The Military Bishop – Frederick, Duke of York

In February 1788 a member of the royal family was lampooned by The Town and Country Magazine in one of its notorious Histories of the Tête-à-Tête articles, Memoirs of the MILITARY BISHOP and the CONVENIENT WIFE.

Frederick, Duke of York, second son of King George III, was the subject, designated by the title of The Military Bishop. Born on 16th August 1763, he had been sent to Hanover from a young age to pursue a military career. By the time of the magazine article, he was Colonel of the Coldstream Guards and had been granted the title of Duke of York. The epithet ‘Bishop’ makes reference to his election, at the age of only six months, in 1764, to the title of Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück in what is today Lower Saxony.

Frederick, Duke of York, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1788
Frederick, Duke of York, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1788

His mistress, a beauty from her picture, known only by the appellation of The Convenient Wife, was married to another, but had never had a sincere attachment to her husband. Neither, according to the article, did she have any regard to her own character and it was she who seduced her royal suitor, their amour carried on initially by letter.

Frederick - tete a tete

Eventually they began to conduct secret assignations, but were discovered by the lady’s servant, who ran home to tell the cuckolded husband, certain of a reward for doing so.

But the husband, a phlegmatic man unhelpfully named only as Mr. _____, surprised the servant by berating him for being a liar and a rascal, who had defamed his mistress for mercenary motives: the servant was thrashed, paid his wages, stripped of his livery, and turned out of doors.

Mercenary motives were, however, what now focussed the mind of the husband, who had only pretended to be enraged. Taking a poker, he broke the door of his wife’s cabinet, made of slight Indian wood, and discovered the letters which proved ‘the written evidences of her incontinence and his own dishonour’.

The Convenient Wife was in the arms of her royal lover, unaware that her husband had discovered her secret. But she was not to remain ignorant for long for, upon returning home that evening, she found her spouse sitting with the letters spread before him. He kept his cool through his wife’s confusion, and proposed that she repay her infamy by means of using her influence with the Duke to procure a position for him, either in the church or in the army. The Town and Country Magazine ended their article by saying, ‘. . . in one department he certainly will be placed, as the humble servant of his lady carries not only a truncheon but a crosier, and is completely church militant’.

Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia
Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia

Whoever The Convenient Wife was, she was soon supplanted in her Duke’s affections. He went on to make an unsuccessful marriage in 1791 to his cousin, Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, the main attraction being the lady’s fortune (he was forever in debt!).

The Soldier's Return, courtesy of the British Museum, showing the Duke of York and Princess Frederica.
The Soldier’s Return, courtesy of the British Museum, showing the Duke of York and Princess Frederica.

LONDON

A treaty of marriage is on the tapis at Berlin, between the Duke of York and the Princess Frederica of Prussia, a very beautiful and accomplished lady. The match is not yet finally settled, as the Duke is said to have desired eight millions of dollars as a marriage portion, the greater part of which is to pay his debts. The King, we are informed, has offered his Highness the half of that sum.

(Stamford Mercury, 17th June, 1791)

Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

The couple soon parted and the slightly eccentric Frederica lived at Oatlands surrounded by pet dogs, whose company she much preferred to that of her husband. In 1809 Frederick was to once more court scandal when another mistress, Mary Anne Clarke, was accused of selling army commissions signed by the duped Duke.

Mary Anne Clarke by Adam Buck, 1803. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.
Mary Anne Clarke by Adam Buck, 1803. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

An adept administrator, which made up for failings in a military capacity, he is the subject of the well-known nursery rhyme The Grand Old Duke of York.

The grand old Duke of York,

He had ten thousand men.

He marched them up to the top of the hill

And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up.

And when they were down, they were down.

And when they were only halfway up,

They were neither up nor down. 

Courtesy of the British Museum
Courtesy of the British Museum

Frederick, Duke of York, died of dropsy on the 5th January 1827 aged 63 years. Had he survived he would, in due course, have succeeded to the throne of England after his elder brother, King George IV. Today his statue stands atop the Duke of York Column, erected in 1834 close to The Mall in London.

Duke of York column

 

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Gilbert Pidcock’s travelling menagerie

Roll Up! Roll Up! Today we invite our readers to visit Pidcock’s Royal Menagerie at Exeter ‘Change and also touring the country, so all can join in.  All manner of incredible and rare animals, some never seen before. And all for just one shilling.

Come on in, and prepare to be amazed . . .

Courtesy of the British Museum, 1799
Courtesy of the British Museum, 1799

TO THE CURIOUS

Whatever deserves the Epithet of RARE, must certainly be worthy the Attention of the Curious.

JUST Arriv’d from the ISLAND of JAVA, in the East-Indies, and ALIVE, one of the greatest Rarities ever brought to Europe in the Age or Memory of Man,

The GRAND CASSOWAR.

It is described by the late Dr. Goldsmith as follows, viz. The Head inspires some Degree of Terror like a Warrior; it has the Eye of a Lion, the Defence of a Porcupine, and the Swiftness of a Courser; but has neither Tongue, Wing nor Tail. Its Legs are stout like the Elephant, Heel as the Human Species, and three Toes before; it is upwards of six Feet high, and weighs above 200lb. Its Head and Neck is adorned with a Variety of beautiful Colours, the Top a Sky Blue, the Back Part Orange, the Front Purple, adorned on each side with Crimson, curiously beaded, and its Feathers resemble the Mane of a Horse – and what is more extraordinary, each Quill produces two Feathers.

The Dutch assert that it can devour Glass, Iron, Stones, and even burning Coals, without Fear or Injury.

This Bird laid a large Egg at Warwick, on the 14th of January last, which is of a green Colour, spotted with white.

Ladies and Gentlemen One shilling each.

PIDCOCK, the Proprietor of this BIRD, will be at Sheffield Fair the 28th Instant; and will visit all the other principal Towns in Yorkshire.

(Leeds Intelligencer, 16th November, 1779)

Engraving, THE LION, by Thomas Bewick, 1753-1828, one of a series of large cuts, 1799-1800, for Gilbert Pidcock, proprietor of a travelling menagerie. Courtesy of the National Trust.
Engraving, THE LION, by Thomas Bewick, 1753-1828, one of a series of large cuts, 1799-1800, for Gilbert Pidcock, proprietor of a travelling menagerie. Courtesy of the National Trust.

G. PIDCOCK’s

GRAND MENAGERIE of WILD BEASTS and BIRDS, all alive, is just arrived, and now exhibiting at the White Lion, Corn-Market, DERBY. This invaluable Collection consists of two Mountain Lion Tygers, Male and Female – two Satyrs, or Ætheopian Savages, ditto – a He Bengal Tyger – a Porcupine – an Ape – a Coata Munda – a Jackall – four Macaws – two Cockatoos, one of which will converse with any Person in Company; with a Number of other Curiosities not inserted.

N.B. The large Beasts are well secured, so that the most timorous may approach them with the greatest Safety.

Admittance 1s. each – a Price by no means adequate to the Variety of Curiosities exhibited.

(Derby Mercury, 31st December, 1789)

Engraving, THE TIGER, by Thomas Bewick, 1753-1828, one of a series of large cuts, 1799-1800, made for Gilbert Pidcock, proprietor of a travelling menagerie. Courtesy of the National Trust.
Engraving, THE TIGER, by Thomas Bewick, 1753-1828, one of a series of large cuts, 1799-1800, made for Gilbert Pidcock, proprietor of a travelling menagerie. Courtesy of the National Trust.

Just arrived from the Lyceum, and Exeter Exchange, Strand, London, and to be seen during the fair, in the market-place, two of the grandest assemblages of living rarities in all Europe: consisting of two stupendous and royal OSTRICHES, male and female. These birds exceed in magnitude and texture of plumage all the feathered TRIBE in the CREATION. They already measure upwards of NINE FEET high, although very young! – Also a BENGAL TYGER, a young LIONESS, a real spotted HYÆNA, a ravenous WOLF, two ring-tailed PORCUPINES; an AFRICAN RAM, with four circular horns; and twenty other animals and birds, too numerous to insert. – Admittance, 1s. – Servants, half-price. – Likewise in the other exhibition is the ROYAL HEIFER with TWO HEADS, a beautiful COLT, of the race kind, foaled with only THREE LEGS, got by Sir Charles Bunbury’s Diomed, out of Barcelli, which was the dam of Marcia, now the property of Lord Derby; also a RAM with SIX LEGS. – In addition to the animal curiosities one of the most extraordinary productions of the human species will be shewn, namely the double-jointed IRISH DWARF, who will engage to carry two of the largest men now existing, both at the same time. – Admittance, as above. – Birds and beasts bought, sold, or exchanged, by G. Pidcock. – The above collection will proceed to Warrington, Liverpool, Manchester, &c.

(Chester Chronicle, 14th October, 1791)

Courtesy of the V&A.
Courtesy of the V&A.

Things did not always go to plan though. In 1792, Friday the 13th really lived up to its reputation as a day for disaster, as least as far as Gilbert Pidcock’s travelling menagerie was concerned while travelling through Lincolnshire . . .

On Friday the 13th inst. as Mr Pidcock was proceeding from Gainsborough to Brigg, with his exhibition of birds and beasts, a terrible clap of thunder, attended with lightning, took place, which frightened the horses, and they set off on full gallop, threw the ostrich carriage over, broke it to pieces, broke the back of the female ostrich which died the next day, and the male ostrich was bruised in so terrible a manner, that it died at Newark, on Wednesday the 25th. The Irish dwarf had his collar bone broke, and was otherwise much hurt, but is now in a fair way of recovery.

(Stamford Mercury, 27th April, 1792)

Exeter Exchange, courtesy of the British Museum.
Exeter Exchange, courtesy of the British Museum.

May Day festivities in the Georgian Era

Traditionally, on May Day, people danced around a maypole erected for the purpose, and although this custom was becoming less popular in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century, it was still adhered to by some.

Johann Peter Neeff (1753-1796)
Johann Peter Neeff (1753-1796)

(Derby Mercury, 22nd May 1772)

We hear from Quarndon in Leicestershire, that the young People of that Village, on Old May Day last, erected a lofty Maypole richly adorned with Garlands, &c. which drew together a great Number of the younger Sort to dance round it, and celebrate with Festivity the Return of the Summer Season. Amongst the rest was a Body of young Fellows from Loughbro’, who formed a Plot to carry off the Maypole; which they executed at Night, and removed it to the Middle of the Market-Place at Loughbro’, a Monument of Pride to the Loughbro’ Lads, but which may be the Cause of Mischief and Bloodshed; for the Heroes of Quarndon vow Revenge and are forming Alliances with the Neighbours of Barrow and Sheepshead, and give out they will soon march in a Body to retake their favourite Maypole: In the mean Time the Loughbro’ Youths keep a good Look out, and are determined to preserve Possession of their Spoils.

Dominique Joseph Vanderburch (1722-1785) (www.christies.com)
Dominique Joseph Vanderburch (1722-1785) (www.christies.com)

Male and female couples danced around the maypole, holding and entwining lengths of brightly coloured ribbons, having first set out at dawn to gather garlands and boughs with which to decorate it.

On Monday last at Cheriton, near Alresford, the usual pastime of Maying commenced, where a Maypole was erected in commemoration of the day, and in the afternoon the sons and daughters of May, dressed in a very appropriate manner for the occasion, accompanied by a band of music, proceeded to a commodious bower, composed of green boughs, garlands of flowers, &c. erected for dancing; it was attended by upwards of 50 couple of the most respectable people in the neighbourhood, till the evening. This festive amusement was repeated the next day, with the same order, and, if possible, with greater spirit, as many more genteel couples were added to the gay circle, and the dancing was kept up to a late hour, when, after playing the national air of “God save the King,” the company separated with the greatest harmony and good humour.

(Hampshire Chronicle, 8th May 1815)

The Milkmaid's Garland, or Humours of May Day, Francis Hayman, c.1741 (held in the V&A)
The Milkmaid’s Garland, or Humours of May Day, Francis Hayman, c.1741 (held in the V&A)

Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra on the evening of the 9th November 1800, from their family home in Steventon in Hampshire, giving her the local news and the fate of their village maypole.

We have had a dreadful storm of wind in the forepart of this day . . . One large Elm out of two on the left hand side, as you enter what I call the Elm walk was likewise blown down, the Maypole bearing the weathercock was broke in two, and what I regret more than all the rest is that all three Elms which grew in Hall’s meadow and gave such ornament to it are gone.

www.britannica.com
http://www.britannica.com

The American author Washington Irving (1783-1859) recounted his memories of May Day in the early nineteenth-century whilst he was visiting England.

Still I look forward with some interest to the promised shadow of old May-day, even though it be but a shadow; and I feel more and more pleased with the whimsical, yet harmless hobby of my host… I shall never forget the delight I felt on first seeing a May-pole. It was on the banks of the Dee, close by the picturesque old bridge that stretches across the river from the quaint little city of Chester. I had already been carried back into former days by the antiquities of that venerable place; the examination of which is equal to turning over the pages of a black-letter volume, or gazing on the pictures of Froissart. The May-pole on the margin of that poetic stream completed the illusion. My fancy adorned it with wreathes of flowers, and peopled the green bank with all the dancing revelry of May-day. The mere sight of this May-pole gave a glow to my feelings, and spread a charm over the country for the rest of the day; and as I traversed a part of the fair plain of Cheshire, and the beautiful borders of Wales, and looked from among swelling hills down a long green valley, through which “the Deva wound its wizard stream,” my imagination turned all into a perfect Arcadia.

Held by the Elmbridge Museum, artist unknown
Held by the Elmbridge Museum, artist unknown

Sources used not referenced above:

British Library, letter from Jane Austen, 9th November 1800.

The Works of Washington Irving, volume 1, Philadelphia, 1840

 

The Murderous Tale behind Tom Otter’s Lane

A rural, country lane in Lincolnshire, between the villages of Drinsey Nook and Saxilby and close to the county border with Nottinghamshire, bears the name of a murderer who was gibbeted there for his crime.

Tom Otter's Lane, showing the site of the gibbet.
Tom Otter’s Lane, showing the site of the gibbet.

Tom Otter was the culprit: hanged on Saxilby Moor close to the scene of his awful crime, his name still resonates over two hundred years later.

He was a twenty-eight year old labouring banker (navvy) from Treswell in Nottinghamshire who had travelled across the border into Lincolnshire seeking work, leaving his young wife and infant daughter behind in Southwell. Described as a stout but handsome man, he stood five feet nine inches in height.

He had married Martha Rawlinson at Eakring in Nottinghamshire on the 22nd November, 1804; their daughter was born just a month later, baptized at Hockerton near Southwell two days before Christmas.

St Michael and All Angels Church, South Hykeham © Copyright Julian P Guffogg
St Michael and All Angels Church, South Hykeham
© Copyright Julian P Guffogg

In Lincolnshire, passing himself off as a widower and using his mother’s maiden name of Temporal, he seduced young Mary Kirkham, a local girl between twenty-one and twenty-four years of age, and got her pregnant.  Forced by the parish authorities into marriage, the couple duly obtained a marriage licence and presented themselves, accompanied by the parish constables, at the parish church in South Hykeham to say their vows, Tom Otter naming himself as Thomas Temple [sic], a widower on the marriage licence if not in the marriage register, of St. Mary Wigford in Lincoln. Mary, eight months pregnant at her wedding, was a spinster from North Hykeham.

Tom Otter - marriage to Mary Kirkham

The marriage took place on Sunday, 3rd November 1805, and that same evening the couple found themselves near to Drinsey Nook, about nine miles distant from South Hykeham, after having stopped at The Sun Inn at Saxilby for a drink and a bite to eat. On the road between Saxilby and Drinsey Nook, Tom brutally murdered his pregnant bride only hours after their wedding, battering her skull with a wooden club and throwing her lifeless body into a ditch close to a bridge passing over the Ox Pasture Drain.

There poor Mary was discovered the next morning, her head almost beaten from her body, with the wooden club and one of her patterns located 40 yards away. She was carried back to The Sun Inn for an inquest to take place, following which she was buried in Saxilby on the 5th November 1805.

Tom Otter - burial of Mary Kirkham

The burial register reads:

Nov 5th – Mary Kirkham, alias Temporel, aged 24, found murdered on the Moor. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against her husband, Thomas Temporel, or Otter.

Having been observed walking with a wooden club on the day of the murder, Tom was taken up at The Packhorse Inn in Lincoln as the prime suspect and stood trial at the Lincoln Assizes as Thomas Temporell, otherwise Thomas Otter, in March 1806. After a trial lasting five hours he was sentenced to death and to have his body dissected, but this was changed to rule that his body should be hung in chains on Saxilby Moor, at the scene of his crime. Tom had made no defence to the charge of willful murder, but twenty witnesses appeared against him, all giving circumstantial evidence but it appeared so plain and clear that after the five hour trial the jury took but a few minutes to consider their verdict.

Tom carried himself with indifference at his trial, but on the day of his execution, 14th March 1806, he was measured for the irons in which his body was to rot, and at this point his fortitude forsook him and he approached the gallows adjacent to Lincoln Castle with his head bowed.

The Sun Inn at Saxilby (© John Spooner, Flickr)
The Sun Inn at Saxilby (© John Spooner, Flickr)

The Reverend George Hall, a friend of the gypsies and known as The Gypsy’s Parson, recounted in his book of the same name how his grandfather attended the gibbetting.

[He] was among the crowd of citizens who, starting from Lincoln Castle one March morning in the year 1806, followed the murderer’s corpse until it was hanged in irons on a post thirty feet high on Saxilby Moor. For several days after the event, the vicinity of the gibbet resembled a country fair with drinking booths, ballad singers, Gypsy fiddlers, and fortune-tellers.

The gypsies used to camp close to the gibbet, near Tom Otter’s mouldering bones; the local folk kept their distance from the place after dark and the gypsies knew they would be left in peace.  Although it occurred a decade on from the Georgian era, we must recount the birth of one gypsy boy, as given in The Gypsy’s Parson.

Old Tom, whose patronymic was Petulengro, the Gypsy equivalent of Smith, was known as Tom o’ the Gibbet (he was also known as Sneezing Tommy because of his predilection for a pinch of snuff, but we’ll concentrate on the former nickname). His married sister, Ashena Brown, when an elderly lady, told the story to the Gypsy’s Parson.

The old lady, bowed and with long jet black curls, began her tale:

Wonderful fond o’ the County o’ Nottingham was my people. They know’d every stick and stone along the Trentside and in the Shirewood (Sherwood), and many’s the time we’ve stopped at Five Lane Ends nigh Drinsey Nook . . . Ay, and I minds how my daddy used to make teeny horseshoes, knife handles, and netting needles, outen the bits o’ wood he tshin’d (cut) off the gibbet post, and wery good oak it was. Mebbe you’s heard o’ Tom Otter’s post nigh to the woods? Ah, but p’raps you’s never been tell’d that our Tom was born’d under it? The night my mammy were took bad, our tents was a’most blown to bits. The wind banged the old irons agen the post all night long, as I’ve heard her say. And when they wanted to name the boy, they couldn’t think of no other name but Tom, for sure as they tried to get away from it, the name kept coming back again – Tom, Tom, Tom – till it sort o’ dinned itself into their heads. So at last my daddy says, “Let’s call him Tom and done with it,” and i’ time, folks got a-calling him Tom o’ the Gibbet, and it stuck to him, it did.

Her brother, Thomas Smith, was baptized at St. Botolph’s in Saxilby, the same church where poor Mary Kirkham lay buried, on the 1st November 1840, the baptism register recording that the boy, the son of Moses and Eldred (otherwise Eldri) Smith, gypsies, was born in Otter’s Lane.

Tom Otter - gipsy bapt

Ashena Brown carried on her recollection of the gibbet and Tom Otter’s bones.

And whenever uncle and aunt used to pass by Tom Otter’s gibbet, they’d stop and look up at the poor man hanging there, and they allus wuser’d (threw) him a bit o’ hawben (food). They couldn’t let theirselves go by wi’out doing that. And there was a baker from Harby, and whenever he passed by the place he would put a bread loaf on to the pointed end of a long rod and shove it into that part o’ the irons where poor Tom’s head was, and sure enough the bread allus went. The baker got hisself into trouble for doing that, as I’ve heard our old people say.

The gibbet, with what was left of Tom inside, stood in its lonely spot, with only the occasional gypsy camp for company, until 1850, when a gale brought it crashing down.

Tom Otter - gibbet

 

 

Sources used:

Stamford Mercury, 8th November, 1805

Stamford Mercury, 14th March, 1806

Bury and Norwich Post, 19th March, 1806

Northampton Mercury, 22nd March, 1806

Northampton Mercury, 29th March, 1806

The Gypsy’s Parson by the Reverend George Hall

Murder at the Inn: A Criminal History of Britain’s Pubs and Hotels, James Moore

http://www.familysearch.org

 

Judith Redman: errant wife or mistreated spouse?

On the 29th July, 1760, and again a week later on the 5th August, the Leeds Intelligencer newspaper carried the following warning about an errant wife.

WHEREAS JUDITH, the wife of John Redman, of Foster-Farm, within Haworth, in the Parish of Bradford, in the County of York, Yeoman, hath eloped from her said Husband:

These are therefore to give Notice to all Persons whatsoever,

Not to give any Credit to the said JUDITH, for Goods, or other Things she may want, for that they will not be paid for the same.

Judith - advert 2

There was nothing particularly unusual in this advertisement: without it John Redman would be fully liable for any and all debts which his runaway wife contracted, and he wished to disassociate himself from her financially. The couple had not been married for quite two years, their wedding taking place at Haworth on the 7th September, 1758. The marriage took place with the consent of parents, so Judith was probably not quite ‘of age’ when she wed John, and the ceremony was conducted by one John Horsfall, officiating minister, maybe a relative of Judith’s.

St. Michael's and All Angel's Church, Haworth © Dave Green via commonswikimedia.org
St. Michael’s and All Angel’s Church, Haworth
© Dave Green via commonswikimedia.org

33069_256551-00011

What is surprising, however, is the response of this wife, for, in her opinion, she was no mere runaway, but a woman who had been ill-treated and hard done by – and she was not about to have her husband deny her the means of getting credit, which she felt that she was well able to repay herself, with or without any help from him!

And so, for the following two weeks, on the 12th and 19th August, 1760, a slightly different advert appeared in the same newspaper.

NOTICE is hereby given, THAT JUDITH, the Wife of JOHN REDMAN, of Foster-Farm near Haworth, in the County of York, who was advertis’d in our last Paper, doth hereby acknowledge to have eloped from her said Husband; but, that such Elopement was not on account of her Extravagancies, as represented, but on account of her said Husband being, in Times, subject to Fits of Phrenzy and Lunacy; and who has made several Attempts to lay violent Hands upon the said Judith his Wife; and that she could not cohabit with her said Husband as she ought, but was in fear of her Life: Therefore,

As the Public is acquainted with the Reasons of the said Judith’s Elopement, ‘tis hoped no Regard will be paid to her Husband’s late Advertisement, but on the contrary, believe the said Judith, for the future, to be a Person of Credit.

Judith - advert 1

Judith Redman, née Horsfall, born c.1737, lived many years after she fled from her husband, and was buried, aged 52 years, in the churchyard of St. Michael in Haworth on the 21st January, 1789. She died of ‘spotted fever’, probably either typhus or meningitis. There is a probable burial for her husband in the same church in 1780.

33069_256548-00178

Obviously, at this remove, we can’t verify either version, but we applaud Judith’s spirit. She can’t have moved far away given that she was buried in the vicinity of her marital home, and so we do hope that the plucky lady managed to live out the rest of her years happily and peacefully, receiving as much credit from the local tradesmen as she was pleased to do so and able to comfortably repay.

N.B. for the definition of spotted fever we used this Glossary of Medical Terms.

See also our previous blog, What’s the going rate for selling your wife?

The Lincoln Magna Carta in the early 19th Century

In the first decade of the 1800s a centuries old copy of the Magna Carta was rediscovered in the archives of Lincoln Cathedral.

Cathedral Church at Lincoln exhibited 1795 by Joseph Mallord William Turner, exhibited 1795. (www.tate.org.uk)
Cathedral Church at Lincoln exhibited 1795 by Joseph Mallord William Turner, exhibited 1795. (www.tate.org.uk)

Magna Carta, or the Great Charter, was ‘signed’ by King John in 1215 at Runnymede near Windsor (his seal was affixed to the document by the royal chancery). It is one of the most famous documents in the world, a ‘peace treaty’ and established the principle that everybody, including the King, was subject to the law. It was signed by twenty-five Barons, and also by various Bishops and Abbots, and one of those who signed was Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln who attended alongside Lincolnshire’s Cardinal Archbishop Stephen Langton. It is thought that Bishop Hugh, who was named in the document as one of King John’s advisors, probably brought this copy back with him to his Cathedral on his return from Runnymede, and that it had been lodged there ever since.

