Today I am delighted to welcome an authority on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, Etienne Daly, whose name you have probably seen in previous articles about Dido. As part of his research into her life he has been taking a closer look at her death, more specifically where she was buried and with that I’ll hand you over to Etienne to tell you more.
On a dull, grey, bitterly cold, 6 January 1969, just after 8.00am rolled off the trucks in Albion Street, bulldozers and diggers. The residents nearby were made fully aware that big changes were coming through a plot of land formerly known as St George’s Fields Burial Ground, the noise of the machinery being offloaded would have awoken even the deepest of sleepers, but the residents had been expecting this.
Over the previous 6 months as notice of development into a housing association was made known to them all, that is not the case of course for the incumbents buried there, some for over 200 years!
Now things were going to change on the five acre site. Following the machinery would be wooden boxes to pile all the bones, skulls and skeletons intact, with lime powder to be scattered on them ready to be taken to the crematorium in South London for incineration and final disposal.
Local residents expected an efficient job to be done with respect and sensitivity for the dead, but it didn’t work that way according to the local paper of the time, The Paddington Mercury which ran the story on Friday 24 January 1969, saying that digging and drilling went on till 8.00pm, even on Sundays and vibrations were felt in certain properties causing consternation.
But bones were also found in the street which had to be picked up and boxed by the many labourers given the task of clearing the site. The weather being atrocious from January to the end of March meant the workers would have been as speedy as possible, allowing corners to be cut to get the task done. In fact it was took the best part of 1969 before most of the site was cleared and with it went the history of Saint George’s Fields.
So from the time the land was sold off and boarded up just the previous month, December 1968 until a year later trucks were coming and going, loading up the bones of the deceased and off to one of these crematoriums: the Lambeth crematorium, Streatham or West Norwood Crematoriums.
All history of this site was to go with it, a site which had opened in 1765 as an over-spill burial ground for the parish of St George’s Hanover square – the very church in which Dido married in December 1793.
And of some important people worth noting like Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), Paul Sandby (1721-1809), Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) and General Thomas Picton, of Waterloo fame, who were buried in the vault at the graveyard and many others.
But there were also body snatchers around which is why the boundary had two walls built and vaults were made underground for the wealthier, these faced the then Uxbridge Rd (now Bayswater Road) in the first class plot.
The others were middle class plots and paupers plots and were located to the rear of the site which often became waterlogged.
This, however, did not deter the body snatchers who had some success in removing corpses to sell on to the medical profession for dissection!
The ground was eventually closed in 1858, but unofficial burials took place up until the mid-1860s. By 1885 the ground was mainly cleared, leaving headstones lined up on the perimeter wall with the area becoming a park for people to walk through, that is till after the Second World War during which the Chapel of Ascension was hit by a doodlebug in 1944 putting an end to that.
With land prices raised since the 1950s it had by the end of the 1960s become a prime target for building speculators.
Full circle on after three years of development, the housing association consisting of 300 flats was accommodated by June 1973. It became a private block when the residents bought the freehold in the early 1980s. However, since that time bones have been recovered at certain parts of the development when new works have taken place such as light laying cables etc.
I discovered that the vaults haven’t been fully examined because of access ability i.e. power cables are nearby.
My research took me to Saint George’s Fields as I knew that Dido was buried there late July 1804 and took an interest in layout and plans of that side both historic and pre/post development. I made grids of the site based on the first second and third class plots, and the first phase of development as the foundations went in. Without boring you with all the calculations, suffice it to say that an area of the site looked as if it was not developed and based upon all findings matched up, so with this plan I made of the area I approached an expert of the site and development who was able to say that area was not touched, in fact it was outside of the buildings footprint. But area I discovered was in the first class plot (best ground) facing the now, Bayswater Road.
Once armed with this knowledge I did further work and discovered in fact two probable burial plots where Dido may have been buried. Two you think? Well, you have to know that burial sites were also a business, and the best plots made the most money, so after many years graves were moved as spaces filled up. This, my experts agreed on as being common practice in the 18th and 19th century.
The image of the site is from a photo taken around 1949 which shows the two marked areas in pink, the top one was the original burial plot and the other is further back, but both were ‘path side’ in the first class plot.
Now, I know Dido was not placed in the vaults and was buried above ground in the first class plot, and there’s a chance that the plot was brick lined for added preservation and would have been quite deep around 12 feet to 14 feet deep in order to deter grave robbers, it was also a favoured method of the upper classes.
I noted that Dido’s death was number 56 of 73 deaths that month of July for the parish of Saint George’s and a high rate of child mortality that month as many months in the 18th and 19th century.
There’s also a possibility that Dido’s twin son John, who was born in May 1795 with the other twin Charles, who died in infancy was buried there around 1796-8. There’s no exact record of when John died or was buried, but most likely it was at the burial ground and Saint George’s. Only a deep scan of the designated areas would prove conclusive and if we could find they are buried together and I would very much welcome such a scan to prove or disprove my theory, as I think is seems highly likely that Dido, is still be buried there, only time will tell.
It is also feasible that when Dido died, the family used the undertakers, or upholders as they were then known, France and Beckwith, who were responsible for organising all royal burials including those of King George III, King George IV, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg and more. William France trained as an upholsterer initially and undertook work at Kenwood House, where he supplied table legs, frames and mouldings which were described as being ‘Gilded with Burnish’d Gold in the most perfect manner’.
Today we will take a brief look at the role of one of the most important jobs within a household during the Georgian Era, that of the nursery nurse or nursery maid. When this guidance was produced for parents and for nurses alike and set out advice for them as to the role she should occupy and what tasks should be completed to ensure that their proteges were cared for.
Of paramount importance was that the person be of a lively and cheerful disposition, good tempered, and clean and neat in her habits and person. She would need to be experienced in the care and management of young children as her role was of vital importance to the family as she would be in charge of a child from infancy until old enough to have a governess or to go to school. Potential employers took great care when recruiting this person and often used word of mouth for recommendations or would place an advert in the newspaper. Potential employees would naturally have been able to provide excellent references.
The morning would begin with the children being carefully washed and dressed, then once ready they would have breakfast, the children being placed for their meal quietly and in an orderly manner. After breakfast, if the weather was fine they would be taken out by the assistant nurse or nursery maid for fresh air and exercise for an hour or two, but not too long for fear of over-tiring them. On return their hands and feet would be washed if dirty, children would then have lessons until midday at which time they would be fed and then taken outside again for more fresh air, a light supper and then bed. As it is today, fresh air was seen as vitally important.
It was the nurses role to ensure that the child was kept safe at all times and particular care should be taken that a child did not climb on the furniture so as to avoid them damaging their limbs, nor to go near the fire in case their clothes catch fire, there were a surprising number of instances where this had happened, so clearly advice was necessary.
Young child were to be given plain food and drink, yet some nurses apparently gave them wine, spirits spices and sugar – none of which were believed to be good for the child.
The sleeping room of the nursery should be spacious, dry and well ventilated, with a fire being made up if a cold or damp day and the room was not be inhabited during the day. Servants were not permitted to sleep in the same room as the child as nothing should be done to contaminate the air.
Beds should not be placed close to the ground as the air was fresher high up. In cities, children should not be kept in hot rooms, but have as much air as possible and given as much exercise as possible, as lack of exercise was the cause of rickets, weak joints and lung disease.
When putting the child to sleep it should be placed on the right side rather than on the left. When awake an infant, should be laid on its back so that it can move its legs and arms with freedom. Sleep promotes a more calm and uniform circulation of the blood and also facilitates absorption of the nutriments received. The horizontal posture, likewise, is the most favourable to the growth and bodily development of the infant. Sleep ought to be in proportion to the age of the infant.
After the age of six months, the periods of sleep, may, in some degree should be regulated ; yet, even then, a child should sleep through the night, and several hours both in the morning and afternoon. Nurses should endeavour to accustom infants, from the time of their birth, to sleep in the night in preference to the day. Children should not be woken suddenly or moved from a dark room into bright light as this can cause weak eyes from early infancy.
Clothing should be very light, and not too long, so that it is easy to get the child’s legs out with ease during the day in order to rub them with a warm hand, or flannel as this would promote the circulation of the blood. However, a nurse should hold the child as little as possible to avoid the legs being cramped and to ensure that its toes didn’t turn inwards.
During the day children should be dressed in light and loose fitting clothes, and at night it may be a shirt, a blanket to tie on, and a thin gown to tie over the blanket. Pins should never be used in an infant’s clothes and every string should be so loosely tied, that two fingers may be introduced under it.
The child’s skin was to be kept perfectly clean by washing its limbs morning and evening, and likewise its neck and ears, beginning with warm water until eventually getting the child used to cold water.
After carefully drying the whole body, head, and limbs, a second dry soft cloth, somewhat warmed, should be gently used, to take all the damp from the wrinkles or soft parts of the body. Then the limbs should be rubbed. If the skin became irritated, then hair-powder should be used (today we would use talcum powder). The utmost tenderness is necessary in drying the head ; and a small, soft, brush, lightly applied, is safer than a comb.
*** For those with an interest in Dido Elizabeth Belle, do keep an eye out for next week’s blog ***
The Complete Servant: Being a Practical Guide to the Peculiar Duties and Business of All Descriptions of Servants
Morland, George, 1763-1804; A Visit to the Boarding School
It is always lovely to welcome back guests to the blog, and today we welcome back Kimberley Reeman for our first article of this new decade. Kim recently wrote an article for us, about the Life of Dr James Barry, which was very well received, so we’re sure you will enjoy this one equally as much.
“I was effectually cured of all inclination to that sin to which I was so strongly addicted, that I thought nothing but shooting me through the head could have cured me.” COLONEL JAMES GARDINER, 1688-1745
It was a hot night in Paris in July of 1719: a Sunday night, but the Sabbath signified nothing in the decadent life of Major James Gardiner, aide de camp to the Earl of Stair, a Scot like Gardiner and British ambassador to the court of France under the regent Philippe, Duc d’Orleans. It was a rare interlude of peace between the two countries, and Gardiner himself was no stranger to war.
Born at Carriden in Linlithgowshire on January 11, 1688, he was the son and nephew of soldiers killed on active service, and his older brother Robert had died at the bloody siege of Namur at the age of only sixteen.
Gardiner, also commissioned absurdly young, had fought at the Battle of Ramillies on May 23, 1706, where he had been shot in the mouth. The musket ball had exited through his neck, narrowly missing the vertebrae and without damaging his tongue or teeth: he had lain in the darkness exploring the wound with his fingers, clearing his mouth of the congealing blood that was threatening to choke him and clenching his fist, cemented with blood, around the gold coins he had unwisely carried into battle. In the night he was discovered, as he had known he would be, by French soldiers intent on plunder: but strangely, as a blade pressed into his breastbone, some one said, “Do not kill that poor child,” and his body had been loaded onto a barrow and trundled, eventually, to a convent, where the Abbess had called him mon fils, and his wound, now infected, had been treated. Here he had remained, cared for by the nuns, for three months until he had been exchanged with other British prisoners and returned to his regiment.
Other battles, other commissions, other promotions followed, and when the peace was signed James Gardiner came to Paris, to the court of Versailles: a court, in this licentious age, which had the reputation of being the most debauched in Europe. Major James Gardiner, now thirty-one and having abandoned the last constraints of morality, became a connoisseur of its vices.
He had already been out with friends that Sunday evening, but the party had broken up before 11 p.m., and he had an hour to kill before his midnight assignation with a married woman. So he returned to his lodgings and prowled and drank and contemplated the prospect of further sexual gratification with the craving of the addict he had become: a powerful man, more than six feet tall, with dark hair and dark grey eyes and a long nose and high forehead, and a right cheek scarred not at Ramillies but in the course of the first duel he had fought, when he had been little more than a child. He was said, fittingly for a dragoon officer, to be “one of the most competent horsemen that had ever been known”, although a few weeks before this fateful evening he had been thrown violently by a mettlesome horse on a steep, cobbled street. It is possible that he suffered concussion, and certainly the atheists among his acquaintance attributed to that accident the epiphany that now overtook James Gardiner.
Bored, he glanced at his watch, and then at the title of a book lying forgotten on the table⸺ not his usual pornography but something called The Christian Soldier, or Heaven Taken By Storm. He assumed it had been slipped into his baggage by his mother during his last leave in Scotland, in yet another vain attempt to salvage what remained of his soul. He laughed, and, thinking its dogma might entertain him for half an hour, sat in the armchair and began to read.
His close friend and biographer, Philip Doddridge, D.D., describes what happened, as Gardiner reported it to him.
There is a possibility that while he was sitting in this solitude, and reading in this careless and profane manner, he might suddenly fall asleep, and only dream of what he apprehended he saw. But nothing can be more certain than that he judged himself to have been as broad awake during that whole time as he ever was in any part of his life; and he mentioned it to me several times afterwards as what undoubtedly passed, not only in his imagination but before his eyes.
To another friend Gardiner described it as “so lively and striking, that he could not tell whether it was to his bodily eyes, or those of his mind. Yet it is evident he looked upon this as a vision, whether it were before the eyes or in the mind, and not as a dream.”
Doddridge picks up the story.
He thought he saw an unusual blaze fall on the book while he was reading, which he at first imagined might happen by some accident in the candle. But lifting up his eyes, he apprehended, to his extreme amazement, that there was before him, as it were suspended in the air, a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross, surrounded on all sides with a glory; and was impressed, as if a voice, or something equivalent to a voice, had come to him (for he was not confident of the very words), ‘O sinner, did I suffer this for thee?’…. Struck with so amazing a Phaenomenon as this, there remained hardly any life left in him, so that he sunk down in the arm-chair in which he sat, and continued, he knew not exactly how long, insensible….
Nor did he throughout all the remainder of the night, once recollect that criminal and detestable assignation, which had before engrossed all his thoughts. He rose in a tumult of passion not to be conceived; and walked to and fro in his chamber, till he was ready to drop down, in unutterable astonishment and agony of heart; appearing to himself the vilest monster in the creation of God.
It was a fierce awakening, and Gardiner’s soul, cleansed of its “most horrid sins” by that divine fire at midnight, did not leap in exultation: he passed, instead, several days and nights in anguish, shattered, sleepless, and convinced of his own imminent damnation. And then, gradually, from this exhaustion of mind and body, came a curious peace. He emerged from his tormented contemplations of hell and resumed the business of living; but the James Gardiner who returned to the physical world was irrevocably changed. He had abjured the brothels, the gambling hells, the substance abuse, the fluent profanity, the obsessive promiscuity: it was time to explain himself to his friends.
He dreaded it. He wrote to his mother, who had been overjoyed at the news of his conversion: “I would much rather be marched up to a battery of the enemy’s cannon than have been obliged to continually face such artillery as this.”
They mocked him, of course. Some mentioned his accident; some thought he had suffered a breakdown; some were openly calling him insane on both sides of the Channel. When Gardiner was transferred back to England he asked a distinguished friend to invite the doubters to dinner, so that he could confront them in a civilised manner.
It was a raucous meal, “with much raillery”, during which the major remained uncharacteristically sober and quiet, “but when the cloth was taken away and the servants retired, he begged their patience for a few minutes.” What his friends thought when this new, ascetic James Gardiner began to speak of vice and virtue and the fact that throughout his wild, dissolute years he had “never tasted anything that deserved to be called happiness”, we cannot know. He did not discuss “the extraordinary manner in which he had been awakened”, out of a desire to preserve its sanctity and a deep sense that, in this company, it was neither appropriate nor necessary; but he had misjudged his companions, as they had misjudged him. Once it was apparent that he was still, if less obscenely, the James Gardiner they had always known, “he found himself more esteemed and regarded by many”, and the cynics left him alone.
He was not the only ‘Christian soldier’ in the British army: there were other high-ranking evangelists who were considered equally eccentric, but they were in the minority. How they reconciled their consciences with thou shalt not kill remains unclear; but for James Gardiner, who had in the course of his tumultuous life broken most of the commandments, there came at last a time of grace. He loved and was loved, physically and spiritually, and there was no doubt that theirs was a passionate union: he had married Lady Frances Erskine, daughter of the 9th Earl of Buchan, on the 11th
of July, 1726, and she, he told Doddridge, “valued and loved him much more than he deserved.” Of their thirteen children, to whom he was devoted, only five survived, and Gardiner’s faith was sorely tested when “it pleased God to visit his little family with smallpox.” Gardiner, now a lieutenant-colonel commanding a regiment of dragoons quartered in Herefordshire, received news from Scotland that his five year old son, who had seemed to be recovering, was dead. He wrote to Frances, alone with the children at home in East Lothian, “He to be sure is happy; and we shall go to him, although he shall not return to us. And therefore it is our wisdom, as well as our duty, to leave all with a gracious God.”
But he was human: his faith faltered: he who had once experienced religious ecstasies in the west of Scotland while riding alone, listening to the singing of larks, fell into black depression, mourned his lost children, felt the weight of his absence from Frances, bowed again to the will of God in October of 1733 when his second son, “the darling of all who knew him” and perhaps the child closest to Gardiner’s heart, died after less than a day’s illness. He wrote to Doddridge, “God is all-wise, and everything is done by him for the best. Shall I hold back anything that is his when he requires it?”
It was perhaps inevitable that Gardiner, so much the absentee father, and living, as required by his rank, a peripatetic life with the regiment in Hamilton, Ayr, Carlisle, Hereford, Maidenhead, Leicester, Warwick, Coventry, Marlborough and Northampton, should take a deeply paternal interest in his men.
He was known to walk the cobbled streets and stop suddenly at their billets, inquiring into their welfare, inspecting their horses and the conditions in which they were stabled, exercising and reviewing them personally, and encouraging even the most hardened reprobates to accompany him to church, where he ensured they were seated quietly before the arrival of the congregation. He wore his religion lightly but he fined his officers for swearing in his presence, and banked the proceeds to “lay out in providing the men with proper help and accommodation in their distress” and visited them when they fell ill. He did not coddle: he commanded, awarding punishment when necessary, upholding discipline. The result was “one of the most regular and orderly regiments in the public service, with men of sober and obliging conduct.”
It was this regiment he led throughout the Low Countries with the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession, in appalling weather, at one point “toward Frankfort”, he wrote to the long-suffering Frances, “to the great surprise of the army…. Neither can any of us comprehend what we are to do there, for there is no enemy in that country, the French army being marched into Bavaria, where I am sure we cannot follow.”
Neglecting his health but never his dragoons or their horses, he may not have mentioned to Frances the illness, pneumonia or pleurisy, that nearly took his life, and from which he never fully recovered. He wrote, longing for home and a respite from the bloodbath of Flanders, “To live with Christ, which is infinitely better than anything we can propose here! Where no mountains shall separate between God and our souls: and I hope it will be some addition to our happiness, that you and I shall be separated no more.”
He wanted to come home, but release from Flanders for a serving lieutenant-colonel would come only with transfer or promotion, and Gardiner had little hope of acquiring the full colonelcy of a regiment, for which competition was stiff. He remained optimistic, scribbling from Aix la Chappelle on the 21st of April 1743, “People here imagine I must be sadly troubled that I have not got a regiment, for six out of seven vacant are now disposed of, but they are strangely mistaken, for it has given me no sort of trouble: my heavenly Father knows what is best for me… and has given me an entire resignation to his will.”
Two days before this letter was written the colonelcy of Bland’s Horse, a dragoon regiment quartered almost on Gardiner’s doorstep in Linlithgow, fell vacant, and was offered to Gardiner by George II. He accepted, believing that “by this remarkable event Providence had called him home.” He left the regiment he had loved and commanded for so many years, and the men in whose welfare he had taken such a personal interest, and returned to Britain, relapsing en route into feverish illness at
Ghent and arriving in London in June looking, his friend Doddridge noted with concern, “ten years older, and so sadly altered.”
His duties as colonel of what was now known as Gardiner’s Horse were not onerous: the day to day affairs of the regiment were the business of his lieutenant-colonel, Shugborough Whitney, and Gardiner spent much of his time at his estate, Bankton, in East Lothian, weakened in body but engaged as always in lively, gossipy correspondence with relations and friends and intellectual debate with prominent clergymen. He was also acutely aware, as a soldier and a Scot, of the undercurrents in Scottish politics, and the very evident resurgence of Jacobitism, particularly in Edinburgh. The Jacobites were not a new phenomenon: the Earl of Stair had been thwarting plots to restore the Old Pretender in Paris in 1714. But this time the threat was palpable, and Gardiner wrote of it with prescience and foreboding, knowing the rawness of his own men and the inexperience of the few regiments quartered in Britain. With an invasion by France, he observed, “a few thousand might have a fair chance for marching from Edinburgh to London uncontrolled, and then throw the whole kingdom into an astonishment.”
He remained unwell but indefatigable: writing, praying, studying, at leisure, finally, to be with Frances and his eldest daughter, and to enjoy the quietness of his home, his garden and his orchard. He allowed himself to be persuaded to go to Scarborough for a summer of sea bathing “to regain his health”, and he considered travelling to London afterwards; but in his absence the flame of rebellion, which had been smouldering so long, burst into violent life, and he was recalled with his regiment to Stirling. Frances and his daughter accompanied him, and it was there in the castle that James Gardiner took his last leave of them. Frances wept uncontrollably. He comforted her with gentleness and serenity, saying, “We have an eternity to spend together.”
