Kidnap and Attempted Murder in the 18th Century: Viscount Valentia’s ancestry

Arthur Annesley, Baron Altham and Viscount Valentia was the downfall of Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  Their indiscretion in a London bagnio (a high class brothel) led to her divorce from her portly little doctor of a husband, John Eliot.

Although too much of a distraction from Grace’s story to be included in our book on her, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Valentia’s immediate ancestors have a fascinating story which we recount here.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

His father, Richard, was the younger brother of Arthur Annesley, 4th Baron Altham (1689-1727).  Baron Altham had one son, James, who was twelve years of age when his father died, however Baron Altham had become alienated from his son and sent James to an obscure school where his death was announced.  At Baron Altham’s death his brother Richard claimed the titles and estates and arranged for his nephew, who was still alive, to be kidnapped and sold as an indentured labourer to an American planter for a seven year term.  James survived and managed to return home in 1741 and instigated an action against his uncle, who had now also become the 6th Earl of Anglesey on the death of a cousin in 1737, to reclaim his estates.

Valentia - plantation

Richard’s defence rested on whether James had been born to his father’s legitimate wife, Mary Sheffield who had died in 1729, or to a maidservant, Joan (Juggy) Landy.  James was successful in this action, but due to appeals by his uncle he was prevented from taking possession of his properties and spent many years in penury.  Richard attempted to have his nephew charged with the murder of a poacher.

The trial in which James Annesley stood tried for murder occurred in 1742. He had been out shooting sparrows with his friend Joseph Redding who was a gamekeeper when they saw a man named Thomas Egglestone and his son poaching fish. They went over to try to take the nets and Annesley’s gun discharged accidentally, killing Thomas Egglestone. All kinds of shenanigans went on behind the scenes before the trial came to the Old Bailey to induce the witnesses to accuse Annesley of murder. Annesley, to his distaste, was described to the court as a mere labourer.

The TRIAL of JAMES ANNESLEY, Labourer, at the Sessions-House in the Old Bailey, July 15, 1742 before the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Baron Parker, &c for the Murder of Thomas Egglestone, on Three Indictments; viz. At Common Law, on the Coroner’s Inquisition, and on the Black Act.

‘My Lord, I observe that I am indicted by the Name of James Annesley, Labourer, the lowest Addition my Enemies could possibly make Use of; but tho’ I claim to be Earl of Anglesea, and a Peer of this Realm, I submit to plead Not Guilty to this Indictment, and put myself immediately upon my Country, conscious of my own Innocence, and impatient to be acquitted even on the Imputation of a Crime so unbecoming [to] the Dignity I claim.’

James Annesley and Joseph Redding’s defence was as follows, and the full transcript of the court case can be read on the Old Bailey website here.

Court. Mr Annesley, you are indicted in a very unhappy Case, what have you to say for yourself?

Mr Annesley. My Lord, I am very unable to make a proper Defence, having by the Cruelty of those, whose Duty it was to protect me, been deprived of the Advantages of an Education I was entitled to by my Birth.

All I know of the melancholy Accident in Question is, that on the unfortunate Day mention’d in the Indictment, I went out with my Gun, in company with my innocent Fellow-Prisoner, to shoot Sparrows, as I usually did. As we were going along, Mr Redding, who is Game-Keeper to the Lord of the Manour, saw some People a poaching within the Royalty, upon which he proposed to go and seize their Nets, I followed him, the Deceas’d threw the Net into the River, and the Boy jump’d in to pull it across, to prevent which, I stoop’d to lay hold of one of the Ropes that trailed upon the Ground, and at the same Instant, the fatal Instrument I had in my other Hand, hanging by my Side, went off without my Knowledge, and to my great Grief as well as Surprize. My Behaviour, immediately after the Accident, was, I hope, inconsistent with a Temper that could murder a Man I had never seen before, without one Word of Provocation.

Whatever may be the Determination of your Lordship and the Jury, great as the Misfortunes of my Life have been, I shall always consider this unfortunate Accident as the greatest of them all.

Court. Mr Redding, what have you to say for yourself?

Joseph Redding. My Lord, I am Game-Keeper to Sir John Dolben, Lord of the Manour of Yeoveney. On the first of May last, in the Afternoon, Mr Annesley and I went out a walking; we saw a Crow, and Mr Annesley made an Offer to shoot at her, but I called to him not to fire, for that she was too far off: Soon after I saw Egglestone and his Son a fishing with a Casting-Net, upon which I said to Mr Annesley, I would go and endeavour to take their Net away, as it was my Duty to do; according I went up to the Deceas’d and demanded the Net, which he refused to deliver to me, and threw it into the River, one End of the String being about his Arm, I then laid hold of the String, and pulled, whilst the Boy endeavoured to draw it cross the River, and presently I heard the Gun go off (my Back being towards Mr Annesley ) and saw the Man fall down. – I said to Mr Annesley, I hoped he had not shot the Man, he said no, but turning up the Flap of his Coat, we saw he was shot; upon which Mr Annesley cried out, What shall I do! and expressed so much Concern, that I am sure it was quite an accidental Thing.

James Annesley and Joseph Redding were found not guilty of murder, but guilty of chance-medley (a killing that lacks malice aforethought) and left the court room as free men. Thwarted in his plan to see James swing at Tyburn, Richard also made attempts on his nephew’s life – the Penny London Post carried a very thinly veiled report which hinted at this in connection with one of his chosen assassins, a man named Thomas Stanley.

Thomas Stanley, mentioned in this Paper of Friday last to have been committed to Newgate under a strong Party of the Guards, by Henry Fielding, Esq; for lying in wait to assassinate the Hon. James Annesley, Esq; made a stout Resistance when taken, but the Constables at length trip’d up his Heels, and carried him before the Justice. This Fellow is a most notorious Ruffian, and is the same Stanley who was tried at the Commission of Oyer and Terminer in Dublin, for being concerned with one Murphy, one Stephens, and several others in a Conspiracy to assassinate Mr Annesley and Mr Mackercher, and lying in wait with Fire-Arms and Cutlasses to carry it into Execution: On that Occasion, after full Evidence had been given against him, and the Court appeared thoroughly satisfied of his Guilt, he escaped Conviction by an Accident, one of the Jurors being suddenly seiz’d, or pretending to be seiz’d, with an Epileptic Fit; which obliged Mr Annesley and Mr Mackercher, at the Request of the Court, to consent to quash the Indictment, rather than keep the Court and Jury sitting to wait his Recovery: Nevertheless, considering him as a very desperate dangerous Fellow, the Court remanded him to Prison, till he should find good Security to their Satisfaction. How he has since been let loose is a Mystery! —— It was very remarkable, that this low Ruffian was supported on that Trial by a Bar of six of the most eminent Lawyers in the Kingdom of Ireland.

Penny London Post, or The Morning Advertiser, 16th February 1750

The Honourable James Annesley Esquire by George Bickham the Younger, after Kings, line engraving, 1744 © The National Portrait Gallery
The Honourable James Annesley Esquire by George Bickham the Younger, after Kings, line engraving, 1744
© The National Portrait Gallery

James Annesley married twice, having children by each wife before dying in 1760 without fully establishing his claim to the titles and estates.  His first wife was Mary Lane, the stepdaughter of a Mr Richard Chester of Egham near Staines in Middlesex, an innholder (he appears to have been the landlord of the Swan at Staines, where he also held the position of Postmaster), and he had married her in 1741 at St Bride’s Church, a year before he stood trial for murder.[i] By Mary, James Annesley had a daughter. The daughter was Mary, baptized on the 26th May 1743 at St Mary’s in Battersea; she married Charles Granville Wheler on the 9th June 1764 at St Martin in the Fields, Westminster. Mrs Mary Annesley died in 1749.

Last Sunday Evening died of a Consumption, Mrs Annesley, Wife to the Hon. James Annesley, Esq; who claimeth the Estate and Honours of Earl of Anglesey, leaving only one Daughter, a Child six Years old.

London Evening Post, 23rd December 1749

James married his second wife in 1751 at Bilborough in Kent. She was Margaret I’Anson, granddaughter of John Bankes of Kingston Hall (now known as Kingston Lacy) in Dorset. James had three children by his second wife: Margaret Bankes Annesley (born 1753, died 1765), Sophia Bankes Annesley (born 1756 and died in infancy before 1760) and Bankes Annesley (born 1757, died 1764).

On Friday last the new-born Son of the Hon. James Annesley was baptized by the Name of Bankes; the Sponsors were, the Hon. Baron Smythe, the Hon. Mrs Spencer, and John Bankes, of Kingston-Hall in Dorsetshire, Esq; after whom the Child was named.

London Evening Post, 12th November 1757

© Henry Kellner via Wikimedia Commons
Kingston Lacy
© Henry Kellner via Wikimedia Commons

James died in 1760, with the question of his entitlement to the Anglesey estates still unresolved. His son died three years after his father, thereby ending any further claims and his uncle Richard had himself died in 1761.[1]

On Monday was privately interred at Lee in Kent, the Corpse of the Hon. James Annesley, who has left behind him one Daughter by his former Wife; and by his last Wife, the Daughter of Sir Thomas I’Anson, Bart. one Son and one Daughter.

Newcastle Courant, 26th January 1760

On Saturday last died of a Fever, at his Mother’s House in Westminster, the only Son of the late Hon. but most unfortunate James Annesley, Esq; by whose Death, his Right to the whole Anglesey Estate in England and Ireland, devolves on his two Sisters, the surviving Daughters of the said James Annesley. This Youth being the last of the Male Line of the Body of Arthur the first Earl of Anglesey, the Honours of Earl of Anglesey, and Baron Newport Pagnel, in England, and of Viscount Valentia, and Baron Altham, in Ireland, are extinct by his Death; Richard, the last Earl of Anglesey, who died about two Years ago, having left only three Daughters, by Ann, Countess of Anglesey, his Wife, but no legitimate Male Issue.

Newcastle Courant, 12th November 1763

Richard had married twice in 1715, once bigamously, and had by his second bigamous wife three daughters (Dorothea, Caroline and Elizabeth) before he threw her out around 1741 (he had deserted his first legitimate wife almost immediately).  Perhaps the cause of his disregard for his bigamous wife in 1741 was the fact that his first had conveniently died, hence technically leaving him a widower and, in September 1741, he married in secret Juliana Donovan, delaying a second, more public wedding until 1752.  By Juliana he sired Arthur plus another three girls, Richarda, Juliana and Catherine.[2]  At Richard’s death in 1761 a distant cousin claimed the Earldom of Anglesey, stating that Arthur, the son, was born illegitimate and this was upheld due to the secrecy surrounding the 1741 marriage leaving Arthur with the right to succeed to his father’s Irish titles only, those of Baron Altham and Viscount Valentia.

(c) Fylde Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Village Wedding by Thomas Falcon Marshall
(c) Fylde Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

On the 10th May 1767 Arthur Annesley, Baron Altham and Viscount Valentia, married Lucy Lyttelton at St. James in Westminster, the daughter of George Lyttelton, the 1st Baron Lyttleton of Fortescue.  Baron Lyttleton had both money and influence and Valentia hoped, with his father-in-law’s help, to rescue his earldom as Baron Lyttelton was anxious to see his daughter a countess.  This was not to be, a further legal challenge resulted in the final decision on the 29th April 1771 that Valentia’s claim to the Earldom of Anglesey was not valid.

George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton by George Townshend, 4th Viscount and 1st Marquess Townshend pen and ink, 1751-1758 © The National Portrait Gallery
George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton by George Townshend, 4th Viscount and 1st Marquess Townshend, pen and ink, 1751-1758
© The National Portrait Gallery

Three years later he was to be instrumental in Grace’s downfall, recounted in full in our book.

As first time authors this is a thrilling time for us, not least because we are longing to share the information we have uncovered during our many years of research into Grace and her family. We have lots which is new and hitherto unknown, and we are honoured to have been allowed to include within the pages of our biography some very rarely seen pictures connected to Grace and to her family.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

 

[1] Richard Chester and Mary Lane (the mother of the Mary Lane who married James Annesley, married at St Benet’s Paul’s Wharf in London on the 26th January 1738. Richard Chester died in 1744 and his widow who had inherited his estate, in 1750, was declared bankrupt – James Annesley, in his will, honourably and generously provided an annuity for his former mother-in-law even though his first wife had died years before.

[2]He also had two further illegitimate children, a namesake son by Mrs Ann Saulkeld of London and a daughter named Ann by Mrs Mary Glover of Newport Pagnell.

 

Sources:

Old Bailey Online

John Martin, ‘Annesley, James (1715–1760)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/564, accessed 18 Sept 2015]

Wills of James Annesley (mistranscribed as Armesley) and Richard Chester, National Archives

The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, volume 19, 1750

Landed Families Blogspot

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott is available from Pen and Sword Books (click here to order) and all good bookshops.

Copyright

The articles published on All Things Georgian are copyright by their respective authors. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without the authors permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement to the original author. 

Advertisements

James Guidney aka Jemmy the Rockman

James Guidney, aka Jemmy the Rockman, was a well-known character on the streets of Birmingham in the latter years of the Georgian and into the Victorian era, with his red military jacket and long white beard. Jemmy was a true English eccentric and had lived a life full of colour and adventure. He eventually settled at Birmingham where he sold a form of rock candy on the streets, which he called his ‘Composition’, crying out as he walked with his tin of his sweets, “Composition – Good for cough or cold – Cough or cold”.

© Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery
© Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

Luckily for us, in his old age he wrote his autobiography, enabling us to tell his story completely.

Jemmy was born at Norwich to Jeremiah Guidney, a poor but hard-working man – Jemmy said he was born on the 1st September 1782 at Norwich but the only matching baptism we can find is dated the 21st March 1779, at St Julian’s in Norwich and for a James Wilcock Gidney whose parents were named Jeremiah and Mary.

Jemmy the Rock Man baptism

Jeremiah sent young Jemmy to a charity school on alternate days and to a spinning school where five hundred boys worked at spinning wool into skeins, and Jemmy excelled at this – more so than he did at his charity school lessons. At thirteen years of age he left both of these schools and worked with his father for a year, selling milk or apples and as an errand boy. Then, in 1797, he fell in with a recruiting party at Norwich, took the King’s shilling and enlisted with the 48th Northamptonshire Regiment as a drummer (Jemmy says this was in June, but his enlistment date is 1st October 1797 and he was eighteen years of age, suggesting the 1779 baptism is the correct one – the dates he gives in his biography are ever slightly out). His adventures were about to begin.

Around a year after he enlisted the 48th left England on board the Calcutta man of war bound for Gibraltar where they remained about a year and a half. After that they were sent to Minorca and then to Malta, via Leghorn (now Livorno). They arrived on the island of Malta in the September of 1799, according to Jemmy.

French troops were occupying the citadel of Valletta and the 48th were part of the force besieging it – a siege which lasted some months before the French surrendered and the British took possession. It was now that James’ fortune took a turn for the worse. General Abercromby landed on Malta on his way to fight the French forces under Napoléon Bonaparte in Egypt. Abercromby was at the head of an army 60,000 strong and he reviewed the troops stationed in Malta and chose the 48th to join his expedition. They duly embarked with him but he changed his mind and, instead of taking them to Egypt, left them at Fort St Angelo on the other side of the water from Valletta. It was at Fort St Angelo that Jemmy contracted ophthalmia and lost his right eye.

Perhaps, though, the loss of an eye was preferable to the loss of his life for Abercromby’s decision saved Jemmy from facing the French troops.

Grand Harbour and Fort Sant' Angelo, Valletta, Malta by Johann Schranz c.1828 (c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Grand Harbour and Fort Sant’ Angelo, Valletta, Malta by Johann Schranz c.1828
(c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

While stationed at Fort St Angelo Jemmy had a strange encounter. One spring morning in May 1802 he was walking to the Catholic Church and saw a lamb in front of him, which began to play around his legs then settled to walk beside him. After walking some distance the lamb turned around, blocked Jemmy’s path and took on the form of a man who addressed Jemmy by name and commanded him to always wear a beard in the future. Jemmy touched the head and face of the strange man standing in front of him, not able to believe his eyes, and swore that he distinctly felt the flesh of a man – Jemmy broke out in a cold sweat while the man resumed the shape of a lamb. Turning back to his camp, the lamb accompanied him as far as the place they had both encountered one another at which point it disappeared. Jemmy did as instructed though and grew a beard which he wore for the rest of his life with the exception of one short interlude, which we will come to in due course.

A year later the 48th left Malta and sailed back to England where they spent the some time in barracks on the south coast and on the Isle of Wight where they were sent to try to prevent smuggling. Then, in February 1805, they went back overseas, first to a garrison on Gibraltar and then to an island which Jemmy named, in his autobiography, as Paraxil off the African coast, their duty to stop Spanish boats from replenishing the supplies of the Spanish army. There he had a lucky escape; leading eleven men to the African mainland to fill a dozen casks with good drinking water, they were caught in a storm on their return and, to save themselves from a watery death, pulled off their clothes and swam back to the mainland. Ten African men, with muskets, were on the beach though and they seized all the men except Jemmy and one other, taking them prisoner. Jemmy and his companion instead jumped back in to the sea and, despite the storm, swam for Paraxil and safety.

While the 48th regiment went off to serve, with distinction, in the Peninsular War between 1809 and 1814, Jemmy was instead transferred into the 1st Royal Veteran Battalion and remained with them at Gibraltar until April 1810, when he was sent back to England and promoted to Sergeant and Drum Major.

Eventually, in the summer of 1814, the Battalion was disbanded and Jemmy and his comrades were told to assemble at Hyde Park Corner on the 21st July, which they duly did. After eight days billeted at Highgate they were marched to the Chelsea Hospital where they were passed by the board and given a pension of a shilling a day in recompense for their services.