The Record Commission gave preference to the Lincoln Magna Carta in their ‘Statutes of the Realm’ published in 1810, inserting this copy in its publication.

Lincoln Cathedral from the Holmes, Brayford circa 1802-3 Joseph Mallord William Turner. (www.tate.org.uk)
Lincoln Cathedral from the Holmes, Brayford circa 1802-3 Joseph Mallord William Turner. (www.tate.org.uk)

The Lincoln Magna Carta is widely travelled, having made quite a few trips ‘over the pond’ to America for displays there, most recently to Boston, Williamstown and Washington during 2014. During the 2nd World War, whilst the document was on show at the Library of Congress when America entered the war, it was stored for security in Fort Knox in Kentucky alongside America’s gold reserves, not returning home until 1947.

Since 1993, the Lincoln Magna Carta has been on view in Lincoln Castle, but now, in 2015, to better preserve it and to mark 800 years since the Magna Carta was sealed, the document has a new home in a vault in the refurbished Lincoln Castle, which reopened to the public on the 1st April.  The Charter of the Forest, dating from 1217, will also be on display there. In honour of this, we have a couple of early references from the newspapers relating to the 19th Century rediscovery of the Lincoln Magna Carta.

A New Cure for Jackobinism or A Peep in the Tower, Charles Williams, 1810. © Trustees of the British Museum. Featuring Sir Francis Burdett who thought the actions of Parliament were an unconstitutional violation of Magna Carta.
A New Cure for Jackobinism or A Peep in the Tower, Charles Williams, 1810. © Trustees of the British Museum.
Featuring Sir Francis Burdett who thought the actions of Parliament were an unconstitutional violation of Magna Carta.

Stamford Mercury, 6th December, 1811

It has been lately discovered by the Commissioners of Public Records, that the most correct and authentic manuscript of Magna Charta, is that now in the archives of Lincoln Cathedral, which is supposed to be the charter transmitted by the hands of Hugh, the then Bishop of Lincoln, who is one of the Bishop’s named in the introductory clause. The parchment on which it is written measures about 18 inches square, but has no seal.

Stamford Mercury, 22nd August, 1823

CHARTERS OF ENGLAND – That there might be a complete edition of the Statutes (which is now in progress of printing, under the sanction of Parliament,) the Royal Commissioners of Public Records lately caused the most extensive examinations to be made. For the purpose of examining all charters, and authentic copies and entries thereof, two Sub-Commissioners have occupied one whole summer in making a progress through England and Ireland, to every place where it appeared such charters, copies, or entries might be preserved; and searches have been made successively at every Cathedral in England which was known to possess any such documents, also at the Universities, &c. They have made some most valuable and interesting discoveries. Besides the rare Chantularies or collections of charters found in Rochester, Exeter, Canterbury, and other Cathedrals, in Lincoln Cathedral they found also “An Original of the Great Charter of Liberties granted by King John in the 17th year of his reign,” in a perfect state. This charter appears to be of superior authority to either of the two charters of the same date preserved in the British Museum. From the contemporary endorsements of the word Lincolnia on two folds of the charter, this may be presumed to be the charter transmitted by the hands of Hugh, the then Bishop of Lincoln, who is one of the Bishops named in the introductory clause; and it is observable that several words and sentences are inserted in the body of this charter which in both the charters preserved in the British Museum are added by way of notes for amendment, at the bottom of the Instruments.

Liberty suspended! With the bulwark of the constitution! by George Cruikshank, 1817. © Trustees of the British Museum. Magna Carta used as condemnation for the government banning habeas corpos during the economic crisis following the Napoleonic Wars.
Liberty suspended! With the bulwark of the constitution! by George Cruikshank, 1817. © Trustees of the British Museum.
Magna Carta used as condemnation for the government banning habeas corpos during the economic crisis following the Napoleonic Wars.

And, incidentally, George Washington was descended from King John and twelve of the Barons who were involved in Magna Carta.

Magna Carta - George Washington

Sources not mentioned above:

Magna Carta: Through the Ages, Ralph V. Turner, 2003

Magna Charta Barons, Charles H, Browning, 1915

British Library website

 

Further reading:

http://www.lincstothepast.com/exhibitions/treasures/magna-carta-/-charter-of-the-forest/

http://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-english-translation

http://lincolncathedral.com/library-education/magna-carta/

An early 19th Century Easter Miscellany

We herewith present an (admittedly) random selection of Easter snippets from the early 19th century newspapers; a true Easter miscellany.

Easter

On the 25th March, 1802, The Treaty of Amiens, which signalled peace between Great Britain and the French Republic, was signed. It was also the signal for a proposed long school holiday for the Eton schoolboys. Do any of our readers know if the Prince of Wales’ request was granted?

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has interceded with the Head Master of Eton School for extending the Easter holidays of the Etonians a week longer than usual, in consequence of the Peace.

(Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 26th April, 1802)

The following year, with the truce breaking down, and Britain about to declare war on France, while a few of the nobility remained in London, battle-lines were being drawn elsewhere.

The fine weather, and the Easter holidays, scatter a few of our fashionables around the Metropolis, that they may inhale a little fresh air, preparatory to the suffocating routs and balls of May. The SALISBURYS are gone to Hatfield; the ABERCORNS to Stanmore; the DERBYS to the Oaks; the MORTON PITTS to Corfe Castle; Earl ROMNEY to the Mote, near Maidstone; Lord and Lady HOBART to Roehampton; and Lord HAWKESBURY will take the air between Combe and Downing-street, though he may not always be able to take his breath.

(Morning Post, 5th April, 1803)

Tuesday evening a most furious battle took place between a Chimney Sweep and a Jack Ass Driver, at a small fair which is held on the Easter Holidays at the end of Tottenham-court-road. After half and hour’s hard and obstinate fighting, both being beat to that degree that neither was able to stand, they were forced to give up any farther contest.

(Hampshire Chronicle, 18th April, 1803)

Easter - Cockney Hunt

The Epping Hunt, or the ‘Cockney Hunt’ was traditionally held on Easter Monday.

Epping Hunt – Monday, at an early hour, the industrious sons of Spitalfields, Bethnal-green, and Whitechapel, disdaining the somnific powers, rose at the blush of Aurora, and prepared for the far-farmed Epping hunt, big with the fate of Cockneys. The road from town to the sportive scene was thronged by hunters of every description. Some were heavily dressed, and others as bare of covering as Meleager when he killed the Calydonian boar. The gallant troop displayed all the colours of gay Iris, and the sable bearings of a chimney-sweeper were often blazoned by the powderings of a barber’s apron. The cattle were composed of horses, asses, and mules, all high in bone and low in flesh; and the pack displayed every class of the canine species, from the bull to the lap-dog.

After having regaled with copious libations of geneva, the motley group arrived at The Eagle, Snaresbrook, and other houses contiguous to the forest. A fine stag had been previously carried from a stable. His horns were sawed off, as usual, except the front antlers, which were braided with ribbands, and he was turned out to the mercy of his pursuers, near Buckets-hill. Finding himself at liberty, he dashed into Fairmaid Bottoms and sought refuge in the forest. The scent was then given, and off went the Cockneys,

“Like wind and tide meeting.”

In a few moments the ground was covered with hats, wigs, and the bodies of fat Citizens. Riders were seen looking for their horses, and horses for their riders. The vendors of gin and eatables, who stood prepared for the scene, immediately rushed in to dispose of their ware, and glasses of cordial consoled the downcast hunters for bruises and pain. Several Nimrods, who had pursued the sport of the day in taxed carts, were overthrown with the loss of their wheels, and the confusion which prevailed produced considerable mirth, at the expence of tailors, tallow-chandlers, weavers, and soap boilers, who had not been able to restrain the fury of their vicious kicking donkeys, and mischievous cart-horses. The stag, as usual, escaped from the fury of its unqualified pursuers, and many of the hunters who had lost their horses returned on foot to the Bald-faced Stag, to celebrate their lucky escape from the perils of the chace. After sacrificing at the shrine of the Jolly God, they returned to town.

(Oxford University and City Herald, 8th April, 1809)

Easter - Sudden Squall Rowlandson

At the other end of the social spectrum, Easter Sunday was a chance to promenade in Hyde Park, dressed in your finery, but beware an importune April shower!

HYDE PARK

Owing, no doubt, to the extreme coldness of the weather, the Park yesterday was not so prolific in the display of the Spring fashions as was expected, and is as usual on Easter Sunday. Custom, assuredly, is the arbiter of fashion; but the closer such adheres to nature the better. Long waists, and tight stays, although much worn, are not deserving of panegyric. Natures always looks most beautiful as herself, without capricious whimsicalities of stiff ornament. Among the newest articles in the female costume, we noticed the Polish dress, or pelisse, composed of slate coloured sarsenet; it is made open in front, with a gold bordering, and gold buttons. The bonnet, boots, and redicule, were made of the same materials. Among the fashionable equipages were those belonging to the Duchesses of GRAFTON and LEEDS; Marchionesses of WELLESLEY, LANSDOWNE, and HEADFORT; Ladies CASTLEREAGH, CLONMELL, KINGSTON, MEXBOROUGH, D. SMITH, MANSFIELD, and SEFTON. A sudden storm of hail and snow, about half-past three o’clock, destroyed all the fair beauties of the scene in a moment. The company, male and female, who were in the pedestrian promenade, scampered off at the first approach of the enemy, to seek refuge under any covering, however humble, so that it afforded them a secure retreat from the pitiless element. The Park was completely deserted during the after part of the day.

(Morning Post, 3rd April, 1809)

Easter was also a time for balls; the ones held at the Mansion House in London being particularly spectacular.

The decorations and alterations making at the Mansion-house for the Easter ball are extremely splendid. A carpeting is made to imitate a gravel walk, and each side of the avenues leading to the Egyptian-hall will be ornamented with orange trees, and flowering shrubs.

The Prince of Wales has accepted the invitation of the Lord Mayor to dine and the Mansion-house on Easter Monday. This will be the first public visit ever made by his Royal Highness into the City, and the only instance, for many reigns, of an Heir Apparent going there on such occasion.

(Bury and Norwich Post, 14th April, 1802)

Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Yesterday John Hawkins, an extra constable, was charged before the LORD MAYOR with concealing a diamond drop, which he found at the Mansion House on Monday night, at the Easter Ball, the property of the Duchess of GORDON, being part of a pair of elegant diamond ear-rings worn by her Grace that day, value above five hundred guineas, and for the recovery of which a reward was advertised.

Mrs. HORSFALL, of the Mansion House Coffee-house, stated, that she saw a constable have such an article in his possession that night, which he said he had picked up in the Mansion House, and described the man, from which circumstance he was discovered. The prisoner at first denied it, but the diamond drop being found, he pretended not to know the value of it. His Lordship, conceiving that he detained it with a felonious intent, fully committed him to take his trial for the same.

(Morning Post, 11th April, 1806)

And if you were attending such a ball, then, as a fashionable lady, you would need to look your best.

THE EASTER BALL and GALA will be particularly grand in Honour of the Regency, and as the Ladies will appear with extreme lustre on this occasion, it certainly accounts for the present great demand for HUBERT’S ROSEATE POWDER, which effectually removes superfluous hairs on the face, neck and arms, and highly improves the whiteness, delicacy and softness of the skin, thus bestowing a new charm on natural beauty. – May be had of the Proprietor, 23 Russell-street, Covent-Garden; Rigge, 35, and Overton, 47, Bond-street; Dunnett, 3, Cheapside; Davison, 59, Fleet-street, Thorn, 45, Oxford-street; Bowling and Co. 38, Blackman-street, Borough; Harding and Co. 89, Pall-mall; and of all Perfumers. – 4s. and 7s.

(Morning Chronicle, 8th April, 1811)

And we end with the best Easter Gift, (although personally, as chocoholic’s, we’d rather have an Easter egg . . . ), and an Irish Easter cake.

The best Easter Gift, a present to a young Lady, is a Ticket in TOMKINS’S Picture Lottery; which are selling in New Bond-street at Three Guineas each; and a red ticket and a black ticket are sure to gain a prize.

(Morning Post, 25th April, 1821)

CURIOUS CUSTOM – In Ireland, at Easter, a cake, with a garland of meadow flowers, is elevated upon a circular board upon a pike, apples being stuck upon pegs around the garland. Men and women then dance round, and they who hold out longest win the prize.

(Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 17th December, 1825)

Easter - Mansion House Ball

For more information on the Epping Hunt we recommend this excellent blog.

The Stolen Kiss, Jean-Honore Fragonard

The Elopement of Lady Elizabeth Howard

Elopement - Lady Elizabeth Bingham, born 1795 - via Bonhams
Lady Elizabeth Bingham, daughter of Lord Richard and Lady Elizabeth Bingham, born c.1795.

Lady Elizabeth Hamilton was the daughter of Henry Belasyse, the 2nd Earl Fauconberg, and the wife of Bernard Howard, heir to the Dukedom of Norfolk, who she had married on the 23rd April, 1789. The couple had one son, Henry Charles Howard born on the 12th August, 1791. But in 1793 she eloped with the man who had been her first love, whom she had wanted to marry originally but had been stopped from doing so by her family.

That man was Richard Bingham, son and heir to the 1st Earl of Lucan.

Elopement - Richard Bingham, 2nd Earl of Lucan - via Christies

Lady Elizabeth was a minor when she married The Right Honourable Bernard Edward Howard, Esquire, in her father’s house in George Street, Hanover Square, the marriage witnessed by her father, her new father-in-law and a man who merely signed Petre (probably Robert Edward Petre the future 10th Baron Petre who had married Bernard Howard’s sister Lady Mary Bridget Howard three years earlier).

Elopement - Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk - via wiki

Lady Elizabeth had told her unsuspecting husband that she was going to travel to visit her father, who was in the north of England, and Howard agreed to visit his sister rather than travel with her.  He accordingly left for his sister’s house, his wife telling him she planned to leave for her own visit the next day.  On the evening of her husband’s departure, 24th July, 1793, Lady Elizabeth took her carriage to a jeweller’s shop near Piccadilly where she bought some trinkets before sending the carriage home with her infant son, his nurse and a letter to her husband which the nurse was to leave on her master’s table.

But the nurse was suspicious and sent a footman back to the jeweller’s to enquire for Lady Elizabeth.  When the footman arrived back to say that the jeweller had reported that Lady Elizabeth left his shop around half an hour earlier with Mr Bingham, hasty despatches were sent to both her husband and father, but to no avail for the runaway couple had gone to ground.

The criminal conversation case was heard before the House of Lords on 7th April, 1794; Lady Elizabeth was represented by Mr Garrow and Mr Erskine. With all parties wanting a divorce the sticking points were the 12,000l. which Lady Elizabeth had brought to her marriage (Mr Garrow argued that some provision should be made for her) and a proposed clause which would bastardize any child born to her.  Lady Elizabeth was heavily pregnant, about to lie in, and Mr Garrow argued on her behalf that “it was not in the nature of evidence to prove that the infant was not Mr Howard’s”.

Elopement - Six Weeks after Marriage - LWL

Mr Erskine observed that the marriage contract between the lady and Bernard Howard was made in opposition to her desires and that she was involuntarily taken to the altar.

A divorce was granted and she married her first love on 26th May, 1794, becoming the Countess of Lucan when her husband ascended to his Earldom, but this second marriage didn’t last either, the couple separating ten years later.

Elopment - Before and after Marriage

Lady Elizabeth Bingham, Countess of Lucan, died on the 24th March, 1819, aged 49 years.

Sources used:

Caledonian Mercury, 8th August, 1793

Caledonian Mercury, 12th April, 1794

Header image: The Stolen Kiss, Jean-Honore Fragonard

Fanny Williams and the Amherst family of Kent

FASHIONABLE ANECDOTE, at present only whispered in the POLITE CIRCLES.

Some years ago, the Lady of a noble Lord, who once held a high military post, and greatly distinguished himself in a former war, received a small basket by an unknown hand, which, on being opened, was found to contain a female child, with a letter addressed to the lady, written in a female hand, expressing the high opinion the writer entertained of her Ladyship’s liberality, and particularly from personal knowledge of her humanity. Appealing to it, for protection of the unknown infant, whose existence, with that of the mother’s, depended on her Ladyship.  A bank-note was inclosed for a considerable amount. The child was ordered to be taken all possible care of, and has been from that time attended and educated in no other manner than if she had been the daughter of the noble Lord and his Lady.

The young lady has been introduced at court, and is highly esteemed by all whom she is known to, and possesses, in the highest degree, the affections of her friends and protectress: she is now about eighteen years of age, and till within a few days, the history of her birth and parents were unknown to all but the parents themselves, and a confidential servant.

It however now appears, her father is a peer of Ireland, her mother the sister to a peer; they managed their tendresse with so much dexterity, that the circumstance of this beautiful gage de l’amour would ever have remained unknown; but the noble Lord her father, who was soon after married to another lady, and that lady being dead, his Lordship, perhaps, feeling remorse for his former unkind treatment of this young lady, who has remained unmarried; which event is about to take place. The have claimed their daughter from Lady ______, to whom the whole circumstance has been related, and whom, we hear, is nearly inconsolable for the loss she is about to sustain, in parting from her amiable and charming favourite.

[We insert this article with the greater confidence, as the first part of this story is a fact well known to have happened to Lady Am___st.]


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Portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Amherst (1740-1830) (nee Elizabeth Cary) by Joshua Reynolds via Wikimedia

Lady Amherst, or Baroness Amherst of Holmesdale, formerly Miss Elizabeth Cary, was the second wife of Jeffrey Amherst, Baron Amherst, who was, at the time this article was written, Captain and Colonel of The Queen’s Troop of Horse Guards. She was born around 1740 to Lt-General the Honourable George Cary (son of the 6th Viscount Falkland) and his wife Isabella (nee Ingram).

The little foundling was given the name Fanny Williams and, as the Amherst’s had no children of their own, was brought up by them and treated in every way as their own daughter.  Fanny Burney recounted meeting the girl in 1791:

I was pleased in seeing Miss Fanny Williams, as she is called, the young person who was left an infant at the door of Lady Amherst, and who is reputed to be the daughter of every woman of rank whose character, at that date, was susceptible of suspicion. She looks a modest and pretty young creature, and Lady Amherst brings her up with great kindness and propriety.

NPG 150,Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst,by Thomas Gainsborough
Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst by Thomas Gainsborough
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Jeffrey Amherst, a ruthless and cruel man, was behind the attempt to introduce smallpox amongst the native Indians in America with infected blankets during the Anglo-Indian war.

In two sources Jeffrey Amherst is noted as having a natural son, the ODNB saying he was given the same name as his father and rose to become a Major General in the army, born around 1752 and dying in 1815. Jane Dalison had married Baron Amherst in 1753 (a year or so after the birth of his illegitimate son) but reportedly went insane whilst her husband travelled overseas with the army. She died in 1765 and two years later he married Elizabeth Cary.

2008_EX02_01 012

William Amherst (1732-1791)

Young Jeffrey was brought up by his aunt, Elizabeth Thomas. There is, however, another Amherst floating around, William Kerrill Amherst, whose unusual second name ties him in to the same family as Jeffrey Amherst but for whom no parentage is given.

Kerrill was the maiden name of Jeffrey Amherst’s mother, Elizabeth, and, by her husband who was yet another Jeffrey, she had four surviving sons:

Sackville Amherst (1715-1763) – a lawyer who ran up debts and caused his relatives much consternation by his scandalous behaviour

Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1797)

John Amherst (1718-1778) – Vice Admiral of the White

William Amherst (1732-1791)

William Kerrill Amherst (c.1761-1792) was sent out to Bengal in India as a writer for the East India Company in 1778. As if his middle name wasn’t clue enough to his ancestry, he wrote to the artist Ozias Humphry in 1785, when the latter arrived in India, saying he was anxious that they should correspond as they shared acquaintances in Sevenoaks, Kent (where Jeffrey Amherst had his estate, Montreal) and a love of the area. Certainly he was the son of one of the four brothers.

Montreal Park, the seat of Jeffrey Amherst, from a 1777 engraving
Montreal Park, the seat of Jeffrey Amherst, from a 1777 engraving

John and Sackville died without any legitimate heirs; William married Elizabeth Paterson and had three children, Elizabeth Frances, Harriet and William Pitt Amherst.  When both William and Elizabeth died young their children were taken into the household of Baron Amherst and brought up with young Fanny Williams, William Pitt Amherst becoming the heir to his uncle and the baronetcy.

Elizabeth Frances thought of Fanny as her sister, and indeed she may well have been.  It was known that the forename of the father could be bestowed on the child as a surname, in a similar way to that which Charlotte Williams, a subject of one of our former blogs, took the forename of her father William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, as her surname. Was Fanny then the natural daughter of William Amherst, brought up by her aunt Lady Amherst in much the same way that Baron Amherst’s natural son had been brought up by his own aunt, Elizabeth Thomas?

William Kerrill Amherst died on the 20th April, 1792, in India.

When Lord Amherst wrote his will in 1794 he did not omit to mention Fanny and left her a sizeable legacy; he provided for her by a thousand pounds in stock and asked his wife to supply proper mourning for her on his decease. No son, illegitimate or otherwise, was named in his will. He died three years later.

On the 23rd May, 1799, Fanny married Charles Pinfold, Esquire, at St. Marylebone Church, by licence, only to sadly die in childbirth just over a year and a half later (her son, Charles, did survive).

 

Sources used:

Stamford Mercury, 19th May 1786

The rising country: the Hale-Amherst correspondence, 1799-1825, Champlain Society, 2002

Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay, edited by her niece, Charlotte Barrett, vol. iii – 1788 to 1796

Royal Academy of Arts Collection, Letters of William K Amherst to Ozias Humphry

Header image: Montreal, near Sevenoaks, Kent, the seat of Lord Amherst of Holmsdale, McCord Museum

 

Gervase Thompson – a most unfortunate death (1781)

Swan ferrybridge
The White Swan, Ferrybridge

Gervase Thompson, a tapster at the White Swan inn at Ferrybridge in the West Riding of Yorkshire, suffered a most unfortunate death in the February of 1781.

A gentleman, named as Charles Frederick Vanburgh, Esquire, an officer in the Guards, (and not, as mistakenly reported, a son of Lord V___), was travelling in his carriage with his new wife.  They were returning from a ‘matrimonial excursion’ to Scotland, and stopped at the White Swan, an old coaching inn with grounds stretching down to the river Aire.

After the couple had rested and refreshed themselves, they alighted into their carriage and continued on their journey. When the staff at the White Swan were cleaning up, after their departure, they found that the gentleman had left behind his purse.

The landlord was obviously an honest man for he dispatched Gervase to follow the carriage, and to return the purse.  Gervase, alternately referred to as the under-tapster (bartender) and the bootcatcher (a servant responsible for cleaning the guest’s shoes) saddled a horse and set off in hot pursuit along the London Road.

Gervase Thompson

Although the carriage was travelling fast he soon caught up with it and, in his eagerness to return the purse, he pulled alongside, shouting through the window, “Your purse, your purse, Sir.”

But it was seven o’clock in the evening on that night in early February and so pitch black; the frightened couple inside the carriage didn’t recognize Gervase and, yes, you’ve guessed it! They thought that he was a highwayman, that they were being held up and that he was demanding their purse, not returning it. And so the gentleman let the window down, took aim with his pistol and, in what he thought was self-defense, shot the unfortunate Gervase Thompson dead.

Gervase Thompson 1

The carriage did not stop and had reached Doncaster before they realized the truth of the matter. The gentleman, full of remorse, and his lady were taken to Pontefract where the subsequent coroner’s jury agreed that it was an unfortunate and accidental death.

The lady was overcome and took to her bed, and the gentleman tried to make some small amends by giving five guineas to Gervase Thompson’s wife, Ann, and, when he discovered that she had been left with three young children to provide for (the youngest daughter, named Ann for her mother, had only been baptized on the 2nd November 1780) settled a yearly annuity of ten pounds upon her for the term of her life. Gervase Thompson had married his wife, Ann Tomlinson, in the nearby village of Darrington on the 8th November 1774 and the other two children were Thomas Thompson, baptized in the church of St. Edward the Confessor at Brotherton on the 10th December 1776, and another daughter, Mary, baptized at Darrington with Wentbridge on the 9th January 1778.