He left her and rode to Falkirk with his men, so exhausting himself in the process that he was forced to ask a local minister to write to his superiors on his behalf, requesting reinforcements “which might put it in his power to make a stand, which he was very desirous to do.” The rebels were close, and Gardiner’s untried dragoons eager to fight; but reinforcements were not forthcoming, and their fighting spirit evaporated when they were ordered to Dunbar, and left them entirely when they heard that Edinburgh had surrendered to the Young Pretender without resistance. Gardiner himself doubted their courage, saying to another senior officer that he would not “in case of the flight of those under his command, retreat with them,” and, to a visitor from Edinburgh, “I cannot influence the conduct of those as I could wish, but I have one life to sacrifice to my country’s safety, and I shall not spare it.”
Friday, September 20th, 1745, was one of the last golden days, with vast, deep blue skies and great expanses of pale stubble in fields where barley had been reaped, the ricks steeping in the warm sunlight as an army of three thousand under Sir John Cope deployed near Prestonpans. Cope changed his position several times before sunset, disliking the ground and the twelve-foot stone walls of Preston House estate to the north and those of James Gardiner’s own estate, Bankton, to the south, between which the army was confined. Gardiner, knowing the neighbourhood intimately, attempted, with another high-ranking officer, to persuade Cope to launch a surprise attack on the Jacobites before nightfall, and was overruled: he was seen later “walking in a very pensive state.”
Whatever foreboding he had felt was compounded when he saw the disposition of Cope’s heavy artillery, “which he would have planted in the centre of our small army,” Doddridge wrote, “rather than just before his regiment, which was in the right wing: where he was apprehensive that the horses which had not been in any engagement before, might be thrown into some disorder by the discharge so very near them.”
No one listened to him.
He passed the night, which after the golden warmth of the day was cold and misty, armed and wrapped in his military cloak, under a rick of barley in the company of four of his own domestic servants. About three in the morning, he sent all but one of them home. Throughout the night Cope had posted pickets and sentries and lighted bonfires along his front line, which, before sunset, he had repositioned yet again to face the benevolently misnamed Tranent Meadows, a boggy quagmire through which he did not expect the Jacobites to attack. The barking of dogs in the nearby village of Tranent around 9 p.m. should have warned him that the enemy, too, was on the move, but by 10:30 p.m. an uneasy silence had fallen, and it was not until after 4 o’clock on Saturday, September 21st that a column of Jacobites, guided by the son of the minor laird who owned the Meadows, took a wildfowler’s path through the marsh to close on Cope’s army before daylight. By 5 a.m. Cope’s sentries had seen enough to be aware of the imminence of attack, and Cope, an accomplished and underrated general, immediately wheeled his forces ninety degrees to the north to face the enemy, with his only two dragoon regiments on either flank. Time did not allow the most effective deployment of these inexperienced troops, and even Gardiner’s own 13th was split awkwardly into three squadrons, with Gardiner himself as close to the artillery as he had feared.
The rebels attacked at dawn, and, as Gardiner had predicted, neither untried men nor horses deafened and terrified by the artillery behind which they were positioned withstood the Highland charge. The unseated dragoons fled: those horses not slashed or shot by the enemy galloped in panic from the field. Gardiner, shot in the left breast, flinched at the impact, insisting it was only a flesh wound, and took another bullet in the right thigh. Deserted by all but a dozen or so of his dragoons, and defended ferociously by his lieutenant-colonel, Shugborough Whitney, whose left arm had been shattered by a musket ball, and by a young lieutenant named West, Gardiner was targeted and surrounded by clansmen. Hacking his way free, he spurred to command a small, desperate knot of infantry fighting for their lives: soldiers of Lascelles’ regiment, which he had been ordered to support. Bleeding heavily and shuddering in the saddle, he shouted at them to stand, his strong Scots voice carrying above the screams. “Fire on, my lads, and fear nothing!”
They were Scots: although their colonel was English, Lascelles’ was a Scottish regiment, and until the outbreak of rebellion they had been repairing roads in the Highlands. Perhaps it gave them heart, in the last seconds of their lives, to hear Gardiner’s Scottish voice, and to witness his courage: but time, for James Gardiner, had run its course. His sword arm was almost severed by the blade of a scythe wielded by a clansman, and as the weapon fell from his hand he was dragged from the saddle. From a distance his servant saw him sustain several wounds from broadswords and crumple to the ground; and then Gardiner raised his left hand and waved his fallen hat, and shouted, “Take care of yourself.” A Lochaber axe struck the back of his head, and he collapsed.
The servant did not linger to see him stripped of his coat, shirt, boots, watch and valuables, nor see his grey gelding led away by a jubilant clansman who, it was said, presented it to the Young Pretender. He crept back hours later, as the Highlanders were ransacking Gardiner’s house, leaving it littered with torn papers and human faeces. Gardiner, half naked on the bloody ground, was still breathing: he opened his eyes when he was touched but was unable to speak. The servant managed to haul his mangled body onto a cart and to the house of the minister at Tranent, where they laid him in bed. He lingered, in great pain, throughout the night, and died of his many wounds at about eleven the following morning.
What had they seen as they killed him, these Scots? An ageing, ailing man, faithful unto death to his country and his God? A fellow Scot, had they even been able to understand the English he spoke with so indubitably Scottish an accent? A man of staggering courage in the face of certain death, or only a hated enemy?
Those who killed him remain anonymous, their names forgotten, if they were ever known. But James Gardiner is remembered still in Tranent, where a handsome obelisque was erected to his memory in 1853 in the grounds of Bankton House, and where he lies in the mossy peace of the churchyard.
The inscription on his gravestone reads, I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith, and the 1611 King James Version with which Gardiner would have been familiar continues, Hencefoorth there is layde up for me a crowne of righteousnesse, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day.
He bought his crown with blood and faith and valour.
Well folks, today sees our final article for this year, in fact for this decade. We’ve had such a busy ten years, since starting All Things Georgian a few years ago, we’ve written over 550 articles on a whole host of subjects; researched and written 4 books, given lots of talks and interviews and have met so many lovely people, all things we never knew we would have done 10 years ago.
We would like to say massive ‘Thank You’ to everyone who has supported us by taking the time to read our articles and to buy our books, we really hope you have enjoyed them and found them informative.
Today, though, I thought we’d take brief look back at what was making the news in December, 200 years ago in 1819, so here we go.
Very much as it is today, advertising for Christmas was in full swing, with retailers mainly recommending books as gifts, but if you wanted to buy someone a gift with real possibilities then you could do as one gentleman did for his daughter at Blackheath, London when he presented her with a Lottery Share from Piddings of No.1 Cornhill. She won a quarter share of twenty thousand guineas. What a lovely Christmas gift that must have been.
Of course they too had their Boxing Day sales as we discover at Mr A. Shears, Bedford House, 11 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden
Bombazines in all colours cheaper and better than ever. Rich figures and plain poplins at little more than half price. Beautiful velvets 9 shillings and 6 pence per yard. Fine merino and ladies’ clothes warranted never to wear rough.
As it is today, it was also Pantomime Season for those Georgians too, ‘Oh no it isn’t, Oh yes, it is’!
Yes, those Georgians loved the pantomime and of course if you were in London you had several choices of panto’s and all went well at the Adelphi, according to The Globe, December 28th, 1819 and Drury Lane theatre hosted the premiere of a brand new pantomime – Jack and The Beanstalk:
The entertainment at this small but attractive theatre brought a very numerous audience last night. The pit, at an early hour, was crowed to excess and the boxes, before the rising of the curtain, exhibited the same appearance. The entertainments commenced with the principal dancers with much elegance and effect. A pantomime called The Fairy of the North Star, or Harlequin at Labrador, was produced for the first time this season. Though it has no incidents particularly new or striking, it is not however, without merit, and did not fail in affording pleasure and amusement to the Christmas visitors.
The new pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk; or Harlequin and the Ogre was first performed at Drury Lane theatre on the same day. Jack, performed by Miss Povey, who sang, is in poverty, and the little money which he had gained by a sale, is, by the Genie of the Harp, turned into beans, which the mother indignantly throws away. A fine ‘scarlet runner’ soon sprouts forth and threatens to wind round the moon. Jack ascends and reaches the fierce Ogres’ Castle.
The various hair-breadth escapes in endeavouring to rescue the damsel, Junetta found there, is the ground work of the subsequent changes and Harlequinading. Their approach was most acceptable, as the early scenes were heavy, there being too much narrative and too little action.
In Royal News
The Prince of Wales accompanied by Sir B Bloomfield visited the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in Marlborough Row on Christmas Eve of 1819. The Bells of the parish church immediately rung a merry peal on the occasion.
His Royal Highness had the happiness to find the Duchess of Gloucester (who has been indisposed for a few day), much recovered. On Christmas Day, at noon, divine service was performed in the presence of the Regent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the royal suite, by the Rev. J.R Carr. The Regent and the Duchess received the sacrament. The royal dinner party was small and select. At nine o’clock a few of the nobility joined the assemblage, and a charming selection of music was performed for the entertainment of the guests. The workmen an artists of the Pavilion, anxious to get everything ready for the reception of his Royal Highness, had assembled on Christmas Day, but a mandate from the Regent quickly occasioned their dismissal, his Royal Highness positively ordering that the day should be observed as one of rest and sacred devotion.
The Irish Free School
An appeal to the public was made a few days ago by Mr Finnegan, the Master of The Irish Free School, in George Street. St Giles on behalf of 240 of the destitute children of his fellow natives. On Christmas Day we visited these schools and were highly gratified at seeing the greater part of those suffering innocents (boys and girls) provided with new clothing, which we understand has been procured for them through the liberal aid of a generous public. At two o’clock all the children sat down to a plentiful dinner of plum pudding, beef and potatoes, at the expense of a gentleman, a long benefactor to the institution. Our pleasure, we confess was greatly increased at seeing ladies of the highest respectability become servants of these poor children.
On Saturday, as usual on Christmas Day, the Lord Mayor ordered the prisoners in Newgate to receive each one pound of beef, a pint of porter and a two-penny loaf of bread, in addition to the increased allowance of bread, meat and coals, given by the City of London.
And finally …
Christmas Food Fight
On Christmas morning a ludicrous event occurred in Union Street, Holborn. As two women, residing in George Alley were carrying dishes to the oven to be baked, when they ran into two drunken labourers, and the dishes which contained in one, a piece of beef and the other a loin of mutton, each with a batter pudding were thrown out of their hands. Here the fun began. The women, on finding their Christmas dinner was spoiled were so enraged that they grabbed the two men by their hair and beat them around their heads with the beef and mutton until they were covered with grease, milk and flour much to the amusement of the large crowd which had now gathered.
Eventually after some intervention peace was restored, and the two women left the scene and headed to the nearest public house where they drowned their sorrows with copious amounts of rum, gin and beer.
We would like to wish you all a very happy festive season and to say that we will be back at the start of the next decade with more articles for you and with some exciting news of our own to share with you too.
If you’re still searching for that last minute Christmas present, then perhaps take a look at our Bookshelf, you might just find what you’re looking for.
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 28 December 1819
One thing we have concluded about ourselves during our research over the years is, that we have an incredible propensity for being dragged, kicking and screaming off at tangents and this one is a case in point. How on earth is it possible to get from court dressmaker to body snatcher in a matter of a few steps? – well, with immense ease it appears.
Our research was actually about the renowned milliner and court dress maker of 32 Albemarle Street, Mrs. Charlotte Bean. She found fame as dress maker to ‘Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Kent and also the Princess Charlotte of Saxe Coburg by special appointment’. It didn’t take us long to discover another story about one of her apprentices, a Miss Elizabeth Lane.
On July 18th, 1810, William Webb, a resurrection man who had been the grave digger for four years at the parish of St. George, Hanover Square, London was accused of stealing a dead body, that of a young lady Miss Elizabeth Lane. She was described as being aged between eighteen and twenty years of age when she died of measles.
Elizabeth was interred on the 21st June, at 8am. Mrs. Lane said that they left after the service before the grave was filled up, but within half an hour of returning home a boy called at their house to say that the corpse which had just been buried had been stolen from the grave. Mr and Mrs Lane immediately returned to the burying ground, accompanied by Mr. Adams, the church warden, Mr. McLaughlin, the sexton and Mr. Cater, the watchman. They went straight to the grave and near it they saw the grave digger, Webb.
He was instructed to open the grave, at first he hesitated, saying it was wasn’t right to do so, stepped back a few paces and let the spade fall out of his hand, again exclaiming that all was not right, he fainted and fell down near to a newly made grave. At first they thought he had died, but after a while he recovered. Once recovered, he was asked whether Elizabeth’s body was in the grave, he answered that it was. So, again he was ordered to open it. About a foot and a half below the surface a sack was found, which, on being examined, contained the dead body of Elizabeth, who had just been committed to the earth.
Everyone recognised her, but the body appeared to have mangled in different parts in a shocking manner, as if it had been struck with a spade or some instrument whilst breaking open the coffin. Her body had been tied at the neck and heels, with rope, as if to prevent it having the appearance of a corpse in the sack. The shroud lying in the bottom of the coffin, folded up.
At his trial which took place at Westminster Sessions on July 13th, 1810, Webb, in his defence, presented a ‘frightful picture of ignorance and depravity’. He told an incoherent story about a man whom he called Jack, assisting him and that he supposed some person would come at night and take the body over the church wall. He complained that his trial was hurried on sooner than he expected and persisted he was not guilty, it’s no clear why he thought this, but in any case the jury, unanimously agreed that he guilty. So far we have not been able to find out what his sentence was.
The information about the painting shown on the Frick Collection website provides a few clues about the provenance of the portrait, but we came across more which fills in some of the gaps.
The portraits life began its life when Grace Dalrymple Elliott and Mary Robinson aka Perdita, mistress to the Prince of Wales, sat at the same time to have their portraits painted by Thomas Gainsborough. The portrait of Grace had, according to the late British art historian Sir Oliver Millar, been commissioned by the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) for the sum of £31 10 shillings.
After completion, the portrait of Grace vanished for some considerable time and there is no further reference to it prior to Grace’s death in 1823, nor any mention of it being in the possession of either the Prince of Wales or Grace’s lover, the 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley. Research tells us, however, that it was included in several exhibitions including The British Institution 1860; International Exhibition 1862; Gainsborough Exhibition at Grosvenor Gallery 1884 and in 1894 at the Grafton Gallery.
At this time, it appeared in a brochure by Charles Fairfax Murray who catalogued all the paintings belonging to his Grace Duke of Portland, so we can only assume that it was loaned to the Grafton Gallery by the duke. We still have no idea exactly how it entered into his possession although Murray stated that:
The fine Gainsborough, Mrs Elliott, was no doubt, also purchased by the last Duke, possibly in France as the lady died at Ville D’Avray and the picture may have belonged to her at her death.
If that information is correct then the painting would appear to have been purchased by the 6th Duke of Portland, William Cavendish-Bentinck, but the most likely explanation is that it was inherited somehow by the family at the time of Grace’s death as the family also own other paintings connected to Grace.
The book Thomas Gainsborough by Arthur B Chamberlain published in 1906 contains a photograph of Mrs Elliott’s portrait, which was included with the permission of the Duke of Portland.
In 1909 a photograph of the portrait also appeared in The Masterpieces of Gainsborough, again, with the permission of the Duke of Portland, so we know that the portrait had remained under the ownership of the Portland estate for some considerable time.
It was then exhibited in February 1909, at the New Gallery, London as part of an exhibition entitled ‘Fair Women’. Then again in October 1927 in Ipswich as part of a celebration of the bicentenary of Gainsborough.
It was at the end of 1927 that the fun and games began when we came across letters and cables at the Getty Research Institute regarding the sale of the ‘head and shoulders’ portrait of Grace between Joseph Duveen & the Portland Estate, and they make for fascinating reading. Duveen being one of the most influential art dealers at that time.
It seems that Duveen approached the Duke of Portland and trustees wishing to purchase the portrait and he had a figure in mind in the region of £25,000 to £30,000 maximum that he was willing to pay for it.
The Duke, on the other hand, believed it to worth in excess of £50,000. Duveen described this price as ‘ridiculous’.
On the 6th December 1927 Duveen thought that an offer of around £40,000 might be closer to the mark to secure the painting, but as he was a skilled negotiator and felt that the Duke and the trustees needed to come down much closer to £30,000 before he would be interested in buying it.
Duveen said he’d seen the portrait at the Ipswich Exhibition and that it was a very beautiful and saleable one, but in spite of this, he was adamant that the £50,000 price was far too high.
This is where the really cryptic cable exchanges began on 17th December 1927 between Duveen and Herbert Silva White (fine art dealer, 175, Piccadilly, London) – instead of referring to the picture by name Duveen referred to it as the ‘landport topaz’. Duveen continued to confirm that the price too high for them and that it would be too high for other dealers and that
the sooner the Duke of Portland realized that the better.
Less than a week later White approached the Portland lawyers who said £40,000 was not enough for the painting and that Portland had been approached by others but was not keen to sell. A few days later White contacted Duveen saying that if the offer was below £40,000 the Duke would ‘be mad and refuse to sell’.
The Duke and the trustees dug their heels in at this point and refused to allow either White or Duveen access to view the portrait as they had requested, saying that they had seen it at the exhibition and that should be enough for them! The saga continued with the duke and trustees becoming more and more annoyed.
On the 30th January 1928 in a letter from White to Duveen he stated that the duke would not allow them to see the painting again under any circumstances, the duke understood how good the painting was and how much the public enjoyed seeing it at the exhibition and that it would stay on his wall until it was purchased! Nor would he allow a photograph of it to be taken. He said that a representation existed in the Ipswich catalogue and that really should be good enough for them. A minimum payment required of £40,000 was requested or the matter would be closed.
White said to Duveen that they were now several months on and no further forward in negotiations. White said that the duke had another extremely interested party and so it was time they made their decision. So, the battle continued.
One month later Duveen described the portrait as ‘marvellous‘, and that it would be a good purchase at between £25,000 & £28,000 but added that
we’re dealing with very difficult people and under 30k would be useless.
So White was instructed to offer £32,000. The Duke and trustees were still sticking to their guns – £40,000, so it was agreed that White should back off for now. A further two months passed.
These people will not budge from £40k and still refuse to let us see the picture.
Duveen then instructed White to insist that he must be allowed to see the portrait if he was expected to pay £40,000 for it. White decided that the best approach would be to arrange for Duveen to see the picture when Portland’s were not in residence and eventually, he managed to arrange a visit to Welbeck without the permission of the duke, who he knew was away, but he hadn’t bargained for the Duchess being there.
He described Welbeck as being
more difficult to get into than Buckingham Palace
but said that he’d learnt a few things about how to get in at a later date! Cryptic messages continued until 23rd August 1929 when a letter from Duveen refers to someone named Colnaghi who had offered £45,000 for the painting. Duveen still wanted to actually see the picture and apparently, Colnaghi might be able to arrange this.
On the 24th October 1929, the Duke stated that if the price was high enough he would sell, then a week later he had a change of mind and wouldn’t sell at any price as his financial situation had changed and he no longer needed to sell, but if he were to sell it would be for somewhere in excess of £50k.
Somehow Duveen eventually managed to view it; agreed it was lovely, but the agreement was that he could see that portrait and nothing else whilst there. On the 5th July 1930, a photograph of the portrait was sent to Duveen by the Duke of Portland. Less than a week later Duveen confirmed that he had purchased the portrait, but annoyingly, no mention as to how much had finally been settled on, which after so much hassle is immensely annoying.
Some six years later on the 19th February 1936, the Sassoon Exhibition opened; Mrs Elliot looked ‘marvellous‘ (Sir Phillip Sassoon, 45 Park Lane, London).
7 April 1936 – confirming a letter rec’d thanking them for loaning the Gainsborough to the Sassoon Exhibition, from Mrs Gubbay.
On 23 June 1938:
can you offer Oakes two Gainsborough portraits – Mrs Elliot, Mister Richard Paul Jodrell, MP?
This final telegram could possibly relate to Roscoe & Margaret Oakes, they had a connection to the Frick and were philanthropists and art collectors. On 28 June 1938, a shipment containing both paintings was sent on SS Aquitania.
So finally, we had the explanation as to how Grace found her way into Frick Collection, along with the portrait of Richard Paul Jodrell. After all of this ‘cloak and dagger’ saga, Joseph Duveen was to die just a year later.
We begin this story, which only just made it onto our radar, with two gentlemen – Lewis Pleura, who was born in Italy and referred to himself by the title of Count, and who was very fond of gambling, and as such, eventually found his way into Fleet debtors’ prison, where he became acquainted with Nathaniel Parkhurst.
Nathaniel was from the village of Lower Catesby, near Daventry and descendant of John Parkhurst, the owner of Catesby Abbey and one of county’s major landowners of the time. He went up to Wadham College, Oxford in 1692, aged 16 where he got in with the wrong crowd who spent their time ridiculing religion, and making a jest of the scriptures, and everything that was held sacred.
