Harriette Wilson (1786-1845), courtesan, and her siblings

For anyone not familiar with Harriette Dubochet who used the assumed surname of Wilson whilst alive, (although when buried her baptismal name was given) we would definitely recommend both volumes of her memoirs published in 1825, as they make fascinating reading and are online via Internet Archive.

Harriette lived life to the full and was virtually penniless at the end. Her death certificate gives cause of death as ‘old age’, although in all likelihood a cause of alcohol related disease might have been more accurate. As well as finding religion toward the end of her life, she also found the bottle. She was apparently extremely fond of brandy, to the point of dependency and was reported to have been having a tipple or several just 24 hours prior to her death.

We came across this extract from Frances Wilson’s book, The Courtesan’s Revenge and wanted to check out what became of Harriette’s siblings and possibly find Harriette’s burial.

Harriette’s place of burial has always been something of a mystery, but we can now reveal that she was buried at Brompton Cemetery and the location of her grave is still visible.

Brompton Cemetery 11th March 1845
Search Brompton Cemetery for Harriett Du Bochet to see where her grave is located within the grounds. Click on image to enlarge

The newspapers were not at all kind to her in life as can be observed in this article about her in 1826.

The present appearance of this unfortunate woman makes it difficult to conceive that she could ever have been attractive, either as to person or manner: her features are now ugly and coarse, her person bad and her manners vulgar, with a harsh discordant voice.

A correspondent informs us that the notorious ‘Harriette Wilson’ resides at Chelsea and has become a convert to Popery,  and is a very active promoter of the objects of the virtuous priesthood! What next? Is she a candidate for the office of  a Lady Abbess, or Principal of a Nunnery?

And even more derogatory about her death:

We have now done with this woman, and we hope no stone will be erected to commemorate her memory and disgrace the place of her burial.

Satirical print depicting the courtesan, Harriette Wilson.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Back to her memoirs, she thought nothing of naming and shaming the gentlemen in whose company she and three of her sisters, Amy,  Frances, better known as Fanny  and Sophia spent much of their youth.

Harriette Wilson receives Wellington in a room hung with pictures of those who figure in her Memoirs. Print by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1825.
Harriette Wilson receives Wellington in a room hung with pictures of those who figure in her Memoirs. Print by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1825. © The Trustees of the British Museum

When Harriette wrote to the Duke of Wellington advising him she was about to publish her memoirs and that to keep his name out she wanted money from him, his famous response was reputed to have been ‘publish and be damned‘, so with that she went ahead and published (the famous phrase is probably not strictly accurate).

The courtesan, Harriette Wilson.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

We’re not planning to revisit the memoirs in this article as there’s already more information about Harriette and her memoirs online than you can shake a stick at. We will, however, say that in a letter we came across, Harriette was described as being ‘the worst and wickedest bitch in the world’.

Harriette Wilson's last letter-or a new method of raising the wind!!
Print by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1825. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Harriette was one of 15 children (11 girls and 4 boys, not all of whom survived childhood), born to Amelia Gadsden, not Cook as previously named elsewhere, Amelia was raised by John Cook and his wife, which is probably where the error has come from and John James Dubochet, a Swiss coal merchant.

1784 Electoral Register. Carrington Street, Coal Merchant
1784 Electoral Register. Carrington Street, Coal Merchant

We have noticed that John seems to have had several occupations including that of a stocking cleaner, a mathematician and watch maker, but we have found no evidence to support this, on the children’s baptism and in his will, proven in 1826, he continued to give coal merchant as his occupation.

Little is known of several of Harriette’s siblings in particular that of the boys. The family seems to have been of mixed repute.

Rose (1799 – ?)

After her baptism there appears to be no proof that she survived into adulthood.

Jane (1779-1857)

Known in Harriette’s memoirs as Diana, remained single and taught the piano from her home 34 Chapel Street, in the St Marylebone area of London.

Mary (1784 – ?)

Mary was referred to as Paragon, in Harriette’s memoirs. She married an Irish gentleman, Richard Borough(s), in 1812 in Dublin, and the couple went on to have four children, Mary, John, Henry and Augusta Sophia. At least one child was baptised in France so it looks likely that they remained  there at least until Richard died at Calais in 1847.

Charlotte (1801 – 1873)

Charlotte, born 1801, married  a surgeon and apothecary, William Jones Percival in 1825. The couple moved  about with William’s business, from Poplar to Soham, Suffolk and finally to Birmingham  to raise their family, where William ultimately took on the post of surgeon at the Kings Norton and Union Workhouse. After his death Charlotte moved to Aberystwyth to live with one of her three daughters, Mary Sophia and her husband the renowned Dr Charles Rice Williams and it was there that she died in 1873.

Julia Elizabeth (1814-1883)

Like her sister Jane, Julia also remained single and spent her later life living with her, by then, widowed sister and former courtesan, Sophia, Lady Berwick (1794-1875), at 7 Clarendon Crescent, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. After the death of her sister, Julia moved to The Mansion, Richmond (now home to Richmond Golf Club).

Miniature of Sophia Dubochet, Lady Berwick by Richard Cosway, c.1812.
Miniature of Sophia Dubochet, Lady Berwick by Richard Cosway, c.1812. Attingham Park © National Trust

Frances (Fanny) (1782-1815)

Also a courtesan who, according to Harriette, produced three children with her lover, then upon his death, moved on to have a relationship with a Colonel Parker, who in all likelihood was John Boteler Parker, the son of Sir Hyde Parker. She took his name as if they were married although they were not.  Frances was buried in 1815, at Kensington as Frances Parker, her assumed surname.

Amelia, aka Amy (1781-1838)

Amelia, like her sisters, was a courtesan who had a relationship with George Campbell, 6th Duke of Argyll, with whom, according to Harriette she had a son around 1810, although there’s appear no proof of this and no baptism that we have found so far.

She did however marry the musician Nicholas Robert Charles Bochsa, in 1818 despite him still being married to the Marquis Ducrest’s daughter who was, apparently still alive. Bochsa was both famous and infamous throughout the Georgian and Victorian eras!

He was believed to have been born around 1789 in France, where he studied music at the Paris Conservatoire. Regarded as a child protégé he could play both the flute and piano competently, by the age of just seven. In 1813, he apparently became harpist to the Imperial Court, however, by 1817 he allegedly became involved in counterfeiting, fraud and forgery and fled to London to avoid being prosecuted.  In his absence he was sentenced to twelve years hard labour and a fine of 4,000 Francs, so clearly, he was unlikely ever to return to his place of birth.

By 1821, the couple were the height of respectability, with Bochsa, in 1822, becoming one of the founders of the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, London together with John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland.