The Royal Hospital, Chelsea: three-quarter view of the south elevation with people strolling. Coloured aquatint by G. Lynn after himself, 1818. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
The Royal Hospital, Chelsea: three-quarter view of the south elevation with people strolling. Coloured aquatint by G. Lynn after himself, 1818.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

And so Jemmy had to adapt to life outside the army. He returned to his birthplace, Norwich, and found himself a job as a footman and butler to a gentleman who lived in the nearby village of Thorpe, but he only lasted six months there as he was too used to travel to be so sedentary. Instead he married (signing himself as James Kidney), at Lakenham on the 10th of January 1817 (in his autobiography he says 6th January 1816), to a woman named Phoebe Crow who lived at Norwich and had a life annuity of £60 a year. With this Jemmy set himself up as a travelling dealer in haberdashery but, after being attacked by a foot-pad, he instead began to weave bombazines and crapes. In 1821 Phoebe died, and Jemmy, ever restless, travelled the length and breadth of the country selling ‘Turkey rhubarb, little books, &c.’

Jemmy the Rock Man marriage

After Phoebe’s death he gave up his pension, feeling that he could manage well enough without it, and thought he would travel to mainland Europe. So Jemmy went to London and procured a passport to Paris, for which he paid ten shillings. He didn’t understand the Vagrant Act, which prohibited begging, and thinking that by busking he’d earn a few coppers he began to sing the Freemason’s Hymn, which got him taken up by a couple of policemen to the Magistrates at Hatton Garden where he was convicted as a rogue and a vagabond, had his passport taken off him and was committed to Cold Bath Fields prison for three months. Jemmy dates this to August 1824 but he was once again wrong with his dates – it was June 1823 and was reported in the newspapers. From Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 24th August 1823.

HATTON GARDEN

A tall, ferocious-looking fellow, with a dark, heavy bushy beard, which nearly hid his features, was brought up, charged with being a rogue and vagabond. The prisoner who gave his name [as] James Guidney, is a well-known character on the town, and a complete impostor. He was taken up in Holborn, singing in some foreign tongue, and accosting ladies and gentlemen. He was blind of the right eye, and his appearance was sufficient to frighten women and children, and at every five seconds he pulled out his box and took a pinch of snuff. On his being searched, several cards of address, a Jew’s hymn-book, and a passport signed that day by the French Consul, were found in his pocket. He spoke no other than the English language, and that very fluently. On the magistrate asking him what religion he was brought up to, or why he let his beard grow; he said he was brought up a Protestant, but on seeing his error, he renounced it, and was converted to the Jewish religion, in which he expected to live and die. He had been a staff serjeant in the first Royal Veteran Battalion, and had a pension of one shilling a day, which he threw up, and his intention was to go to the Continent, to become a hawker of rheubarb and other articles. The Magistrate ordered the passport to be enclosed and returned to the French Consul, and the prisoner to be committed for three months as a rogue and vagabond to the House of Correction, and to have his beard shaved off. – He exclaimed, “No man alive shall shave my beard off.”

But shaved off it was! So, Jemmy was well known to the authorities, not something he had touched upon in his autobiography, nor had he mentioned converting to another religion. He was also quite clearly suspected of being a foreigner in appearance (his discharge papers from the army describe him as having a dark complexion, dark brown hair and hazel eyes). His arrest and incarceration scotched his plan of going to France and upon his release he ‘continued to perambulate the country, selling his small wares’ until he was taken on as a hermit for a month’s residence at Tong Castle in Shropshire. And it was after his month as a hermit that he travelled to Birmingham and began to sell his ‘Composition’.

Bull Ring, Birmingham by British School c.1820 (c) Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Bull Ring, Birmingham by British School c.1820
(c) Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

He had at least two sons, James born around 1825 in Birmingham and Charles, born in December 1827 and who died eleven months later. In the May of 1828, and on the same day that Charles was baptised, Jemmy married for the second time, to Elizabeth Pitt, the eldest daughter of the late Mr Pitt of Northwood Street, locksmith and bell-hanger. Their marriage took place in St Martin’s church and the baptism of Charles, on the same day, at St Phillip’s – maybe they did not want to admit to a child born out of wedlock to the vicar who married them? Strangely, on the same day at St Phillip’s, and entered immediately above Charles’ baptism, is one for James, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Pitt, born on the 14th February 1825 – is this the son who later calls himself James Guidney? And if so, was he actually Jemmy’s son as, in Jemmy’s own account (in which admittedly several of the dates are incorrect) he does not leave the Hermitage at Tong Castle and travel to Birmingham until 11th July 1825, almost five months after this James’ birth? For we can find no baptism for a James Guidney in Birmingham around 1825.

Jemmy the Rock Man - second marriage

Jemmy the Rock Man - sons bapt

Jemmy remained in Birmingham, selling his ‘Composition’ on the streets from nine o’clock in the morning until eight or nine o’clock at night. In 1841 he, Elizabeth and James were living in the yard of the White Lion inn in the St Martin’s area of Birmingham with Jemmy listed as a ‘dealer’. By 1851 it was just Jemmy and Elizabeth and they’d moved to Communication Row in St Thomas’. Elizabeth became ill and Jemmy struggled to care for her, asking for his pension to be reinstated in 1844.

Birmingham Daily Post 10th January 1859
Birmingham Daily Post 10th January 1859

By 1861 Elizabeth was gone from Jemmy’s side, possibly into the workhouse, and his son James and his young family was living with him. A subscription was set up in the early 1860s for Jemmy, with people far and wide sending money to support him, and in 1862 a ballad was sung around the streets of Birmingham titled ‘Jemmy the Rockman’. Capitalizing on his new-found fame, Jemmy published his autobiography, ending it with an advertisement for his services.

Having had very considerable experience as a Drummer, James Guidney will be happy to attend any Public Parties of Pleasure, and may be found at his residence, 18, Communication Row, Birmingham.

Jemmy died on the 28th September 1866 and was buried in Witton Cemetery in Birmingham.

James Guidney, 'Jimmy, the Rock Man' by British School (c) Birmingham Museums Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
James Guidney, ‘Jimmy, the Rock Man’ by British School
(c) Birmingham Museums Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Our final image of him comes courtesy of the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery.

phpthumb

 

Sources:

Birmingham Daily Gazette

Birmingham Daily Post

Birmingham Journal

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Some Particulars of the Life and Adventures of James Guidney, a Well Known Character in Birmingham, written from his own account of himself, third and enlarged edition, 1862

Header picture:

Birmingham from the Dome of St Philip’s Church by Samuel Lines, c.1821, Birmingham Museums Trust

 

Ville d’Avray, the last home of Grace Dalrymple Elliott

Today we are going to take a look at the French village of Ville d’Avray, where Grace Dalrymple Elliott ended her days. In the eighteenth-century Grace had been known as a notorious courtesan and mistress of the Earl of Cholmondeley, the Prince of Wales (when he was young and handsome) and Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc d’Orléans. The Prince was the reputed father of her daughter, Georgiana, although Cholmondeley was the man who brought her up as if she was his own.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

But, by the time the Regency ended and her former lover took the throne as King George IV, Grace’s heyday had passed.  Elderly and in ill-health she left England and settled instead in Ville d’Avray, a quiet village in between Paris and Versailles, where she died in 1823.

The Heights above Ville d'Avray with peasants working in a field by Camille Corot, 1870 (via www.wikiart.org)
The heights above Ville d’Avray with peasants working in a field by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c.1870
(WikiArt Gallery)
a view of the rue Brancas near the artist’s home at Ville-d’Avray, southwest of Paris, which is visible in the distance. Camille Corot, c.1860s, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A view of the rue Brancas near the artist’s home at Ville-d’Avray, southwest of Paris, which is visible in the distance.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c.1860s, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Originally a rural village, with copious vineyards on its exposed hillsides, it was transformed by the nearby Versailles, and the royal palace there. The forest, La forêt de Fausses-Reposes, which surrounded the village was used for hunting and, until the French Revolution, the Fontaine du Roy provided drinking water to the French royal family when they were at Versailles (it was known to provide the best drinking water in the area around Paris).  The large pond on the edge of the village was connected to another royal residence, that of the Château de Saint-Cloud, by an underground aqueduct. The Parc de Saint-Cloud is still connected via that aqueduct, and water from the pond at Ville d’Avray flows to the ponds and waterfalls of Saint-Cloud, and the forest at Ville d’Avray eventually merges into the scenery of the Parc de Saint-Cloud.

The Grand Cascade in the Parc de Saint-Cloud (image via http://www.tripstance.com/)
The Grand Cascade in the Parc de Saint-Cloud
(image via http://www.tripstance.com/)
Ville d'Avray - Le Cavalier à la entrée du bois by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1873 (image via https://commons.wikimedia.org)
Ville d’Avray – Le Cavalier à la entrée du bois by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1873
(Wikimedia Commons)

In 1789 Marc-Antoine Thierry gained the title of Baron and began to build a château and paid for a new church to be built. The construction began just three days before the fall of the Bastille and, although Thierry fell a victim to the Revolution (he was assassinated in the Abbaye prison during the September massacres in 1792), these buildings have survived.

Portait de Marc-Antoine Thierry, baron de Ville d'Avray, premier valet de chambre de Louis XVI, intendant du garde meuble by Alexander Roslin, 1790 (image via http://commons.wikimedia.org/)
Portait de Marc-Antoine Thierry, baron de Ville d’Avray, premier valet de chambre de Louis XVI, intendant du garde meuble by Alexander Roslin, 1790, Palace de Versailles
(Wikimedia Commons)
Château de Thierry à Ville-d'Avray (image via http://commons.wikimedia.org/)
Château de Thierry à Ville-d’Avray
(Wikimedia Commons)

Following the Revolutionary years Ville d’Avray gradually became more residential and people from all disciplines of the arts fell under its charm and spent time living there.  Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), a well-known landscape artist, lived in the village for many years and left behind may fine paintings of the pond and forest on the edge of Ville d’Avray. Although all but one of his paintings shown here date from many years after Grace died, they can’t be that much different from the scenery she would have known and recognised from her last home.

If you would like to know more about Grace, our biography, An Infamous Mistress: the Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, is now available for pre-order at Amazon and elsewhere and due to be published by Pen and Sword in January 2016.

A Woman Gathering Faggots at Ville-d'Avray, Camille Corot, c.1871-1874 (Met Museum).
A Woman Gathering Faggots at Ville-d’Avray, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c.1871-1874, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
L'étang de Ville d'Avray by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c.1863, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg (image via https://commons.wikimedia.org)
L’étang de Ville d’Avray by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c.1863, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg
(Wikimedia Commons)
Ville d'Avray, Woodland Path Bordering the Pond by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1872, Indianapolis Museum of Art (image via https://commons.wikimedia.org)
Ville d’Avray, Woodland Path Bordering the Pond by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1872, Indianapolis Museum of Art
(Wikimedia Commons)
Banks of the Stream near the Corot Property, Ville d'Avray, Camille Corot c.1823. Corot’s mother and sister are depicted standing by a large Italian poplar that marked the entrance to the family’s property at Ville d’Avray, near Paris. (Met Museum)
Banks of the Stream near the Corot Property, Ville d’Avray, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot c.1823. Corot’s mother and sister are depicted standing by a large Italian poplar that marked the entrance to the family’s property at Ville d’Avray, near Paris. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Ville d'Avray the Chemin de Corot by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot c.1840. WikiArt.
Ville d’Avray the Chemin de Corot by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot c.1840.
WikiArt.
Ville d'Avray the Pond and the Cabassud House by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c.1840. WikiArt.
Ville d’Avray the Pond and the Cabassud House by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c.1840.
WikiArt.

Sources used:

http://www.mairie-villedavray.fr/index.php/Histoire?idpage=68&afficheMenuContextuel=true

http://www.agglo-gpso.fr/fontaine_du_roy.html

 

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

Ghostly evidence of murder

In our last blog we told the tale of an eighteenth-century ghost who helped a girl find a hoard of buried coins beneath the stone flags on the floor of her cottage. Today we discuss another ghost who initially seemed equally as helpful, but this one was bent on revealing a murderer rather than a treasure trove and was not what it initially seemed.

The report was circulated in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, dated the 18th March 1762, and began with the following notice:

The Public having for some Time past been impos’d on with so many sham Ghosts, (which credulous People are apt to place too much Belief in), the following may not be disagreeable to the Generality of our Readers.

This referred to the recent controversy in London over the Cock Lane ghost, a supposed haunting carried out by ‘Scratching Fanny’ the dead common-law wife of William Kent, but one really perpetrated by Elizabeth Parsons, the daughter of a man who had recently had a dispute with Kent.

Scene from David Garrick's play 'The Farmer's Return from London. An Interlude'; cottage interior; the actor David Garrick as the Farmer, seated in centre, his right hand on table beside him, his left hand holding his pipe, relating the story of his conversation with the Cock Lane Ghost to his family. British Museum, 1766
A scene from David Garrick’s play ‘The Farmer’s Return from London. An Interlude’; cottage interior; the actor David Garrick as the Farmer, seated in centre, his right hand on the table beside him, his left hand holding his pipe, relating the story of his conversation with the Cock Lane Ghost to his family.
British Museum, 1766

But, to return to our tale…

On a dark night, a farmer’s wife lay tossing and turning, her worry for her missing husband keeping her awake. He had gone to the market at Southam, a small market town about 6 miles south-east of Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, and should have been home hours before. Early the next morning there was a knock at her door.

The farmer’s wife found a man standing there who asked her if her husband had returned the previous evening. She replied in the negative and told him that she ‘was under the utmost Anxiety and Terror on that Account’. The man gave a startling reply.

Your Terror, said he, cannot equal mine, for last Night, as I lay in Bed, quite awake, the Apparition of your Husband appeared to me, shewed me several ghastly Stabs in his Body, told me he had been murthered [sic] by [here he named the individual], and his Carcase thrown into such a Marle-Pit.

The man at the door had named both the murderer and the pit and, after the alarm had been raised, the pit searched and the unfortunate farmer’s body found, the man named by the ghost was arrested. The wounds on the body matched the account given by the ghost and it appeared that the farmer had returned to give evidence against the man who had taken his life.

Haunted Hillborough, Warwickshire by British School (c) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Haunted Hillborough, Warwickshire by British School
(c) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

So thought the men who had taken the murderer into custody, and so thought the jury when the case came to trial at Warwick before the Lord Chief Justice Raymond, all convinced by the evidence said to have been given by the deceased who had helpfully pointed the finger at his murderer and saved them the bother of finding him themselves. They were all set to convict the man accused of the crime until the Judge checked them and spoke to them.

I think, Gentlemen, you seem inclined to lay more Stress on the Evidence of an Apparition, than it will bear. I cannot say that I give much Credit to these Kind of Stories, but be that as it will, we have no right to follow our own private Opinions here. We are now in a Court of Law, and must determine according to it; and I know not of any Law now in being which will admit of the Testimony of an Apparition; not yet if it did, doth the Ghost appear to give Evidence.

The Judge instructed the Crier to call for the Ghost, which he did – three times. Perhaps predictably, the ghost of the murdered farmer neglected to appear in the courtroom.

The Judge continued to address the jury. He pointed out that the man who stood accused of the crime had an unblemished character up to that point, that no cause of a quarrel or grudge between him and the deceased man could be discerned. The Judge gave his verdict.

I do believe him to be perfectly innocent; and, as there is no Evidence against him either positive or circumstantial, he must be acquitted.

Then the Judge pointed his finger at another man in the courtroom, the man who had seen the apparition and had repeated the tale to the poor farmer’s widow.

But from many Circumstances which have arose during the Trial, I do strongly suspect that the Gentleman, who saw the Apparition, was himself the Murtherer [sic]; in which case he might easily ascertain the Pit, the Stabs, &c. without any supernatural Assistance; and on such Suspicion I shall think myself justified in committing him to close Custody, till the Matter can be further enquired into.

With the man in custody, a warrant was granted to search his house and strong proofs of his guilt were discovered. Faced with these he confessed to the murder and was executed for his crime at the next Assize.

The report in the newspaper ended with the following cautionary words – something to bear in mind if you are visited this Halloween.

It is hoped that this simple Relation of a Matter of Fact, now on Record, will be a sufficient Caution to others, not to be over hasty in giving Credit to the Testimony of Apparitions.

 

Notes:

Robert Raymond, 1st Baron Raymond (1673 – 1733) was appointed Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in 1725, and held that position until his death in 1733. Although this story has been oft repeated we can find no mention of it before 1762, some twenty-nine years after Raymond’s death.

 

A helpful eighteenth-century ghost

As Halloween draws near, we thought we’d take a look this week at a couple of helpful (in their own spectral way) eighteenth-century ghosts.

Our first is a ghost that directed the girl it was haunting to a considerable fortune – one we’d all probably be inclined to welcome this Halloween! The Leeds Intelligencer, 3rd July 1764, reported on the story. In the village of Uppingham in Rutland an eighteen year old girl, the daughter of Cornelius Nutt, began to receive visits from a ghost who spoke to her.

Cornelius, or rather Thomas Cornelius Nutt, had married Ann Smyth on Christmas Eve 1741 at St Michael’s in Cambridge and they had a large family with their first few children born at Oakham before they moved to Uppingham. If the girl who saw the ghost was around eighteen years of age she must have been Cornelius’ second child and eldest daughter, Ann, named for her mother and baptised at Oakham on the 1st September 1745.

The hall of the Norman castle at Oakham, Rutland, UK, with All Saints church tower and spire in the background. © Simon Garbutt (Wikipedia)
The hall of the Norman castle at Oakham, Rutland, UK, with All Saints church tower and spire in the background. © Simon Garbutt (Wikipedia)

The ghost informed Miss Ann Nutt that something of value was hidden within her house and when she told her father he had some of the flagstones in the floor of their cottage taken up but nothing was found. The ghost kept on appearing though, and so the girl persuaded a man who was working nearby to take up one particular flagstone (we know not why that certain one – perhaps the ghost had directed her a bit more closely, obviously slightly exasperated with her father’s poor attempt) and when they dug under it they found a black pot. The pot, when opened, was found to contain almost two hundred ancient silver coins.

Not the coins found at Uppingham but perhaps similar. An Anglo Saxon coin hoard found in 1997 and listed at the British Museum.
Not the coins found at Uppingham but perhaps similar. An Anglo Saxon coin hoard found in 1997 and listed at the British Museum.

Cornelius Nutt took possession of the coins and, despite being offered a guinea a piece for them, he intended to take them to London to sell them for a higher value.

