We looked at Sir Wolstan Dixie, 4th Baronet of Market Bosworth in an earlier blog, and we promised we’d return to him in due course, to take a closer look at the man and his family.
Sir Wolstan was a pugnacious and pig-headed bully, and legend suggests he committed an awful crime.
We mentioned in our previous blog that Samuel Johnson lived with the family at Bosworth Hall for a time, while he was employed by Dixie as an usher at the local grammar school, ‘but was treated with what he represented as intolerable harshness; and, after suffering for a few months such complicated misery, he relinquished a situation for which all his life afterwards he recollected with the strongest aversion, and even a degree of horror’. At times, it’s difficult to know what is true and what is a tall tale when it comes to Sir Wolstan: he’s reputed to have made his butler the headmaster of the grammar school, purely because he could do so and no-one could nay say him. But, we reckon we can debunk that last one as a myth; we’ll say why at the end of this blog.
Sir Wolstan Dixie also fell out with his neighbours, particularly with Wrightson Mundy of Osbaston Hall and Markeaton. Dixie attacked one of Mundy’s waggoners when he caught the man driving across his park so Mundy disguised himself as a waggoner and repeated the offence. When Dixie tried to pull the waggoner down he got the surprise of his life when the man revealed himself to by Mundy, who then proceeded to deliver one almighty beating to the bemused Sir Wolstan Dixie. Possibly Mundy was the same squire with whom Sir Wolstan came to blows after the latter had closed off a footpath which gave access across some of his land. Shortly afterwards, Sir Wolstan appeared at court and was presented to George II and the king, when he heard that Sir Wolstan’s estate was Bosworth Park, recalled the ancient battle fought in 1485 and asked, “Bosworth! Big battle at Bosworth, wasn’t it?” With the memory of his recent fight fresh in his mind, Sir Wolstan stupefied the king when he replied, “Yes, Sire. But, I thrashed him!”
In May 1735, at All Hallows by London Wall, he married Anna Frere, a young, beautiful and – most importantly for Sir Wolstan – an extremely wealthy heiress. Anna had been born on the island of Barbados in 1711, the daughter of John Frere who, just before his death in 1721, was the acting governor of Barbados. After his death, his widow, Elizabeth, and her young family (there were four daughters, of whom Anna was the eldest, and two sons) returned to London and took a house on Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury. Elizabeth Frere died in March 1735 and just two months later, Sir Wolstan snared his young bride… and her fortune which amounted to over 20,000l.
In our earlier blog we recounted how Sir Wolstan kept Anna a virtual prisoner at his Leicestershire estate, Bosworth Hall at Market Bosworth, while she was pregnant later that year, having given his coachmen instructions that Lady Dixie was not to be driven further than three or four miles distant from her home. He also had Anna’s old family servant arrested and thrown into Newgate on a trumped up charge of theft when she displeased him.
The couple’s first child, born in 1736, was a daughter who was named Rebecca. There followed a son, Wolstan in 1737 and another daughter, Anna born in July 1739. Lady Dixie died giving birth to Anna; she was buried at Market Bosworth on 5 July 1739.
After just over a year’s mourning, Sir Wolstan married again. His second bride was Theodosia, daughter of Henry Wright of Mobberly Cheshire, and the wedding took place on 26 December 1740, at the bride’s parish church. With Theodosia, Sir Wolstan had six more children, one son, Willoughby, born 1742 and then five daughters, Purefoy (born 1743), Theodosia (born 1744), Eleanor Frances (born 1746), Rosamond (born 1747) and Juliana (born 1749).
Theodosia died in 1751. The painting below, of Sir Wolstan Dixie and his family, is dated four years after her death, and shows Sir Wolstan’s nine children. From left to right, they are probably Juliana, Eleanor Frances, Willoughby, Rebecca, Purefoy, Theodosia, Anna, Wolstan and Rosamond, with Sir Wolstan Dixie seated far right.
At Scarborough, in September 1758, Sir Wolstan married for a third and final time, to another wealthy heiress, Margaret daughter of William Cross, a ‘young lady with a handsome fortune’. Two of his children had, however, died since that family portrait had been painted. Purefoy Dixie was buried on 22 July 1757 at Market Bosworth and her sister Theodosia is also said to have died the same year.
Anna Dixie, the younger of the two daughters from Sir Wolstan’s first marriage to Anna Frere also died, and was buried 13 February 1758, aged around 19-years. It is Anna’s death which has given rise to a terrible legend. We can find no corroboration of it in contemporary sources, so give it here merely as hearsay.
It came to Sir Wolstan’s attention that Anna was surreptitiously meeting a young man in Bosworth Park (some sources say he was the gardener). In a cruel plan, Dixie set man-traps, intending to catch his daughter’s beau in one, but it was Anna herself who stepped into the device. Her screams led to her rescue from the jaws of the trap and she was carried back to the hall, bleeding heavily. There she died, and it’s said that her ghost haunts the hall to this day.
We have absolutely no idea how much of that tale is true, if any at all. What we can say, however, is that the portrait below, merely labelled as Miss Dixie and by Henry Pickering, dated to c.1750-1755, must be either Rebecca or Anna Dixie. (We have seen it erroneously called a portrait of Eleanor Frances Dixie, but this is impossible as she is too young to be the lady in this portrait.)
Rebecca Dixie died, unmarried, in 1762 and was buried 19 April at Market Bosworth while Juliana, the youngest of the Dixie children died in the December of the same year. Only the two sons, Wolstan and Willoughby, and two of the girls, Eleanor Frances and Rosamond survived their father, who died in 1767.
Two years later, Sir Wolstan’s eldest son, also Wolstan and, since his father’s death, the 5th Baronet, was declared a lunatic. Willoughby Dixie, the second son, took over the management of the estate, and of the grammar school. It was Willoughby who appointed Joseph Moxon, a waiter at a local pub, to the position of headmaster. This is clearly the origin of the story that Willoughby’s father appointed his butler to the job. Unless, of course, it was a case of like father, like son?
N.B.: The chapel of the Fleet Prison in London was notorious for clandestine marriages. On 19 May 1734, one Wolstan Dixie married a woman named Mary Guest. It’s an unusual name; there certainly weren’t many Wolstan Dixies around of marriageable age in 1734. We’re just throwing it in there, as a possible first marriage to Sir Wolstan… and if it was him, then either Mary Guest died within a year of her marriage or Sir Wolstan added the charge of bigamy to his many offences.
Relevant parish registers
The Baronetage of England, Thomas Wotton, Richard A Johnson and Edward Kimber, 1771
Cases in Chancery: The Attorney-General v. Dixie. Bosworth School, ex parte. 1807
On August 6th, 1724 at St Ann’s Soho, Captain Francis Blake Delaval of Seaton Delaval Hall, near Newcastle Upon Tyne, married Rhoda Apreece, the heiress of Doddington Hall, which is somewhere we have previously written about.
The couple had eleven children and today we’re going to take a look at their eldest, the prankster, money loving son, named Francis Blake after his father. Francis was born in 1727 and as you would expect, was educated, as most young men of his social standing, at Oxford.
In 1749, aged just 21, he married a woman over twice his age, Isabella née Tufton, an exceptionally wealthy heiress and daughter of Thomas Tufton, 6th Earl of Thanet and Catherine Cavendish. Isabella was the widow of Nassau Powlett, a younger son of the 2nd Duke of Bolton (who had died in 1741).
We thought we would share with you the story of their meeting as it was by no means coincidental, but was totally conceived by Francis. He wanted a wife with money and concocted a cunning plan to hook this extremely wealthy widow. Looks he said weren’t important, which was perhaps just as well, as Isabella was described as extremely plain. Money was his motivator and she had plenty of it.
It was his closest friend and a man of great concern to the family, the actor, Samuel Foote that helped him to hatch this plan. It was common knowledge that Isabella wanted to marry again, and it was also known that she was fascinated by gipsies and consulted with the famous Norwood gipsy. So, armed with this information, Francis surreptitiously arranged for her to see a gipsy who would tell her that she would shortly meet the man of her dreams. She was told to walk in the park the following Thursday where she would meet a tall, fair gentleman, remarkably handsome, dressed in blue and silver and that it was irrevocably fixed by fate that this man would become her husband.
Of course, when the day arrived, Isabella took a walk in the park and surprise, surprise, she met Francis exactly as the gipsy had foretold.
Three days later on March 8th, 1749, the couple were married at St Georges Hanover Square in a clandestine marriage and with that he immediately acquired her large fortune reputed to have been between £90,000 and £150,000 (around 17.5 million in today’s money). It is said that for helping to arrange this, Francis settled an annuity upon Foote which relieved his debts.
In 1751, Francis was elected as M.P. for Hindon in Wiltshire, then in 1754 became M.P for Andover, Hampshire – the latter being assured by Francis courtesy of the firing of a canon which dispensed 500 guineas worth of money to ‘help’ voters make the correct choice of candidate, he even hired the services of a celebrated fire eater to win over one obstinate voter.
At the age of just 25, Francis succeeded to his father’s estates. He inherited Seaton Delaval Hall, with his brother John inheriting Doddington upon the death of their mother, but long after his death young Francis was remembered at Doddington Hall for his frequent visits to the local pubs of Harby in Lincolnshire and the drinking and dancing parties that ensued, but mostly he has been remembered for his pranks, both at Seaton and Doddington.
Whilst at Seaton Delaval he became noted not only for the variety of entertainments given there, but for the practical jokes which he played on guests. Not just schoolboy pranks such as making apple-pie beds and the placing of ducks and chickens in peoples beds but also a system of pulleys which he had constructed so that when visitors retired to their bed they were suddenly let down through a trap door into a cold bath.
On one occasion a gentleman apparently was kept in bed for three whole days as Francis somehow managed to convince him it wasn’t morning yet. On another occasion he created a ‘set’ by using curtains which partitioned the rooms and whilst the people in each room were getting undressed he would suddenly let the dividing curtain fall, exposing them to each other. This was a trick which apparently took place in the Long Gallery at Doddington Hall.
Yet another prank was played upon a young man; Francis managed to persuade the rest of the gathering to go along with. He told everyone that someone known to them had just died. After supper the supposed dead man appeared in the room, dressed in a shroud, his face powdered. A young man of the party saw him, but everyone else declared that they had seen nothing. It gave the young man such a fright that he fell down in a fit and didn’t recover for quite a while. After this, apparently no more such tricks were played.
Returning to his marriage, it was to be short lived as the couple didn’t get on at all well, in fact during one particularly ferocious argument Francis actually told Isabella about his plot to marry her.
Eventually, having had enough of his affair with an actress, Miss Elizabeth Roach or La Roche (as she was also known) who, according to rates returns, lived in Poland Street, Westminster, Isabella filed for a divorce in 1755, but in order for it to happen she had to admit to being unfaithful to Francis.
The couple had no children, but Isabella had a daughter from her marriage to Nassau and it was her daughter who inherited her estate when she died in 1763.
Despite the fortune Francis had inherited from his father and the monies from his marriage, he was a spendthrift and all money went through his hands like water, so much so that in 1755 an Act of Parliament was obtained to either sell Seaton or to mortgage it to pay off his debts.
Despite his behaviour, somehow in 1761 Francis was installed a Knight Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.
Francis also retained a property in London, No 11 Downing Street, which is slightly ironic given his obvious inability to manage money that it should now be used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Francis died suddenly in 1771. His body was taken for burial at Seaton with a grand funeral where it was laid in state for all to see. Apparently, so keen were people to have a glimpse of the proceedings, that in the rush, one girl had her leg broken, a gentleman lost his watch and many people had their pockets picked.
The newspapers of the day said that Francis died leaving some £36,000 of which £10,000 was to be paid to his two illegitimate children by Miss La Roche however, his actual will read very differently and shows the benefit of hindsight, so we thought we’d share it with you in full
Foote was said to be distraught at his friends death and retired to his room for three days. Finally, Foote was advised that it would be a few days before the funeral as doctors were to dissect Francis’s head to which Foote replied:
and what in the world will they get there? I am sure I have known poor Frank these five and twenty years, and I never could find anything in it.
The Dublin Penny Journal, Volumes 3-4
Sympson, Edward. Memorials of Old Lincolnshire
Cole R.E.G. History of the manor and township of Doddington : otherwise Doddington-Pigot, in the county of Lincoln, and its successive owners, with pedigrees
Yesterday the old State Coach, built for King George I and the Carriages of his late Majesty, given by the late Master of the Horse to the Servants, were sold at Bever’s Repository; it is remarkable the Gold Lace of the State Coach, which was taken off before the sale and burnt, amounted to 53l. 19s.
A new superb State Coach is building for his Majesty, which, when finished, will be the most magnificent ever seen in this Kingdom.
(Derby Mercury, 9 January 1761)
George III had taken the throne on 25 October 1760, upon the death of his grandfather, George II (George III’s father, the old king’s eldest son, had died in 1751). His coronation took place almost a year later, on 22 September 1761, but if he was hoping that his new State Coach would be ready for the occasion, then he was going to be sorely disappointed. It took almost two years for the coach to be completed, for it was no ordinary coach. It would be, the new king decided, the most elegant and magnificent coach that had ever been seen in his kingdom.
It is said a new State-Coach is going to be built (from a design already made by a celebrated English Artist) which for elegance, taste, and grandeur, will, it is thought, excel any thing of the kind ever yet doe in Europe; and we have the pleasure to add, that the construction, painting, and every other part of the same, is to be the work of our own countrymen.
(Leeds Intelligencer, 20 January 1761)
Sir William Chambers, a Scottish/Swedish architect was responsible for the original design, while the contract for building the vehicle was given to the coachmaker, Samuel Butler. Then came the ornamentation, carved sculpture by Joseph Wilton which was then gilded by Henry Pujolas and decorated by the metal chaser, George Coyte.
The whole concept was for the coach to be the most wonderful – and therefore the most expensive – ever to have been built in England, and the decoration was full of symbolism. It was intended that ‘when riding in the coach, the King would appear as Neptune, monarch of the seas, and also Apollo, leader of the muses of artistic innovation’.
There are four Triton, mythical sea-gods placed on the body of the coach and, at the front, almost appear to be pulling the coach. Whether it was intended or not, in motion the coach rocked about as if it was rolling on the high seas, to the distress of those inside! When George III’s younger son, William IV used the coach during his reign in the 1830s, he complained that it was just like being on board a ship ‘tossing in a rough sea’, and as he’d served in navy for many years, he ought to have known.
The first outing of this magnificent new state coach was on 25 November 1762 when the king travelled in it to the State Opening of Parliament. So great was the public interest, that anyone with rooms in and around Parliament Street were able to rent them out at exorbitant rates for the day, and those ladies and gentlemen lucky enough to get one leaned out of the windows to watch the king pass by in his state coach, drawn by eight horses. As it turned out, watching from above was by far the safest vantage point.
London, November 25
This Day, about two o’clock, his Majesty went to the House of Lords from St James’s in his new State Coach, drawn by eight fine cream coloured horses, ornamented with blue ribbands and Morocco trappings. His Majesty went through the Park, and was attended by the Lords Oxford and Cadogan, the Master of the Horse and other principal Officers of State. The crowd was so great on this occasion, and carriages so numerous, that they extended quite from St James’s to the Parliament House, and it was with great difficulty that foot passengers could pass along the streets. In Parliament Street, one of the horses which drew his Majesty’s Coach fell down, and occasioned some little confusion, but we do not hear of any damage.
(Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 2 December 1762)
The crowds were so great that they led to injuries and even – reportedly – to death. The first accident occurred just as the coach left the gates of the Royal Mews on Charing Cross when a young woman fell beneath the hooves of one of the Life Guards horses. We haven’t found any further report on her, but it reads as if she survived her accident. The deaths were due to the immense press of people in confined spaces.
In the narrow passage leading from Spring Gardens into the park, a woman and child were crushed to death, and their bodies were laid on the grass in the park; another woman and a lad are said also to have been crushed to death near the Horse Guards, and several were beat down and trampled on, and had their arms broke, and otherwise much bruised; and divers women lost their hats, capuchins, gowns, shoes, &c. I the crowd.
(Derby Mercury, 26 November 1762)
The Gold State Coach is still used for ceremonial occasions, but has been modernised over the years to give a (slightly!) more comfortable ride.
Sources not mentioned above:
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 2 September 1762
Derby Mercury, 26 November 1762
Leeds Intelligencer, 20 January 1761
Royal Collection Trust: notes against object RCIN 917942, Design for the State Coach by Sir William Chambers and object RCIN 5000048, the Gold State Coach.
For all our regular followers you will no doubt be aware that as well as all of our other research, we have, in the background, been researching Dido Elizabeth Belle and her husband (If you’d like to read about all of our NEW research then follow the highlighted link).
For those aware of Dido’s life you will know that she died in 1804 and was buried at St George’s Field (it appears likely, according to Etienne Daly that her remains may well still be there) leaving her husband John with two sons, William and Charles, to raise alone.
As we have said previously, we know that by 1811 John Davinière was working as a steward/valet to John (known as ‘fish’) Craufurd, MP, and had found a new love in his life, Jane Holland, with whom he had a further two children, Lavinia (1809-1881) and Edward Henri (1812-1867), who was later to be placed in an asylum when John and Jane returned to France.
It was in February 1811 that John applied for naturalisation, having lived in England for over 25 years, confirmed in a letter written by William Augustus Fawkener, close family friend to the Craufords, just prior to Fawkener’s death in August of that year. Fawkener was brother to Harriet Bouverie, the London beauty, society hostess, ardent supporter of Charles James Fox and close friend to the Duchess of Devonshire.
London society at that time was so small that everyone who was anyone was closely linked, so John would have been well aware of them all, but would of course, have been expected to remain tight lipped about the things he heard.
In the late 1790s, John Crauford and Charles Cockerell purchased the properties of 146 and 147 Piccadilly respectively, quite prestigious places to live at the time and just a stone’s throw from the then newly opened John Hatchards bookshop at 187 Piccadilly, the oldest surviving bookshop in Britain and a mere five minute walk to the world famous Fortnum and Mason (181 Piccadilly), who were, by this time selling every food you could imagine – and may you couldn’t – such as a fruits from overseas including Jordan almonds, guava jelly, green Madeira citron and preserved West India ginger, perfect products for the well-to-do of London.
On 25th August 1810, John Craufurd’s nephew, General James Catlin Craufurd, died in the Peninsular Wars. James’ father had been Governor of Bermuda but had a serious gambling problem and it appears that little of his estate was left for James Catlin to inherit. So, when James died his wife, his will consisted of a mere two lines, confirming that should he die abroad his possessions should go to his wife, Ann Elizabeth Barnard (the sister of Sir Andrew Barnard), there was no mention as to what his possessions or estate consisted of, but it seems safe to assume that there wasn’t very much of it to give to her and with that Ann and her five children were taken in by James’ uncle. She did, however, at the instigation of the Duke of Wellington, receive a pension.