It was on 3rd March 1715 that Nathaniel Parkhurst was indicted at the Old Bailey for the murder of Lewis Pleura and on a second count, of stabbing.
Parkhurst and the deceased were fellow prisoners in the Fleet prison for debt. Parkhurst had apparently sat up drinking until three o’clock in the morning when he went into the room of Pleura where an argument broke out between the two with Parkhurst saying that Pleura owed him four guineas.
Soon after this, everyone was woken by screams of ‘murder, murder’ and Parkhurst was found with his sword having stabbed Pleura some twenty times, leaving a trail of blood all over the floor.
The surgeon was immediately sent for, but of course, it was far too late. He dressed the deceased and placed him in bed, declaring that Parkhurst had assassinated him. Parkhurst, seeing the deceased in bed went to the corpse shouting ‘damn you Pleura, are you not dead yet?’.
When questioned about the murder, Parkhurst said he had no knowledge of committing it and that he had been in an ‘unhappy state of mind’ for the past two and a half years. Witnesses were called to confirm that Parkhurst was not of stable mind, however evidence proved to be the opposite – he knew exactly what he had done. The jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death.
Soon after he received sentence of death, he began to see the error of his ways and acknowledged the truth of the religion he had ridiculed. He confessed that the dissolute course of life which he had led had wasted his substance and weakened his intellectual faculties.
It was recorded that on the morning of execution, he ordered a fowl to be prepared for his breakfast, of which he seemed to eat with a good appetite and drank a pint of liquor with it, then was launched into eternity of on 20th May 1715, leaving a wife and two children, John and Altham.
In the eighteenth-century women were largely viewed as subservient, a commodity, a man’s possession, much like their house or dog. An object for men to do with as they saw fit, including – in extreme cases – beating or raping if they wished. In upper-class households, it was not uncommon for the man to take a mistress if he chose and his expectation of his wife was to produce children, to ‘look the part’, to be talented in the arts and to oversee household management. For working-class women, life would be incredibly tough as they helped to support the family financially, bore and raised numerous children and tried to keep the family from the workhouse door.
So how did our ‘Georgian Heroine’ fit into either scenario? Well, she simply didn’t. Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, known as Charlotte, fell between two worlds, neither upper nor working class, and almost obsessively private.
Charlotte first crossed our path whilst researching Peterborough House, Fulham and Grace Dalrymple Elliott. We came across a story by the author and poet, Marius Kociejowski who had researched part of Charlotte’s life and were hooked; we had to find out what became of this teenager. We began to retrace Kociejowski’s work and piece together her life from a document she had written (Kociejowski refers to it as Charlotte’s Testament, the original of which he still owns; he has also kindly written an introduction to our book).
As a teenager living in Lambeth, Charlotte lost her first love when he set sail for India, where he found great fame as a military man, never to return. She was then abducted and raped, held prisoner and even bearing a child to her captor until she found the courage to escape. Charlotte’s abduction and rape had parallels with a novel written some thirty years prior to her abduction; Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson, bears many similarities to Charlotte’s story. Unlike Clarissa, Charlotte didn’t have a fortune, but her captor undoubtedly wished to possess her, both body and soul.
After this horrendous ordeal, Charlotte travelled to France, becoming trapped and imprisoned during the French Revolution. She showed amazing resilience and subsequently reinvented herself as a peculiar form of female spy, working for the British government while travelling backwards and forwards to France, reporting upon the state of the nation in the years following the revolution, even suggesting plans by which Napoléon Bonaparte might be thwarted. Charlotte spoke fluent French and could pass for a native of the country. Returning to England, she became an author, a minor playwright and had works published anonymously including, A Residence in France during the Years 1792, 1793, 1794 and 1795, the manuscript of which she cleverly manipulated to suit both her own political views and appeal to the public at large.
Charlotte held strong opinions which she wanted to have voiced. Clearly, she couldn’t speak publicly, so had to find other ways of getting her opinions heard. She used the power of letter writing and we unearthed copious numbers of letters, mainly to politicians and peers of the realm. Charlotte was never afraid of offering her opinion as to what they should do about certain matters and seemingly they respected and took note of her, great men including Nicholas Vansittart, Chancellor of the Exchequer and William Wilberforce who acted as her mouthpiece on at least one occasion in the Houses of Parliament.
Although her identity was known to the men to whom she wrote, a combination of ‘female modesty’ and a fear of not being taken seriously should her sex be revealed induced Charlotte to an obsessive level of public anonymity. In her later years, she almost single-handedly orchestrated King George III’s golden jubilee celebrations – again with her identity protected – and was in contact with George III’s daughters for whom she acted as a courier.
Charlotte’s life took many twists and turns and piecing it together has been no mean feat. We are amazed at how this unfortunate young girl grew into such a determined and articulate woman in a world where this was not the norm for her gender.
There was a Mr Biggs, but it appears to be largely a union of convenience for both he and Charlotte. Unable to track down a marriage, we suspect that Charlotte used the appellation ‘Mrs’ for her own protection within society, giving her a veil of respectability which allowed her to move freely both in England and France without raising suspicion. The final clue as to Charlotte’s marital status appeared in her will, which suggested she was a spinster and not a wife.
Linda Colley, in Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837, referred to Charlotte as ‘a middle-class widow from the Welsh borders’. She was in part correct, but Charlotte was much more than that, she was an enigma who until now has remained off the radar of history, a woman in a man’s world. Had she been male we would certainly have heard more of her before today. Despite her many misfortunes, she continually reinvented herself, manipulating the world and men around her but never publicly having ownership of her voice or her words during her lifetime. We felt it was time to give her back ownership of that voice.
Old Westminster Bridge from Lambeth by R. Paul. City of Westminster Archives centre
Today, we love our pets and when they’re no longer around we go to great lengths to give them a good send off. No necessarily so in the eighteenth century. Who knew that dead cats and dogs were frequently used as missiles in the eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries?
I heard about this recently in a podcast, hosted by social historian, Greg Jenner about eighteenth century elections and needless to say, I had to find out more about such a grotesque practice and somewhat surprisingly came across plenty of examples of this ‘custom’ if you can call it. So along with some of these instances I’ve also some soothing artworks of cute cuddly cats and dogs to try to make up for it.
The first incident to report, took place in 1768, when a pregnant woman was in her carriage near Piccadilly when she was assaulted by a mob, one of the mob, a woman, threw a dead cat into the woman’s carriage. Needless to say she was so shocked that she fainted, and the fright caused her to have a miscarriage.
In April 1780 a plasterer and a coachman were charged with a detestable crime. As they weren’t named I haven’t been able yet to find out their detestable crime. Anyway, they were taken from New Jail, Southwark, to St Margaret’s Hill, and set in the pillory according to their sentence. As was the norm many people gathered to thrown things at the pair. People gathered from seven in the morning having collected dead dogs and cats which they threw at them, but then someone threw a stone and hit the coachman on the forehead, he immediately dropped to his knees, everyone thought he was dead. He was taken out and laid on the pillory until the hour was finished for the plasterer. They were both returned to New Jail, the coachman showing no signs of life, but a surgeon was sent for , but of course it was too late the stone had killed him. The person who threw it was well known and was arrested.
Easter 1780 was time for enjoying some fun and games, which, in Greenwich for many boys and girls who had gathered they participated in a game of roley poley and the sport of flinging dead cats, which was a great feature apparently.
A report from the Northampton Mercury March 28th, 1785 provided another example of this practice
Yesterday a very numerous concourse of people assembled in the vicinity of Tottenham Court Road to witness the ascension of Comte Zambeccari and Admiral Sir Edward Vernon, in the balloon which had been exhibited for some time at the Lyceum in the Strand. Despite trying to keep this quiet, word had leaked out and the streets were full of people wanting to see the spectacle, in spite the snow they turned out in their hundreds.
The crowd waited patiently for over three hours, but began to get restless, tired out waiting they began hurling missiles of dead dogs and cats at each other, whilst this commotion was going on the pick pockets made off with many of their possession.
They waited until four o’clock until the weather was better to take their aerial excursion, just as they were about to lift off a Miss Grice, of Holborn offered to accompany them. Despite throwing out much of the ballast to make way for her, the balloon was still too heavy, so she had to give up on the idea and the balloon set off. The balloon eventually landed at quarter to five at Kingsfield, Sussex, about three miles from Horsham.
Hampshire Chronicle of 1803 reported of a young man aged 23 who stood in the pillory at the bottom of Blenheim Street and Oxford Street, following his sentence for an attempt to commit a most detestable crime. A great many people gathered to see this spectacle where the culprit was pelted very severely by them with rotten eggs, dead dogs and cats, after which he was conveyed back in a coach to Newgate.
In 1814, Mrs Susanna Walters, the wife of Mr T Walters of Norwich arrived home and found that some mischievous persons had tied a dead cat to her door. Being near her due time, she was so shocked the unexpected discovered that she was immediately taken ill and her death a few day later was attributed to this.
A different use for dead cats and dogs appears to have been quite popular in 1774 by gardeners. The dead animals were thrown upon the roots of the vine, then covered with earth, this apparently created an excellent plants which would produce a high yield.
To finish I’ll share with you, a witty retort by the MP, Charles Fox at the 1784 election when a dead cat was thrown on the hustings. One of Cecil Wray’s party observed that it stunk worse than a fox; to which Mr Fox replied
there was nothing extraordinary in that, considering it was poll-cat.
Hogarth, William; Captain Lord George Graham (1715-1747), in His Cabin; National Maritime Museum
Boxing matches or pugilism were very popular spectator sports, not to mention very lucrative with many men willing to fight for prize money. Here we take a brief look at a fight which lasted 58 and a half minutes, with 43 well-contested rounds between two renown pugilists of the day Samuel Elias (1775- 1814), known as ‘Dutch Sam’ and Ben Medley.
The fight took place on May 31st, 1810 on Moulsey Hurst near Hampton in the presence of spectators numbering around 10,000, from all walks of life; it must have been quite a spectacle to behold.
The prize for this match was 2,000 guineas with the odds in favour of Sam starting at two to one, notwithstanding his inferiority of strength compared with his opponent who was some twenty pounds heavier and more muscular.
Sam stripped in the ring to fight his twelfth battle, after having vanquished eleven others. Medley had been about to fight Sam for the past two years, but it took until this date for it to come about. Medley was a respectable master tradesman who fought Sam for his own stake money.
At one o’clock the champions entered the ring and the contest began.
Round 1. Some sparring. Sam made a left-handed hit which Medley stopped, they closed and disengaged. Medley stopped again, then threw a punch at Sam.
Round 2. Medley made play, but without any luck, Sam commenced a rally and struck his adversary a violent blow on the temple, but Medley rallied.
Round 3. Medley made two or three short hits but laboured under a temporary derangement from the violent blow, but Sam stopped, then knocked him off his legs.
Round 4. A rally was again commenced by Medley and Sam knocked him down with a body blow.
Round 5. Sam blocked a good right-handed hit and flew right and left at his opponent’s head and body, both blows hit home.
Round 6. Medley took a hit to his face which was heard around the ring, his eye by this time injured with blood flowing. The fight was briefly stopped.
Round 7. Sam had the upper hand at the beginning of this round and hit Medley with all his force.
Round 8. In this round Medley took over and knocked Sam to the ground and laughed at him, but his features were badly damaged from the previous battering he had taken.
Round 9. Sam regained his composure and began his retaliation and ultimately knocked Medley to the ground again.
Round 10. Medley was knocked down.
Round 11. This was a round which consisted of real and disguised fighting, and it was the longest of the battle. Medley grew weak at least, after having made a hit on Sam’s nose, and he was knocked down.
Round 12. It would be difficult at this time to represent the situation of Medley; his face was shockingly disfigured, the torrents of blood which flew from Sam’s hits in the last round created a shocking scene. Medley, fell from weakness.
The battle continued in similar vein with a very much injured Medley, until they reached the 43rd round when Medley’s brother stepped and declared that Ben was well and truly beaten.
After this contest, Sam announced his retirement from the sport, but made a ‘come back’ in 1814, in which he was easily defeated.
Ben Medley was chosen as one of the pugilistic pages at the coronation of George IV.
Boxing match for 200 guineas between Dutch Sam and Medley fought 31 May 1810, on Moulsey Hurst near Hampton. British Museum
We have previously written about fortune telling, a matter which was very popular during the Georgian era, so today we have a couple of short stories to share with you on the subject.
In April 1801 John Rowe was indicted for defrauding Sarah Hall of the sum of two shillings and six pence. According to the newspapers he was ‘one of those modern Sidrophels’.
“Who deal in destiny’s dark counsels,
And sage opinions of the moon sells,
To whom all people far and near
On deep importances repair”
He had announced his celebrity in resolving all questions appertaining to future events in a hand-bill, addressed to the ladies only, in which he acquainted them he attended at his Evening Planetarium, No. 5 Exeter Street, Strand, where he would answer any lawful questions he was asked.
Sarah Hall, an elderly woman, about fifty (don’t judge, it was regarded as old at that time), had heard of his great fame and was determined to visit him and that through the medium of the stars she would find out about her destiny. She had never been married and wanted to know whether she would remain celibate for the rest of her life.
She parted with the usual ‘symbol’ which in this case was half a crown (about £5 in today’s money), he proceeded to assess her horoscope, he traced the planets through their several houses and discovered by mystic lore who was lord of the ascendant at her birth. He systematically arranged their several aspects and exclaimed, with the inspiration of the Cumaean Sybil, that the fates were favourable to her wishes.
That Mars and Venus were in conjunction; Virgo and Gemini, Sextile and Mercury, lord of the seventh house, the very hour she was born and consequently that these appearances denoted marriage.
Having lived a single life until now, he said was due to negative influence of Saturn, but that this was no longer to be case. He told her to go home and assure herself of approaching happiness. He informed her that she would first be courted by a dark man with broad shoulders, dark hair, large dark eyes, bushy eyebrows and thin legs – but he was not the man for her.
The husband for whom the stars intended was a fair man, with light hair and blue eyes and that he was very wealthy and that she would meet him in the next few days. He also advised her to invest in the lottery as she might gain a considerable sum of money. The old lady was ecstatic about this forthcoming good fortune. She left the venue and returned home and told all her friends about her approaching wedding and about the money.
She waited for the dark gentleman to appear – of course he didn’t, she waited longer for the fair gentleman – and as you guessed he failed to appear too. She invested in the lottery as she had been instructed to do. You’ve guessed, it she lost her money. She told a friend of her about what had happened, and he advised her to apply to the magistrate – she had, of course been conned.
John Rowe was arrested, his magical apparatus and books were seized, and he was sent to gaol. Once all the facts had been established Rowe said he was a poor man, a carpenter by trade and with his earnings he had managed to support a wife and large family, but such were the pressures of the times, though he worked as hard as ever he did, he could not support them. His wife had been brought to bed and he was unable to provide her with the comforts her situation required, he had seen others doing similar deceptions and earning money from this sort of public credulity that he decided he could do the same thing.
Needless to say he was found guilty and sentenced to one month imprisonment.
Our second story concerns a Mary Deverell, a fortune teller who was brought before the sitting magistrate at Marlborough Street, charged with defrauding Susannah Foresight, under the pretence of telling her fortune.
Susannah, servant to Mrs Westall in New Road, Marylebone told the magistrate that she knew that women in London found wealth in strange ways and that she wanted to know more about it from the prisoner, Mary Deverell.
Susannah parted with all her money – ten shillings, with a view to finding some good fortune that she was told she would have. Needless to say she was also deceived. Instead of finding the palace she was promised, instead she found the workhouse.
As with John Rowe, Mary Deverell was sent to gaol. I really want to believe the name of this gullible woman, but no luck as yet with tracing such a person!
Hampshire Chronicle 13 April 1801
Morning Post 11 April 1801
Oxford University and City Herald 06 February 1808
March 1806 began well for the Duchess of Devonshire as she held a ball for the social elite. The whole suite of magnificent apartments were thrown open at ten in the evening and about eleven ‘the fashionables’ arrived, including The Prince of Wales, Duke of Sussex plus a whole host of lords, earls, counts and their respective spouses. There were supper tables consisting of every delicacy of the season and as you would expect, plenty of dancing and of course, with Georgiana’s love of gambling, there were card tables. It was said that Georgiana never appeared in better health, with the whole party dancing the night away, until five in the morning.
A week or so later, Georgiana was to hold a supper party and according to the ‘Fashionable Arrangements for the Week’, all was well, or so it would appear. It wasn’t until March 21st that the media first reported Georgiana as being dangerously ill. No further details of the cause were given, but it was reported a few days later that she was making a good recovery from her recent indisposition.
By March 28th however, her health was in serious decline, she was suffering from a fever and did not appear to be showing any signs of making a speedy recovery. So well thought of was Georgiana that there was a constant stream of well wishers arriving at her London home, Devonshire House, with none more anxious than the Countess of Uxbridge who was with her constantly as was Lady Melbourne, his Grace and all members of her family since the fever began. At 3.30am on the 30th March 1806, Georgiana’s life came to an end.
The cause of death was believed to be due to an abscess on her liver, but a post mortem was carried out to confirm this. Her body was opened up at seven in the morning in the presence of five physicians who had attended her whilst she was alive. A consultation was held afterwards, and the gentleman were much divided in their opinion on the cause of death, they felt it was either gallstones or an abscess on the liver, but it was ultimately agreed that the abscess was the cause.
It would appear that the whole of her social circle were shocked by her untimely death, aged only 48, and so upset were they by this news that many retired to their country home, it was not a time to be socialising, even the Prince of Wales left for Brighton. The Duke of Devonshire and family remained at Devonshire House until after the funeral, then left London to visit the Prince of Wales at Brighton.
The Morning Advertiser of 2nd April 1806 reported that Georgiana was to be buried at Chatsworth as it was a place she loved and was loved by all on the estate; however this was suddenly changed and she was buried at All Saints church, Derby.
Needless to say the newspapers all paid tribute to her; they loved Georgiana, despite some mockery of her involvement in politics and her some of her more unique tastes in fashion. The Bath Chronicle described her being:
A woman more exalted in every accomplishment of rapturous beauty, of elevated genius and of angelic temper, has not adorned the present age.
Georgiana’s funeral took place on April 9th. At five o’clock in the morning, the procession left Devonshire House in the following order –
Eight mutes on horseback, an attendant on horseback carrying the coronet and cushion, the hearse drawn by eight horses, the deceased’s private coach and two morning coaches, containing the principal family and Mr Wilson of The Strand, the undertaker.
The coffin, which is very elegant, is six feet two inches in length by twenty three inches. It is covered with a very rich crimson velvet and ornamented with uncommonly rich and beautiful chased ornaments. At the head are placed a variety of appropriate devices, and at the foot a highly chased weeping figure, admirably executed. The inscription plate contains the arms of the two great families, namely Cavendish and Spencer Underneath is written – The Most Noble Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, died the 30th March 1806, in the 48th year of her age. The coffin had eight gilt handles on each appeared her initials G.D.
ON THE DEATH OF THE DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE
Faint are the numbers, and unskill’d the Muse,
Who vainly shall attempt to paint her worth;
Afflictions tear, what heart, or eye refuse,
To her whose virtues grac’d her rank and birth.
Well might our Gracious Prince then sorrowing say,
We are thrilled as always, to welcome back Regan Walker, whose latest book in the Agents of the Crown series, ‘Rogue’s Holiday‘ has just been released and for which there are further details of how to obtain a copy at the end of her article. Today Regan is going to tell us more about Prinny’s Brighton, so, over to Regan:
When George, the Prince of Wales, reigned as the Prince Regent, beginning in 1811, and even after he became king in 1820, Brighton on the south coast of England was his favourite destination. It was fifty-four miles from London as the road winds, close enough to travel to in one day. The seaside resort provided all the pleasures of the Beau Monde without the discomforts of town. William Wilberforce, after a visit in 1815, dubbed the town “Piccadilly by the sea-side.”
Brighton loved the Prince Regent. Whatever criticisms he may have faced for his lifestyle, the Brighton newspapers celebrated his frequent visits and looked forward to welcoming all those who flocked the seaside town to enjoy what became “the Brighton Season”.
In 1822, the Brighton Gazette reported:
Gay and fashionable equipages are daily pouring into the town, and every thing gives promise of a brilliant and prosperous winter season. Many large houses on the Cliffs, Marine Parade, etc. have been engaged for Noblemen within the last fortnight… Who indeed would not fly the dirt and smoke of the crowded metropolis for a place like Brighton, where he may at once enjoy the pure and healthful breezes of the ocean, and a salubrious climate, without being subject to the dreary ennui of a country life?
For the Prince, Brighton became a fantasy escape from his narrow-minded and staid parents who failed to appreciate their son and heir. More than anyone, they were responsible for making Prinny the Grand Corinthian. Thus, it should have come as no surprise that the Prince would build a palace that would be a mogul’s dream where he could entertain his eclectic bevy of friends in grand fashion, including of course, the characters in my story.
The Marine Parade that ran along the shore and the Old Steyne that fronted the Pavilion were wide paths available for a morning or afternoon stroll. But one could certainly keep busy in Brighton. Visitors were offered an endless array of balls, concerts, soirees, private dinners, theatrical events, interspersed with riding, card games and other entertainments.