Gervase Thompson was buried, on the 6th February 1781, in the churchyard of the nearby church of St. Andrew at Ferry Fryston, where his youngest daughter had been baptized only three months earlier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Copyright Guy Etchells © 2001

 

Sources:

Ferry Fryston, Brotherton and Darrington with Wentbridge parish registers

The Old Inns of Old England, vol ii, Charles G. Harper, 1906

London Chronicle, 10th February 1781

Leeds Intelligencer, 13th February 1781

Derby Mercury, 16th February 1781

 

The King's Bench Prison from Ackermann’s Microcosm of London (1808-10)

The Feuding Pearce family

You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.

Feuding Pearce family

Never was the old adage as true as in the case of the feuding Pearce family.  We stumbled upon them, and their story, whilst looking for the husband of the subject of our last blog, Mary Ann Pearce, whose husband (or brother depending on the source) was reputedly an officer on the half-pay but, although this family has two men who were officers on the half-pay, other than the coincidence of the surname we can find nothing to definitively tie her into them, except for Mrs Caroline Norton saying that Edmund (or Edward) Wentworth Pearce was Mary Ann’s brother.  However, their story is so peculiar that we felt it was worth telling.

Caroline_Norton_(1808-77)_society_beauty_and_author_by_GH,_Chatsworth_Coll. (1)
Caroline Norton.

In 1818 Edmund Wentworth Pearce, on the half-pay of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment of Foot published a letter ‘To a Noble Lord containing a systematic and detailed account of Unparalleled Atrocities acted by Capt. Thomas Pearce, on the Half-Pay of the Royal Marine Corps, lately a Prisoner in the King’s Bench. Comprehending some Account of the Author’s Sufferings, as a perfectly Sane Man, at the Two Insane Houses of Bethnal Green, Middlesex. Between May 2, 1815, and Nov. 1, 1817, &c. &c. &c.’

Well, with that Edmund Wentworth Pearce had our full attention!

Sometimes an Edward rather than an Edmund, he claimed to be the godson of Edmund Burke and Lord Rockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth, and was the son of Jane Maria, daughter of Samuel Turner Esq of County Wexford, and an unnamed father (a military man who, like his sons, had ended up on the half-pay) who in turn was the son of Colonel Pearce and the grandson of the Right Honourable Lieutenant-General Pearce, Commander in Chief of Ireland. Edmund’s father had been a schoolfellow of Edmund Burke.

NPG 406; Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham after Sir Joshua Reynolds
Charles Watson-Wentworth.
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

The family lived on Cartwright Street and on Bennett Street in Westminster until Mr Pearce, the father of the family, passed away.  Besides Thomas and Edward there was another brother, James who was a Captain Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, and four sisters, Jane, Sarah, Charlotte who was sickly, and Mary.

In 1818 when his ‘Letter’ was published Edmund was living above Sandoe’s Ornamental Tunbridge-Ware Manufactory at 4 Devonshire Street, Queen Square, London. It begins by describing Thomas, many years older than Edmund, as a small, swarthy, ordinary and sickly child, born with crooked fingers and details many of Thomas’ childhood transgressions such as keeping most of a sum of money desired to be shared equally between him and his next brother. Thomas grew up to contract debts on account of his gin drinking and consorted with a gang of thieves at the house of the landlord of the Coach and Horses on St. Martin’s Lane. He was then packed off to join the Plymouth Division of Marines as a Second Lieutenant. Nothing good is said of Thomas’ character; indeed, he seems past redemption.

Whilst home on leave he encouraged his sister Mary Pearce to throw herself into the way of a rich Jewish Gentleman, Nathan Franks Esq of Great George Street, who was enamoured of her.  Franks took Mary to a bagnio and Thomas Pearce followed them, entering the room at an inopportune moment and after shouting at his sister and ordering her home, turned to Nathan Franks and threatened to expose him if he did not pay him one hundred pounds.

Returning home with the money Thomas gave a small share to his unfortunate sister, who, said Edmund, spent it on finery which subsequently led to her utter ruin.  Thomas’ share did not last long and he was perpetually in debt as he lived well beyond his means. Resorting to getting the other young naval officers drunk so they did not see him cheat at the gaming table, his boon companions at that time were Captain Ludlam who ended his days on the gallows convicted of forgery, and Captain Mence who, on his friends instructions, performed a sham marriage between Thomas and a girl named Polly Clarke, who was then often left to either pay her spurious husband’s debts or be taken into custody for them.

boxing baroness

Mary Pearce, with her reputation ruined, was now living in the keeping of a Mr James Cox, a man who was easily frightened by the bullying Thomas and who was persuaded to pay Mary an annuity and also to lend sums of money to her brother. James Cox had thoughts of making an honest woman of Mary until Thomas told him that she had ‘contracted a disease of danger and dishonour’. Edmund recorded in his ‘Letter’ that Mary died in a dreadful state a short time later and Edmund blamed Thomas for leading her into the habits that caused her death.

The family moved frequently as the widowed Jane Maria Pearce was virtually penniless and the family were often in penury.  Thomas lived with them off and on but never supported them financially, merely adding to their distress (while the family resided in Ranelagh Street, Pimlico, he was in the habit of standing naked at his bedroom window to expose himself to the daughters and female servants belonging to the house opposite).

His brother James meanwhile, had captured the affections of Rose Hickman, a wealthy widow and, even though Thomas tried to scupper the relationship, the pair married at St. Margaret’s in Westminster on the 13th May 1786 in the presence of Thomas, his mother Jane Maria and, somewhat surprisingly as Edmund has placed her death previous to this date, his sister Mary.

rose hickman

Towards the end of the ‘Letter,’ seemingly forgetting that he has killed her off in the earlier pages, Edmund says that his ‘sister Mary had left Ranelagh-Street, and gone to live at Chatham, in Kent.’  With Mary Pearce brought back to life, was the Boxing Baroness really then sister to Edmund Wentworth Pearce as Caroline Norton asserted?

The sickly Charlotte was married off by Thomas to ‘a low, drunken fellow, in consequence of which, after going through a series of complicated miseries, she died a most dreadful object.’ Her husband was William Norton (no known relation to Caroline Norton) and the marriage took place on the 19th June 1787, at St. Margaret’s, witnessed by Jane Maria Pearce and her three sons.

The family now moved to 19 Marsham Street, Westminster. Here Jane Maria applied to William Wilberforce for relief and he granted her £25 a year and she also secured £5 a year from a family connection to the late Lord Archbishop of York. This was the sum total that she had to survive on and provide for her younger children who were still living with her. Eventually Edmund and his mother moved to a small house, no. 6 Buckingham Row, still in Westminster.  Thomas was back with his marine regiment in Plymouth, on full rather than half-pay, but, when his mother asked him for a trifling sum of money to pay her rent he did not respond.  Jane Maria’s furniture was taken and sold for a fraction of its true value to pay the debt and she and her youngest son took a cheap furnished apartment in Bowling Street. Edmund subsequently found out that on the morning that his mother could have received a reply from Thomas (she wanted but one guinea to save her furniture), he had instead sent his latest strumpet, Molly Goodey, a remittance of three guineas.

Molly Goodey, who seems to have given birth to Thomas’ child during their relationship, was soon out of the picture as far as Thomas was concerned though: at Kingston Church on the Isle of Wight (according to Edmund) he married a Miss Maria Cresswell, a pretty women who was as poor as a church mouse. Maria!  We started this journey by looking for a Mary Ann Pearce; could this be she?  Maria Cresswell’s mother died due to excessive drinking, having lived with Maria’s father for some years before he married her.

Two of Maria’s sisters were named as Mrs Rickman, who ‘lived and died an abandoned prostitute’ and whose husband died among chimney sweeps in a Southwark hovel, and Mrs Cooke, who was seduced by a married man and died ‘in all the agonies of remorse and extreme poverty’. On the face of it with a background like that she would seem a good match for Mary Ann Pearce whose love of gin led to all her problems.

Thomas now evaded going away to sea with his regiment as he was afraid that his new wife would be seduced by another man in his absence, and this, combined with his general conduct, led to him being ignominiously dismissed from the Marines upon half-pay.

By this time Edmund was old enough to consider a career, and family connections were employed to gain him, in June 1794, an Ensigncy without purchase in the 18th Royal Irish Regiment of Foot but Edmund, by his own admission, was granted a year’s private leave of absence due to a ‘long and severe personal illness’ and then permission to retire upon the half-pay of £32 per year. This was the full extent of his military career.

Feuding Pearce ensign

Now that he had obtained his discharge from the army Edmund’s health suddenly improved and he set about endeavouring to add to their family finances, but not by doing any actual work.  He managed to secure a place as an annual participator at the King’s Maundy for his mother and, via the Countess of Liverpool, a sum of £60. The Countess, once confirmed as a soft touch, then seems to have been approached for further sums and annuities, all of which she seems to have tried her best to initially charitably comply with.

Thomas, as always in debt and with little to live on, wanted to move with his wife back into his mother’s house, but Edmund prevented this, even going so far as to obtain a warrant for Thomas’ arrest when he allegedly attacked his brother and mother. Instead Thomas left his wife in lodging in Chester and joined the Northumberland Fencibles as an Ensign.

Edmund was now living on £62 a year, having gained an extra annuity of £30 from somewhere or someone. By his own admission he was suffering from a nervous complaint and Thomas used this as an excuse to have him taken up and committed to the Bethnal Green insane asylum as a prelude to taking control of both Edmund’s and his mother’s annuities. Edmund entered the White House on the 2nd of May 1815. Here he claims he was treated appallingly, the men who ran the house being in the pay of his brother Thomas. He was informed that he would spend the rest of his life there. In actual fact he spent a year and ten days in confinement at the White House, all the while trying to obtain his release: he managed to write to the Countess of Liverpool asking for help, but, after so many former appeals, she neglected to reply.

When he finally did leave, on the 12th of May 1816, it was only to the Red House, another insane asylum next door to the White House, but one where he was treated infinitely better. Finally, on the 7th of September 1817, after a total confinement of two years and four months, Edmund Wentworth Pearce, dressed in rags and without a penny to his name, made his escape with the help of a friend and was once more at liberty.

The case against Thomas, from Edmund’s ‘Letter’ seems pretty cut and dried but a slightly different version of Edmund’s incarceration was told before a legal counsel at the Court of the King’s Bench on the 14th April 1818, when Edmund tried to gain access to his mother and his missing pay which were both in the custody of Thomas. Claiming he was his mother’s favourite son, he merely said he had been absent from home for some time from the 15th April 1815. Returning and arranging with Thomas that their mother should be brought to an address in Bloomsbury to meet him, he was instead seized and forced into a carriage and taken away to a private mad-house, from which he escaped in December 1817. When his mother was brought before the court and asked if she was under any constraint to remain with Thomas she replied that she was not, that she wished to live and die with her eldest son who was the best of men and who had always treated her most kindly and dutifully.  Free to go she happily went home with Thomas.

The King's Bench Prison from Ackermann’s Microcosm of London (1808-10)
The King’s Bench Prison from Ackermann’s Microcosm of London (1808-10)

It transpires that Edmund was no angel and something of a fantasist. Choosing to style himself as Captain Pearce and letting it be known that he was ‘an officer of long-standing in the British army,’ he’d actually ended up as the oldest Ensign in his regiment and a notorious cheat on the streets of London. In May 1827 he turned up at the Marlborough Street police station, described as a ‘remarkably tall, erect, and gaunt-looking personage, covered with a profusion of flour and pomatum, and altogether presenting a most eccentric and Quixotic appearance’ accusing one, William Allenby of assault.

Two years earlier, when Allenby owned a confectioner’s shop, Edmund had arrived at his door and seeing only a young girl in the shop helped himself to nine jellies costing a shilling each, quickly devouring each in succession, before turning his attention to the other fare on offer.  Having eaten 18 shillings worth of produce he stuffed his pockets with cakes and left. Allenby appeared just as Edmund had left and tracked him to his lodgings where Edmund airily said he had no money on him and gave his name as Mr Wellesley Pole.  Soon after William Allenby learned that Edmund had played this same trick on other shopkeepers and tradesmen and was nought but a swindler and when he later met Edmund once more he carried him away to Marlborough Street. Lampooned for this episode in the press as Captain Gobble, Edmund wrote a pompous letter to The Times, protesting his innocence of all charges and saying he left a new pocket handkerchief in payment for the jellies, ending his letter with a postscript.

P.S. The unexampled infamy of treatment that I met with some years ago, has given birth to a subsequent and complicated course of pecuniary embarrassment continuing ever since; and the utmost in my power to do is, to pay both former and recent debts by instalments, which I neither have or shall ever want principle to do, as frequently as the means come into my hands.

In 1835 Edmund endured a spell in the King’s Bench for debt and then four years later was accused of exposing himself to a group of women at the corner of a court in Salisbury Square on the evening of the 27th August, but was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

A year later he was back in court accusing a brushmaker of assaulting him and annoying the magistrates by insisting on reading a long statement, written in the most pompous style. The argument had arisen when the brushmaker had (perhaps wisely) prevented his brother-in-law from offering Edmund a lodging in his house, knowing his character all too well. And then in the last days of that year Edmund was accused of stalking Mrs Caroline Norton, a woman deprived of her children following a notorious criminal conversation case: he was allowed to go free after promising not to molest or annoy the lady again, and once more defended himself in a letter to The Times, pleading total innocence, but the press knew better, describing him as ‘well known about town as a very eccentric character [who had] figured at most of the police-offices for refusing to pay his carriage and cab fares, tavern bills, &c’.  Another paper described him as an ‘antiquated beau, all powder and white waistcoat.’

In 1825 Thomas Pearce and his son William ended up accused of causing merry mayhem in the house of a girl whom the son wished to marry (her mama prudently had other ideas!). Another son of Thomas’ named Villiers was actually sentenced to ten years transportation for the crime of forgery.

What a pair and what to believe!  Each is as bad as the other, obviously, neither given to telling the truth or paying their way and both, to put it mildly, are eccentric and workshy. Whether or not Mary Ann Pearce was related to Thomas and Edmund, it seems that London was plagued by the three of them for several years to the despair of tradesman, tavern keepers, police officers and magistrates.

Edmund Wentworth Pearce died in the latter months of 1848 in the St. Giles area of London.

Edmund Wentworth Pearce burial 1848
Edmund Wentworth Pearce’s burial at St Giles, 14th February 1848, aged 77.

Sources used:

A Letter to a Noble Lord containing a systematic and detailed account of Unparalleled Atrocities acted by Capt. Thomas Pearce, on the Half-Pay of the Royal Marine Corps, lately a Prisoner in the King’s Bench. Comprehending some Account of the Author’s Sufferings, as a perfectly Sane Man, at the Two Insane Houses of Bethnal Green, Middlesex. Between May 2, 1815, and Nov. 1, 1817, &c. &c. &c., 1818

The Examiner, Issue no. 538, 19th April 1818

Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, 24th April 1818

The Times, 7th January, 1825, 12th May and 14th May 1827, 24th September 1839, 28th December 1840

The Morning Post, 13th November 1840

Freeman’s Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser, 26th December 1840

 

The Truth about Lady Barrymore, the Boxing Baroness

Barrymore

Courtesy of National Library of Scotland from the Balcarres Heritage Trust

Behold that shivering female there,

Who plies her woeful trade!

‘Tis ten to one you’ll find that GIN,

That hopeless wretch has made.

(The Gin-Shop; Or, a Peep into a Prison, Hannah More)

Our blog today concerns Lady Barrymore aka ‘The Boxing Baroness’ aka Mary Ann Pearce (sometimes Pierce).

In her youth ‘Lady Barrymore’ had been a beauty and the mistress of Richard Barry, the 7th Earl of Barrymore (1769 – 1793), a notorious rake known as Hellgate (his brothers were Newgate (after the prison) and Cripplegate (due to a deformity) and his sister Billingsgate because she swore like a fishwife).

Lady Barrymore - les trois magots

For an all too brief time, Mary Ann Pearce enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle with a splendid house together with her own carriage provided for her.  Their relationship had presumably come to an end by the time Barrymore eloped with Charlotte Goulding, the daughter of a London sedan chairman and niece to Lady Letitia (Letty) Lade who had made a scandalous marriage with Sir John Lade, one of the inner circle of the Prince of Wales. Before her marriage, Letty had been the mistress of both the Duke of York and John Rann, the highwayman.

Barrymore died the following year aged only 23. He was a Captain in the Royal Berkshire Militia and had been driving a gig which was taking French prisoners of war to Dover when his musket accidentally discharged.

Subsequently, Mary Ann was known as ‘Lady Barrymore’ because of her previous connection but she had no entitlement to that name.  Her fondness for gin was her downfall and her undoing and led to numerous appearances before the Justices of the Peace and many spells in Tothill Fields Bridewell, often on the treadmill.

Let’s just set the record straight about ‘Lady Barrymore’ as there is plenty of conflicting information out there: the ‘boxing baroness’ and the woman who made regular appearances in the London courts, usually for being drunk and disorderly, was Mary Ann Pearce, not Charlotte Goulding who Richard married in June 1792. Poor Charlotte would be spinning in her grave at the thought of such an error!

Courtesy of the British Museum
Courtesy of the British Museum

Pearce was reputedly Mary Ann’s married name, one source having Lord Barrymore marry her off to a servant when he’d tired of her but another says her husband is mentioned as being an officer on the half pay.  Caroline Norton (née Sheridan, granddaughter of Richard Brinsley Sheridan) who became notorious when her husband, the Honourable George Norton, brought a criminal conversation case against her said she was the sister of Edward Wentworth Pearce.

Now Edward (or Edmund) Wentworth Pearce’s family are fascinating in their own right and, on face value, look an ideal match for the hapless Mary Ann.  Far from being servants, they are reasonably well-born and have two brothers who were on half-pay, one from the navy and one from the army, and their story is littered with family feuds, whoring, drunkenness (like Mary Ann a fondness for gin) and claims of insanity. There was a Mary and a Maria Pearce in this family but the Pearce’s are worthy of a blog in their own right, which you can find here.

Whoever Mr Pearce was, the marriage was an unhappy one and he seems to have abandoned Mary Ann by the beginning of the 1820’s when her descent into the gutter led to her notoriety.  She was often found insensible around the Drury Lane area of London, sometimes almost naked, and, if she wasn’t insensible, all too prone to using her fists, especially on the watchmen trying to arrest her, hence her sobriquet of ‘The Boxing Baroness’.

A picture of her, fists raised, appeared in the March 1819 edition of the Bon Ton Magazine in which she was linked to Viscount Ranelagh who had stood accused of an assault on some men who had trespassed on his property in the December of 1818.

Mary Ann’s is a tragic story: although she cuffed Beadles and police officers and swore at the magistrates, once she was in prison and away from the gin-shops she behaved with so much decency and propriety that Mr Nodder, the governor of Tothill Fields Bridewell, appointed her as a matron to look after the female prisoners whilst she was detained.  He often declared that he could not have selected a more fit person to act in that capacity and always regretted her release from prison as she invariably made straight for the nearest gin-shop and ‘in half an hour after she might be seen staggering through the streets, followed by a crowd of idlers, plaguing and annoying the wretched woman’.

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library
Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

To avoid this crowd she would hide in a public-house and, if refused more drink, took to destroying everything around her and smashing the windows.  Rather than a cossetted courtesan she now had to resort to the lowest form of prostitution to raise money for her next tot of gin.

At last her lifestyle caught up with her.  On Mary Ann’s last appearance at Bow Street her appearance led the official to believe her ‘in a consumption’ and she told Mr Minshull that “it was her last appearance on that stage”.

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library
Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

Just before her death she was taken to the station house in Covent Garden twice, both times being wearily discharged.  The last time Mary Ann, knowing her end was near, told the superintendent Mr Thomas, as she left, that “I have given you a great deal of trouble, Sir, but I shall not give you much more. It is almost over with me.”

The superintendent told her to go home and go to bed as she was clearly ill and although she promised to do so she instead went to a gin-shop.  Finally arriving back at her lodging, a miserable attic at No. 8 Charles Street (now called Macklin Street), Drury Lane, it was clear that she would not survive the night and around midnight the lodging house keeper came to the station to see Mr Thomas.  This kindly man went straight to the house as he thought she must have met with ill-treatment but found that she had died ten minutes before he got there.  She died in the early hours of the 9th October, 1832 and her cause of death was suffocation, occasioned by the excessive use of spirituous liquors.

mary ann pearce burial

Mary Ann was buried on the 23rd October 1832  at St Giles in the Field

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library
Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

 

SOLEMN VERSES.

 

AH! who is she whose haggard eye

Shrinks from the morning ray?

Who, trembling would, but cannot fly,

From the busy day!

Mark her pale lip, and cheek all o’er,

How deathly it appears!

See! how her blood-shot eye-balls pour

Torrents of briny tears.

Behold! alas, misfortune’s child,

For whom no kindred grieves ;

Now driven to distraction wild,

Her tortur’d bosom heaves!

Despis’d, yet dreaded, ruin’d, lost

Health, peace, and virtue fled ;

On misery’s stormy ocean tost,

Now stretch’d on dying bed.

 

Once were her prospects bright & gay,

Hope, smiling, blest her hours;

A vile seducer cross’d her way,

And cropt the blooming flower.

Dazzled by shining grandeur, she

Quits parents, friends, and home :

But soon reduc’d to misery,

An outcast vile to roam.

She, for relief, to liquor flies,

Which soon full havoc made;

Vanish’d the lustre of her eyes,

Her beauty soon decay’d.

Oft did she brave the winter’s wind,

The driving sleet and rain;

And oft in prison drear confin’d

For months she would remain.

 

At length by drink and fell disease

Worn down to skin and bone,

Upon a wretched pallet laid,

No kindred nigh – not one.

She yields to death, – no pitying friend,

Her hapless fate deplores

Ye fair, take warning by the end

of Lady Barrymore.

 

Printed by J. Catnach, 2 Monmouth-court, 7 Dials.

 

Sources used:

The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton, Diane Atkinson, 2012

The Examiner, 14th October, 1832

The Extraordinary Life and Death of Mary Anne Pierce, alias Lady Barrymore, National Library of Scotland

18th Century boxing match for the hand of a farm lad

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 16th February 1790.

FEMALE BRUISING

Two of the fair sex last week actually fought a pitched battle at Waddington in Lincolnshire attended by their seconds. When it is considered that the object of their contention was a husband, it will not be wondered that the battle was long and violent, lasting not less than half an hour.  Two days after the heroine triumphantly led her happy man to the altar! – So that this may probably not be the last battle on the occasion.

Well, what a wonderful snippet of history!  But, remembering the distress we caused to some of our readers when we debunked the tale of the Petticoat Duellists, we approached our research into this story with caution.

Blog - Waddington boxing 1

Fortunately it seems that the two Lincolnshire feminine bruisers did exist and that the fight did take place; it was confirmed in several other newspapers which gave more details.

Mary Farmery and Susanna Locker were both servants and it was Mary who challenged her rival to the fight with the prize being the young man they both claimed the affections of.  The boxing match was conducted according to form and for some time the outcome seemed uncertain with both women delivering blows which felled their opponent.  But Mary Farmery must have been certain of her pugilistic abilities when she suggested the boxing match for she was named the victor.

The Female Bruisers by John Collet, 1768; (c) Museum of London
The Female Bruisers by John Collet, 1768; (c) Museum of London

The object of their affections was a young man who was servant to a farmer in the neighbourhood, and all the newspaper accounts agree that he ‘actually had the temerity to go to church with the victor.’ Sadly, it seems possible that there was no happy ending after all for the victorious Mary Farmery, for no marriage took place in the parish church at Waddington and we have, as yet, found no record of it ever taking place at all.

We don’t want to disappoint you this time so perhaps we’ll just picture Mary sweeping her beau off his feet and disappearing off into the sunset with him?

Blog - Waddington boxing

N.B. A Mary Farmery was baptized in Navenby, just a few miles away from Waddington, in June 1771, and a Susanna Locker married a man by the name of Richard Harmstone in Caythorpe, again not too far away, in June 1795.  Perhaps Susanna was luckier than Mary in finally getting up the aisle?

 

Sources used not mentioned above:

Derby Mercury, 28th January 1790

Stamford Mercury, 29th January 1790

Norfolk Chronicle, 6th February 1790

A Trusty Maid; Geroge H Hay; Hospitalfield Arts

Sally Smith: the ‘ghost’ of Brumby Wood Hall

Brumby Hall
Image courtesy of David Wright.
http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/592174

Brumby Wood Hall in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, now a nursing home but once a fine private mansion, is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a former housekeeper.