The property itself was quite substantial so could, house them all in relative comfort, along with all the other servants required including a servant, groom and footman. John was living at 9 Portman Place at this time, only about a mile away.
The neighbouring properties belonging to Sir Charles Cockerell, Sir Nathaniel Holland, Lady Smith Burgess, Sir Drummond Smith, Earl of Dysart and of course, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington at Apsley House which Robert Adam built in 1771 and he purchased in 1807.
After the death of John Craufurd, his will confirmed that he had made financial provision for Ann Elizabeth and the children, all of whom he thought highly of, upwards of ten thousand pounds, plus all the household goods and that shortly after his death she and her brood moved out and took a property close by on Stratton Street, she also pleaded poverty saying she had so little to bequeath to her children, in her will of 1823, a mere nine thousand pounds (if you can call half a million pounds in today’s money poverty!).
We still have no clues as to who Davinière worked for after this, as yet, but John Crauford left him fifty pounds annuity, plus one hundred pounds and all of his wardrobe to help him on his way and had supported John’s son, Charles’ application to join the East India Company.
We know that Davinière and Jane remained in England until at least 1819 when they eventually married, they then reappeared back in his native town of Ducey, France, where he was to ultimately die. You can find out more about their life here.
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Burnham, Robert & McGuigan Ron. Wellington’s Brigade Commanders: Peninsula and Waterloo
Westminster Rates books 1634-1900
Piccadilly from Hyde Park corner turnpike from Ackermann’s Repository 1810
The breathless but smartly dressed clerk had clearly left the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street in a hurry, not even bothering to stop and put his hat on in his haste, nor to remove the pen which was stuck clumsily in his wig. When, on Leadenhall Street, a short distance away, he caught up with the lady who had just received a 50l. note from the bank, she had no reason to doubt the clerk’s words: that he had been sent to chase after her as it was thought there had been a mistake made in issuing the note. Could he, the clerk asked, see it?
The absence of a hat as well as the pen stuck in his wig clearly backed up his story. What else could he be but a bank clerk who had been dispatched post haste after the bank’s customer? The lady had no hesitation in handing over the note which the clerk checked and, with a look of relief, confirmed it was all correct and in order; the clerk handed the note back to the grateful woman before hurrying back to his desk.
By the time the lady opened the note, and found herself staring at a piece of white paper with a few handwritten lines on it, the conman and her 50l. note had both vanished into thin air.
A naval gentleman was preparing to travel from London to Portsmouth, and a trunk containing his clothes, a set of silver spoons and eight guineas was to be sent separately; the night before his intended departure, a porter was sent with the trunk from the naval officer’s lodgings in Aldersgate Street to Leadenhall Street’s Black Bull Inn, to get it on the next coach.
At the gate of the inn the porter was met by a man who introduced himself as a book-keeper employed at the inn; the book-keeper asked the porter what his business was.
The porter had no reason to doubt the book-keeper, for the man appeared to be exactly that, right down to the pen stuck in his wig (the book-keeper wasn’t wearing a hat).
“You came too late, Friend,” said the book-keeper, “the coach is just set out, but I’ll take care of [the trunk]; it shall remain safe in the warehouse, and go by Monday’s coach”. The book-keeper patted his pockets before exclaiming in annoyance, “Ha! That foolish blockhead, our porter, has taken the key with him”. He asked the porter to “step over to that alehouse over the way” and ask the inn’s porter to give him the key to the warehouse, while he, the book-keeper, kept guard over the trunk.
It will probably come as no surprise to learn that when the naval gentleman’s porter returned with the key, both the book-keeper and the trunk had disappeared into London’s dark streets.
Both frauds occurred in Leadenhall Street and, even though there is almost eleven years between the two, it’s tempting to think that it was the same brazen and perhaps opportunistic conman who committed both crimes, his disguise merely the lack of a hat and a pen, stuck carelessly in his wig.
We are delighted to welcome the author, Simon Edge, journalist, critic and novelist, to our blog to tell us more about the challenges he face when writing his latest novel, due to be released in a few days time, A Right Royal Face Off: A Georgian Entertainment featuring Thomas Gainsborough and Another Painter. So, with that, we’ll hand you over to Simon:
My first novel was based on the life of the Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. The historical parts were set in the 1870s and 1880s and it did not require a huge effort to think myself into his era. Surrounded as we are by Victoriana – in our culture, our civic infrastructure and the clutter of antique fairs or auction rooms – it’s easy to have an instinctive feel for how the Victorians ate, got around, furnished their homes and so on.
When I came to write a comic novel about Thomas Gainsborough and his rivalry with Sir Joshua Reynolds for the affections of the Royal Family, I found myself on less sure ground.
The historical events of A Right Royal Face-Off take place between 1777 and 1785, a century earlier than my previous period. Did I have any clear idea what forms of technology were new at that time, and what was about to be invented?
Was I confident of what well-to-do Londoners had for their dinner, or what time of day they ate it? Could I picture a Georgian hackney carriage, or a Georgian newspaper? No, no and no again.
These things are far from unknowable, of course. The works of Fielding, Swift, Sterne or Thackeray offer plentiful insights, and I wince as much as any other visitor to All Things Georgian at the anachronisms in a bad film adaptation of Jane Austen.
However, I didn’t have any instinctive sense of the difference between the 1770s and, say, the 1720s or the 1820s, so there was a high risk of howlers. Most readers don’t have that sense either, but if it’s worth doing historical fiction, it’s worth getting it right.
I live very close to Gainsborough’s House, the painter’s birthplace museum in Suffolk, so I could examine his painting table, the kind of paintbox he might have used, the sort of mannequin he would have employed for human figures in his early paintings (painfully apparent in portraits such as ‘Mr and Mrs Andrews’), and so on.
However, I needed basic guidance on ordinary living – the kind of stuff that novelists needs to get our characters out of bed in the morning and to take them through the day.
The trick, especially when you have a deadline, is to find a good guide who can help you cut corners, and mine was Fanny Burney. Her novel Evelina, about a country innocent introduced to London ways, was published in 1778 – spot on for my needs. Joy of joys, my edition came with detailed footnotes explaining hairdressing fashions, the dates of the London season and the difference between a sedan chair, a hackney-coach and a chariot.
Another boon was A Country Parson, the diary kept by the Norfolk vicar James Woodforde between 1759 and 1802. First published in the 1920s, its attraction for generations of readers is its homely detail, with meticulous records of meals taken, conversations with servants, journeys made, and so on. Woodforde lived a rural life, but he came from a similar class to Gainsborough and I found him invaluable every time I needed to give my characters a good feed. For example, when Gainsborough’s journalist friend Henry Bate-Dudley drops in for lunch, I provide him with a lobster, some mackerel, veal cutlets, a mutton leg with caper sauce, and a pig’s face, followed by a pineapple, oranges, a melon, damson tarts and a syllabub. If that gives you indigestion just thinking about it, take it up with Parson Woodforde.
A major issue for anyone writing historical fiction is language, particularly if the narrative is in the first person. You need to avoid anachronism – no shots in the arm or rollercoaster journeys, for example. That may sound obvious, but these things have a way of sneaking in. I once made myself unpopular with a writer friend by objecting to his description of buddleia (named after the 17th-century Reverend Buddle) in a novel about Roman Britain. Nobody loves a smartarse, but that doesn’t mean I was wrong.
Making characters sound authentic to their period isn’t just about avoiding modern slang – you need phrases of the time, too. I plunged into Fielding’s Tom Jones and made lists of idiomatic expressions: ‘he gave loose to mirth’, ‘she opined’ or ‘you are of the vulgar stamp’.
It took me back to my A-levels, trying to shoe-horn a list of idioms into French and German essays, and there is clearly a danger of trying too hard. Perhaps the best you can hope is that you fall into the right kind of linguistic groove. Total authenticity is not the aim.
One well-known literary novel from the 1980s, based on a brilliant idea, is virtually unreadable because it’s written in pedantically accurate 17th-century English. Better to suggest your period and not become inaccessible. A bestselling historical novelist friend insists this is all about word order: rearranging a sentence very slightly can create an impression of unfamiliarity, without forcing the reader out of their linguistic comfort zone.
I also found profanity very useful. We know from Gainsborough’s letters that he was a fantastically sweary person, so in my version he constantly calls the servants addlepates, whoresons and coxcombs. No doubt some of those expressions are ruder than others, just as we have our acceptable swear-words and our beyond-the-pale ones nowadays, but I used them interchangeably. It’s a comic novel, not a doctoral thesis on 18th century idiom.
I hope it entertains people, because that is the primary intention, but I’ll also be delighted if readers feel at home in my version of Georgian England. My bestselling historical novelist friend told me that my 18th century world was “lightly but effectively drawn”. I took that as the highest compliment.
Although George III had 15 children, and all but two of them survived to adulthood, grandchildren – at least legitimate ones – were thin on the ground. In 1817, when the Prince Regent’s daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales died in childbirth (her son was stillborn), there was something of a constitutional crisis.
Three of the king’s daughters had married, but none of them had any surviving issue. The two eldest sons, George, the Prince Regent (and future George IV) and Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany had both separated from their wives long before; both were now childless, and weren’t in a position to provide an heir.
Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex was married and had children, but as he had married secretly and in contravention of the 1772 Royal Marriages Act, his union was deemed invalid and his children barred from the line of succession.
Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland was also married, to his first cousin, Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, but the couple – at that time – had no children (a daughter had been stillborn in 1817).
And so, an unseemly scramble to a) marry and/or b) beget an heir to the throne broke out. In 1818, there were three royal marriages.
Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the king’s youngest surviving son (he was 44), was first off the starting block; he married Augusta of Hesse-Kassel in her homeland on 7 May 1818, and again in London (at Buckingham Palace) on 1 June. In a recurrent theme for the family, this marriage would, however, prove childless. Prince Edward, Duke of Kent was only a few weeks behind his younger brother; he settled on Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and married in Coburg on 29 May, and again at Kew Palace on 11 July. The royal family tree is a tangled one and this marriage is a perfect example. The new Duchess of Kent had been the sister-in-law of the duke’s deceased niece, Princess Charlotte of Wales.
Rounding up the year’s royal weddings was the king’s third son, Prince William, Duke of Clarence who already had a brood of ten children by his long-term mistress, the actress Dorothea Jordan, all born illegitimately and given the surname FitzClarence. He married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen at Kew on 11 July in a double ceremony with his brother, Prince Edward.
The race to produce an heir was well and truly on. So, how did it play out?
After three weddings in 1818, several royal children were born the following year. The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland had a daughter, but she lived only a few hours and the Cambridges had a son. On 24 May 1819, Princess Alexandrina Victoria, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent was born and, three days later, the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland had a boy, Prince George. The little princess took priority over the princes in the succession because her father, the Duke of Kent, was older than the Dukes of Cumberland and Cambridge.
George III died in 1820, and the Prince Regent took the throne as King George IV. At his death, ten years later, the Duke of Clarence was next in line and he ruled as William IV (the second son, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany had died in 1827, still estranged from his wife). William IV’s wife and queen, Adelaide, suffered a succession of miscarriages and stillbirths, and the couple had no living children.
Princess Alexandrina Victoria, born because of that mad scramble for an heir, was next in the line of succession. Her father, the Duke of York, had died of pneumonia before she was a year old. In the portrait of her as a child with her mother (below), the young princess holds a miniature of her father.
Princess Alexandrina – known to her close family as Drina – is obviously much better known as Queen Victoria. She came to the throne on 20 June 1837 upon the death of her uncle, William IV, but as a woman was unable to also inherit Hanover which since George I had been held dually with the British crown. That went to the next male heir, her uncle Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland who became King of Hanover. Victoria’s cousin, Prince George, who was born just three days after her own birth, would in time become the last King of Hanover.
In the eighteenth century a woman had few, if any, rights and was effectively a possession of her husband. We came across the term ‘the rule of thumb’ which had been quoted in the film ‘The Duchess‘ by Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster when Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire saw the bruising on Bess’s neck, caused by her husband and of course, we wanted to find out a little more about its origin.
We found what would appear to be the case in question, but unfortunately it contains no names, so it’s not been possible to track it down further. Judge Buller’s quote, IF the newspaper reports of September 1782 are correct and accurately reported, they report Judge Buller’s exact ruling for a man’s right to beat his wife.
At the last Assizes at W_____r, a man was tried for having beat his wife, so that she was supposed to die of the contusions and bruises. The prisoner was allowed counsel; and in defence of the man it was alleged, that a husband had the legal power of chastening his wife.
The judge objected to the pertinence of the allegation, because the prisoner used a faggot. It is allowed that a husband may correct his wife, but not with a faggot.
The council asked what size the stick should be, which might be so applied?
Judge Buller put out his hand and said,
‘Of the size of my thumb’.
All the Ladies of W_____r sent messages to his lodgings, to obtain the exact measure of his Lordships thumb; and the lawyers have given their opinion, that if a husband should use a stick differing in dimension the breadth of a hair from Judge Buller’s thumb, an action will lie, and heavy damages be recoverable by the wife.
This newspaper article, if correctly quoted, we would take to mean literally the size of Judge Buller’s thumb i.e about 6cm in length and around 7cm circumference and not a stick the thickness of his thumb as became part of folklore.
There had apparently been a case of a man beating his wife to death with a pestle*, this however would have been considerably larger than a thumb and capable of inflicting severe damage due to its weight. In the 18th century a mortar and pestle was often made from metal or wood and could be considerably larger than the size of a thumb as can be seen in this image in which the pestle is metal and some 20cm in length and so would have been capable of inflicting serious injury, or in that particular case death.
If he didn’t literally mean his thumb, then it could be argued that what he was actually saying was that no man had the right to beat his wife.
The Norfolk Chronicle a month later on October 12th 1782, helpfully clarified the legal position as set down by Judge Blackstone:
As many laughable allusions have been introduced into the papers relative to a late judicial decision respecting an assault tried at ‘Nisi Prius’ in the country, and what a husband is legal warranted to chastise his wife with. The following is the Law relative to that matter, as laid down by the late Judge Blackstone:
The husband by the old Law might give his wife moderate correction; for as he is to answer for her misbehaviour, the law thought it reasonable to entrust him with this power of restraining her by domestic chastisement, in the same moderation that a man is allowed to correct his servants or children, for whom the master, or parent, is also liable in some cases to answer. But this power of correction was confined within reasonable bounds, and the husband was prohibited from using any violence to his wife.
The Civil Law gave the husband the same, or a larger authority, over his wife, allowing him for some misdemeanours to beat his wife soundly with whips and cudgels. But with us, in the politer reign of Charles the Second, this power of correction began to be doubted, and a wife may now have the security of the peace against her husband, or in return husband against his wife. Yet the lower ranks of people, who were always fond of the old common law, still claim and exert their ancient privileges; and the courts of law will permit a husband to restrain a wife of her liberty, in case of any misbehaviour. (Blackstone, Volume 1, p.444).
If you look at this caricature of Judge Buller, who became known as ‘Judge Thumb‘ holding a bundle of long sticks(faggots) with a thumb on the end it is dated 7th November,1782, so just after the case above had been heard, you will see the wording in the bubble, being shouted by the man ‘murder hey, it’s law you bitch, it’s not bigger than my thumb’.
This ruling apparently led to the placement of orders at several cane shops in London for sticks of exactly the size of Judge Buller’s thumb.
In a case of 1796 Lord Buller’s ruling was cited, but wrongly so, perhaps perpetuating this misquote.
A dashing lady of the ton is suing for a separation in consequence of ill-usage from her husband. Besides confining her and obliging the lady to live on water-gruel for a week, he has used a stick, it is said, and thicker than Judge Buller’s thumb!
The Port Folio, Volume 6 of 1811 reported the case in question, but being some 30 years later the quote had been changed again stating that the case had been heard at Exeter Assizes, but so far we have found no evidence to support this.
The earliest reference we have come across to Rule of Thumb being used as a term was in 1717 but it was used in the context of accounting procedures, but there is apparently another reference in Sir William Hope’s The Compleat Fencing Master, 1692, but we couldn’t trace this citation to determine as to what it was referring, but to be honest that seems unlikely to be a reference to wife beating.
Derby Mercury 19 September 1782
Hampshire Chronicle23 September 1782
Caledonian Mercury 07 October 1782
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette01 December 1796
An enquiry into the state of the union of Great Britain, and the past and present state of the trade and publick revenues thereof. By the Wednesday club in Friday Street.
Online Library of Liberty: Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books, vol. 1.. Chapter XV.: Of Husband and Wife.
Dennie, Joseph. The Port Folio page 239
Jacob, Giles. The Laws and Appeal of Murder of Lincolns Inn. 1719 *
Today, we’re taking you back in time to a public breakfast given by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire at the end of June 1802, at her villa, Chiswick House. Public it might have been, but entry was only for those ‘of note’ in the fashionable world. You’ll be mingling with around 700 members of London’s high society so, in order to look the part you’ll need to dress in the latest fashions. Gentlemen should wear boots for practicality as the event is mainly outdoors. For ladies, we’d recommend a simple white muslin dress with an understated headdress (maybe one with just a few feathers as decoration). You’ll have to manage in a pair of dainty slippers, but we’re sure the suited and booted gentlemen will be on hand to offer assistance.
The breakfast rounded off the ‘fashionable arrangements’ for that particular week, which had started with a grand dinner given by the Prince of Wales on Monday 21st June and continued with a variety of musical evenings, routs and balls on every evening. By the time the weekend dawned, on Saturday 26th June, the haute ton were faced with the choice of attending two public breakfasts, one given by Mr Angerstein at his mansion, the Woodlands at Blackheath, or the Duchess of Devonshire’s gathering. No contest, we’re going to the latter!
Her Grace’s villa has long been deservedly the theme of public panegyric; but if it were always inhabited by as many beautiful women as appeared there on Saturday last, it would be a perfect Elysium.
Breakfast it might have been, but this was polite society and they kept fashionably late hours. The guests did not start arriving until the early afternoon, and they were the crème de la crème of society, headed by no less a person than the duchess’s friend, George, Prince of Wales who arrived dressed in green.
We’ll pick you a handful of others from the list of noted attendees. The Duke of Orléans was present (Philippe Égalité’s son) and the Countess Conyngham who would become the Prince of Wales’ mistress some years hence. From a banking family, the countess was a beauty but snootily regarded as somewhat vulgar, due to her ancestry. The Prince’s current mistress, Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey is not mentioned as being in attendance… but a Mrs Fitzherbert is, and she is more than likely Maria Fitzherbert, the prince’s on-again, off-again one true love.