The newspaper article ended with a word of caution from the author to Ann and the helpful ‘ghost’:

We would advise this girl, as well as the ghost, to keep their conversation to themselves lest they should both be brought into Westminster-hall.

The British Numismatic Society, in its ‘Additions and Corrections to Thompson’s Inventory and Brown and Dolley’s Coin Hoards, Part 1’ by H.E. Manville, and concerning post-Roman coin hoards, mentions the one found by Ann Nutt and speculates that the coins were English silver and quotes the Gentleman’s Magazine of June 1764.

Friday, 22 June. Near 200 pieces of antient [sic] silver coin being discovered at the house of Cornelius Nutt at Uppington [sic] in Rutlandshire, a report was spread that the man’s daughter had been informed of the place where they were hid in a dream. Be that as it may, some of these coins are said to be very valuable.

Watch out for our next blog later this week for part two and another helpful ghost.

A View of Paris from the Pont Neuf by Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet, 1763, Getty Museum (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Are those really the initials of Grace Dalrymple Elliott on the Rue de Miromesnil?

One of the many incorrect facts about Grace Dalrymple Elliott is that of her monogram above the door of one of the houses on the Rue de Miromesnil in Paris.  It’s widely known and accepted that she lived on this Paris street during the 1790s, and indeed she did.  But at which house?

Rue de Miromesnil, in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, is close to Parc Monceau where Grace’s lover Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc d’Orléans resided.  The houses were built from 1778 onwards and building continued until 1826.  The street was named in honour of the French Minister of Justice, Armand Thomas Hue de Miromesnil (1723-1796).

Carmontelle Giving the Keys of the Parc Monceau to the Duke of Chartres, 1790 (image via Wikimedia Commons)
Carmontelle Giving the Keys of the Parc Monceau to the Duc de Chartres, son of Grace’s lover the Duc d’Orléans, 1790
(image via Wikimedia Commons)

Accepted lore gives her address as no. 31 Rue de Miromesnil largely, we suspect, due to the initials over the door which have been read as G.E.  It seems that this was presented as fact in a book in 1910 and has been repeated ad infinitum since.  On closer inspection though, the initials are not G.E. but E.C.

Rue de Miromesnil 3

 Above is the text from Promenades dans Toutes les Rues de Paris par Arrondissements, VIIIe Arrondissement, 1910.

Rue de Miromesnil 2

We present below both sets of initials in a French Script typeface and a close up image of the monogram above the door.Initials Rue de Miromesnil

Rue de Miromesnil

So, sadly, our belief is that Grace’s initials are not those above that particular doorway.  We do have documentary evidence showing exactly what number Grace’s house on the Rue de Miromesnil actually was (and it wasn’t no. 31), all is revealed in An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  We can say though that we believe that Grace had an apartment in the building, rather than the whole house to herself.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear if you agree with us that the initials read E.C. and not G.E.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

The Passage of the Bidassoa, 7th Queen's Own Hussars 1813

‘Tom Jones’: the history of a female soldier

On a surprisingly mild day in the October of 1821, in the second year of the reign of King George IV, a heavily pregnant woman sat herself down on the doorstep of a gentleman’s house in Gloucester Street, Queen Square in London’s fashionable Bloomsbury district; she felt suddenly faint and needed to rest. A crowd gathered around her and some people, assuming she was a poor beggar, threw halfpence into her lap. At this point two officers from the Mendicity Society arrived and took her to their rooms and then conveyed her to the sitting Magistrates at Hatton Garden and attempted to have her charged her under the Vagrant Act.[i] It was discovered that she had been relieved three times before, and on each occasion had been passed back to Birmingham in the West Midlands, her home parish.

View from the street, looking across the gardens in the square from the north front; elegantly dressed figures on pavement in foreground, separated from square by iron railings; illustration to Ackermann's The Repository of Arts, part 45 volume 8. 1812. Reproduced by permission of the artist. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Queen Square – View from the street, looking across the gardens in the square from the north front; elegantly dressed figures on pavement in foreground, separated from square by iron railings; illustration to Ackermann’s The Repository of Arts, part 45 volume 8. 1812.
Reproduced by permission of the artist. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The lady then began her defence and told the officers an extraordinary and hard to believe account of her life up to that point.

She gave her name as Mary, otherwise Tom Jones. She had been born a soldier’s daughter and after her father was killed when she was still a child she had dressed herself in boy’s clothes and enlisted in the 47th (Lancashire) Regiment of Foot, serving seven years in their ranks as a drummer boy. It was certainly unusual but not unknown for women to enlist and live as a man; Hannah Snell famously did so in the eighteenth-century. Maybe Mary’s father had served with the 47th and the soldiers had taken in the young orphan (if so she was) letting her live amongst them and looking after her? But eventually it was discovered that she was a girl and discharged. We are given no clue about the years in which Mary saw service in the 47th, but it must have been at some period in the first fifteen years of the 1800s. During those years the 1st Battalion of the 47th saw action in South America and India and the 2nd Battalion were stationed in Ireland for five years before, in 1809, being sent to garrison Gibraltar and they then saw action from 1811 in the Peninsular War. It therefore seems possible that Mary spent her years as a drummer boy with the 2nd Battalion during their seven years of garrison duty in Ireland and Gibraltar, and possibly deliberately allowed her sex to be discovered rather than risk her young life on the battlefield.

Uniforms of the 47th in 1804. © Lancs Inf Museum & Harry Fecitt MBE TD
Uniforms of the 47th in 1804.
© Lancs Inf Museum & Harry Fecitt MBE TD

Shortly afterwards, at the age of nineteen years, she married a soldier in the , otherwise known as the 7th Hussars or the ‘Saucy Seventh’, a regiment which was ‘the embodiment of dash and panache for which every cavalry regiment strives’.[ii]

Mary followed her husband’s regiment and was present at the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June 1815 where their regimental Colonel, Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge, was commander of the entire British Cavalry force (Paget famously lost his leg towards the end of the Battle and was subsequently created the Marquess of Anglesey). In the mayhem of the day she claimed that she once again dressed herself in male clothing and fought, as a volunteer, by the side of her husband. The 7th Hussars were in the thick of the battle from 5pm (they were not used before that) and were charged more than a dozen times. Mary told the officers that she was wounded three times on that day, slashed across her nose by a sabre, stabbed by an enemy bayonet in her left leg and received a musket ball in her right. Her unnamed husband sadly lost his life on the battlefield.

Plate 4; soldiers and horse gathered in a ruined house. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Plate 4; soldiers and horse gathered in a ruined house.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Staggering from the field, Mary came across a Captain belonging to her husband’s regiment who was dreadfully wounded in his head. She had him removed to a surgeon and safety and he recovered. Mary told the officers of the Mendicity Society that the grateful Captain now lived in Sloane Street and allowed her a shilling a day in return for saving his life. For some time after that fateful day in 1815 she had also received nine pence a day from King George IV, but that allowance had been taken from her on account of her drunkenness.[iii]

But Mary had turned her life around once more and married for a second time, to a soldier in the Guards by whom she was now with child. She asserted that she had not been begging, that she had merely sat down as she was feeling faint and had not solicited the ha’pennies which had been thrown into her lap. The officers could not prove the charge against her and so Mary was discharged.

We thought it was a fascinating tale and tried to prove or disprove the facts within it. Sadly the newspaper report on this ‘Female Soldier’ had not given us much to go on and we were left not even knowing if her alias of ‘Tom Jones’ related to her maiden surname, the surname of one of her two husbands or a name she had chosen at random. She did not give her father’s rank in the 47th regiment of foot, nor that of either of her two husbands. We thought that probably the only person we could track down was the injured Captain of the 7th Hussars who allowed poor Mary a shilling a day.

1821 George III shilling.
1821 George III shilling.

Turning to the 1815 Army List we found the names of twelve men who were Captains in the regiment at the time of the Battle of Waterloo. We then checked the newspaper reports which appeared in the wake of the battle listing the men who were killed, wounded or missing. From those we found that three Captains in the 7th Hussars were wounded in the battle, Captains Thomas William Robbins, William Verner and Peter Augustus Heyliger. If Mary’s story was correct then her Captain had to be one of those three men. We dug a little deeper.

Captain Peter Augustus Heyliger had been particularly noted for his bravery on the day by the Duke of Wellington, but his injury consisted of being shot through the arm. The wounds suffered by Captain Thomas William Robbins did not seem to be specifically mentioned. We then turned our attention to Captain William Verner who was raised in rank to a Major after the battle.[iv]

Verner, a native of Armagh in Northern Ireland, had left behind some memoirs and had described his experiences on the day. He had indeed received a severe head wound, caused by a musket ball, and had been taken to the surgeon. Later moved to Brussels he developed a fever and his life was feared of. Reputedly the Duke of Wellington visited the badly wounded Captain and brusquely told him that “You are not nearly so bad as you think”. With that Verner was up and about within a month but instead of attributing his recovery to either Mary or to the Duke of Wellington, he instead said it was down to the recuperative powers of Guinness porter. Verner married in London on the 19th October 1819 (his wife was Harriet, daughter of Colonel Wingfield and granddaughter of the 3rd Viscount Powerscourt) and subsequently is mentioned as living at 86 Eaton Square, but if Mary’s story was correct he must be the man whose life she helped to preserve and who allowed her a shilling a day. William Verner eventually retired from the army as a Lieutenant-Colonel and subsequently became Sir William Verner. We have yet to find that he mentioned any part played in the battle by a young female soldier who was widowed on the field.

Lieutenant Colonel Sir William Verner (1782–1871), Bt by Martin Cregan. (c) Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Lieutenant Colonel Sir William Verner (1782–1871), Bt by Martin Cregan.
(c) Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

There was at least one wife of a soldier with the 7th Hussars on the battlefield that day: could she possibly be Mary? If so she seems a little less forward than her tale to the Mendicity officers would have us believe but perhaps, even if she did not fight, she did indeed assist the badly injured Captain William Verner from the field in his hour of need, earning his lasting gratitude and assistance if not his public thanks. From William Verner’s Memoirs:

About this time we heard a person in a rough voice cry out, “What is the matter with you, are you afraid?” Upon turning to see we found that this was addressed by Sergt. Major Edwards of Captain Fraser’s Troop, to his wife, who had accompanied him ever since our arrival in the country upon a small pony. As soon as she was discovered by Captain Fraser, he asked her husband if he intended his wife to go into action with us, and ordered her immediately to the Rear.

 

Sources used:

Caledonian Mercury, 6th July 1815

Stamford Mercury, 26th October 1821

Heroic Option: The Irish in the British Army by Desmond Bowen and Jean Bowen, 2005

Reminiscences of William Verner (1782-1871) 7th Hussars, 1965

The Waterloo Archive: Volume III: British Sources edited by Gareth Glover

Waterloo Letters by Major General H.T. Siborne, 1993

Wellington’s Doctors: The British Army Medical Services in the Napoleonic Wars by Martin Howard, 2002

WO 65. War Office: printed annual army lists, National Archives

UCL Bloomsury Project – Bloomsbury Institutions – Society for the Suppression of Mendicity

The Queen’s Own Hussars Museum

Churchill – Home of the Verners (Craigavon Historical Society Vol. 6 No. 3)

 

Endnotes:

[i] The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity (also known as the Mendicity Society) was founded in 1818 to attempt to prevent people begging on the London streets by offering them charity if they left the area immediately.

[ii] The newspaper report on Mary’s arrest said her husband was in the 7th Dragoon Guards: the 7th (the Princess Royal’s) Dragoon Guards did not, however, see action at Waterloo (see National Army Museum) but the 7th (the Queen’s Own) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars) did. We have therefore assumed the latter regiment was the one to which her husband belonged.

[iii] In an age when a soldier’s pay was nominally one shilling a day the allowance provided by the Captain seems generous. It is of course possible that the newspaper had got its facts a little wrong and Mary received a her allowances weekly rather than daily.

[iv] Vice Major Edward Hodge who was killed at Waterloo.

 

Header image: The Passage of the Bidassoa, 7th Queen’s Own Hussars 1813

 

Jacintha Dalrymple and the Winckley Jacobite Relic

Today we are going to direct you to the site of our friend and fellow Pen and Sword Books author, Geri Walton, where you can find a guest blog we have written.

Our blog is about Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s sister, Jacintha Dalrymple, and her connection with a Jacobite relic owned by the family of her second husband, Thomas Winckley of Lancashire.

So, without further ado, we’ll direct you to Geri’s site by clicking HERE where you can read more about Jacintha and also discover Geri’s site if you have never visited it before.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott, as regular readers of this blog will know, is the subject of our forthcoming biography to be published by Pen and Sword Books in January 2016.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

It is currently available to pre-order at the following sites.

Please note: if you are reading this from outside the UK, we are expecting it to be available in America a few months later than the UK publication date, and hopefully elsewhere worldwide too. We will keep you informed and update this page as soon as we have more information.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

 

A View in the Fens; John Leslie Thomson

Opium Eating: The Lincolnshire Fens in the early nineteenth-century

Today’s blog is going to be a sad little tale of a family destroyed by opium in late Georgian England. It perhaps struck us so much because the family lived not in an inner city slum but instead in the flat and open agricultural landscape of the Lincolnshire Fens, a marshland close to the Wash, an estuary on the eastern coastline of England.

We’ll turn first to a newspaper report on the inquest of a child belonging to this family, poor little Rebecca Eason who was actually younger than mentioned; she had not yet reached her fifth birthday.

An inquest was held at Whaplode on the 21st inst., by Samuel Edwards, Gent. coroner, on view of the body of Rebecca Eason, a child aged 5 years, who had been diseased from its birth and was unable to walk or to articulate, and from its size did not appear to be more than a few weeks old:- The mother had been for many years in the habit of taking opium in very large quantities, (nearly a quarter of an ounce in the day), and it is supposed from that circumstance had entailed a disease on her child which caused its death:- it was reduced to a mere skeleton, and had been in that emaciated state nearly from its birth. – Verdict, “Died by the visitation of God, but that from the great quantity of opium taken by the mother during her pregnancy of the said child and of her suckling it, she had greatly injured its health.” – It appeared in evidence that the mother of the deceased had had five children – that she began to take opium after the birth and weaning of her first child, which was and is remarkably healthy – and that her four younger children have all lingered and died in the same emaciated state as the child which was the subject of this investigation. – The mother is under 30 years of age: she was severely censured by the coroner for indulging in so pernicious a practice.

Stamford Mercury, 30th September 1825

For reasons that will perhaps become clear, we’re not going to judge poor addicted Mary Eason. She was quite clearly continuing to take opium despite knowing the effect it was having on her children but we cannot, at this remove, know what induced her first to use the drug, and once addicted very little help would be available to her.

Fenland Scene by J. Lamnier (c) Rossendale Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Fenland Scene by J. Lamnier
(c) Rossendale Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

We were surprised to find that the consumption of opium in the Fenland was extremely high in comparison to other areas. Even now large areas of the Fenland appear quite isolated and in the early nineteenth-century there was limited medical assistance for the inhabitants who suffered badly from the ague (malarial fever, often leading to rheumatism), brought on by living in a marshy and largely unhealthy district. In 1867 Dr Hawkins of King’s Lynn informed the readers of the British Medical Journal that Lincolnshire and Norfolk consumed more than half of the opium which was imported into the country.[i]

The fact that these conditions had led to a noticeably high consumption of opium was commented on at the time. `There was not a labourer’s house… without its penny stick or pill of opium, and not a child that did not have it in some form.’ According to an analysis made in 1862, more opium was sold in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Manchester than in other parts of the country.’ As elsewhere, poppy-head tea had been used as a remedy long before other narcotics were commercially available. Charles Lucas, a Fenland physician, recalled the widespread use of the remedy. `A patch of white poppies was usually found in most of the Fen gardens. Poppy-head tea was in frequent use, and was taken as a remedy for ague… To the children during the teething period the poppy-head tea was often given. Poppies had been grown in the area for the London drug market, where they were used to produce syrup of white poppies; and there had even been attempts made in Norfolk to produce opium on a commercial scale.[ii]

Mary married young, very young given that she was stated (erroneously) to be under the age of thirty years in the September of 1825. Mary was, in fact, probably just on the other side of thirty as she married on the 9th September 1810 at the church of St Mary’s in Whaplode. Her maiden name was Egan and her husband, a labourer (given the location he’d be an agricultural labour), was named Thomas Eason. Mary made her mark on the register of her marriage and the two men who witnessed the ceremony were possibly two of the Church Wardens as they witnessed many marriages in the parish. Their names were Robert Collins and Robert Cook Collins.

So Mary was likely to have been little more than sixteen years of age and the marriage was a hasty one, possibly conducted with encouragement from the parish officials for Mary was heavily pregnant at the time of her wedding. Her child, a daughter named Ann, was born less than two months after she had walked up the aisle and was baptised in the same church on the 4th November 1810.

On the face of it, purely from the records available, things do not look too bad for the couple despite the unpromising start. They lived on Cobgate in Whaplode and, from the account given at the inquest, little Ann was a healthy baby and Mary initially a good mother. But the records belie the true facts. It was after Ann had been weaned that Mary Eason began to take opium.

We can’t know if her hastily made marriage was a happy one (for as the old saying goes, marry in haste and repent at leisure) nor if she was suffering from what would now be diagnosed as postnatal depression after the birth of her child. But begin to take opium she did which was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary in the area in which she lived and where the drug was widely available. It was not unknown for working-class women to dose their infant with poppy-head tea to keep them quiet or to soothe them. Sometimes their own addiction began because they ‘tasted’ the opiates which they gave to their children. Perhaps this is how Mary’s sad story of addiction began? However it came about, now the tragic procession of the baptisms and burials of her children begins to stalk the pages of the parish register.

"Poor child's nurse", child with opium, Punch, 1849 Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
“Poor child’s nurse”, child with opium, Punch, 1849
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

First was William, baptized on the 15th April 1813 and buried just a few months later on the 30th September. He was followed by another girl, Susanna, baptized on the 2nd January 1815 and who lived to see only her first birthday. She was buried on the 13th May 1816. Then comes Sarah, baptized on the 1st November 1816 and possibly, contrary to the inquest, a further child who did survive Mary’s addiction for we have as yet found no corresponding burial for her.