Sally Smith, born c.1759, was not just the housekeeper, but also the mistress of the owner, Thomas Pindar Esquire, a reserved and slightly eccentric gentleman some twenty-three years Sally’s senior who displayed ‘monkish habits’ fostered by a long residence in a college.  He had inherited Brumby Wood Hall from his younger brother, the Reverend Robert Pindar who had died in 1795, and Sally presided at the table and over the house, fully mistress of it. The legend says that Sally expected to inherit Brumby (sometimes called Bromby) Wood Hall when her lover died but was cruelly cut out of his will and, in the 1830s, either threw herself from one of the windows or hung herself from the four-poster bed.  Her restless spirit now walks the corridors and grounds of the hall, waiting to hear news of her inheritance.

Thomas Pinder actually died in the May of 1813 aged 77 years and was buried at Owston Ferry in the Isle of Axholme on the fifteenth of that month.  His will, written on the 15th October 1811, far from cutting Sally out, left her the use of his mansion for her life together with the household furniture, carriages and several nearby farms together with a small yearly annuity and Sally lived on at Brumby Wood Hall until her death almost twenty years to the day after that of Thomas Pindar’s.  Sally too was buried at Owston Ferry, on the 24th May 1833, noted in the burial register as being of Brumby Wood Hall.

Her life as mistress of the Hall was not plain sailing though, and it is the dispute ensuing after the reading of Thomas Pindar’s will which has led to the half-remembered tale and the stories of Sally haunting her former home.

In the May of 1822, a singular case was heard at the Lincoln Assizes, brought by Sir Montague Cholmeley against the Honourable John Lygon, younger brother to Earl Beauchamp of Madresfield Court near Malvern in Worcestershire.  Both men had, at times, been the beneficiary of Pindar’s will and Cholmeley contested the final one which had left the life interest in the Hall to Sally Smith.

Thomas Pindar had been a fellow of Magdalen College at Oxford and it was here that he had been introduced to Earl Beauchamp and his younger brother, John Lygon, whose family name had formerly been Pyndar (their father had changed his surname upon inheriting his maternal grandfather’s estate), and a relationship was assumed between them.  The two families regularly corresponded and visited from 1804 and in 1805 Thomas Pinder made a will leaving his fortune to John Lygon. In the same year, he had asked Earl Beauchamp for a substantial loan of £5000, and the Earl had complied with this request.

NPG D22348; John Reginald Pyndar, 3rd Earl Beauchamp by Richard James Lane
John Reginald Pyndar, 3rd Earl Beauchamp.
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

 On the 2nd April 1810, a second will was made; Pindar had wanted Mr Foulkes, an eminent London solicitor, to draw up the will but Foulkes was unwell and instead a Mr Hutton of York was employed.  This will gave the estate of Brumby Wood Hall to John Lygdon in tail male, with ultimate limitation of Lady Cholmeley, Pindar’s niece. Elizabeth Harrison, the daughter of John Harrison and Catherine Pindar of Norton Place, Lincoln, had married Sir Montague Cholmeley, 1st Baronet, on the 14th September 1801 (Catherine Pindar was the daughter of the Reverend Robert Pindar).

Brumby - Harrison pedigree

A month later Hutton was back at Brumby Wood Hall to draw up another will, this one however in favour of Sir Montague Cholmeley’s family and placing Cholmeley’s youngest son in the place formerly occupied by John Lygon.  Hutton added two codicils to this third will, one in August 1810 and one in December to the benefit of Sally Smith.

Sir Montague Cholmeley, who had never visited Pindar at his home, now told friends that he would be benefitted by Pindar’s death, describing Brumby Wood Hall as “a charming little hunting-box here intended for my second son!” But this came to the ears of Pindar and he decided that Lygon should be the beneficiary after all.

Mr Foulkes was now once again summoned and this time complied with the request.  He found Thomas Pindar frail in body, almost bedridden and with little control over his bowels (they were described as being very relaxed), virtually deaf and going blind, but, Foulke’s asserted, still in full control of his mind.  On the 15th October 1811, a fourth and final will was drawn up, this one leaving the Hall to Sally for her lifetime and after her death to John Lygon. Mr Hutton was asked to hand over the will made the year previously but refused to do so.

Brumby - Pindar pedigree

And so the stage was set for a protracted legal battle after Thomas Pindar died in 1813.  Cholmeley alleged that Pindar did not know his own mind when the 1811 will was made and accused Sally of being the person who had instigated it to her own benefit.  Lygon, in turn, accused Hutton of acting in the interests of Cholmeley rather than his client.

Cholmeley had wisely waited until the two men who, along with Foulkes, had witnessed the 1811 will had died before bringing this case to court and he drew on several former servants to Pindar who testified to the old man’s feebleness and mental incapacity. Mr Foulkes dismissed this, claiming that after Sally, whose voice Pindar was familiar with, loudly repeated his words to Pindar the old man was full well able to understand and to ask genuine and rational questions about the execution of the will. Of course, all this provided enough fuel for the local gossips to keep going for many years from the death of Pindar to the case being brought to court nine years later, with Sally made out to be a gold-digging termagant who had had the feeble and kindly old gentleman, and his household, under her control.  Enough to give rise to the legend about her ghost and a missing inheritance which still continues more than 180 years after her death.

The case lasted from nine o’clock on the morning of Wednesday 13th March to half-past five the next day, but at last the jury came to a verdict, finding in favour of John Lygon, who had already added the surname of Pindar (although he chose to spell it Pyndar) on to his own in anticipation of his inheritance.

John Lygon Pyndar, who also succeeded to the title and estate of Earl Beauchamp after the death of his brother in 1823, possibly then tried to recover the £5000 loan given to Thomas Pindar by his brother from the life interest and annuities granted to Sally for, in 1823, Pindar vs Smith was heard in the High Court of Chancery, after which the creditors of the late Thomas Pindar were asked to send in proof of their debts.  Pindar’s earlier wills had provided for repayment of this substantial debt; the last one in 1811 ignored it to Sally’s detriment.

After Sally’s death, a sale of all the household furniture, carriages and livestock at Brumby Wood Hall (detailed below) was made, pursuant to her own will, and John Lygon Pyndar took possession of Brumby Wood Hall and its surrounding estate. We have found no record of the manner of Sally’s death, but this in itself tends to suggest that her end, at the age of 74, was a peaceful one and not suicide.

BROMBY WOOD HALL

Near Burringham Ferry, Lincolnshire

GENTEEL HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, BARREL ORGAN, CARRIAGE, HORSES, BEASTS, SHEEP,

Farming Implements, &c.

TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION

(WITHOUT RESERVE,)

BY MR. DANIELS

At BROMBY WOOD HALL (by order of the Executor of the late Mrs Smith,) on TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, July 9th and 10th instant, at Ten o’Clock in the Forenoon of each day.

THE Genteel HOUSEHOLD FUNITURE, comprising Mahogany Sideboards; Card, Pembroke, and Round Tables, Rosewood Chiffonier; two Sofas, sets of Mahogany Hair-seated Chairs; Barrel Organ, with fours stops, Piano-Forte; two Cellarets; several Pier and Swing Glasses; Bracket-Clock; Clock in Mahogany Case; Timepiece; Chimney Ornaments; Barometer; Bookcase, and several volumes of Books; Brussels and other Carpets; Hearth Rugs; Four Post and Camp Bedsteads; Mattresses; several Lots of excellent Blankets and Counterpanes; Mahogany and Walnut Chests of Drawers; Dressing Tables; Bed-side and Stair Carpets; Brass Rods; with a large assortment of Kitchen Furniture and Culinary Utensils; a few sides of BACON, 100 Bottles of good RASPBERRY and other English-made WINES; and several other Articles too numerous to insert.

The FARMING STOCK consists of three good Milch Cows; one Calf; two Pigs; twenty-six Ewes and thirty-one Lambs; eight fat Ewes; ten Hogs; one Waggon; two Carts and Gearing; one Stack of Hay; two pieces of Stacks of Hay; Garden Rollers; and sundry lots of Old Wood.

Also, a good TRAVELLING CARRIAGE, with Harness for two Horses, two useful Carriage HORSES; a Brown Hackney PONY; Saddle, Bridle, Side Saddle, &c. &c.

The Sale of the Farming Stock, Carriage, and Horses, will take place on TUESDAY, and the Furniture on WEDNESDAY.

Hull, June 21, 1833.

 

Sources:

Lincolnshire Pedigrees, edited by the Rev. Canon A.R. Maddison, M.A., F.S.A., 1904, volume 3

Lincolnshire Pedigrees, edited by the Rev. Canon A.R. Maddison, M.A., F.S.A., 1906, volume 4

Stamford Mercury, 10th May 1822

Stamford Mercury, 14th March 1823

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 17th May 1823

Hull Packet, 5th July 1833

 

Smick Smack.

Valentine’s Day in the Georgian Era

Valentine's Day
Courtesy of the British Museum

There were many different customs and traditions surrounding Valentine’s Day, one of which baffled the unsentimental writer of this letter to the newspaper.

Derby Mercury – 7th March 1782

Sir,

Amongst many customs useful and ridiculous which have been handed down to us from our Ancestors, I lately observed one of drawing Valentines, on the Evening preceding Valentine’s Day, which was much in this Manner, the Boys collected all the names of females (unmarried) they could remember, and wrote them separately upon little tickets or bits of paper, which were put into a hat and shaked about for some time, when each of them drew one of these out, and the next day sent a kind of poetical epistle to the girl who was his Valentine or Lot.  I confess the meaning of this is extremely strange to me at present, as I cannot see any thing in it useful or entertaining.  I should therefore be greatly obliged, if any Correspondent of your’s would favour me with a reason for this superstitious ceremony.

I am, Sir,

Your humble Servant,

The INSPECTOR.

Valentine's - Love in a Village
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

February the 14th was a popular and romantic day for a wedding whether they were unusual, unsuccessful or happy.

Read’s Weekly Journal – 16th February 1751

Thursday one Mrs. Mann, aged upwards of 60, who keeps a Cook and Chandler’s Shop in Shoreditch, was married to a Soldier quartered in that Neighbourhood, aged about 22.  Being asked by a Neighbour how she could think of Marriage at those Years?  She replied it was Valentine’s Day, and she was resolved to be coupled.  The old Gentlewoman had, by her Frugality and Industry, collected upwards of 200 l. which she freely bestowed on her new Lover.

Valentine's - Lovers of all sorts
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Morning Herald – 4th March 1784

It may be worth remarking, that on last Valentine’s Day, a couple were married in St. Peter’s Church, Derby, who had between them seven thumbs, viz. the woman three, and the man four.

Valentine's - smick smack 1812
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Hereford Journal – 26th July 1787

WINCHESTER, JULY 21.  At our assizes a cause was tried between Sarah Stephens, of Newport, in the Isle of Wight, aged 24, plaintiff, and Mr. Spencer of the same place, aged 65, defendant.  This cause occasioned much diversion in the court.  The happy pair had agreed, it seems, to unite in the soft and pleasing bands of Hymen on Valentine’s day last; a day conceived by them to be most propitious to love and the union of lovers; but unfortunately the demon of discord interfered.  The old gentleman’s age and unwieldy figure, contrasted with the youth and genteel appearance of the lady, afforded an ample field for wit and humour, and the laugh went much against the unfortunate gentleman.  But what was still more against him, the Jury gave a verdict in favour of the lady for 400 l. damages, with costs of suit.

Valentine's - The Best Shelter
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The Bury and Norwich Post – 25th February 1807

On Valentine’s Day set out from Stamford, in Lincolnshire, on a matrimonial trip to Gretna Green, Mr. Charles Wales, printer, lately of Bury St. Edmund’s, with Miss Eliza Booth, second daughter of Mr. Booth, wine and spirit merchant, of the former place. – The far-famed Hymen of the Northern border having indissolubly entangled the happy pair in his silken bonds, they returned to Stamford on Sunday last, and their nuptial bliss was consummated with the blessing of the lady’s opulent friends!

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

In 1797 a booklet had been published titled ‘The Young Man’s Valentine Writer’ which listed romantic verses which could be copied out by those with little poetic skill and sent to their sweethearts. Later printers began to mass-produce printed verses and cards. While these lacked the personal touch of a handwritten note it did mean that they could easily and cheaply be sent anonymously via the postal service. Valentine’s Day proved to be a busy one for early 19th century postmen.

The Love Letter by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1770. Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Love Letter by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1770. Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Ipswich Journal – 23rd February 1805

On Valentine’s Day the General Two-penny Post Office received 80,000 letters – an increase from last year of 20,000.  The amount of 80,000 letters is 686£ 13s 4d.

Valentine's - Edward & Eliza
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The Morning Post – 15th February 1815

Yesterday being Valentine’s day, the whole artillery of love was put into requisition.  The Postmen were converted into Cupids, and instead of letters upon business, carried epistles full of flames, darts, chains, and amorous declarations.

We end with a Valentine’s Day poem addressed to the lucky Miss F____ of Winchester by an anonymous admirer who used the Hampshire Chronicle newspaper rather than the post to proclaim his love.

Hampshire Chronicle – 21st February 1791

 

VALENTINE’S DAY.

LINES addressed to Miss F____, of WINCHESTER.

I only sing one blooming fair to gain;

Adieu, ye muses, if she will not hear.  HAMMOND

BEAUTY from fancy often takes its arms,

And every common form some breast may move;

Some in an air, a look, a shape, find charms,

To justify their choice or boast their love: –

But, had the great Apelles seen that face,

When the beauteous Cyprian goddess drew,

He had neglected all the female race,

Thrown his first Venus by, and copy’d – YOU.

Feb. 14., 1791 

Le Costume Historique: fashion through the ages

Early 19th century French costume from Le Costume Historique.

We just had to share these books, available to view for free via The Internet Archive.

French Fashion - 18th Century hats - Le Costume Historique

They are a six volume set, published between 1876 and 1888 and written by Auguste Racinet (1825-1893), covering historical costumes, furniture, jewellery, weapons and carriages.  Everything including the kitchen sink really!

English coaches and carriages

They are written in French but don’t let that put you off if you don’t speak that language because the pictures within them, lots in colour, are truly glorious and speak for themselves.  We should really issue this blog with a warning because you are likely to spend quite a few hours flicking through them when you really should be doing other things.  We’ve included a few of our favourite images, concentrating, as this blog is about ‘all things Georgian’ on those years but these books cover much more than just that period.

Volume 1 (mainly text) gives a general introduction and a list of all the plates found across the full set of volumes together with an index, bibliography and glossary.

Volume 2 concentrates on L’Antiquité Classique, from primitive times until the fall of the Roman Empire and ‘Barbarian Europe’ before moving on to ‘the world outside Europe’ starting with Oceania, Africa, the America’s, Eskimo’s and Asia.

Volume 3 continues with Asia and on to India, Africa (again), Turkey and religious artefacts and dress.

18th century Turkish dress from Le Costume Historique

Volume 4 covers French and European military wear and medieval Europe through to the 16th Century.

Volume 5 begins with the end of the 16th Century and the dawn of the 17th, concentrating on Europe leading on to our favourite period, the 18th Century.

French 18th century fashion from Le Costume Historique

French 18th century fashion from Le Costume Historique

And so to Volume 6, the final one which continues 18th Century European fashions and takes us into the 19th Century, ending with a look at the Nordic countries together with Holland, Scotland, England, Germany and Switzerland.

Late 18th and early 19th century French fashions from Le Costume Historique

Scottish 18th century dress from Le Costume Historique

English dress - Le Costume Historique

For ease of translation, the books can be viewed in plain text format which then can be copied and pasted into an online translation tool.

Have fun browsing these books!  We’d love to know your thoughts on them.

Gipsy Camp; George Morland; The Stanleyand Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

Under the canopy of heaven: A Gypsy’s winter birth in Lincolnshire, 1820

When you picture gypsies of the past, do you picture them travelling in their gaudily painted horse-drawn caravans or vardos?  In truth, this form of transport is a relatively modern invention, and the gypsy people generally sheltered in ‘bender’ tents, using donkeys and carts to transport and carry their tents and their belongings from place to place.  A bender tent is formed from a covering of tarpaulin placed over flexible branches, usually willow or hazel, which are staked into the ground, a crude but very effective form of shelter.

gypsy

For this reason, it was common for these people to ‘overwinter’ in lodgings in towns and cities rather than camp in the very coldest months.  Sometimes though, they did find themselves living in their tents during the freezing temperatures.  On the evening of the 17th February 1820, in the Lincolnshire countryside, a boy was born in such a tent in sub-zero temperatures.

Gypsies in a Landscape by Alexander Fraser (c) Paisley Art Institute Collection, held by Paisley Museum and Art Galleries
Gypsies in a Landscape by Alexander Fraser
(c) Paisley Art Institute Collection, held by Paisley Museum and Art Galleries

The Stamford Mercury newspaper, dated the 25th February 1820, reported on the birth.

LINCOLN, FEBRUARY 24

BIRTH

At eleven o’clock on the night of the 17th inst. a poor woman of the gipsy tribe was safely delivered of a fine boy in a lane a mile distant from the village of Wellingore, in this county, under scarcely any other covering than the canopy of heaven.  The thermometer that night was ten degrees below freezing point: but notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather then and since (the ground being covered with frost and snow), the mother and child are both doing extremely well in their humble camp.

The infant was baptised at the parish church in Wellingore three days later, on the 20th February, and given the name of Nathaniel.  His parents were named as Joshua and Ann Smith, with Joshua’s trade in the baptism register listed as ‘beggar.’

Wellingore baptism register - Nathaniel Smith 1820

Header image: Gipsy Camp; George Morland; The Stanleyand Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe: two Whig hostesses from the 18th Century

Following on from our blog about women in 18th century politics  we found ourselves researching two of the women who have often been mentioned in connection with the Duchess of Devonshire in regard to the political campaign of 1784 where they all three were ardent supporters of Charles James Fox.  Our previous blog article on ladies in politics in the 18th Century briefly mentioned Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe, but we thought they were worthy of a blog in their own right, giving a little biographical information about them.

Harriet Bouverie (nee Fawkener, later Lady Robert Spencer); Edward Bouverie sold by James Watson, sold by Butler Clowes, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
Harriet Bouverie. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Mrs Bouverie was born Harriet Fawkener in 1750, the daughter of Sir Everard Fawkener, silk merchant and diplomat, and Harriet, natural daughter of Lieutenant General Charles Churchill who was himself illegitimate and a nephew of the 1st Duke of Marlborough.  Sir Everard Fawkener is chiefly remembered to history as the great friend of the philosopher Voltaire. She was also the brother of William Fawkener, who will, in part be remembered for fighting a duel in 1786.

Hampshire Chronicle 29 May 1786
Hampshire Chronicle 29 May 1786

On the 30th June, 764, at St. George’s in Hanover Square, London, Harriet married the Honourable Edward Bouverie of Delapré Abbey in Northamptonshire who was to become Member of Parliament for Salisbury and Northampton.  The History of Parliament website describes him as ‘An habitué of Brooks’s Club, he regarded himself as a personal friend of Charles James Fox and aped his politics.

St George's, Hanover Square by T. Malton, 1787
St George’s, Hanover Square by T. Malton, 1787

Mrs Bouverie was actively campaigning for the Whig party in 1784 and her connections carried on for many years.  She entertained lavishly at her house, her dinner guests Charles James Fox, Lord Robert Spencer, Colonel Fitzpatrick and many others.  She was also friends with Richard Brinsley Sheridan and particularly with Sheridan’s wife, Elizabeth Anne née Linley, another woman about whom we have written.  Mrs Sheridan once recalled sitting up without a fire together with Mrs Bouverie till six in the morning to hear the result of a parliamentary debate and falling ill in consequence.

The Bouverie’s had three daughters, Harriet Elizabeth, Jane and Diana Juliana Margaretta and three sons, Edward, John and Henry Frederick Bouverie.  The youngest child, Diana, born on the 19th September, 1786, although acknowledged as a Bouverie was, in fact, a Spencer.  Her mother Harriet had begun an affair with Lord Robert Spencer, youngest son of the 2nd Duke of Marlborough and Diana was his child.  She was referred to as the ‘tell-tale Bouverie’ as she looked so much like her natural father, and he left virtually everything he owned to her in his will.  There was also a rumoured love affair with Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Lord Robert Spencer (1747-1831); Joshua Reynolds, 1769; National Trust, Woolbeding
Lord Robert Spencer (1747-1831); Joshua Reynolds, 1769; National Trust, Woolbeding

Lord Robert Spencer was, like Edward Bouverie, a Member of Parliament and a close friend and staunch supporter of Charles James Fox and the Whig party and, like Fox, a gambler, at one point having to sell his paintings to pay his debts.  The Prince of Wales and his brother the Duke of York were part of this circle.  Mrs Bouverie became the long-term mistress of Lord Robert Spencer, living in a mènage á trois with her husband and her lover.

Edward Bouverie died on the 3rd September, 1810, aged 72 years, leaving behind him a disorganized mess and debts which his family knew little about.  From his will he seems to bear no ill feelings towards his wife and asks that if he dies in Sussex he be buried at Woolbeding, where Lord Robert Spencer’s estate was.  Harriet suffered a year of mourning, for the sake of decency, before finally marrying Lord Robert Spencer on the 2nd October, 1811, at his estate of Woolbeding in Sussex.  The couple had no further children and Harriet died on the 17th November, 1825, survived by her 2nd husband. 

Duchess of Devonshire, Viscountess Duncannon and Mrs Crewe. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library.
Duchess of Devonshire, Viscountess Duncannon and Mrs Crewe. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library.

 Mrs Bouverie’s great friend was the beautiful and witty Mrs Crewe, born Frances Anne Greville in 1748, the daughter of Fulke Greville, envoy extraordinary to the elector of Bavaria.  At the age of eighteen she married John Crewe of Crewe Hall in Cheshire in 1766 and subsequently entertained Charles James Fox and his circle in the same way that Mrs Bouverie did.

Frances Anne Crewe. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.
Frances Anne Crewe. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

 The two women shared many things, including the affections of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, but whilst Mrs Bouverie was reputed to be a passing fancy of his, Mrs Crewe embarked on a full blown affair with the playwright lasting around a decade from the mid 1770’s.  Sheridan’s School for Scandal was dedicated to her and he called her ‘Amoret,’ a name coined by Sheridan’s wife Elizabeth for Mrs Crewe, probably when she first became aware of the relationship.  He also dedicated another play The Critic to her mother Frances Greville née Macartney who years earlier had been an acquaintance of Sarah Lennox, Duchess of Richmond.

Family Group (called 'The Sheridan Family': Richard Sheridan, 1751–1816, Elizabeth Linley, 1754–1792); Benjamin West, c.1776; Walker Art Gallery
Family Group (called ‘The Sheridan Family’: Richard Sheridan, 1751–1816, Elizabeth Linley, 1754–1792); Benjamin West, c.1776; Walker Art Gallery

In 1785, Mrs Sheridan wrote to a friend, Mary Anne Canning, from Crewe Hall:

 S is in Town – and so is Mrs Crewe.  I am in the Country and so is Mr Crewe – a very convenient Arrangement, is it not?

While her husband idolized Fox and bankrolled him to a large extent, Mrs Crewe was one of the leading lights along with the Duchess of Devonshire in the parties of ladies who canvassed for Charles James Fox at the 1784 election in Westminster.  She hosted a party on the evening of his victory, 18th May 1784, at her London townhouse, everyone wearing blue and buff which had been adopted as Fox’s colours.  The Prince of Wales was present and proposed a toast, “True blue and Mrs Crewe”.  Mrs Crewe raised her glass and famously replied, “True blue and all of you”.

Frances Anne Crewe as St Genevieve. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Frances Anne Crewe as St Genevieve. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

In 1806 John Crewe was raised to the Peerage by Fox, becoming Lord Crewe and making Frances Lady Crewe.  The couple had four children, two of whom survived infancy, a son named John (1772-1835) and a daughter, Elizabeth Emma (1780-1850).  Mrs Crewe died on the 23rd December, 1818.

Sources: www.historyofparliamentonline.org; The Gentleman’s Magazine, July-December, 1831, volume CI; Richard Brinsley Sheridan: A Life by Linda Kelly

Header image: Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

Kissing under the mistletoe at the North Pole in 1830

The custom of kissing under the mistletoe has its origins in Norse myth and is still practised today.