The Pavilion’s designer was architect John Nash who built it in three stages until it became the palace we think of today with its many domes and minarets. There, Prinny reigned as the beneficent patron of the foremost artists and literary men of his age and entertained his diverse friends in the rooms decorated in chinoiserie style to look like the home of a Chinese emperor who lived in a kingdom of flowers and perpetual spring. Rooms, such as the Music Room, pictured above, which Prinny kept overheated with candles and gas lamps.
As the town grew, entertainments were added to rival those of London. Hotels, shops, theatres and a racecourse stood at ready. Castle Square next to the Pavilion and half of North Street were the Bond Street of Brighton where one could buy cloth, shoes, cigars, porcelain and many other things. North Street was home to sixty shops by 1820, the year of my story. By 1808, Brighton also had a department store, Hanningtons, on North Street. Added to that, there were dozens of taverns and hotels, that featured balls and card games. All of the taverns, shops, shopkeepers and hotels mentioned in Rogue’s Holiday existed at the time.
The Castle Inn adjacent to the Pavilion had an assembly room and a smaller room used as a tearoom. The Old Ship Inn, the oldest hotel in Brighton, also had a tearoom. And there was yet another tearoom erected in 1805 in the gardens of a public house a mile away in Preston.
Among Brighton’s many attractions was sea bathing, where one could be towed to the water in small boxes on wheels to swim, as my heroine does, in the altogether or, if you prefer, in one of the gowns provided. The men’s and women’s bathing areas were separated, of course. Dippers (for women) and bathers (for men) were employed to make sure the person’s head was dipped into the water. Dipping took place year round since the cold water was considered to be good for the health.
A wholesale fish market was held on the beach, supplied by 100 ships that sailed in the afternoon or evening and returned in the morning. Mackerel were in season from May to the end of July. Also, Sole, Brill, Turbot (common at all seasons) and Dories were in plentiful supply. As you will see in Rogue’s Holiday, while the fish market proceeded on shore, the boats hoisted their nets to dry.
Among Brighton’s most famous residents was Prinny’s Catholic wife, Maria Fitzherbert, a virtuous woman who took her marriage to Prince George seriously even if he did not. All of Brighton respected her. The king must have had her on his mind when he died in 1830, for he was buried wearing a locket containing her miniature.
A curious feature in the category of equipages was the fly carriage, a small covered carriage you might see around Brighton drawn by a man and an assistant. They were very convenient for navigating the narrow streets and had room for two. The ones that Prinny and his noble friends used for midnight excursions were dubbed “fly-by-nights”.
Prinny’s yacht, the HMY the Royal George, was commissioned in 1817 and could often be seen anchored off shore of Brighton when he was in residence. In my story, set in 1820, the king invites my characters to dine onboard. Among Prinny’s friends invited that evening were Lord Alvanley, Sir Bellingham and his wife Harriot, Sir John Lade and his wife Letty, and Elizabeth Conyngham, Marchioness Conyngham, the king’s mistress.
I have described the Royal George, in detail as my research provided. The great cabin really did have windows of plate glass, a skylight, gilded dark wood panelling, a Brussels carpet beneath a mahogany table and a pianoforte, among other accoutrements. As my hero, Sir Robert, said, the king liked to travel in style.
Even a spy needs a holiday…
Robert Powell’s work as a spy saves the Cabinet ministers from a gruesome death and wins him accolades from George IV. As a reward, the king grants him a baronetcy and a much-deserved holiday at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton where he thinks to indulge in brandy, cards, good horseflesh and women.
But when Muriel, Dowager Countess of Claremont, learns of Sir Robert’s intended destination, she begs a favour…to watch over an “errant child” who is the grandniece of her good friend living in the resort town. Little does Robbie know that Miss Chastity Reynolds is no child but a beautiful hoyden who is seemingly immune to his charms.
Chastity lives in the shadow of her mother and sisters, dark-haired beauties men admire. Her first Season was a failure but, as she will soon come into a family legacy, she has no need to wed. When she first encounters Sir Robert, she dubs him The Rogue, certain he indulges in a profligate lifestyle she wants no part in.
In Brighton, Robbie discovers he is being followed by friends of the conspirators who had planned to murder the Cabinet. Worse, they know the location of Chastity’s residence.
Below are all the ways you can find out about and purchase Regan’s books, so feel free to click on the highlighted links.
We are delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, the lovely Kimberley Reeman. Kimberley Jordan Reeman was born in Toronto, graduating from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts (hons.) in English literature in 1976. She worked in Canadian radio and publishing before marrying the author Douglas Reeman in 1985, and until his death in 2017 was his editor, muse and literary partner, while pursuing her own career as a novelist.
She has always been a spinner of tales, telling stories before she could write, reading voraciously from childhood, and citing Shakespeare, Hardy, Winston Graham and the novels of Douglas Reeman and Alexander Kent as her most profound influences.
From Graham, who became a friend, she learned to write conversation, to eavesdrop as the characters spoke; from the seafaring novels of Reeman and Kent, which she read years before meeting the author, she came to understand the experience of men at war.
In this post Kimberley is going to write about ‘The Secret Woman’, so we’ll hand over to her:
He behaved like a brute… the most hardened creature I have ever met.
(Florence Nightingale to her sister Frances Parthenope Verney, 1855)
They met on a blazing October day at Scutari, now Üsküdar in Istanbul, at the height of the Crimean War: the ‘lady with the lamp’, grave, chaste, demure, and hailed as a pioneer of nursing and a heroine in Victorian England, and the short, slight, irascible, ageing lieutenant-colonel who had been appointed deputy inspector-general of hospitals for the British army in May of 1851, Dr. James Miranda Barry.
The antagonism was mutual. Florence has been described as intense and driven, and accused of racism for her icy attitude toward Mary Seacole, the mixed-race Jamaican ‘doctress’ who had applied to join Nightingale’s nurses and served, when rebuffed, as a sutler privately providing care, nourishment and accommodation to wounded soldiers on the supply road from Balaclava. But this was a clash of titans, neither of whom ever yielded to other authority, civil or military. Barry, so obsessed with hygiene that he would mutter, “Dirty beasts! Dirty beasts! Go and clean yourselves!” when inspecting the troops, was not impressed by Nightingale’s standards at Scutari and lectured her in the presence of her subordinates. Nightingale’s response was glacial, perhaps because she had been publicly castigated, and nobody who had ever been on the receiving end of one of Barry’s tirades ever forgot it; or perhaps it was a visceral reaction to what she saw or sensed, a sexual challenge that offended the devoutly Christian, Nightingale, who had no great affection for her own sex and preferred the company of powerful men.
This uniformed martinet in the scarlet coat with the heavy epaulettes and insignia of rank, and the sword and the spurs and the tightly trousered, booted legs, lecturing her from the saddle, was a woman.
She had been born Margaret Anne Bulkley in Cork, Ireland, about 1789, the daughter of Jeremiah Bulkley, grocer and inspector at the Weigh House, a position of responsibility not often granted to a Roman Catholic, and his wife Mary Anne, née Barry, sister of the renowned Irish painter James Barry, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
She was a pretty, spirited child with red-gold hair and blue-green eyes, and the characteristic Barry hooked nose and small, sweet mouth. Fastidious in everything from the choice of her clothing to the penning of letters on Mary Anne’s behalf to James Barry, asking for financial assistance as the family fortunes declined and Jeremiah was dismissed from the Weigh House in a British backlash against Irish Catholics after the French invasion of 1798, Margaret Anne Bulkley was indubitably female, as was confirmed after her death when those preparing her body for the undertakers found her to be “a most complete and perfect woman”.
There were also indications on that body that ‘James Barry’ had borne a child, and it is probable that Margaret was raped at about the age of thirteen, the most likely suspect being her dissolute uncle Redmond Barry, a sometime sailor who washed ashore occasionally, in and out of debt, debtors’ prisons, and the Royal Navy. What is known is that Mary Anne Bulkley and her daughter Margaret disappeared into the country for some time and returned with a baby girl, who was named Juliana for Mary Anne’s mother and who was, allegedly, Margaret’s sister. And while this child was never acknowledged, nor, eventually, was any other vestige of her former life, ‘James Barry’ remained notably fond of, and affectionate toward, children and small animals, and was instinctively trusted by them, to the extent that in the Cape Colony where Barry subsequently spent many years, local children would fearlessly call him the kapok nooientjie, the “little kapok maiden”, not only for his delicate physical appearance but for the stuffing with which he padded his trousers and coats to simulate anatomical correctness. Barry would later use custom-made prosthetics, presumably supplied by London theatrical costumiers, to achieve the same effect.
The anticipated financial aid never materialised from the painter James Barry, and mother and daughter made yet another pilgrimage from Cork to London to claim a share of his estate when Barry died intestate in February of 1806.
Little money was forthcoming, but Barry’s friends and patrons, among them doctors, lawyers, the Earl of Buchan and the Venezuelan patriot and diplomat Sebastian Francisco de Miranda y Rodríguez de Espinosa, took a paternal interest in Margaret, mentored her, encouraged her passion for learning, and almost certainly suggested the risky charade that would determine the course of her life. It had been done before by Margaret, Countess of Mount Cashell, near Cork, a pupil of the radical feminist Mary Wollstonecraft who had left her titled husband, taken a lover more kindly disposed toward the emancipation of women, and as a six-foot, muscular female in male clothing had attended medical lectures in the university town of Jena in Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. A Cork girl herself, and one who had once written to her brother, “Were I not a girl, I would be a soldier,” Margaret Bulkley must have been intrigued by the story.
General Miranda had a vision of a republican Venezuela where men and women would be equal. Margaret could accompany him there and practise medicine openly.
On Thursday, November 30th, 1809, Margaret Anne Bulkley disappeared, and a young ‘nephew’ and namesake of the painter James Barry took ship for Edinburgh, accompanied by his ‘aunt’ Mary Anne. He applied to and was accepted by the university, and joined hundreds of other male medical students. Three years later, after countless lectures and dissections and courses in anatomy, pathology, military surgery, medical botany and, particularly, midwifery, and oral and written examinations in Latin, ‘James Barry’ was awarded his degree.
For Margaret Anne Bulkley, now a qualified physician, the dream of re-assuming her female identity and joining General Miranda in Venezuela was abruptly and hideously shattered.
As described by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield in their compassionate and evocative biography, Dr. James Barry, A Woman Ahead of Her Time, Miranda
had returned with [Simon] Bolívar to Caracas, where he received a mixed reception… his idealism was at odds with Bolívar’s authoritarianism. Following a year of violent turmoil and political intrigue, he was betrayed by Bolívar. Accused of treason, Miranda was handed over to the Spanish royalists and taken back to Spain, where he was thrown into a dungeon in the Arsenal de la Carraca in Cadíz. He never saw freedom again.
There would be no Venezuelan dawn for Margaret Bulkley.
For Dr. James Miranda Barry there were London dawns at St. Thomas’s hospital, following the great surgeons on their rounds, observing the distressing lack of hygiene on the wards, and learning, always learning. But money remained a problem, and in June of 1813 Barry presented herself to the army medical board and applied to be accepted as a surgeon, giving her age as eighteen (she was about twenty-four). Considered a prodigy but certainly not a woman, she passed the examinations required by the Royal College of Surgeons and was commissioned as assistant staff surgeon in the British army on December 7th, 1815. An attractive, androgynous and unusually youthful figure in plain single-breasted scarlet coatee without epaulettes, as befitted an assistant surgeon, she sailed for the Cape Colony in 1816; and, having obsessively guarded her privacy throughout the long sea passage from England, set her booted feet with their two-inch heels on the soil of Africa in October.
The years in Cape Town would be the most fulfilling and challenging of her life. With the widowed governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, a former army officer and younger brother of the sixth Duke of Beaufort, she began a passionate and enduring relationship, possibly platonic, very probably sexual, although it is not known, nor is it appropriate that we should know as we have no proprietary right to Barry and her private life, how that sexuality was expressed. Certainly it was thought to be true when a placard was posted in Cape Town on Tuesday the first of June, 1824, claiming that a witness had seen “Lord Charles buggering Dr. Barry.”
Barry, walking along Heerengracht that morning, heard the story and behaved like any sensitive human being whose life had been rocked to its foundations. She sought refuge in a nearby shop and broke down in tears: of rage that something so precious had been publicly and libellously defiled; of fear that she and Charles would be arrested on charges of sodomy, a crime in the armed forces that was punishable by death; of exoneration, if investigated, by the disclosure of her sex, by which she would lose everything of significance, including her identity, her commission and her vocation.
There was a court of inquiry, but no conclusive evidence was produced, and the case was closed. The libellers were never identified, although Somerset and Barry, as well as citizens of Cape Town, offered substantial rewards. But the shadow and the shame never entirely dissipated, and Lord Charles Somerset was summoned to England in February of 1826, with his second wife and his family, to respond to criticisms of his administration.
Barry remained at the Cape, more argumentative, more confrontational and more intolerant than ever, vulnerable without her champion, Somerset, who had wielded his considerable influence to extricate her from every crisis into which her ferocious temper propelled her: challenging authority and incompetence and imagining insults and conspiracies until the Office of Colonial Medical Inspector was abolished. Shattered, she resigned her appointments and practised medicine privately, caring with a brisk compassion for the Cape garrison of 2,400 officers and men and their wives and children.
On Tuesday, June 25th, 1826, Barry was summoned in the middle of the night to attend Wilhelmina Munnik, in protracted labour and dangerously exhausted: she was unable to give birth naturally, and the only alternative, to save the living foetus, was to perform caesarean surgery, which almost invariably resulted in the death of the mother and, all too frequently, the child. Only in three recorded cases of caesarean section had both survived.
Barry, with Wilhelmina’s consent, and meticulous attention to hygiene and technique, that night performed the first caesarean surgery in the Cape Colony. Wilhelmina and her son survived, and the baby was christened James Barry Munnik, a name that would be handed down through generations of the Munnik family, in tribute to the surgeon who had delivered him.
In August of 1829 Barry, now a full staff surgeon in Mauritius, received devastating news. Charles Somerset, some twenty-two years Barry’s senior and suffering from the complications of heart failure, was reported to be dying. Barry, characteristically, committed one of the flagrant breaches of discipline for which she had become notorious and abandoned her post without permission.
She reached England on Saturday, December 12. Somerset was still alive, although very frail, and Barry, who had saved his life years before, nursing him with tenderness and dedication through a near-fatal attack of typhus with dysentery, undertook his care. Somerset seemed to rally, and then died on Sunday, February 20, 1831, with his wife, Lady Mary, his daughter Georgiana, and his beloved Barry at his bedside.
For Barry without her patron, “my more than father⸺ my almost only friend”, the aftermath and the years that followed were a blurred succession of postings, to St. Helena, Jamaica, Trinidad where she fell ill with malaria and was discovered sweating and delirious in bed by two medical subordinates who examined her and saw indisputable evidence of her sex, and maintained their silence; to Malta and a cholera epidemic; to Corfu; to the hostile meeting with Florence Nightingale at Scutari; and eventually to Montreal, where one officer was overheard to remark, seeing her for the first time, “You’d have to be mad to take that for a man.”
As intransigent as ever and suffering frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia, she reached the pinnacle of her career and fell abruptly and catastrophically from it while pursuing personal vendettas.
She had always been defensive and impulsive: at the Cape in her youth she had struck an officer across the face with her riding crop when he had said, “By the Powers! You look more like a woman than a man!” And she had fired a pistol with deadly intent in a duel when another officer had challenged her after some imagined slight and been shot herself, a wound she had dealt with in private. But this time Barry had gone too far, expressing her volatile opinions to the Dean of Montreal, the bishop and the archdeacon, as well as other members of the clergy, and “assailing them with violence and insulting conduct”.
Tolerance of her increasing eccentricity had reached its limit. She was recalled to London and faced a medical board comprised not of the director-general and senior officers to which her rank, the equivalent of a brigadier-general, entitled her, but three
junior surgeons who were perfect strangers to me and to my peculiar habits…. they not unnaturally and somewhat hastily jumped to the conclusion that I was in a bad state of health.
The board’s decision was also a foregone conclusion. James Miranda Barry, now officially sixty years of age and in reality several years older, was relieved of her North American command and reduced to half-pay.
There was no appeal.
She drifted, lost, no longer defined by the identity she had created and the persona she had inhabited for so many decades. She travelled to the Caribbean with her Jamaican servant John, a former soldier in the West Indian Regiment, chasing the ghosts of the past, considering adopting a child, visiting old friends, too many of whom were dying or infirm; becoming increasingly unwell herself; returning to London and more shadows and memories of the past.
In the early hours of Tuesday, July 25, 1865, in sweltering heat, Margaret Anne Bulkley, who for fifty-six years had lived as James Miranda Barry, died of cholera. Years before, in Trinidad, she had told a female friend⸺ and Barry had many female friends and was sparkling and gregarious in their company⸺ that in the event of her death her body was to be wrapped in the sheets in which she had died and buried unwashed and unexamined. That wish was either not known or ignored by those who came to lay out the corpse of Dr. James Barry before the arrival of the undertakers. The revelation of her sex to the press created an international sensation. Dickens gave the story a fictional spin in 1867. In 1919 the renowned actress Sybil Thorndike played Barry on the stage. There have been novels, biographies, broadcasts: a film is said to be in production.
Barry eludes definition, but nothing diminishes her uniqueness: as the first woman ever to hold the rank of general in the British army, as a pioneering surgeon, as a fearless human being sacrificing comfort, peace, stability, and emotional and physical intimacy in the pursuit of her destiny.
She had chosen her life. But the battered trunk which had accompanied her for so many years, when opened after her death by the solicitors in charge of settling her affairs, may speak of yearning and regret. When lifted, the lid’s leather lining was found to be covered with a collage of women’s fashion plates. Hats, gowns, hairstyles… a haunting affirmation of an irretrievable past, and an acknowledgement of the woman, long forgotten, who had once lived it.
Find out more below about Kimberley’s book Coronach, which is available to order from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (USA) and Amazon (Canada)
It is not necessary to look further than the history of Canada, and Toronto itself, for the genesis of Coronach: a vast country explored, settled, and governed by Scots, and a city, incorporated in 1834, whose first mayor was the gadfly journalist and political agitator William Lyon Mackenzie, a rebel in his own right, and the grandson of Highlanders who had fought in the `45. The Vietnam War, also, burned into the Canadian consciousness the issues of collateral damage and the morality of war; and from this emerged one character, a soldier with a conscience. In unravelling the complexity of his story, Coronach was born.
We have no idea quite why, but we seem to have been drawn to the East India Company (EIC) or The Honourable East India Company as it was also known, in so much of our research.
Whilst researching Grace Dalrymple Elliott and her family we discovered that her cousin John Mordaunt, the illegitimate sons born to Grace’s aunt Robinaiana Brown when she was the mistress of Charles Mordaunt, 4th Earl of Peterborough went out to India to make his fortune, as was popular for well to do young men of the time.
John Mordaunt (Jack to his friends) became a favourite at the court of the Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Oudh in Lucknow, where the two men shared a love for the sport of cock-fighting, a brutal and barbaric activity. John had several gamecocks imported from England for this purpose.
Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match shows a scene from the Nawab’s court with the two men engaged in this activity. Painted by Johan Zoffany c.1784-86 during his time in India, it was commissioned by Warren Hastings shortly before he resigned as the Governor-General of India. Hastings is not present in the picture, but he was in attendance at John Mordaunt’s cockfight on the 5th April 1784, on which this painting is probably based. Jack Mordaunt was an easy-going and charming fellow, quite the male counterpart to his cousin Grace. He was in charge of the Nawab’s bodyguards and at the head of all the amusements of the court.
Now, somewhat surprisingly for us, two of Grace’s female cousins also travelled out to India for what appears to have been a ‘husband hunting trip’ – cousins Janet (known as Jessy) and Susannah Brown.
It was a tried and tested method of securing a wealthy spouse. Eligible young girls were encouraged to travel to India by the directors of the EIC who were aghast at their men taking local girls as their wives and adopting Indian custom and practices, in effect ‘going native’ even though the practice did ensure a certain level of inﬂuence for the British ofﬁcials with the rulers of the territories.
If enough British girls could be sent out there, then it was hoped that the company men would settle with them instead. The two Brown sisters had enough male relatives already in India to look after them, and they could expect their Mordaunt and Dalrymple cousins to introduce them to their fellow ofﬁcers and to the best society that India had to offer.
They lived in Calcutta with Colonel John Mordaunt at his house on the esplanade in the Chowringhee area, formerly a tiger-infested jungle but, since the construction of Fort William thirty years earlier, abounding with magniﬁcent houses built by the British residents. Their scheme worked.
In May 1788 in the church at Fort William, Calcutta, Janet Lawrence Brown married John Kinloch. The marriage, however, was, as was often the case, short-lived. John Kinloch was in bad health and, hoping that a change of air would cure him, he journeyed to Serampore on the banks of the Hoogli River, unfortunately, this trip did not prevent his death which occurred less than four months after his marriage.