Nicholas Bochsa
Nicholas Bochsa

He was however, required to sever his ties with the Academy when news of his previous misdemeanours were discovered and two years later he was bankrupt, but became the musical director of the King’s Theatre, London. Newspapers began reporting that he not only committed the crimes of forgery and fraud, but also that he was a bigamist. We can find no proof of the final accusation, but there was probably some truth in his dubious reputation, as he found himself with a five-pound fine, this time for assault.

On 27th December 1837 Amelia died at her home, 2 Orchard Street, St Marylebone from an inflammation of  the intestines and was subsequently buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Bochsa eloped with Mrs Anna Bishop, the wife of Sir Henry Rowley Bishop. Frances Wilson, in her book, queried whether Bochsa had eloped with Anna Bishop prior to Amy’s death; the jury’s out on that one, but clearly he wasn’t with her on the day she died as her death was not witnessed by him, but by a John Knight, a collector, who lived there with his wife, Sarah, eight children and their servants.

Bochsa and Bishop left England and reappeared eventually on the other side of the world, having spent the subsequent years touring Europe, America, Mexico and then Australia, where Anna appeared on stage as his protégé. They continued to perform on the stage until his death in 1856, in Sydney.

Harriette’s male siblings were Charles Frederick (1791 -?), Henry Cook , John Emmanuel and George Edward. Very little is known about the first three boys and in all likelihood Charles died during childhood, although there is no evidence of a burial for him.

John Emmanuel (1790-1821)

Apart from his birth and death, the only snippet of information about John comes from the marriage entry for his sister, Sophia, where he was present as a witness.

Henry Cook (1804-1855-9)

After his baptism, there is little known of  Henry, apart from one mention of a brother to Lady Berwick in Naples, Italy in 1848. We eventually discovered his death dated simply as being sometime between 1855 and 1859, in Naples (British Armed Forces and Overseas deaths and burials records).

George Edward (1796-1847)

George married Christiana Hadden in 1816 and the couple had 4 children. At the baptism of their youngest child, George was a piano maker, then, by the time his youngest daughter married he had died, but had been ‘of the Treasury‘.

The Cyprian's Ball at the Argyle Rooms
Harriett Wilson and her publisher, Stockdale, in front of the harp. Lewis Walpole Library

We also wrote a guest post a while ago about Harriette. In case you missed it why not hop over to Mike Rendell’s blog to find out more.

Sources used

The London Gazette 1839

Berkshire Chronicle, 14 March 1829

John Bull 10 May 1840

Bell’s New Weekly Messenger  06 April 1845

Croome Collection at Worcestershire Archives.

The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1708

Monmouthshire Merlin 16 September 1848

Travels of Anna Bishop in Mexico, 1849

Wilson, Frances. The Courtesan’s Revenge

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Hot cross bunns, two a penny bunns; Thomas Rowlandson; Cries of London.

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!

Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns. These sweet, spiced buns were also popular throughout the Georgian era, known both as cross buns as well as hot cross buns, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The well-known song relating to them has its origins in the eighteenth-century.

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot cross buns!

This started out as a London street cry, used by the sellers of the buns. The Oxford English Dictionary references a street cry dating to 1733, printed in Poor Robin’s Almanack:

Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs,

With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns.

Hot Cross Buns; Thomas Rowlandson's Characteristic Sketches of the Lower Orders.
Hot Cross Buns; Thomas Rowlandson’s Characteristic Sketches of the Lower Orders. British Library

So, when did the street cry become a ditty? Wikipedia (not always the most reliable, we know!) dates the earliest recorded version of the rhyme to its appearance in The Christmas Box, published in London, 1798. However, we have found mention of a ‘catch’ (a round song; two or more voices singing the same song but beginning at different times) dating from 1767 and printed in the London Chronicle newspaper (2-4 June 1767).

A Catch that won the Prize at the Boarded Bagnio:

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross-buns;

If you’ve no daughters, give them to your sons;

And if you’ve no kind of pretty little elves,

Why then good faith, e’en eat them all yourselves.

DA CAPO

One a penny, two a penny, &c.

(Da capo is an Italian term meaning to repeat from the beginning. The Boarded Bagnio was located in Banister’s Alley, St Giles.)

We’re not sure what exactly was going on at the Boarded Bagnio to merit the hot cross bun rhyme winning a prize, but this version of the popular ditty predates its appearance in The Christmas Box by over three decades and is the earliest reference to it that we can find. Is this the origin of the song?

The Bunboat Woman's Story.
The Bunboat Woman’s Story. © The Trustees of the British Museum

What of the origins of the buns themselves? One writer, in 1777, refers to the custom in Greece to make presents of coloured eggs, and cakes of Easter bread. He continues:

Probably the Cross Buns made at present on Good Friday have been derived from these or such like Cakes of Easter Bread. The Country People in the North make with a knife many little Cross Marks on their Cakes, before they put them into the Oven, &c. – I have no doubt but that this too, trifling as the Remark may appear, is a Relique of Popery. Thus also persons, who cannot write, instead of signing their Names, are bid to make their Mark, which is generally done in the form of a Cross.

We’ve searched for an authentic recipe for the cross buns of the era, but the closest we have found is this from the Morning Chronicle, 23 April 1791:

GOOD FRIDAY ADVERTISEMENTS

A person, well known at Leicester, lately took this mode of informing the public, ‘that his Buns, made of the best Flour, and the genuine spices of the East, would be ready for delivery by six in the morning’. After desiring them to be aware of imposters, he concluded as follows:

GOOD FRIDAY approaches, and hard have I strove,

My highest respect for the Public to prove;

And to make my commodity worth approbation,

Collected the sweets of each spice-breathing nation.

What tho’ some base Gingerbread Weavers, for fun,

In their ribaldry, call me a Cake and a Bun;

In the making of Buns, there’s no rival I fear,

I’ve in mine, no mix’d Butter, nor rot-gut Small Beer –

But there’s everything genuine! Look at their size,

For they’ll melt in your mouth, and swell proud to your eyes.

And so, while I exist, you shall never lay fault on

Your Cross-bun Distributer, fam’d EDIS WATTON.

There was a tradition, probably harking back to the religious connotations with the buns, that stale and mouldy cross buns would cure many childhood ailments. Luckily the child does not seem to have been expected to eat the buns – sometimes several years old – but instead they would be bandaged to their body.

Hot cross bunns, two a penny bunns; Thomas Rowlandson; Cries of London.
Hot cross bunns, two a penny bunns; Thomas Rowlandson; Cries of London. Met Museum

Sources not referenced in the text:

Observations on popular antiquities: including the whole of Mr. Bourne’s Antiquitates vulgares, with addenda to every chapter of that work: as also, an appendix, containing such articles on the subject, as have been omitted by that author. By John Brand, A. B. Of Lincoln College, Oxford. 1777

The Barber's Shop, 1760s

More 18th-century career choices

Following on from our previous articles about career choices in the eighteenth-century, from 1761, we have some more to share with you, so, here goes.

