the complex network of trade, commerce and cultural influences behind it.
Visit a rare and beautiful 18th Century silk weaver’s house.
Explore a Georgian home ‘from garret to kitchen’; learn about those who lived and worked in the kitchen, parlour, bedchamber and garret.
Take a step back in time to the 1700s. Visit the unique and atmospheric ‘still-life drama’ of Dennis Severs’ House at 18 Folgate Street.
A talk about Queen Anne’s dazzling candlelit birthday ball at St James’s Palace, when the Queen’s Maids of Honour danced with courtiers in the fashionable dances imported from France. This talk looks at what they wore and how they learned the dances – many of which have survived from the 18th century to today.
Listen to Georgian organ music in the stunningly beautiful Christ Church Spitalfields, designed by Hawksmoor.
Hear Dan Cruickshank talk about Queen Mary II’s cultural patronage of the arts.
Huguenots of Spitalfields is a registered charity promoting public understanding of the Huguenot heritage and culture in Spitalfields, the City of London and beyond.
We arrange tours, talks, events and schools programmes to raise the Huguenot profile in Spitalfields.
Princess Christiane Sophie Albertine of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was the elder sister of Queen Charlotte, consort of George III.
Born on the 6th December 1735 at Mirow (in north east Germany, then in the duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz), Christiane (also known as Christiana) was destined to have her heart broken, and it was all because of the good fortune of her sister, Charlotte.
Duke Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg and Princess Elisabeth Albertine of Saxe Hildburghausen had ten children, six of whom survived infancy. Christiane was the first born, and after her came:
Adophus Frederick IV, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1738-1794)
Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1741-1816)
Duke Ernest Gottlob of Mecklenburg (1742-1814)
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen Consort to George III (1744-1818)
Duke George Augustus of Mecklenburg (1748-1785)
Together with her sisters, Christiane received a rudimentary education; Charlotte’s upbringing was later described as one similar to an English country gentleman although accounts suggest the girls were taught Latin, French and Greek as well as botany and history. With a good grounding in how to run a household and, as the eldest daughter, Christiane could perhaps have expected to make a highly advantageous marriage. However, by 1761 – aged 25 years – she was still unwed.
In the early 1760s, John Ker, the young 3rd Duke of Roxburghe, was undertaking the Grand Tour. Travelling through Europe, in 1761 he met Christiane, and fell in love. Christiane returned his affection and the romance between them progressed far enough for an engagement to be proposed.
But, a spanner was about to be thrown into the works. In England, George III had ascended the throne and started to search for a wife amongst the European royalty and nobility. His choice eventually settled on the 17-year-old Princess Charlotte and a proposal of marriage was made, and accepted in the summer of 1761, at exactly the same time that the Duke of Roxburghe was negotiating for the hand of Christiane.
The younger sister’s marriage proved to be a detrimental and insurmountable barrier to the elder’s; German etiquette precluded Christiane, almost a decade Charlotte’s senior, becoming the new British queen’s subject… and George III quite possibly disliked the idea of one of his subjects, albeit one who was high in his favour, becoming his brother-in-law. Reluctantly, Christiane and the duke took the decision to part.
While George III and Queen Charlotte had a long and very happy marriage (they fell deeply in love with one another), neither Christiane nor the duke ever married. It is believed that, having suffered the loss of each other, they never found anyone else who matched up to their ideal. Sir Walter Scott knew the duke personally, and said of him that:
Youthful misfortunes, of a kind against which neither rank nor wealth possess a talisman, had case an early shade of gloom over his prospects, and given to one so splendidly endowed with the means of enjoying society that degree of reserved melancholy which prefers retirement to the splendid scenes of gaiety.
A personal friend of George III, Roxburghe was rewarded with positions at court. Christiane lived for a time in Neustrelitz with her brother, Adolphus. As he too was unmarried, Christiane acted as his representative when necessary and later she was made a canoness in Herford Abbey (an ancient religious establishment for women in the Duchy of Saxony), although she continued to live with her brother rather than enter the abbey’s precincts. On the 13th January 1766, Empress Catherine II (the Great) of Russia bestowed the Order of St Catherine on Christiane.
Christiane died on the 31st August 1794. Her younger sister, Queen Charlotte, was in Weymouth with the royal family when she heard the news; the court was ordered to go into mourning.
The ladies to wear black silk, plain muslin or long lawn, crape or love hoods, black silk shoes, black glazed gloves, and black paper fans.
Undress, black or dark-grey unwatered tabbies.
The gentlemen to wear black cloth, without buttons on the sleeves or pockets, plain muslin or long lawn cravats and weepers [strips of cloth sown onto coat cuffs], black swords and buckles.
Undress, dark-grey frocks.
The Duke of Roxburghe, who became a noted bibliophile, died in 1804.
Hillyard, B. (2004-09-23). Ker, John, third duke of Roxburghe (1740–1804), book collector. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Stamford Mercury, 19th September 1794
Бантыш-Каменский Н.Н. Списки кавалерам российских императорских орденов Св. Андрея Первозванного, Св. Екатерины, Св. Александра Невского и Св. Анны с учреждения до установления в 1797 году орденского капитула. Издание подготовил П.А. Дружинин. Москва, «Трутень»®, «Древлехранилище», 2005. – 228с. 500 экз. Тв. переплет. (Типогр. «Гриф и Ко», г. Тула). ISBN 5-94926-007-4.