Some of the people present were those we know well; they are present within the pages of the books we have written. The Earl and Countess (later Marquess and Marchioness) of Cholmondeley were there; the earl was, for several years, the lover of our ‘infamous courtesan’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, and he brought up her daughter, Georgiana Seymour, even though the girl’s father was not the earl but the Prince of Wales. Georgiana would have been almost 20 years of age and although she is not specifically mentioned as attending, it’s totally possible that she was there. If so, then she would have seen the man who, six years later, she would marry: Lord Charles Bentinck, a younger son of the 3rd Duke of Portland.
It was a perfect summer’s day and the guests strolled on the lawns and in the grounds. The Serpentine River provided rowing for any gentlemen who wanted a bit of exercise (aren’t you glad you wore your boots now?), and swings and a see-saw had been set up to provide a bit of fun (the latter reportedly ‘afforded much diversion’ and on the former, the ‘ladies assisted one another in swinging’).
Amongst this elevated and merry company strolled the Duchess of Devonshire, arm-in-arm with her eldest daughter, fondly known as Little G, Georgiana, Viscountess Morpeth. Just 20 years of age, Lady Morpeth had married a year earlier, to the 5th Earl of Carlisle’s eldest son. Little G had recently become a mother; her son, the future 7th Earl of Carlisle, had been born on the 18th April 1802, so a little over two months before this breakfast. In a sea of white dresses, the Duchess of Devonshire and her daughter managed to be the centre of attention. They both ‘looked remarkably well [and] wore a new sort of bonnet, with a large lace veil over it, serving as both cloak and bonnet. This was one of the handsomest promenade dresses we saw’.
The day was hot, so the veil which doubled as a cloak must have provided a little protection from the sun while not being too heavy. We wonder if it resembled the fashion plate below, which dates to the same period?
Around 4 o’clock, the company sat down to their breakfast. The tables, set with bouquets of fresh flowers and piled with refreshments, were scattered over the estate.
In the house covers were laid for 200, viz. in the two salons, the dining and green-rooms, and the dressing-room. In the Temple, &c. 100 were accommodated, and in the two Grand Marquees, and the other tents, about 200 more. Tables were likewise placed under the trees at the entrance of the lawn; the effect was cool and refreshing, the situation being impervious to the rays of the sun… the desert of fruit was very fine, cherries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, pines, in abundance.
By 7 o’clock the guests started to drift away and an hour later most had departed, leaving the clearing up operation by the duchess’ servants to begin.
It had been a great success, but we have to note that two very important names did not appear on the list of guests. Neither the Duke of Devonshire nor his mistress Lady Bess Foster who lived with the couple in a form of ménage à trois, appear to have been present.
NB: The images used of Chiswick House are of an earlier date when the house was owned by the Duke of Devonshire’s ancestor, the Earl of Burlington, but give a good idea of how the house and grounds would have looked.
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We thought long and hard about whether to publish this on our blog, but agreed that, despite being almost unbearable to read, it was merely one short extract which doesn’t even come close describing the horrors that slaves endured during the Georgian Era on a very regular basis but decided it needed to be shared. We do however warn you from the outset, this does not make for easy reading.
This extract comes from a newspaper article published in September 1806, but it is also available to read in Volume 3 of the work written by Dr George Pinckard. His 3 volumes are available to read online (see below).
This work, which would be interesting at any time, derives a peculiar interest at the present moment, from the light which is thrown on that great question, respecting the African Slave Trade, and the system of slavery which it feeds in our West-Indian colonies, now passing under the review of the legislature of this country. The facts recorded by Dr Pinckard, are the result of his own personal observation, serve strikingly to develop the real nature of colonial bondage and are therefore entitled to particular attention from the public. The following extract will furnish a specimen of the kind of information which is to be derived from these interesting volumes, while it will afford fresh proof of West Indian humanity. The circumstances detailed in it are stated to have occurred on the estate of an English planter at Demerara, where Dr Pinckard himself was stationed at the time, and are as follows:
Two unhappy negroes, a man and woman, having been driven by cruel treatment to abscond from the plantation at Lancaster, were taken a few days since, and brought back to the estate, when the manager, whose inhuman severity had caused them to fly from his tyrannical government, dealt out to them his avenging despotism with more than savage brutality. Taking with him two of the strongest drivers, armed with the heaviest whips, he led out these trembling and wretched Africans early in the morning, to a remote part of the estate, too distant for the officers to hear their cries; and there, tying down first the man, he stood by, and made the drivers flog him with many hundred lashes, until, on releasing him from the ground, it was discovered that he was nearly exhausted; and in this state the inhuman monster struck him with the but-end of a large whip, he fell to the ground; when the poor negro, escaping at once from his slavery and his sufferings expired at the murderers feet. But not satiated with blood, this savage tyrant next tied down the naked woman, on the spot by the dead body of her husband, and with the whips, already deep in gore, compelled the drivers to inflict a punishment of several hundred lashes, which had nearly released her also from a life of toil and torture.
Hearing of these acts of cruelty, on my return from the hospital, and scarcely believing it possible they could have been committed I went immediately to the sick house to satisfy myself by ocular testimony; when alas! I discovered that all I had heard was too fatally true: for, shocking to relate I found the wretched and almost murdered woman lying stark naked on her belly, without any coverings to the horrid wounds which had been cut by the whips, and with the still warm and bloody corpse of the man extended at her side, upon the neck of which was an iron collar, and a long heavy chain, which the now murdered negro had been made to wear from the time of his return to the estate.
The flesh of the woman was so torn, as to exhibit one extensive sore from the loins almost to her hams; not had humanity administered even a drop of oil to soften her wounds. The only relief she knew was that of extending her feeble arm in order to beat off the tormenting flies with a small green bough, which had been put into her hand for that purpose by the sympathizing kindness of a fellow slave. A more shocking and stressing spectacle can scarcely be conceived. The dead man and the almost expiring woman had been brought home from the place of punishment, and thrown into the negro hospital, amidst the crowd of sick, with cruel unconcern. Lying on the opposite side of the corpse was a fellow sufferer in similar condition to the poor woman. His buttocks, thighs and part of his back, had been flogged into one large sore, which was still raw although he had been punished a fortnight before.
The owner was challenged about the severity of his manager’s action and said that the slaves only got what they deserved. The law of the colonies restricted slave owners to lashings of up to a maximum of 39, but the fine being so small for excessive use meant that 100 lashes were very commonplace.
Sir Wolstan Dixie (1700-1767), 4th Baronet of Bosworth Hall at Market Bosworth in Leicestershire was many things, and chief among them was the fact that he was a bully. For a few short months, Samuel Johnson lived with the family at Bosworth Hall while he was employed by Dixie as an usher at the local grammar school, ‘but was treated with what he represented as intolerable harshness; and, after suffering for a few months such complicated misery, he relinquished a situation for which all his life afterwards he recollected with the strongest aversion, and even a degree of horror’.
On 1 May 1735, at All Hallows by London Wall, Dixie married 24-year-old Anna Frere, the wealthy eldest daughter of John Frere of Barbados (Anna had been born on the island in 1711 and was also one of the heiresses of her grandfather, Tobias Frere). Anna’s mother had died just weeks before. It’s tempting to speculate that Dixie saw his chance and pursued solely Anna for her money (she had ‘upwards of 20,000l.), and probably that’s pretty close to the mark. Along with his bride, Sir Wolstan also took on the employment of Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Barker, who had worked as housekeeper and head servant for Anna’s mother, Elizabeth, for twelve years until Madam Frere’s death in March 1735, and then for Anna until her marriage. The Frere’s London house was in Bloomsbury, on Great Russell Street; John Frere had been acting Governor of Barbados just before his death on the island in 1721, after which his widow and children had returned to England. Betty Barker had worked for the family since that time.
Betty was utterly trustworthy. When, straight after the wedding, she was ordered to quickly pack up all the household belongings, close up the London house and head to the Dixie’s Leicestershire mansion, Bosworth Hall, she followed the instructions implicitly. There just wasn’t enough time, however, to pack properly and Betty ended up opening drawers and throwing armfuls of the contents into packing trunks which she left with trusted friends. She was honest about their contents, saying to her friends as she deposited the trunks with them that she knew some of the Freres’ belongings had got mixed up with her own, and that she would sort them out and return everything to its rightful owner when she was next in London. It was to prove a disastrous mistake, one compounded by the fact that Betty had been gifted so many of the Freres’ cast-offs. (The Frere family quite obviously viewed Betty with great affection; she had cared for them during all their time in London and they held her in high regard.) Betty had also pretty much worked for nothing except the gifts that the family had bestowed on her; by the end of 1735, Betty was owed five years wages. It’s clear that she viewed the cast-offs she’d received from the family as a form of recompense for her labour.
Reading between the lines of what happened next, it looks like Sir Wolstan had been snooping on his wife’s letters in the interim. He had intercepted one from Betty to Anna, Lady Dixie, in which Betty ‘mentioned the names of Capt ___ and a Baronet; and told [Anna] it was unfortunate she married so soon, for she might have had such, or such a Gentleman’. Betty, it seems, already had the measure of Sir Wolstan. He saw his chance in the Frere and Dixie belongings found in poor Betty’s possession, dismissed her and, after Betty had returned to London, had her charged with theft. Declaring he would have Betty hanged before Christmas, if it cost him a thousand pounds, he saw his wife’s servant incarcerated in Newgate prison.
It must have been an horrendous ordeal for Betty who caught gaol fever and nearly died before she even got to court to be tried for theft, on 10 December 1735.
Prisoner: I lived twelve Years with my Old Lady Madam Freer. I kept all the Keys, and was entrusted with every thing that was of Value in the House. After my Old Lady dyed, my Young Lady Married to Sir Wolstan Dixie. In a little time we left off House-keeping in Town, and the Goods were all pack’d up in great haste, to go to Sir Wolstan’s Country-Seat in Leicester shire. And its very likely that I might, when we were in such a hurry and Confusion, put some of my old Lady’s things among my own. The Night before we went away, I would have settled with Madam Freer (my old Lady’s Sister and Executrix) but she said she had not leisure then, and she would settle with me when the Family came to Town again – Sir Wolstan turn’d me away suddenly, and I return’d to London in August last, but Mrs. Freer has never yet called in to settle the Account, and the Five Year Wages and other Money is yet due to mes.
Mrs. Freer: Tis true the Account is not-yet settled and I believe there is five Years Wages due to her
Witness after witness took the stand to testify to Betty’s honesty, and the fact that the numerous items she was supposed to have stolen had been either freely gifted to her, or had been among the ones thrown into the packing cases to be sorted out at a later date.
Mrs. Bainton: I knew her twelve Years when she lived with Old Madam Freer, and, she always behaved in the best Manner and so much to her Mistress’s satisfaction that she left her a Legacy of Ten Pound. Madam Freer dyed the 13th of March and on the first of May her Daughter was married to Sir Wolstan Dixy and they went directly to Lewisham. Sir Wolstan and his Lady came to Town again on Friday the rest of the Familiy came on Saturday. And on Sunday the Goods were pack’d up in a great hurry and Confusion, in order to set out the next Morning for Bosworth in Leicester-shire. The Room was strewed all over with Goods, and the Prisoner was putting them up in Trunks and Boxes, she said she scarce knew where to put things, and believed that by mistake she had put up some of her Lady’s Goods with her own.
Mrs. Collins: I have known her eleven or twelve Years, she was House-keeper and Head-servant , and had the best of Characters from the Family.
When I heard she was in Newgate, I was amazed, and should as soon have thought of hearing the King was there – I live at the Colour Shop. in King’s Gate Street.
Cornelius Maddox, Porter: I assisted her in cording up the Boxes, and Trunks. I said, Here is a great many Things, what must I do with them. Aye, says she, Here is a great many things of my Ladies, as well as mine, I think I will send them to Lewisham. But Mrs. Bingham, and Mrs. Smith, told her she might leave them at their Houses, and accordingly, the Boxes were carried to their Houses publickly.
Mrs. Wright: The Day Sir Wolstan went out of Town, the Prisoner said to Mrs. Freer, Mam, there is a great many things put up, but if in this hurry there should be any thing of my Lady’s intermixt with mine, here are my Boxes, we shall not stay for ever in the Country, and when we return we will put all to rights.
Also among the witnesses were Elizabeth and Rebecca Frere, Lady Dixie’s sister and aunt respectively. Mrs Smith, the Freres’ dressmaker, was also called and asked about a scarlet silk night gown, which was held up in the court.
Mrs. Smith. I believe I made this for my Lady; I have made her three, four, or five such in a Winter.
Prisoner. Would not you have bought that Gown of me when I was going into Mourning for my old Lady?
Smith. She offered to sell me a scarlet Gown before they went into mourning, which was about eight Months ago; and she said, her Lady gave it her – This may be the same for ought I know.
Next, a yellow silk gown and petticoat was held up for the jury to see.
Smith: I made such a Coat and Gown for my Lady.
Question: How many new Gowns might you make the Lady in a Year?
Smith: A great many – I believe a Dozen in a Year.
Question: And what could she do with so many, if she did not give some of them to her Maids?
Smith: The Lady used to give the Prisoner a great many Clothes, and she never denied or concealed them, but wore them in publick – She told me when her Lady married, she had given her all her Clothes.
Question: Is it not usual for single Ladies of great Fortunes to give away their Maiden Clothes when they marry?
Smith: Yes, it is usual – And all these Clothes in Court were made before my Lady married, for when she married she was in Mourning.
Finally, the bombastic Sir Wolstan Dixie took to the stand. He stuck to his story that the goods had been stolen, and also that his wife had become ‘sick of the Prisoner’. Lady Dixie had been called to appear at the trial, but wasn’t present.
Sir Wolstan: She is at my Country Seat in Leicestershire – She is with Child, and in her Condition, and the badness of the Roads, it might endanger her Life to come up.
Council: Have you not said that you had prevented her coming to Town?
Sir Wolstan: No.
Council: Have you not commanded that your Coach should not go above four Miles from home?
Sir Wolstan: I am not to answer all Questions.
Unfortunately for Sir Wolstan, all his endeavours to lock his wife away at Bosworth Hall proved fruitless, as two men took the stand who had talked with Lady Dixie in the meantime.
Thomas Weaver: This Subpoena I served Lady Dixy at Market Bosworth, on Day last. I told her I came from Mr. Nelson, who desired she would come to Town to clear her Servant. She said, she was nevermore surprized; that she believed the Maid was very innocent; and that she would come with all her heart, but that Sir Wolstan had sent her down a Letter, and threatened it should cost her her Life if she came – she said she had been served with one Subpoena before by Mr. Street – I set out on Saturday Night last at half an Hour past eight. I took post at Littleworth, and rid a-cross the Country with the Post-boy.
Robert Nelson: The Prisoner sent for me to Newgate, and I knowing how she had been trusted, and what Character she bore, I took Horse this [Satur] day was a Fort-night, and arrived at Bosworth on Sunday. I told Lady Dixy, that Sir Wolstan had sent her Maid to Newgate. She said I am surprised that Sir Wolstan should offer such a thing, I believe she is as innocent as the Child unborn. He must know that she had a great many things of mine which I gave her. I told her among other Things, that she was charged with stealing a Locket and some China. She answered I gave her the China, and as for the Locket it was but a paultry Thing, that Sir Wolstan gave me, and I bid her lay it by among her other odd Things till I came to Town, and then I would settle with her, for I owe her a hundred Pound, I told her, when I came to London I would send her a Subpoena. She cryed, and said she would come with all her Heart, and would pack up her Things to be ready against next Friday
We said at the beginning that Sir Wolstan was a bully; he had told his wife that if she went to London for the trial he would ‘throw her off, and she shall never live with me again’. Lady Dixie was, effectively, a prisoner in her own home.
It took the jury no time at all to find Betty Barker not guilty on all the charges.
…after a long trial, she was acquitted, with the greatest honour that ever woman was, the jury not going out of Court about the verdict; after he acquittal, her Counsel mov’d for a Copy of her Indictment; which was directly order’d her by the Court, without any Debate.
There was one more prisoner at the Old Bailey that day, and Betty Barker acted as a witness for him. Richard Paine had been Sir Wolstan’s butler, and he too had been committed to Newgate on a charge of stealing two shirts and a bob-wig belonging to Dixie.
Prisoner: I lived with Sir Wolstan from May the first, to June the twenty second. And when I went into his service, I agreed to have his old Cloaths. One day as I was puting on his Shirt, he asked me why I gave him a torn Shirt, Sir, says I, they are all so bad the Maids can’t mend them. Well, says he, I have got some new Cloth, and I’ll have Caps made of the best of these, and do you see that the Maids do not make Aprons of the rest. I told him I would take care of that for my own sake; but Sir, says I. you have got several old mouldy Wigs, what shall I do with them? He bid me take ’em, and do what I would with them.
Sir Wolstan: I never said so.
Elizabeth Barker, (the last Person that was try’d.): He was my Fellow-servant, at Sr. Wolstan’s, where he behaved in a very civil honest manner – Two Weeks before he was discharged, I heard him say publickly, that Sir Wolstan had given him two old Shirts, and an old Wig.
Richard Paine was also acquitted. For the gutsy Betty though, the story didn’t end quite there. She brought a civil action against Sir Wolstan Dixie for false imprisonment and for a malicious prosecution, seeking damages of 2,000l. and, while she won, she was only awarded damages of five shillings. Sir Wolstan was better prepared for this fight; he turned up with his wife (and no doubt she had little option but to reinforce her husband’s words) and managed to persuade the jury that Betty Barker didn’t quite merit the good character she’d been given at her trial. (It’s worth remembering here that not one person other than Sir Wolstan said anything to Betty’s detriment during her trial at the Old Bailey, and their were numerous witnesses.) Betty was outraged and did try to take things further and bring about another action, but Sir Wolstan had taken enough and pulled his weight to halt the proceedings.
Thereafter, Betty Barker fades from sight; we know she was living on Great Winchester Street in the City of London during 1736. Unfortunately, there were many women with the same name in London and it’s nigh on impossible to track her further.
Watch out for a further blog when we’ll delve a little further into the life, and family, of Sir Wolstan Dixie.
Old Bailey Online
National Archives, C 11/321/32
Samuel Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate, 1975
London Evening Post, 29 April-1 May 1735
Daily Journal, 11 June 1736
Old Whig, or The Consistent Protestant, 8 July 1736
In today’s world gin has seen something of a resurgence, with gin bars popping up everywhere and flavoured gins becoming the drink of choice for many. So how do you take yours? Pink perhaps, with a tonic, ice and a slice – sound good, yes? Well, if we take you back to the 18th century we can offer you gin, but would have been a somewhat weaker gin than you’re used to today, as it was only about 30% proof – but how does the addition of oil of turpentine and sulphuric acid oil of vitriol (better known today as sulphuric acid or drain cleaner!) sound? No takers then, presumably? Despite this, gin became the drink of choice for the poor, including children, although, people really had little idea of what it was they were actually consuming.