Barber-Surgeon's Shop; unknown artist
Barber-Surgeon’s Shop; unknown artist; The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

The Barber

The boy, intended for this business, ought to be genteel, active and obliging. To have sweet breath and a light hand. The business of a barber is shaving and making periwigs. The former requires these qualifications and the latter, some ingenuity to imitate all the various fashions introduced by the folly of mankind. But in this trade little learning is necessary. Reading, writing and the common rules of arithmetic being sufficient. There are, however, some periwig makers who do not shave.

The barbers and periwig makers also make a kind of periwig for the ladies; among which they have imported a sort, impudently called the French, as if they intended to affront all the fair who wore them, Téte Moutons, or sheep’s heads. But the English ladies, from their complaisance for that nation, wear the wig, give it the French name and pocket the affront.

Cutting and curling of hair is also another branch of the barber’s business, though others apply themselves wholly to it and are therefore called hair cutters. The wages of a journeyman barber are but small, but if he has a good set of acquaintance and can be settled in a shop advantageously situated, he may set up with fifty pounds.

The Barber's Shop, 1760s
The Barber’s Shop, 1760s. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Bellows maker

This is a very useful and extensive business, bellows being not only made for families, but also for organs, for blowing fresh air into mines and for carrying on a great number of mechanic arts, in many of which they are of very different sizes and constructions, and some of the prodigiously large. It is a profitable business for the master.

Young Woman using a pair of Bellows (Fire); Philippe Mercier
Young Woman using a pair of Bellows (Fire); Philippe Mercier; Dumfries and Galloway Council (Dumfries Museum)

Blue maker

They make blue of indigo mixed with cheap materials for the use of the calico printers and dyers, and for bluing of linen when washed, but have nothing to do with the fine colours used in painting. It is a laborious business and is imagined to hurt the nerves. Those who keep shop get a good living. They take an apprentice from ten to twenty pounds, but they give low wages to a journeyman who works from six to eight.

Card maker

The making of playing cards is a very easy business and requires neither judgment, strength nor ingenuity. It consists of pasting several sheets of paper upon each other and then printing off this card paper from wooden blocks. After which the court cards are coloured, the paper glazed and the cards cut out.

A game of quadrille, c.1740 by Hubert-François Gravelot
A game of quadrille, c.1740 by Hubert-François Gravelot. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

The chocolate maker

As the making of chocolate is hard work, mostly performed over a charcoal fire, which is apt to affect some constitutions, the boy who is to be put apprentice to it, ought to be strong and hardy. Chocolate is made of a fruit called cacao produced in the West Indies and other parts of the world. This is a kind of nut about the size of a walnut, which being stripped of its thin shell is worked upon a stone, till it is equally mellow, and then put into tin moulds in which it hardens, and from them receives the form of cakes. To perfume it they mix it with venello (vanilla).

Making chocolate, via History Extra.
Making chocolate, via History Extra.

Comb maker

The making of combs is divided between two branches – the ivory and the horn comb makers. The ivory comb makers buy the ivory plates, rasps them to a proper thickness and saws the teeth. They also make combs of box, tortoiseshell and sometimes of horn, in which case they buy the horn ready prepared.

The horn comb maker cuts the ox’s horn into several rings and splits each, when hot, pulls them open and then pressing them between hot iron plates until they are of a proper thickness, shapes them, and afterwards saws the teeth. The horn comb maker does not make combs of ivory etc.

Trade card of Thomas Hedges, comb maker.
Trade card of Thomas Hedges, comb maker. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Dial plate enameller

Those of this business make enamelled dial plates, which they sell to the watchmakers. They take the brass plates, cover them with white enamel when wet, make the numerals, and fix the enamel by fire.

British, 18th century gold and enamel watch by William Rivers;
British, 18th century gold and enamel watch by William Rivers; Met Museum

Fellmonger

This is a very nasty, stinking trade, much exposed to wet and cold, therefore not fit for weakly lads. The fellmongers buy up the skins of sheep and lambs, from which they discharge the wool, make the sheepskins into pelts, leather for breeches, alum leather etc. They take from five to twenty pounds with apprentices, who require only a common education. They give very poor wages to their journeymen.

Worker in a fellmonger's yard, 1805.
Worker in a fellmonger’s yard. Bristol Libraries

The hatter or hat maker

The hatters, or hat makers, are those who work the wool, hair or fur into a proper substance for a hat. This is called felt. It is very slavish work, the men being continually stopping over the steam of a hot kettle and requires strong lads, who are taken apprentice with ten or fifteen pounds and frequently with nothing. But when out of their time, they may get, as journeymen fifteen or eighteen pounds a week, or set up in this branch with one hundred pounds.

Hat Maker
Hat Maker; New York Public Library

Hour glassmaker

This is a branch which requires very slender abilities to become a master of. He is partly a turner and buys his glass from the glasshouse. There are not many of them, though there are more hourglasses made than is generally imagined, especially for the sea, there not being a ship without several kinds of them, such as hour, half hour, quarter hour and minute glasses. The master will take an apprentice with five pounds who when out of his time may earn ten or twelves pounds a week or with twenty pounds may set up for himself.

The ink maker

Those who are solely employed in making black and red writing ink and ink-powder are but few in number because most retail stationers make ink to supply their own customers. The ink makers take no apprentices since whatever their secrets they may be possessed of it is in their own interest to keep them concealed.

Henry Hoare (1784–1836), Son of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, as a Boy, Writing a Letter by Samuel Woodforde c.1796/7; NT Stourhead

The Loriner or bit maker

The loriner makes bits and all the ironwork belonging to a bridle, together with the stirrups. It is an ingenious and laborious branch of the smith’s business and the beauty of the work consists of filing and polishing.

British (English) School (a painting of the ‘King’s Arms’ inn in Manchester; Compton Verney

Pastry Cook

This is a profitable business and requires a boy of activity and industry. The pastry cooks of London have many of their shops elegantly fitted up with carved work, gilding and looking glasses. They daily make all kinds of pastry and sometimes also deal in confections and jellies. They take ten or twenty pounds with an apprentice, who, when out of his time, may have about twenty pounds a year and his board by serving as journeyman, or if he sets up as a master, it will require 300 pounds at least to fit up a genteel shop  with built-in ovens  etc, but he may set up in a less splendid manner with a hundred pounds.

Detail from Mock Turtle, Puff Pastry by Thomas Rowlandson. Royal Collection Trust (from their website: a buxom female chef rolls out pastry as she is caressed by a lascivious footman wearing green livery. On the table are coddling tarts, apple dumpling and batter pudding.)
Detail from Mock Turtle, Puff Pastry by Thomas Rowlandson. Royal Collection Trust (from their website: a buxom female chef rolls out pastry as she is caressed by a lascivious footman wearing green livery. On the table are coddling tarts, apple dumpling and batter pudding.)