The Mistletoe Bough, Francis Wheatley. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
The Mistletoe Bough, Francis Wheatley.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

In the Georgian era, when a sprig of mistletoe was hung up, a berry had to be picked off for every kiss taken and when there were no more berries left then there could be no more kisses under it, but the berries are poisonous so we don’t recommend a return to this method of limiting kisses.

Mistletoe, print from A Curious Herbal, 1782
Mistletoe, print from A Curious Herbal, 1782

However, when this custom was practised the bunch of mistletoe hung in the North Pole tavern on Oxford Street in London during the Christmas of 1830 obviously did have a few berries left.

MARLBOROUGH-STREET – KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE.

William Duncan, a young man of respectable appearance, was yesterday brought before the Presiding Magistrates, J.E. CONANT and T. HALL, Esqrs., charged under the following circumstances:-

Duncan, an ex-policeman, had gone it appeared into the house in question, the North Pole, in Oxford-street, and the Defendant, who was there, went out and left his wife in the room.  The mistletoe hung gracefully from the ceiling, and the moment was propitious, for the lady was saluted by one of the tap-room gentlemen present.  The Defendant, however, shortly appeared, and then somebody informed him of the gallantry somebody had shewn towards his wife during his absence, with the important addition that he had infringed on the rules of gentility.  He had committed an heinous offence – he had kissed the lady with his hat on – and the whole of the company insisted that nothing less than a pint of gin should be “stood,” as a compensation at the shrine of etiquette.  The Defendant denied this, and refused to treat the company at all.  Some words ensued, and then the Defendant struck Complainant repeatedly, and in fact shewed him all the new hits of the season.

Witness corroborated this statement, and stated that in fact it was he that had saluted the lady and not the unfortunate Complainant.

The Defendant said the other had peeled to fight him, and he merely struck afterwards; indeed they had no right to have kissed his wife at all.  He did not like a policeman to do such a thing.

Mr. CONANT – Is he a policeman? – Defendant: No; but he was, and did duty in Duck-lane, Westminster.

Mr. CONANT thought it was merely the effects of gallantry; and even had there been an affront intended he had received a great deal of punishment in return, and the Defendant must pay 10s.

(The Morning Post, 29th December, 1830)

We end this article with a poem on kissing under the mistletoe written between December 1799 and December 1800 by Perdita or Mary Darby Robinson, that great rival to our favourite eighteenth-century lady, Grace Dalrymple Elliott.

The Mistletoe... a Christmas Tale
Image courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The Mistletoe (A Christmas Tale)

 

A farmer’s wife, both young and gay,

 And fresh as op’ning buds of May;

 Had taken to herself, a Spouse,

 And plighted many solemn vows,

 That she a faithful mate would prove,

 In meekness, duty, and in love!

 That she, despising joy and wealth,

 Would be, in sickness and in health,

 His only comfort and his Friend–

 But, mark the sequel,–and attend!

 

This Farmer, as the tale is told–

 Was somewhat cross, and somewhat old!

 His, was the wintry hour of life,

 While summer smiled before his wife;

 A contrast, rather form’d to cloy

 The zest of matrimonial joy!

 

‘Twas Christmas time, the peasant throng

 Assembled gay, with dance and Song:

 The Farmer’s Kitchen long had been

 Of annual sports the busy scene;

 The wood-fire blaz’d, the chimney wide

 Presented seats, on either side;

 Long rows of wooden Trenchers, clean,

 Bedeck’d with holly-boughs, were seen;

 The shining Tankard’s foamy ale

 Gave spirits to the Goblin tale,

 And many a rosy cheek–grew pale.

 

It happen’d, that some sport to shew

 The ceiling held a MISTLETOE.

 A magic bough, and well design’d

 To prove the coyest Maiden, kind.

 A magic bough, which DRUIDS old

 Its sacred mysteries enroll’d;

 And which, or gossip Fame’s a liar,

 Still warms the soul with vivid fire;

 Still promises a store of bliss

 While bigots snatch their Idol’s kiss.

 

This MISTLETOE was doom’d to be

 The talisman of Destiny;

 Beneath its ample boughs we’re told

 Full many a timid Swain grew bold;

 Full many a roguish eye askance

 Beheld it with impatient glance,

 And many a ruddy cheek confest,

 The triumphs of the beating breast;

 And many a rustic rover sigh’d

 Who ask’d the kiss, and was denied.

 

First MARG’RY smil’d and gave her Lover

 A Kiss; then thank’d her stars, ’twas over!

 Next, KATE, with a reluctant pace,

 Was tempted to the mystic place;

 Then SUE, a merry laughing jade

 A dimpled yielding blush betray’d;

 While JOAN her chastity to shew

 Wish’d “the bold knaves would serve her so,”

 She’d “teach the rogues such wanton play!”

 And well she could, she knew the way.

 

The FARMER, mute with jealous care,

 Sat sullen, in his wicker chair;

 Hating the noisy gamesome host

 Yet, fearful to resign his post;

 He envied all their sportive strife

 But most he watch’d his blooming wife,

 And trembled, lest her steps should go,

 Incautious, near the MISTLETOE.

 

Now HODGE, a youth of rustic grace

 With form athletic; manly face;

 On MISTRESS HOMESPUN turn’d his eye

 And breath’d a soul-declaring sigh!

 Old HOMESPUN, mark’d his list’ning Fair

 And nestled in his wicker chair;

 HODGE swore, she might his heart command–

 The pipe was dropp’d from HOMESPUN’S hand!

 

HODGE prest her slender waist around;

 The FARMER check’d his draught, and frown’d!

 And now beneath the MISTLETOE

 ‘Twas MISTRESS HOMESPUN’S turn to go;

 Old Surly shook his wicker chair,

 And sternly utter’d–“Let her dare!”

 

HODGE, to the FARMER’S wife declar’d

 Such husbands never should be spar’d;

 Swore, they deserv’d the worst disgrace,

 That lights upon the wedded race;

 And vow’d–that night he would not go

 Unblest, beneath the MISTLETOE.

 

The merry group all recommend

 An harmless Kiss, the strife to end:

 “Why not ?” says MARG’RY, “who would fear,

 “A dang’rous moment, once a year?”

 SUSAN observ’d, that “ancient folks

 “Were seldom pleas’d with youthful jokes;”

 But KATE, who, till that fatal hour,

 Had held, o’er HODGE, unrivall’d pow’r,

 With curving lip and head aside

 Look’d down and smil’d in conscious pride,

 Then, anxious to conceal her care,

 She humm’d–“what fools some women are!”

 

Now, MISTRESS HOMESPUN, sorely vex’d,

 By pride and jealous rage perplex’d,

 And angry, that her peevish spouse

 Should doubt her matrimonial vows,

 But, most of all, resolved to make

 An envious rival’s bosom ache;

 Commanded Hodge to let her go,

 Nor lead her to the Mistletoe;

 

“Why should you ask it o’er and o’er?”

 Cried she, “we’ve been there twice before!”

 ‘Tis thus, to check a rival’s sway,

 That Women oft themselves betray;

 While VANITY, alone, pursuing,

 They rashly prove, their own undoing.

December and May, 1828
December and May, 1828

A longer version of the poem, published under the pen name of Laura Maria, can be read here.

A tale for Christmas in which we take a ‘gander’ at the Old Stag of Arbigland

The following tale was printed in the Morning Chronicle on the 23rd November, 1821, and they had extracted it from the Dumfries Courier.

We feel it is only right to issue a warning at the head of this article: if you are planning on eating goose for your Christmas dinner this year beware, the following may taint your enjoyment of your meal!

William Craik of Arbigland

The setting for this tale is Arbigland, an ancient Scottish barony on the Solway Firth in Dumfries.   William Craik (1703-1798), interested in agricultural improvements, was laird there and he designed and built Arbigland House.  It will also help to know that the term ‘Stag’ was, at the date when this tale was written, still a common name in many places of Scotland for a gander.

Arbigland House
Arbigland House

And so, we begin . . .

The Old Stag of Arbigland

Among the many rural appendages of Arbigland, there happened, a good many years ago, to be a fine old gander, who had lived from youth to age in the same delightful spot, and whose remarkable, though well-authenticated exploits, are well worthy of being recorded in a country newspaper.  From the great age and superior sagacity of this bird, he had become a great favourite with the former proprietor of Arbigland, who used to take much pleasure in seeing the sentinel geese strutting through the long grass to rebuke the approach of every stranger, or, at times, leading forth a long train of cackling young, to dip their shooting pinions in the waters of the Solway.

One season, however, either the demands for a Christmas goose, or the midnight depredations of the fox and the foulmart had been so numerous, that the poor old gander was left without a single helpmate – a misfortune which he deplored day and night by many a doleful note, brought from the lowest bass of the cackling gamut.  These affectionate repinings did not escape the observation of Mr. Craik’s servants, and orders had just been issued for replacing the extirpated breed of geese, when the widowed biped suddenly disappeared to the great regret of the whole family.  One blamed the fox, another the foulmart, and a third the gipsies; but the event proved that they were all mistaken; for, one morning, as Mr. Craik was entering the breakfast parlour, he heard a well-known cackle, and immediately exclaimed, “If the old stag had not been drowned, or worried, I could have sworn that was his cry.”

This call was immediately repeated, and on going out to the lawn, or on looking out at the window, Mr. C. beheld the identical old gander, surrounded by a whole flock of bonny lady geese, whose approach he was thus proudly announcing, and whose wings were still dripping with the brine of that element through which he had taught them to pilot their way for a distance of at least 12 or 15 miles.  This singular occurrence naturally excited a good deal of interest, and after making every inquiry, it appeared that the gander had either been carried away by the force of the tide, or had voluntarily swam to the opposite shore, where, landing on some English farm, he had immediately attached himself to one of the owner’s geese, and sojourned with her till she had hatched a pretty numerous brood.

At length, finding that he had reared up another family to people his favourite retreat, or, what is still more probably, being attracted by the woods of Arbigland, while sporting in the Solway on some clear sunny morning, he once more ventured to cross the water, carrying with him his English spouse, and her whole brood of Anglo-Gallovidians. – Whether this action was as honest as it was patriotic, we will leave to others to determine; but whatever may be said as to the rights of the English farmer, it is certain that this celebrated bird evinced far more gratitude than certain of our countrymen, who, after being accustomed to the rich pastures of England, seem willing to forget that there is such a place as poor old Scotland.

Driving the Geese by William Redmore Bigg (c) University of Liverpool; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Driving the Geese by William Redmore Bigg
(c) University of Liverpool; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

At any rate, the proprietor of Arbigland did not think the worse of the old stag for the wonderful instinct he had displayed; and had it not been for a circumstance which it may be proper to state, he would have undoubtedly dozed away life very comfortably, and at last been buried with his feathers – the highest mark of respect that can be bestowed on an irrational biped.  But there is no providing against the chapter of accidents; and early one winter morning, a stupid servant carried away the gander, by mistake, among a lot of other poultry, which he had been directed to deliver as Christmas presents.

In distributing the said presents, the gander fell to the lot of the father of the present Thos. Goldie, Esq. whose servants killed and cooked the unfortunate bird, without ever discovering that it had lived more than half a century; but, when carried to the table, its extraordinary toughness was a subject of much speculation, and fairly baffled the skill of more than one accomplished carver.

The late Duchess of Gordon, it is said, once rallied a gentleman for his want of dexterity in carving, who replied that her Grace would have been less severe on him, had she known the history of the fowl placed before him, and who, on being asked to be more explicit, replied, “that it was the mother of the cock that crew to Peter!

We are not aware that any similar criticism was made on the occasion to which we allude, but supposing there had, we think the carver might have replied, with equal truth, that the subject on which he had been so slowly operating, was the great great grandson of one of those classical birds whose well-timed cackling was a means of saving the Roman capitol!

Driving the Geese by William Redmore Bigg (c) The New Art Gallery Walsall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A Miscellany of Christmas Pies, Puddings and Cakes

The Christmas pudding

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

WHEN LITTLE JACK HORNER, SO CLOSE IN A CORNER,

SAT EATING OF CHRISTMAS PIE,

HE PUT IN HIS THUMB, AND HE PULLED OUT A PLUM,

AND SAID – WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I!

With Christmas fast approaching, we present a miscellany of Christmas pies, puddings and cakes for your enjoyment, taken from recipe books and interesting articles in the newspapers.

Christmas pudding started out as plum porridge or pottage and this receipt (or recipe) is from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse, first published in 1747.  Plum was actually another name for a raisin and does not refer to the fruit we know as a plum today.

To make Plum-Porridge for Christmas

Take a leg and shin of beef, put them into eight gallons of water, and boil them till they are very tender, and when the broth is strong strain it out:  wipe the pot and put in the broth again; then slice six penny loaves thin, cut off the top and bottom, put some of the liquor to it, cover it up and let it stand a quarter of an hour, boil it and strain it, and then put it in your pot.

Let it boil a quarter of an hour, then put in five pounds of currants, clean washed and picked; let them boil a little, and put in five pounds of raisins of the sun, stoned, and two pounds of prunes, and let them boil till they swell; then put in three quarters of an ounce of mace, half an ounce of cloves, two nutmegs, all of them beat fine, and mix it with a little liquor cold, and put them in a very little while, and take off the pot; then put in three pounds of sugar, a little salt, a quart of sack, a quart of claret, and the juice of two or three lemons.

You may thicken with sago instead of bread if you please; pour into earthen pans, and keep them for use.

Hampshire Chronicle, 1st January, 1776

The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland gave orders for the neighbouring poor at Windsor Lodge to be entertained three days of the holidays with beef, plum puddings, and mince pies; and likewise for one hundred guineas to be distributed among the distressed families.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 25th December 1766

An ESSAY on CHRISTMAS-PYE.

I presume I need not say any thing of the high and grateful flavour whereby the Christmas Pye recommends itself to the almost universal taste of both sexes: But I cannot forbear wondering, since we can be so well furnished with this rich and nourishing food, that there should be any such thing as a fricassée or ragoût in the kingdom; and that we should be so foolishly fond of foreign fashions, as, to the expence of our constitutions, to imitate the cookery of a fantastical nation, whose natural scarcity of provisions puts them upon tossing up the little that they have a hundred ways, to supply, as well as they can, their want of the British plenty.

There is something in the crust of this pye, too remarkable to be passed by; I mean the regularity of the figures into which it is sometimes raised; which seem to owe their original to the martial genius of our nation.  For in many of them, the rules of military architecture are observed with that exactness, that each of them would serve for the model of a fortification; and a board of well-raised pyes, look like so many castles in miniature.  From whence I conjecture, that it might have been anciently the amusement of our British Ladies, while their spouses and lovers were engaging their enemies abroad, to describe in paste, the glorious dangers they encountered; and that it might be their custom to form these pyes from the publick draughts of the towns and castles, against which they expected them to march, that so they might have the pleasure of storming and taking them, in effigy.

As to the reason why this dish is most in vogue at this time of the year, some are of the opinion, that ‘tis owing to the barrenness of the season; that there being little or no fruit remaining for any variety of tarts, and the scarcity of milk denying any affluence of cheese-cake or custard, therefore the ladies, being at a loss for a desert, invented this excellent compound.

But I rather think, from its regularly making its revolution with the present festivity, that it bears a religious kind of relation to it, and that from thence it had its name.  What confirms me in this opinion, is the opposition which it meets with from the people called Quakers; who distinguish their feasts at this time by a certain heretical sort of pudding, known by their name, inveighing against Christmas Pye, as an invention of the Scarlet Whore of Babylon, a hodge podge of superstition, popery, the devil and all his works.

I am particularly concerned to take notice of another sort of people, who, while they indulge themselves in the free enjoyment of this excellent food, are for cutting out the clergy from having any share in it; under pretence that a sweet tooth and a liquorish palate are inconsistent with the sanctity of their character.  Against these persons, the famous Bickerstaff rose up; and with a becoming zeal, defended the chaplains of noblemen, attacked in this tender point; and asserted their ancient and undoubted right to Christmas pye.  After having exposed the injustice of such an encroachment, he rallies those who had been guilty of it, very agreeably.  The Christmas Pye, says he, is, in its own nature, a kind of consecrated cake, and a badge of distinction; and yet ‘tis often forbidden to the druid of a family.  Strange! that a sirloin of beef, whether boiled or roasted, when entire, is exposed to his utmost depredations and incisions; but if minced into small pieces, and tossed up with plumbs and sugar, changes its property, and forsooth is meat for his master.

I must beg leave of the ladies, for presuming to offer them my thoughts upon a subject which they must needs understand better than myself; But if they think I have been impertinent, they may at the same time take their revenge upon me, and bring my dissertation nearer to its subject, by putting it under the next pie they raise.

Xmas day 1800
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Morning Post, 26th December 1805

It is estimated that the quantity of plum pudding devoured yesterday, in the United Kingdom, if collected in a heap would in size be about equal to Primrose-hill.

Stamford Mercury, 15th January 1808

At Earl Grosvenor’s second dinner at Chester, as Mayor of that city, on Friday the 1st instant, there was a large Christmas pie, which contained three geese, three turkies, seven hares, twelve partridges, a ham, and a leg of veal: the whole, when baked, weighed 154 lbs.!

Once again we turn to Hannah Glasse, and her receipt for a Yorkshire Christmas-pie, which bears a resemblance to that served by Earl Grosvenor.

To make a Yorkshire Christmas-Pie

FIRST make a good standing crust, let the wall and bottom be very thick; bone a turkey, a goose, a fowl, a partridge, and a pigeon.

Season them all very well, take half an ounce of mace, half an ounce of nutmegs, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, and half an ounce of black pepper, all beat fine together, two large spoonfuls of salt, and then mix them together.

Open the fowls all down the back, and bone them; first the pigeon, then the partridge, cover them; then the fowl, then the goose, and then the turkey, which must be large; season them all well first, and lay them in the crust, so as it will look only like a whole turkey; then have a hare ready cased, and wiped with a clean cloth.

Cut it to pieces; that is, joint it; season it, and lay it as close as you can on one side; on the other side woodcocks, moor game, and what sort of wildfowl you can get.  Season them well, and lay them close; put at least four pounds of butter into the pie, then lay on your lid, which must be a very thick one, and let it be well baked.  It must have a very hot oven and will take at least four hours.

The crust will take a bushel of flour.  These pies are often sent to London in a box as presents; therefore the walls must be well built.

(c) Chester Town Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Earl Grosvenor (c) Chester Town Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Now, a cautionary tale of a Christmas cake with an added deadly ingredient!

Bury and Norwich Post, 9th January 1811

Another instance of the melancholy effect of want of caution in the disposition of poison, for the purpose of destroying vermin. – John Vellum, shepherd to Mr. Calthorpe, of Gosberton, in Lincolnshire, having invited a party of friends to keep a Christmas feast with him, on Thursday se’nnight, his wife prepared a cake for their entertainment, but the flour running short in the composition of the cake, she unadvisedly added to it a quantity of flour which stood in a jar, already mingled with mercury for the destruction of rats.

A deadly sickness soon pervaded the frames of 13 persons, the unfortunate partakers of this unfriendly benevolence.  It was not long however before the cause was discovered, and the skill and activity of Mr. Brocklesby and Mr. Pickworth were exerted in sufficient time to save the lives of 12 out of the 13 persons.  It is hoped by this timely interposition the 12 may recover, but before the surgeons arrived, Matthew Slater was dead, having left a wife and daughter to mourn his fate.

matthew slater 1810
Matthew Slater, burial register (Click on image to enlarge)

Matthew Slater, of Quadring, was buried at Billingborough in Lincolnshire on the 29th December 1810, two days after the fatal Christmas feast.

We move on to a couple of early 19th century recipes for mince pies and offer one traditional meat-based mince pie and one without meat, both taken from A New System of Domestic Cookery, formed upon Principles of Economy, and adapted to the use of Private Families, by ‘A Lady’ (Maria Eliza Rundell), 1808.

Mince Pie

Of scraped beef free from skin and strings, weigh 2lb., 4lb. of suet picked and chopped, then add 6lb. of currants nicely cleaned and perfectly dry, 3lb. of chopped apples, the peel and juice of two lemons, a pint of sweet wine, a nutmeg, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, ditto mace, ditto pimento, in finest powder; press the whole into a deep pan when well mixed, and keep it covered in a dry place.

Half the quantity is enough, unless for a very large family.

Have citron, orange, and lemon-peel ready, and put some of each in the pies when made.

Mince Pie without Meat

Of the best apples six pounds, pared, cored, and minced; of fresh suet, and raisins stoned, each three pounds, likewise minced: to these add of mace and cinnamon a quarter of an ounce each, and eight cloves, in finest powder, three pounds of the finest powder sugar, three quarters of an ounce of salt, the rinds of four and juice of two lemons, half a pint of port, the same of brandy.  Mix well and put into a deep pan.

Have ready washed and dried four pounds of currants, and add as you make the pies, with candied fruit.

And finally, a couple of references to that age-old gastronomical battle between the French and the English.

Hampshire Telegraph, 20th January 1823

Dr. Schomberg of Reading, in the early part of his life, spent a Christmas at Paris with some English friends.  They were desirous to celebrate the season, in the manner of their own country, by having as one dish at their table, an English plum-pudding, but no cook was found equal to the task of compounding it.  A clergyman of the party had, indeed, an old receipt-book; but this did not sufficiently explain the process.  Dr. Schomberg, however, supplied all that was wanting, by throwing the recipe into the form of a prescription, and sending it to the apothecary to be made up.  To prevent all possibility of error, he directed that it should be boiled in a cloth, and sent in the same cloth, to be applied at an hour specified.

At this hour it arrived, borne by the apothecary’s assistant, and preceded by the apothecary himself, drest, according to the professional formality of the time, with a sword.  Seeing when he entered the apartment, instead of signs of sickness, a table well-filled and surrounded by very merry faces, he perceived that he was made a party in a joke that turned on himself, and indignantly laid his hand on his sword; but an invitation to taste his own cookery appeased him, and all was well.  – Hawkin’s Anecdotes, just published. 

Hampshire Chronicle, 27th June 1825

A French author, who has recently published a “Tour through England,” calls plum pudding poudin de plomb (lead pudding).

Plumb pudding in danger
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Portable Soup, as supplied by Mrs Dubois to the Royal Navy in 1756

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Mrs DUBOIS’s Portable Soup, or Solid Broth, useful on Journies or at Sea, and not disagreeable to chew when Hunting, and a Chace proves long; or for the ready making Gravy Sauce; made in Cakes of a proper Size to make one Mess each, in Quantity three or four Gills.  This Soup is made after the receipt of her late Uncle, Paul Monlong, Cook to the late Duke of Argyll, and with his Grace in Flanders during Queen Anne’s Wars.  The Conveniency of which is late well known to several Gentlemen of the Navy, from whom she has Letter with great Commendations.  This useful Commodity will never spoil, if kept dry, and is dissolv’d in a few minutes in boiling Water.  She has also succeeded (a Thing never attempted by any) in making some of Veal and Fowls, some of Fowls only, and some of Mutton entirely, in which the Herbs are as fresh as when first made.  All the above Soups or Broths are 6d each, or 5s. a Dozen, in a Tin Box, for Conveniency of Carriage, and to keep them dry at Sea, are sold at the Golden Head in Prujean-Court, in the Great Old Baily.

General Advertiser, 2nd January, 1748

Mrs Elizabeth Dubois had been advertising the sale of her portable soup in the British newspapers since at least November 1746 when they appear to have first been available in this country.  Previously she had sold them in the Netherlands through Mr Arnoldus Brunel Toyman in the Spuy Straat at The Hague (Den Haag).  When they first appeared for sale her plan, as stated in the newspaper, was to sell them under the following names: Gravy Soup, Mutton Broth, Chicken Broth, Veal and Fowls.  In later years, for Lent, she produced a soup using fish and shellfish, which was also suitable to be stored for many months.  To prevent mistakes her cakes of Portable Soups were stamped with her name, Dubois.  Whilst she didn’t invent Portable Soup, she is the first person to market it with any degree of success and seems to have been something of an 18th century entrepreneur.

Tablet of portable soup dating from around 1765-1779. © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Tablet of portable soup dating from around 1765-1779.
© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

The idea had been about for half a century or so already; something similar was known in France as bouillons en tablettes from at least 1690 and obviously Mrs Dubois’ uncle Paul Monlong (actually her uncle by marriage) had been producing portable soup whilst on campaign with John Campbell, British Army Officer and the 2nd Duke of Argyll and 1st Duke of Greenwich (1680-1743), in the early 1700’s during the War of the Spanish Succession.  It is mentioned in a play of 1738 by Robert Dodsley, Sir John Cockle at Court: Being the Sequel of the King and the miller of Mansfield when Sir John Cockle’s French Cook offers to make him ‘portable soup to put in your Pocket’, described as a dish ‘de Englis know not[h]ing of.’