We can but hope that lessons have been learnt since the 18th century as can be seen in Hogarth’s caricature of Gin Lane which shows just what the effects of it could be. The detail in this caricature show the link between poverty and the demon drink, with people taking anything they owned to the pawn broker just to raise enough money to worship at ‘The Temple of Juniper’ and to feed their addiction to ‘Juniper water’ or ‘Madam Geneva’ as it was often referred to as.
Gin became much more the drink of choice for England in the 1720s as it came from Holland, whereas, although available, it was brandy that had been the number one best seller, but as brandy was from France whom the British had been at war with, people were much more suspicious of anything French.
Gin houses were popping up everywhere, you could pretty much buy it in all the shops in London. It was even sold from wheelbarrows and ‘pop-up stalls’.
There were several Acts of Parliament designed to raise revenue, but also to reduce the obsession for gin drinking, the first being in 1732, when an Act was passed raising the retail tax to five shilling per gallon, but this didn’t stop people finding the money from somewhere, beg, borrow or steal, to buy what had arguably become an addiction.
The consumption of gin was becoming a real problem, with more women than men drinking it. The death rate was higher than the birth rate and infertility was on the rise. Hence the name ‘mother’s ruin’ a term for gin, which survives to this day.
Gin drinking even led to one famous case heard at the Old Bailey where gin led to an horrific event. Just in case you’ve never heard of it, Judith Defour found herself on trial for the murder of her two and half year old daughter, Mary Defour, otherwise Cullinder.
Judith had placed her daughter in a London workhouse, but on the 27th February 1734, she took the child out for a few hours as she was permitted to do. Then she met up with a friend who was simply named Sukey.
The court document records the tragic story:
On Sunday night we took the child into the fields, and stripp’d it, and ty’d a linen handkerchief hard about its neck to keep it from crying, and then laid it in a Ditch. And after that, we went together and sold the coat and stay for a shilling, and the petticoat and stockings for a groat. We parted the money, and join’d for a quartern of gin.
Judith and her friend simply left the child to die in a ditch. Defour was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death on February 27, 1734. She was hanged at Tyburn on the 8th of March 1734.
Two years later in 1736, the famous Gin Act came into force. The tax paid by the retailer was raised to a whopping twenty shillings per gallon and the price of holding a spirit licence also increased. It was reported in The Scots Magazine in 1743, that:
The number of gin retailers in Westminster, Holborn, the Tower and Finsbury division, exclusive of London and Southwark was 7,044 plus 3,209 alehouses that did not sell spiritous liquors, and besides a great number of persons who retailed gin privately in garrets, cellars and back rooms or places not exposed to public view.
This increase in tax led to rioting in the streets of London. The passion for gin remained and was forced underground, so in 1743 the government had little choice to but to loosen its restrictions and allowed gin-shops to operate under the same terms as ale-houses.
According to the Ipswich Journal of October 1736, licensees found ways of avoiding paying this hefty tax by selling the drink using somewhat fancy names, i.e. implying that it wasn’t actually gin, such as ‘Cuckold’s Comfort’, ‘Make shift’, ‘The Ladies Delight’ and ‘Sangree’.
The Gin Acts of 1736 and 1742 failed to be effective with an increase in crime, violent and the production of illegally distilled gin – it was a failure and was repealed.
People were actively encouraged to shop to the law anyone they believed to be producing or selling gin illegally, this simply led to more violence. In 1738 the next Gin Act all but outlawed gin and made it crime to attack informers. Yet again, it simply drove the trade underground.
By 1743 the population of England was just over six million and some seven million gallons of spirits was being consumed by them, a tenfold increase in only sixty years. Half a penny’s worth of gin was having more effect on a person than a pint of strong beer, which cost three times as much, so it’s hardly surprising people switched to the cheaper option.
The 1743 Gin Act failed too, as informers were being paid a £5 reward to inform, but those caught were being fined £10, which of course most simply couldn’t afford to pay, so the Commissioners ran out of money to pay informers.
The government eventually realised that there were major problems associated with gin drinking and in 1751 they bought in the Gin Act as a way to reduce consumption but raising taxes and fees for retailers to £2 and made licences only available to inns and taverns. Actively promoting of beer and tea as alternatives and eventually the mass craze for gin subsided and people simply switched their choice of beverage.
London Journal, Saturday, March 9, 1734
Caledonian Mercury 10 January 1744
The Scots Magazine 01 April 1743
Chester Courant 29 December 1829
A Collection of such Statues relating to his Majesty’s Customs 1734
Allegory of Drink: Effects of Intemperance (verso) British School. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
In 1726, a new title was created in the peerage, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the recipient was Prince Frederick Louis, George I’s grandson.
The new duke was second in the line of succession to the throne behind his father, George Augustus who was, in 1726, the Prince of Wales.
News of his new title had to be carried to Hanover, for that was where Frederick lived. In 1714, when Queen Anne had died and his grandfather had taken the British throne as George I, Frederick’s parents, George, Prince of Wales and Caroline of Ansbach, the new Princess of Wales, had been forced to travel to England and leave their eldest son behind to represent the dynasty in Hanover (despite the fact that he was only seven years old).
Delighted with the news from England, celebrations were prepared at the Hanoverians’ summer residence, Herrenhausen Palace.
Hanover, Sept. 20. One the 12th inst. there was a great Entertainment at Herrenhausen, on Prince Frederick’s being created Duke of Edinburgh. There was a numerous Court, and at Night a fine Firework at the End of the Garden.
(Caledonian Mercury, 27 September 1726)
At the same time as Frederick had been created Duke of Edinburgh, his younger brother, William (who had been born in England) was made Duke of Cumberland, a title which had first been held by his 2x great-uncle, Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Prince William was only five years old, while Frederick was nineteen; the former was the focus and the favourite of the British royal court while Frederick, overseas and out-of-sight, was overlooked and becoming ostracized.
Frederick did not use his new title for long; on 11 June 1727 George I died, and Frederick’s father took the throne as George II. Frederick was – finally – brought to Britain, but father and son rarely saw eye-to-eye. On 8 January 1729, Frederick was invested as the Prince of Wales and his eldest son, George, was given the Edinburgh dukedom.
Frederick never became king; he predeceased his father, George II and instead his son, George, the 2nd Duke of Edinburgh (and Prince of Wales after Frederick’s death) succeeded as George III, and so we have the unbroken reigns of the four Georges which give the period it’s moniker, the Georgian era.
The title of Duke of Edinburgh fell into abeyance in 1760 with George III’s accession to the throne, but was resurrected by Queen Victoria for her second son, Prince Alfred (although the monarch’s second son is traditionally created Duke of York). And, in 1947, in its third creation, the title was bestowed on Prince Philip.
As you will probably be aware by now, we have been busy researching Dido Elizabeth Belle and as part of this, we have looked at those within the inner circle of her extended family. This has led us to look at Sir Thomas Mills, who was reputed to be the ‘nephew’ of Lord Mansfield. We have tried to find confirmation as to Mills actual connection to Lord Mansfield, but without any success so far. Some accounts record him as Lord Mansfield’s ‘nephew’, others as a ‘consanguineal relative’ and others that he was really Lord Mansfield’s ‘illegitimate son’. Neither appear to be true.
He seems to have appeared from nowhere and the only clue as to his identity is that he had a sister, Elizabeth, who died in Edinburgh according to the newspapers on May 9th 1775, however, there’s no obvious burial for her.
It appears that Mills was born in Scotland around 1736-1738 to a mother who never left her native country. To date, we’re unable to place Lord Mansfield in Scotland, but who knows, maybe he nipped back across the border for a brief liaison and Mills was the result, but it does seem highly unlikely.
Whatever the relationship, Lord Mansfield was extremely fond of him. He regularly dined at Caenwood House. Sylvester Douglas (Lord Glenbervie), a prominent lawyer and diplomat wrote of Mills, that he was illiterate but frank, friendly and dashing and had served with ‘distinguished bravery’. Mills was given the post of Governor of Quebec after his military service, it appears that Lord Mansfield had a hand in arranging this position.
It is rare for us to take such an immediate dislike to someone we write about, but this character is one with very few redeeming qualities. He was a spendthrift and it appears a liar too; spent money like water, getting himself and his family into debt. Everything we’ve read about him seems to be negative, so it seems strange that Lord Mansfield had such a soft spot for him, unless there’s something we’re missing!
We then came across this beautiful miniature by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which is of a Lady Elizabeth Mills, née Moffatt, who was baptised 29th January 1756 at St Mary Woolnoth, London, the daughter of Andrew and Katherine (née Creighton) Moffatt. Her father, Andrew was a merchant and both he and his brothers were heavily involved with the East India Company.
The family lived at Cranbrook House in the extremely affluent area of Ilford, Essex, opposite Valentines and next to Highlands, an area where all the well-to-do families who were connected with the East India Company lived.
In November 1774, Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Mills, when she was just 18, a marriage which would prove to be an interesting one.
A marriage settlement was made by Elizabeth’s father of some £10,000 (just under one million today) but despite this large sum of money, Mills continued to spend more than he earned and even had to be bailed out by his father-in-law on more than one occasion, to the extent that Andrew Moffatt made provision in his will of 1780, for his siblings, daughters and grandchildren, but specifically mentioned that his son-in-law was indebted to him to the tune of £5,000, a debt which he wanted to be reimbursed to the estate as soon as possible, he was clearly not impressed by his son-in-law! It was slightly strange, as he also left Sir Thomas £100. Which seems to make little sense in light of his debt. Andrew also left 20 guineas to his good friend Lord Mansfield for him to buy a ring in memory of him and money for Elizabeth’s sole use, exclusive of her husband.
Despite our view of Sir Thomas, Elizabeth must have felt something for him, as the couple produced three children – Andrew Moffatt Mills born just over 9 months after they wed; Elizabeth Finch Mills (1776) and finally Catherine Crichton Mills (1779).
According to the Oxford Journal of July 1772
When Sir Thomas was returning home in a chair, he was surrounded by four street robbers in Windmill Street, Haymarket, who stopped the chair, and one of them presented a pistol and demanded his money. Sir Thomas told them that he would not be robbed and endeavoured to seize the pistol, at this point one of the assailants fired, he missed Sir Thomas who burst open the chair door and attacked the robbers who then fled. There were no watchmen nearby and the chairmen didn’t even try to assist to apprehend the robbers.
Was this a ‘set-up’? It seems highly likely, in our opinion.
Sir Thomas Mills died 23 February 1793 and left no will and it appears with no money either to leave, but despite what the newspapers said, he was not named as a beneficiary of Lord Mansfield’s will, who died 20th March 1793.
His wife Elizabeth died in June 1816.
History tells us that the Moffatt family were plantation and slave owners in Jamaica, as the family went on to make claims in 1832 for monies owed for freed slaves.
King George III celebrated his 70th birthday on 4 June 1808.
The king was losing his eyesight and, because of this, wasn’t present at his birthday court at St James’s Palace, but did receive several members of the nobility at Buckingham House (as Buckingham Palace was then known).
The morning was, as usual, ushered in with the ringing of bells, at noon the Park and Tower guns were fired, the ships in the Thames displayed their colours, and the flags and standards of the United Kingdom were hoisted on the different churches and public buildings. The streets in the neighbourhood of the Palace were crowded to an excess, and the windows in St James’s Street in particular, exhibited a display of beauty and splendour rarely to be witnessed in any country.
The royal family – minus the king – all began to arrive throughout the day, and assembled for ‘Her Majesty’s drawing-room’. The Prince of Wales, predictably, made sure everyone noticed his entrance.
At two o’clock the Prince of Wales and his Suite, in three carriages, and servants in state liveries, dress hats and feathers, proceeded from Carlton House to the Drawing Room, and entered by the private door in the Park. His Royal Highness was attended by the Duke of Clarence, Lords Keith and Dundas, Generals Lee and Hulse, and Colonels McMahon, Lee and Bloomfield.
The music playing had been specified by the king, but it was the queen who received the company, and all the nobility were present. Everyone had to wear full court dress and the queen continued to stipulate that ladies had to wear full hoops under their skirts, in an echo of the fashions of several decades earlier. Coupled with the trend for gowns with a slim silhouette in the early years of the nineteenth-century, the full skirts of the dresses which had to be worn at court looked ridiculously cumbersome. They certainly weren’t the most flattering of dresses to wear!
A sketch of one of the dresses worn has survived at this particular Drawing Room, and it was worn by the Countess, later Marchioness of Cholomondeley, someone we’ve written about at length. The Earl of Cholmondeley had, a few years prior to his marriage, been the lover of that ‘infamous courtesan’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. And Grace had also, for just a few weeks in 1781, been the mistress of Cholmondeley’s boon friend, the Prince of Wales, and had subsequently given birth to the prince’s daughter. That girl, Georgiana Seymour (no, we don’t know why she had the surname Seymour either!) was brought up by the Cholmondeleys, treated as their own daughter. Georgiana, 26-years-of-age, couldn’t attend the court, however. The queen had agreed with her son that she should not be presented until she was married, lest the king realise exactly who she was. (Georgiana married in September 1808, and she was present at King George’s 1809 birthday court, as you can discover in our first book, An Infamous Mistress.)
The newspapers described the Countess of Cholmondeley’s dress as follows:
A yellow satin petticoat, covered with a rich Brussels point lace, with a rich border; the train of yellow satin; the sleeves ornamented with rich lace.
La Belle Assemblée magazine went into more detail.
Explanation of Lady Cholmondeley’s Court-Dress: A bright primrose-coloured sarsnet petticoat trimmed full round the bottom with point lace, and a rich drapery of the same, most tastefully festooned with diamond chains, and ostrich feathers in the form of the Prince’s plume reversed. Body and train of primrose sarsnet; the latter trimmed with lace, and the former ornamented with the most splendid diamond wreath to represent the oak leaf and fruit, placed obliquely across the front of the bust; the sleeves finished to match, and the bottom of the waist confined with a diamond cestus. Head-dress court lappets of point; a diamond bandeau and rich coronet, with four ostrich feathers of unequal lengths, most tastefully disposed. Splendid earrings of the oval form; necklace and bracelets also of brilliants. Gloves of French kid, considerably above the elbow. Shoes of white satin with silver trimming.
Amongst the wonderful resource of the ‘George III Papers’ which are now in the public domain, we came across some early account books for the teenager, Princess Charlotte of Wales, which make fascinating reading. Perhaps it’s just us, but don’t you just love rifling through old account books and diaries? It’s amazing what you can learn about people’s lives, that they’d never expect to be divulged.
We thought we would share with you just a few of the purchases made with her £10 a month ‘pocket-money’, given to her via Lady de Clifford, who replaced Lady Elgin as her governess. We did, however, notice that Charlotte managed to boost her monthly allowance, not by doing odd jobs, but from winnings made from playing card games – yes, she did make some loses too, in fact one week in particular she lost fourteen shillings each day, but overall it looks as if she this pastime was quite lucrative and she was clearly an accomplished card player, but not so good at chess, the only entries denote losses made and never any wins.
Much of her pocket-money was spent on charitable donations mainly to the poor, entries show a wide variety of such payments made most months, such as
Gave to a poor woman 10 shillings and six pence
Gave to a little girl one pound one shilling
A poor man five shillings
To a sailor two shillings and three pence
To a fisherman two shillings
She also clearly enjoyed reading as she paid twelve shillings for a German book, plus a further four shillings and sixpence to have it bound, then a few days later she spent five shillings on a book of maps. There were also regular payments for bibles and ten shillings and six pence for a copy of The Pilgrims Progress.
Charlotte clearly took an interest in art, as there were regular payments made to Paul Colnaghi, the appointed print seller to the Prince Regent who employed him to arrange the Royal Collection.
For some unknown reason she on 15th July 1808 she paid two pounds two shillings for 4 blackbirds – we have absolutely no idea what that was about!
As you would expect for a teenager she was becoming aware of fashion and jewellery. Eye jewellery was very popular and to keep up with the trends of the day Charlotte purchased ‘an eye with garnets’ at two pounds twelves shillings and sixpence. A coral necklace, perhaps the one worn in this miniature.
Two red leather purses at a cost of fifteen shillings and six pence. A silver snuff-box at two pounds, eleven shilling and six pence and a slightly cheaper tortoiseshell snuff-box. Quite regular payments were made to a Mr Duncan, a tailor.
An umbrella, a parasol and a bonnet were bought for the autumn of 1808 and a pair of spectacles early 1809 along with a frock, a gown and some handkerchiefs.
Charlotte appear to have been taken an interest in music as she paid four pounds, eight shillings and six pence for a flageolet and nineteen shillings for a flute.
Less likely purchases for a Regency teenager included two swords, one of which she had engraved, a knife, and a medal of Lord Nelson. Quite who all of her purchases were for we will never know, but it’s a fascinating read.
In our latest book, All Things Georgian, one of our stories relates one of the two sub-governesses to Princess Charlotte of Wales, a Mrs Martha Udny and coincidentally we have come across various references to payments made to her, simply referred to as Mrs U, in the account books.
Account book of Princess Charlotte of Wales – GEO/ADD/17/82
Princess Charlotte. Inscribed 1807 by Charlotte Jones. Royal Collection Trust. Princess Charlotte gave this portrait to her sub-governess, Martha Udny, in 1807 when she was 10 years old.
‘Mary Linwood was to needlework; what Chippendale was to carpentry’.
She was the daughter of Matthew Linwood and his wife Hannah Turner, (daughter of John Turner, a silversmith in Birmingham). The couple were married in Birmingham 19th May 1753, Matthew’s occupation was that of a linen-draper at that time.
The couple produced 6 children: Matthew (1754), Mary (1755), Samuel Whalley (1756), Sarah (1758), John (1760) and William (c.1762), but in March 1783 Matthew died. When Mary was only 9, her mother, Hannah opened a private boarding school in Leicester, and upon her death, Mary continued to run it for a further 50 years.
Matthew the eldest son and in turn his son, Matthew were to become a plater and buckle maker silversmiths in Birmingham, whilst two of Mary’s brother’s, Samuel Whalley Linwood and his brother, William, went off to Jamaica to make their fortune.
It was here that Samuel met a mulatto girl, Priscilla Reid and the couple produced four children George, 1788; Mary 1789; Jane 1791 and James 1794). Samuel died in Jamaica and was buried at Kingston on 11th June 1801. He must have had some financial help from his mother, Hannah, as in her will of 1805, she made specific reference to his death and monies owed amounting to over £750. Equally, she ensured that his four offspring were provided for. Whether she ever met these grandchildren we may never know.
Apart from taking over as the matriarch of the family, acting as a witness at her sister, Sarah’s marriage, sorting out the will for her sister when her husband, Samuel Markland died, Mary was renowned for her undoubted talent for producing tapestries creating stitches of different lengths on fabric made especially for her. Her works were mainly copies of works by the likes of Joshua Reynolds and in particular, Gainsborough.