Snuff Box maker

The use of snuff has naturally produced the introduction of snuff boxes which are made not only of all kinds of metal, either plain, chased or embellished with stones, enamel, shells etc but of ivory, coal or even paper. This has introduced several different trades some of which the makers take ten or twenty pounds with an apprentice, in others not more than five pounds.

A man buying snuff; Thomas Rowlandson
A man buying snuff; Thomas Rowlandson; Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Center

 

'Market Cross' and Conduit at St Alban's, I. Schneibbilie, 1787.

Mary Ramsay: female impostor

In our latest book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, we recount the adventures of Sarah Wilson, aka Lady Wilbrahammon… amongst other aliases! Sarah was a very convincing impostress and her life is one of those cases when fact proves to be far stranger than fiction. But, although rare, Sarah was certainly not unique. She was perhaps inspired to commit her grand fraud after reading of a girl named Mary Ramsay in the broadsheets. Mary’s story dated to April 1738, but it was widely reported in 1764 just before Sarah’s own antics.

*      *      *

In a ditch, between St Albans and Colney Heath in Hertfordshire, lay a poor starving girl, half-naked and too weak to move. Two bakers were travelling along the road, and they heard the girl’s groans and rescued her, taking her to an alehouse near the turnpike. The surgeon and apothecary, Mr Humphries, was sent for and under his care, the girl recovered.

St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire by Abraham Pether
St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire by Abraham Pether; Manchester Art Gallery

Then the girl told her story. She was Mary Ramsay, nineteen years of age and from Hull in East Yorkshire. Her father had been an eminent surgeon and man-midwife who, when he died, had left Mary, his younger daughter, a fortune of £7,000 and trusted her to the care of his brother (there was an elder daughter living in London who was married to a wealthy Suffolk gentleman named Mr Cooke). Mary’s uncle was kindness itself to his young charge and so Mary suspected nothing when he sent her to London to board with a gentlewoman who kept a school in order that she could learn the manners required for a young lady of fashion. Dressed in a new riding habit and jockey cap, Mary was placed in a stagecoach and given a letter of introduction addressed to the schoolmistress. At the coaching inn at Stamford in Lincolnshire, where Mary had stopped to dine, she accidentally dropped the letter; it was found by a fellow passenger, a sea captain whose name Mary had forgotten. Upon hearing Mary’s story, the sea captain persuaded her to open it. The note – signed by her uncle – was brief and to the point.

Sir,

The person who brings you this is the young woman I told you of. I acknowledge receipt of half the money agreed on, and expect the remainder as soon as convenient.

Lady in a riding habit (unknown artist)
Lady in a Riding Habit; Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery (unknown artist)

Mary had been effectively sold, to a man she did not know. With no-one looking she made her escape, slipped away and travelled on foot for a couple of days. In need of funds, she sold her jockey cap to an old woman and then exchanged her riding habit for a gown and some money, enough to get her to London to find her sister. It proved a fruitless search and so she set out once again, penniless now, resolving to return to Hull. Mary managed to trek as far as St Albans where – in her distressed state – she had been found.

She was the very picture of innocence and the good townsfolk of St Albans rallied around Mary, raising a subscription to clothe her and pay for her journey back to Hull. In the meantime, she lived in the mayor’s house with his family. All was going very well for young Mary until one voice of dissent was heard. A man recently returned from London cast doubt on her story, to the fury of the mayor and the inhabitants of St Albans. This man remembered that he had an acquaintance in Hull and so he wrote to him, to establish the truth of the matter. The reply was unfortunate for Mary. The acquaintance in Hull stated that:

… a surgeon of the name of Ramsay had formerly lived in the neighbourhood of Hull, who was very poor all his life-time, and who was confined for debt in the castle of Lincoln, and died there about ten years before; that he had two daughters, abandoned wretches and common prostitutes, who strolled about the country under various and fallacious pretences; that upon the strictest enquiry, he could not find that Ramsay had a brother; and that if the people of St Albans would pass her to Hull, [Mary] would there meet with her dessert.

Mary protested; the man who had written the letter was a particular friend of her uncle and had colluded in the deception practised upon her. The mayor – not knowing who to believe – directed two letters to gentlemen in Hull, asking for clarification. The answers came back, confirming that Mary was lying. The mayor wasted no time and Mary found herself in the Bridewell where she confessed all. She was a dupe, an impostor, and she was whipped at the cross as a vagrant on the next market day before being packed off back to Hull.

'Market Cross' and Conduit at St Alban's, I. Schneibbilie, 1787.
‘Market Cross’ and Conduit at St Alban’s, I. Schneibbilie, 1787. British Library

That Mary received her comeuppance didn’t deter Sarah Wilson who, just two years after this tale had been published, embarked on her own fantastical adventures. In fact, we suspect the tall-tale about Mary Ramsay to be a complete work of fiction as we can find no proof to substantiate any of it, but that probably doesn’t matter. It was reported as fact and the tale took on a life of its own in the imagination of Sarah Wilson, alias Lady Wilbrahammon, whose story is most definitely true, even though it is not quite as has been reported over the centuries. But, to discover the amazing adventures of ‘Lady Wilbrahammon’, you’ll have to read our book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century.

Source:

The Beauties of all the Magazines, selected for the year 1764, vol. iii

Eighteenth-century bathing machines

During the eighteenth and into the nineteenth-century it became fashionable and beneficial to enjoy the pleasures of swimming in the sea so, in order to preserve modesty, bathing machines were invented. These allowed the swimmer to enter the contraption fully clothed, undress and get into the water virtually unseen; to swim then return to the machine to get dressed again and leave through the entrance they had arrived through – all very discreet.

Holidaymakers on Scarborough Beach by T. Ramsay
Holidaymakers on Scarborough Beach by T. Ramsay; Scarborough Collections

Scarborough, Yorkshire was reputed to have been an excellent place to swim in the 1730s, but as to whether they had bathing machines we’re really not sure.  Certainly, by the 1770s as you can see above, the bathing machine was very much in evidence.

The first reference we came across of a bathing machine was in the Caledonian Mercury, dated 14th August 1750, although such a machine was believed to exist prior to this.

That the BATHING MACHINE will, from Monday next, be attended close from half flood to half ebb, every lawful day by Thomas Weir Carter in Leith; his station with the same is to be upon the sands to the west of the glasshouse, in order to carry such ladies and gentlemen who want to bathe. And no weather needs to stop the use of it, as by the contrivance persons may bathe securely, without being any ways exposed to the weather. It will hold four persons easily, furnished with pins to hang up their clothes, and clean napkins will be there ready for rubbing.

In 1754, the Whitehall Evening Post carried an advertisement for the

New invented machine for bathing in the sea. The machines move on four wheels, on which is erected a commodious dressing room, furnished in a genteel manner. The machine is contrived, that the persons who bathe descend from out of the above room into the bath, which forms itself in the natural sea, seven feet in length and five in breadth, all enclosed and railed, which renders it both secure and private. The machine during the last season met with genteel approbation; and in order to make still more useful, the proprietors have this season provided an additional machine with proper conveniences for bathing at all times. A woman is appointed to attend the ladies if desired.