We give a recipe for Portable Soup at the end but, in brief, to make it ‘portable,’ soup was made as normal but then reduced until it was gelatinous and dried.  It could then be reconstituted with boiling water and used as soup or gravy and alternatively could be treated more as a biscuit and eaten as it was.  Most commonly it was made from the ‘offal’ of a cow; in the 18th century this referred to legs and shins of beef, not what we would term offal today and this misconception has given rise to the notion it was used to prevent scurvy.  However it was of particular interest to naval officers as an easily transported and stored provision on board ship and for a nourishing food for the sick and wounded.

I beg leave to remind my former Customers, as well as such Gentlemen as at this Season are setting out on their Travels, but particularly those who are going long Voyages by Sea, of that useful Commodity, viz. Portable Soup, or Solid Broth, sold at the Golden Head, a Print-Shop, the Corner of Burleigh-street, near Exeter Exchange in the strand, by their very humble Servant, Elizabeth Dubois.

General Advertiser, 24th April, 1750

View of the South Seas by John Martyn after John Cleveley the Younger (via Wikimedia)
View of the South Seas by John Martyn after John Cleveley the Younger (via Wikimedia)

Although some naval men were using it from as early as 1743 it was not until 1756 that Mrs Dubois obtained a contract to supply the navy together with the aptly named William Cookworthy, a Plymouth apothecary.  She was certainly advertising herself as Portable Soup Maker to His Majesty’s Navy from October, 1757.  Captain Cook extolled its virtues and used it on his South Sea journeys, and it was still in use in the early 1800’s when Lewis and Clarke took Portable Soup as one of the provisions on their expedition.

We hear that Orders are issued by the Commissioners of the Victualling Office, to appropriate for the future all the useful Offal of Oxen, &c. to be prepared into portable Broth or Soup, for the better Accommodation of the Seamen employed on board his Majesty’s Fleet, which it is expected at this dear Time will prove of great Service to the Navy.

Oxford Journal, 6th May, 1758

A couple of adverts in 1750, giving Mrs Dubois’ address as a print shop at the Golden Head on the corner of Burleigh Street, near Exeter Exchange in the Strand, reveal the identity of her husband, Isaac Du Bois, who carried on the trade of a chaser (engraver) and printseller at this address.  Isaac had been born in 1704, the eldest child of Isaac and Jane Elizabeth Dubois, née Monlong.  He traded under the sign of the Golden Head at various addresses and is probably the same Isaac Du Bois who was declared bankrupt in 1748 (giving his wife a reason to market her Portable Soups to provide for herself) but he seems to have picked up his trade again afterwards.

On the 2nd May, 1750, he placed an advert in the Daily Advertiser informing his customers he was leaving town on account of his health and selling his stock.  Later in the year Elizabeth was living at East Ham in Essex although she was still selling her Portable Soup through her shop on the corner of Burleigh Street and by 1752 was at the Golden Head in Brownlow Street near Long Acre.

Fleet Street and Water Lane from John Rocque's map of London, 1746

 

By November 1756 he had died and the widowed Elizabeth Dubois had married again and was running the business with her new husband, Edward Bennet, a Sheffield man.  The couple were living at her former marital home, the Golden Head in Brownlow Street before moving to Fleet Street.  The cakes of Portable Soup were henceforth marked with the Elizabeth’s new surname, BENNET.

Edward Bennet and spouse, (late Du Bois) the original portable soup-maker to his Majesty’s Royal Navy, at the Golden-Head, in Fleet-Street, opposite Water-Lane, London, makes and sells portable soups, or solid broths, in cakes of a proper size to make one mess each. (1760)

Bennet’s parents had been amongst the first people in Sheffield to welcome the Reverend John Wesley into their house.  Edward moved to London, married Elizabeth Dubois, and made a success of running their joint business from Fleet Street.  Edward died in December 1788 and a lengthy obituary of him appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine shortly after, including the following information:

His father was a grinder at Sheffield, and he was brought up to the same employment; but he was endowed with too large a share of abilities and emulation to walk long in so narrow a sphere.  He came up to London, in quest of a better occupation; and was for some time engaged at the Tower, in repairing and polishing the armour.  Here he became acquainted with Mrs. Dubois, a person of good character and circumstances, whom he married, and with whom he lived in Fleet-Street, and entered into a profitable branch of business, that of making portable soup for exportation.  This he followed with great diligence and success, till, by repeated experiments of his own, he had so far made himself master of sugar-refining as to enable him to set up a small house in his native town, which he enlarged as his capital increased and his business extended, till it came to be one of the most considerable in the country.

Edward Bennet’s sugar house was at the bottom of Coalpit Lane in Sheffield and the Methodist minister George Whitefield sometimes preached from its doors.  Around 1780 Bennet built an independent chapel near his refinery and officiated there himself as a pastor until his death.

Still Life of a Bowl of Strawberries, Standing Cup, a Bottle of Rose Water, a Sugar Loaf and a Box of Sugar; The Merchant's House
Still Life of a Bowl of Strawberries, Standing Cup, a Bottle of Rose Water, a Sugar Loaf and a Box of Sugar; The Merchant’s House

Whilst Edward Bennet concentrated on his sugar refinery in Sheffield, he sold on the portable soup enterprise in London (his wife seems to have ceased advertising in 1771 and it is possible that this marks her death) and by 1780 Benjamin Piper had taken over Mrs Dubois’ business and premises, for the following adverts appeared.

Benjamin Piper, successor to Messieurs Bennet and Dubois, the original portable soup-makers to His Majesty’s Royal Navy, at the Golden Head in Three-King-Court, adjoining to No. 149, in Fleet-Street, opposite Water-Lane, London, makes and sells portable soups, or solid broths. (1780)

RICH FOREIGN CORDIALS, PERFUMERY, &c. AT the PERFUMERY WAREHOUSE, No. 14, Conduit-street, Hanover-square (removed from No. 3 Mill-street) all sorts of rich Foreign Cordials, (liqueurs) warranted genuine and neat as imported, sold wholesale and retail.  Where also may be had every article of Perfumery, both English and Foreign, of the best quality: Great choice of Pocket Books, Silk Purses, and all the most approved Family Medicines.  Piper’s (late Dubois’) Portable Soup, wholesale and retail, very serviceable at sea and in private families, as an expeditious method of making gravy.

The upper part of a large House to lett, ready furnished.  Enquire as above.

Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 9th February, 1780.

Benjamin Piper lasted a mere six years at the most, for Thomas Vigor was at the helm by 1786, still supplying the navy and listed in the Sun Fire Insurance registers at Three King Court, Fleet Street as a Portable Soup Maker.

Maid serving soup.
Maid serving soup.

Whilst we can’t be sure that the following recipe matches that of Elizabeth Dubois, passed down to her by her uncle, it is a contemporary one.

Recipe for Portable Soup from The Complete Housewife; Or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, E. Smith, 1773

Take two legs of beef, about fifty pounds weight, take off all the skin and fat as well as you can, then take all the meat and sinews clean from the bones, which meat put into a large pot, and put to it eight or nine gallons of soft water; first make it boil, then put in twelve anchovies, an ounce of mace, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of whole pepper black and white together, six large onions peeled and cut in two, a little bundle of thyme, sweet-marjoram, and winter-savoury, the dry hard crust of a two-penny loaf, stir it all together and cover it close, lay a weight on the cover to keep it close down, and let it boil softly for eight or nine hours, then uncover it, and stir it together; cover it close again, and let it boil till it is a very rich good jelly, which you will know by taking a little out now and then, and letting it cool.  When you think it is a thick jelly, take it off, strain it through a coarse hair bag, and press it hard; then strain it through a hair sieve into a large earthen pan; when it is quite cold, take off the skum and fat, and take the fine jelly clear from the settlings at bottom, and then put the jelly into a large deep well tinned stew-pan.  Set it over a stove with a slow fire, keep stirring it often, and take great care it neither sticks to the pan or burns.  When you find the jelly very stiff and thick, as it will be in lumps about the pan, take it out, and put it into large deep china-cups, or well-glazed earthen-ware.  Fill the pan two-thirds full of water, and when the water boils, set in your cups.  Be sure no water gets into the cups, and keep the water boiling softly all the time till you find the jelly is like a stiff glue; take out the cups, and when they are cool, turn out the glue into a coarse new flannel.  Let it lie eight or nine hours, keeping it in a dry warm place, and turn it on fresh flannel till it is quite dry, and the glue will be quite hard; put it into clean new stone pots, keep it close covered from dust and dirt, in a dry place, and where no damp can come to it.

When you use it, pour boiling water on it, and stir it all the time till it is melted.  Season it with salt to your palate.  A piece as big as a large walnut will make a pint of water very rich; but as to that you are to make it as good as you please; if for soup, fry a French roll and lay it in the middle of the dish, and when the glue is dissolved in the water, given it a boil and pour it into the dish.  If you chuse it for a change, you may boil either rice or barley, vermicelli, celery cut small, or truffles or morels; but let them be very tenderly boiled in the water before you stir in the glue, and then give it a boil altogether.  You may, when you would have it very fine, add forcemeat balls, cocks-combs, or a palate boiled very tender, and cut into little bits; but it will be very rich and good without any of these ingredients.

If for gravy, pour the boiling water on to what quantity you think proper; and when it is dissolved, add what ingredients you please, as in other sauces.  This is only in the room of a rich, good gravy.  You may make your sauce either weak or strong, by adding more or less.

If you would like to see how to make portable soup today, this video has been recommended by one of our readers.

 

Sources used not already mentioned: General Advertiser, 10th November, 1746, 23rd April, 1747 and 30th June, 1752; Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 17th November, 1756 and 15th September, 1764; Read’s Weekly Journal, 8th October, 1757; London Evening Post, 8th December, 1750; The Country Journal, Or, the Craftsman, 1750; Feeding Nelson’s Navy: The True Story of Food at Sea in the Georgian Era, Jane Macdonald, 2004; Reminiscences of Sheffield, R.E. Leader

 

The 1791 Great Mail Robberies

On the 4th April 1792 Spence Broughton, formerly a Lincolnshire farmer, swung at York Tyburn for committing highway robbery.

On the 29th January 1791, together with a man named John Oxley or Oxen and with financial backing from a Thomas Shaw of Prospect Row, St. George’s Fields, Spence Broughton robbed the Rotherham to Sheffield mail coach.  Five or six days before the robbery, Shaw had turned up at Oxley’s house in London, No. 1 Francis Street, Tottenham Court Road, and suggested that Oxley, together with Broughton, should hold up the Rotherham Mail.  This being agreed to, Shaw lent the two men ten guineas and they travelled to Nottingham, catching the coach there from the Swan and Two Necks Inn in Lad Lane.  They slept the night at Nottingham and, the next day, set off on foot towards Chesterfield, stopping the second night at Sheffield.

On the day of the robbery they set out on the Rotherham Road, and were passed by the Mail heading towards Sheffield.  They intended to rob it on the return journey and so lay in wait for it on Attercliffe Common.  Spence Broughton had brought a smock frock as a disguise and he took off his coat, threw on the smock frock and an old little hat.  He then took a gate off an adjacent field and told Oxley he would lead the Mail cart and the Post Boy in charge of it into that field.   Oxley was directed to take Broughton’s coat and wait in another field.

Broughton, dressed as a labouring rustic, flagged down the Mail and then put his plan into action.  The Post Boy was not physically hurt, just frightened, and after he had bound him securely Broughton took the post and went to find Oxley.  The two men set off, on foot, for Mansfield, just over the Yorkshire border into Nottinghamshire.  Disappointingly for the two men, the only thing of value in the Mail was a bill for £123 drawn from Paris on the banking house of Minet and Fector and the rest of the mail was thrown into a brook.  At Mansfield they parted company and Oxley took the bill to London and cashed it.

post boy
St. James’s Chronicle, 1st February 1791.
(Proving the date of the robbery as 29th January 1791 and not the 9th February as it is sometimes given.)

 Shaw then suggested another robbery, to again be carried out by Broughton and Oxley, this time on the Aylesbury Mail.  On the 28th May 1791, this robbery was executed but nothing of value was taken and Shaw was left complaining that, as he had funded the venture, he was £14 out of pocket.

To repay Shaw, it was now proposed to rob the Cambridge Mail at Bourne Bridge.  Again, Shaw backed the enterprise financially.  Oxley recounted that they used the same ruse as with the Rotherham Mail, Broughton donning his smock frock and Oxley hiding a little way distant, but Shaw, who had some female connections with Broughton, deposed that it was actually Oxley who had carried out the heist on this occasion, the smock frock Broughton had brought as a disguise being too small for him, necessitating Oxley to wear it.

The Cambridge Post Boy could not see his attackers, it was too dark for that, but he remembered that the man who had bound him had been tall and well built.  Broughton stood 6 feet and one inch in height; although he was not related to the well-known boxer of the time, Jack Broughton, who had died a couple of years earlier, he was mentioned to be of a similar build.  The boy therefore identified Broughton as his attacker rather than the smaller Oxley.

The Cambridge Mail yielded bank notes, it was later estimated that perhaps even to the value of five or ten thousand pounds, but not all could be passed.  Some were burnt and some needed identifying marks to be erased from them before they could be used.

Within months all three men had been arrested.  They were captured when John Oxley and a woman handed over £10 notes from the Cambridge robbery at a silversmiths in Cheapside.  The note proving to be from the robbery, the silversmiths shop boy saw Oxley a day or two later and tracked him to a public house where he alerted a constable.  Oxley claimed he had been given the notes by Thomas Shaw and, while he was being questioned, the officers duly made their way to Shaw’s house.  There they waited for Shaw to come home but the first man to appear at the door was Spence Broughton himself who made a run for it when he saw that the game was up.  When he was caught his pockets were found to be stuffed with bank notes.

Thomas Shaw turned King’s Evidence and evaded trial (although the Morning Post newspaper thought him the most culpable of the three) and put all the guilt onto Oxley, trying to exonerate Broughton and himself; Oxley pointed the finger squarely at the other two before escaping the gaol he was being held in (Clerkenwell Bridewell) and the subsequent trial.

John Oxley
Newcastle Courant, 17th December 1791.

With the help of some smugglers at Folkestone in Kent he was soon reported to be on his way to America, escaping justice.  Spence Broughton alone then was left to face the music and he was moved from the Cambridgeshire gaol he had been held in to Newgate before being taken to York for trial.  It was reported that on his arrival at the York Castle gaol he gave £50 to the gaoler for liberty to walk with the debtors.  On the 24th March, 1792, he was found guilty and sentenced to hang, and was told his body would be gibbeted afterwards.

On the scaffold Spence Broughton proclaimed his innocence and said that although he had intended to rob the Rotherham mail he was in fact six miles distant when the robbery took place, and that he was only guilty of receiving his share of the booty.  It made not a jot of difference though, he was duly hung on the York Tyburn gallows (the same on which Dick Turpin swung many decades earlier) and then his body carted back up to Attercliffe Common on the outskirts of Sheffield, the site of the robbery, where his decomposing remains hung in the gibbet for many years.

Attercliffe_Common_1792
Attercliffe Common, showing the gibbet on the right.

Spence Broughton was 45 years of age when he robbed the mail coach, but his earlier life had been one of respectability and good bearing.  He had been born in 1744 in the Lincolnshire village of Horbling, a few miles from Sleaford to a farmer named John Broughton and his wife Anne.  John Broughton had been married before but his first wife and daughter, both named Mary, had died. It is known that Spence had one sister, who was living at the time of his arrest and running an inn on the South road, and this is probably Frances, daughter of John Broughton, who was baptised at Sleaford on the 16th October 1741.

Three years later, on the 19th December 1744, Spence was baptised at Horbling.

GBPRS-LINCS-HORBLING_PAR_1_1-0044

On the 9th October 1770, at Folkingham in Lincolnshire, he had married Frances Graves or Greaves, by licence.

GBPRS-LINCS-FOLKINGHAM_PAR_1_4-0645

 She is sometimes mentioned as bringing a fortune to the marriage and was quite possibly the daughter of a prosperous local farmer.  Three children were born to the couple, a son named Spence for his father in 1771, another son, Greaves, in 1773, both baptised in Horbling, and a daughter, named Frances for her mother and Spence’s sister, in 1777.   By the time little Frances was born Spence Broughton was tenant of a farm in Martin, Lincolnshire, leased from Mr. King, Esquire, and Frances was baptised at the nearby church of Timberland.

It was after this that Broughton started to keep bad company, gambling and attending the races and cockings.  He was asked by his long-suffering wife to leave their home as he had run up debts she was struggling to pay, and he accordingly did.  He made his way to Lambeth where he took some lodgings and lived with a woman named Eliza as his wife.  He penned a letter to Eliza just before his death, reconciled to his fate but hating the thought of his body being gibbeted rather than decently buried, and in this letter he refers to his children and asks Eliza to see to their education.  He can’t be referring to his children by Frances as they were no longer young, and it appears that he had a second family by Eliza.

After his execution, Spence Broughton’s widow possibly married again, to a James Carter.  Her eldest son, Spence Broughton junior, became a successful surgeon in Leicester.

A postscript to this article belongs to John Oxley, reputed to have made his way to America. Reports surfaced that he finally met his end in the January of 1793, found frozen to death in a barn on Loxley Moor near Sheffield, although the body was never properly identified.  The clothes the man was found dressed in matched those Oxley had last been seen in though and he had marks around his ankles as though he had been manacled; he had been wandering in the area for some weeks and, it was said, had made the journey across the moor to visit the mouldering bones of his old friend, suspended in the gibbet. But then, in May, 1798, reports surfaced in the newspapers naming, ‘Oxley, the supposed accomplice of Spence Broughton, who was executed at York some time back for robbing the mail passed through Stamford, as a deserter from the 34th regiment.’  This was then countered a few days later with the following information.

A man, calling himself John Oxley, now in the Savoy, as a deserter from one of His Majesty’s regiments, and who asserted himself to be the famous mail robber of that name, turns out to be the same man who imposed the like story on the Magistrates at Northton, about a year and an half since.

So, was it John Oxley, hiding in full view of the authorities, or an imposter with the same name?  This man had in fact been questioned by Richard Ford, Esquire, at Bow Street in December 1796 after being taken into custody in Northamptonshire, but had obviously not been believed and released if he was at large in the May of 1798, even though on that occasion it was reported that he had confessed to being the same man who had been concerned in robbing the Rotherham Mail and who had broken out of Clerkenwell Bridewell.  Not for want of trying, it appears that if this was the same John Oxley, then he couldn’t talk himself into standing trial.

 

Sources used not already referenced:

St. James’s Chronicle, 1st February 1791, London Chronicle, 13th October 1791, Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 18th October 1791, Derby Mercury, 27th October 1791, Stamford Mercury, 4th November 1791, Norfolk Chronicle, 11th February 1792, Caledonian Mercury, 31st March 1792, Stamford Mercury, 13th April 1792, Derby Mercury, 26th April 1792, Oracle and Public Advertiser, 16th December 1796, London Packet, 11th May 1798 and Criminal Chronlogy of York Castle by William Knipe, 1867.

Dando: the celebrated gormandizing oyster eater

Dando - gormandizer
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

To Gormandize – to eat (food) voraciously and greedily.

Edward Dando (not John Dando as he seems to be everywhere else recorded), born in Southwark on the 11th February 1803 to John and Frances Dando, grew up to be a ‘celebrated gormandizer.’

Edward Dando

Click to enlarge

He was also known by the appellation of the ‘celebrated oyster eater.’  For Dando, although not a thief (by his own reckoning) did not see why he should not have plenty of everything, even though he had no money to pay for it, when his betters relied constantly on credit to fund their lifestyles.  He was determined to live as they did.

Trained as a hatter, Edward Dando, when in his early twenties, embarked on his career as an oyster eater, devouring up to thirty dozen large oysters in a sitting, with bread and butter, washed down with quantities of porter or brandy and water, before informing the keeper of the oyster house that he could not pay for his fare, with the usual results of a beating or a spell in gaol, or sometimes both.  Although his dish of choice seems to have been oysters, he was not above devouring other fare too.

HATTON-GARDEN. – Last night the celebrated gormandiser at other people’s expense, Edward Dando, was brought before Mr. LAING, and in default of bail was committed to prison, charged with having, last evening about seven o’clock, devoured divers rounds of toast, and sundry basins of soup and coffee, at the Sun Coffee-house, Charles-street, Hatton-garden, without paying for the same.

(The Morning Post, Police Intelligence, 4th January, 1831).

Often notices were put in the papers, warning of his presence, ‘CAUTION TO SHELL FISH DEALERS, PUBLICANS, &c. – DANDO THE OYSTER-EATER, ABROAD’ (The Morning Chronicle 2nd April 1832).

© Yale University Library
© Yale University Library

A few months later the Morning Chronicle repeated a paragraph on Dando from the Kentish Gazette; Dando had travelled into Kent to continue his gormandizing there, possibly having become too well known in his usual London haunts to carry on his trade.  The Kentish Gazette had issued a description of Dando.

DANDO ON HIS TRAVELS!  Dando, the celebrated oyster eater . . . committed for vagrancy . . . 29 years of age, lame in the right foot, stands five feet seven inches in height, his hair is brown, complexion fair, and he generally wears a gaol dress. (Kentish Gazette)

(The Morning Chronicle, 25th June 1832)

Edward Dando, now twenty-nine years of age, returned to London, having been imprisoned in Kent several times during his tour, and it was only a matter of days before he found himself in Coldbath Fields prison, otherwise known as the Middlesex House of Correction, located in Clerkenwell.  There he was taken ill with cholera, and a beggar named James Martin who was likewise a prisoner went to his assistance.  Both men were removed to the infirmary where they both died within a few hours of each other.  The two men were buried alongside each other on Wednesday 29th August 1832 at St. James in Clerkenwell.

Burial 1832

DEATH OF DANDO, THE OYSTER EATER – We have this day to record the death of the well-known Dando, the terror of shell-fish dealers, and all other purveyors of the necessaries of life.

(Morning Post, 1st September 1832)

 Years after Dando died his exploits were still remembered.  In 1838 Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, presumably unaware of his death, joked that ‘the celebrated Mr Dando, the oyster-eater’ was intended to be resident stipendiary commissioner of a “Central Metropolitan Oyster Emporium” in Dublin and Charles Dickens recalled Dando when he wrote to Professor Felton in 1842:
. . . but perhaps you don’t know who Dando was.  He was an oyster-eater, my dear Felton.  He used to go into oyster-shops, without a farthing of money, and stand at the counter eating natives, until the man who opened them grew pale, cast down his knife, staggered backward, struck his white forehead with his open hand, and cried, “You are Dando!!!” He has been known to eat twenty dozen at one sitting, and would have eaten forty, if the truth had not flashed upon the shopkeeper. For these offences he was constantly committed to the House of Correction. During his last imprisonment he was taken ill, got worse and worse, and at last began knocking violent double knocks at Death’s door. The doctor stood beside his bed, with his fingers on his pulse.

“He is going,” says the doctor. “I see it in his eye. There is only one thing that would keep life in him for another hour, and that is–oysters.” They were immediately brought. Dando swallowed eight, and feebly took a ninth. He held it in his mouth and looked round the bed strangely. “Not a bad one, is it?” says the doctor. The patient shook his head, rubbed his trembling hand upon his stomach, bolted the oyster, and fell back–dead. They buried him in the prison-yard, and paved his grave with oyster-shells.

Oyster Seller by O. J. Mason (c) City of London Corporation; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Oyster Seller by O. J. Mason
(c) City of London Corporation; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A farce by Edward Stirling, ‘Dandolo; or, the last of the Doges,’ produced in 1838 was based on Dando’s gormandizing career, Dandolo being played by Sam Vale.

 There was also a ballad produced about Edward Dando:
lifetimesofjames00hindrich_0360
lifetimesofjames00hindrich_0361
  IMPORTANT UPDATE
The brilliantly talented poet Luke Wright has written an amazing poem about Edward Dando that we would like to share with you . . . we’re sure you will enjoy it.
 Featured Image
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Sources not otherwise noted above:
The Life and Times of James Catnach of Seven Dials, ballad monger by Charles Hindley, 1878

A Well-Authenticated Ghost Story from 1822

The following ghost story, in time for Halloween, is taken from The Morning Post, 16th October, 1822.

A WELL-AUTHENTICATED GHOST STORY

(FROM THE EDINBURGH OBSERVER.)