Six months later, at the same church in which her now widowed sister had married, on 3 March 1789 Susannah Robiniana Brown married Major Samuel Farmer, an officer in the Bengal army. Samuel Farmer was considered one of the three best officers in the company’s service and he moved in the same social circles as her cousins Colonel John and Captain Henry Mordaunt.
All was not lost for Jessy though, as there were plenty of well-to-do men in India. She remained a widow for over four years before accepting the proposal of John Bebb Esquire, a wealthy EIC director. Their marriage settlement was drawn up on 12 January 1793 and John Bebb promised to pay 100,000 Indian rupees or £10,000 sterling into a trust to be administered by several trustees including the Honourable Charles Stuart of Calcutta, a Member of the Supreme Council of the EIC on their Bengal establishment, and Janet’s brother-in-law Samuel Farmer. This trust would be for his wife’s beneﬁt in the event of her becoming a widow.
Ultimately the couple returned to England where, anticipating his permanent return home, John Bebb had purchased the picturesque estate of Donnington Grove in Berkshire in 1795, the former home of the Brummell family and where the infamous Beau Brummell grew up.
Once again, whilst researching our Georgian Heroine we found ourselves delving back into EIC on discovering the love our heroine, Charlotte’s life, none other than Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), who held the powerful post of British Resident to the Mughal court at Delhi.
Charlotte met him whilst they were both teenagers, but rather than staying in England to marry her, he sailed for India, leaving a desolate Charlotte, whose life was to take a very different path, but despite this she never forgot the first love of her life and wrote to him in 1821, recounting part of her life story, probably wishing her life had turned out differently. Ochterlony, by this time had ‘gone native’ and had 13 concubines, who he paraded through the streets each evening on elephants – we do wonder whether Charlotte ever knew of this. He clearly never forgot the first love of his life and named one of his children, Charlotte – was this done deliberately? We would like to believe so.
Whilst researching Dido Elizabeth Belle, who we have recently been writing about, yet again our research has led us to the EIC and her seemingly unknown uncle, brother to Sir John Lindsay, William Lindsay who, before he died leaving questionable provision for his native children.
Dido’s half brother also, John Lindsay also lived with a native woman, he, on the other hand provided extremely well for both mother and daughter when he died in 1821. Other relatives of Dido also found themselves in the EIC including her two sons, Charles and William Daviniere, Archibald Campbell, who was a company director at the end of the 1700’s.
If the East India Company and life in India during this period interests you then you can find a list of some of the others articles we’ve written which have mentions of it, below.
We are thrilled to welcome Australian author, Caroline Miley to our blog. Caroline is an art historian and author of literary historical novels set in the late Georgian era. Her debut novel, The Competition,(e-book version) won a Varuna Fellowship and a Fellowship of Australian Writers award, and was selected by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, for it 250th Anniversary celebrations.
Her latest novel, Artist on Campaign, (also e-book version) was inspired by wondering what would happen if a rake of an artist was obliged to put up with the British Army, and vice versa, so I’ll hand over to Caroline to tell you more.
“I had had no idea until this commission started how much time officers spent sitting down within doors with a pen in their hand”, the hero of Artist on Campaign says, as he consults the Town Major in Lisbon as to where he might find General Cradock.
I, too, had visualised officers as spending their life either on duty, largely on horseback, galloping from post to post or inspecting troops and ordering them about, or in their time off, gadding about town, drinking, carousing or making up to young ladies in drawing-rooms or at balls. But that was only half the story, especially when on campaign. Many officers did spend a great deal of time writing.
Being the army, as much time as possible was committed to writing, including daily and general orders and instructions. A staff officer such as the Adjutant-General or Quartermaster-General would in fact spend most of their life behind a desk, but even field officers had to write a great deal. Some even had their saddle bow built up into a tablet so they could write in the saddle. Much of the correspondence was on the dullest possible subjects, although giving insights into the exigencies of life:
“Gunner Farquhar has received no subsistence since the 31st March last year so that there is 15 months due to him viz., from 1st April 1809 to 30 June 1810… do me the favour to cause enquiry to be made of Mr Bell, Paymaster…”(1)
Many wrote up the day’s activities every night, and diaries, letters and memoirs as well as official documents. Some, such as Alexander Dickson, made extremely detailed accounts of architecture and the surroundings (2). Augustus Schaumann, a German Commissary, left one of the most vivid and evocative accounts in On the Road with Wellington (3), which includes something that many writers left out, i.e. their love affairs. And their leisure time is depicted in the amusing sketches and lampoons of army life by Thomas Rowlandson and his contemporaries.
Life on campaign hardly involved any fighting at all. During the Peninsular campaign of 1809, for instance, which lasted roughly from the 22nd of April when General Wellesley arrived in Lisbon to take command, up to the 3rd of September when the army arrived at Badajoz to recuperate, the British Army spent a half day re-capturing the city of Porto from the French.
The battle of Talavera de la Reina took three days, an unusually long and correspondingly bloody affair. So during a period of about four and a half months, only four days were spent in actual fighting. The remainder was spent on the march, with a few weeks in towns awaiting orders or assembling the troops.
An officer on campaign carried an enormous quantity of baggage and got an allowance for a bat horse to carry it and a servant from the ranks to look after him. During Sir John Moore’s campaign of 1808, he ordered that soldier-servants had to be returned to active duty, causing a great deal of grumbling from the officers. They certainly needed servants! They baggage included quantities of demountable furniture sturdily made of mahogany or oak with brass corners, sometimes sewn up in protective canvas. Then there were the contents of those chests – changes of clothes and their uniforms and hats, which occupied their own japanned tin boxes. And their writing-desks, shaving gear and other ‘necessaries’, cutlery, crockery, silver-mounted toilet sets, and edibles to eke out the army ration beef and biscuit. A servant’s work comprised that of valet, butler, cook, groom, laundryman and commissary – everything needed to keep their master clean, presentable, fed and comfortable.
Unlike soldiers, officers did not often bring their wives. Many, like Sir John Moore, considered that marriage was not suitable for a career military man. Those who were married, such as Wellington, mostly left their wives at home. If they did accompany them, they found the ladies a suitable residence among the English merchant community in safely-garrisoned Lisbon and settled them there for the duration, visiting when duty – or inclination – allowed.
In their spare time, officers sallied out into whatever town they were in. They attended balls, receptions and tertulias – dull affairs where the men and women stood about separately in corners and lemonade and cakes were served – given by the local people, drank a colossal quantity, and energetically prosecuted love affairs with local ladies.
Something that fascinated English officers in Portugal especially was the numerous convents full of nuns, who as staunch Protestants they pitied. Visiting nuns and making love to the younger and prettier through the grilles in the convents was a popular pastime, and some even persuaded the ladies to run away with them. This was so common that scholarly papers have been written about the numerous accounts of relations with nuns in British officers’ memoirs (4)
Drinking was endemic and a sign of manliness; a novice like Johnny Newcome had to learn to take his liquor. When the Duke of Wellington decided to commit himself to military life, he cut his consumption of alcohol in half – to only four bottles a day! Men drank port or brandy; claret was regarded as a drink for women. Drunkenness was only an issue if it prevented you from doing your work, for both officers or men, but extreme dissolution was frowned on as ungentlemanly.
On Sundays Divine Service would be held, probably in the open air, and the officers and men and their wives would assemble to hear it. At this period the service would be Matins, as the Sacrament was celebrated less frequently. Outdoor spare time pursuits were hunting in the neighbourhood, using dogs they had brought with them, and getting up horse races, as officers were proud of their horses and aimed for the fastest and showiest animals they could get, while betting was a favourite recreation. Being in a foreign country gave the more artistically inclined numerous opportunities to inspect the art, architecture and sights of the place, and collect trinkets and souvenirs. Some of the wealthier bought art works and antiquities and sent them home to add to their collections.
It may be surprising, in view of all the drinking, wenching and galloping about the country, but many officers were great readers. Popular books were Portuguese and Spanish grammars and dictionaries, books on the arts of war like A treatise containing the elementary part of fortification by John Muller (5) or The Officer’s Manual in the Field (6), and for light reading many chose Don Quixote (7), which they hoped would give them some insight into Spanish life and customs. Novels were not much favoured, but John Cleland’s Fanny Hill: or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (8), the prime pornographic work of the era, would have found a place in many officers’ libraries, together with a selection of erotic engravings to while away the more solitary hours, far from home.
The life of an officer on campaign was an odd miscellany. Courage and daring, sheer hard work, gentlemanly conduct and extreme physical hardship consorted with balls, dancing, gaiety, extravagant uniforms, love affairs, adventure and the tedium of life garrisoning a small town – and, in all this, a great deal of sitting at a desk with a pen in one’s hand.
Both of Caroline’s books are available via Amazon in either paperback or as e-books.
1) The Dickson Manuscripts Major-General Alexander Dickson (Royal Artillery) Ken Trotman Ltd, Cambridge, 1987, Vol 2 p. 225
3) On the Road with Wellington Augustus Schaumann Greenhill Books, London, 1999
4) Eg The Historical Journal Vol. 58 Issue 3 September 2015 pp. 733-756
“Habits of Seduction: Accounts of Portuguese Nuns in British Officers’ Peninsular War Memoirs Jeanne Hurl-Eamon Published online by Cambridge University Press;
The British Soldier in the Peninsular War: Encounters with Spain and Portugal 1808-1814 Gavin Daly Palgrave Macmillan London 2013 p. 165
5) A treatise containing the elementary part of fortification, regular and irregular John Muller J Nourse London 1756
6) The Officer’s Manual in the Field or a Series Of Military Plans Representing the Principal Operations of a Campaign T. Bensley London 1798
7) Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes 1615
8) Fanny Hill: or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure John Cleland London 1749
Soldiers of a campaign. Yale Center for British Art
Abraham Billson, a pig farmer, married Ann Tibbs at Broughton Astley on 24th November 1812. The couple went on to have four children, the eldest Jonathan Tibbs (taking his mother’s maiden name) was born nearly a year after their marriage, but who died aged just two; a second child named simply Jonathan this time in 1815 just down the road at Leire.
A third child, Richard Tibbs in 1820 and their youngest child named Abraham, after his father, who was baptised on 20th January 1825. A date which becomes significant once we tell you this story.
On the 28th March 1825, Abraham was charged with the brutal murder of his wife Ann, who, by all accounts he had been badly treating throughout their marriage due to his jealous nature.
As well as being a farmer, in the mid 1810’s Abraham added to his portfolio and bought a bakehouse which occupied a small piece of land at Sutton-in-the-Elms. He was the son of a farmer and of respectable circumstances, by the time of this event his father, a farmer had already died leaving him a reasonable inheritance.
Apparently, Abraham and Ann’s marriage was not all plain sailing and the couple had regular fall-outs and Ann had previously sworn before the magistrate about her husband’s behaviour, but it was on the 6th December 1824 that things were to finally come to a head. Abraham had apparently been drinking, and, afraid for her safety Ann left the house to seek the help of a neighbour. Abraham just swore at the neighbour and told him to go home.
The couple continued to argue all day until seven in the evening when another neighbour heard screams and cries of ‘murder’ coming from her neighbour’s house. She looked through the window and there she saw Anne laying on the floor covered in blood. Despite this, somehow Anne managed to get up, still grasping at her throat and dragged herself out of the house. She somehow managed to stagger along the street, where she was spotted and taken in by a neighbour who described her as having been ‘covered with gore from her bosom to her feet‘.
A stream of blood still rushing from her throat, which had been cut in such a dreadful manner that she now was no longer able to speak and within a few minutes she was dead. Her throat had been cut six or seven inches in length and two inches deep and the windpipe had been completely severed from the root of the tongue.
What added to the horrific event was that the couple’s eldest child was witness to the carnage. Abraham fled the house but was soon caught a few fields away from the house.
When he appeared in court he claimed mental derangement, but no proof of this was found, and the jury, after only a few minutes found him guilty. Sentence was passed. Abraham just shook his head and claimed that all the witnesses were lying.
Abraham was described as, a ferocious but ill-looking man and that Ann was an excellent woman, beautiful and of good character and that there were no grounds for suspecting any infidelity on her part i.e. no obvious justification for the murder.
After only a few days Abraham was hanged, confessing to his sins only minutes before meeting his maker.
The curious part to this story can be found in the parish register for 20th January 1825, so after the death of Anne. Someone took the couples youngest child, Abraham Tibbs Billson to be baptised. The child’s father is clearly named as Abraham, against the mother’s name it say Anne – murdered.
So, who presented this child for baptism? It can’t have been Abraham as he was in prison awaiting trial? Perhaps the child’s grandparents, we’ll never know. By June 1825, there were 3 orphans, the youngest a mere baby, what a sad start to life for them.
Morland, George. The Cottage Door. Royal Holloway, University of London
Unlike George IV, known for his excesses in all matters, his father was the complete opposite and abstained from any form of excess in the food department, so much so that even the newspapers felt obliged to write about it. George III was a creature of habit and had a routine that was only ever to be disturbed by special events or meetings that he had to attend.
His day typically began at 7am and after washing and being dressed his majesty would take a walk before breakfast. If they were are Windsor he would spend time at the stables checking over his horses, but when at Kew he would inspect his workmen and suggest ideas for improvement – clearly he did his best thinking first thing in the morning.
He used to take breakfast alone, but as he got older he would dine with the rest of the family. It was a frugal affair but with the added luxury of a cup of cocoa (my kind of breakfast!)
The Queen and Princesses would enter the breakfast parlour at nine o’clock precisely and about 10 o’clock they would retire to do their own thing. The King would take a ride or deal with paperwork in his study. The Queen and the princesses would take a ride in the royal carriages.
Dinner would be served at exactly 1 o’clock, early but Georgian standards, at which time he ate the plainest food – beef, mutton and very occasionally fish. As a special treat the King would eat boiled chicken, followed by a pudding.
His favourite drink was orange juice, but he also enjoyed a simple beverage called a ‘cup’, which was distilled from the herb, borage, which was then mixed with white wine – perhaps to make it more palatable. Borage was traditionally used to treat a whole host of conditions – the digestive system, asthma, the heart, urinary system – so basically a good all round tonic. It was also believed to have a calming effect for different types of mania – so possibly prescribed by the King’s doctors to keep him calm (today it’s often used to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes).
At four o’clock the Queen and Princesses dined separately, but even before the table was cleared the King would arrive for a chat about the favourite topic of the day taking tea or coffee with them.
This passed the time until about 6 o’clock when they separated and got ready for the evening parties. The day typically ended with either cards or music. Sometimes Princess Amelia would play the piano accompanied by her sister Princess Mary who apparently was an excellent singer.
Now we know that the Prince Regent, later George IV, had quite an appetite, but we we took a closer look at a book which gave a full breakdown of what everyone ate, from the Prince down to the lowliest of the royal kitchen maids. Overall, the sheer volume of food consumed almost defies belief.
George’s favourite breakfast consisted of two pigeons, three beefsteaks, three parts of a bottle of white wine, a glass of dry champagne, two glasses of port and a glass of brandy. It should come as no surprise then that George was indeed rather rotund in stature.
From household accounts though, it would appear that George himself made an occasional attempt at dieting, probably following advice from his doctors. Sober meals of plain boiled salmon and rice soup appeared on dinner menus, but one can only assume that these half-hearted attempts at dieting failed; especially considering that alongside these dishes were the somewhat less slimming sweetbreads and lobster-au-gratin.
We came across this amusing little anecdote about the extremely wealthy banker Thomas Coutts who was staying as a guest of the Prince of Wales in Brighton. The story goes that the morning after the night before, Thomas Coutts, nursing something of a hangover, decided to take a breath of air and was sitting outside the pavilion when an eccentric elderly lady approached him, assuming he was a beggar due to his attire (it had clearly been quite a party), she handed him a token for five shillings issued by Coutts bank to buy himself breakfast. She also said she would speak to her friends as she felt sure that between them they could raise enough money to buy him a dinner. Coutts thanks her profusely and said he would wait for her on the same bench that evening.
Sure enough, in the middle of the Prince’s banquet, Coutts slipped out unnoticed and returned to the same bench. The elderly lady and her friends soon appeared and she cried out, ‘there’s my distressed old friend for whom I ask your charity’ ‘That’, exclaimed one of the ladies, ‘ why that’s Mr …’ but before she could utter the great banker’s name, the Prince of Wales appeared from behind, and to the amazement of the benevolent lady, slapped the poor old man on the back and shouted loudly ‘ Tom Coutts, we have fined you a bottle for leaving your glass’, Thus leaving the elderly lady speechless and embarrassed. We never did find out whether he returned her initial five shillings or not – presumably not, that’s why he remained so wealthy!
All in all, George was destined for greatness, quite literally. And it was a fact that didn’t go unnoticed. His wife Caroline, on first meeting him, commented “he is very fat, and he is nothing like as handsome as his portrait”; perhaps why the famously unhappy marriage didn’t work.
The Duchess of Gloucester drew the comparison between George and “a great feather bed”.
It supposedly took three hours to lace him into his girdle and whale bone corset due to all the “bulging”. Once girdled his waist measured 55 inches, however, this feat of engineering was such that the tightness of the girdle almost caused George to faint during his own coronation and contemporaries are recorded as saying that his natural stomach hung between his knees. Someone else, rather unkindly likened him to a “great sausage stuffed into the covering”.
It was most definitely not a case of ‘like father, like son’!
The Ipswich Journal 11 October 1788
Morning Advertiser 19 February 1827
London Courier and Evening Gazette 1 November 1805
In the Georgian era strenuous exercise seems to have been something predominantly undertaken by the men, with the main form of exercise for women at that time being around deportment.
Exercise for men was highly recommended! The benefits, according to Professor Voelker, who established his first gymnasium in May 1825, were the obvious one of improved fitness, but also that weak and sick persons recovered their health and these exercises were, perhaps, the only effectual remedy that could have been found for their complaints. The judgement of physicians, in all places where these exercises were introduced, concurred in their favourable effect upon health; and parents and teachers uniformly testified, that by them their sons and pupils, like all other young men who cultivated them, had become more open and free, and more graceful in their deportment.
A subscription to Professor Voelker’s gymnasium was:
1 shilling for one month
2 shillings and 10 pence for 3 months
4 shillings for six months
6 guineas for twelve months.
For one to one tuition, the charge was a guinea per lesson.
Exercises included the following:
Running for a length of time, and with celerity. If the pupil follows the prescribed rules, and is not deterred by a little fatigue in the first six lessons, he will soon be able to run three English miles in from twenty to twenty-five minutes. Some of Mr. V.’s pupils have been able to run for two hours incessantly, and without being much out of breath.
Leaping in distance and height, with and without a pole. Every pupil will soon convince himself to what great the strength of the arms, the energy of the muscles of the feet, and good carriage of the body, are increased by leaping, particularly with a pole. Almost every one learns in a short time to leap his own height, and some of the pupils have been able to leap ten or eleven feet high. It is equally easy to learn to leap horizontally over a space three times the length of the body; even four times that length has been attained.
Climbing up masts, ropes, and ladders. Every pupil will soon learn to climb up a mast, rope, or ladder of twenty-four feet high; and after six months’ exercise, even of thirty-four or thirty-six feet. The use of this exercise is very great in strengthening the arms.
The exercises on the pole and parallel bars, serve in particular to expand the chest, to strengthen the muscles of the breast and small of the back, and to make the latter flexible. In a short time, every pupil will be enabled to perform exercises of which he could not have thought himself capable, provided that he does not deviate from the prescribed course and rules.
Vaulting, which is considered one of the principal exercises for the increase of strength, activity, good carriage of the body, and courage, which employs and improves the powers of almost all arts of the body, and has hitherto always been taught as an art by itself, is brought to some perfection in three months.
Fencing with the broad sword throwing lances, wrestling, and many other exercises.
In 1826 Professor Voelker opened a second gymnasium, so the first must have proved very popular.
Should you prefer to exercise alone then perhaps this machine would suit you needs better.
If you suffer from gout then here we have a satirical image for exercise to improve the condition.
The Every Day Book: Or, A Guide to the Year Volume 1 by William Hone
On the bitterly cold morning of Saturday 22nd March 1828, a twenty two year old woman sat in her prison cell at Lancaster Castle, awaiting the hangman’s noose, with just the long standing prison chaplain, Reverend Mr Joseph Rowley to comfort her before her final journey. Outside, waiting to witness this event was one of the largest crowds ever seen at the castle, with many travelling from far afield to witness this spectacle.
So how did this unfortunate young woman find herself in this most desperate of all situations? To find out we return to the beginning of this story, and to a John Scott, a Methodist preacher and shop keeper on Bridge Street, Preston and his wife Mary. The couple were well respected in their local community and further afield, as John Scott travelled to local fairs and markets selling his wares.
The couple had three daughters – Mary, Jane and Maria, who died in aged eight.
It was the very year Maria died that Jane, aged just 15, found herself unmarried and pregnant as the parish register of April 13th, 1821 confirms, Jane presented her first illegitimate child, a daughter, Anne, for baptism at the local parish church, not at the non-conformist church her parents attended.
Jane’s behaviour began to deteriorate, becoming rebellious, stealing from her parents and drinking. As to what became of Anne can only be speculated upon, but in all likelihood she died in infancy.