Sarah’s birth was followed by another sister, Elisabeth who was baptized on the 6th December 1818 and buried just over a month later on the 10th January 1819. Then a son named Thomas, baptized on the 4th December 1819 and buried five days later. And next came poor Rebecca, baptized on the 29th December 1820, who somehow miraculously clung to life but failed to grow or develop. Finally the last child we have managed to trace, another son named John who was baptized on the 6th July 1823 and buried on Christmas Eve later that same year.

We’ll be honest here, when we first went hunting through the records for Mary Eason and her children we half expected to see a trail of illegitimate children. But no, Thomas Eason is named on all the baptisms and burials as the father, the address is always Cobgate and his profession does not change. For anyone reading through the Whaplode registers the household looks to be a completely stable one, albeit tinged with tragedy. As we have not judged Mary, neither will we judge Thomas Eason. Again, we have no way of knowing whether he was a kind or a cruel husband or even if he was an opium eater himself, but the mere fact that he had stuck by Mary and that their eldest child was reported, in 1825, to still be healthy, points to him trying his best to hold his troubled home together. Possibly he just got by and did what he could, not knowing what else to do or where to turn to for help?

The Church of St Mary, Whaplode. The east end of the church. © Copyright Dave Hitchborne (Geograph) and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
The Church of St Mary, Whaplode.
The east end of the church.
© Copyright Dave Hitchborne (Geograph) and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.

At least five infant children belonging to Thomas and Mary Eason now lay in the churchyard at St Mary’s and it seems that they had passed as mere statistics of high infant mortality without the cause of death raising any suspicions, or at least no suspicions which reached the authorities. In the Fenland the rates of infant mortality were even higher than elsewhere, with the use of opium being one of the main causes. But Rebecca’s death in 1825 was different, because of her deformities, leading to the inquest.

After Rebecca’s burial on the 22nd September 1825 when she joined her five siblings in the churchyard Thomas and Mary Eason vanish from the pages of the parish register. We’ve looked for them in later records, hoping to put a happy ending to their lives, but we can find no trace of them or their daughter Ann (and Sarah if she did live). A sad ending for a sad tale of a Fenland family in the early nineteenth century.

Endnotes:

[i] Beccles and Bungay Weekly News, 1st October 1867

[ii] Opium in the Fens

Header image: A View in the Fens; John Leslie Thomson; Perth & Kinross Council

The Persevering Lover and the False Wife, 1786

The recent trial for crim. con. upon an action brought by Mr. F[awkener] against the honourable John Townshend, for criminal conversation with the plaintiff’s wife, is, at present, the topic of conversation in all the polite circles; but great pains having been taken to suppress the publication of the trial, the incidents of this illicit amour are not generally known. We have, however, come at a knowledge of the whole transaction, and will lay it candidly and fairly before our readers.

So began the article entitled ‘Histories of the téte-à-téte annexed; or Memoirs of the PERSEVERING LOVER, and the FALSE WIFE’ in the July 1786 edition of The Town and Country Magazine.

Portrait of Georgiana Anne, Lady Townshend nee Poyntz, daughter of William Poyntz of Midgham, Berkshire by George Romney
Portrait of Georgiana Anne, Lady Townshend née Poyntz, daughter of William Poyntz of Midgham, Berkshire by George Romney (via Christie’s)

William Augustus Fawkener was the brother of Mrs Bouverie about whom we have written before. His wife was formerly Georgiana Anne Poyntz, daughter of William Poyntz of Midgham House in Berkshire and cousin to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Beautiful and clever, but with no great fortune, at the age of only twenty years she had been persuaded into marriage by her family to Fawkener, a man she did not particularly like. The marriage, at St George’s in Hanover Square, was conducted by her uncle, the Reverend Charles Poyntz. Sylvester Douglas, Lord Glenbervie later wrote of her, saying that Georgiana Anne had been “in a manner educated in Devonshire House, and continued to live principally in that society of easy manners after her marriage”. After only a year of marriage, while staying at Lord Melbourne’s house, Brocket Hall, the young Mrs Fawkener fell head over heels in love with the handsome Honourable John Townshend, second son to Field Marshal George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend.

Brocket Hall, 1795 (© British Museum)
Brocket Hall, 1795
(© British Museum)

Jack Townshend was an intimate friend of Charles James Fox and known as a man of wit and pleasure with elegant tastes; he was also a wicked mimic and could pen excellent verses. He was a regular guest at Devonshire House and the Duchess said of him in 1777 that “Jack Townshend is really a very amiable young man. He has great parts, though not such brilliant ones as Charles Fox’s, and I dare say he will make a very good figure hereafter – he is just twenty now, though he has the appearance of being older”. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was later accused of covering up the intrigues developing between her young cousin and her friend, Jack Townshend. Everyone but Mr Fawkener could see that Mr Townshend was taking ‘liberties’ with the young wife, and when William was roused to action, Georgiana Anne stoutly and boldly denied any wrongdoing, but in doing so she evinced so much partiality to Townshend and contempt for her husband that the pair separated, and Georgiana left her marital home. She must have run to her lover, for her husband had her watched and then when satisfied as to how the thing stood, challenged his rival to a duel. Meeting in Hyde Park, Fawkener fired first and missed; Townshend, conscious of having done wrong, refused to return his rival’s fire, instead, he discharged his pistol into the air.

Monday a duel was fought in Hyde Park between the Hon. John Townshend and William Faulkener, Esq; Clerk to the Privy Council. The gentlemen had some dispute at Ranelagh on Friday night, and they met with their seconds on Monday morning. Faulkener fired first, and missed, the bullet passing only thro’ the hat of Mr. Townshend; the latter then discharged his pistol in the air, and the affair terminated to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.

Public Advertiser, 24th May 1786

Georgiana Anne had first run to Twickenham and then she stopped in St Alban’s at the house of her aunt, the Dowager Lady Spencer. John Townshend joined her there and they left Lady’s Spencer’s house to live, to all intents and purposes, as man and wife. The couple kept on the move, to an inn at Staines, then Godalming, Richmond and back to Staines, thence to Lymington before moving to Hampstead and then Chelsea before finally settling at Hereford. At the ensuing trial which began on the 12th July 1786 and at which the Duke of Devonshire was called as a witness by Mr Townshend, it was established that Mrs Fawkener often met with John Townshend when she rode out and the gentleman took ‘several liberties both in action and conversation, which a modest woman could only allow to her husband’; he had been seen leaving Georgiana Anne’s bedchamber in the morning after her separation from her husband. Fawkener was awarded £500 damages for the loss of his wife.

Lord John Townshend by Joshua Reynolds (via Wikimedia Commons)
Lord John Townshend by Joshua Reynolds
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Town and Country Magazine speculated that, should a full divorce be granted, John Townshend would make haste to marry his lady, and that is exactly what happened despite objections from his father who wrote:

I forgive your conduct towards the woman, I approve of your behaviour towards her husband in the field; but should you marry her, I can never more consider you as one of my family.

The couple married on the 10th April 1787 at Sunbury on Thames. Townshend, known as Lord John Townshend from 1787, stood as M.P. for Westminster and then for Knaresborough for many years. The couple had three children (their daughter Elizabeth married Captain Augustus Clifford, the illegitimate son of the 5th Duke of Devonshire and his mistress Lady Elizabeth Foster, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire’s rival) and seem to have lived out their long lives happily enough together.  Lord John died in 1833 aged 76, and Lady Georgiana Anne Townshend lived to the great age of 94 years, dying in 1851.

Georgiana Anne, Lady Townshend, pencil drawing c.1790 (Wikimedia Commons)
Georgiana Anne, Lady Townshend, pencil drawing c.1790
(Wikimedia Commons)

As for William Augustus Fawkener, he too remarried and had two daughters by his second wife.

Sources used not mentioned above:

The Devonshire House Circle by Hugh Stokes, 1917

Lewis Walpole Library

The gallant and heroic Madame du Frenoy, 1785

In the December of 1785 the French port town of Marseilles was abuzz with gossip about the gallant and heroic Madame du Frenoy.

Entrance of the Port of Marseille by Claude Joseph Vernet, 1754. Louvre, Paris (via Wikimedia).
Entrance of the Port of Marseille by Claude Joseph Vernet, 1754.
Louvre, Paris (via Wikimedia).

The lady had embarked along with her husband in a Tartane (a small ship used for fishing and coastal trading), bound for Genoa in Italy, and had scarcely lost sight of the port when a Barbary corsair ship was spied making its way towards them. The Tartane had no chance of outrunning the pirate vessel, and so prepared to receive it.

 Tartane in Toulon (nineteenth-century). A hulk can be seen in the background. Louis Le Breton, témoin des marines du XIXème siècle (via Wikimedia).
Tartane in Toulon (nineteenth-century). A hulk can be seen in the background.
Louis Le Breton, témoin des marines du XIXème siècle (via Wikimedia).

Monsieur du Frenoy tried desperately to persuade his wife to go below deck, but she flatly refused. Displaying a remarkable courage, she seized hold of a sabre and took her place at her husband’s side, declaring she would remain there and abide by her fate. Monsieur du Frenoy knew enough of his wife to realise it was impossible to change her mind, and so by his side she stayed. The Algerine vessel came closer and after firing a broadside they grappled the Tartane, and threw a large party on board her.

An Algerine Ship off a Barbary Port by Andries van Eertvelt. (c) National Maritime Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.
An Algerine Ship off a Barbary Port by Andries van Eertvelt.
(c) National Maritime Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.

The crew and passengers of the Tartane received the pirates gallantly, but one of the bravest amongst them was Madame du Frenoy. She wielded her sabre, and shouted encouragement to the crew, cheering and animating them. Her husband fell, wounded by a pistol bullet in his thigh; his lady stood over him and levelled, with one stroke of her sabre, a young Turk who advanced to attack them. At last the pirates retreated to the safety of their own ship, cut the grappling that bound the two vessels together and made off. A smart action now commenced with their great guns.

Conrad the Corsair by Horace Vernet, 1824. (c) The Wallace Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.
Conrad the Corsair by Horace Vernet, 1824.
(c) The Wallace Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.

Madame du Frenoy helped her husband below, to the surgeon, and then returned to the deck, encouraging the men on the Tartane until the corsair, tired of his reception, sheered off. Twenty dead pirates lay on the deck of the Tartane and of the crew of the Tartane, fourteen had died and thirty were wounded (the number of wounded pirates who made it back to the safety of the corsair was not recorded).

The Tartane limped back into Marseilles where the Magistrates were informed of the action and of the bravery of the lady. They waited on Madame du Frenoy and invited her, in their name, to the theatre where she was received with the loudest acclamations and a crown of laurel placed upon her head by the Marquis de St Christeau.

Woman's head by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1780 (via WikiArt Gallery).
Woman’s head by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1780 (via WikiArt Gallery).

Madame du Frenoy continued to be rightly lauded for her bravery: Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, asked for a portrait to be taken of her and, in the June of 1786, the Grand Master of Malta, Fra’ Sir Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc (1725-1797) sent to her, as a present, a most rich and costly bracelet of rubies as a token of her extraordinary and gallant conduct.

Portrait of Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc (1725-1797). Musee de la Legion d'Honneur (via Wikimedia).
Portrait of Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc (1725-1797).
Musee de la Legion d’Honneur (via Wikimedia).

We searched for Madame du Frenoy, but the only person we found was Adélaïde-Gillette Dufrénoy, née Billet. Born in 1765, this lady had married, at the age of only fifteen years, a rich prosecutor, Simon Petit-Dufrénoy. In 1787 she began to write and publish some poetic works and in 1788 put on a play at the theatre. Misfortune followed when her home was burnt to the ground during the French Revolutionary years and her husband became bankrupt: he was offered a badly paid job at Alexandria in Egypt and Adélaïde-Gillette accompanied him there, copying and writing his documents for him when he became blind, but also finding time to compose the elegies for which she is most remembered.

Mme DUFRÉNOY, née BILLET (1765-1825), (private collection) (via http://www.annales.org/).
Mme DUFRÉNOY, née BILLET (1765-1825), (private collection via http://www.annales.org/).

When Simon Petit-Dufrénoy retired the couple returned to France where Adélaïde-Gillette found favour with the Emperor Napoléon. She took to writing erotic poetry (and was very successful in doing so!) and in 1812 sang for the King of Rome. The King was a year old infant, Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, the son of Napoléon and his second wife Marie Louise of Austria whom he had married following his divorce from Joséphine de Beauharnais. The following year Adélaïde-Gillette formed one of the escort which travelled with Marie Louise of Austria to Cherbourg for the opening of the harbour on the 27th August 1813.

Inaugural opening of new harbour at Cherbourg in presence of Empress Marie Louise. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Inaugural opening of new harbour at Cherbourg in presence of Empress Marie Louise.
© The Trustees of the British Museum.
Maria Louisa late Empress of France, 1813. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Maria Louisa late Empress of France, 1813.
© The Trustees of the British Museum.

When the French Empire fell,  Adélaïde-Gillette Dufrénoy managed to save her family from ruin by writing children’s books. She died in 1825, aged fifty-nine years. With a true instinct for survival, was Adélaïde-Gillette Dufrénoy the heroic wife who stood over her injured husband wielding her sabre to save his life?

 

Sources used:

Sussex Advertiser, 26th December 1785.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 6th July 1786.

Mare and Foal; William Malbon; Museums Sheffield

Jess: the whisky loving pet mare

The following story was found in the London Standard newspaper, dated the 3rd July 1829.

Scottish Landscape: Bringing in a Stag (figure and animals by Sir E. Landseer) 1830 Frederick Richard Lee and Sir Edwin Henry Landseer 1799-1879, 1802-1873 Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01788
Scottish Landscape: Bringing in a Stag (figure and animals by Sir E. Landseer) 1830 Frederick Richard Lee and Sir Edwin Henry Landseer

A friend of ours, who travels a good deal in the course of the year – visiting by the way many outlandish corners, where inns and milestones are alike scarce – has a mare that follows him like a pet dog, and fares very much as he does himself. Her name is Jess, and when a feed of corn is difficult to be got at, she has no objection to breakfast, dine, or sup on oat-cake, loaf-bread, or barley-meal scones, seasoned with a whang from the gudewife’s kebbuck. In the remotest parishes such viands are generally forthcoming and failing these, the animal is so little given to fastidiousness, that she will thrust, when invited, her nose into a cofgull of porridge or sowens, or even the kail-pot itself, where the content are thick and sufficiently cool.

The Home Park Windsor with a Grey Mare in the Foreground by Charles Towne, 1830 (c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Home Park Windsor with a Grey Mare in the Foreground by Charles Towne, 1830 (c) Walker Art Gallery

 Though her staple beverage is drawn from the pump-trough, the crystal well, or the running brook, she can tipple at times as well as her betters, particularly when the weather runs in extremes, and is either sultry and oppressively hot, or disagreeably raw, blashy, and cold. In warm days she prefers something cooling, and very lately we had the honour of treating her to a bottle of ale! A toll-keeper, when summoned, came to the door, with a bottle in the one hand and a screw in the other; but a clumsier butler we never saw, and, what with his fumbling, the mare got so impatient, that she seemed ready at one time to knock the lubber down. The liquor, when decanted, was approached in a moment, and swallowed without the intervention of a breath; and for some miles its effects were visible in the increased speed and spirits of the animal; and we were informed that the same thing takes pace, when the cordial is changed in winter to a gill of whiskey!

Sir John Palmer on His Favourite Mare with His Shepherd, John Green, and His Prize Leicester Longwool Sheep by John E. Ferneley I, 1823 (c) Leicestershire County Council Museums Service; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Sir John Palmer on His Favourite Mare with His Shepherd, John Green, and His Prize Leicester Longwool Sheep by John E. Ferneley I, 1823
(c) Leicestershire County Council Museums Service

The aqua, of course, is diluted in water, several per cents below the proper strength of seamen’s grog; and her master is of opinion that a little spirits, timeously applied, is as useful a preservative against cold in the case of a horse as of a human being. Our friend’s system is certainly peculiar, but his mare thrives well under it; and we will be bold to say that a roadster more sleek, safe, and docile, is not to be found in the whole country. – Dumfries Courier.

Header image: Mare and Foal; William Malbon; Museums Sheffield

Hannah Snell: the Amazons and the Press Gang, 1771

On Friday 4th January 1771 a press gang was busily impressing men at Newington Butts (now a borough in Southwark).

The Press Gang by Alexander Johnston (c) Ferens Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Press Gang by Alexander Johnston
(c) Ferens Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The men who had been impressed had no recourse, and one woman was distraught to see her husband being taken away from her and their children. She followed the sailors with loud lamentations and protestations which roused many other women to sally forth from their houses to add their voices to that of the wife’s. One of these women was the famous Hannah Snell who was at that time the landlady of the Three Tuns public house.

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Three Tuns Passage in Southwark, pictured in 1890 but perhaps not so different from Hannah's day. Courtesy of the Museum of London
Three Tuns Passage in Southwark, pictured in 1890 but perhaps not so different from Hannah’s day.
Courtesy of the Museum of London

Years earlier Hannah had disguised herself as a man, taken the name of her brother-in-law James Gray, and joined the British army in search of her errant husband, a Dutchman named James Summs whom she said she had married in 1744 in the Fleet (he had left her with a young daughter who had died as an infant).[i] Successfully hiding the fact that she was a woman, even though she was reputedly twice given the lash and suffered many wounds, she served both on land with the army and at sea with the marines until she returned to London and came clean. She petitioned the Duke of Cumberland for a stipend, and then trod the boards on the London stage for a time.