It was at the end of 1844 that Mary was taken ill, with influenza during her annual visit to London for an exhibition of needlework. She was so ill that she was taken back to Leicester in an invalid carriage and died just before her 90th birthday.
The Ipswich Journal reported that many poor families would miss her benevolence. It reported that for at least the previous thirty years Mary would rise no later than 4.30am to capture as much daylight as possible and would work until sunset. She was described as possessing:
singular energy and enduring vivacity and was apparently producing work for well over fifty years. She was also well-known for dancing locally to see out the old year and welcome in the new year.
A Mr Gardiner said of her that:
Miss Linwood’s mode is analogous to that of a painter. She sketches the outline, then the parts in detail and brings out the whole of the design by degrees. I once saw her at work, accoutred as she was with pincushions all around her, stuck with needles, threaded with worsted of every colour, and having once touched the picture with a needle, instead of a brush, she would recede five or six paces to view the effect. Leicester was a convenient place for dyeing her worsteds, but still, there were some she could not obtain, but being a woman of great genius, she set to work and dyed them herself. Her works were displayed in London for almost forty years. They were arranged in two galleries on the north side of Leicester Square. A small room called the ‘Scripture Room’ opens from the first gallery. In this smaller room, there is ‘The Judgement of Cain’ and a copy of Carlo Dolci’s ‘Salvator Mundi for which she was offered and refused three thousand guineas. The judgement of Cain was her last piece of work and took her 10 years to complete and was finished when she was 75. She was also to meet Napoleon and Josephine on one of her visits to Paris.
Mary exhibited her work around Europe including France and Russia, where Catherine the Great offered £40,000 for the whole collection.
In her will, she bequeathed £100 to Leicester Infirmary, the remainder of her estate to family members. She bequeathed the Salvator Mundi to Queen Victoria, who accepted. She asked that if her works were not sold in one lot to a private collector that they should be split up and sold, with the proceeds being divided equally between seventeen recipients.
Mary died on 2nd March 1845 and was buried, at St Margret’s church, Leicester at which she was a regular attendee and where her parents were also buried.
24D65/A4. Burial of Matthew Linwood senior parish register, 7th March 1783. St Margaret’s Leicester
The History and antiquities of the county of Leicester. Compiled from the best and most ancient historians (1795-1815) Matthew Linwood. Died 28th February 1783, aged 56.
Familysearch Jamaica parish registers
Miss Linwood’s gallery of pictures in worsted, Leicester square
Legacies of British Slave Ownership
Bailey’s western and midland directory; or, merchant’s and tradesman’s useful companion for the year 1783.
Exhibition of Miss Linwood’s pictures at the Hanover Square concert rooms. Admittance one shilling. 1798
A catalogue of the pictures, sculptures, models, designs in architecture, prints etc exhibited by the Royal Incorporated Society of Artists. 1776
To mark the birth 200 years ago today of the future Queen Victoria we thought you might like to know a little more about the event itself.
Interestingly, she was born on the same date as her paternal grandfather, King George III, whose birthday was later changed to 4th June when the calendars were altered to the new Gregorian style from the Julian style.
We came across quite a detailed hour by hour account in a newspaper of the day to share with you.
The Duchess of Kent continued her airings in Kensington Garden to last Thursday. On Friday her Royal Highness was slightly indisposed, in which state she continued on Saturday and Sunday, when the symptoms of her Royal Highness giving birth to a Prince or Princess increased.
In the morning the Duke of Kent left Kensington Palace for Carlton House, to inform the Prince Regent of the state of his Royal Duchess. The room appointed for the confinement of the Duchess is on the east side of the palace, close to which is a public path from Kensington Gardens, which, as it would subject her Royal Highness to be disturbed by various noises, the gate leading to it was closed by command of the Prince Regent.
Dr Davis, the physician to the Duke and Duchess, having had the honour of being appointed accoucher to the Duchess, frequently visited her Royal Highness. On Sunday the doctor visited the Duchess three times, the last visit was at seven o’clock in the evening, when he returned to town.
At twelve o’clock the Duchess, and those in attendance upon her, being of the opinion that the time of her delivery was approaching fast, the Duke of Sussex’s carriage was sent off for Dr Davis at his residence in George Street, Hanover Square and the doctor returned in the carriage with all possible speed. At the same time messengers were sent off to the Members of the Privy Council appointed to attend upon this occasion, with summonses commanding their attendance agreeably to the laws of England for Royal births.
The Marquis of Lansdowne was the first Privy Counsellor who arrived, and he reached the Palace at a quarter before two o’clock Mr Canning arrived next at two o’clock, The Duke of Wellington came about a quarter of an hour after. The Duke of Sussex entered from his apartment in the Palace about the same time. Earl Bathurst, the Bishop of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer followed. The Chancellor did not arrive until about three o’clock, owing to his being at Blackheath on a visit to his mother.
The Members of the Privy Council sat in the saloon adjoining the Duchess’s chamber, where, at a quarter past four o’clock they were satisfied of the delivery of the Duchess of a female child, which was testified by the following certificate:
The undersigned hereby certify, that her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent was safely delivered of a female child, living, at a quarter past four o’clock in the morning of the 24th day of May 1819.
Signed David Davis, J Wilson – Domestic Physicians to their Royal Highnesses.
The room appointed for the nursery in the palace is that which was the North drawing room.
Expresses were sent off to the Prince Regent, the Duke and Duchess of York, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Princess Sophia of Gloucester, the Princesses Augusta and Sophia at Windsor.
The Duke of Kent has shown the most marked affectionate attention towards his amiable Duchess and did not retire to rest till nine o’clock, although His Royal Highness had been up the whole of the night and had very little rest on the preceding night.
Dr Davis remained in attendance till ten o’clock. The following statement of the event was issued from the Palace:
24th May 1819
The following Noblemen and Gentlemen, of his Majesty’s Privy Council attended at the accouchement of her royal Highness the Duchess of Kent – His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, his Grace the Duke of Wellington, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Noble the Marquis of Lansdowne, the Right Hon. Earl Bathurst, The Right Hon. George Canning, the Bishop of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
At a quarter past four o’clock, a.m. her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent was safely delivered of a Princess.
Lieut. General and Comptroller
In addition to the above, General Weatherall, General More and Captain Conroyd, were in attendance. The Earl of Liverpool called at the Palace about eleven o’clock to make his respectful enquiries.
Dr Davis visited the Duchess again between two and three o’clock, after which the following bulletin was issued –
Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent and her infant continue in a favourable state.
David D Davis
Monday, three o’clock
A few days later the Morning Post reported
Considering the high destiny of the Royal infant, there is nothing which is more calculated to enhance the satisfaction of its parents in particular, and the nation at large, next indeed to that of its having been born in Old England, than this event. Should she be ever elevated to the throne of this mighty Empire, it must be the wish of every sincere lover of this country, that she may reign like her venerable grandsire, in the hearts of its inhabitants. The nation already begins to indulge the hope that the infant may be baptised by the much loved and cherished name of Charlotte.
The press didn’t get their wish when she was christened on June 24th 1819 as Princess Alexandrina Victoria, in the Grand saloon of Kensington Palace using the Royal gold font which had been moved from The Tower of London and the crimson velvet coverings from The Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.
To find out a little more about Queen Victoria you might enjoy a couple of articles we wrote a while ago:
We recently ran a post on our Facebook page which shared images of Princess Charlotte of Wales in a blue Russian style dress. It proved really popular, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to look at the dress, and the portrait of Charlotte where she is depicted wearing it, in greater detail.
With the end of the Napoleonic Wars two years earlier, anything Russian was eminently fashionable in 1817, when the portrait was painted. Princess Charlotte of Wales, only legitimate child of the Prince Regent (later George IV) was desperate to have the Russian Order of St Catherine bestowed on her. She’d been trying for the honour since at least 1813, with little success. (The order was only given to women, primarily those of the Russian royal family but also occasionally granted to foreign queens and high-ranking princesses.)
The well-known portrait of her, by George Dawe and dated to 1817 (shown above), depicts the princess in a Russian style dress, known as a sarafan, and – supposedly – wearing the Star of the Order of St Catherine’s. The notes on the Royal Collection Trust website say of the portrait:
At her left breast she wears the star of the Order of St Catherine, which she received on 1 July 1817, from Maria Feodorovna, wife of Paul I, in gratitude for hospitality shown to her son Nicholas during his visit to London. (Princess Charlotte’s husband, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, also served under the Russian Emperor during the Napoleonic Wars.)
Now, we don’t want to contradict the RCT who surely know better than us, but we can find no corroborating evidence that Charlotte ever received this honour, and upon zooming in to the portrait, the Star insignia which she is wearing looks incorrect. It almost appears to have the Prince of Wales feathers atop it and is not studded with diamonds, as it should be. Maybe, however, Dawe chose to paint it this way? Although we have our suspicions, we really can give no confirmation one way or another and will have to rely on the royal collection’s assertion that this is the Star of the Order of St Catherine.
The dress Charlotte wears could almost have been copied from a portrait of Sophia Petrovna Svechina, a Russian exile in Paris. She was painted by François Joseph Kinson in 1816, just a year before Charlotte sat for her portrait, wearing a remarkably similar dress.
A Sarafan is a Russian trapezoidal jumper (or pinafore) dress, and a traditional folk costume. These two Russian portraits show the subjects wearing dresses that are also very like that worn by Charlotte.
No doubt Charlotte had her dress especially made (it was produced in England) for the portrait and to set off her Russian order, whether being worn legitimately or not. Charlotte’s version of this Russian dress is made from blue silk, trimmed with gold lace which has red highlights, and edged with gold fringe. Amazingly, it has survived and is also in the royal collection. As you can see from the images below, it has either faded slightly, or Dawe used a little artistic licence to darken it in his portrait of the princess.
When she sat for her portrait, the princess was pregnant. Her child – a son – was stillborn, and Charlotte died from complications following the birth the next day, 6 November 1817. She was just twenty-one years of age. Had she or her son lived, they would have been heir to the British throne.
Copies of the painting were made, many with slight variations. One shows the dress in white instead of blue, another leaves off the gold trimming. This version below shows the dress in a darker hue, and with a much more extravagant ‘blouse’ beneath, with lace sleeves.
Interestingly, when George Dawe’s brother, Henry Edward Dawe, made a mezzotint copy of the portrait after the princess’ death, which was published in January 1818 and an amalgamation of two of the portraits already given above, the Order of St Catherine pinned to Princess Charlotte’s breast was totally omitted.
George Dawe subsequently spent many years at the Russian court where he painted many of the nobility there. It is thought that he used the portrait of Princess Charlotte as inspiration for his later one of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Certainly, the rich colour of the dress and the pose are reminiscent of the princess’ portrait. It increases the pathos of poor Princess Charlotte’s picture however; how she would have loved to be painted with her arms around her children. Sadly, that was not to be.
We’ll leave you with this fantastic video, which looks at Princess Charlotte’s dress and the portrait.
Sources not mentioned above:
Letters of the Princess Charlotte, 1811-1817 (1949)
Autobiography of Cornelia Knight, Lady Companion to the Princess Charlotte of Wales: With Extracts from Her Journals and Anecdote Books, Volume 1 (1861)
* Please note: this week, our next blog post will be on Friday. *
On Tuesday 19 May 1795, King George III held a grand fête at Frogmore House in the grounds of Home Park, Windsor (around half a mile from Windsor Castle), celebrating both Queen Charlotte’s 51st birthday and the recent arrival and marriage of his new daughter-in-law, Caroline, Princess of Wales (she’d married the Prince of Wales, later George IV, just weeks earlier, on 8 April).
The fête was in the style of a Dutch Fair. This was in honour of some recent guests: William V, the Prince of Orange and Nassau-Dietz and his family had fled their Netherlands home after the French army had invaded, and headed for exile in England. (The Prince of Orange’s wife, Wilhelmina of Prussia, was the aunt of Princess Frederica Charlotte, the wife of George III’s second son, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.)
Their Majesties and the Orange Family, &c. &c. dined at half past three in a grand saloon, superbly ornamented, in Fête Champêtre. Four tents were fitted up in front of the saloon for the reception of their noble guests.
The presence of one guest was extremely contentious. Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey was there, the Prince of Wales’ mistress despite his recent marriage. The prince famously hated Caroline, his wife, disliking her at first sight while Lady Jersey reigned supreme in his affections for some time. It was reported – wrongly, as it turned out – that Lady Jersey was pregnant with the prince’s child, and was ‘particularly distinguished’ at the fête held at Frogmore House. In fact, it was not Lady Jersey who was with child, but Caroline, Princess of Wales.
Dancers and singers from Windsor and Covent Garden, dressed in rustic character formed part of the day’s entertainment. The pastoral idyll was thrown into chaos and gales of laughter though, when the pretend haymakers were interrupted by ‘a set of ass-racers, whose obstinate steeds, in the confusion, threw some of the blushing maids on the very haycocks they had just been raising’.
George III’s eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth had been the brains behind the Dutch fair, organising the day with the assistance of the Orange family.
The booths, which were numerous, displayed a collection of articles for sale, from the dairy to a lady’s toilet; the purchase money, which was voluntary, was dropt by the purchase into boxes appropriated for the charity schools of Windsor.
While the fair continued into the evening, the royal family and their especial guests gracefully retired from the gardens of Frogmore House and made their way to Windsor Castle where a ball and supper was held.
The Frogmore Estate has been owned by the royal family from the 1500s, although Frogmore House dates from the late seventeenth-century. Various tenants lived there (including one of Charles II’s illegitimate sons) until Queen Charlotte bought the house in 1792, as an idyllic and peaceful country mansion to which she and her unmarried daughters could retreat from court life.
After the 1795 fair, a nine-year programme of alterations was embarked on; the house was enlarged and extended, and pavilions added at the wings.
Of course, the Frogmore Estate is back in the news right now as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (and their new baby, Archie), have made Frogmore Cottage their new home.
We have previously written about the very popular invention of the Georgian bathing machines, so it’s time to take a look at what people wore to take a dip in the sea. It was in the Regency era that swimwear became really popular and very much a fashion item with the newspapers of the day advising potential bathers of what they ought to be wearing to be à la mode.
Clearly there was an issue with women sharing bathing wear and so a Mrs Bell of 26, Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury came up with new invention in 1814 by creating what she called the ‘Ladies Bathing Preserver’. Its aim was:
To relieve Ladies from the nauseous idea of wearing the bathing coverings furnished by the women at the sea-side, from which dangerous permanent illnesses have arisen, in consequence of their being worn by ALL KINDS of persons, however they be afflicted. Mrs Bell’s bathing preserver is made quite in a novel manner, to which is attached a cap, to be removed at pleasure, made of a delicate oil silk, the keep the head dry. The preserver is made of such light materials, that a lady may carry it in a tasteful oiled silk bag of the same size as an ordinary lady’s ridicule.
In her advert she told potential buyers that she also:
…sold her newly invented Circassian corset, bathing and sea-side walking dresses, which enable ladies to dress and undress themselves in three minutes, without any assistance, and prevents, so much recommended by physicians, the change of taking cold by too long delay in dressing.
The Circassian corset claim might have been a good marketing strategy because this type of corset had certainly been invented by the turn of the century, if not slightly earlier, so by the time Mrs Bell was advertising it, it wasn’t new!
The Circassian Corset is the only one which displays, without indelicacy, the shape of the bosom to the greatest possible advantage; gives a width to the chest which is equally conducive to health and elegance of appearance.
The Morning Post of 1st August 1815 tells its readers what they should be wearing for the month for seaside bathing:
Sea Side Bathing Dress: This very elegant dress is composed of the newly introduced Berlin silk. It is made in the form of a pelisse, and is so contrived that the stays, petticoat, and pelisse are all put on in a few moments. A flounce of green gauze, crape, or muslin, edged with an exceedingly pretty silk trimming, ornaments the dress; which, when on, is so finished and elegant that no one could suppose it was possible to adjust it in a few moments. A Leghorn hat ornamented with a plume of straw colour feathers, and green plaid leather boots, finish this dress, which we look upon as a chef d’oeuvre in its way, since, independent of the advantage which it is to a lady to be able to dress and undress so quickly, the most fastidious belle must confess that nothing can possibly be more becoming than this Sea Side Bathing Dress. The Wellington corset, with which it is worn, is admirably adapted to display in the most easy and graceful manner the natural proportions of the shape; and the tout ensemble of this elegant and useful habit is simple, tasteful and in the highest degree appropriate.
For anyone wondering, like us, what the Wellington corset was, then the Kentish Gazette, 6 September 1814 has the answer. It was designed specifically for women who were pregnant or who had had children as it would repress that fullness which some ladies find rather troublesome in the present style of dress.
The Liverpool Mercury, in 1830, carried the following description of a new invention to aid swimmers and non swimmers to float in the sea, by the Abbé de la Chapelle which he called a ‘Scaphander’.
It was a type of jacket of cork, composed of cork and fastened round the boy by means of leather thongs, which pass between the thighs and over the shoulders. That the body of the swimmer may be in equilibrium with an equal volume of water, a jacket of this kind ought to contain TEN POUNDS OF CORK. It is added that the inventor, with this cumbrous jacket on, could hold a bottle and glass in his hands when in the water (now this is just what I need!).
We have pored over many eighteenth and nineteenth-century documents in the course of our research. Letters, diaries, legal documents, wills, you name it, we’ve probably struggled through it, including cross-hatched letters which take an eternity to read!
So you can image what an absolute joy it was to come across a letter from our ‘infamous’ eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s brother, Henry Hew Dalrymple, in the National Archives of Scotland which was written in the most beautiful, clear copperplate hand – how many of you would long to find such a letter?
The letter was to Henry Dundas and because of copyright restrictions we can’t show it in full here, but we do mention it and give the gist of the contents in our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott. But we couldn’t resist giving you a little peep at it, just so you can judge for yourselves, so we have cropped his signature from the letter to share with you.
Today we are thrilled to welcome to our blog, Sophie Guiny. Sophie is a Wedgwood collector and researcher. She is also the newsletter editor for the Wedgwood Society of Washington, D.C.
In May 1759, 260 years ago this month, 29-year old Josiah Wedgwood founded his own pottery works. Born in a family of potters in Burslem, Staffordshire, young Josiah was struck by smallpox and the resulting damage to his leg (which would eventually be amputated) left him unable to operate a potter’s wheel. He turned his attention to design and experimentation with new clays and glazes, improving on known techniques and creating new styles and ceramics bodies, including the now iconic jasperware, which Wedgwood perfected around 1775. In both pursuits, women played a critical role as patrons, artists and factory workers.