As the fashion for swimming in the sea along with its reputed benefits grew, more and more coastal towns had their own machines, set up on the beach from Tynemouth, in the north, to Brighton in the south and everywhere in between.

Figures and Bathing Machines in the Bay below Tynemouth Castle by Ralph I Waters
Figures and Bathing Machines in the Bay below Tynemouth Castle by Ralph I Waters; Laing Art Gallery

One of the most famous people to develop a bathing machine was a Quaker, Benjamin Beale. However, in 1767 there was an immense storm in Margate and his bathing machines were damaged, as they had been twice before, in 1763 and 1764. His loss on this occasion was estimated to be worth over £1,000 and it totally wiped out his business. So much so that Sir John Shaw and a Dr Hawley, of Great Russell Street, sought assistance for him, to enable him to rebuild his business. This was successful and the business was rebuilt, and Benjamin continued his trade until his death in 1775.

On the Sands at Brighton Figures Walking on the Shore by John Dixon. Yale Centre for British Art
On the Sands at Brighton Figures Walking on the Shore by John Dixon. Yale Centre for British Art

As the fashion for sea swimming caught on others developed their own business too, such as these trade cards shows for the ‘The Dunn’s machine’ and ‘The Phillpot’s machine’.

In 1770, Margate became so popular that it even produced its own holiday guide containing

a particular account of Margate, with respect to its new building, assemblies, accommodations, manners of bathing, remarkable places in its neighbourhood and whatever else may be thought necessary for the information of strangers.

Swimming in the sea was a risky affair and there were quite a few incidents recorded of accidental death due to drowning. Other incidents were less dramatic, but somewhat embarrassing, such as the one noted in the St James Chronicle of 1778 when a bathing machine containing ten people capsized. Most escaped to shore… but minus their clothes. There were also reports of people having a few too many drinks, climbing into the bathing machines to sleep off their excesses and the tide changing and them waking up the next morning to find themselves in the sea.

British Museum
British Museum

Apparently, in 1794, two dignified ladies decided as a wager to swim from one bathing machine to another, one was seized with a cramp, but not being out of her depth was rescued. Hopefully, the wager wasn’t too high!

Men and women were segregated for the sake of women’s modesty, but occasional incidents happened where women had to be saved by a gentleman when they swam out of their depth – a few red faces there then!

Margate, Kent a woman diving off a bathing wagon into the sea Coloured etching, ca 1800 Wellcome Library
Margate, Kent a woman diving off a bathing wagon into the sea Coloured etching, ca 1800 Wellcome Library

Here’s a bit of newspaper gossip for you from The Public Advertiser, October 1791.

Man caught in bathing machine with woman, both naked at the time.

Sorry to spoil your fun, it transpired that they were actually husband and wife, but still, it made the newspaper.

Of course, when in Weymouth, the royal family enjoyed a swim, especially George III but apparently his daughter, the Princess Royal, less so as she appeared to feel the cold more and looked half-frozen after her swim.

To finish we couldn’t resist sharing this image of Prinny, The Prince Regent – no words!

Prince of Wales. 1819. Wellcome Library
Prince of Wales. 1819. Wellcome Library

Featured Image

Bathing Machine on Southsea Common. c1788. Yale Centre for British Art

Bug breeders in the dog days by Thomas Rowlandson.

How bed bugs were dealt with in the Georgian era

Admit it – many of you are scratching already, aren’t you? I was whilst writing this if I’m honest. One of our readers asked about turpentine being used to kill head lice and this set us off to find out more about the subject and somehow ending up looking at how they dealt with bed bugs (buggs as they were known, somewhere we lost that second ‘g’) in the eighteenth century.

Wellcome Library
Wellcome Library

They were clearly a major problem, with many cures being offered to eliminate these little critters such as this from ‘The family jewel, and compleat housewife’s companion or, the whole art of cookery made plain and easy’ by Penelope Bradshaw in 1754.

If your room is very bad, take a pound of rolled brimstone, if there’s only a few, then lay it on the charcoal and get out of the room as fast as you can, or it will take away your breath. Shut the door close, with the blanket over it; and be sure to set it so as nothing can catch fire; if you have any India Pepper throw it in with the Brimstone. Do not open the door under six hours, and then let the door stand open an hour before you go in to open the windows, then brush and sweep your room very clean, wash it well with boiling water. Get a pint of spirits of wine, a pint of spirit of turpentine and an ounce of camphire, shake all well together, and with a bunch of feathers wash your bedstead very well, sprinkle the rest o over your feather-bed and about the wainscot and room.

If you find great swarms about the room, and some not dead, do this over again, and you will be quite clear. Every Spring and Autumn wash your bedstead with half a pint, and you will never have a bug; but if you find any come in with new goods, boxes etc only wash your bedstead and sprinkle it all over your bedding and bed, and you will be clear, but be sure to do it as soon as you find one. If your room is really bad it will be well to paint it.

A Tit Bit for the Buggs
British Museum

Here we have an advert from the Daily Post of Thursday, May 18, 1738 from a gentleman offering to eliminate the critters:

Whereas I have for several years, with success, made it my business to destroy those numerous vermin call’d BUGGS, at a reasonable price, being done without the least damage to either bed, bedding or furniture, be the same ever so good; and what is used is without any offensive smell. I likewise undertake hospitals, or other large buildings, and after I have destroyed them, if any should happen the following year to be brought in by people’s cloaths, from other houses, which may happen to new furniture rather than to those I have cured and cleaned, owing to the Power of Nature of what is used, then and in such case I promise to cure them gratis. Those noble persons waited upon my directing to me, JOHN WILLIAMS, at the following coffee-houses, viz. Janeway’s in Cornhill, Richard’s near Temple-Bar.

Summer amusement - Bugg hunting by Thomas Rowlandson.
Summer amusement – Bugg hunting by Thomas Rowlandson. Beinecke Digital Collections

And this one from Peter Braniff in the Public Advertiser, Saturday, May 17, 1760.

BUGGS, be the ever so intolerable, are effectively destroyed, no cure, no money by Peter Braniff at Number 4, the upper end of Union-court, Holborn, opposite St Andrew’s church; and as his name is so well-known to thousands of people of the best rank, who have employed him to their satisfaction, he refers them for a character before he is employed, which can be had in any division or neighbourhood all over London. Further satisfaction, to enquire at the British Lying-in Hospital, or the City of London Hospital.

British Museum
British Museum

So, how much did it cost to get rid of beds buggs – well, that of course varied upon the size of the room and quite frankly, Peter Braniffs’ charges were confusing to say the least, but given that he had a wife and six children support he would have wanted to make as much money as possible. (Peter died in 1769, of consumption, possibly an occupational hazard).