An old woman had for many of the latter years of her life indulged herself in sitting up in bed in such a position that her knees and her chin were constantly next door neighbours.  From this attitude she never departed; so that, for a long time previous to her decease, the tendons and muscles which are used in extending the lower limbs of the body were contracted, and refused their offices.

In this situation she was in the habit of taking exercises by gently see-sawing, or rocking herself backwards and forwards.  She died at last, a fate which all persons, eminent or not, must submit.

Her corpse was watched by some of her female acquaintances and relations, “who, towards the witching time of night,” had their meditations or speculations interrupted by a noise which they fancied was a dreadful peal of thunder.

The first impulse was to cast their widely opened eyes towards the body of the old dame, when, to their utter horror, they beheld her started from the recumbent posture of death, into her usual position, and exercising herself in rocking or see-sawing, as if nothing extraordinary had happened.

This sight was beyond the endurance of any female fortitude, and the whole party rushed out of the room without politeness enough to wish the old body joy on returning to its customary occupation.  On the circumstance being bruited abroad, the undertaker, a man of considerable resolution, ventured into the haunted apartment, and there found the fact as stated by the terrific feminines.

But he presently solved the mystery, by observing that the large weights which he had placed on the corpse to straiten it for burial, had rolled off and fallen on the floor, which was the cause of the noise, and the body being released from its unwonted confinement, had relapsed into the contracted state to which it had so long been habituated.  Some oscillations naturally followed the unexpected recovery of liberty, which made the attendants imagine that they beheld the workings of supernatural powers.

giving up the ghost

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Collection

The Dunston Pillar: celebrating the 50 year reign of King George III

George Jubilee 1st Edition

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.

4thEarlOfBuckinghamshire
Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire

In honour of the completion of the fiftieth year of his reign Robert Hobart, the 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire decided to place a statue of the King, made out of Coade Stone (artificial stone manufactured by Eleanor Coade in Lambeth) on the top of Dunston Pillar in Lincolnshire, an old ‘land lighthouse.’

Land Lighthouse on Lincoln Heath from The Life of Thomas Telford by Samuel Smiles
Land Lighthouse on Lincoln Heath from The Life of Thomas Telford by Samuel Smiles

The Dunston Pillar, originally known as Dashwood’s Lighthouse, stands six miles to the south of the City of Lincoln, actually much closer to the village of Harmston than to Dunstan itself, and the pillar, with a spiral staircase inside and originally with a lantern on top reached by a surrounding balustraded gallery, was erected in 1751 by Sir Francis Dashwood (of Hellfire Club fame) to guide travellers across the dark and desolate heathland and to attempt to deter highwaymen and, so it is said, to please his wife.

It is reputed that Sir Francis, 15th Baron le Despencer, later landscaped the area around the pillar, even adding a two story dining hall and it became a popular place for picnics, known as the ‘Vauxhall’ of Lincolnshire. Around the pillar Dashwood built ‘a square walled garden, less than an acre in extent, within a larger enclosure of heathland. There was an opening or gateway in each side of the wall, and a little stone pavilion at each corner. There were plantations outside the walls, and a bowling green just beyond the opening on the north side’. It was recorded in 1836 that an inhabitant of Lincoln remembered seeing as many as sixteen or eighteen carriages there at one time about fifty years previously.

Sir Francis Dashwood by William Hogarth (via Wikimedia)
Sir Francis Dashwood by William Hogarth (via Wikimedia)

William Wroughton, the Vicar of nearby Welbourn, described the pillar in a letter to Lord le Despencer in 1776 thus:

 . . . the Vauxhall of this part of the world. The Bowling Green is the best and kept in the best order I have ever seen and the plantations are all in a very thriving state and will in a few years be the Paradise of Lincolnshire. It was used for the accommodation of parties resorting thither.

From the gallery at the top of the Pillar the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral could be seen to the north and, weather permitting, the Boston Stump to the south.

Dunston Pillar, unknown artist (c) Museum of Lincolnshire Life; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Dunston Pillar, unknown artist
(c) Museum of Lincolnshire Life; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A decade earlier than the construction of the pillar a local landowner named Charles Chaplin had remodelled the Green Man Inn, part of the Blankney estate and situated very close to the Pillar, where the ‘Lincoln Club’ which included Dashwood and Chaplin, met in the 1740s, although the purpose or aims of the Club have been lost to time. Indeed, as it is not even known how long the Lincoln Club continued to meet then the story that Dashwood built the ‘land lighthouse’ to please his wife may perhaps more realistically be retold to say that he built it to light his and his friends journey to the ‘Lincoln Club’.

Standing over 90ft high the lantern was lighted every night until 1788 and it was last used in 1808. A year later a storm brought the lantern tumbling to the ground.

On the 9th September, 1810, a Lambeth stonemason named John Wilson, no doubt employed by the Coade works, whilst engaged in fixing the statue of George III to the Pillar fell from the top to his death. He was buried in the nearby Harmston churchyard, his epitaph reading:

He who erected the Noble King,
Is here now dead by deaths sharp sting.
To the memory of John Wilson who departed this life Sept. 9th 1810

The Stamford Mercury newspaper dated 9th November 1810 reported the following once the statue of the King had been firmly fixed atop the pillar:

Among the numerous testimonies of loyalty offered by a grateful people to their Sovereign, none perhaps has been more appropriate than what the Earl of Buckinghamshire has recently completed upon his estate at Dunston, in this county.  In the year 1751, Sir Francis Dashwood erected the Pillar on Dunston Heath, about five miles south of this city.  It was a plain quadrangular building, 92 feet in height, with an octagonal lantern on the top, 15½ feet high, surrounded at its base with a gallery. – It was then of considerable utility to the public, the heath at that time being an uncultivated and extensive waste; but since that period the lands have been inclosed, which has rendered it entirely useless. – Upon the west side of it is the following inscription:-

“Columnan hanc

utilitati publican

D.D.D.

F. DASHWOOD.

MDCCLI.”

The lantern and gallery having been removed, the Earl of Buckinghamshire has erected upon the Pillar a magnificent colossal Statue of our venerable Sovereign. It was executed by Code in artificial stone, and measures 14 feet in height, standing upon a pedestal 9 feet high. His Majesty is represented in his coronation robes, with a crown upon his head and a sceptre in his right hand. – Though its elevation from the ground is 115 feet, yet the features are perfectly distinct, and altogether it makes a grand and magnificent appearance. – Two feet above the old inscription is affixed a tablet, with the following record of his Lordship’s loyalty:-

“The Statue upon this Pillar

was erected A.D. 1810,

by Robert Earl of Buckinghamshire,

to commemorate the 50th anniversary

of the reign of his Majesty

King George the Third.”

During WWII the statue was taken down (and damaged in doing so) and the Pillar shortened to prevent any collision with low-flying aircraft as it was near to two airbases. The bust of King George III, all that remains of the statue, can still be seen in the grounds of Lincoln Castle.

All that remains of the statue of George III, now in the grounds of Lincoln Castle. © Joanne Major
All that remains of the statue of George III, now in the grounds of Lincoln Castle. © Joanne Major

Our forthcoming book, A Georgian Heroine: the intriguing life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, sheds more light on George III’s jubilee, as Mrs Biggs, amongst her many other achievements, single-handedly planned the event from her modest home near Chepstow in the Welsh Borders. Discover more here.

An Exquisite, alias Dandy in Distress!

We do so hope the following is true, as it’s a wonderful image, although an outdated gender stereotype.  Today the correspondent would no doubt have filmed the antics of the Exquisite and uploaded them to YouTube, or taken a photo to mock him on Facebook or Twitter.  But not so back in the days of the Regency.  Then, it was a letter to a paper (written in August 1818) and a satirical print (published in 1819) instead.

An exquisite, alias dandy in distress!
Lewis Walpole Library

A correspondent furnishes us with the following picture of an Exquisite alias a Dandy in distress.

AN EXQUISITE ALIAS DANDY IN DISTRESS!

“Walking in one of the squares last week it was my fate to follow an Exquisite, stock’d and stay’d laced and bound collar’d and pilloried in all the fashion, so slender so straight and so stiff that a man of ordinary strength might have used it as a walking stick.  This thing flourishing a very nice perfumed handkerchief happened to let it drop; the question then was how to get it up again; stoop it could not, and I confess I enjoyed its distress; for tho’ for any other female I would have raised the handkerchief with alacrity, I wish’d to see how this creature would help itself, then thus it was: having eyed the handkerchief askance, something like a magpie peeping into a marrow-bone, it gently straddled out its legs, and lowering the body between them it brought the right hand in contact with the object sought.  What shall we say to the association of ideas, when I assure you, that looking on this unmanly figure, brought into my mind the knights of old, who when once unhorsed, could never from the weight and stiffness of their armour hope to mount again.”  N.B. It is found remarkable convenient in such a case for the Exquisite to carry a cane or stick with a hook at the end, as he may fish up anything he unfortunately drops without breaking his back or exciting the pity or risibility of the spectators.

So our readers can appreciate the difficulties presented by the underpinnings worn by an Exquisite, this Robert Cruickshank print from 1818 shows him in his stays.

The Hen-pecked Dandy.
Lewis Walpole Library

The Demon of Fashion SIR FOPLING bewitches

The reason his Lady betrays

For as she is resolved upon wearing the Breeches

In revenge he has taken the Stays!

Dandies of other days.

The following definitions of Dandy and an Exquisite, which illustrate the (minor) differences between the two (mainly the use of stays!) are taken from Slang: a dictionary of the turf, the ring, the chase, the pit, of bon-ton, and the varieties of life, 1823.

DANDY – an invention of 1816, and applied to persons whose extravagant dress called forth the sneers of the vulgar; they were mostly young men who had this designation, and they were charged with wearing stays – a mistake easily fallen into, their wide web-belts having that appearance.  Men of fashion all became dandy soon after; having imported a good deal of French manner in their gait, lispings, wrinkled foreheads, killing king’s English, wearing immense plaited pantaloons, the coat cut away, small waistcoat, with cravat and chitterlings immense: Hat small; hair frizzled and protruding.  If one fell down, he could not rise again without assistance.  Yet they assumed to be a little au militaire,  and some wore mustachios.  Lord Petersham was at the head of this sect of mannerists.

Exquisite Dandies
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

EXQUISITE (an) – another name for Dandy, but of more refined or feminine manners.  The Chronicle says, “It is a fact that an Exquisite fainted away on Friday, Dec. 20th, in Bond-street, and was assisted into a shop, where he remained some time before he recovered.  Medical aid being sent for, it was ascertained that his valet had laced his stays too tight.”  Such were ‘Dandy-prats,’ circa 1750.

A Dandy fainting or... an exquisite in fits
Lewis Walpole Library

Sources used:

Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, 27th August, 1818

Liverpool Mercury, 28th August, 1818

Lewis Walpole Library

Slang: a dictionary of the turf, the ring, the chase, the pit, of bon-ton and the varieties of life by Jon Bee Esq, editor of the Fancy, Fancy Gazette, Living Picture of London, and the like of that, 1823

 

Westminster Hall and New Palace Yard by Thomas Sandby (attributed to) (c) Palace of Westminster;

The 18th Century mystery of Oliver Cromwell’s missing head

We know our blog is dedicated to the history of the Georgian era but, for this subject, we must first venture back into the previous century to set the scene.

Oliver Cromwell; Samuel Cooper; National Portrait Gallery, London
Oliver Cromwell; Samuel Cooper; National Portrait Gallery, London

Our subject today is Oliver Cromwell, or, more accurately, his head. Cromwell had died on the 3rd September 1658 and, after lying in state at Somerset House, his body was buried in Westminster Abbey (the actual burial taking place two weeks before his official funeral as his body was quickly decaying).  And there his body remained until King Charles II was restored to the throne.

In an act of vengeance against the regicides who had executed his father, the new King ordered that the surviving ones were to be hanged, drawn and quartered and three of those who had died, including Oliver Cromwell, were to be exhumed and posthumously executed at Tyburn. Their bodies were hung from the gallows on the 30th January 1661 (twelve years to the day after King Charles I had been beheaded) and, after being taken down, Cromwell’s head was cut from his body and placed on a spike above Westminster Hall.

Westminster Hall and New Palace Yard by Thomas Sandby (attributed to) (c) Palace of Westminster
Westminster Hall and New Palace Yard by Thomas Sandby (attributed to) (c) Palace of Westminster

The head was still there twenty-three years later but after that its whereabouts are disputed for almost a century. Most sources seem to believe it was blown from its spike in a violent gale towards the end of the 1680s and vanished from sight. A head claimed to be Cromwell’s was exhibited by Claudius Du Puy, a French-Swiss collector, in a private museum in London in 1710. According to repute, the head was found by a sentry on duty near Westminster Hall who took it home thinking he could make some money from it but hid it when he was afraid of getting into trouble for possessing such an object, the insinuation being that he subsequently sold it to Du Puy.

By 1775 it was certainly in the possession of one Samuel Russell, stated to be both an alcoholic and a failed comedic actor. Russell made an attempt that year to sell the head to Sidney Sussex, Cromwell’s old college, without success. He then approached James Cox (1723-1800), a wealthy goldsmith and toymaker who, like Du Puy before him, owned a private museum. Terms could not be agreed on the price to be paid but Cox eventually contrived to buy the head from Russell in 1787 for £118, significantly less than the £200 he originally wanted for it.

An 18th century image of  Oliver Cromwell’s Head
An 18th-century image of  Oliver Cromwell’s Head

However, we have discovered a newspaper report from 1782 which throws a different light on the head’s missing years. This report says that the head, when it blew from its spike in the gale in the late 1680s did not immediately fall to the ground but instead it lodged out of sight on the roof, only eventually tumbling to earth around the early 1760s. A sentry did indeed then find it and he, at his death, bequeathed it (what an inheritance!) to his wife and daughter.

The daughter subsequently married a man named Mr R___ (Mr Russell?), who appears to be a man from whom she expects some future ill-treatment, a description which could easily fit the alcoholic Samuel Russell. In this newspaper article, Mr R___ tries to sell the head to Mr C___ (James Cox?), without initial success.

We, therefore, speculate that the head exhibited as Cromwell’s in 1710 may have been a fake and that the head really remained in obscurity for some seventy years hidden on the roof of Westminster Hall. Unless that is, the real fake was the one Samuel Russell owned…

From the CALEDONIAN MERCURY

Anecdote of OLIVER CROMWELL.

About twenty years ago, a centinel who was upon guard nigh Whitehall, one windy night, heard something fall from the roof nigh his centry-box. He picked it up, and found it to be a head on an iron bar. He concealed it for that night, until he could have an opportunity of taking it home. Upon inquiry, he was told it was the head of Oliver Cromwell, which had been supposed to have been stolen some years before, but had only been blown down, and lodged upon a part of the roof, from whence it had fallen the evening the centry found it. He took it to the Society of Antiquarians, who comparing it with the bust of the Protector, agreed that it was his real head. They, therefore, offered the soldier fifty pounds for it, – but he refused to sell it for less than an hundred: so that it remained in his possession during his life; and he left it as a legacy to his wife and daughter. Some years afterwards the daughter married, – and the husband, in looking into an old box in the absence of his wife, found there the head concealed. Upon his wife’s return, he asked how the head came to be there deposited? She confessed whose it was said to be, and why she had concealed it from him: she thought it would be a resource to her, to raise some money in case he should oblige her to leave him by ill treatment. The husband took the head immediately to Mr C___; but although he was assured of its being the real head of the Protector, he could not be prevailed on to give the sum demanded by the proprietor Mrs R___.

(Caledonian Mercury, 26th August 1782)

The head was subsequently exhibited by the Hughes brothers who bought it for £230, possibly from James Cox. Their publicist was John Cranch (1751-1821), a self-taught painter and a man known to John Constable who commented to a friend in 1799 that Cranch’s “whole time and thoughts are occupied in exhibiting an old, rusty, fusty head with a spike in it, which he declares to be the real embalmed head of Oliver Cromwell! Where he got it I know not; ’tis to be seen in Bond Street, at half a crown admittance.

The exhibition was a failure and after languishing for some years the head was sold by a daughter of one of the Hughes to Josiah Henry Wilkinson in 1815 (when the novelist Maria Edgeworth breakfasted with Wilkinson in 1822 she was shown the head).

Eventually, the head did end up at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, bequeathed to them by the Wilkinson family, where it was buried in 1960, finally laying it to rest.

Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire

Doddington Hall, just a few miles outside Lincoln, is a wonderful Elizabethan manor house, notable for never having been sold in its entire history. Built in 1595 by the architect Robert Smythson for Thomas Tailor who was registrar to the Bishop of Lincoln the house underwent a transformation in the Georgian period when it was inherited by Sir John Hussey Delaval (1728-1808). He remodelled the interior of the house in 1760.

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The house is replete with many wonderful portraits, from Mary Queen of Scots to portraits of the family including one of the Earl and Countess of Mexborough (the Countess was sister to John Hussey Delaval) pictured dressed in the robes they wore for the coronation of George III in 1761.

(c) Doddington Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Doddington Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

John Hussey Delaval was the second son and Doddington had come into his family as the inheritance of his mother, Rhoda Apreece. Francis Blake Delaval, the eldest of eight Delaval brothers and the black sheep of the family, inherited the family’s principal estate of Seaton Delaval in Northumberland, Rhoda stipulating that Doddington Hall could not be owned by the same person who owned the Northumberland estate.

A full length portrait of Francis Blake Delaval by Sir Joshua Reynolds can be viewed at Doddington Hall. A true rake, he married Isabella, widow of Lord Nassau Powlett for her money (she was much older than him) but Isabella ended up taking legal action against her husband due to his affair with an actress, Miss La Roche or Elizabeth Roach. Delaval himself took to the stage, acting with Samuel Foote.

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Sir Francis Blake Delaval (1727–1771), KB by Joshua Reynolds National Trust

Rhoda’s decision to split the estate in this way between the two eldest sons paid dividends for the future of Doddington Hall; whilst Francis was a spendthrift and a gambler John was the opposite, prudent and conscientious. His redecoration of the Hall, even installing double glazing to the windows, is still extant to this day making it a real treat to visit for anyone who, like us, is fascinated by the Georgian era.

When Francis, having run through his fortune and destroyed his health, died of a stroke at the young age of 44 years in 1771 Sir John Delaval launched a lengthy legal process to gain control of the Seaton Delaval estate too, eventually succeeding by an agreement to pay £400 a year to his younger brother Edward, but whilst John gained Seaton Delaval he lived out his days at his beloved Doddington Hall.

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Although there were eight Delaval brothers, plenty of heirs and spares, only Sir John Hussey Delaval of Doddington had a son and this son, also named John, died of consumption in Bath before he attained his majority. Doddington therefore passed to Edward, the third brother, and then to Edwards daughter Sarah, the wife of Admiral James Gunman.

The Gunman’s lived in Dover and there Sarah, who was twenty-five years younger than her husband, fell in love with a dashing soldier, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars and a widower, Colonel George Ralph Payne Jarvis. Visitors to Doddington today can see his military uniform. Admiral Gunman died in 1824 and Sarah, still young, was free to marry the man she loved. However, what looked to become a Regency love story quickly became a tragedy instead. Sarah, suffering from consumption, followed her husband to the grave just six months later, still a widow. As a testament to the love she bore for the dashing Colonel she left everything she owned, including the estate of Doddington Hall, to the man she had wanted to marry. Colonel Jarvis moved into the house, married and sired a family and it is his descendants who live at the Hall today.

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A new addition to Doddington Hall this year is the pyramid folly set in the grounds which is reminiscent of the Egyptian Pyramid built in 1778 as one of the follies in the pleasure gardens of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s lover the Duke of Orleans house at Monceau, Paris.

Pyramid at Doddington with  Pyramid at Monceau, Paris below.

Parc Monceau Pyramid

More information on Doddington Hall can be found on their website where you can also read their guide book online which gives full details of the estate and the people who have inhabited it.

UPDATE
Although there were eight Delaval brothers, plenty of heirs and spares, only Sir John Hussey Delaval of Doddington had a son and this son, also named John, died  before he attained his majority. The Doddington Hall guide book says he died of consumption at Bath, but one of our followers Kathleen Jones (@KAF1athome), a volunteer at Seaton Deleval Hall, has been in touch with a different version which we simply had to share.
Young John was sickly and was sent to Bristol to recuperate but he had an eye for the ladies and tried his luck with a serving girl named Annie at the Hotwells.  He picked on the wrong girl though, Annie kicked him in the crotch and, because she was wearing clogs at the time, caused him to haemorrhage, and it was this which led to his death.
A mausoleum was built for him at Seaton Delaval but, as it was going to cost too much money to consecrate it, he was buried at Doddington instead.  Doddington therefore passed to Edward, the third brother, and then to Edwards daughter Sarah, the wife of Admiral James Gunman.
Guy's Hospital, London; Wellcome Library

The Scotch Giantess

Whilst researching our earlier article about the Nottinghamshire Giantess we stumbled across the following newspaper report from the London Standard dated the 1st February 1831. Although technically just outside our remit of ‘all things Georgian’, because William IV’s reign is sometimes incorporated into the Georgian era we thought we would include it here.

SCOTCH GIANTESS AND HER HUSBAND

On Sunday morning last, about five o’clock, information was given to a police constable on duty near the Asylum, that heavy groans were heard to proceed from the travelling residence (a large carriage) of the celebrated Scotch giantess, situated in the Mall, an open space of ground between the Westminster-road and the New Bethlem, and that it was feared that murder had been committed. The constable procured further assistance, and repaired immediately to the spot. They found the door of the carriage open, and all in darkness and groans, as if of two persons, were heard to proceed from within. A light having been soon obtained, a man and a woman, of gigantic size, were found lying on the floor, in a state of insensibility.

The man, upon being asked what was the cause of their indisposition, pointed to the table, upon which was an empty cup, with a white sediment adhering to its sides, and on the floor was a piece of paper labelled poison, the contents of which they had both swallowed. The policeman lost no time in conveying them to Guy’s Hospital, where they were immediately attended to by Mr. Collet, the surgeon. The woman was in a very deplorable state, and seemed to be past all recovery, but her husband, although in a state of stupor, was not so powerfully affected by the poison. Reed’s patent pump was applied by Mr. Hills, the cupper to the hospital, by which a quantity of arsenic was taken from the woman’s stomach, as was also from that of her husband’s, and they were put to bed in a very feeble state, and still remain so; but it is expected they will ultimately recover.

It appears that a short time since the giantess, who stands six feet six inches high, was exhibited in St. James’s-street, as “Ann Freeman, the celebrated Scotch giantess,” and whilst there her husband became jealous of her, in consequence of a man, about her own gigantic stature, called the “Spanish giant,” having shown her more attention than was deemed necessary. The husband, who is not more than half the size of his wife, as soon as it was possible, removed his better half from the exhibition, and wheeled her off in his four-wheeled residence to the space of ground near Bethlem Hospital.

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

A few evening after, whilst Freeman and his wife were sitting in the caravan, which is very commodiously constructed, Mr. Freeman, to his astonishment, perceived his rival, the “Spanish Giant,” looking through his carriage window, which, from his immense height, he could do without much trouble. He ran out, but the intruder had disappeared; but from that moment Freeman and his spouse had lived upon the most unhappy terms, and she would frequently seize her husband by the back of the neck, and hold him at arms length till he was nearly choked.

Lewis Walpole Library
Lewis Walpole Library

On Saturday night Freeman went out and did not return till early on Sunday morning, when he found his wife had taken poison (arsenic), and perceiving a portion of it left in the tea-cup, he swallowed it off, and was immediately after seized with violent retchings, and soon became insensible, as discovered by the police constable.

Header image: Guy’s Hospital, London; Wellcome Library

Gipsy Camp; George Morland; The Stanleyand Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

Cornelius Blewitt was a Gipsy: the end of his life in a Lincolnshire village in 1786

In January 1786, in a small rural Lincolnshire village, an elderly gypsy died. Cornelius Blewitt was no ordinary gypsy though, he was a King of the Gypsies, and he was still remembered at the dawn of the 19th century. We think it is fitting that he is remembered once again now.

Gypsies in a Landscape by George Morland, c.1790 (c) Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Gypsies in a Landscape by George Morland, c.1790
(c) Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Cornelius was possibly born in Rochdale in Lancashire, baptized shortly afterwards at Davenham in Cheshire on the 26th February 1721, the son of Eliza Bluet, ‘a travailer‘ although at a baptism of one of his children he and his wife Phillis Boswell were described as being of Woolstone near Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire. Wherever he started his days he ended them at Thurlby-by-Bourne in southern Lincolnshire, where he was buried on the 7th January 1786, the burial register stating his age as 66 years.