Josiah Wedgwood’s sense of innovation extended to marketing his wares in what was a crowded market. As the quality of his creamware (a type of ceramic made of pure white clay with a clear lead glaze) had garnered him royal orders, he petitioned Queen Charlotte for the right to use her name in selling his products. Starting in 1763, Wedgwood’s creamware was sold as Queen’s ware, and the Queen’s patronage became very visible on all advertising materials.
The Frog Service commissioned by Empress Catherine II of Russia in 1773 is a good case study of the role of women in Wedgwood’s business. First, as with the naming of Queen’s ware, Josiah Wedgwood aggressively courted royal and aristocratic female patrons, as they had the ability to influence the taste of other women, both in the aristocracy and in England’s burgeoning middle class. In a letter to his partner Thomas Bentley, Wedgwood muses, “Suppose you present the Duchess of Devonshire with a Set and beg leave to call them Devonshire Flowerpots.” This was never to be. But having Catherine the Great as a repeat customer (she had already ordered a service in 1768) was a marketing coup for which Wedgwood was prepared to incur financial losses.
The Frog Service comprised 952 pieces, and was to be decorated with a different view of England on each piece, an extremely ambitious task. The only repeating designs would be the border and the frog emblem, as the service was destined for a palace known as “Frog Marsh.” To realise the service, Wedgwood had to hire numerous skilled painters, which included a number of women: factory records show that at least half a dozen women were employed to paint the Frog Service, working on both the borders and the centre landscapes. The highest paid woman, a Mrs Wilcox, was paid eighteen shillings a week, which is just over half of what the highest-paid man earned (thirty-one shillings).
Wedgwood catered to a variety of tastes, and was always trying to introduce new styles. Many pieces were decorated with classical designs, inspired by antiquity, and modelled by such noted artists as John Flaxman Junior and George Stubbs. It is worth noting, however, that in the 1787 company catalogue, Wedgwood gives a place of pride to designs made by three women artists: Elizabeth, Lady Templetown, Lady Diana Beauclerk, and Miss Emma Crewe. All three were gifted amateur artists, and their designs were used exclusively to decorate the very fashionable jasperware.
Lady Templetown, often misspelled as “Templeton”, perhaps based on Josiah Wedgwood’s own frequent misspelling in his letters, was inspired by sentimentalist literature (such as Laurence Sterne’s novels) and traditional domestic activities. Born Elizabeth Boughton in 1747, she came from an aristocratic, if not particularly wealthy, family and married Clotworthy Upton in 1769. In 1776, in recognition for his services to the royal family, Upton was made Baron Templetown of Templetown, County Antrim in Ireland, and Elizabeth became the first Lady Templetown. Left a widow with three children in 1785, she managed her family’s Irish estates until her son’s coming of age, and retired to Rome where she died in 1823.
Her drawings caught the eye of Josiah Wedgwood who commissioned several designs from her starting in 1783. In a letter to Lady Templetown dated June 27, 1783, Josiah Wedgwood expresses: “a wish to be indulged in copying a few more such [figure] groups” in addition to what she had already lent him. She provided drawings or cut-outs in Indian paper of her designs, and William Hackwood, a sculptor employed by Wedgwood, modelled the actual reliefs to be applied on the jasperware. The etching below, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is based on one of Lady Templetown’s series of cut-outs on the theme of Domestic Employment. The jasperware version of this design (which is the mirror image of the cut-out) is on the teapot at the top of this post.
Emma Crewe’s designs were quite similar in inspiration to Lady Templetown’s, but much less is known about her life. She was born in 1741 and was the sister of John Crewe, a Member of Parliament and a staunch supporter of Whig party leader Charles James Fox. It is likely that these personal acquaintances played a role in Emma’s designs being used by Wedgwood, as Josiah Wedgwood was also a committed Whig.
Lady Diana Beauclerk’s designs were of a different style, although they too feature boys and cherubs at play. She was born Lady Diana Spencer in 1724 in one of Britain’s most prominent families: she was the great-granddaughter of the first Duke of Marlborough and grew up at Blenheim Palace. In 1757, she married Lord Bolingbroke, but her unhappy marriage was dissolved in 1768. That same year, she married Topham Beauclerk. The Beauclerks were part of the literary and artistic society of the time, counting among their inner circle such luminaries as Horace Walpole and Joshua Reynolds, and her life was the source of some gossip, which had been featured on this blog. Lady Diana Beauclerk died in 1808, having spent the last years of her life mostly blind and in much reduced circumstances (her husband Topham died in 1780).
According to Beatrice Erskine’s 1903 Lady Diana Beauclerk Her Life and Work, the first contact between Lady Diana Beauclerk and Josiah Wedgwood occurred in 1780 through their mutual friend Charles James Fox.
It is likely that Josiah Wedgwood chose to hire women artists and to publicise their work because he thought that it would appeal to the market, showing a softer side than scenes inspired by the Iliad, or portrait medallions of Roman emperors. Wedgwood has reproduced Domestic Employment and Bacchanalian Boys countless times since the eighteenth century, showing the long-lasting appeal of the more feminine designs.
However, Josiah Wedgwood was ahead of his time on many social and political issues, from his commitment to the anti-slavery movement to his position in favour of the independence of the American colonies, and was involved in the latest scientific research of his time through his membership in the Lunar Society. So it is not inappropriate to think that hiring women artists may have gone beyond commercial considerations and reflected Josiah Wedgwood’s progressive positions.
For more on this topic:
The Wedgwood Museum is part of the World of Wedgwood experience in Barlaston, Staffordshire
Both the British Museum and the V&A have large collections of Wedgwood, including works by women designers
The Frog Service is in the collections of the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg
The most comprehensive reference book is Robin Reilly, Wedgwood (two volumes), Macmillan & Co, 1989.
On Thursday 6 May 1819, William Hutchinson, a horse dealer from Canterbury in Kent and in consequence of a wager of 600 guineas, set off to prove that he could ride from his home city to London Bridge, a distance of 55½ miles, in three hours or less. What followed was enthusiastically described in the press of the day as ‘one of the greatest, if not unrivalled pieces of horsemanship’, especially when taking into account the hills on the route.
Hutchinson’s attempt began at 3.30am precisely, setting off at a gallop from the Falstaff Inn on St Dunstan’s Street. He changed horses along the way, at Boughton Hill, Beacon Hill, Sittingbourn, Rainham, Chatham Hill, Day’s Hill, Northfleet, Dartford, Welling and lastly, at the Green Man in Blackheath. It was on this last horse that he raced up to and over London Bridge.
The horses were all the property of either Hutchinson himself, or of his close friends, and some came from the stud of the Wellington coach. At each stop, Hutchinson dismounted himself and was assisted to mount the next horse which, Hutchinson calculated, took up less than 30 seconds at each stage (it must have been the eighteenth-century equivalent of a Formula 1 pit stop today!) The horse which took Hutchinson from Welling to Blackheath was the most troublesome, bolting twice while going down Shooter’s Hill and again on Blackheath, which lost Hutchinson quite a bit of time. Throughout the journey, Hutchinson was accompanied by a horseman on each stage just in case an accident befell him.
Two men had travelled to London ahead of Hutchinson and were in place to act as umpires. With their watches, and the watches of two more umpires present at the start of the race in Canterbury, the time was worked out accurately. And, it was found that Hutchinson had comfortably completed his feat within the allotted three hours; in fact, he ran the distance in just 2 hours, 25 minutes and 51 seconds.
Although Hutchinson bragged that he felt fit enough to return to Canterbury in less than three hours on the same day, he actually returned in more comfort, in the Wellington coach, enjoying a hearty breakfast followed by two mutton chops and a quantity of brandy at the Bricklayer’s Arms on the Kent road.
Later that day, back in Canterbury and at the Rose Inn (where he arrived at 2.45pm), William Hutchinson received the Freedom of the City of Canterbury, ‘in consideration of the extraordinary feat he has this day performed with a faithfulness as honourable to himself, as it is satisfactory to every individual concerned in the match’.
Sussex Advertiser, 10 May 1819
Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, 7 and 11 May 1819
In this post, we thought we would play a quick game of ‘sixdegrees of separation’. For anyone who is unaware of the concept, you will no doubt be familiar with the phrase ‘it’s a small world’ and it so it is. It’s been quite surprising that throughout our research, we’ve noticed just how relatively small London was in the 18th century. Everyone who was anyone knew each other and this has become quite obvious whilst exploring the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle.
So, in today’s game we show the close connection between Prince George (later George IV) and Dido Elizabeth Belle. On the face of it, they would appear to be poles apart, George, the then-future monarch and Dido the daughter of a mulatto slave. But the distance between them is only a few steps.
We begin the game with Prinny, who, in the early 1780s had a relationship with our lovely courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, who gave birth to a daughter who, Grace claimed was his. Georgina was the only illegitimate child that Prinny made payments to, so perhaps that was his way of acknowledging that she was his.
Now, Grace counted amongst her closest friends, Lady Seymour Worsley, for those who haven’t come across her before, she’s the one who found herself in court in February 1782, for criminal conversation, a euphemism for sex.
Amongst the men with whom Lady Worsley allegedly had an affair, was George, Viscount Deerhurst, later to become the 7th Earl of Coventry. Deerhurst was a bit of a ‘player’ and had previously eloped to Gretna Green with Lady Catherine Henley.
His father the then, 6th Earl of Coventry, totally disapproved of his son’s behaviour and banished him from the family home, so George took himself off to stay on the Isle of Wight, at Appuldurcombe, the home of Sir Richard Worsley and his wife, Lady Seymour Worsley – big mistake! He apparently ended up having a relationship with Lady Worsley (he was one of many, she was rumoured to have had well in excess of 20 lovers), but it was her infidelity with George Maurice Bisset that was the final nail in her coffin and she found herself in court, but George, Viscount Deerhurst, also found his name on this list of people with whom she had allegedly had ‘criminal conversation’.
Lord Mansfield was the trial judge in the case of Crim. Con. and he was also the guardian of Dido Elizabeth Belle. The trial took place in February 1782, so no doubt Dido, aged 20 would have been fully aware of it.
To add to the royal connection, Lord Mansfield, counted George III amongst his friends and a regular visitor to Caenwood (Kenwood) House, so it’s perfectly feasible that the royal family would have met or at least seen Dido. So it really was a small world.
Try this game for yourselves and if you can make connections like this from people in the 18th century we would love to hear from you as there must be plenty more out there.
In our latest book, which is based on our blog and titled All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, one of the 25 true tales within tells of the life of the red-headed actress, Elizabeth Hartley. Elizabeth was a beauty, but not particularly vain; she disparagingly said of herself ‘Nay, my face may be well enough for shape, but sure ‘tis freckled as a toad’s belly’.
Born Elizabeth White, and from Berrow in Somerset, Elizabeth had a sister, Mary, who also had strikingly red hair. Mary made a good marriage to the Reverend, later Sir Henry Bate Dudley, minister, playwright and newspaper editor, a ‘witty and profligate man’ who glorified in the nickname, the Fighting Parson.
While researching Elizabeth Hartley we came across a Thomas Gainsborough portrait held by the Ascott Estate (National Trust), painted in the late 1780s and depicting a woman with red hair. The identity of the subject is disputed: it is labelled as either Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond or Elizabeth Hartley.
This is the painting.
We contacted the estate who gave us some information from their guidebook relating to the portrait.
John Hayes has called this ‘one of the most ravishing of Gainsborough’s late romantic portraits. . . . The enigmatic smile and slightly distant expression heighten the poetic mood of the canvas.’ The supposed sitter was the daughter and co-heir of Charles, 4th Earl of Elgin and 3rd Earl of Aylesbury by his third marriage, in 1739, to Caroline, daughter of the 4th Duke of Argyll. She married in 1757 Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond and Lennox. There were no children of the marriage and the title devolved upon a nephew.
The picture has been called a ‘late London work’ by Waterhouse, and ascribed more precisely by Hayes to 1786–7, when Lady Mary would have been more than 45 years old. In an endeavour to resolve the discrepancy between the sitter’s apparent age and the evident date of the picture, it has been suggested that she is the wife, Lady Louisa Gordon Lennox, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond, and not the sister-in-law of Thomas Conolly, to whom this picture is said to have belonged, but neither the dark-haired Hugh Douglas Hamilton pastel of her at Springhill, Co. Londonderry, nor the Romney of her at Goodwood, Sussex, bear this out. Yet nor can one detect any resemblance with the equally dark-haired sitter in the Chardinesque Reynolds of Mary, Duchess of Richmond, sewing that is likewise at Goodwood.
Two of the images mentioned of Mary, Duchess of Richmond are shown below and we think you’ll agree that they look nothing like the redhead in the Gainsborough held by the Ascott Estate.
There appears to be no record as to why it is suggested that it may be a portrait of Elizabeth Hartley, other than the obvious red hair, but if it is not Elizabeth, we have another suggestion for the identity of the sitter in the Ascott portrait. We believe that she might be Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, Lady Bate Dudley. The Fighting Parson was a patron of Gainsborough, and a good friend to the artist. Thomas Gainsborough painted Henry Bate Dudley in 1780.
And, in 1787, he painted a glorious full-length portrait of Mary, Lady Bate Dudley. Did he also paint a second portrait around the same time? We think that the lady in the Ascott portrait bears a marked resemblance to Lady Bate Dudley. The two images below are from the known 1787 portrait of Mary, both unfortunately losing some of the impact of the true colour of the original which was recently exhibited at the Tate. The gallery label at the time said that:
Mary Bate-Dudley was married to Gainsborough’s friend and champion, Henry Bate-Dudley. She’s shown here in a romantic woodland setting, leaning on a classical pedestal and an urn. Her pose is languid yet statuesque and the gesture of her left hand suggests a refined sensibility. Unusually in Gainsborough’s art, Lady Bate-Dudley’s head is shown in profile. This is a dramatic ploy intended to elevate the painting beyond the everyday world of conventional portraiture to the realm of High Art.
Gallery label, February 2016
As an aside to this, Henry Bate Dudley did have a connection to Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond as, in 1780, the Fighting Parson was sentenced to a year in prison for libelling her husband. And, you can read more about him and his sister-in-law, Elizabeth, in the pages of All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, available now in the UK in hardback and illustrated with over 100 colour images.
For anyone not familiar with Harriette Dubochet who used the assumed surname of Wilson whilst alive, (although when buried her baptismal name was given) we would definitely recommend both volumes of her memoirs published in 1825, as they make fascinating reading and are online via Internet Archive.
Harriette lived life to the full and was virtually penniless at the end. Her death certificate gives cause of death as ‘old age’, although in all likelihood a cause of alcohol related disease might have been more accurate. As well as finding religion toward the end of her life, she also found the bottle. She was apparently extremely fond of brandy, to the point of dependency and was reported to have been having a tipple or several just 24 hours prior to her death.
We came across this extract from Frances Wilson’s book, The Courtesan’s Revenge and wanted to check out what became of Harriette’s siblings and possibly find Harriette’s burial.
Harriette’s place of burial has always been something of a mystery, but we can now reveal that she was buried at Brompton Cemetery and the location of her grave is still visible.
The newspapers were not at all kind to her in life as can be observed in this article about her in 1826.
The present appearance of this unfortunate woman makes it difficult to conceive that she could ever have been attractive, either as to person or manner: her features are now ugly and coarse, her person bad and her manners vulgar, with a harsh discordant voice.
A correspondent informs us that the notorious ‘Harriette Wilson’ resides at Chelsea and has become a convert to Popery, and is a very active promoter of the objects of the virtuous priesthood! What next? Is she a candidate for the office of a Lady Abbess, or Principal of a Nunnery?
And even more derogatory about her death:
We have now done with this woman, and we hope no stone will be erected to commemorate her memory and disgrace the place of her burial.
Back to her memoirs, she thought nothing of naming and shaming the gentlemen in whose company she and three of her sisters, Amy, Frances, better known as Fanny and Sophia spent much of their youth.
When Harriette wrote to the Duke of Wellington advising him she was about to publish her memoirs and that to keep his name out she wanted money from him, his famous response was reputed to have been ‘publish and be damned‘, so with that she went ahead and published (the famous phrase is probably not strictly accurate).
We’re not planning to revisit the memoirs in this article as there’s already more information about Harriette and her memoirs online than you can shake a stick at. We will, however, say that in a letter we came across, Harriette was described as being ‘the worst and wickedest bitch in the world’.
Harriette was one of 15 children (11 girls and 4 boys, not all of whom survived childhood), born to Amelia Gadsden, not Cook as previously named elsewhere, Amelia was raised by John Cook and his wife, which is probably where the error has come from and John James Dubochet, a Swiss coal merchant.
We have noticed that John seems to have had several occupations including that of a stocking cleaner, a mathematician and watch maker, but we have found no evidence to support this, on the children’s baptism and in his will, proven in 1826, he continued to give coal merchant as his occupation.
Little is known of several of Harriette’s siblings in particular that of the boys. The family seems to have been of mixed repute.
Rose (1799 – ?)
After her baptism there appears to be no proof that she survived into adulthood.
Known in Harriette’s memoirs as Diana, remained single and taught the piano from her home 34 Chapel Street, in the St Marylebone area of London.
Mary (1784 – ?)
Mary was referred to as Paragon, in Harriette’s memoirs. She married an Irish gentleman, Richard Borough(s), in 1812 in Dublin, and the couple went on to have four children, Mary, John, Henry and Augusta Sophia. At least one child was baptised in France so it looks likely that they remained there at least until Richard died at Calais in 1847.
Charlotte (1801 – 1873)
Charlotte, born 1801, married a surgeon and apothecary, William Jones Percival in 1825. The couple moved about with William’s business, from Poplar to Soham, Suffolk and finally to Birmingham to raise their family, where William ultimately took on the post of surgeon at the Kings Norton and Union Workhouse. After his death Charlotte moved to Aberystwyth to live with one of her three daughters, Mary Sophia and her husband the renowned Dr Charles Rice Williams and it was there that she died in 1873.
Julia Elizabeth (1814-1883)
Like her sister Jane, Julia also remained single and spent her later life living with her, by then, widowed sister and former courtesan, Sophia, Lady Berwick (1794-1875), at 7 Clarendon Crescent, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. After the death of her sister, Julia moved to The Mansion, Richmond (now home to Richmond Golf Club).
Frances (Fanny) (1782-1815)
Also a courtesan who, according to Harriette, produced three children with her lover, then upon his death, moved on to have a relationship with a Colonel Parker, who in all likelihood was John Boteler Parker, the son of Sir Hyde Parker. She took his name as if they were married although they were not. Frances was buried in 1815, at Kensington as Frances Parker, her assumed surname.
Amelia, aka Amy (1781-1838)
Amelia, like her sisters, was a courtesan who had a relationship with George Campbell, 6th Duke of Argyll, with whom, according to Harriette she had a son around 1810, although there’s appear no proof of this and no baptism that we have found so far.