From 5 shillings to seven shillings and six pence, to ten shillings and six pence, to five shillings and some a guinea. Those who please to favour him with their commands, shall be waived on, and shall have twelve months’ time for trial, provided the sum be large. N.B. What he makes use of has no smell neither does it hurt the furniture, and if no alteration is made after he has done, the Buggs will never return, nor breed any more in them during life.

Of course, institutions such as hospitals and the workhouse were expected to maintain high standards of cleanliness, as we see here in this extract from ‘An Account of several work-houses for employing and maintaining the poor’ 1732:

Nurses take care to search all the beds for fleas, buggs and other vermin, once a week, of oftener if occasion; and to have all their beds made, and to sweep and clear their respective wards, every Monday between the hours of eight and ten; that every ward be washed once a week or oftener, as need shall require, and the windows be kept open in all, except the sick-wards, every day during dinner, to air the rooms, except in very rainy weather.

Sleep well tonight everyone and don’t let the bed buggs bite!

If you’d like to find out about flea traps follow the highlighted link – it’ll only make you scratch even more, you have been warned!

Bug breeders in the dog days by Thomas Rowlandson.
Bug breeders in the dog days by Thomas Rowlandson. Beinecke Digital Collections

 

A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner's Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782.

The Duke of Devonshire and Charlotte Spencer

In an earlier blog, we looked at the life of Charlotte Williams, illegitimate daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire; Charlotte was brought up in the duke’s household by his beleaguered wife, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. It has proved to be one of our most popular blogs, so we thought it was worth trying to shed a little more light on Charlotte’s mother, a milliner named Charlotte Spencer.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787; Chatsworth House

If you’ve watched the film, The Duchess, you will no doubt remember the scene early on when Georgiana, pregnant with her first child, is introduced to her husband’s young daughter, who is brought to Devonshire House in London following the death of her mother. Using artistic licence, the timings are, however, slightly out in the film.

On 5 June 1774, at Wimbledon, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, married Georgiana Spencer, d/o John, Earl Spencer and his wife Georgiana (née Poyntz). The groom’s parish was stated to be St George, Hanover Square, that of the bride Westminster St James. Charlotte Williams was known to be born a few months before this grand union; just weeks earlier, on 20 March, a little girl named Charlotte had been christened at St George, Hanover Square, her parents named as William and Charlotte Cavendish (and her birthdate given as 22 February).

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

All we really know of the mother, Charlotte Spencer, comes from one of the Town and Country Magazine’s gossipy tête-à-tête articles which appeared in the spring of 1777; Memoirs of the D___ of D___ and Miss Charlotte S____r. If Georgiana had been in the dark about her husband’s mistress, she would certainly have known all about it when this magazine hit the streets.

Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, William Cavendish had succeeded to his title, on the death of his father. Left an orphan, he was raised by three bachelor uncles who sent him abroad on the aristocratic ‘gap year’, the Grand Tour. The tête-à-tête article claimed that while in Paris, Cavendish captured the heart of Louis XV’s maîtresse-en-titre, Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry, some five years older than the duke but much more worldly wise. The duke’s uncles got wind of things, and rushed him home.

Fête donné à Louveciennes, le 2 septembre 1771 (en présence de Louis XV et de la comtesse Dubarry)
Fête donné à Louveciennes, le 2 septembre 1771 (en présence de Louis XV et de la comtesse Dubarry): Louvre Museum

Finding she [Madame du Barry] had built too much upon her charms, influence, and attractions; and, at the same time, that her heart was too far engaged in the conflict, she became the dupe to her own artifice; and the young English nobleman had his vanity so far gratified as to be the rival of the grand monarque.

Jeanne Bécu, comtesse Du Barry, en Flore by François-Hubert Drouais, 1773/4 © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN / © Christophe Fouin
Jeanne Bécu, comtesse Du Barry, en Flore by François-Hubert Drouais, 1773/4 © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN / © Christophe Fouin

Returning to London, the duke made the acquaintance of a pretty milliner who had ‘the finest eyes he had ever beheld’. He became a customer, and then her lover. Charlotte Spencer was the daughter of a country curate whose situation had allowed of nothing more than a ‘tolerable education’ for his daughter. After his death, Charlotte travelled to London where she fell into the clutches of  ‘a veteran procuress, who, under the veil of religion, prevailed upon Charlotte to be a lodger in her house, that she might take care of her salvation’. It is suggested that Charlotte had at least one pregnancy (and possibly a termination) while lodged in this brothel before leaving, only to fall into the hands of ‘an old debauchee, who pretended to adore her mental, as well as her personal attractions’. This old rake gave Charlotte a handsome allowance and set her up in an elegant house, but she hated the life; after a few months her ‘keeper’ died and left her mistress of a fortune enough for her to set up a milliner’s shop. Where, soon afterwards, the 5th Duke of Devonshire found her…

A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner's Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782.
A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner’s Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The duke and Miss Spencer seem to have lived happily together for some years; she left the milliner’s shop behind and the duke provided for her. He set her up in a discreet rented villa.

We may now suppose our hero in full possession of all Charlotte’s charms, and that she was happy in an alliance with a young nobleman every way amiable. Yet a paradox still remains to be solved; which is, that after some years intercourse with Miss S___r, who was now rather approaching the decline of beauty, our hero should marry a nobleman’s daughter, a universal toast, still in her teens, with every personal accomplishment, who gives the Ton wherever she goes, and that he should still be fond of his antiquated (by comparison) Charlotte?

The truth is that the duke needed a male heir, and while he was clearly fond of Charlotte Spencer, the teenaged, wealthy and well-connected Miss Georgiana Spencer (it is an ironic coincidence that the two ladies bore the same surname) was the more suitable bride and prospective mother for a son and heir. Poor Charlotte had only given him a daughter.

Georgiana married her duke in May 1774, and this little scandal broke in the press almost three years later. Popular gossip said that the duke continued to see Charlotte regularly during the first years of his marriage.

There is a caprice in mankind, it is true, that cannot be accounted for – whim prevails more than reason – but that the blooming, the blythe, and beautiful D___ should be neglected for Charlotte S___r is really astonishing!

The duke’s affair with Charlotte Spencer fizzled out after 1778, and all available evidence suggests that she had died by May 1780 when the six-year-old Charlotte Williams was brought, with her nurse, Mrs Gardner, into the Cavendish household.

Despite her unhappy marriage, the Duchess of Devonshire was the toast of the town. Extravagant, vivacious and addicted to gambling, Georgiana was also compassionate and caring; when the young and motherless Charlotte Williams was presented to her, Georgiana took the girl to her heart and brought her up as her own daughter. In time, Georgiana had three children of her own by the duke, Georgiana (Little G) born 1783, Harriet (Harry-O) in 1785 and William (known as Hart, as his courtesy title was Marquess of Hartington) who was born in 1790. (Georgiana suffered many miscarriages during her marriage.)