Hannah Snell (1723–1792) (detail) c.1750 by Daniel Williamson National Trust; (c) Royal Marines Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Hannah Snell (1723–1792)
(detail) c.1750 by Daniel Williamson
National Trust; (c) Royal Marines Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

By the time she chased the press gang, Hannah had found out her first husband had died (she was told a fanciful tale that he had been executed for murder in Genoa by being put into a barrel and thrown into the sea) and had remarried (and probably again been widowed) to a Berkshire carpenter named Richard Eyles with whom she had two children.[ii]

Copper-engraving by B. Cole after Boitard, of Hannah Snell in military dress with military and naval battles in background. Published in London by B. Dickinson. Images of Women in the Anne S. K. Brown Military Art Collection Brown University Library
Copper-engraving by B. Cole after Boitard, of Hannah Snell in military dress with military and naval battles in background. Published in London by B. Dickinson.
Images of Women in the Anne S. K. Brown Military Art Collection
Brown University Library

The newspapers reported that Hannah accosted the Lieutenant in charge of the sailors, and demanded the captive be released; he refused and ‘bad words’ ensuing, she grabbed hold of him and shook him. Two sailors stepped forward to rescue the officer, but Hannah quickly saw them off, and then challenged the rest of the gang to a fight with fists, sticks or quarter-staffs. Her only proviso was that she be permitted to pull off her stays, gown and petticoats and to put on a pair of breeches. Loudly she declared that she had sailed more Leagues than any of them, and if they were Seamen, they ought to be on board, and not sneaking about as Kidnappers, saying:

. . . but if you are afraid of the Sea, take Brown Bess on your shoulders, and march through Germany as I have done: Ye Dogs, I have more Wounds about me than you have Fingers. This is no false Attack; I will have my Man.

And with that the sailors backed down and allowed her to take the poor man from their ranks: Hannah restored him to his hearth and home, and his grateful wife.

The press gang, or, English liberty display'd Engraved for the Oxford Magazine, 1770 Lewis Walpole Library
The press gang, or, English liberty display’d
Engraved for the Oxford Magazine, 1770
Lewis Walpole Library

Shortly after her successful sally on the press gang she married for a third time, to a man named Richard Habgood.

On the 12th November 1772 the couple applied for marriage bond in the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Salisbury, covering Wiltshire and Berkshire. The bond gave the information that Richard Habgood was of Welford and Hannah Eyles was of Speen, both in Berkshire. The bondsman was James Owen of Welford. They then married on the 16th November 1772 at St Gregory’s, the parish church covering the villages of Welford and Wickham, by banns.

The celebrated Hannah Snell died in Bethlem (Bedlam) Hospital in 1792.

The Hospital of Bethlem [Bedlam] at Moorfields, London: seen from the north, with people in the foreground. Coloured engraving, c. 1771. Wellcome Images via Wikimedia
The Hospital of Bethlem [Bedlam] at Moorfields, London: seen from the north, with people in the foreground. Coloured engraving, c. 1771.
Wellcome Images via Wikimedia
Hannah’s life as a ‘female soldier’ was told in print in 1750, ‘The Female Soldier; Or, The Surprising Life and Adventures of Hannah Snell’.

Endnotes:

[i] They had a daughter, Susannah, baptised on the 3rd October 1746 at St George in the East and Hannah’s address in the baptism register was given as Silver Street.

[ii] Her son George Spence Eyles was baptised on the 17th January 1765 at St Luke’s in Chelsea.

 

Sources used:

Newcastle Courant, 10th November 1759

Northampton Mercury, 7th January 1771

Chester Chronicle, 6th December 1776

Cover reveal of ‘An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott’

We have some exciting news to share with our readers. Our book is now available for pre-order! We’ll give the links at the bottom of this post.

Additionally, we can also now reveal the cover. The image we chose to use of Grace is a miniature from a private collection, painted by Richard Cosway around the time of her ill-fated marriage to Dr John Eliot. It shows Grace as a young and innocent woman, scarcely out of her childhood years, just as she was about to embark on the life which would lead to her infamous notoriety. We loved this miniature of her, and chose to use it on the cover because our book is about so much more than just Grace’s career as a courtesan; it also shows her at the heart of her family and recounts their adventures through life as well as Grace’s. As such, we thought this image, which shows her as she was remembered to her family, was particularly apt.

The picture at the bottom of the cover depicts the storming of the Tuileries in August 1792 during the French Revolutionary years. Grace was present in Paris during this event and recounted her participation in the immediate aftermath of it in the pages of her Journal.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

As first time authors this is a thrilling time for us, not least because we are longing to share the information we have uncovered during our many years of research into Grace and her family. We have lots which is new and hitherto unknown, and we are honoured to have been allowed to include within the pages of our biography some very rarely seen pictures connected to Grace and to her family.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott will be published by Pen and Sword Books on the 30th January 2016.

Please note: if you are reading this from outside the UK, we are expecting it to be available in America a few months later than the UK publication date, and hopefully elsewhere worldwide too. We will keep you informed and update this page as soon as we have more information.

‘One and twenty daft days’ in 1822: King George IV visits Scotland

In August 1822, a year after his coronation, King George IV made a trip to Scotland, the first British monarch to do so for 170 years. The entire trip was stage managed by the author Sir Walter Scott, with much pageantry, but some mistakes did happen.

Via Brown digital repository, Brown University Library
Via Brown digital repository, Brown University Library

The portly King, known for his love of fashion and frippery, dressed to impress in a kilt – but his kilt was too short, finishing well above his knees, and rather than risk showing his bare legs he wore a pair of pink tights. He only appeared in full Highland dress wearing a kilt on just the one occasion during the trip (he wore trews in his Royal Stuart tartan on at least one other day), but it remained the enduring image of his visit. The kilt had been prohibited as everyday wear by the Dress Act (repealed in 1782) after the Jacobite uprising of 1745, although it was still used for army uniforms, but Sir Walter’s instructions for a ‘Highland Ball’ in honour of the King, declaring that gentlemen, if not in uniform, must wear ‘the ancient Highland costume’ was pivotal in establishing the national dress of Scotland. When Sir David Wilkie later painted the King in this garb he flattered him by lengthening the kilt, slimming him down and leaving off the pink tights.

(c) English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The visit began on the 10th August 1822 from Greenwich, but it was not until the 15th August that King George was finally able to disembark his ship (he had been delayed a day by bad weather to the disappointment of the gathered crowds), the Royal George, at Leith on the Firth of Forth. He wore the full dress of a British Admiral and had a twig of heath and a natural heather on his hat which pleased his Scottish subjects.

Amongst others, the King was attended by the Marquis of Lothian and Lord Charles Bentinck. Lord Charles’ first wife had been Miss Georgiana Seymour, reputed daughter of the King by the women whose biography we have written, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, and their young daughter was therefore the King’s granddaughter (see An Infamous Mistress: the Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott).

The Landing of George IV at Leith
The Landing of George IV at Leith

The King based himself at Dalkeith Palace, and over the ensuing days triumphal processions between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House were undertaken, and levee’s held, one attended by 457 ladies who each had to be kissed on the cheek. The weather was mainly terrible; it rained but the people, under their umbrella’s, still came out to cheer the King who was delighted with his reception. Thousands of people had lined Calton Hill and the King, surveying the scene, remarked to the officers with him, “This is wonderful – what a sight!” and luckily the mist which had blighted the day cleared to afford him a full view.

The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh from the Calton Hill, 1822 by John Wilson Ewbank (c) City of Edinburgh Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh from the Calton Hill, 1822
by John Wilson Ewbank
(c) City of Edinburgh Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A review of 3,000 volunteer cavalrymen was held on Portobello sands on the 23rd August, and for once the weather was favourable. The King, dressed in a Field Marshal’s uniform, arrived in his open carriage and four at one o’clock, to a salute from the guns situated on a battery on the pier and cheers from the crowd. Mounting a grey charger he then rode slowly along the line while the military bands played God Save the King. It was estimated that over a thousand vehicles had brought the spectators to the event, everything from coronated carriages to farmer’s carts, and that the assembled crowed was not less than thirty thousand people, and a scaffold had been erected for the ladies to sit in. Added to this, there were a few pleasure yachts and boats moored nearby to view the spectacle.

That evening a Peers’ Ball was held at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh; King George, still in his Field Marshal’s uniform, arrived in high spirits. He only stayed for just over an hour, during which time he paid marked attention to several elegant ladies.

George IV, at a military review on Portobello Sands 23 August 1822 by William Turner 'de Lond'. Courtesy of National Galleries Scotland.
George IV, at a military review on Portobello Sands 23 August 1822 by William Turner ‘de Lond’.
Courtesy of National Galleries Scotland.

On the 27th August the King attended a theatrical performance of Rob Roy, his last public engagement of the trip. It was asked that those people who had enjoyed frequent access to his Majesty did not attend; the Theatre Royal was not a large building and it was hoped that the audience could be made up of those who had yet to set eyes on him. Mr Murray, the theatre owner, was complimented for refusing to raise the ticket price for that night.

For this occasion the King wore the undress uniform of a Field Marshal; sitting in a chair of state in the royal box he was flanked by several peers, dukes, earls and lords, including Lord Charles Bentinck who had never been far from his side throughout the whole journey.

Two days later King George IV returned, in the rain, to his ship.

Geordie and Willie "keeping it up" - Johnny Bull pays the piper!! Courtesy of the British Museum.
Geordie and Willie “keeping it up” – Johnny Bull pays the piper!!
Courtesy of the British Museum.

John Murray, the 4th Duke of Atholl, later described the visit as ‘one and twenty daft days’ and noted in his journal that:

The Mania is the Highland garb . . . a considerable Procession of Troops, Highlanders and the different Persons dressed up by [Sir] W: Scott in fantastic attire.

Image from Le Costume Historique, volume 6
Image from Le Costume Historique, volume 6

As an aside, we’ve discovered another (ahem!) unusual anecdote relating to King George’s visit to Scotland in 1822. It seems he was an honorary member of the Beggar’s Benison Club, a Scottish gentleman’s club founded in the eighteenth-century and devoted to ‘the convivial celebration of male sexuality’.

Several relics from the Beggar’s Benison survive, including a snuff box of women’s pubic hair gifted by honorary member George IV during his visit to Scotland in 1822. It is said the Prince Regent donated the item to help replace a wig made from the pubic hair of Charles II’s mistresses that was worn by the club’s chief, or sovereign. The hair piece was taken from the group when the breakaway Wig Club was formed in Edinburgh in 1775 and has since been lost.

We’ll leave you with that little gem of information…

 

Sources used:

Caledonian Mercury, 17th, 19th, 22nd, 24th and 29th August 1822

Glasgow Herald, 23rd and 26th August 1822

The Morning Post, 27th August 1822

Possible Scotlands: Walter Scott and the Story of Tomorrow by Caroline McCracken-Flesher, Oxford University Press, 2005

The Secret Sex Club of 18th Century Anstruther via The Scotsman

 

NOTE TO OUR READERS:

We are taking a summer holiday from our blog for the rest of August, but rest assured we will be back again in September. In the meantime we trust you all have a wonderful summer, hopefully enjoying good weather.

If you are in the UK, do watch out for the TV adaptation of Hallie Rubenhold’s book on Lady Seymour Worsley, The Scandalous Lady W which is due to premiere on BBC2 on the 17th August. Lady Worsley was a close friend and contemporary of Grace Dalrymple Elliott and we are really looking forward to watching this drama, which promises to be fantastic. If you are reading this from elsewhere in the world we hope it will be available for you to view in due course.

All the best, Sarah and Jo.

The Philanthropic Cat, 1823

We thought our readers might enjoy the two following letters sent in to the newspapers in 1823, on the subject of philanthropic cats.

Gabrielle Arnault as a child, by Louis-Léopold Boilly, 1815
Gabrielle Arnault as a child, by Louis-Léopold Boilly, 1815

A POLITE SCOTCH CAT.

A Country Gentleman, who is neither a friend to thieves nor poachers, has at this moment in his household a favourite cat, whose honesty he is sorry to say, there is but too much reason to call in question. The animal, however, if far from being selfish in her principles, for her acceptable gleanings she regularly shares among the children of the family in which her lot is cast. It is the habit and repute of this said Grimalkin to leave the kitchen or parlour as often as hunger and an opportunity may occur, and went her way to a certain pastry cook’s shop, where the better to conceal her purpose, she endeavours slyly to ingratiate herself into favour with the mistress of the house. As soon as the Landlady’s attention becomes engrossed in business or otherwise, puss contrives to pilfer a small pye or tart, &c. from the shelves on which they are placed, speedily afterwards making the best of her way home with her booty. She then carefully delivers her prize to some of the little ones in the nursery. A division of the stolen property quickly takes place, and here it is singularly amusing to observe the sleekit animal, not the least conspicuous among the juvenile group, thankfully mumping her share of the illegal traffic. We may add, that the pastry-cook is by no means disposed to institute a legal process against poor Mistress Gib, as the children of the Gentleman to whom we allude, are honest enough, to acknowledge their four-footed playmate’s failings to papa, who willingly compensates any damage the shopkeeper may sustain from the petty depredations of his would-be philanthropic cat. – (Edinburgh Observer.)

The Morning Post, 12th August 1823.

Harris Museum & Art Gallery via www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings
Harris Museum & Art Gallery via http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings

FELINE RESTITUTION.

EDITOR – After reading the interesting little anecdote in your Paper of the Philanthropic Cat, I am encouraged to lay before your Readers another trait of one of its kindred species. In the summer of 1817, I hired a small villa in the neighbourhood of Sevenoaks, which, when I entered, I found not wholly untenanted, for I soon observed a find large yellow streaked Tom Cat, which I admired much, but my wife having an antipathy to cats, I was compelled to order that the hapless animal should be forbid the premises. This the servants attempted to put into execution, but in vain, for in despite of sticks, stones, tin kettles, and other offensive weapons, Puss always returned when the storm had abated, till at length we relented, and the exile was re-established in its office of slaying rats and mice. A month after this, the cook, when about to put a fine fowl on the spit, was called away, d when she returned the fowl was gone. Search was made, and in five minutes the fowl was discovered in the merciless claws of the Cat. The enraged cook darted the spit which she held in her hand at the wretched animal; but anger blinded her aim – it missed, but in a moment Puss was well belaboured with broomsticks, from which at length he contrived to escape. For two days was he missing, but on the third, as the cook was busied in culinary avocations, she head a gentle purr behind her, and looking round, she saw the fine fellow with a plump young pheasant in his mouth, which he gently laid at her feet. Need I add, the pheasant was plucked, pulled, roasted; so it was, and the very best I ever tasted in my life. An anecdote, somewhat similar, may be found in the rare Tract of PERSIA LEFORDE, printed at the Hague in 1589, entitled “Histoyre des Animeaulx Domestiques.” I am sorry to say, Puss took to poaching, and was killed the year after, by the double-barrel gun of one of Lord STANHOPE’S Keepers.

Yours, PHILOGALEUS.

The Morning Post, 13th August 1823

The Country Wedding by John Lewis Krimmel, 1820 (you may have to look closely for the cat!)
The Country Wedding by John Lewis Krimmel, 1820 (you may have to look closely for the cat!)

A gypsy named James Venus

The Boss family, notorious gypsy horse thieves and dealers, plied their dubious trade across throughout Norfolk and Suffolk, into Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire and further afield into Yorkshire.

The family used various aliases, including Heron (Hearne) and Jones.  The best known was Riley Boss who had three wives, Charlotte Hammond, Lucy Boswell and Shurensi (sometimes Susannah) Smith.  Also of the travelling party was Riley’s reputed half-brother, James Venus, who had taken for a wife Trinity Boswell (sister of Elijah Boswell, a notorious rogue) along with her children by George Boyling, her previous husband.

James Venus and Riley Boss had a sister named Clara.  In the latter half of the 1820s, the party met Samuel Roberts (1763-1848) of Park Grange in Sheffield, the son of a local manufacturer.  It is likely that this was during the summer of 1827.  James and Trinity Venus had baptised a son, named Newcombe Venus, in Bowdon Cheshire on the 22nd April 1827 as James and Traineth Venus of Dunham (a neighbouring village) with James’s occupation being described as cutler, a traditional gypsy occupation; he would have travelled with a grinding machine sharpening blades.

Gypsy Camp by James Edward Meadows (1826-1888)
Gypsy Camp by James Edward Meadows (1826-1888)

In the summer of 1827, the party were on their way back to Lincolnshire where young Newcombe Venus was buried at Mablethorpe on the 5th August 1827, the burial register recording him as the son of James and Trinity Venus, gypsies, aged about nine months.  At some point between these two dates, whilst travelling from Cheshire to Lincolnshire via the Sheffield road, the gypsy party met with Samuel Roberts.  In his own words:

In taking my accustomed ride into the country, I met with a tribe, or rather family, of Gypsies, consisting, as I then supposed, of the father, mother, and five children; it, however, proved, that the older of the children, a girl apparently about thirteen, was an orphan, and sister to the man, though probably nearly twenty years younger than he.  I saw them several times and at length asked the man if he would have any objections to leaving his sister with my family, at any rate till he called again, which I understood to be in about eight days . . . The man said his name was James Vanis.  His sister’s Clara Vanis.  I have since heard that it was Hearn and not Vanis.

From this description, we seem to have James and Trinity Venus, together with his sister Clara, the baby Newcombe and three of Trinity’s children from her previous marriage.  Samuel Roberts was a religious man, a keen slavery abolitionist and he published several books, some on the subject of the gypsies and their culture and he was also known as the ‘Pauper’s Advocate’. His reason for wanting Clara to stay with him and his family was to become better acquainted with the language and habits of the gypsy people.  With both James Venus and Clara being agreeable to this she returned to Park Grange with Roberts.  Clara was, from Roberts’ description, a slight, well-formed girl, not strongly gypsy looking and not handsome but strikingly intelligent.

She spent the eight days with the Roberts family and they seem to have been as delighted with her as she was with them, becoming a firm favourite with two of Roberts’ daughters.  She and the Roberts wished to extend the visit but James Venus came at the appointed time and insisted that Clara leave with him immediately. Clara was in tears but agreed to go with her brother, even though Samuel Roberts entreated her to remain.  James Venus had told Samuel Roberts that Clara was needed as his wife and one of the children was ill, but after Clara had quit his house Roberts encountered the wife, Trinity, who told him that she was as well as usual and did not wish for Clara’s return.  No further mention is made of the sickly child but seeing as the infant Newcombe Venus was buried shortly after this, James Venus was probably right to be concerned and to want his sister to help.