On 29th January 1824, aged 18, still unmarried and living with her parents, Jane presented a second child, for baptism, a son named John, but just three years later she would return to the church, this time to bury him.
Questions were raised at the time about the death of this child, but there was nothing tangible to suspect that anything untoward had happened to him. Perhaps her daughter Anne had in fact died, leading people to question Jane’s untoward lifestyle and her ability to care for children. She now frequented the local public house, ‘The Three Tars’ and continued stealing from her parents.
History has a habit of repeating itself, this time on 6th May 1825, Jane presented another illegitimate child, Harriet, for baptism. Then, only a few months later this child’s name too was to appear in the parish burial register.
Mortality rates in this parish were high and the parish registers showed many children dying young, well over fifty percent of the entries were for under-fives, so the deaths of Jane’s children, although tragic, might not have appeared that unusual.
June 1825, just one month later, there was another baptism, for a Robert Scott (illegitimate), this time the child belonged to Jane’s elder, unmarried sister, Mary.
Eighteen months later, on 13th January 1827, Mary married James Woods with her father, John, present as a witness, perhaps given the girls’ history he was glad to have one safely married off.
Flicking through the pages of the parish register two more Scott names jump out – burials which took place on the same day at Holy Trinity church, Preston on May 17th, 1827. The names were John and Mary Scott, the parents of these girls, so how did they die and why were they buried on the same day?
The answer to that lurked in the numerous newspaper reports of the time, which provided somewhat grisly accounts of their deaths and the coroner’s inquest which led to the subsequent trial of their daughter, Jane ‘a short, thick set woman’, at the Lancashire Assizes on August 29th, 1827.
On the 13th May 1827 John Scott was alive and in good health but died just one day later. The first witness called was Mrs Hannah Cragg, who was well acquainted with the couple and confirmed that Jane still lived with her parents. Mrs Cragg said that she had taken tea with them on Sunday and that Mrs Scott took her home a little after eight. The couple were both well and appeared on good terms with their daughter.
She stated that on the following evening, just after nine, Jane had run to her home, asking her to ‘come to our house, my mother is dead’. She appeared to be very alarmed. She told Jane to go straight home and that she would follow her.
On arriving, she saw Mrs Scott in the kitchen.
‘I had a conversation with her, but Jane was not present. I saw John Scott afterwards in the yard, vomiting. He went into the kitchen with me; Mrs Scott was still there. Jane came in and was going about the kitchen but could hear what was said.’
Mrs Scott said, ‘I am poisoned by the porridge’. So did Mr Scott. Jane said she would get rid of the porridge and that nothing more should be said of it.
Mrs Cragg said she saw it whilst she was holding Mrs Scott’s head. Mrs Scott told Jane not to dispose of it, but, Jane, who was close enough to hear completely ignored her and disposed of it. Dr Brown, the surgeon, was immediately sent for and instructed Jane to put the tin pan used to make the porridge to one side, but not to wash it out.
Jane and a Mrs Bilsborough went to fetch Jane’s half-brother, David Graham, as she feared her parents were dying. On arriving at the house, David found the doctor busily using a stomach pump on his mother and immediately accused Jane of causing them to be unwell.
David also told the court that Jane had been prone to violent convulsions over the past 3 years, which left her feeling weak for the next few hours, but he didn’t think it had impaired her mind. Mrs Bilsborough also confirmed that they had become more frequent, occasionally they were so bad that Jane would fall over in the street.
Just before midnight, Mrs Cragg went home, leaving Mr and Mrs Scott in bed being cared for by David who continued his vigil until, about three when his mother died.
His stepfather was still alive, but extremely unwell. David said that his stepfather told him that he feared he didn’t have much longer to live, he believed Jane had put poison in the porridge. At half- past five in the morning John Scott also died.
At the trial, Thomas Emmett, the druggist confirmed that Jane had visited his shop to purchase quarter of a pound of arsenic to use at her parents house in Bridge Street, as they had rats in the shop that she needed to kill and that two weeks later she returned for a further supply as she hadn’t managed to kill all of them. She returned for a third time, just days before the Scott’s died, saying that on this occasion she needed some to kill bugs around the bedstead.
The next witness was George Richardson, who said he had known Jane for a couple of months and that he saw her on the Sunday night whilst on his way home for tea and that Jane called him to come in. Jane then asked him, ‘When do you intend to marry me?.’ George said that he had already told her that he had no intention of marrying her yet as he wasn’t ready for marriage, he had no money or possessions.
Jane then told him that her father had signed over all his goods to her, but George didn’t believe her, so she produced a paper to prove it. George though, was semi-literate, but recalled that there was both writing and printing on the paper with her name at the bottom of it. He returned it to Jane saying he didn’t understand it, but that he had seen the words ‘tobacco and snuff’ on it. Jane said that snuff was there, along with a list of other goods meant for her. It later transpired that this was merely a snuff licence.
Next, was James Shorrock, who confirmed that he knew Jane and George Richardson. He said that he had seen Jane on the Sunday evening and Jane told him that her mother was very ill. He said that he saw her again on the Monday night about eight o’clock near a factory on Bridge Street when she said to him:
‘Here, Jem, I want thee’, I have just been watching George go into the dandy shop, Betty Watsons. George thinks to make a fool of me. I’ll make a bigger fool of him. He’ll be here after a while. My father and mother are very badly. I’ll go in to my supper, stop here till I come back’.
Jane disappeared and returned after about twenty minutes and said, ‘Oh Jem my father and mother are sure to die’. He replied:
‘we are all sure to die,’ Jane’s response was ‘we’re all sure to die, but not so soon as them. Next week I’m going to Manchester. I owe you two shillings. Come tomorrow night and I’ll pay thee’.
She went on to say, that on her return she would be married, but didn’t say to whom. She told him that her parents had signed over everything to her, they had three houses and when she returned she would sell one, which would set them up in some kind of business, and then they would go to Liverpool to her sister, Mary.
The surgeon, Dr Robert Brown was next to be called to give his testimony. He confirmed that when he arrived at the house about half past nine on the Monday evening, Mrs Scott was sitting in a chair in the kitchen, supported by Mrs Cragg and was vomiting violently. Dr Brown concluded that she had been poisoned. He called for a quantity of warm water and applied the stomach pump to Mrs Scott. He stated that he took care of the contents of her stomach and that Mr Scott’s condition was very similar to that of his wife. He then used the stomach pump on Mr Scott and the couple were then put to bed.
Mr Scott was sick and complained of pains in the bowels. Mrs Scott was still being violently sick and complained of great cramp in her legs. Dr Brown confirmed that he had some conversations with Jane and asked to see the pan in which the porridge was made and confirmed that Jane had told him when she fetched him that her parents had eaten porridge and that caused them to become ill.
He asked for the bowl to be left for examination, he then gave it to his apprentice for safe keeping.
After he had finished administering the pump he asked Jane for the pan used to make the porridge. When Jane produced it, he noted that it had already been washed. He said he was somewhat surprised that she had not understood his earlier instructions to leave it, but her response was that she needed to use the pan to boil the water for the pump. He said that the pan in question had not been used, as he had watched her boil the water in a different pan. She made no reply.
The following day Dr Brown carried out a post mortem on John Scott’s body. He believed from the original symptoms which were borne out in the post mortem, showed that the death was caused by arsenic. Vomiting, purging and cramp in the legs were indicative of having ingested arsenic.
The judge was concerned that no tests had been carried out by Dr Brown as they might have yielded a different or conclusive outcome. He addressed the jury advising them that without conclusive proof of poisoning it was difficult for them to find Jane guilty. The case so far had only related to Jane’s father and the judge advised the jury that they should make their decision about this one count, as it was the fault of the prosecutor that necessary evidence was not available.
The judge confirmed that the case against her of murdering her mother would need to wait to allow the prosecutors the necessary time to supply further evidence and that a verdict on the case against Jane of murdering her father should be given.
Mary, now Mrs James Woods (Jane’s sister) was called to give her statement. She confirmed that the household regularly used arsenic and that they mixed it with oatmeal and sugar to kill rats and to eliminate bugs around the bedstead. Mary said that her father sold bread in his shop and that rats were abundant in the property, so she often made up a solution for use as an when required and that a solution was always kept at hand, so it was more than likely that there would have been some in the house on the day her parents died.
She said that she had seen some arsenic a few days before she went home to Liverpool, and that it was in the drawer of a wash-stand, wrapped up in blue paper, without any string and warned her mother about leaving it about the house.
Mary also confirmed that Jane on occasion, had as many as fifty fits in one day and could be ill for a week afterwards. Mary was sure that her mind had become afflicted as a result of them. She told the court that Jane was on good terms with her parents, in fact, that they thought more of Jane than they did of her.
Mrs Alice Berchell was called next. She described herself as being Mrs Scott’s neighbour for over seven years and that they were very close. She corroborated Mary’s evidence. She too confirmed that Jane suffered from fits and that on occasion she had held Jane whilst she had been fitting. She said that Jane had been in the Dispensary at Preston and in Manchester Infirmary and that Mr and Mrs Scott were always kind and affectionate toward Jane, but were extremely worried that Jane would never be well enough to work for her living due to these fits.
The judge summed up the case for the jury who retired and returned with their verdict of:
Not Guilty due to weak intellect
Jane was however, returned to the prison to await trial for the murder of her mother. During this time, she ate very little and became weaker by the day.
On 20th March 1828, Jane was brought before the court again, some ten months after the death of her mother, having already been acquitted of the murder of her father and feeling convinced she would receive the same outcome. This time the jury took a mere five minutes to reach their conclusion and found her:
Jane sat quietly and calmly throughout the trial until the verdict of hanging was delivered, she sobbed and pleaded for mercy, asking to be transported instead. This request was declined, she was returned to her cell where she became agitated and unable to support herself so much so, that she had to be put to bed by the castle matron.
Finally, when time was running out for Jane she confessed her crimes. She stated that she had been well brought up, but from the age of fourteen she had led a dissolute life and had been seduced by a local man when she was just fifteen. She said her mother and father had always been kind to her and tried to keep her on the straight and narrow, but it was too late, ‘the devil got possession of her’. She confessed to robbing her parents of their property and money before they died.
The day before her parents were poisoned she said that she had met up with George Richardson, who she wished to marry. The couple went to ‘TheThree Tars’ public house for a few drinks then went their separate ways, meeting up later when Richardson tried to persuade her to get money from her father. She refused. Richardson goaded her until eventually she went home and made up a porridge containing arsenic which she gave to her parents. Shortly after this she felt guilty and ran to fetch help from a Mrs Cragg. She said that she was convinced that she could get away with it.
Two days before her death her sister, Mary visited her, accompanied by the prison matron. When asked by her sister whether there was anything she wished to confess. Jane, presumably realising that she now had nothing to lose, confessed to having killed Mary’s child as an act of revenge following an argument that they had had. Jane said that she had taken the baby out for a walk, it was then that she gave it laudanum. Jane said that everyone believed the child died from a fit, but that was not true.
Jane also confessed to having killed her son, as she had hoped the child’s father would marry her, but he wouldn’t, so she bought an ounce of white powder from the local doctor and when the child was sitting at the table, she gave him a kiss, mixed the arsenic with treacle, spread it on some bread and gave it to him. As she watched, the child’s eyes glaze over and he died shortly after. Jane confirmed that there had been questions raised about the child’s death, but these weren’t pursued.
At 10 o’clock on Saturday 22nd March 1828, Jane was helped to the chapel where the sacrament was administered by Rev. Mr Rowley. She was so weak that it took two people to support her, having refused food since sentence was passed and only drank one cup of tea.
A few minutes after midday, the door from which culprits passed on to the scaffold was opened, a deathly silence instantly fell amongst the crowd. Jane was so weak so weak that she had to be wheeled to the gallows using this chair.
The executioner then turned her to face toward the prison, put a cap over her head, hooked the halter around her neck and to the chain that was suspended to the fatal beam and retired. Many places report the hangman as Ned (Edward) Barlow, but this was not true as he died in 1812. The most likely candidate was Samuel Haywood, from Leicestershire, who was hired by several assizes as he was highly regarded for his skills.
The two women supported her for a moment, one quickly left in a state of distress, the other gave Jane a kiss, pulled the cap over Jane’s eyes and left. The rope swung round leaving Jane facing the crowd and she was immediately launched into eternity in less than two minutes. An hour later her body was removed to be dissected and anatomized.
The final twist to this tale was, that Jane’s body was sold for dissection and was purchased by a respected local doctor, Dr Thomas Monk, who ultimately found himself jailed for ten years hard labour. Sometime during this time Jane’s skeleton was sold by public auction. The purchaser in the 1870’s, was reputed to run an herbal shop on Walker Street, Preston, who decided to put Jane’s skeleton to profitable use, by displaying it to the public, charging one half penny to view it. So, there really was no rest for the wicked, but hopefully now the victims have been named and can rest in peace.
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 2 June 1823
The Examiner, Sunday, May 27, 1827
Evening Mail 10 September 1827
Evening Mail 24 March 1828
The Times 25th March 1828
Chester Courant 1 April 1828
Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser 1 April 1828
Lancaster Gazette 21 August 1875
Fleury. C. Time-honoured Lancaster
Hurren. Elizabeth T. Dissecting the Criminal Corpse: Staging Post-Execution Punishment in Early Modern England
We had thought about writing about his acting career, but we’re sure there are enough websites that provide all of that, so we decided to take a look at the man behind the theatre – if that’s at all possible. There has always been much speculation about his parents and so, as is our want, went on a hunting trip to see if we could unearth anything new.
His life appears to be a mixture of fact and fiction, some of which he possibly made up himself and the rest which has been ‘tweaked’ then repeated over the centuries with so much of it untrue, so let’s try to set at least some of the record straight if we can.
There is no disputing he was regarded as one of the best Shakespearean actors of his days. He was short in stature – true. His body being well-proportioned but a mere 5 feet 6 and three-quarter inches in height.
Born 4th November 1787, apparently, although there’s nothing to confirm that apart from books written some thirty years after his death, but let’s assume that is correct. His mother – now, the book about his life has this to say:
George Saville Carey was cursed in a worthless inhuman daughter. Ann Carey had, at the age of fifteen, ran away from home to join a company of strolling players; and when itinerant business was at a standstill, she figured in the streets of London as a hawker. It was in the latter capacity that her not unprepossessing face attracted the attention of Aaron Kean, an architect, who took her under his protection, but subsequently abandoned her. Shortly afterwards she became the mother of Edmund Kean.
We have managed to find her baptism, in 1763 at St Bride, Fleet Street which nicely confirms her as George Saville Carey’s daughter.
Mary Ann was one of several children that George Saville Carey (son of the poet Henry Carey*) and his wife Mary Ann née Phipp had, including two with the interesting names of Martha Udosia and Tempest Hazard.
Moving on to Edmund, there is no sign of a baptism for him, but it would appear that he was a child protégé and appeared on the stage when a mere 4 years old, with his mother, Mrs Carey, who we know was an actress and regularly appeared in the bill programmes for the London theatres. In his formative years, Edmund was simply known as Master Carey.
Who could his father have been? Well, we have seen references to it being an Edmund Kean, an architect’s clerk; an Aaron Kean, architect; Aaron Kean, a tailor; and Moses Kean, a ventriloquist who apparently took a keen interest in young Edmund’s career. Yet again, no categorical answer to that question.
We came across this newspaper article below advertising the first stage performance for a Mr Edmund Kean, who couldn’t be ‘our’ Edmund as he would only just have been born. Given the theatrical connections, this could either be his father or Edmund simply adopted the name in later life. There were three brothers, Aaron, Edmund and Moses who were all tailors by trade who lived at No. 9 St Martin’s Lane.
There were also rumours that Edmund’s mother was a Charlotte Tidswell (1766-1841), an actress, but that seems exceptionally unlikely, it’s possible that she may have been a relative, but more likely a family friend who was involved in Edmund’s theatrical education.
On 17th July 1808, Edmund married Mary Chambers at Stroud, Gloucestershire and a couple of years later they produced a son, Charles John, who, after attending Eton, went on to become an actor, although, not in the same league as his famous father.
After Edmund had a very public affair with Charlotte Cox, the wife of a London Alderman. He was then sued by Mr Cox for crim. con and damages of £800 were awarded against him.
Needless to say, this had an impact on his career and his loyal wife, Mary remained loyal no longer and in 1825, she left him and moved in to Keydell House, Catherington Hampshire, which her son bought from a Captain RD Pritchard, who lived there from about 1826 until 1842 and who, coincidentally we have written about before. Mary Kean died in 1849 and was buried in the parish church.
Edmund moved to Richmond where he spent his remaining years. By all accounts he outlived his fortune and died penniless, whether that’s true or not, like the rest of his life, we may never know.
His death came 15th May 1833 and given his theatrical status, a request was sent to the Dean of Westminster Abbey to have him buried there – this was declined, and he was buried instead at Richmond parish church following a post-mortem carried out a couple of days after his death. The newspapers sparing their readers none of the gory details of the postmortem, which is how we know his exact height.
It would appear though that in May 1833 there was a flu epidemic and presumably they were expecting that to be the cause of death, but having read the details of the autopsy, that seems unclear as to what the cause was. Interestingly his mother was living with him at that time as she too was unwell. Apparently, she took one last view of her son in his coffin and retired to her room where in just a few days, she too died. A request, by Charles, was made for her to be buried with her son, but there wasn’t space.
It seems that we will never know the full truth about Mary Anne Carey’s relationship with the tragedian, Edmund Kean, but at least we’ve been able to add a little more factual information to the myth.
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 20 May 1833
Worcester Journal 30 May 1833
John Hoppner, R.A. byMcKay, William Darling, 1844-1924; Roberts, W. (William), 1862-1940
Hawkins F.W. The Life of Edmund Kean in two Volumes 1886
Highfill, Kalman, Burnim, Langhans. A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers …
* George Saville Carey was born 3rd December 1738 at Clerkenwell, the son of the poet Henry Carey and his wife Sarah Harrison. Despite reports to the contrary, he was not born posthumously. Henry Carey was reputedly the illegitimate son of George Savile, Marquis of Halifax, but so far we have not been able to confirm this one.
Alexander Roslin (1718-1793) was a Swedish portrait painter who worked in Europe painting the aristocracy, and whose work we have only recently become familiar with. This post, we have to confess contains nothing new and is somewhat self indulgent because we’re ever so slightly in love with his paintings. However, we thought, if you’ve never come cross him before you might enjoy taking a quick peek at his some of his work.
This hope hopefully gives a glimpse into the detail of his work and shows his skill at recreating fabric, jewels and flowers using the medium of paint. We would love to know what you think of his paintings and whether you like them … or perhaps not. Do let us know.
We begin with a portrait of Jeanne Sophie de Vignerot du Plessis, also known as the Countess of Egmont Pignatelli, who hosted a salon which gathered “the literary celebrities of the days”, including Voltaire and Rousseau, and opposed Madame du Barry. The recreation of her dress, we think is absolutely stunning, so much detail when you look at the small image. The idea of her being an edcuated woman being shown with the addition of music and a book. We love the little dog at her side, obviously wanting some attention.
Next we have Anastasia Ivanovna, Countess of Hesse-Homburg, Princess Trubetskaya (1700-1755). Anastasia belonged to the leading members of the Russian Imperial court and aristocratic life, and often hosted the monarchs as guests in her home. She was also appointed Dame of St Catherine, (which is something we’ve looked at in a previous post about Princess Charlotte of Wales),and lady in waiting to Empress Elizabeth. She left for Germany in 1745, and did not return until 1751, after which she became a noted philanthropist. Again, she is accompanied by a book and her little dog, again looking for some attention from its mistress – perhaps a trademark of Roslin’s.
We move on to Reichsgräfin von Fries, née Gräfin Anna d’Escherny (1737-1807). As we haven’t managed to find out anything about this lady we’ll simply focus on the painting itself. Again we have an indication of her love of music, she’s sporting a plumed headdress and wearing a white satin gown with contrasting fur-trim, which is so realistic you could almost stroke it; the sleeves trimmed with the most exquisite lace.
Marie Amelie, Duchess of Parma (1746-1804), was the daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I and the sister of Queen Marie Antoinette. This time no sign of music or books, just a fan, but the detailed bead work on the bodice is excellent.
This young woman’s identity seems to have become lost in the mists of time, but the detail in Roslin’s work remains in this portrait, even down to the detail in the corsage she’s wearing.
To finish, we have a portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna (1759-1828), the Empress consort of Russia as the second wife of Tsar Paul I. Maria was described as ‘tall, fair, fresh, extremely shortsighted and inclined to be stout‘. This court dress, we think, makes quite a statement and naturally she’s wearing the Order of St Catherine. Apparently she dressed like this every day as she loved the pomp and ceremony associated with court life and made the same demand on her entourage – can you imagine being dressed like this, all day, every day?
Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna. The Hermitage Museum
We have written about Samuel Oliver on a several previous occasions and as I keep saying, ‘he just keeps on giving’. Following on from how popular his comments were in the last article regarding the burial of his parishioners, here we go again with some more notes I have just found that were filling the empty pages of the baptism, marriage and burial registers for the parish of Whaplode, in rural Lincolnshire. If you wish to read the images more clearly, just click on them.