She did however marry the musician Nicholas Robert Charles Bochsa, in 1818 despite him still being married to the Marquis Ducrest’s daughter who was, apparently still alive. Bochsa was both famous and infamous throughout the Georgian and Victorian eras!
He was believed to have been born around 1789 in France, where he studied music at the Paris Conservatoire. Regarded as a child protégé he could play both the flute and piano competently, by the age of just seven. In 1813, he apparently became harpist to the Imperial Court, however, by 1817 he allegedly became involved in counterfeiting, fraud and forgery and fled to London to avoid being prosecuted. In his absence he was sentenced to twelve years hard labour and a fine of 4,000 Francs, so clearly, he was unlikely ever to return to his place of birth.
By 1821, the couple were the height of respectability, with Bochsa, in 1822, becoming one of the founders of the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, London together with John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland.
He was however, required to sever his ties with the Academy when news of his previous misdemeanours were discovered and two years later he was bankrupt, but became the musical director of the King’s Theatre, London. Newspapers began reporting that he not only committed the crimes of forgery and fraud, but also that he was a bigamist. We can find no proof of the final accusation, but there was probably some truth in his dubious reputation, as he found himself with a five-pound fine, this time for assault.
On 27th December 1837 Amelia died at her home, 2 Orchard Street, St Marylebone from an inflammation of the intestines and was subsequently buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.
Bochsa eloped with Mrs Anna Bishop, the wife of Sir Henry Rowley Bishop. Frances Wilson, in her book, queried whether Bochsa had eloped with Anna Bishop prior to Amy’s death; the jury’s out on that one, but clearly he wasn’t with her on the day she died as her death was not witnessed by him, but by a John Knight, a collector, who lived there with his wife, Sarah, eight children and their servants.
Bochsa and Bishop left England and reappeared eventually on the other side of the world, having spent the subsequent years touring Europe, America, Mexico and then Australia, where Anna appeared on stage as his protégé. They continued to perform on the stage until his death in 1856, in Sydney.
Harriette’s male siblings were Charles Frederick (1791 -?), Henry Cook , John Emmanuel and George Edward. Very little is known about the first three boys and in all likelihood Charles died during childhood, although there is no evidence of a burial for him.
John Emmanuel (1790-1821)
Apart from his birth and death, the only snippet of information about John comes from the marriage entry for his sister, Sophia, where he was present as a witness.
Henry Cook (1804-1855-9)
After his baptism, there is little known of Henry, apart from one mention of a brother to Lady Berwick in Naples, Italy in 1848. We eventually discovered his death dated simply as being sometime between 1855 and 1859, in Naples (British Armed Forces and Overseas deaths and burials records).
George married Christiana Hadden in 1816 and the couple had 4 children. At the baptism of their youngest child, George was a piano maker, then, by the time his youngest daughter married he had died, but had been ‘of the Treasury‘.
We also wrote a guest post a while ago about Harriette. In case you missed it why not hop over to Mike Rendell’s blog to find out more.
The London Gazette 1839
Berkshire Chronicle, 14 March 1829
John Bull 10 May 1840
Bell’s New Weekly Messenger 06 April 1845
Croome Collection at Worcestershire Archives.
The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1708
Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns. These sweet, spiced buns were also popular throughout the Georgian era, known both as cross buns as well as hot cross buns, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The well-known song relating to them has its origins in the eighteenth-century.
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
This started out as a London street cry, used by the sellers of the buns. The Oxford English Dictionary references a street cry dating to 1733, printed in Poor Robin’s Almanack:
Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs,
With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns.
So, when did the street cry become a ditty? Wikipedia (not always the most reliable, we know!) dates the earliest recorded version of the rhyme to its appearance in The Christmas Box, published in London, 1798. However, we have found mention of a ‘catch’ (a round song; two or more voices singing the same song but beginning at different times) dating from 1767 and printed in the London Chronicle newspaper (2-4 June 1767).
A Catch that won the Prize at the Boarded Bagnio:
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross-buns;
If you’ve no daughters, give them to your sons;
And if you’ve no kind of pretty little elves,
Why then good faith, e’en eat them all yourselves.
One a penny, two a penny, &c.
(Da capo is an Italian term meaning to repeat from the beginning. The Boarded Bagnio was located in Banister’s Alley, St Giles.)
We’re not sure what exactly was going on at the Boarded Bagnio to merit the hot cross bun rhyme winning a prize, but this version of the popular ditty predates its appearance in The Christmas Box by over three decades and is the earliest reference to it that we can find. Is this the origin of the song?
What of the origins of the buns themselves? One writer, in 1777, refers to the custom in Greece to make presents of coloured eggs, and cakes of Easter bread. He continues:
Probably the Cross Buns made at present on Good Friday have been derived from these or such like Cakes of Easter Bread. The Country People in the North make with a knife many little Cross Marks on their Cakes, before they put them into the Oven, &c. – I have no doubt but that this too, trifling as the Remark may appear, is a Relique of Popery. Thus also persons, who cannot write, instead of signing their Names, are bid to make their Mark, which is generally done in the form of a Cross.
We’ve searched for an authentic recipe for the cross buns of the era, but the closest we have found is this from the Morning Chronicle, 23 April 1791:
GOOD FRIDAY ADVERTISEMENTS
A person, well known at Leicester, lately took this mode of informing the public, ‘that his Buns, made of the best Flour, and the genuine spices of the East, would be ready for delivery by six in the morning’. After desiring them to be aware of imposters, he concluded as follows:
GOOD FRIDAY approaches, and hard have I strove,
My highest respect for the Public to prove;
And to make my commodity worth approbation,
Collected the sweets of each spice-breathing nation.
What tho’ some base Gingerbread Weavers, for fun,
In their ribaldry, call me a Cake and a Bun;
In the making of Buns, there’s no rival I fear,
I’ve in mine, no mix’d Butter, nor rot-gut Small Beer –
But there’s everything genuine! Look at their size,
For they’ll melt in your mouth, and swell proud to your eyes.
And so, while I exist, you shall never lay fault on
Your Cross-bun Distributer, fam’d EDIS WATTON.
There was a tradition, probably harking back to the religious connotations with the buns, that stale and mouldy cross buns would cure many childhood ailments. Luckily the child does not seem to have been expected to eat the buns – sometimes several years old – but instead they would be bandaged to their body.
Sources not referenced in the text:
Observations on popular antiquities: including the whole of Mr. Bourne’s Antiquitates vulgares, with addenda to every chapter of that work: as also, an appendix, containing such articles on the subject, as have been omitted by that author. By John Brand, A. B. Of Lincoln College, Oxford. 1777
Following on from our previous articles about career choices in the eighteenth-century, from 1761, we have some more to share with you, so, here goes.
The boy, intended for this business, ought to be genteel, active and obliging. To have sweet breath and a light hand. The business of a barber is shaving and making periwigs. The former requires these qualifications and the latter, some ingenuity to imitate all the various fashions introduced by the folly of mankind. But in this trade little learning is necessary. Reading, writing and the common rules of arithmetic being sufficient. There are, however, some periwig makers who do not shave.
The barbers and periwig makers also make a kind of periwig for the ladies; among which they have imported a sort, impudently called the French, as if they intended to affront all the fair who wore them, Téte Moutons, or sheep’s heads. But the English ladies, from their complaisance for that nation, wear the wig, give it the French name and pocket the affront.
Cutting and curling of hair is also another branch of the barber’s business, though others apply themselves wholly to it and are therefore called hair cutters. The wages of a journeyman barber are but small, but if he has a good set of acquaintance and can be settled in a shop advantageously situated, he may set up with fifty pounds.
This is a very useful and extensive business, bellows being not only made for families, but also for organs, for blowing fresh air into mines and for carrying on a great number of mechanic arts, in many of which they are of very different sizes and constructions, and some of the prodigiously large. It is a profitable business for the master.
They make blue of indigo mixed with cheap materials for the use of the calico printers and dyers, and for bluing of linen when washed, but have nothing to do with the fine colours used in painting. It is a laborious business and is imagined to hurt the nerves. Those who keep shop get a good living. They take an apprentice from ten to twenty pounds, but they give low wages to a journeyman who works from six to eight.
The making of playing cards is a very easy business and requires neither judgment, strength nor ingenuity. It consists of pasting several sheets of paper upon each other and then printing off this card paper from wooden blocks. After which the court cards are coloured, the paper glazed and the cards cut out.
The chocolate maker
As the making of chocolate is hard work, mostly performed over a charcoal fire, which is apt to affect some constitutions, the boy who is to be put apprentice to it, ought to be strong and hardy. Chocolate is made of a fruit called cacao produced in the West Indies and other parts of the world. This is a kind of nut about the size of a walnut, which being stripped of its thin shell is worked upon a stone, till it is equally mellow, and then put into tin moulds in which it hardens, and from them receives the form of cakes. To perfume it they mix it with venello (vanilla).
The making of combs is divided between two branches – the ivory and the horn comb makers. The ivory comb makers buy the ivory plates, rasps them to a proper thickness and saws the teeth. They also make combs of box, tortoiseshell and sometimes of horn, in which case they buy the horn ready prepared.
The horn comb maker cuts the ox’s horn into several rings and splits each, when hot, pulls them open and then pressing them between hot iron plates until they are of a proper thickness, shapes them, and afterwards saws the teeth. The horn comb maker does not make combs of ivory etc.
Dial plate enameller
Those of this business make enamelled dial plates, which they sell to the watchmakers. They take the brass plates, cover them with white enamel when wet, make the numerals, and fix the enamel by fire.
This is a very nasty, stinking trade, much exposed to wet and cold, therefore not fit for weakly lads. The fellmongers buy up the skins of sheep and lambs, from which they discharge the wool, make the sheepskins into pelts, leather for breeches, alum leather etc. They take from five to twenty pounds with apprentices, who require only a common education. They give very poor wages to their journeymen.
The hatter or hat maker
The hatters, or hat makers, are those who work the wool, hair or fur into a proper substance for a hat. This is called felt. It is very slavish work, the men being continually stopping over the steam of a hot kettle and requires strong lads, who are taken apprentice with ten or fifteen pounds and frequently with nothing. But when out of their time, they may get, as journeymen fifteen or eighteen pounds a week, or set up in this branch with one hundred pounds.
This is a branch which requires very slender abilities to become a master of. He is partly a turner and buys his glass from the glasshouse. There are not many of them, though there are more hourglasses made than is generally imagined, especially for the sea, there not being a ship without several kinds of them, such as hour, half hour, quarter hour and minute glasses. The master will take an apprentice with five pounds who when out of his time may earn ten or twelves pounds a week or with twenty pounds may set up for himself.
The ink maker
Those who are solely employed in making black and red writing ink and ink-powder are but few in number because most retail stationers make ink to supply their own customers. The ink makers take no apprentices since whatever their secrets they may be possessed of it is in their own interest to keep them concealed.
The Loriner or bit maker
The loriner makes bits and all the ironwork belonging to a bridle, together with the stirrups. It is an ingenious and laborious branch of the smith’s business and the beauty of the work consists of filing and polishing.
This is a profitable business and requires a boy of activity and industry. The pastry cooks of London have many of their shops elegantly fitted up with carved work, gilding and looking glasses. They daily make all kinds of pastry and sometimes also deal in confections and jellies. They take ten or twenty pounds with an apprentice, who, when out of his time, may have about twenty pounds a year and his board by serving as journeyman, or if he sets up as a master, it will require 300 pounds at least to fit up a genteel shop with built-in ovens etc, but he may set up in a less splendid manner with a hundred pounds.
Snuff Box maker
The use of snuff has naturally produced the introduction of snuff boxes which are made not only of all kinds of metal, either plain, chased or embellished with stones, enamel, shells etc but of ivory, coal or even paper. This has introduced several different trades some of which the makers take ten or twenty pounds with an apprentice, in others not more than five pounds.
In our latest book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, we recount the adventures of Sarah Wilson, aka Lady Wilbrahammon… amongst other aliases! Sarah was a very convincing impostress and her life is one of those cases when fact proves to be far stranger than fiction. But, although rare, Sarah was certainly not unique. She was perhaps inspired to commit her grand fraud after reading of a girl named Mary Ramsay in the broadsheets. Mary’s story dated to April 1738, but it was widely reported in 1764 just before Sarah’s own antics.
* * *
In a ditch, between St Albans and Colney Heath in Hertfordshire, lay a poor starving girl, half-naked and too weak to move. Two bakers were travelling along the road, and they heard the girl’s groans and rescued her, taking her to an alehouse near the turnpike. The surgeon and apothecary, Mr Humphries, was sent for and under his care, the girl recovered.
Then the girl told her story. She was Mary Ramsay, nineteen years of age and from Hull in East Yorkshire. Her father had been an eminent surgeon and man-midwife who, when he died, had left Mary, his younger daughter, a fortune of £7,000 and trusted her to the care of his brother (there was an elder daughter living in London who was married to a wealthy Suffolk gentleman named Mr Cooke). Mary’s uncle was kindness itself to his young charge and so Mary suspected nothing when he sent her to London to board with a gentlewoman who kept a school in order that she could learn the manners required for a young lady of fashion. Dressed in a new riding habit and jockey cap, Mary was placed in a stagecoach and given a letter of introduction addressed to the schoolmistress. At the coaching inn at Stamford in Lincolnshire, where Mary had stopped to dine, she accidentally dropped the letter; it was found by a fellow passenger, a sea captain whose name Mary had forgotten. Upon hearing Mary’s story, the sea captain persuaded her to open it. The note – signed by her uncle – was brief and to the point.
The person who brings you this is the young woman I told you of. I acknowledge receipt of half the money agreed on, and expect the remainder as soon as convenient.
Mary had been effectively sold, to a man she did not know. With no-one looking she made her escape, slipped away and travelled on foot for a couple of days. In need of funds, she sold her jockey cap to an old woman and then exchanged her riding habit for a gown and some money, enough to get her to London to find her sister. It proved a fruitless search and so she set out once again, penniless now, resolving to return to Hull. Mary managed to trek as far as St Albans where – in her distressed state – she had been found.
She was the very picture of innocence and the good townsfolk of St Albans rallied around Mary, raising a subscription to clothe her and pay for her journey back to Hull. In the meantime, she lived in the mayor’s house with his family. All was going very well for young Mary until one voice of dissent was heard. A man recently returned from London cast doubt on her story, to the fury of the mayor and the inhabitants of St Albans. This man remembered that he had an acquaintance in Hull and so he wrote to him, to establish the truth of the matter. The reply was unfortunate for Mary. The acquaintance in Hull stated that:
… a surgeon of the name of Ramsay had formerly lived in the neighbourhood of Hull, who was very poor all his life-time, and who was confined for debt in the castle of Lincoln, and died there about ten years before; that he had two daughters, abandoned wretches and common prostitutes, who strolled about the country under various and fallacious pretences; that upon the strictest enquiry, he could not find that Ramsay had a brother; and that if the people of St Albans would pass her to Hull, [Mary] would there meet with her dessert.
Mary protested; the man who had written the letter was a particular friend of her uncle and had colluded in the deception practised upon her. The mayor – not knowing who to believe – directed two letters to gentlemen in Hull, asking for clarification. The answers came back, confirming that Mary was lying. The mayor wasted no time and Mary found herself in the Bridewell where she confessed all. She was a dupe, an impostor, and she was whipped at the cross as a vagrant on the next market day before being packed off back to Hull.
That Mary received her comeuppance didn’t deter Sarah Wilson who, just two years after this tale had been published, embarked on her own fantastical adventures. In fact, we suspect the tall-tale about Mary Ramsay to be a complete work of fiction as we can find no proof to substantiate any of it, but that probably doesn’t matter. It was reported as fact and the tale took on a life of its own in the imagination of Sarah Wilson, alias Lady Wilbrahammon, whose story is most definitely true, even though it is not quite as has been reported over the centuries. But, to discover the amazing adventures of ‘Lady Wilbrahammon’, you’ll have to read our book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century.
The Beauties of all the Magazines, selected for the year 1764, vol. iii
During the eighteenth and into the nineteenth-century it became fashionable and beneficial to enjoy the pleasures of swimming in the sea so, in order to preserve modesty, bathing machines were invented. These allowed the swimmer to enter the contraption fully clothed, undress and get into the water virtually unseen; to swim then return to the machine to get dressed again and leave through the entrance they had arrived through – all very discreet.
Scarborough, Yorkshire was reputed to have been an excellent place to swim in the 1730s, but as to whether they had bathing machines we’re really not sure. Certainly, by the 1770s as you can see above, the bathing machine was very much in evidence.
The first reference we came across of a bathing machine was in the Caledonian Mercury, dated 14th August 1750, although such a machine was believed to exist prior to this.
That the BATHING MACHINE will, from Monday next, be attended close from half flood to half ebb, every lawful day by Thomas Weir Carter in Leith; his station with the same is to be upon the sands to the west of the glasshouse, in order to carry such ladies and gentlemen who want to bathe. And no weather needs to stop the use of it, as by the contrivance persons may bathe securely, without being any ways exposed to the weather. It will hold four persons easily, furnished with pins to hang up their clothes, and clean napkins will be there ready for rubbing.
In 1754, the Whitehall Evening Post carried an advertisement for the
New invented machine for bathing in the sea. The machines move on four wheels, on which is erected a commodious dressing room, furnished in a genteel manner. The machine is contrived, that the persons who bathe descend from out of the above room into the bath, which forms itself in the natural sea, seven feet in length and five in breadth, all enclosed and railed, which renders it both secure and private. The machine during the last season met with genteel approbation; and in order to make still more useful, the proprietors have this season provided an additional machine with proper conveniences for bathing at all times. A woman is appointed to attend the ladies if desired.
As the fashion for swimming in the sea along with its reputed benefits grew, more and more coastal towns had their own machines, set up on the beach from Tynemouth, in the north, to Brighton in the south and everywhere in between.
One of the most famous people to develop a bathing machine was a Quaker, Benjamin Beale. However, in 1767 there was an immense storm in Margate and his bathing machines were damaged, as they had been twice before, in 1763 and 1764. His loss on this occasion was estimated to be worth over £1,000 and it totally wiped out his business. So much so that Sir John Shaw and a Dr Hawley, of Great Russell Street, sought assistance for him, to enable him to rebuild his business. This was successful and the business was rebuilt, and Benjamin continued his trade until his death in 1775.
As the fashion for sea swimming caught on others developed their own business too, such as these trade cards shows for the ‘The Dunn’s machine’ and ‘The Phillpot’s machine’.
In 1770, Margate became so popular that it even produced its own holiday guide containing
a particular account of Margate, with respect to its new building, assemblies, accommodations, manners of bathing, remarkable places in its neighbourhood and whatever else may be thought necessary for the information of strangers.