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire with her infant daughter Lady Georgiana Cavendish by Joshua Reynolds; Chatsworth House.

A couple of years or so after Charlotte Spencer’s death, Georgiana met Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster at Bath; Bess quickly became an indispensable member of the Cavendish household, given a role as Charlotte Williams governess and replacing Charlotte Spencer in the duke’s affections. Something of a ménage à trois developed. Georgiana retaliated with an affair of her own, falling in love with the future prime minister, Charles Grey; in 1792 and in exile from her husband and children, Georgiana gave birth to Grey’s daughter. Known as Eliza Courtney, this girl was brought up by Grey’s family although Georgiana did manage to make secret visits to her. Bess Foster accompanied Georgiana during these years of exile before the two returned to the duke in 1793. Bess, after Georgiana’s death, would become the duke’s next wife.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster, miniature by Jean-Urbain Guérin, 1791.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster, miniature by Jean-Urbain Guérin, 1791. The Wallace Collection

And, you can find out what became of Charlotte Williams in our earlier blog.

Sources:

Town and Country Magazine, March 1777

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman (Flamingo/Harper Collins, 1999)

Three Graces in a High Wind (a scene taken from nature, in Kensington Gardens). © The Trustees of the British Museum

Invisible dresses? Oh, knickers!

With the turn for the century, fashions began to change from the tight-laced bodiced dresses to a softer, flimsy and floating style, often made from lightweight fabrics. Presumably it was this change of style that required women to preserve their modesty, so, on that note we’re delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, Sarah Waldock,  who describes herself as ‘a Regency romance author with a morbid interest in drains and underwear’.

Fashionable Furbeloes, 1801

The post has come about following conversations we’ve had with Sarah Waldock, about one of our previous articles regarding whether Georgian women wore knickers or not! So we’ll hand over to her to tell you more.

The Fashions of the Day – or Time Past and Time Present: The Year (1740) a Lady's Full Dress of Bombazeen – The Year (1808) Lady's Undress of Bum-be-seen
The Fashions of the Day – or Time Past and Time Present: The Year (1740) a Lady’s Full Dress of Bombazeen – The Year (1808) Lady’s Undress of Bum-be-seen; Met Museum

This goes back to an assertion I made that yes, there were drawers worn by ladies in the Regency period as I had seen ads for them. Only when I uncovered the following ad, two words – invisible dresses – leaped out at me.

Radford’s Hosiery, 52 Cheapside

All manner of hosiery, gloves, flannels, drawers, ladies’ invisible dresses….

So going a bit further, I found

Mrs. Morris, once Mrs. Robertshaw, invisible dresses, petticoats, drawers and waist coats of real Spanish lamb’s wool, Welch Flannel Warehouse, 100 Oxford Street.

Plainly Mrs. Morris is a cut above Mr. Radford, being in Oxford Street where you pay three guineas a lungful to breathe [not that Cheapside was especially cheap; the name comes from the same source as Chapman, a peddler, from OE for goods for sale].

Digging around, I initially discover Mr. Radford advertising as far back as the 1st of January 1806 both the ‘Newly invented’ invisible petticoat and drawers, which is the earliest mention of drawers I had yet to find – at that point.

And then a bit of luck.

An unnamed seller advertises on Tuesday 17th September 1811;

New-invented invisible dresses [I hear you say, hang on, Radford and Morris had them in 1810; it’s the way of making them which is new invented] all in one, of a superior style for ladies and children … for ready money only, at no. 16 Poultry.

 

Fashion plate from Ackermann's Repository of Arts.
Fashion plate from Ackermann’s Repository of Arts.

All in one, which is interesting; it suggests that invisible petticoats and waists have been combined.   And in the same year, 21 December, 1811, Mr. Radford is back with his own take on this:

 New-invented Brunswick invisible dresses that are such a preventative against colds and are patronised by the Royal Family.

There are also ads from him advertising them for ladies and children, reinforcing the idea that these are practical garments, no mere modesty pieces. These garments are for warmth to prevent the silly and fashionable chits in muslins from dying of pneumonia at winter balls.

A hint to the ladies, or, a visit from Dr Flannel. "Mrs Jenny said your Ladyship complain'd of being cold about the loins... so I have just stept in with a warm flannel petticoat." © The Trustees of the British Museum
A hint to the ladies, or, a visit from Dr Flannel. “Mrs Jenny said your Ladyship complain’d of being cold about the loins… so I have just stept in with a warm flannel petticoat.” © The Trustees of the British Museum

I then looked up ‘Brunswick’ in the ‘Fairchild Dictionary of Textiles’. It gave me:

“A twilled wool and cotton fabric similar to cassimere”[Cassimere was a soft woollen twill cloth invented in Bradford and often combined with cotton, silk or mohair].

Petticoat dating from the very early 19th Century which would have been worn under a sleeved, trained dress and over a loose knee length chemise and a corset which covered the exposed bust area.
Petticoat dating from the very early 19th Century which would have been worn under a sleeved, trained dress and over a loose knee length chemise and a corset which covered the exposed bust area. John Bright Collection.

Now, Mr. Radford was also advertising cotton invisible petticoats in June and July of 1806, so maybe they were there as modesty pieces as well.  I don’t have any more on that, nor on whether they were stockinet flesh coloured garments, like the drawers mentioned by Nicky Roberts in ‘Whores in History’ [Harper Collins 1992] to be worn under the notorious dampened muslins.  It wasn’t mentioned. However I am seeing, I hope not spuriously, a connection between drawers and invisible gowns, which is an impression strengthened by a few more ads.

And this one from Mrs. Robertshaw [before she was Mrs. Morris] is the winner.

30th September 1806

SPANISH LAMBSWOOL INVISIBLE PETTICOATS

Mrs. Robertshaw begs leave to inform those ladies that found their invisible petticoats shrunk last winter that she has a kind so much improved that she will warrant them never to shrink even in the commonest wash, at the same time will be found equally as soft, pliant and warm. Everybody that has tried them allows them to be a much pleasanter article than ever before invented, being so very elastic[a word merely meaning at the time having some stretch or give] and of so beautiful a white, and, like all these comforts will add quite as little to size as her patent lambs’ wool so much approved of last winter.  Likewise invisibles and stays all in one; well adapted to ladies that are confined; also under waist coats and drawers of the same description. 

The ad goes on to invite mail order purchase, but what seems suggestive here is that the drawers are also for warmth as the implication is that they are also lambswool [and possibly either knitted or woven as a knit-weave like gents’ pantaloons]

The implication is also that this is not the earliest date.

Progress of the Toilet, plate 1. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Progress of the Toilet, plate 1. © The Trustees of the British Museum

So this is the ad I found, on 21st October 1805.