Gipsy Encampment by George Morland, c.1790-1795 (c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Gipsy Encampment by George Morland, c.1790-1795
(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Victorian gypsiologist, Rev. George Hall (1863-1918), so well known to the Lincolnshire gypsy fraternity, later talked with Clara’s family.  Hall knew her as a full sister to Riley Boss and a half-sister to the slightly shadier James Venus, whose identity has always been unsure.  Indeed, many authorities have decided that James Venus was simply an alias used by Riley Boss and that the two men were one and the same.  George Hall had this to say, referencing the opinion of another, earlier, gypsiologist, George Borrow.

Concerning the dramatic termination of the Sheffield episode, two versions are extant.  According to Mr. Roberts, it is James Vanis, otherwise Hearn, who comes of Clara with a lying pretext on his lips.  In Borrow’s statement it is Ryley who snatches his young sister away in a characteristic spirit of violence.  It is true, the girl had a half-brother named James, yet seeing that Borrow obtained his facts during lengthy conversations with Clara herself, it may be presumed that ‘James Vanis’ was after all only one more of Ryley’s many aliases.

However, it seems unlikely that James Venus was purely an alias; certainly Trinity, after leaving George Boyling and taking up with her second husband, consistently uses the surname Venus, or a variant thereof, as does James during several court appearances for vagrancy and theft, and not once do they use differing forenames or surnames.

The year after this Sheffield episode, in Burton by Lincoln, the name Newcombe was given to a son of Riley Boss and Shurensi (as an adult he would be transported to Australia under the name of Barthey Jones for the crime of horse stealing).

28th September 1828, Burton by Lincoln, baptism of Newcome son of William and Susan Boss, at Burton, gypsey.

A month later James Venus (as James Vanus) was sentenced to a week in prison for the crime of larceny at the Doncaster Sessions, possibly tried alongside an Abraham Herring, but he was back in Lincolnshire in November for the baptism of a child named Aswerly at Upon cum Kexby near Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, the register there recording the parents as James and Trinity Venus, travelling tinker.

Newcombe Boss (aka Newton Boss and Barthey Jones), born in 1828 - photo taken in Tasmania (to where he was transported) c.1896). Image from the Special Collections and Archives at Liverpool University
Newcombe Boss (aka Newton Boss and Barthey Jones), born in 1828 – photo taken in Tasmania (to where he was transported) c.1896).
Image from the Special Collections and Archives at Liverpool University

Riley at least remained in the Lincolnshire area as a double baptism of his children took place at the end of 1832, one which was not all that it seemed.  For Riley had a son named Adness with Shurensi and a daughter named Naomi with Lucy; polygamy was common amongst these people, and it so happened that Riley had two children born within days of each other by two of his wives.  Not wanting to shock the local vicar by proclaiming himself as the father of both children, a relative stood in as the father of Lucy’s daughter. The baptisms took place in the village of Wootton.

30th Dec 1832 – Agnes daughter of Ryley and Susannah Bos, of Wootton, a gipsy

30th Dec 1832 – Naomi daughter of Thomas and Lucy Bos, of Wootton, a gipsy

The Vicar then added a note at the bottom of the page of the baptism register, “N.B. I was afterwards informed by report only, after their departure, that the child whom they named Agnes was a boy.  The persons who call themselves Bos are probably Boswells”.  The child was not only a boy but was Adness rather than Agness, but he also, in later life, used the names Isaac and Haggi.

James Venus made a further appearance in the dock, this time in Derbyshire for stealing an ass, along with his stepson Absalom Boyling, the two men were recorded as James Vanass aged 50 and Absalom Vanass aged 16, both gypsies.  James received four months imprisonment.

At Attercliffe, Sheffield, on the 20th February 1844, Trinity Venus, wife of James Venus, brazier, died of typhus fever aged 54 years.  Her death was registered by Hesilla Venus, possibly her daughter Asella by her first husband George Boyling, who had been present at the death; we can find no other trace of Hesilla/Asella.  Trinity’s son Absalom, or ‘Appy Boswell, was known for his ‘Lying Tales’.  Perhaps though there was more truth in them than has yet been supposed?

The Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society Journal (1925) has this on ‘Appy.

Among them was Trenit Boswell, a daughter of the Absolom or Appy Boswell who is famous all over the North Midlands and the northern counties for his Lying Tales, and about whose origin and ‘breedipen’ there has been as deep and seemingly impenetrable a mystery as any in Gypsy genealogy.  Appy himself would declare that he was born at Wickersley, near Rotherham, of respectable gorgio parents, his father being a small farmer and dealer. As a boy he attended Sunday School, where he learned to read and write; after which, he said, his parents apprenticed him to Rogers of Sheffield, ‘to have him put in the way of the grinding business.’ The workmen, however, used him harshly, so he ran away, and ‘listed as a sailor’; and was shipwrecked, and lived for a week at the bottom of the sea — ‘ a beautiful tem in no mistake, only vittles wasn’t to say plentiful there, and it took you all your time to get a bit of fire going.’ Various adventures followed, bringing him back at last to England, where one day he fell in with a widow who had five children, and was so sorry for her that he married her forthwith. But, as will be seen, this is one of Appy’s Munchausen-like efforts, not sober autobiography; and so, having indicated its nature, I must pass it by now, hoping that on some future occasion I may be able to tell it, and one or two more Appy Boswell tales not printed as yet, in something approaching their original form. Here I can only add that Appy once took a sceptical listener to Wickersley, and convinced him of his parents’ residence there, for no sooner had they set down their grinding-barrows in front of the kicema than the door of a house opposite flew open, and a voice inquired : ‘ Is that you, Absolom? Your mother wants to see you. She’s bin took badly, poor old lady.’ This is what Appy said, at all events; and I know of Booths and Claytons nearly related to him who believe that things happened so — by previous arrangement or otherwise.

It seems plausible, having seen Trinity’s death certificate, that the story about his sick mother at Wickersley which is close by Sheffield may have some truth in it after all and relate to Trinity Venus.  Incidentally, Absalom (or ‘Appy) was baptised at Scawby in Lincolnshire in 1821 as the son of George and Trinity Boyling, wandering gypsies.

James Venus was buried at Harewood in Yorkshire, as James Veanas, under coroner’s orders.

Venus - burial

 

Leeds Intelligencer newspaper, 24th Agusut 1850
Leeds Intelligencer newspaper, 24th August 1850

 

Header image: The Gipsy Camp by Walter Tyndale

Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740

William Parsons: 18th Century highwayman, swindler and rogue

When the sun of my life is in its zenith, and I should be expected to shine in meridian lustre, behold me, like a fair opening flower, blasted by a Southern wind. See me, in a shattered bark, ready to launch in a tempestuous Sea; no chart to guide, no compass for to steer my course by, but left to the rough waves and the howling winds, till that I sink beneath the dreadful storm. How shocking is the prospect! And was a dismal night-piece is here!

This anticipation of my miseries is still enhanced by the cruel wracking thoughts of never seeing you, nor my dear injured son; yet, perhaps, we may meet again, in realms of never ending bliss, no more to part. . . . Time seems to tread with hasty strides, and new-fledged wings, and hurry me to my approaching fate. O fatal doom!

(Extract from one of the last letters written by William Parsons to his wife)

William Parsons, Esquire, second son of Sir William Parsons of Short Hill and Stanton le Wold in Nottinghamshire, led a somewhat tumultuous if short life, ending it by swinging from the gallows at Tyburn.

William Parsons
William Parsons

His mother was Frances, niece to Mary, Duchess of Northumberland. Born in Red Lion Square in London, the son of William and Frances Parsons and baptized on the 1st January 1717/18 at St. Andrew’s in Holborn, young William was educated at Eton where he began his criminal career. Caught stealing from a local bookseller, he was publicly flogged for his misdemeanours.

Because of this he was taken out of Eton and placed as a midshipman on board a sloop bound for Jamaica. Instead he absconded and fell in love with a doctor’s daughter living at Bishop’s Waltham in Hampshire, only to be foiled when his uncle found him and returned him to his ship.

Arriving in Jamaica, William immediately made for England and Waltham, to return to his love, and was again intercepted by his uncle and this time sent to Newfoundland. On his return from this venture, he found that, owing to his escapades, his expected inheritance from his great-aunt, the Duchess of Northumberland, had gone to his sister, Grace, instead, who was reported to have been bequeathed between £15,000 and £25,000 (he endeavoured, with the help of his sister’s footman, to have her abducted and, once married to the footman, intended to split her fortune between them but this plan was foiled). Following the death of his mother from an apoplectic fit at her lodgings in Piccadilly in 1735 his father remarried two years later to Isabella, the widow of Delaval Dutton.

Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740
Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740

Sir William, his father, now got him a place in the service of the Royal African Company of England and our hero travelled to James Fort on the River Gambia, but that did not suit him either and he was once more soon on his way back home to England, threatening to shoot anyone who stood in his way of doing so.

Fort James
Fort James

His uncle, Captain Mark Dutton, who lived at Epsom, took William into his house and treated him almost as his son: William repaid his generosity by getting one of the serving maids pregnant and he was soon shown the door (history has not recorded the fate of the serving maid, but possibly she received similar treatment from the master of the house).

Seduced by a Miss E___s, who could not marry as she would forfeit her inheritance if she did so, our hero’s last chance of redemption came when, hearing that his father was in town, he went to his house and, kneeling before Sir William, threw himself on his mercy.  A reconciliation between them took place and William, on the recommendation of his father, attempted to enlist as a private in the Life Guards. But they wanted him to pay seventy guineas to join and William was pecuniarily embarrassed while his father had already departed for Nottinghamshire, leaving behind just five shillings for his errant son.

And so William now embarked properly on his career as a fraudster and criminal. He passed himself off at Vauxhall and Ranelagh as an army officer but in reality hunting for a young girl in command of her own fortune to prey upon. Mary Tregonwell Frampton of Kensington, just eighteen and reportedly left an heiress by the recent death of her father (John Frampton of the Exchequer), fell for his machinations and, on the 9th February 1740/41, at the Chapel on King Street in Westminster, she became the wife of William Parsons and he became the master of her fortune. She had £12,000 and £4,000 was given over to Parsons on their marriage; the remaining £8,000 was used to buy Exchequer Annuities and Parsons received the annual interest on these.

The Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh, London; Canaletto
The Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh, London; Canaletto; Compton Verney

A son, Mark, was born to the couple on the 19th November 1741 (baptized on the 10th December that year at St. James in Piccadilly), followed by William Dutton Parsons, born on the 21st March 1742/43 (and baptized in the same church as his elder brother on the 11th April 1743), but who died young.

William’s family was delighted with this turn of events, and the improvement in his condition and reputation. He was helped to an Ensigncy with Colonel Cholmondeley’s regiment of foot and William saw action in Flanders, being promoted to Lieutenant, while his wife and son remained in London living in Poland Street and Panton Square.

The Battle of Fontenoy, 1745 by Felix Philippoteaux, painted in 1873
The Battle of Fontenoy, 1745 by Felix Philippoteaux, painted in 1873

But William was living too fast, encouraged by a false friend named only as Doctor N___ (possibly Northgate) to squander his wife’s fortune at the gaming tables, and disaster soon overtook him. On his return to England he was chased by creditors and could not return to his young family at Panton Square; instead he took lodgings, calling himself Captain Brown to evade notice. But, true to form, he debauched his landlord’s daughter and fathered two children on her.

A baptism at the London Foundling Hospital on the 19th July 1747 for a Grace Parsons may be one of these two children, named for William’s sister who had married a wealthy Mr Lambert from Kent earlier that year (by the time of her marriage her fortune was being estimated at £30,000). Parsons’s philandering also reputedly took in Lady Frances Vane (formerly Hamilton, née Hawes), who is named as Lady Frail in his Memoirs.

The_Foundling_Hospital_a_birds_eye_view_1753_engraving_by_T.Bowles_after_L.P.Boitard__Coram_in_the_care_of_the_Foundling_Museum
The Foundling Hospital, 1753, engraved by T. Bowles

At Deal, in 1745, as he was about to board a privateer, an attempt was made to apprehend him but Parsons shot and wounded one of the men in his desperation to make the ship, threatening to kill anyone who prevented him. He got as far as Ireland before being taken ill and put ashore. There, when he ran out of money, he drew bills on eminent London tradesmen enabling him to return to England where he lived in some style in Plymouth.

London Evening Post, 2nd January 1746
London Evening Post, 2nd January 1746

Passing as Richard rather than William Parsons his need for ready money induced him, with a female accomplice, to return to London and swindle a parson and a jeweller, and he even stooped so low as to steal from men who classed themselves his friend. Inevitably he was taken into custody. By the August of 1748, he was in the Wood Street Compter. Standing trial at Maidstone assizes, he was initially condemned to death, but this was commuted to fourteen years transportation and so Parsons was shipped to Maryland in Virginia: the voyage there was hard and cruel and, of the 173 convicts on board the transport, fifty of them died during the passage. William Parsons survived and in November 1749 he landed at Annapolis.

A Fleet of Transports under Convoy, Carrington Bowles, 1781, British Museum.
A Fleet of Transports under Convoy, Carrington Bowles, 1781, British Museum.

After a couple of months the Virginian landowner and English Peer Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, heard an account of Parsons and received him at his house, allowing him a horse to ride. Sir William Parsons had engineered things so his son would be enabled to live handsomely enough in Virginia. But this kindness by his father and Lord Fairfax was repaid by rank ingratitude: Parsons absconded with the horse and took to highway robbery before making for the Potomac River where he sold Lord Fairfax’s horse to buy passage on a ship. Three weeks and four days later he sighted England once more and landed at Whitehaven in Cumbria.

Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax
Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax

He immediately re-commenced his fraudulent swindles, persuading a Whitehaven merchant to give him £75 by pretending his father was dead and he was home to take possession of a large estate. This money got him back to the gaming tables and bawdy houses of London where he quickly disposed of all his ready cash and had to resort to criminal activities to raise more. And so, at eleven o’clock on an August evening, William Parsons held up a post-chaise on Hounslow Heath.

More highway robberies followed, and the gentleman highwayman gained a certain notoriety. At Turnham Green he returned a wife’s wedding ring to a gentleman he had just taken it from but who begged for its return, handing back five shillings of the thirty he had also purloined from this man on hearing he had no more money: the two men reputedly shook hands before parting at the end of this encounter.

The Highwayman by William Powell Frith(c) Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Highwayman by William Powell Frith(c) Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Eventually, breaking his golden rule of carrying out his nefarious activities under the cover of darkness, he set out one fine Sunday morning towards Windsor, having heard that a carriage with a footman and a quantity of money would be passing that way. But also travelling on that road were two men who had prosecuted him at his earlier trial, and so surprised were they to recognize a man who had been transported to Maryland, and who should have still been there, that they insisted upon Parsons surrendering to them at the Rose and Crown Inn at Hounslow. Parsons, realizing resistance was futile, surrendered his pistols to the two gentlemen but then the landlord of the inn casually remarked that Parsons answered the description of the highwayman wanted for the recent spate of robberies on the roads in the area, and a constable was sent for.

And so William Parsons found himself in Newgate, awaiting his execution. He sent several penitent letters to his family, and several more to people of influence, hoping for a reprieve. None was forthcoming, even though his father and his wife petitioned the King for this. Mary Tregonwell Parsons, for all she tried to save her reprobate husband, appears to be a woman full of the common sense she lacked at her hasty wedding a decade earlier. She wrote a very business-like letter to William, setting out her plans to meet with his father and discuss the petition to go before the king, but telling her husband at the same time to prepare to die and chiding him for his first letter to her from Newgate which, in Mary’s opinion, was much too romantic for one in his circumstance. Reading between the lines of her letter, she also seems to suspect that William’s protestations of repentance are more for effect than truly heartfelt. In the end, Mary’s aunt delivered the petition, in the names of Mary and her father-in-law, but it was disregarded. The petition sounds a bit half-hearted, and indeed it probably was, for his family had employed a similar action to reduce his sentence of execution for one of transportation only two or three years earlier and it is doubtful they would have had many expectations of Parsons living up to any promises they could make on his behalf on this occasion.

A slightly later image of Newgate by George Shepherd
A slightly later image of Newgate by George Shepherd

The Petition of William Parsons, and Mary Tregonwell Parsons, Father and Wife to the unhappy William Parsons, now under Sentence of death in Newgate, for returning from Transportation,

Most humbly Sheweth,

THAT your petitioners humbly implore your Majesty’s most gracious pardon for the said William Parsons, and faithfully promise, that if your Majesty be pleased to grant the same, they will take care for the time to come, that it shall not be in his power to abuse your Majesty’s clemency, or injure any of your Majesty’s subjects:

And your petitioners (as in duty bound) shall ever pray, &c.

William Parsons

Mary Tregonwell Parsons

William Parsons - Tyburn tree

On the 11th February 1751, William Parsons swung at Tyburn for his crimes.

LONDON, February 12.

Yesterday the Ten Malefactors under Sentence of Death, were carried from Newgate to Tyburn, in four Carts; they all behaved in a decent Manner, becoming Persons under their unhappy Circumstances, but particularly Parsons, who, tho’ he had been so long in Prison, still retained the Appearance of a Gentleman, and seemed to be duly affected with the near Prospect of a future State. [William] Vincent, [Thomas] Clements, and [Anthony] Westley, three Boys, went in the first Cart; [Edward] Smith and [Daniel] Davis, in the second; [Thomas] Applegarth and [Michael] Sauce, in the third; and [James] Field [a stage boxer], [Jeremiah] Sullivan, and Parsons, in the last.

Field’s Legs were chained together, for Fear of a Rescue.

A Hearse attended the Place of Execution for the Body of Parsons, which conveyed him to an Undertaker’s on Snow-hill, in order to be interred.

Mr. Parsons, a little before his Death, ordered a Diamond Mourning Ring, of ten Guineas Value, to be made, with the following Inscription, William Parsons, Ob. 11th Feb. 1750-51, Ætat. 33. The Motto was, When this you see, remember me; which Ring he presented to a certain young Lady, as the last Token of his Affection for her.