Quite a risky thing to do, but we begin with his justification for keeping notes about his parishioners – he thought they would be helpful to future incumbents of his post! I wonder if they were, of whether they were more a reflection on his personality.
He clearly didn’t approve of the school teacher’s morals, describing him as an infidel, so much so that Samuel felt the need to take over the running of the school himself.
Sunday November 8th, 1818
In the afternoon of this day, during the time of divine service, Joseph Blacksmith (Farmer of the great Tythes) and William Heeley (acting overseer of the poor); grossly insulted me, whilst officiating afterwards, Heeley annoyed some of the congregation. But on Wednesday Mr Blacksmith came to me with much apparent contrition and gave me five pounds as a commutation for punishment, which I sent immediately to the Society for promoting Christian knowledge. Heeley also came the same day, but without any appearance of penitence, and gave me seven pounds, which I have appropriated, wholly, to the Poor of this Parish. Dec 2nd, 1818.
The saga didn’t end there though:
On Sunday, December 20th, 1818, Jane Blacksmith, the mother and Staveley Blacksmith, the brother of the above named Joseph Blacksmith; grossly insulted me, the moment I came out of the church, without any provocation or shadow of reason. This I reported to the Arch Deacon, who sent a severe monition to the Church Wardens, which threw the whole parish into consternation; and at two Vestry meetings, after Staveley Blacksmith, Thomas Allen and John Burton, had affirmed the grossest falsehoods, which Blacksmith ad Burton acknowledged themselves to swear in court. After bringing a Holbeach attorney into the vestry to intimidate me, they all to a man promised to protect me from all insult in future. Staveley Blacksmith declared he never thought of insulting me in his life!!! This was the consequence of truth and resolution on my part. Sam’l Oliver, Curate.
or even here:
Thursday October 7th, 1819
This day the aforesaid Joseph Blacksmith came to my house and with much fulsome compliment and pretended penitence for his improper conduct on the 8th November last, he sat and drank some ale; also about half a bottle of wine. When, upon going away, finding no person in the kitchen, he deliberately set fire to some linen which was upon the clothes horse, before the kitchen fire and then endeavouring to run off! But the kitchen door (going into the porch) being difficult for him to get open, and the servant maid coming suddenly upon him; he could not escape, without detection and his diabolical purpose of involving the premises in flames, proved abortive! – Thus was my family miraculously preserved. Sam’l Oliver, Curate.
Thursday July 20th, 1820
This day at the funeral of the widow Delia Rose, the aforesaid Joseph Blacksmith came into the church, walked in a becoming manner up the middle aisle, he passed the pulpit, entered his pew and sat down., but whilst I was reading the lesson he bawled out, in a hoarse voice, ‘aren’t I to speak‘, and shortly after, before the lesson was ended, he said something else, which I could not correctly understand, but he said it in a manner which evidently conveyed an idea of intentional insult. He then followed me to the grave of the said Delia Rose, where he twice attempted to push me down whilst performing the ceremony, by throwing himself with violence against the portable shed under which I stood, made an inarticulate noise to burlesque the service, placing himself before me with a horsewhip in his hand, which he has been in the habit of using upon other people very dexterously and therefore I felt myself extremely apprehensive of experiencing its effects upon my own shoulders, before I could finish the service and make my escape.
I will leave you read in his own hand, Samuel Oliver’ final thoughts on his parish!!!
Would you really have wanted to walk around the streets of 18th century? They would have been dirty, smelly places and you could find yourself up to your ankles in the proverbial, probably not a pleasant experience – then why not try the sedan chair and be carried around in style instead.
The name ‘sedan’ came from a town in France where they were first used. They were upright ‘boxes’ carried by two ‘chairmen’ by the use of long poles running from front to back as seen here. The door being at the front of the chair meant that the passenger could get in and out easily without the need for the poles to be removed.
If wealthy, you could purchase your own sedan chair with your own livery painted on it, or you could simply hire one, very much as you would do today when hailing a taxi. The ‘chairmen’ would have preferred to carry females as they would weigh less, making the journey less arduous for them, but of course, they didn’t get any say with that one.
The average cost of a chair would have been around £4,000 in today’s money, but of course, the grander it was, the higher the price. Here we have a receipt for one made in 1788.
Given the potential value of such an item they were ripe for having parts stolen, as reported in the Caledonian Mercury of April 1730
Last night the place adjoining to St James’s where her majesty’s sedan chair is kept, was by some persons broke open, and the four great tassels of gold, of considerable value, taken away. A sentinel is now constantly posted near the spot.
Royalty of course, had their own sedan chair maker, Mr Vaughan, who in 1733, made a ‘rich sedan for the Princess Royal for her marriage’. His son took over the family business and here we have the beautiful sedan chair, dated 1763, belonging to Queen Charlotte made by Samuel Vaughan
Not that you would know it from the image below, drawn in the 1770s, but by 1790 the popularly of Bath was such that regulations had to be set in place for sedan chair owners.
This is to give notice to the chairmen of this city, that if their chairs are found placed in any part of the streets other than those appointed by the mayor of the said city, for the standing of their chairs, they shall be obliged to suffer the penalties expressed in the City Act for regulating chairmen.
No chairs are to be placed on any terrace or footway whatever, except on the North and South Parade, St James’s Parade, Westgate, Edgar and Princess Buildings, Paragon and Axford buildings, Belmont and Oxford Row, and those to be kept full ten feet from the respective houses, except in Bond Street and those to be placed in the mid-way of the same street. And all chairmen, who attend at the theatre are to keep their respective chairs a full ten feet from chair-pole to chair-pole, directly opposite the theatre doorway.
All chairmen who are called upon to carry fare out of the liberties of this city, are particularly desired not to exact or make any other demand more than the usual rate of fares. Those who find themselves aggrieved by the chairmen, either by misplacing their chairs, extortion or insolent behaviour, may receive redress by application to the mayor at the Guildhall on Mondays and Thursdays, between 12 and 1 in the afternoon.
True or false this little tale from 1789 was quite amusing and if we’re honest we could imagine it happening to some unsuspecting person–
A simple bumpkin, arriving in London, was very much taken at the sight of a chair, or sedan and bargained with the chairmen to carry him to a place he named. The chairmen, observing the curiosity of the clown to be suitable to the meanness of his habit, privately took out the bottom of the chair, and then put him into it, which when they took up their poles, the countryman’s feet were upon the ground, and as the chairmen advanced, so did he, and to make the better sport, if any place was dirtier than the rest, that they chose to go through; the countryman not knowing that others were carried or rather driven, in the same manner, so arriving at his lodgings he paid them what they demanded.
Returning to the country he related what rare things he had seen in London and told people that he’d been carried in a sedan. “A sedan, what is that?” His reply, “it is like our watch-house, only it is covered with leather, but were it not for the name of a sedan, a man might as well walk on foot”.
Derby Mercury 14 June 1733
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 09 December 1790
A tall female Macaroni sitting in a sedan chair carried by two footmen; the roof of the chair has been lifted to allow her coiffure to stick through, while a boy page stands behind. 17 July 1772 Etching with hand-colouring. British Museum
This is a man who just keeps on giving! We have previously looked at Samuel Oliver, the vicar of Whaplode church in Lincolnshire when Jo discovered his weather reports jotted down in the parish registers, then I found myself back there whilst researching The Regency Poisoning of Mary Biggadike and was fascinated and slightly amused and slightly shocked by some of his comments in the burial registers from 1812 onward.
For any genealogist who searches through burial registers, you will no doubt be aware that many simply have the basic information, name and possibly their age.
Samuel Oliver’s registers were far more detailed, whilst providing the basics he also gave their address and next of kin/family, occupation, then any comments he wanted to share within the confines of the register. Little did he know that centuries later they would be viewed by all and sundry!
They were too good not to share with you. We gain a real insight into what he thought of his flock, in his colourful descriptions. Clearly, once they died he felt free to make his views known in the burial register I wonder if the grieving family knew what he thought?
So here we go:
Sarah, illegitimate daughter of Mary Roe, or Rose buried 24th March 1814.
This corpse remained nearby for a fortnight unburied, through the obstinacy of its mother and her friends.
John Rose, a pauper. Buried February 4th, 1817.
This immoral young man, after dissipating a handsome property, lived miserable and dyed (sic) wretched.
Ambrose Edward Lunn, Yeoman. 5th September 1821.
This man was for many years the officiating parish schoolmaster ‘till compelled to decline teaching!!! As he lived, so he died!!! in ethnicism
Edward Palmer. Buried 14th December 1818.
This man has been, for several years, the longest inhabitant in the parish, but one; i.e. about 50 years resident.
Elizabeth Hardy, a blind pauper of the workhouse buried 19th January 1817.
This unfortunate young woman attempting to play with John Palin, a poor deranged man in the workhouse, he suddenly plunged a knife into her throat which entering under one ear end coming out under the other, caused her instant death.
Sarah Cooke, buried 5th March 1827.
She had been the mother of twenty children.
George Nutt, a farmer, buried 16th July 1816.
This man, a few years ago, out of frolic, took a half hogshead cask full of ale, in his hands, lifted it up to his head, and drunk out of the bung hole!!! He has left two sons, each of them able to do the same thing!!! (a hogshead barrel contained 64 gallons of beer).
Henry son of Dorothy Copeland (widow), buried aged 5 on 13th September 1826.
The Copeland family is now extinct, in this parish! Sec commands exemplified????
John Barker, pauper. Buried 6th April 1829. A worthy pious Christian
Joseph Culy, yeoman. Buried 6th October 1821.
I’m not quite sure of the translation of the Latin phrase, but roughly, I believe it’s describing him in not very complimentary terms as a wretch in death. If anyone is able to translate the phrase, we would love to hear from you.
Robert Collins Fisher, living in the workhouse. Buried 21st September 1829.
An audacious abandoned reprobate. This burial was conducted by Rev. N. Cogswell, but the footnote is clearly an addition!
Stephen Richardson. Buried 26th September 1827.
A poor ignorant profligate wretch; pretending to be an infidel!!!
Theophilus Thomas Smith. 30th March 1828.
An ignorant, presumptuous, profligate infidel.
And … finally, we have
John Limbard, a gardener, buried 31st December 1833.
A drunken, scurrilous blasphemer completely worn out with dissipation and immorality.
As you may be aware we have previously written about 18th century dentistry and I was interested when I came across ‘City Women in the 18th Century’ which showed a trade card for a female dentist, Catherine Madden.
Catherine Madden of 53, St John’s Street, West Smithfield was working as a dentist between 1790 and 1799, whose cures were so efficacious that she guaranteed ‘no recurrence of the trouble’.
This started me wondering whether she was unique, as we hadn’t spotted any when writing the previous article. No, it seems, she was not unique. Women were working as some form of dentist dating back for centuries, as can be seen here.
The earliest advert I have come across to date, was from December 1738, for an Ann De La Mare. Ann was the widow of James De La Mare, operator for teeth to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
Ann was giving the public notification that she had gone into partnership with a Mr John Baptist Landies, the son of Mr Landies, operator for teeth, in Paris, who ‘draws, cleans and sets artificial teeth etc in the best manner’.
There was a Mrs Clokowski apparently working in Bristol around 1775, but so far I haven’t managed to find any more details about her, so I’m not sure where she was advertising her services.
1777 saw a Mrs Levis or Lewis and her husband, both ‘surgeon dentists in all its particular branches’, who were running their business from Queen Street, Bath, but who were telling potential clients that for a period of time, they would be working at a Miss Hardwick’s muffin and lace warehouse, Marylebone Street, Golden Square. Mrs Levis would attend the ladies and Mr Levis, the gentlemen. Free advice on procedures would be given for all difficult cases.
The same year we also have a Mrs De St Raymond, dentist, who was working from her home, No. 9, Kings-square Court, Soho. She was recommending her services to the nobility and gentry:
Her well known skill in the performance of chirurgical operations, for the various disorders of the mouth; especially the lightness of her hand, in removing all tartarous concretions, destructive to the teeth, and her dexterity in extracting stumps, splints and fangs of teeth. She also draws, fastens, fills up and preserves teeth, corrects their deformity, transplants the fore-teeth from one mouth to another. Likewise grafts on and sets in human teeth; makes and fixes in artificial teeth, from one to an entire set, and executes her newly invented asks for the teeth, and obturators for the loss of the palate.
In 1792 we have a Mrs Hunter, who worked from her home, No 78 Great Titchfield Street. Not only was she a dentist, but she also treated people’s complexion, so effectively a beautician too. She claimed to be able to relieve tooth ache and prevent it from returning with the need for extractions. She especially commended her services to women, who may prefer to be treated by another woman. She also treated children as she had a gentle touch, which would make the process less apprehensive for children.
She charged one guinea at the start of treatment and then four guineas per annum, which would include tooth powder and tincture; or half a guinea for each consultation after he first and half price for children.
These are the ones I have found a little information about, so far, but I’m sure there must be more, so if anyone comes across details of any other female dentists do let me know and I’ll update this post. It would be useful to get a reasonably complete record of women working in a profession where I thought there were none.
London Daily Post and General Advertiser, December 18, 1738
Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, Saturday, January 11, 1777
Those Georgians certainly had entrepreneurial spirit, and we came across such an example of this some time ago in an article we wrote about the things that every respectable woman should own. In 1794, this gentleman, a Mr Nosworthy, advertised the wares that he sold in his store on Queen Street, Norwich. At that stage his was simply one of many similar adverts we plucked from the newspapers as he sold the unusual item referred to as perfumed gloves.
It wasn’t until later that we found ourselves drawn back to him to take a closer look at exactly who he was, and guess what, he was the gift that kept on giving.
James was born around 1762 and married his wife Martha Slack, in 1783. They bought a shop in Norwich where they sold a whole variety of goods with the added bonus of Martha being a ladies hairdresser. Apart from working in their shop, she also travelled around the county offering her services and in 1789 she advised ladies that she would be in Great Yarmouth, some 20 miles away, on the 9th August, so if they required her services on that date they should book an appointment via the local grocer, Mr Groom on Green Street.
Despite being busy with their business they produced two children, a son, who died shortly after birth and a daughter, Martha Harriot.
In 1790 they had moved premises and expanded the business to include the hairdressing services of Martha, plus expanding into the perfumery market, selling ‘the best sort of foreign and English perfumery – Duty Free’.
James, it appears, was also an inventor and had invented ‘Ear Covers’, we really haven’t quite managed to work out what these were, they could have been akin to ear muffs for warmth, although it seems more likely that they had something to do with hairdressing, so if any of our readers have any suggestions … do tell.
This was a couple that meant business! Seeking out every opportunity to increase their wealth and social standing. When we first met Mr Nosworthy he was selling a whole host of items including everything you needed for sewing; toys for children, crockery and cutlery, stationery, fashion accessories such as purses, fans, parasols, umbrellas and perfumed gloves. He rapidly expanded his range to include everything from children’s rocking horses to wigs.
As his business grew he found it necessary to take on an apprentice, Jonathan Gallant. Business, it appears, was booming.
Two years later he expanded the business again, into selling gold and silver jewellery, everything from thimbles for 1 shilling to 10 guineas for a gold watch chain. He also bought old gold and silver and repaired and cleaned jewellery. He also advised his customers that he had recently received a large quantity of Real Turkey Liquid Black for ladies’ Spanish leather and other kinds of shoes. He sold ladies gowns of all kinds and gown dye.
He also wished for it to be known by all his customers that he had engaged the services of one of the best ladies’ hairdressers from London, sadly he didn’t name the hairdresser.
We can only imagine how large the shop must have been, with all the stock he mentioned in his adverts, it must have been the size of a large modern department store. They even had a department to train hairdressers. Business continued to grow over the following years.
Even James Woodforde, author of The Diary of a Country Parson referred to Mr Nosworthy in his diary, stating that he had purchased a bed from him. Was there nothing James didn’t sell?
In 1797 a merchant and banker, Thomas Bignold founded the ‘Norwich Union Society’, which was set up to insure houses, stock and merchandise from fire. The company was a mutual society, so policyholders received a share of the profits.
Guess who one of the other directors was? – none other than James Nosworthy, he really did have fingers in many pies. Bignold, then changed the company name to Norwich Union Fire Insurance Office, James remained a director.
Early 1808 Thomas Bignold created Norwich Union Life Insurance Society, still with James as a director, but things began to unravel for Bignold. After 1815 a recession began to take effect and claims against the Society increased until eventually his sons and other directors, mainly James Nosworthy, forced him out of the company and into retirement.
Having retired Bignold became something of an eccentric and formed another business, making shoes with REVOLVING HEELS – no, you haven’t misread that – ‘revolving heels’! No, we have absolutely no idea what they would have been like, let alone why he would have thought them necessary. This venture was destined for failure and finally bankrupt him. He ended up in prison, dying in 1835.
James however, died in 1821, leaving the majority of his estate to his wife, Martha and the residue to their daughter Martha Harriot for her sole use even though she had, by that time married the London agent for Norwich Union, Charles Andrew Hackett. Martha promptly advertised their cottage at Thorpe for rent, but she lived on until 1837, leaving everything to her daughter.
One of our lovely readers has found the answer to the revolving heels
And here we have an image of the revolving heel from 1905
Bury and Norwich Post 05 August 1789
Norfolk Chronicle 27 March 1790
Bury and Norwich Post 10 October 1792
Norfolk Chronicle 23 March 1793
Staffordshire Advertiser 29 June 1805
Norfolk Chronicle 19 March 1808
Stamford Mercury 20 November 1818
A Panoramic View of Norwich; Norfolk Museums Service
Mary Biggadike was born May 1801 and baptised in the parish church, of Whaplode, a village in Lincolnshire, by the somewhat forthright vicar, Samuel Oliver.
In early 1818 she found herself pregnant and so, doing the right thing, James Cawthorn, a labourer of Whaplode walked her up the aisle her in August of that year. In due course, she gave birth to a daughter, Marian, who tragically survived for only a few months.
Two years later the couple had another child, a son, James, but by this time their marriage was well and truly ‘on the rocks’ and in March 1821, James clearly needed to find a way of extricating himself from the marriage as he had found a new love.
James found his means of escaping the relationship – but it was to come at the highest price of all, for in August 1821, he found himself indicted for the wilful murder of his wife on 23rd March 1821.
The indictment was that he
wilfully, feloniously, and of malice aforethought, did secretly mix and mingle with milk, flour and sugar, a certain deadly poison, viz. one drachm of arsenic, which he knowing it to be poison, did give to his wife of the 19th March 1821, intending that she should drink it.
He was also charged with assaulting Mary on the day of her death by strangling her.
Mr Franklin representing James wanted him to be charged on only one count, which eventually the prosecution agreed to and it was the charge of poisoning that they proceeded with. The first witness, John Smith who lived close by and knew the family well, he confirmed that he had seen Mary on Monday 19th and she appeared fit and well. He then saw her on Thursday 22nd, when she appeared extremely unwell, her face was swollen and her eyes black and bulging. His wife who also saw her said she thought that Mary had been beaten. At six o’clock the next day he heard that she had died in great agony.
Mary’s mother lived a mere 200 yards from her daughter and when called to give evidence, she said that the young couple had not been getting along well for six months prior to her daughter’s death. She also confirmed that she saw her daughter every day from Sunday 18th March to Thursday 22nd March and that her daughter had been taken ill on the Monday. Mary’s sister Elizabeth had called upon her on Tuesday and at which time Mary was very sick and complaining of stomach pains.
Mary was convinced she was dying and told Mrs Smith that when her husband returned on the Monday he told her that he felt unwell and asked her to make him some ‘thickened milk’ and having eaten part of it, he asked her to go to the public-house and fetch him a pint of ale, leaving him alone in the house. On her return, he said he had eaten enough and that she should finish the remainder, which she did, and it was then that she was taken ill.
Next to be called to give evidence was Mr Franklin, a surgeon, of Holbeach, who said that Mary had a purple hue on her face, purple spots on her body and a small wound on her leg and internally she showed signs of inflammation. Franklin attempted to carry out tests on her body but was unable to prove conclusively that she had been poisoned.
Mary Sindall was called in to lay out the deceased and she confirmed that the prisoner had followed her upstairs and taking hold of Mary’s cold hand, said ‘Bless you! I little thought your death so nigh’.
Robert Collins, the constable of Whaplode, received James into his custody to take him to Lincoln Castle on the Coroner’s warrant, but just before setting out from Whaplode, James, who up to this point had remained calm, asked to hold his son before they left, at which point he broke down in tears at leaving his only child and as if he knew he would never be returning.
The carriage took them on to Spalding and when they arrived at the White Lion, James asked permission to write a letter. This letter was to the love of his life, Charlotte Tomlinson, a girl from the same village. James asked the constable to deliver the letter to her, but instead, Collins kept it as evidence. James continually declared himself innocent of the crime and said in court that he was forced to write the letter, which was vehemently denied by the constable.
The letter was produced in court.
March 26th, 1821
Dear Charlotte – I for the love of you a desolate death must go through. I hope you will have a good Christian heart in you for to come up this afternoon, my dear, and let me bid you adieu. Love don’t feel yourself unhappy, I pay the debt for you. Come up today, love, for I am sure to be put to death. O! Charlotte, what must I go through.