Swimming in the sea was a risky affair and there were quite a few incidents recorded of accidental death due to drowning. Other incidents were less dramatic, but somewhat embarrassing, such as the one noted in the St James Chronicle of 1778 when a bathing machine containing ten people capsized. Most escaped to shore… but minus their clothes. There were also reports of people having a few too many drinks, climbing into the bathing machines to sleep off their excesses and the tide changing and them waking up the next morning to find themselves in the sea.
Apparently, in 1794, two dignified ladies decided as a wager to swim from one bathing machine to another, one was seized with a cramp, but not being out of her depth was rescued. Hopefully, the wager wasn’t too high!
Men and women were segregated for the sake of women’s modesty, but occasional incidents happened where women had to be saved by a gentleman when they swam out of their depth – a few red faces there then!
Here’s a bit of newspaper gossip for you from The Public Advertiser, October 1791.
Man caught in bathing machine with woman, both naked at the time.
Sorry to spoil your fun, it transpired that they were actually husband and wife, but still, it made the newspaper.
Of course, when in Weymouth, the royal family enjoyed a swim, especially George III but apparently his daughter, the Princess Royal, less so as she appeared to feel the cold more and looked half-frozen after her swim.
To finish we couldn’t resist sharing this image of Prinny, The Prince Regent – no words!
Bathing Machine on Southsea Common. c1788. Yale Centre for British Art
Admit it – many of you are scratching already, aren’t you? I was whilst writing this if I’m honest. One of our readers asked about turpentine being used to kill head lice and this set us off to find out more about the subject and somehow ending up looking at how they dealt with bed bugs (buggs as they were known, somewhere we lost that second ‘g’) in the eighteenth century.
They were clearly a major problem, with many cures being offered to eliminate these little critters such as this from ‘The family jewel, and compleat housewife’s companion or, the whole art of cookery made plain and easy’ by Penelope Bradshaw in 1754.
If your room is very bad, take a pound of rolled brimstone, if there’s only a few, then lay it on the charcoal and get out of the room as fast as you can, or it will take away your breath. Shut the door close, with the blanket over it; and be sure to set it so as nothing can catch fire; if you have any India Pepper throw it in with the Brimstone. Do not open the door under six hours, and then let the door stand open an hour before you go in to open the windows, then brush and sweep your room very clean, wash it well with boiling water. Get a pint of spirits of wine, a pint of spirit of turpentine and an ounce of camphire, shake all well together, and with a bunch of feathers wash your bedstead very well, sprinkle the rest o over your feather-bed and about the wainscot and room.
If you find great swarms about the room, and some not dead, do this over again, and you will be quite clear. Every Spring and Autumn wash your bedstead with half a pint, and you will never have a bug; but if you find any come in with new goods, boxes etc only wash your bedstead and sprinkle it all over your bedding and bed, and you will be clear, but be sure to do it as soon as you find one. If your room is really bad it will be well to paint it.
Here we have an advert from the Daily Post of Thursday, May 18, 1738 from a gentleman offering to eliminate the critters:
Whereas I have for several years, with success, made it my business to destroy those numerous vermin call’d BUGGS, at a reasonable price, being done without the least damage to either bed, bedding or furniture, be the same ever so good; and what is used is without any offensive smell. I likewise undertake hospitals, or other large buildings, and after I have destroyed them, if any should happen the following year to be brought in by people’s cloaths, from other houses, which may happen to new furniture rather than to those I have cured and cleaned, owing to the Power of Nature of what is used, then and in such case I promise to cure them gratis. Those noble persons waited upon my directing to me, JOHN WILLIAMS, at the following coffee-houses, viz. Janeway’s in Cornhill, Richard’s near Temple-Bar.
And this one from Peter Braniff in the Public Advertiser, Saturday, May 17, 1760.
BUGGS, be the ever so intolerable, are effectively destroyed, no cure, no money by Peter Braniff at Number 4, the upper end of Union-court, Holborn, opposite St Andrew’s church; and as his name is so well-known to thousands of people of the best rank, who have employed him to their satisfaction, he refers them for a character before he is employed, which can be had in any division or neighbourhood all over London. Further satisfaction, to enquire at the British Lying-in Hospital, or the City of London Hospital.
So, how much did it cost to get rid of beds buggs – well, that of course varied upon the size of the room and quite frankly, Peter Braniffs’ charges were confusing to say the least, but given that he had a wife and six children support he would have wanted to make as much money as possible. (Peter died in 1769, of consumption, possibly an occupational hazard).
From 5 shillings to seven shillings and six pence, to ten shillings and six pence, to five shillings and some a guinea. Those who please to favour him with their commands, shall be waived on, and shall have twelve months’ time for trial, provided the sum be large. N.B. What he makes use of has no smell neither does it hurt the furniture, and if no alteration is made after he has done, the Buggs will never return, nor breed any more in them during life.
Of course, institutions such as hospitals and the workhouse were expected to maintain high standards of cleanliness, as we see here in this extract from ‘An Account of several work-houses for employing and maintaining the poor’ 1732:
Nurses take care to search all the beds for fleas, buggs and other vermin, once a week, of oftener if occasion; and to have all their beds made, and to sweep and clear their respective wards, every Monday between the hours of eight and ten; that every ward be washed once a week or oftener, as need shall require, and the windows be kept open in all, except the sick-wards, every day during dinner, to air the rooms, except in very rainy weather.
Sleep well tonight everyone and don’t let the bed buggs bite!
If you’d like to find out about flea traps follow the highlighted link – it’ll only make you scratch even more, you have been warned!
In an earlier blog, we looked at the life of Charlotte Williams, illegitimate daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire; Charlotte was brought up in the duke’s household by his beleaguered wife, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. It has proved to be one of our most popular blogs, so we thought it was worth trying to shed a little more light on Charlotte’s mother, a milliner named Charlotte Spencer.
If you’ve watched the film, The Duchess, you will no doubt remember the scene early on when Georgiana, pregnant with her first child, is introduced to her husband’s young daughter, who is brought to Devonshire House in London following the death of her mother. Using artistic licence, the timings are, however, slightly out in the film.
On 7 June 1774, at Wimbledon, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, married Georgiana Spencer, d/o John, Earl Spencer and his wife Georgiana (née Poyntz). The groom’s parish was stated to be St George, Hanover Square, that of the bride Westminster St James. Charlotte Williams was known to be born a few months before this grand union; just weeks earlier, on 20 March, a little girl named Charlotte had been christened at St George, Hanover Square, her parents named as William and Charlotte Cavendish (and her birthdate given as 22 February).
All we really know of the mother, Charlotte Spencer, comes from one of the Town and Country Magazine’s gossipy tête-à-tête articles which appeared in the spring of 1777; Memoirs of the D___ of D___ and Miss Charlotte S____r. If Georgiana had been in the dark about her husband’s mistress, she would certainly have known all about it when this magazine hit the streets.
Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, William Cavendish had succeeded to his title, on the death of his father. Left an orphan, he was raised by three bachelor uncles who sent him abroad on the aristocratic ‘gap year’, the Grand Tour. The tête-à-tête article claimed that while in Paris, Cavendish captured the heart of Louis XV’s maîtresse-en-titre, Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry, some five years older than the duke but much more worldly wise. The duke’s uncles got wind of things, and rushed him home.
Finding she [Madame du Barry] had built too much upon her charms, influence, and attractions; and, at the same time, that her heart was too far engaged in the conflict, she became the dupe to her own artifice; and the young English nobleman had his vanity so far gratified as to be the rival of the grand monarque.
Returning to London, the duke made the acquaintance of a pretty milliner who had ‘the finest eyes he had ever beheld’. He became a customer, and then her lover. Charlotte Spencer was the daughter of a country curate whose situation had allowed of nothing more than a ‘tolerable education’ for his daughter. After his death, Charlotte travelled to London where she fell into the clutches of ‘a veteran procuress, who, under the veil of religion, prevailed upon Charlotte to be a lodger in her house, that she might take care of her salvation’. It is suggested that Charlotte had at least one pregnancy (and possibly a termination) while lodged in this brothel before leaving, only to fall into the hands of ‘an old debauchee, who pretended to adore her mental, as well as her personal attractions’. This old rake gave Charlotte a handsome allowance and set her up in an elegant house, but she hated the life; after a few months her ‘keeper’ died and left her mistress of a fortune enough for her to set up a milliner’s shop. Where, soon afterwards, the 5th Duke of Devonshire found her…
The duke and Miss Spencer seem to have lived happily together for some years; she left the milliner’s shop behind and the duke provided for her. He set her up in a discreet rented villa.
We may now suppose our hero in full possession of all Charlotte’s charms, and that she was happy in an alliance with a young nobleman every way amiable. Yet a paradox still remains to be solved; which is, that after some years intercourse with Miss S___r, who was now rather approaching the decline of beauty, our hero should marry a nobleman’s daughter, a universal toast, still in her teens, with every personal accomplishment, who gives the Ton wherever she goes, and that he should still be fond of his antiquated (by comparison) Charlotte?
The truth is that the duke needed a male heir, and while he was clearly fond of Charlotte Spencer, the teenaged, wealthy and well-connected Miss Georgiana Spencer (it is an ironic coincidence that the two ladies bore the same surname) was the more suitable bride and prospective mother for a son and heir. Poor Charlotte had only given him a daughter.
Georgiana married her duke in May 1774, and this little scandal broke in the press almost three years later. Popular gossip said that the duke continued to see Charlotte regularly during the first years of his marriage.
There is a caprice in mankind, it is true, that cannot be accounted for – whim prevails more than reason – but that the blooming, the blythe, and beautiful D___ should be neglected for Charlotte S___r is really astonishing!
The duke’s affair with Charlotte Spencer fizzled out after 1778, and all available evidence suggests that she had died by May 1780 when the six-year-old Charlotte Williams was brought, with her nurse, Mrs Gardner, into the Cavendish household.
Despite her unhappy marriage, the Duchess of Devonshire was the toast of the town. Extravagant, vivacious and addicted to gambling, Georgiana was also compassionate and caring; when the young and motherless Charlotte Williams was presented to her, Georgiana took the girl to her heart and brought her up as her own daughter. In time, Georgiana had three children of her own by the duke, Georgiana (Little G) born 1783, Harriet (Harry-O) in 1785 and William (known as Hart, as his courtesy title was Marquess of Hartington) who was born in 1790. (Georgiana suffered many miscarriages during her marriage.)
A couple of years or so after Charlotte Spencer’s death, Georgiana met Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster at Bath; Bess quickly became an indispensable member of the Cavendish household, given a role as Charlotte Williams governess and replacing Charlotte Spencer in the duke’s affections. Something of a ménage à trois developed. Georgiana retaliated with an affair of her own, falling in love with the future prime minister, Charles Grey; in 1792 and in exile from her husband and children, Georgiana gave birth to Grey’s daughter. Known as Eliza Courtney, this girl was brought up by Grey’s family although Georgiana did manage to make secret visits to her. Bess Foster accompanied Georgiana during these years of exile before the two returned to the duke in 1793. Bess, after Georgiana’s death, would become the duke’s next wife.
Town and Country Magazine, March 1777
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman (Flamingo/Harper Collins, 1999)
With the turn for the century, fashions began to change from the tight-laced bodiced dresses to a softer, flimsy and floating style, often made from lightweight fabrics. Presumably it was this change of style that required women to preserve their modesty, so, on that note we’re delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, Sarah Waldock, who describes herself as ‘a Regency romance author with a morbid interest in drains and underwear’.
The post has come about following conversations we’ve had with Sarah Waldock, about one of our previous articles regarding whether Georgian women wore knickers or not! So we’ll hand over to her to tell you more.
This goes back to an assertion I made that yes, there were drawers worn by ladies in the Regency period as I had seen ads for them. Only when I uncovered the following ad, two words – invisible dresses – leaped out at me.
Radford’s Hosiery, 52 Cheapside
All manner of hosiery, gloves, flannels, drawers, ladies’ invisible dresses….
So going a bit further, I found
Mrs. Morris, once Mrs. Robertshaw, invisible dresses, petticoats, drawers and waist coats of real Spanish lamb’s wool, Welch Flannel Warehouse, 100 Oxford Street.
Plainly Mrs. Morris is a cut above Mr. Radford, being in Oxford Street where you pay three guineas a lungful to breathe [not that Cheapside was especially cheap; the name comes from the same source as Chapman, a peddler, from OE for goods for sale].
Digging around, I initially discover Mr. Radford advertising as far back as the 1st of January 1806 both the ‘Newly invented’ invisible petticoat and drawers, which is the earliest mention of drawers I had yet to find – at that point.
And then a bit of luck.
An unnamed seller advertises on Tuesday 17th September 1811;
New-invented invisible dresses [I hear you say, hang on, Radford and Morris had them in 1810; it’s the way of making them which is new invented] all in one, of a superior style for ladies and children … for ready money only, at no. 16 Poultry.
All in one, which is interesting; it suggests that invisible petticoats and waists have been combined. And in the same year, 21 December, 1811, Mr. Radford is back with his own take on this:
New-invented Brunswick invisible dresses that are such a preventative against colds and are patronised by the Royal Family.
There are also ads from him advertising them for ladies and children, reinforcing the idea that these are practical garments, no mere modesty pieces. These garments are for warmth to prevent the silly and fashionable chits in muslins from dying of pneumonia at winter balls.
I then looked up ‘Brunswick’ in the ‘Fairchild Dictionary of Textiles’. It gave me:
“A twilled wool and cotton fabric similar to cassimere”[Cassimere was a soft woollen twill cloth invented in Bradford and often combined with cotton, silk or mohair].
Now, Mr. Radford was also advertising cotton invisible petticoats in June and July of 1806, so maybe they were there as modesty pieces as well. I don’t have any more on that, nor on whether they were stockinet flesh coloured garments, like the drawers mentioned by Nicky Roberts in ‘Whores in History’ [Harper Collins 1992] to be worn under the notorious dampened muslins. It wasn’t mentioned. However I am seeing, I hope not spuriously, a connection between drawers and invisible gowns, which is an impression strengthened by a few more ads.
And this one from Mrs. Robertshaw [before she was Mrs. Morris] is the winner.
30th September 1806
SPANISH LAMBSWOOL INVISIBLE PETTICOATS
Mrs. Robertshaw begs leave to inform those ladies that found their invisible petticoats shrunk last winter that she has a kind so much improved that she will warrant them never to shrink even in the commonest wash, at the same time will be found equally as soft, pliant and warm. Everybody that has tried them allows them to be a much pleasanter article than ever before invented, being so very elastic[a word merely meaning at the time having some stretch or give] and of so beautiful a white, and, like all these comforts will add quite as little to size as her patent lambs’ wool so much approved of last winter. Likewise invisibles and stays all in one; well adapted to ladies that are confined; also under waist coats and drawers of the same description.
The ad goes on to invite mail order purchase, but what seems suggestive here is that the drawers are also for warmth as the implication is that they are also lambswool [and possibly either knitted or woven as a knit-weave like gents’ pantaloons]
The implication is also that this is not the earliest date.
So this is the ad I found, on 21st October 1805.
Spanish lamb’s wool invisible petticoats; Mrs. Robertshaw…. large assortment of her large assortment of real patent invisible petticoats which ladies will find soft, warm and pleasant at the same time adding little to the size.
Patent. A suggestive word, though I have a gut feeling that a lot of advertisers threw it around without applying for a patent. However, it does suggest that warm underclothes under skimpy top clothes was a recent response to the changes in fashion, having to be lightweight themselves rather than adding a quilted petticoat as one might do in earlier times.
The latest ad I found was in 1815, Friday 22nd December. Mrs. Morris is no longer reminding people that she was Mrs. Robertshaw before.
Ladies opera dresses, drawers, waistcoats, invisible petticoats – Mr. [sic] Morris manufacturer to the Royal Family respectfully informs those ladies that have patronised her patent invisible petticoat, opera under-dresses, drawers and waistcoats …. that she has manufactured an entire fresh and extensive assemblage.
I searched up to 1820 but could find no more ads. But after 1816, the year without a summer, the climate warmed up. Could it be that woolly longjohns and flannel petticoats disappeared for a lack of need for them?
As to earlier, in 1804 Mr. Radford was bad-mouthing those who sold inferior quality whilst proclaiming his own cheap but quality hosiery. He mentions flannels again. Was this a euphemism for flannel drawers? I haven’t tracked that down.
On 13th November 1804 he is advertising elastic cotton and other drawers in with his hosiery, gloves, lace mitts and lace sleeves. He is mentioned on 12th May 1803 as a hosier, and taking on the rent somewhere in an article too faded for me to read.
Mrs. Robertshaw however turns up in December 1804, or rather, Mr. W, Robertshaw does, at the same address, 100 Oxford Street, with a hosiery and pantaloon warehouse with fresh Spanish lambs wool and Angola waistcoats and drawers. Mrs. Robertshaw.
…begs the attention of the ladies to her patent Bath and elastic lambs wool petticoats and drawers, which ladies will find soft, warm and pleasant at the same time to add very little to size.
So, they are not yet invisible! Bath was a soft woollen cloth comparable to superfine; Bath suiting was often used for men’s jackets. It moulded nicely to the muscular form of the Corinthian.
Apart from the existence of W Robertshaw, Hosier, 100 Oxford Street in January 1804, the Robertshaws too disappear. Two families of Hosiers, whose brief, decade-long production of underwear excites the interest two hundred years later.
We have some exciting news to share with you, our readers, today. As well as writing our bi-weekly blog posts, we have also been working on our fourth book together… and this one is based on our blog! In fact, we’ve reused the name, and the title of our new book is All Things Georgian: Tales From the Long Eighteenth-Century.
It contains 25 tales that you won’t find on our blog already, all a little longer in length but, as ever, lavishly illustrated, predominantly in colour. In fact, we’ve got over 100 gorgeous colour pictures scattered throughout the text. The tales are all in roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830 and set within the framework of the main events of the era.
So, what stories can you expect to find inside? We bill ourselves as historical super-sleuths and we’ve dug into various archives to discover the weird, the wonderful and the downright strange side of long eighteenth-century.
Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Marvel at the Queen’s Ass, gaze at the celestial heavens through the eyes of the past and be amazed by the equestrian feats of the Norwich Nymph. Journey to the debauched French court at Versailles, travel to Covent Garden and take your seat in a box at the theatre and, afterwards, join the mile-high club in a new-fangled hot air balloon. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory.
Out in the UK by the end of April, 2019. Click here to discover more.
In a recent article, we looked at disability in the 18th-century and about people with no arms using their feet as an alternative, some of whom created the most beautifully delicate watch papers. One of our readers asked what more we knew about watch papers, our reply being –’not very much!‘
Always up for a challenge though, we set about seeing what else we could find, and we confess, this article is a little self-indulgent with some lovely images of watch papers which rem