Was the diamond ring for his long-suffering wife, or for the landlord’s daughter with whom he had two children? His Memoirs published directly after his death suggest his mistress had remained by his side, both in the Wood Street Compter and during his spell in Newgate. Whoever it went to, it’s probably a safe bet the jeweller wasn’t promptly paid for his work.

Sources Used:

The Baronetage of England; or, the History of the English Baronets, and such Baronets of Scotland, as are of EnglFamilieslies; with genealogical tables, by The Rev. William Betham, London, 1802

The Eton College Register, 1698-1752

St James’s Evening Post, 16th May 1747

General Evening Post, 29th May 1735

Stamford Mercury, 30th June 1737

London Evening Post, 2nd September 1738

Read’s Weekly Journal, 23rd June 1750 and 8th September 1750

Derby Mercury, 8th February 1750/51

The Universal Magazine, February 1751

The Tyburn Chronicle: or, Villainy Display’d, volume iii

Remarkable Rogues: the careers of some notable criminals of Europe and America by Charles Kingston, 2nd ed., 1922

Memoirs of the Life and Adventures of William Parsons, by himself, 1751

Lambeth Palace and St Mary's Church with St Paul's; William Marlow; Government Art Collection

Murder in Lambeth, 1778

Richard Pendleton, a fisherman or waterman living in the parish of St Mary’s at Lambeth on the banks of the Thames, was a cruel man and often rained down blows upon his poor wife Elizabeth’s head. Eventually, after his frequent rages and ill treatment of her, she saw her own opportunity for revenge.

Her husband had returned home drunk, and he tumbled into their bed where he fell asleep. Waiting a while to be sure that he was senseless, Elizabeth then took up her needle and some thread, and proceeded to sew him securely into one of the blankets on the bed. When Richard awoke, he found his arms and legs were so confined that he was incapable of movement. Even more worryingly, Elizabeth stood over him with the hearth brush in her hands.

And so, in return for all the cruel punishments she had endured, Elizabeth began to beat him unmercifully until her husband begged for forgiveness, in the humblest of terms. Upon obtaining his promise never to ill-treat her again Elizabeth ceased and, taking up her scissors, she cut him free from the blanket.

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

There the matter should have ended, Elizabeth had taken her revenge and was satisfied with her husband’s apology and his oath not to strike her again. But Elizabeth had fatally underestimated Richard Pendleton’s rage.

Elizabeth too was fond of a drink and on the 1st July 1778, Richard Pendleton returned home to find his wife tipsy and no supper ready for him. Shouting “blast your eyes, you b___ch, I’ll murder you!” he punched her several times on her head and she fell to the floor: one source asserts that he then beat his wife’s head against the stone floor, another that he gave her prone body a kick. Leaving her lying on the flagstones, he went out, presumably looking for his supper, whilst a woman who lived in the house carried Elizabeth to bed, where she lay senseless.

Pendleton returned home and slept in the bed next to his wife; in the morning he got up and went to work, as usual, leaving Elizabeth lying, still senseless, in their bed. She was still there when some of her neighbours found her later that day, close to death.

Elizabeth Pendleton died in her house on the 2nd July 1778. She was buried three days later in the grounds of St Mary’s church at Lambeth. An inquest found that she had died of a contusion of the brain, caused by her husband’s blows to her head.

Lambeth Palace and St Mary's Church with St Paul's; William Marlow; Government Art Collection
Lambeth Palace and St Mary’s Church with St Paul’s; William Marlow; Government Art Collection

Richard Pendleton stood trial for her murder, and was found guilty: on the 3rd August 1778, at the gallows on Gangley Common near Guildford, he hung for his crime. Before he swung he was sullen and obdurate, but the Reverend Mr Dyer ‘expostulated with him in the most servent Terms, which brought him to some sense of his future State’. He then addressed the crowd assembled to watch him die, advising them to avoid drunkenness and the heat of passion.

His sentence had stipulated that he should be anatomized after his death, and so his body was carried to the surgeons at Guildford in order to be dissected.

Sources used:

Capital Punishment UK website

British Executions website

Derby Mercury, 31st July 1778 and 7th August 1778

Northampton Mercury, 10th August 1778

Stamford Mercury, 6th August 1778

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 6th August 1778

 

The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman

We are delighted to announce a ‘sister’ site to All Things Georgian, and would like to introduce to you ‘The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman’ which can be accessed by clicking here.

Some time ago we were approached by George and Amanda Rosenberg who had enjoyed our blog posts on this site, and thought we might like to host the diaries that they had painstakingly transcribed which were written by Fanny during the Regency, late Georgian and Victorian eras (George descends from Fanny Chapman’s family).

We were both thrilled and somewhat overwhelmed when he sent us the diaries and associated information, and quickly decided that they deserved a site of their own, for they are quite wonderful to read, and we hope that others will find them as fascinating as we have done. They are still a ‘work in progress’ as George and Amanda have far more information than we have managed to pull together as yet, so please keep checking back for further developments.

Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman
Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman

Christiana Fanny Chapman was born in 1775 to Henry Chapman and his wife Christiana (Kitty) nee Neate. Her diaries were kept in the form of notebooks and a number of loose pages and cover the years 1807 to 1812 when she lived in and around Bath and in Somerset with her aunts Jemima Powell and Mary Neate (Mary was also Fanny’s godmother), very much dependent upon them. The diaries describe their everyday life, their circle of friends and the social routine of the minor gentry of the time.

Batheaston Villa c.1825
Batheaston Villa near Bath, c.1825, Fanny’s home up to 1809.

A constant presence in the diaries is Fanny’s uncle by marriage, Colonel John Hutton Cooper. He had been the second husband of Fanny’s aunt Phillis, who had been left a wealthy widow upon the death of her first husband, Charles Meniconi. When Phillis died she left everything to Cooper, including the villa in which they all lived, probably upon the understanding that he would continue to provide for her sisters and nieces (Fanny had a sister, Emma). Cooper reneged on that agreement, but George believes, and (after reading the diaries) we agree, that Fanny was more than a little in love with her widowed uncle, at least initially. Emma later described Cooper as a ‘reprobate and a fortune hunter’.

John Hutton Cooper
John Hutton Cooper

Fanny’s diary ends in 1812, and then recommences in 1837, just weeks after the young Queen Victoria had ascended the throne. With her two aunts dead, Fanny is living in Bath with her sister, finally her own mistress. Her aunts both left Fanny the main beneficiary of their wills.

Milsom Street, Bath, where Fanny lived during her later years.
Milsom Street, Bath, where Fanny lived during her later years.

Whilst the diaries which cover the years 1807 to 1812 are all fully available, the ones covering the Victorian years will be added to the site shortly.

This painting depicts the moment in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday 20th June 1837 when Princess Victoria hears of her accession to the throne. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
This painting depicts the moment in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday 20th June 1837 when Princess Victoria hears of her accession to the throne.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015

The diaries end in 1841, but Fanny lived many more years, not dying until 1871 at the grand old age of ninety-five years.

Please feel free to share this with anyone whom you may feel will be interested in these diaries. You may also wish to follow @ChapmanDiary on twitter.

Miss Fanny Chapman
Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman

The miser, his daughter and her lover: Elizabeth Cardinall, 1776-1803

Clarkson Cardinall of Tendring in Essex was a miser. He lived in a large manor house, set in a good estate and had £60,000 in the bank, but he had let it fall into disrepair (to be honest, he reminds us of Sir Pitt Crawley, owner of Queen’s Crawley, in William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair). The front entrance to the house was shut up and the front court overgrown with weeds; guests had to enter by a narrow dark passage, conducted by the one and only servant, a decrepit old woman. Most of the windows were blockaded, to prevent the payment of window tax, but through the dim light available, guests could see the worn out old chairs they were expected to seat themselves on amidst the dust, cobwebs and detritus collected in the once stately rooms. Hanging proudly in the hallway was a military sash and sword, the remnants of Clarkson Cardinall’s military career as a junior officer with the Essex Militia. The family dressed in tattered clothing, Clarkson Cardinall often to be seen in a rusty drab coat with his grey hair straggling from beneath a faded brown wig.

Two children had been born to Cardinall, John, his son and heir, in 1770 and a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1776. His wife Elizabeth (known as Bessy) was the only child of the Reverend Talbot Lloyd; she had married Clarkson Cardinall in 1769.

Once a year father and son travelled (frugally of course!) to London to receive the dividends on their fortune held safely with the bank; the dividends amounted to more than £3,000 per year, but a visitor to their home would see scant evidence of the Cardinall’s wealth.

Manor House, Tendring. © Roger W Haworth
Manor House, Tendring. © Roger W Haworth

Elizabeth, when in her early 20s, attracted the attention of the son of a wealthy neighbouring landowner and William Leeds (for that was his name) began to pay court to her, leading to a marriage being arranged between the two fathers. Negotiations continued after William’s father had died and William moved in to live with the Cardinall’s in their manor house; terms were eventually agreed for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage, and the parties travelled to London to draw up the marriage settlement and to procure the marriage licence, staying at an Inn in Whitechapel.

Clarkson Cardinall reluctantly settled £4,000 on his daughter, but stipulated that the marriage should not take place until after midsummer; the half year dividend was due then and he wanted to be the recipient of it, not his new son-in-law. William Leeds was eager to marry though, he also settled £4,000 upon the marriage and promised that he would allow his father-in-law the full dividend on his own money if he would consent to the marriage taking place before then. Cardinall agreed, and on the 15th April 1802, a Faculty Office Marriage Licence in the names of Elizabeth Cardinall and William Leeds was obtained. Elizabeth and her father returned to Essex to prepare for the marriage and William remained in London where the marriage was to take place (either the bride or the groom had to have resided for four weeks in the parish where the marriage was to be held) and the marriage was scheduled for mid-May.

And then, on the 9th May, just days before the nuptials, Elizabeth ran away with a sailor who was newly landed on shore.

Sailors arrival on shore from a cruise, 1808. © Royal Museums Greenwich
Sailors arrival on shore from a cruise, 1808. © Royal Museums Greenwich

William Leeds, seeking damages against his inconstant lady, instructed his lawyers to prepare a ‘Breach of Promise’ case which was heard on the 1st March 1803 at the Court of the King’s Bench in the Guildhall.

Mr Erskine, acting for William Leeds, addressed the court.

Gentlemen, I do not mean to contend that when a man is thus deceived and disappointed, he suffers the like disparagement as when it happens to a female; nor do I affect to say that my client is ready to hang himself; but his Lordship will tell you, that if a man suffers mortification, in having his marriage settlements overturned by a woman’s playing the jilt, he is also entitled to compensation for his mortified feelings.

Guildhall, Court of the King's Bench, from The Microcosm of London, 1809
Guildhall, Court of the King’s Bench, from The Microcosm of London, 1809

Elizabeth, now the wife of Charles John Cooke, the handsome sailor who had so swiftly obtained her hand in marriage and who, as Elizabeth was penniless, would be liable to pay any damages awarded to William Leeds, was represented by the well-known Mr Garrow. And here her story began to take on a different character.

For William Leeds was not the bereft lover he presented himself as. In fact, he was a cad of the highest order and Elizabeth had made a lucky escape.

Mezzotint of Sir William Garrow, 1810, held in the Harvard Law Library
Mezzotint of Sir William Garrow, 1810, held at the Harvard Law Library

As soon as the marriage settlement had been signed, and the marriage licence procured, William Leeds had shown himself in his true colours, confident that Elizabeth, or rather her fortune in the three percent’s, was his and that the marriage was now a mere formality. When Elizabeth expressed a wish to walk rather than to ride in a carriage when they went to take the air, William threatened her, promising to break her bones and flay her alive if she did not always instantly conform to his wishes when they were married. Mr Garrow continued:

It had once been a matter of merriment, to consider whether a man might not use a stick as thick as his thumb to correct his wife; but, to prevent all future discussion, Mr. Leeds before hand gave his intended wife a taste of the horsewhip he meant to use as his instrument of correction.

And, rather than stay by Elizabeth’s side, just hours after the marriage deeds had been drawn up he had, with the full knowledge of his future father-in-law, proceeded to enjoy the favours of two whores he met in Fleet Street; they took him back to their lodgings in Milk Street.

If Elizabeth had been shocked and frightened by William’s treatment of her in London she was aghast when, back in their mouldy Essex mansion, her father informed her that her intended spouse had been consorting with the Milk Street whores. Even though he knew of this, and of William’s treatment of his daughter, he still pressed for the marriage. It was against this backdrop that she ran into the path of the handsome sailor, and he presented an escape route from both her father and her fiancée; is it little wonder that she took to her heels and eloped with him, with scarcely a backwards glance?

It was claimed that the pair, Charles James Cooke, a purser on an East Indiaman, and Elizabeth Cardinall married at Gretna Green in Scotland, but if they did so they solemnised their vows a second time close to Elizabeth’s home for on the 9th July 1802 they presented themselves at the parish church in Ardleigh to recite their vows to one another. The three witnesses who signed the register were William and Elizabeth Cook and Louisa Kelly and the Ipswich Journal, on the 12th June 1802, carried the following notice.

COLCHESTER, June 11.

Lately was married, Mr. Chas. John Cook, of the Hon. East India Company’s service, to Miss Eliz. Cardinall, only daughter of Clarkson Cardinall, Esq. of Tendring.

Charles took Elizabeth without any fortune, for her enraged father cruelly refused to have anything to do with her (and was probably most satisfied with the prospect of keeping his fortune intact). Charles had been left under the care of a Trustee as a child when his father died, and the unscrupulous trustee had converted the money his young charge possessed to his own use, and so Charles had sought his own fortune at sea but had little besides his wages.

Ships at Spithead 1797. Sceptre. King George, Hudson's BayCompany. Rodney, East Indiaman. Ganges. Perseverence. General Goddard, East Indiaman. Watercolour by Nicholas Pocock. © Royal Museums Greenwich
Ships at Spithead 1797. Sceptre. King George, Hudson’s Bay Company. Rodney, East Indiaman. Ganges. Perseverence. General Goddard, East Indiaman. Watercolour by Nicholas Pocock. © Royal Museums Greenwich

A daughter was soon born to Elizabeth, named Eliza Cardinall Cooke, and Elizabeth and her child found themselves in desperate want. On top of this, William Leeds brought the Breach of Promise case to try to win the money he had hoped to gain when Elizabeth was his wife, despite the fact that he had since asked for the hand in marriage of another lady, a Miss Turpin (it was suggested in court that this had been within a day or two of Elizabeth eloping).

Mr Garrow roundly denounced both William Leeds and Clarkson Cardinall, and various witnesses, including Elizabeth’s brother John, testified to William’s cruel treatment of her and the jury agreed with them; they awarded William Leeds a derisory one shilling for damages.

Being nervous and cross examined by Mr Garrow, 1807.
More Miseries; being nervous and cross examined by Mr Garrow, 1807.

And, with that matter sorted, one could have hoped that Elizabeth might now have a chance of future happiness, having escaped both William Leeds and her father. Sadly it was not to be and, however much we would like to, we cannot give Elizabeth the happy ending that fate cruelly denied her. Just weeks later, beset by poverty and misery and with her new-born daughter in distress she approached her father’s house, only to be rebuffed by him. Just a few yards from his door she fell to the ground and breathed her last. She was buried on the 25th March 1803 in Tendring churchyard.

Maybe Charles John Cooke had returned to his ship, for he was not mentioned further. Their infant daughter was placed by her grandfather with a poor woman who lived near to his house, but his charity to this helpless infant, his own flesh and blood, extended little beyond that. He paid as small a sum for her sustenance that he could manage to get away with, and she lived a miserable existence.

The Sailor's Farewell by George Morland, c.1790. Winnipeg Art Gallery
The Sailor’s Farewell by George Morland, c.1790. Winnipeg Art Gallery

Clarkson Cardinall died in 1825 at the grand old age of 95 years, and probably his passing was mourned by very few (his wife, Elizabeth, died in 1818). His son John inherited his father’s fortune and his estate, although little Eliza Cardinall Cooke was mentioned in her grandfather’s will. She was to receive the interest and dividends on a sum of £5,000 for the term of her natural life, and after her death the lump sum of £5,000 was to be shared by any lawful children she left behind. At the end of his life, had Cardinall regretted the cruel treatment he had meted out to his only daughter and her child? For Elizabeth’s only crime was to marry without his consent, an act she rashly undertook to try to save herself from a lifetime of misery as the wife of William Leeds.

Eliza Cardinall Cooke lived until 1839. She was buried, on the 9th May 1839, in the churchyard at Tendring, next to her mother; her abode was given as Wrabness.

Notes:

Between 1798 and 1801 Charles John Cooke was the Purser on board the Tellicherry which sailed to St Helena and Bengal and arrived at the Downs on the 25th September 1801, but he had left the ship by the time of his marriage to Elizabeth (it sailed from the Downs on the 13th April 1802 with a new Purser).

Sources Used:

Life at Weeley Camp and Barracks, 1803 to 1804, from Mary Ann Grant’s Sketches of Life and Manners (contains a link to an excellent transcript of Mary Ann’s letters, including one written after a visit to Clarkson Cardinall’s home in July 1803, just months after the death of Elizabeth).

The Ipswich Journal, 12th June 1802.

The Morning Post, 2nd March 1803.

The Morning Chronicle, 2nd March 1803.

A Register of Ships, Employed in the Service of the Honorable the United East India Company, from the year 1760 to 1810 by Charles and Horatio Charles Hardy, 1811.

Not such a typical English summer’s day: a whirlwind hits Scarborough in 1823

Scarborough from the Spa by H.B. Carter (Government Art Collection)
Scarborough from the Spa by H.B. Carter (Government Art Collection)

On Tuesday 24th June 1823 the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough experienced a sudden and ferocious whirlwind. The weather had been unseasonably cold for at least a fortnight, with a bracing north to north-east wind; in fact, the whole summer that year was one of the coldest known since monthly records began to be kept in 1659. On this day, just before 3 o’clock in the afternoon, a thunderstorm burst from the west, but although the claps of thunder were loud enough to alarm everyone, the accompanying rainstorm was soon over and the lightning did no damage.