It took the jury just minutes to find James guilty of murder and Mr Justice Park pronounced the sentence of death. He confirmed that James was to be executed on Thursday at midday and his body was to be delivered for dissection. James remained unmoved.
The night before his sentence was to be carried out he made a full confession saying that he could not suffer enough for what he had done. He acknowledged that her murder was carried out by putting poison in the milk. Having been used to church music, at his request, a psalm was sung at the preaching of the condemned sermon, and he took a part in the melody.
Mary was buried March 26th, 1821 at Whaplode church, aged just 20. Samuel Oliver, who baptised and married her, now buried her, with a note in the register (as he frequently did!) stating that she was
murdered by her husband in the night in a most deliberate manner! The inquest continued for three days!
The love of his life, Charlotte Tomlinson went on to marry in Whaplode, three years later. The child James went on to have three children of his own who were baptised at Spalding – John, Elizabeth and Mary Ann Biggadike Cawthorn.
Following questions raised by one of our lovely readers I did some more digging and have just discovered this letter which James sent to Charlotte two days after the previous one above, which, it could be argued raises some doubt as to his guilt.
Drainage mills in the Fens, John Sell Cottman. Yale Center for British Art. Paul Mellon Collection.
The desire for women to make their lips moist and luscious has existed for centuries, so we thought we would take a quick look at a few of the recipes suggested for home-made lip salve in the 18th century.
The earliest advert we came across for commercially produced lip salve was at the beginning of February 1712 in the Daily Courant newspaper where the product was being sold by Mrs Markham, was a
highly esteemed lip salve for ladies of a charming and delightful scene. Price one shilling for the box
which would be about £5 in today’s money. Mrs Markham, who also sold tooth powder, informed potential buyers that the ingredients used in her lip salve made the product safe to eat. Does that imply that other lip salves weren’t?
The Compleat City and Country Cook of 1736 suggests the following recipe
Take half a pint of claret, boil it in one ounce of beeswax and as much fresh butter and two ounce of alkermes root, bruised.
When all these have boiled together for a pretty while, strain it, let is stand till it is cold, take the wax off the top, let it stand again and pour it clear from dregs into a gallipot and use it at pleasure.
If I’m being honest, that strikes me as a waste of a good claret!
Now, The Accomplished Housewife, of 1745 recommends the following recipe
Take half an ounce of Virgin’s Wax, half a pound of butter, half an ounce of Benjamin, half an ounce of Ackmony root (today known as alkanet root), half and ounce of fine sugar and a bunch of white grapes. Put all of these over the fire till they are melted, then strain it through a sieve and make it into cakes.
That one doesn’t sound quite as tasty as the claret one, but perhaps the flavour of white grapes might help.
In 1754, The Family Jewel and Compleat Housewife’s Companion recipe sounds quite palatable
To make the incomparable lip salve take of the finest sweet-scented pomatum, one drachm; orange-butter, half that quantity. Add to this a few drops of honey and lavender waters. Rub all well together with a knife. Use it on the lips as occasion requires. This is the greatest esteemed among the nobility and most certainly causes the lips to be of a fine coral red, and the breath most delightfully sweet.
By 1759 The Lady’s Assistant in the Economy of the Table, was advocating the following recipe
Two ounces of pomatum, a quarter of an ounce of alkanet root, a drachm of balsam of Peru (often used in perfumes and toiletries as a flavouring), a little piece of Virgin’s wax and five or six raisins of the sun.
Ten years later the recipe of choice was Monsieur Rouille’s Incomparable Lip Salve.
Orange butter, one drachm, conserve of jessamin, spermaceti, tincture of coral, each half a drachm. Honey water, twenty drops. Grind these together well in a marble mortar and use it morning and evening.
This next one from 1772 was interesting as it used Litharge, which is also known today as lead oxide and is poisonous, so please don’t try this making this one!
Take an ounce of Myrrh, as much Litharge in fine powder, four ounces of honey, two ounces of bees-wax, six ounces of Oil of Roses.
Mix them over a slow fire.
Gentry may add a few drops of Oil of Rhodium and some gold leaf.
A safer alternative would be
Yellow Lip Salve
Take yellow bees wax, two and a half ounces, Quarter of a pint of Oil of sweet almonds. Melt the wax in the oil and let the mixture stand to cool. Once cold it acquires a fairly stiff consistency. Scrape it lightly with a spatula and it will become softer. What you scrape off, put into marble mortar and once you have scraped away the whole, rub it in the mortar with a wooden pestle, to make it perfectly smooth and remove the lumps. Keep it in a lidded gallipot.
It is good for chaps in the lips, hands or nipples, and to preserve the skin, soft and smooth.
By 1785, hog’s lard was the popular thing to use.
Put it into a pan with one and a half ounces of virgin’s wax. Let is stand on a slow fire till it is melted. Take a small tin-pot and fill it with water and add some alkanet root. Let it boil until it is of a fine red colour. Strain, then mix with ingredients according to your fancy, and scent it with essence of lemon. Pour it into small boxes and smooth the top with your finger.
Finally, in the Morning Post and Daily Advertiser of 1785, we found this lovely advertisement
A Caution on Walnuts
Harrison begs to remind those ladies who eat walnuts, of his much-admire Lip Salve, which totally prevents that roughness and peeling of the lips.
Princess Augusta (1768-1840) c.1794 by Edward Miles. Royal Collection Trust
You may not be familiar with the name George John Scipio Africanus, neither was I until I recently saw his name on a Blue Plaque in Nottingham and wanted to find out more about his life and family.
George arrived in England from Sierra Leone, aged about three and was raised by the affluent Molineux family. Baptised in Wolverhampton, George was given to one of the family as ‘a gift’.
31 Mar 1766
George John Scipio-a negro boy of Benjamin Molineux’s
He was well liked by the family who arranged for him to be educated and then sent to complete an apprenticeship in the family town of Wolverhampton.
After completing his apprenticeship, John moved to Nottingham, a county where the Molineux family had connections. There he met a Nottingham girl, Esther Shaw, who, according to the marriage certificate, unlike George, was unable to write, simply signing her name with the usual mark X.
Despite the obvious issues of Esther being unable to write and George being non-white, at a time before slavery had been abolished, the couple settled down to produce seven children – Elizabeth, Samuel, Sarah, Hannah, Ann, Samuel and George. Tragically, only one child was to survive into adulthood – Hannah.
In spite of the tragedy in their lives, George and Esther were hard workers, Esther ran a milliners and then together they ran an employment agency, employing servants for the wealthy which they set up early 1793. George had been a servant in the Molineux household, so understood what an employer would be looking for from potential employees. The couple remained in Nottingham for the remainder of their lives, continually expanding their business.
In 1834 George died, leaving Esther to continue the family business until her death in 1853, which was quite something for a woman to do alone at that time.
Esther was clearly not someone to be trifled with as we’ll shortly discover; on 7th April 1838, she was convicted and fined two shillings and six pence, plus twelve shillings and sixpence, for assaulting George Smith, a sweep, aged 9, with a brush.
Their daughter, Hannah, it would appear married unwisely, and clearly not really with her father’s blessing. Her husband was a watch and clock maker from Boston, Lincolnshire, one Samuel Cropper. They went on to have three children, Sarah who died in 1842 and was described as ‘sickly and infirm‘. George Africanus, named in honour of Hannah’s father, who died at just one year, and Esther Africanus Cropper who was born 1840.
George, having become something of an entrepreneur and businessman was to leave a will, in which he left his wife Esther well provided for and also a bequest to his daughter Hannah – for her use only, under no circumstances was her husband to have any control of it. To say he didn’t approve of her choice would be putting it mildly. There could be absolutely no misunderstanding of his views in his will whatsoever.
A couple of years or so after George died, Esther, being a canny business woman took Hannah’s husband to court requiring back payment of maintenance for her daughter and her children. Apparently, Samuel had left the family home around 1825, when their youngest eldest child, Sarah was around three months old. Sarah required nurses to care for her, which presumably Esther funded. When Samuel eventually returned, he said he’d been working in France, Austria and Switzerland during that time. Esther decided it was payback time, and sued him for ten shilling per week for the time he had been away, which amounted to around £290 over the 10 years!
Samuel and Esther met again in the courtroom, this time due to Samuel becoming insolvent.
I would have thought it highly likely that George would have been impressed by his wife for her actions. Samuel’s behaviour clearly explains George’s will and George, it appears was ‘spot on’ with making sure his daughter benefited from his will to the exclusion of Samuel.
Whether Samuel sorted his debts remains unanswered, but for some reason Hannah and Samuel were reunited and produced their second and third children in fairly quick succession.
We now step very much out of our usual era but having disappeared down this proverbial rabbit hole, I wanted to know what became of George’s one and only granddaughter Esther Africanus Cropper, named after her grandmother, and whether any of George’s descendants are still alive today, so the hunt continued.
Esther and her husband to be, Charles Edward Turnbull, the son of a pianoforte maker from London, had their marriage banns read over the three weekends commencing 27th August 1865 at St Paul’s, St Pancras, London. The couple didn’t marry in London, but instead returned to Nottingham and married the following year, choosing however, to settle in London, where Charles was a toy merchant and ran a very successful business, founding Charterhouse Toys in 1872 (probably best known for their doll houses and miniature furnishings and toys).
On his death in 1929, he left Esther extremely well provided for with around £32,000 (just over £2 million in today’s money). The couple had two boys, who worked in the family firm, but who never married, and a daughter, Margaret Hannah (George’s great granddaughter).
Margaret married in 1899, in Surbiton, Surrey and the couple had one son, Charles John Stuart Allen, who emigrated to Canada in the 1920’s, where he married Mary Georgina Stewart Williams in 1925. They had at least two children who, it seems feasible are either still alive today or who may have living descendants.
Charles died in 1960 in New York. It would be fascinating to know if this is the case and whether they know how important their ancestor George John Scipio Africanus was in both Nottingham and British history.
There is a black and white image of a portrait of George in existence, but it would be lovely to know where the original is, but I’ve had no luck as yet, tracking it down.
Richard ‘Beau’ Nash, dandy, Bath’s Master of Ceremonies and unofficial ‘king’ of the city was born in 1674. He set the rules by which Bath society regulated their days, and established it as a resort of fashion. You had to pass Beau Nash’s scrutiny just to be granted admission to the balls and card parties and even the highest in the land had to do as he said.
When Kitty, Duchess of Queensberry, one of the era’s fashion icons, appeared at the Assembly Rooms with a delicate white apron over her skirt (which was against the rules), Beau Nash snatched it away and threw it onto the back benches, where the ladies attendants sat, acidly remarking that ‘none but Abigails appeared in white aprons!’ The duchess good-humouredly played the game and laughing, begged pardon of the Master of Ceremonies.
Even after his death in 1761, Beau Nash’s rules continued to be the basis for the Rules of Bath. The list below is from 1771, as published by Nash’s successor, William Wade and printed in The new Bath guide; or, useful pocket companion (1771).
Bath, October 1, 1771. This day the following new rules were published by the Master of the Ceremonies, and hung up in the Assembly-Rooms.
It being absolutely necessary, that a propriety of dress should be observed at so polite an assembly as that of Bath, it is humbly requested of the company to comply with the following regulations:
That ladies who dance minuets be dressed in a suit of clothes, or a full-trimmed sack, with lappets and dressed hoops, such as are usually worn at St James’s.
It is requested of those ladies who do not dance minuets, not to take up the front seats at the balls.
That no lady dance country-dances in a hoop of any kind and those who chuse to pull their hoops off, will be assisted by proper servants in an apartment for that purpose.
That no lady of precedence has a right to take place in country-dances after they have begun.
The places at the top of the room are reserved for ladies of precedence of the tank of a Peeress of Great Britain and Ireland, it being found very inconvenient to have seats called for and placed before the company, after the ball has begun.
That gentlemen who dance minuets, do wear a full-trimmed suit of clothes, or French frock, hair or wig dressed with a bag.
Officers in the navy or army in their uniforms are desired to wear their hair or wig en queue.
Ladies are not to appear with hats, nor gentlemen with boots, in an evening, after the balls are begun for the season; nor the gentlemen with spurs in the Pump Room in a morning.
The subscription balls will begin as soon as possible after six o’clock, and finish precisely at eleven, even in the middle of a dance.
That no hazard or unlawful games will be allowed in these rooms on any account whatever, and no cards on Sundays.
That in case any subscriber to the balls should leave Bath before the season is over, such subscriber may, by leaving an order under their hand, transfer his or her tickets for the remaining part of the season.
The major part of the company having expressed their desire that the tea, on public ball-nights, may be paid for by every person that comes into the rooms; the managing committee at the New Rooms, and Mr Gyde at his room, are come to a resolution, that each gentleman or lady on a ball-night are to pay six-pence on their admission at the outer door, which will entitle them to tea.
We came across this article, accidentally, as you do, and with our arguably warped sense of humour we found the wedding story somewhat amusing, so after much deliberation (well not much, if we’re being honest), we thought we would share it with you. Trigger warning, it doesn’t have a happy ending though!
On 26th November 1811, a young couple, Thomas Paul, a shoemaker and Sarah Waite, a housekeeper to a Mr Hoges, were married at the parish church in Burgh Le Marsh in Lincolnshire.
After the wedding they were due to have their wedding breakfast in the neighbouring village of Orby where the groom’s parents lived, with their family and others guests. Things did not go according to plan however, as the Norfolk Chronicle of 28th December 1811 informs us:
A wedding lately took place between Mr Thomas Paul & Miss Sarah Waite, of Burgh in the Marsh, Lincolnshire, and the parties having gone through the church ceremony, went to the village of Orby, to dine with Mr Joseph Paul, the father of the groom.
The provident Mrs Mary Paul the elder, had prepared a goose to roast for dinner, into the body of which she had put, for stuffing – two penny loaves whole; and in her hurry on this joyous occasion, had added two ounces of gunpowder, which she mistook for black pepper.
The party were assembled around the comfortable blazing fire before dinner, enjoying by anticipation the parts they were going to play in the demolition of the hissing goose; when Mrs Paul took the poker to stir the fire; scarcely had she touched it, when raising the sparks, one of them kindled the combustible stuffing and by the explosion of the powder the goose was split into several pieces.
The explosion was very loud and the flying grease and limbs of the goose put the whole assembly to the rout in the utmost confusion.
None were killed in the affray, but several suits of white which the ladies wore were quite spoiled, and what was to have been the principal dish on the table was wanting at the feast.
So, the moral of this story, check all your ingredients carefully when stuffing poultry and don’t wear white when eating it!
We wondered what became of Sarah and Thomas after their spectacular wedding feast. In 1816 they had a son, William, followed two years later by twins, appropriately named Thomas and Sarah, and tragically just days after the twins were baptised, Thomas senior, aged 31, died, and three months later their infant daughter Sarah was to follow her father to the grave.
Amelia Maria Frances Elwes, known as Emily, was the only daughter – and heiress – of George Elwes of Marcham Park in Oxfordshire and Portman Square in London. The newspapers were probably over-egging the pudding a bit when they reported that she stood to inherit more than one million pounds, but she clearly stood in line to become an extremely wealthy woman. Of course, with those kind of prospects, Emily wasn’t short of suitors, but her heart was already given, to a man named Thomas Duffield.
Two years earlier, George Elwes had allowed Thomas to ‘pay his addresses’ to his daughter, but ‘some changes in the opinions of the governing part of the family had arisen, and other suitors were strongly recommended to the young lady’. Emily had other ideas, though.
George Elwes owed his immense fortune to the miserliness of his own father, John Elwes.
Known as both an eccentric and a miser, John Elwes was born John Meggot, the son of a successful Southwark brewer. Given a classical education at Westminster School, John then embarked on the Grand Tour, becoming known as one of the best horsemen in Europe and introduced to Voltaire. He not only inherited his father’s substantial fortune, but also that of his uncle, Sir Henry Elwes, 2nd Baronet (John took his uncle’s surname too). Sir Henry was also a miser, and probably it was his influence which steered John on the path which would come to define his life: penny pinching to the extreme. It’s difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to John Elwes’ life. He was said to wear rags and wear a wig that a beggar had thrown away, let his fine Georgian mansion, Marcham Park become so dilapidated that water poured through the ceilings in heavy rain and famously, when travelling, always carried with him, in his pocket, a hardboiled egg to eat. Apart from that, he would rather starve than buy food during his journey. It’s thought that John Elwes was Charles Dickens’ inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge. Although he never married, John had two illegitimate sons who inherited some of his fortune, if not his miserly inclinations. One of those two sons was George Elwes, Emily’s father, who gained Marcham Park.
And what of Emily’s suitor? Thomas Duffield was born in 1782, the son of Michael Duffield of Syston near Grantham in Lincolnshire. He had gained his B.A. at Christ Church, Oxford in 1804 and then studied for his M.A. at Merton College. Following that, from 1807 (until 1811) Thomas was a fellow at Merton. Perhaps the Elwes family thought that Thomas’ income was insufficient, and that he was planning to live off Emily’s fortune?
With Thomas barred from the Elwes house, a plan was hatched with his friends and, it seems, with the lovestruck Emily’s knowledge and consent. Emily’s mother had a female friend staying with her, and one of Thomas’ co-conspirators contrived to be a guest in the Elwes family home in the first weeks of 1810 where he passed in the guise of this unnamed lady’s lover and future husband. One morning – just a few days before Valentine’s Day – he persuaded Mrs Elwes and her friend to go shopping together and once they had departed a chaise and four drew up to the house. George Elwes inconveniently met his daughter and his (un)gentlemanly house guest in the hallway as they walked to the front door; in answer to her father’s questioning, Emily said she was just ‘going to her mamma, who was waiting for her’. It appeared all too innocent; Emily, wearing neither a hat nor bonnet, was clearly not dressed for an outing but just popping out to her mother’s carriage on a quick errand before hurrying back inside.
The lack of headwear notwithstanding, Emily was handed in to the waiting chaise, where Thomas Duffield sat ready to spirit her away. His job completed, Thomas’s friend nonchalantly walked back in to the hallway. When George asked about his daughter’s whereabouts he was told that she had been delivered ‘to the man destined to make her happy; and that she was off to Gretna Green’.
Servants were sent after Mrs Elwes and she returned in a panic. Emily’s parents raced northwards, but having reached St Alban’s with no sight or sound of their daughter they gave up their search and returned home. While Thomas and Emily headed for the Scottish border, the newspapers picked up the story.
An elopement has taken place, which will make a very considerable noise.
The couple got safely to Gretna Green where they were married by the hale and hearty ‘old Parson Joseph’ (aka Joseph Paisley) who ‘drinks nothing but brandy, and has neither been sick nor sober these forty years’. Reputedly, Thomas Duffield paid Parson Joseph 50l. sterling to perform the ceremony.
With the deed done, George Elwes decided to make the best of things. He insisted that his daughter and new son-in-law go through a second marriage ceremony, just to be sure things were legal and above board, and this took place at Marylebone church a month later. In time, he was completely reconciled with his daughter, and grew to be fond of Thomas.
The story didn’t end there, however. Several years before Emily’s elopement and subsequent marriage, George Elwes had made a settlement (in October 1802).
George Elwes conveyed real estates upon trust for the benefit of his daughter; but he declared that, if she married under age, and without his consent, the trustees should hold the estates in trust for him and his heirs.
Emily had been a minor when she married (she was born c.1792 and so was 10 years younger than Thomas), and she certainly did so without her father’s consent. But, Thomas had been accepted as part of the family since then, and had been given possession of the Elwes’ mansion house. Upon George Elwes’ death, he left a tangled legal muddle behind him, as he never revoked the earlier settlement despite the fact that he had verbally made it clear that he wanted Emily and Thomas Duffield to inherit his estates. Emily’s mother, who had remarried to a gentleman named William Hicks, contested her first husband’s will in a protracted and complicated legal case, to the potential detriment of her son-in-law and grandchildren, but the Duffields managed to retain their rights to the Marcham Park estate and Emily and her mother clearly put any disagreements behind them. (Amelia’s will, written in 1824 during Emily’s lifetime, left her daughter and her Duffield grandchildren many personal bequests.)
After bearing nine children (three sons and six daughters) Emily Duffield died at the age of 43, and was buried 18 August 1835 at All Saints in Marcham. Thomas, who was an MP for Abingdon between 1832 and 1844, married for a second time, to Augusta Rushbrooke by whom he had four further children. He died in 1854 by which time he was living at The Priory in Wallingford while his son by Emily, Charles Philip Duffield, inhabited Marcham Park.
N.B.: County boundaries have changed over the years; Marcham Park in now in Oxfordshire, but was then in Berkshire.
Bury and Norwich Post, 14 February 1810
Leeds Mercury, 17 February 1810
New Reports of Cases Heard in the House of Lords: On Appeals and Writs of Error; and decided during the session 1827-8 by Richard Bligh, volume 1, 1829
Will of Thomas Duffield of The Priory, Wallingford, Berkshire: PROB 11/2189/352
Will of Amelia Maria Hicks of Marylebone, Middlesex: PROB 11/2102/386
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.