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St Firmin’s Church, Thurlby-by-Bourne

Another gypsy also lies in the churchyard at Thurlby-by-Bourne, a girl named Lucia, daughter of Parcenos and Mary Bluet from Kentford in Suffolk who was buried there in 1754.

On December 19th, 1799, the Oracle and Daily Advertiser newspaper published the following article.

THE COUNTRY CHURCH YARD

THE GIPSY

“Ha! ha! My Friend!” said EUGENIO, interrupting me, “the wings of thy fancy have borne thee again into the Regions of Delusion – as far from the point as Morality from a canting Face. CORNELIUS BLEWITT was a Gypsy.

“And yet, perhaps, you have rather undervalued, than exalted, his importance; for with the alteration of no single circumstance, except the change of scene, from fertile England to the Desert of Arabia, the dust we now despise might, during Life, have been entitled to its seraglio of Beauties, and its guard of Eunuchs; and have ordered the Heads of a hundred Captives to be struck off, to appease his capricious spleen, whenever a tempestuous wind prevented an excursion of Plunder, or a cruel Fair one had neglected the mandate of his love.

Take Physic, Pomp! Ambition check thy rashness. PULTOWA’S loss sunk SWEDEN’S Madman nearly to this level, though BENDER trembled at his shattered greatness; and an unfortunate day on the Banks of the Ganges might have rendered the mighty Son of PHILIP (like him whose mouldering bones we are moralizing upon) the Monarch only of a wandering Tribe of Robbers, as much despised, though I fear, not so little detested, as CORNELIUS BLEWITT.

In short, CORNELIUS, was King of the Gypsies: and was used, every year, attended by his Royal Family, and Officers of State, to visit this Village. He kept his Court at the House of that same honest, grey-headed Farmer, or Publican, where we have left our Horses; and in that very parlour where we enjoyed our tankard of excellent Home brewed, was erected his rustic Throne.

I met the Wanderers there in one of my former excursions: nor ever beheld I a set of merrier, or, apparently, more harmless Beings. And, believe me, the venerable Majesty of CORNELIUS, the despotic Ruler of the mysterious Counsellors of Fate, was regarded with no little reverence by the Country Maidens. Nay, and what will surprise you, his arrival was hailed with no small degree of pleasure by the whole Village; for CORNELIUS and his Subjects spent their money liberally, and paid with punctuality, and it is an invariable rule with these people never to rob in the neighbourhood of their settled Haunts.

But the Majestic Nod and Imperial Frown Death values not. KING CORNELIUS sleeps in the humble Grave, and the Five Bells at Thurlby is no longer a Royal Residence. The Palace and the Empire have shared one common Revolution; though the latter, it seems, has been considerably the greater loser by the change, for not only the Family, but the Nation of our Hero is reported considerably to have declined from its splendour since it has been deprived of his wise Administration.

A solemn deputation is, however, annually, sent to visit the venerated Tomb, to pay it, as is supposed, some mysterious honours, and to keep it in constant repair, a practice which would do honour to more regular Societies; and the neglect of which is a disgrace to the surviving relatives of departed Grandeur; for what can be more ridiculous or irreverent, than, after immense sums have been expended on Sepulchral Monuments to let them moulder away in neglect, and mingle with that dust they were designed to immortalize!

Header image: Gipsy Camp; George Morland; The Stanleyand Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

The ‘Petticoat Duellists’ of 1792

In 1792, the Carlton House Magazine ran an article, with an accompanying illustration, of two female petticoat duellists. The two participants were identified, in the magazine, as Lady Almeria Braddock and Mrs Elphinstone.

The two ladies were taking tea when Mrs Elphinstone, after an exchange of ‘bloated compliments’ between them, said to Lady Almeria, “You have been a very beautiful woman.”

Lady Almeria: “Have been? What do you mean by ‘have been’?”

Mrs Elphinstone: “You have a very good autumn face, even now . . . The lilies and roses are somewhat faded. Forty years ago I am told a young fellow could hardly gaze on you with impunity.”

Lady Almeria: “Forty years ago! Is the woman mad? I had not existed thirty years ago!”

Mrs Elphinstone: “Then Arthur Collins, the author of the British Peerage has published a false, scandalous and seditious libel against your ladyship. He says you were born the first of April 1732.”

Lady Almeria: “Collins is a most infamous liar; his book is loaded with errors; not a syllable of his whole six volumes is to be relied on.”

Mrs Elphinstone: “Pardon me. He asserts that you were born in April 1732 and consequently are in your sixty first year.”

Lady Almeria: “I am but turned of thirty.”

Mrs Elphinstone: “That’s false, my lady!”

Lady Almeria: “This is not to be borne; you have given me the lie direct . . . I must be under the necessity of calling you out . . . “

Mrs Elphinstone: “Name your weapons. Swords or pistols?”

Lady Almeria: “Both!”

The ladies met at Hyde Park and set to with pistols. Mrs Elphinstone proved the better shot, putting a bullet hole through Lady Almeria’s hat. Their seconds pleaded with them to end it there but Mrs Elphinstone refused to apologise and so hostilities resumed, this time with swords. Lady Almeria managed to inflict a wound on her opponent’s sword arm and honour was deemed to have been satisfied; both ladies quitted the field.

An Airing in Hyde Park, 1796. Yale Center for British Art.
An Airing in Hyde Park, 1796. Yale Center for British Art.

It’s no doubt an intriguing tale and has been repeated time and time again over the intervening two centuries. Unfortunately, it is also most probably completely untrue.  There never was a Lady (or a Lord) Braddock, and no contemporary account can be found of such a duel being fought, and it would certainly have excited plenty of attention if it had.

There was a contemporary Lady Almeria, but she was Lady Almeria Carpenter (20th March 1752-1809), daughter of the 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, and the mistress of Prince William Henry, the Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh (1743-1805, son of King George II) and mother to his illegitimate daughter Louisa Maria La Coast.

The True Briton wrote of her on the 28th June 1798, ‘Lady Almeria Carpenter was at the Haymarket Theatre on Monday last; and though she has been celebrated as a Beauty for near thirty years, she may still vie in personal attractions with the fairest Toasts of the present day.’

Lady Almeria Carpenter by Richard Cosway via Sphinx Fine Art.
Lady Almeria Carpenter by Richard Cosway via Sphinx Fine Art.

If Lady Almeria Carpenter is not the person alluded to, we do wonder if the fictitious Lady Almeria Braddock is somehow referring back to the Georgian actress George Anne Bellamy (1727-1788)? She played Almeria in Congreve’s The Mourning Bride and was a close acquaintance of one General Edward Braddock (1695-1755). She claimed to have known him from her infancy, and in her memoir ‘An Apology for the Life of Mrs. George Anne Bellamy,’ in which she mentions him often, she said of him:

This great man having been often reproached with brutality, I am induced to recite the following little accident, which evidently shews the contrary.

As we were walking in the Park one day, we heard a poor fellow was to be chastised; when I requested the General to beg off the offender. Upon his application to the general officer, whose name was Drury, he asked Braddock, How long since he had divested himself of brutality, and of the insolence of his manners? To which the other replied, “You never knew me insolent to my inferiors. It is only to such rude men as yourself, that I behave with the spirit which I think they deserve.

Petticoat - George Anne Bellamy
George Anne Bellamy

In 1718 Braddock had fought a duel, using both swords and pistols, with Colonel Waller in Hyde Park. George Anne Bellamy also knew a Mrs Elphinstone; again in her ‘Apology’ she writes:

The most attached patronesses I had, besides those of the Montgomery family, which were numerous, were the Duchess of Douglas, and the Miss Ruthvens, the eldest of whom soon married Mr. Elphinstone. The latter were partial to me to a degree of enthusiasm. Lady Ruthven likewise honoured me with her support.

Petticoat - Braddock

We can, however, give one, much earlier account of a ‘petticoat duel’ which did take place, however not with swords and pistols but with pattens (protective wooden overshoes).

Some Days ago a Female Duel was fought at Greenwich, in which one of the Combatants kill’d her Antagonist with her Patten. The Coroner’s Inquest having sate upon the Body of the Deceased, brought in their Verdict Manslaughter.

(London Journal, 28th December 1723).

Margaret Nicholson: the woman who attempted to assassinate King George III

On the 2nd August 1786, a woman named Margaret Nicholson was arrested for making an attempt on the life of King George III. Judged to be insane, and committed to Bedlam for the remainder of her life, it turned her into an instant celebrity. No fewer than five hastily printed books and pamphlets proclaiming to be accounts of her life were printed and rushed out for sale, one of these being written by her landlord, Jonathan Fiske, who was conveniently a bookseller and stationer. These books, even Fiske’s, were largely copied from the newspaper reports which appeared after the assassination attempt and salacious gossip and incorrect facts were copied time and again, and still persist today.

Margaret Nicholson was not born in 1750, the daughter of George Nicholson a barber from Stockton-on-Tees, as stated in most sources including the much respected Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Nor was she born in Stokeswell in Yorkshire, as stated by Fiske. She was, in fact, the daughter of Thomas and Ann Nicholson of Stokesley in North Yorkshire, born in 1745 and baptized there on the 9th December 1745, the fourth child of the couple. Thomas Nicholson was, however, a barber, that bit of information was correct.

Her brother, named in the newspaper report below and who gave evidence at his sisters trial, was George Nicholson, landlord of the Three Horseshoes public house in Milford Lane on the Strand, a lane leading down from St Clement’s Church to the River Thames.

Margaret had left Stokesley for London when she was just twelve years of age, finding employment in several respectable houses before achieving her notoriety at the age of forty years.  She died at Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam) in St. George’s Fields, being buried there on the 21st May 1828, her age erroneously given as 90 years.

Margaret nicholson burial

The following newspaper article details her attempt on the King’s life and, written just hours after the event and in an attempt to quash the rumours which were already starting to flow through the streets of London, can be taken as an authentic account.

THE SCOTS MAGAZINE, August, 1786.

Particulars of MARGARET NICHOLSON’S Attempt to assassinate his MAJESTY.

LONDON GAZETTE EXTRAORDINARY.

St. James’s, Wednesday, Aug. 2.

This morning, as his Majesty was alighting from his carriage at the gate of the palace, a woman, who was waiting there under pretence of presenting a petition, struck at his Majesty with a knife; but providentially his Majesty received no injury. The woman was immediately taken into custody; and upon examination appears to be insane.

An extraordinary Gazette gives importance to a subject; but this gazette is so very short, that some further particulars of this very interesting fact appear to be necessary.

It was at the garden-door opposite the Duke of Marlborough’s wall, that the woman, who appeared decently dressed, presented to his Majesty a paper folded up in the form of a petition. His Majesty, in stooping to receive it, felt a thrust made at his belly, which passed between his coat and his waistcoat. The King drew back, and said, “What does this woman mean!” At that instant one of the yeomen (Lodge) laying hold of her arm, observed something drop out of her hand, which another person taking up, said, “It is a knife!” The King said, “I am not hurt – take care of the woman – she is mad – do not hurt her *.”

His Majesty then went forward into the palace; and, when he had recovered his surprise, appeared to be greatly affected, expressing in a kind of faultering voice, that, “surely! he had not deserved such treatment from any of his subjects.” On opening the paper, when he entered the royal apartments, there were found written “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty,” the usual head to petitions, but nothing more.

The woman was immediately taken into custody, and carried to the inner guard-chamber. Being questioned how she could make such a wicked and daring an attempt, her answer was, that “when she was brought before proper persons, she would give her reasons.”

She was then taken to the Queen’s antichamber, where she remained from twelve till near five, during all which time, though spoken to by several of the nobility, she did not condescend once to open her lips, but appeared totally unmoved by any representations of the atrocity of her crime.

At five o’clock she was taken to the board of green cloth for examination, where were present the Attorney and Solicitor Generals and Master of the Rolls, Mr Pitt, the Earl of Salisbury, Marquis of Caermarthen, Lord Sydney, Sir Francis Drake, and several magistrates.

Being interrogated, she said, her name was Margaret Nicholson, daughter of George Nicholson of Stockton-upon-Tees in Durham; that she had a brother who kept a public house in Milford-lane; that she came to London at twelve years of age, and had lived in several creditable services. Being asked, where she had lived since she left her last place? to this she answered frantically, “she had been all abroad since that matter of the Crown broke out.” – Being asked what matter; she went on rambling, that the Crown was her’s – she wanted nothing but her right – that she had great property – that if she had not her right, England would be drowned in blood for a thousand generations. Being further asked where she now lived; she answered rationally “at Mr Fisk’s, stationer, the corner of Marybone, Wigmore-street.” On being questioned, as to her right; she would answer none but a judge, her rights were a mystery. Being asked, if she had ever petitioned; said she had, ten days ago. On looking back among the papers, such petition was found, full of princely nonsense about tyrants, usurpers, and pretenders to the throne, &c. &c.

Mr Fisk, being sent for and interrogated, said, she had lodged with him about three years; that he had not observed any striking marks of insanity about her – she was certainly very odd at times – frequently talking to herself – that she lived by taking in plain work, &c. Others who knew her said, she was very industrious, and they never suspected her of insanity.

Dr Monro being sent for, said, it was impossible to discover with certainty immediately whether she was insane or not. It was proposed to commit her for three or four days to Tothil-fields Bridewell. This was objected to, because it was said, she was a state prisoner. At length it was agreed to commit her to the custody of a messenger.

Her lodgings being examined, there were found three letters written about her pretended right to the crown, one to Lord Mansfield, one to Lord Loughborough, and one to Gen. Bramham.

His Majesty’s presence of mind, and great humanity, were very conspicuous in his behaviour upon this shocking and terrifying attempt to take away his life. And if he had not instantly retreated, or if the wretch had made use of her right hand instead of her left, the consequences might have been of a most fatal nature.

It has been said, that the knife was concealed in the paper; but the fact was it was under her cloak; and when she presented the paper with her right hand, she took it and made a thrust with her left.

The instrument she used was an old ivory handled desert knife, worn very thin towards the point; so thin, that a person pressing the point against his hand, it bent almost double without penetrating the skin.

This attempt circulated through the city with amazing rapidity, and, gathering as it flew, a thousand fictions were added. The instant publication of the GAZETTE EXTRAORDINARY stopt at once their mischievous effect.

* The Earl of Salisbury ordered a gratuity to the yeoman of the guard, and the King’s footman, who first secured Mrs Nicholson after her attempt on the King; the rewards were 100 l. to the first, and 50 l. to the other.

In writing this article we have to acknowledge our debt to the following source:

Narrating Margaret Nicholson: A Character Study in Fact and Fiction by Joanne Holland, Department of English, McGill University, Montreal, August 2008

The Old Bailey. Microcosm of London.

A sordid tale of bigamy and attempted murder in Georgian London

On the 19th October 1739 Philip Blake, around 30 years of age and by trade a gardener, married Sarah Perkins at St Saviour’s Church in Southwark. The marriage lasted little more than two or three years before the couple parted, with Sarah accusing her husband of behaving badly towards her.

Many years later, on the 17th July 1762, Blake married again, notwithstanding his first wife still being alive. His wife by this second bigamous marriage was a widow, Phillis Ewen or Ewens of Brompton, Kensington, and the couple married in the church there.  Phillis, like Sarah before her, was ill used by her husband. She was eventually approached by a gentlewoman, a stranger to Phillis but someone who knew the history of her husband and knew how he treated his wife. This stranger gave Phillis the shocking news that she was no wife at all, that a first Mrs Blake was still living in Southwark. Phillis enlisted a friend, a Mr Nicholas Osbourn or Osborne, a gentleman and a neighbour of hers, to establish the truth of the matter. Osbourn straight away examined the parish registers of St. Saviour’s in Southwark on behalf of Phillis and, on finding out that everything the stranger had told her was true, Phillis brought a case against her supposed husband for bigamy.

www.ancestryimages.com
Two images of Southwark via http://www.ancestryimages.com

The case was heard at London’s Old Bailey on the 24th February 1768. Philip Blake’s defence, that he did not know Sarah Perkins and that he was not the person that had married her was not believed and a guilty sentence was passed down by the judge. The punishment for bigamy was to be branded in the hand with a hot iron, and that sentence was duly carried out, marking Philip Blake as a bigamist to the end of his days.

Phillis Ewen went back to her home to rebuild her life. She lived on Brompton Lane, opposite the Bell public house in Kensington (probably the Bell and Horns which stood on the corner of Brompton Road and Brompton Lane) and kept a small market garden which was no doubt where Philip Blake, a gardener, had worked. Blake’s adult son, possibly from his marriage with Sarah Perkins, had lived with the couple and still lived with Phillis even after the departure of his father from the former marital home.

Late in April 1768 Phillis received a message from Blake; he begged that she would come to see him at his lodgings by Nibe’s pound near Oxford Road for he feared he was near death. Since the bigamy trial and being branded in his hand he had suffered a fall in which he had hurt his leg. The leg had turned black and bad. Blake pleaded with Phillis to allow him to return to her home, repenting of his previous life but Phillis would not be swayed. Blake then ominously told her that if she did not consent to take him back it would be the ‘utter ruin’ of them both.

A few days later, on the 2nd May 1768 and between 9 and 10 o’clock in the evening, a woman who lodged in Phillis Ewen’s Brompton Lane home went upstairs and opened a sash window to let in the cool evening air. She saw someone running across the garden and went to tell Phillis. It was Blake’s son, running to meet his father who was hidden amongst some gooseberry bushes at the end of the garden. Blake tried to gain entrance to the house, saying he had come to fetch some of his clothes which had been left at his former home. Phillis, perhaps feeling sorry for the state he was reduced to, let him in and he sat down and began to bemoan his fate. Phillis, by banishing him from her home and away from her garden, had deprived him of the means of making a living and for this he blamed her.

Phillis had had enough. She went to open the door to turn him out but, with her hand still on the door handle, heard the woman who lodged with her, scream and cry out, “Mr Blake, what are you going to do?” Phillis turned and saw Blake pulling a pistol from his pocket. A scuffle ensued in which Phillis, assisted by Blake’s son, struggled with her former husband, trying to take hold of the pistol. Blake fell down in the passage way, in the dark; Phillis was now truly afraid and begging him to spare her life, promising to do anything if he would.

Blake told Phillis, if she wanted to live, to come with him to the door to the garden where he would tell her what he wanted her to do. About three yards from the door he clasped his left arm around Phillis’ head, pulled her towards him and, holding the pistol in his right hand, shot her in the neck, intending to murder her. Phillis fell back into the arms of her female companion and Blake’s son while Blake himself ran away into an arbour from where a further gunshot was heard.

Elizabeth Freeman, another woman who had an apartment in the house, heard the cry of “murder” from downstairs. She ran to the scene of the commotion to find Phillis Ewen’s hair and cap on fire (from the charge contained in the pistol), blood running down her neck, convinced that she was dying and that the bullet was still lodged inside her. But Phillis had been lucky, the lead bullet had entered the back of her neck on the left-hand side and passed straight through; after the wounds had been dressed and stitched she was left with a scar on either side of her neck but no other lasting injury.

When men went to look for Blake in the arbour, thinking he had killed himself, they found no sign of his body. He was eventually found between four and five o’clock the next morning, in a stable, having slit his throat with his small gardener’s budding knife but still alive. He was carried to a hospital where his throat was stitched and, once he had recovered, he was taken to the New Prison at Clerkenwell to await his trial for the attempted murder of Phillis Ewen. When she heard that Blake was to be released from prison the woman who had witnessed the shooting, whose name is not mentioned in any of the reports on the trial, was in such a great terror that she left London, going into Essex rather than stand as a witness and face Blake once more. Phillis Ewen, however, was made of sterner stuff.

Phyllis - New Prison

On the 6th July 1768, Blake found himself for the second time that year in the dock of the Old Bailey. In his defence he said that he had asked Phillis, when she went to his lodgings, for some plants from the garden and for the return of some of his things left at her house; she, he claimed, refused to allow either. Blake also said he had made over three houses to Phillis, the Kensington one she lived in, another at Knightsbridge and one further at Hyde Park Corner; Phillis countered with the fact that these were her houses before she had married Blake and not his. A silver punch ladle was also a bone of contention; Blake said it was his, Phillis said it was bought with her own money.

Blake said he had taken the pistol with him to the Brompton Lane house because, if Phillis would not let him return, he intended to commit suicide. Finding Phillis inflexible he claimed he had pulled her towards him, not to kill her but, to buss or kiss her and claimed, that when Phillis pulled her head away, that the pistol went off accidentally.

After his defence, the record of his trial and conviction for bigamy just months earlier was read, and the verdict was passed down.

Guilty.

The sentence was Death.

220px-Tyburn_tree

He was held at Newgate until he was taken to the gallows at Tyburn on Wednesday 27th July 1768. Reports described him as a grave looking and elderly man, around 60 years of age. He was penitent, repented of his crimes and sins and reportedly admitted at his end to one further bigamous marriage.

Last Wednesday morning, Philip Blake, for shooting Phillis Ewen, was executed at Tyburn . . . Blake, the unfortunate convict, executed as above, for shooting at one of his wives, has left three widows behind him, he having acknowledged to a person who attended him, that he had been married to so many.

The Oxford Journal of 30th July 1768:

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click to enlarge

Phillis Ewen bore the scars of her assault for a further eleven years before dying, in 1779, at Purser’s Cross near Fulham. Her trip down the aisle with Philip Blake was to be her last; she took no further husband.

Sources:

www.oldbaileyonline.org

www.londonlives.org

Westminster Journal and London Political Miscellany, 2nd July 1768

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 8th July 1768

Westminster Journal and London Political Miscellany, 30th July 1768

The Royal Dockyard at Chatham. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Thunder and Lightning: the storm of 18th June 1764

On Monday the 18th of June 1764 much of southern and eastern England was struck by a prolonged and violent thunderstorm together with torrential rain and hail with catastrophic results. It struck in the afternoon, described as a ‘Tempest of thunder and lightning . . . the claps succeeded each other incessantly for near an hour, and seemed to run into one another like the ignited flashes of the Aurora Borealis’.

Many people were killed and injured, animals in fields struck down and the crops in farmers fields flattened and destroyed, buildings caught alight and church steeples tumbled to the ground.  The heavy rain caused rivers to overflow their banks and flood properties and villages; there was untold misery.

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St. Bride’s Church in London’s Fleet Street was one of those affected when the storm raged between two and three o’clock in the afternoon; the steeple of the church was shattered and the falling masonry damaged several nearby houses. The total damage was estimated at 2000l. The steeple, measuring 234ft had been a later addition to the church designed by Sir Christopher Wren after the original had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London, the steeple being added between 1701-1703. The lightning strike destroyed the top 8ft of the steeple. Rayleigh parish church in Essex was similarly affected.

The Powder Mills on Hounslow Heath had a lucky escape when a tree within a few yards of one of the mills was ‘cleft asunder’ by lightning, another bolt striking one of the gibbets on the heath. At Chatham docks the Ramillies man of war was another casualty, being hit with a ‘ball of fire,’ splintering the deck and masts, only the ferocity of the rain preventing the ship from further damage by fire.

A View of Chatham Dockyard, Kent, 1774; Elias Martin; Historic Dockyard, Chatham
A View of Chatham Dockyard, Kent, 1774; Elias Martin; Historic Dockyard, Chatham

The damage caused by this June thunderstorm brought about a more widespread acceptance for the installation of lightning rods on the top of tall buildings and church steeples in imitation of the practice already widely adopted in America. Benjamin Franklin famously first experimented with lightning rods, fixing one to the roof of his house and attaching to it a wire that ran to another rod in the ground. His belief, that the lightning would strike the rod on his roof and that the electricity would pass to the rod in the ground, was correct, but the practice had not received much popularity in Britain until the June 1764 storms after which the British began to look for preventative measures. However, King George III decreed that lightning rods used in Britain should be blunt-ended not pointed.

Christ Church, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, from the West, Showing the Spire Struck by Lightning by John Hepworth; (c) Doncaster Museum Service
Christ Church, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, from the West, Showing the Spire Struck by Lightning
by John Hepworth (c) Doncaster Museum Service


Part of the problem was that people believed that a pointed lightning rod did not merely conduct the electricity away, but attracted the strike in the first place; one ending in a knob or blunt end being safer although Christ Church in Doncaster would disagree as in 1836 their steeple was destroyed by lightning shortly after a blunt-ended rod had been placed on the top of it!

 

Sources:

London Evening Post, 19th, 21st and 26th June 1764

http://www.stbrides.com/history/chapter-5-1666—1730.html