Ten or fifteen minutes later some people who had ventured back onto the beach were struck by the unusual appearance of the sky: storm clouds were brewing, one heading in from a south-westerly direction, with another, much lower one, scudding in from the north-east. When these two clouds met, they were described as being in:

violent agitation; an upper dense and dark stratum seemed to be pressing a lighter one down to the earth. They were then blended into one dense column, which descended to the ground . . .

Terrace Steps by Thomas Rowlandson, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough in 1813
Terrace Steps by Thomas Rowlandson, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough in 1813

The resulting whirlwind, which originated near the village of Falsgrave, sped overland over the turnpike road and, uprooting two large elm trees, passed by some bemused labourers at the waterfall below the terrace on Scarborough’s seafront, then ruined the day of a poor gardener by destroying his cabbage plants in a garden to the left before it passed onto the sands.

Spa Terrace by Thomas Rowlandson, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough in 1813
Spa Terrace by Thomas Rowlandson, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough in 1813

On the beach the whirlwind continued its mayhem by dashing a machine which contained a camera-obscura into the sea, smashing it into a hundred pieces. The sand on the beach was whipped up to a height of sixty feet, blinding a man who had decided that the bathing-machine in which he had been sheltering was no longer safe, and who had decided to make a run for it.  It was as well that he had done so for the bathing-machines were now directly in the path of the whirlwind. There were reported to be around forty bathing-machines on the seafront at Scarborough in 1813; these were now tumbled over into the sea, some ending up without their wheels or roofs.

Sea Bathing by Thomas Rowlandson, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough in 1813
Sea Bathing by Thomas Rowlandson, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough in 1813

There were two piers at Scarborough, one old and ancient, the other newly built using stones from the nearby White Nabb quarry and there for the security of the harbour. People were now seen running from these piers as quickly as they could. Some vessels were moored between the two piers, and in one, where the occupants were enjoying a glass of wine in a cabin, they were alarmed by a boy rushing down from the deck, shouting:

“The bathing-machines are running into the sea, – many have turned over, and some heels-over-head”.

With that their own vessel broke its anchorage and turned over on its beam-ends ‘to no small destruction of their glasses and Falernian [wine]’. Only the pier saved it from further damage.

Wreck off Scarborough by John Warkup Swift, 1863
Wreck off Scarborough by John Warkup Swift, 1863 (c) Shipley Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The whirlwind was now between the piers and heading for the harbour, the only port between the Humber and Tynemouth where ships of large burden could usually find a safe refuge from the violent easterly gales which often prevailed along the coast. It was not so safe on that day, however, with the column whipping up the water and sending foam and spray to the height of a ship’s topmast – the smaller boats were tipped upside down and broke free from their moorings. At last, the column rose ‘over the battery in rapid volutions, whirled into the clouds, and disappeared‘.

Cornelian Bay by Thomas Rowlandson, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough, 1813
Cornelian Bay by Thomas Rowlandson, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough, 1813

Many experienced seamen thought it had been a water-spout, but it left no trace of water when it first passed over the land. The sea had been taken up by the column but in the form of spray and foam.

From an eye-witness account of the destructive column:

It was quite perpendicular, and seemed at first to be thicker at the summit than below, resembling a trumpet. Its density was so great, that many persons thought it was the smoke of some fire on the sands; but the most compared it to the steam from a large brewhouse or steam-engine. The gyrating motion resembled a screw or the Cornu ammonis . . . the noise was very peculiar, and brought many people to their windows to see what was the matter. Some describe it as imitating the roaring of a great wind; some a crackling noise, like a house on fire; a military gentleman [said] it resembled the explosion of a mine underwater; but the majority considered it like the rumbling of heavy carriages.

No great damage seems to have been caused, and no lives were lost, but it was recorded that many small items such as baskets and umbrellas were blown away, never to be seen again.

A tailor in a high wind by George Cruikshank, 1819 (Lewis Walpole Library)
A tailor in a high wind by George Cruikshank, 1819 (Lewis Walpole Library)

Sources used:

http://www.augustana.edu/SpecialCollections/colorplate/scarborough_images.html

The Monthly Magazine, or, British Register, vol. 57, 1824

York Herald, 28th June 1823

History, Directory & Gazetteer of the County of York by Edward Baines, vol. II, 1823

Poetical Sketches of Scarborough in 1813, illustrated by twenty-one plates of humorous subjects coloured by hand from original designs made upon the spot by J. Green and etched by T. Rowlandson

Header image: Wreck below the Grand Hotel; Robert Ernest Roe; Scarborough Collections

Margaret Tolmie – another ‘Waterloo Child’

The Battle of Waterloo was hard fought, and hard won by the Allied Forces. In the aftermath, as night fell, the men who were still able to answered the roll call of their names. The women travelling in the train of the army listened for news, desperately wanting to hear their loved ones listed as living.

The Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815 by Denis Dighton (painted in 1816) NT; (c) National Trust, Plas Newydd; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815 by Denis Dighton (painted in 1816)
NT; (c) National Trust, Plas Newydd; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

One such woman was young Mrs Tolmie: daughter of a corporal in the Royal North British Dragoons (the Scots Greys), she had travelled with the army, working as a nurse in Portugal and tending to the sick and injured. One man, whose life she had saved, married her in between battles. That man was Adam Tolmie, either a trooper in the same regiment as her father by the time of Waterloo or an infantryman in the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot. As the Scots Greys did not see action in Portugal during the Peninsular War, if Eliza was in Portugal and her father was serving in the Scots Greys, she had travelled independently: the Scots Greys were sent to Belgium following Napoléon Bonaparte’s escape from Elba in the February of 1815.

Scotland Forever! The charge of the Scots Greys by Lady Butler, 1881
Scotland Forever! The charge of the Scots Greys by Lady Butler, 1881

Later that year Eliza had followed her menfolk to Waterloo, a valiant effort as she was by this time heavily pregnant. The two men fought in the action at Quatre Bras on the 16th June, where her father, Corporal Woods, a veteran of the armed service, was thrown from his horse and trampled under the charge (but survived relatively unscathed) and her husband had his left shoulder ripped open by an enemy bayonet. Eliza spent the evening dressing her husband’s wound by the light of the campfire.

Black Watch at Quatre Bras, 1815, by William Barnes Wollen (1857 - 1936) - the 42nd Regiment was renamed Black Watch in 1881
Black Watch at Quatre Bras, 1815, by William Barnes Wollen (1857 – 1936) – the 42nd Regiment was renamed Black Watch in 1881

And so the army, under the command of the Duke of Wellington, progressed to the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June 1815. As night fell on the battlefield Eliza, fearing she was both an orphan and a widow, took a lamp and set out to look for the two men, determined to bury them if they were dead or tend to them if they lived.

The Field of Waterloo by John Heaviside Clark (courtesy of the National Army Museum).
The Field of Waterloo by John Heaviside Clark (courtesy of the National Army Museum).

The majority of the wounded had already been taken off the field, but the dead still lay there. Eliza called out the names of her husband and father as she went, hoping for an answer in return. She passed a platoon of armed French grenadiers nestled in a hovel and forming a guard of honour to a dead general, but they let Eliza pass unmolested. Eliza searched throughout the night and by dawn had found the field where the Scottish regiments had fought, and where nearly 1,200 men had died. She began to recognise faces; finally a young drummer boy who had regained consciousness on the field told her that her husband and father had been on the front line, about 300m distant. Eliza hurried to the spot he pointed out.

There she found the body of her father who had been killed by shrapnel, but her husband, although he was badly injured, still clung to life. With the help of two other women she managed to move him to Mont Saint Jean where his wounds could be cleaned and bandaged and there, as a result of the stresses of the night, Eliza went into labour and gave birth to a daughter who was named Margaret. One version has the Duke of Wellington himself passing by shortly after the birth and, taking the babe in his arms, he kissed her forehead and told his staff officers, “Gentlemen, this is the child of Waterloo!”.

The Convalescent from Waterloo, Mulready, 1822 © Victoria and Albert Museum
The Convalescent from Waterloo, Mulready, 1822
© Victoria and Albert Museum

Adam Tolmie did recover, and he returned to his native Scotland shortly afterwards, having done with the army. The family settled first in Cockpen and then in Lasswade, Midlothian, where a further seven children were born to the couple (Jane 1817, Andrew 1819, James 1822, Eliza 1824, Isabella 1826, Mary Ann 1828 and William Edward in 1831).

On the 3rd June 1834, at Ceres in Fife, Margaret Tolmie (whose home parish was given as Lasswade) married James Thomson, a tailor from Ceres. Margaret, who was widowed between 1851 and 1861, followed in her mother’s footsteps and worked as a nurse, surviving in her old age on ‘private means’. By 1881 Margaret was living in Pathhead in Fife and, on the 22nd October 1901, she died there at 11 Commercial Street, aged 86 years, of old age and a fractured thigh. Her unmarried daughter Eliza, who had lived with her mother in her later years, had been present at the death.

The death certificate of Margaret Thomson, née Tolmie, names her parents as Adam Tolmie, a contractor, and his wife Eliza née Wood. Margaret’s death was reported as far away as New Zealand.

BORN ON THE FIELD OF WATERLOO.

Kirkcaldy has just lost one of its prideful possessions in the death of rare old Margaret Tolmie. She had the unique distinction of having been born on the famous field of Waterloo on the day following the historic battle, her mother having been a daughter of a corporal in the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys) and her father a trooper in the same regiment. With other “daughters of the regiment” Margaret’s mother sallied out from Brussels to seek for the living among the dead, though the wounded had already been removed. “Home they brought her warrior dead;” but “Meg’s” mother would not have it so. She searched and searched. And at last she found him, buried beneath a heap of dead. He still lived, and helped by two other women she bore him to a place of succour. But the excitement of the day overcame her, and on the red field of Waterloo the baby “Meg” was born. Truly, Kirkcaldy had cause to be proud of Margaret Tolmie.

(New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXVIII, issue 11848, 28th December 1901, page 2)

Kirkcaldy is some distance away from Pathhead – could this be a clue as to where her parents originated from? Or is it referencing her marriage at Ceres in Fife, where she lived for many years?

The Village of Waterloo in 1815 by George Jones, 1821, courtesy of the National Army Museum
The Village of Waterloo in 1815 by George Jones, 1821, courtesy of the National Army Museum

Researching Margaret’s life has, however, raised many questions for which we have not found the answers, and we are hoping that someone reading this might be able to fill in the gaps for us. Most sources do not name Margaret’s parents, merely giving the story of her birth. In some, Margaret’s mother is also a Margaret, saying that the daughter was named for the mother, but one source references some French tourists talking to Margaret in her old age, and in that her mother is named as Kate Maborlan, not Eliza Woods. As Eliza is named as her mother on the official record of her death, we have chosen to go with that, but it is possible that her mother did not survive the battlefield birth in 1815, and that Adam Tolmie swiftly remarried and Eliza is therefore Margaret’s stepmother.

And if anyone more experienced than us in tracing military records could locate either Adam Tolmie or Corporal Woods or Wood we would be delighted to hear from you. We have drawn a total blank in trying to find any mention at all which fits the known facts, although Woods is a very common name and Tolmie could easily have been mistranscribed for something else.

So, over to our readers . . .

Sources:

http://jnmasselot.free.fr/Histoire%207/1815%20L%27enfant%20de%20Waterloo.pdf

http://www.digitalsilver.co.uk/TimeGun/waterloo_women.html

Dundee Courier, 6th November 1901

Also see our previous blog post: Two ‘Waterloo Children’.

 

The Humbley siblings: named for victory

William Humbley, an army officer, gave his newborn son a name almost impossible to live up to – William Wellington Waterloo Humbley. Even more than that Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, stood as the child’s godfather. Little William Wellington Waterloo was born on the actual day of the battle, the 18th June 1815, at Sandgate in Kent according to information in the Cambridge University Alumni 1261-1900, but was not baptized until nearly a year later.

Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington by Richard Cosway, 1808. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington by Richard Cosway, 1808.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

William Wellington Waterloo, of Eynesbury (now part of St Neot’s but then a neighbouring village), was baptized on the 10th June 1816 at the parish church in Boxworth, Cambridgeshire. His father, William Humbley of the 95th Foot, had served in both the Peninsular War campaigns and at the Battle of Waterloo (the 95th was also known as the Rifle Brigade, made famous by Bernard Cornwell in his Sharpe novels).

The 95th Rifles at the Battle of the Pyrenees, 1813. Watercolour by Richard Simkin, 1813. © National Army Museum Copyright
The 95th Rifles at the Battle of the Pyrenees, 1813.
Watercolour by Richard Simkin, 1813.
© National Army Museum Copyright

William Humbley had been a First Lieutenant at the time of Waterloo, and a note against his name on the Waterloo Roll Call says:

This officer had been present at almost every battle and action in the Peninsular, and when the long-looked-for silver war medal was given, in 1848, he received one with thirteen clasps. Severely wounded at Waterloo. Attained the rank of lt.-col. unattached, 1851, and died 26th October 1857, at Eynesbury.

His severe wound in that battle had been caused by a musket ball in each shoulder, one of which stayed there till his dying day.

The Morning of Waterloo by James de Vine Aylward (c) The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Morning of Waterloo
by James de Vine Aylward
(c) The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Four years after the birth of William Wellington Waterloo, William Humbley and his wife Mary had a daughter, and this child they named Vimiera Violetta Vittoria, Vimiera almost certainly for Vimiero in Portugal, and the battle there in 1808 in which the British, under General Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, defeated the French forces and halted their invasion of Portugal. William Humbley, in the 95th, would have taken part in that battle: Vittoria obviously commemorated the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Like her elder brother, Vimiera Violetta Vittoria was also baptized at Boxworth, on 11th August 1820, her father being named as a Captain of the Rifle Brigade of Tempsford in Bedfordshire. In later life, Vimiera used the name Victoria in place of Vittoria; she married Richard Rickett Wells, son of John Wells, a conveyancer from Eynesbury, in 1840.

Humbley - Vimeiro

Other battles that Captain William Humbley of the Rifle Brigade saw action in included Roliça, Corunna, Barossa, Salamanca, Nivelle, Orthes, and Toulouse; he was, in all, five times wounded severely in battle. He was placed on half-pay on Christmas Day 1818 and remained without employment until he was recalled to the army in 1854, at the age of 62 years, on the outbreak of the Crimean War.

Brigadier General Craufurd with 95th Rifles, 43rd & 52nd Light infantry during the retreat to Corunna (image via http://www.britishbattles.com/peninsula/peninsula-coruna.htm)
Brigadier General Craufurd with 95th Rifles, 43rd & 52nd Light infantry during the retreat to Corunna (image via http://www.britishbattles.com/peninsula/peninsula-coruna.htm)

William Wellington Waterloo Humbley grew up to marry, in 1857, Elizabeth Nelson Watson, an heiress from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, although her middle name was not given in honour of the naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson, but in a rather more mundane fashion was for her father, William Nelson Watson, Esquire.

HUMBLEY – WATSON. On the 27th ult., at S. George’s, Hanover square, London, Captain Wm. W. W. Humbley, late of the 9th Lancers, only son of Colonel Humbley, of Eynesbury, St. Neot’s, Huntingdonshire, to Elizabeth Nelson, only surviving daughter of the late Wm. Nelson Watson, of Gainsborough.

Sheffield Independent, 4th July 1857

Still, with Wellington, Waterloo and Nelson amongst the couple’s names, they were a fitting tribute to the military victories of the British army and navy of their time. The couple, who were later to divorce, continued the naming tradition with their son, William Wellesley Humbley, born in 1868.

Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758–1805), 1st Viscount Nelson, KB (attributed to) William Beechey. (c) Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758–1805), 1st Viscount Nelson, KB (attributed to) William Beechey.
(c) Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

So, the question remains, did William Wellington Waterloo Humbley live up to his name? It seems he did; perhaps with forenames such as those he had little choice but to follow his father into the British army, and Humbley junior achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (unattached), as his father had before him. Harts Army List of 1888 has this to say of Humbley junior:

Lt. Colonel W.W.W. Humbley served with the 9th Lancers in the Sutlej campaign in 1846, including the battle of Sobraon (Medal).

The Battle of Sobraon 10 February 1846. Coloured aquatint by J Harris after H Martens, published by Rudolph Ackermann, 1 January 1848, courtesy of the National Army Museum.
The Battle of Sobraon 10 February 1846.
Coloured aquatint by J Harris after H Martens, published by Rudolph Ackermann, 1 January 1848, courtesy of the National Army Museum.

Lieutenant-Colonel William Wellington Waterloo Humbley lived, appropriately enough, at Waterloo Cottage in his birthplace of Eynesbury.

The Battle of Waterloo by Jan Willem Pieneman, 1824, courtesy of The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
The Battle of Waterloo by Jan Willem Pieneman, 1824, courtesy of The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Perhaps we should also spare a thought for William Waterloo Wellington Rolleston Napoleon Buonaparte Guelph Saunders, born in 1867 at Sutton Courtenay in Berkshire, the son of William and Maria Saunders? Quite what his parents were thinking when they gave their infant son such a mouthful of a name, with both opposing sides of the famous battle covered, is anyone’s guess!

Further reading:

Journal of a Cavalry Officer: Including the Memorable Sikh Campaign of 1845-46 by William Wellington Waterloo Humbley, M.A., Trinity College, Cambridge; Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society; Captain, 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers.

Jackets of Green by Arthur Bryant.

Notes:

The information that the Duke of Wellington stood godfather to William Wellington Waterloo Humbley is from the West Kent Guardian newspaper dated the 19th March 1842. Additional information on the battles at which William Humbley of the 95th was present is taken from the London Standard, 17th April 1844, and Vimiera’s wedding from the Cambridge Independent Press, 4th January 1840. She perhaps initially married without her father’s permission, with a second marriage to make the ceremony legal: her first marriage to RR Wells took place on 3rd January 1840 at St Peter Cornhill, where she was listed as 21 years of age, and on the 10th February 1840 the couple married once more, at St Andrew Holborn, with Vimeira this time listed as a minor.

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

 

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.]


???????????????????????????????????
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 1820s 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.