Spanish lamb’s wool invisible petticoats; Mrs. Robertshaw…. large assortment of her large assortment of real patent invisible petticoats which ladies will find soft, warm and pleasant at the same time adding little to the size.

Patent.  A suggestive word, though I have a gut feeling that a lot of advertisers threw it around without applying for a patent.  However, it does suggest that warm underclothes under skimpy top clothes was a recent response to the changes in fashion, having to be lightweight themselves rather than adding a quilted petticoat as one might do in earlier times.

Progress of the Toilet; dress completed. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Progress of the Toilet; dress completed. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The latest ad I found was in 1815, Friday 22nd December.  Mrs. Morris is no longer reminding people that she was Mrs. Robertshaw before.

Ladies opera dresses, drawers, waistcoats, invisible petticoats – Mr. [sic] Morris manufacturer to the Royal Family respectfully informs those ladies that have patronised her patent invisible petticoat, opera under-dresses, drawers and waistcoats …. that she has manufactured an entire fresh and extensive assemblage.

I searched up to 1820 but could find no more ads.  But after 1816, the year without a summer, the climate warmed up.  Could it be that woolly longjohns and flannel petticoats disappeared for a lack of need for them?

Three Graces in a High Wind (a scene taken from nature, in Kensington Gardens). © The Trustees of the British Museum
Three Graces in a High Wind (a scene taken from nature, in Kensington Gardens). © The Trustees of the British Museum

As to earlier, in 1804 Mr. Radford was bad-mouthing those who sold inferior quality whilst proclaiming his own cheap but quality hosiery.  He mentions flannels again.  Was this a euphemism for flannel drawers? I haven’t tracked that down.

On 13th November 1804 he is advertising elastic cotton and other drawers in with his hosiery, gloves, lace mitts and lace sleeves. He is mentioned on 12th May 1803 as a hosier, and taking on the rent somewhere in an article too faded for me to read.

Mrs. Robertshaw however turns up in December 1804, or rather, Mr. W, Robertshaw does, at the same address, 100 Oxford Street, with  a hosiery and pantaloon warehouse with fresh Spanish lambs wool and Angola waistcoats and drawers.  Mrs. Robertshaw.

…begs the attention of the ladies to her patent Bath and elastic lambs wool petticoats and drawers, which ladies will find soft, warm and pleasant at the same time to add very little to size.

So, they are not yet invisible!  Bath was a soft woollen cloth comparable to superfine; Bath suiting was often used for men’s jackets.  It moulded nicely to the muscular form of the Corinthian.

Apart from the existence of W Robertshaw, Hosier, 100 Oxford Street in January 1804, the Robertshaws too disappear.    Two families of Hosiers, whose brief, decade-long production of underwear excites the interest two hundred years later.

Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory. In roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830, set within the framework of the main events of the era and accompanied by over 100 stunning colour images. Available in hardback, April 2019.

All Things Georgian: Tales From the Long Eighteenth-Century

We have some exciting news to share with you, our readers, today. As well as writing our bi-weekly blog posts, we have also been working on our fourth book together… and this one is based on our blog! In fact, we’ve reused the name, and the title of our new book is All Things Georgian: Tales From the Long Eighteenth-Century.

It contains 25 tales that you won’t find on our blog already, all a little longer in length but, as ever, lavishly illustrated, predominantly in colour. In fact, we’ve got over 100 gorgeous colour pictures scattered throughout the text. The tales are all in roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830 and set within the framework of the main events of the era.

Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory. In roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830, set within the framework of the main events of the era and accompanied by over 100 stunning colour images. Available in hardback, April 2019.

So, what stories can you expect to find inside? We bill ourselves as historical super-sleuths and we’ve dug into various archives to discover the weird, the wonderful and the downright strange side of long eighteenth-century.

Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Marvel at the Queen’s Ass, gaze at the celestial heavens through the eyes of the past and be amazed by the equestrian feats of the Norwich Nymph. Journey to the debauched French court at Versailles, travel to Covent Garden and take your seat in a box at the theatre and, afterwards, join the mile-high club in a new-fangled hot air balloon. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory.

Out in the UK by the end of April, 2019. Click here to discover more.

 

Eighteenth-century watch papers

In a recent article, we looked at disability in the 18th-century and about people with no arms using their feet as an alternative, some of whom created the most beautifully delicate watch papers. One of our readers asked what more we knew about watch papers, our reply being –’not very much!

Always up for a challenge though, we set about seeing what else we could find, and we confess, this article is a little self-indulgent with some lovely images of watch papers which remarkably have survived in some cases for over two hundred years, most will have been lost or damaged over time, making survivors quite rare.

It was believed that initially watch papers were a form of protection for the mechanism itself, which may well be correct, they then developed into the equivalent of a trade card, which for our regular readers you will be aware that we have looked at before and have a great interest in.  Early eighteenth-century watch papers appear to have been made of either paper or very fine linen. This developed in the later part of the century to include crotched or silk watch papers.

Watch papers would have been a fabulous of advertising your wares, inside the watch so every time the wearer opened it they would see an advert for the watchmaker and see what else they sold. As you can see from this image:

Victoria & Albert Museum c1820
Victoria & Albert Museum c1820

The Cambridge Intelligencer September 1795 carried the following advertisement

COPPERPLATE PRINTING IN GENERAL

Barford begs leave to inform his friends and the public, that he prints mezzotints, fine engravings, banker’s cheques, tutor’s bills, watch papers and music.

The British Museum has several watch papers and this one was used by John Oglethorpe, born 1823, who appears on the census returns as being of Kirkby Thore, Cumbria where was he described himself as a watch cleaner and repairer, a trade he would have learnt from his father Samuel.

British Museum
British Museum

This beautiful watch shows the watch paper placed inside with the makers’ name clearly visible both on the mechanism itself and on the advert on the watch paper – Thomas Bullock of Claverton Street Bath, who we discovered was trading there in 1770.

The next belonged to Camerer and Cuss, New Oxford Street. The watch paper is very plain, and we haven’t been able to locate the company, however, it nicely fits into the Georgian era, as they were trading ‘since 1788’.

Our next one shows the watch paper of a gentleman by the name of Goldsworthy. He was an Edward Goldsworthy of Exeter, who died in April 1824, aged 73 in Chelsea.

British Museum
British Museum

Edward was working in his home city of Exeter and here we see him in 1788 taking on an apprentice clock-maker.

Tempus Fugit! This one seems a little morbid, reminding you of impending death each time you open the watch. It is an advert for George Frankcom of Portsea, Hampshire. Frankcom must have moved to Hampshire after completing his apprenticeship which he began in 1792.

To finish, we have very kindly been given a stunning watch paper to include, by Mike Rendell (Georgian Gentleman)

Richard cut it out when his first wife died – it must have taken hours. It shows her coffin in a template, with her name, age and date of death. I still have the pen knife he would have used to make it (i.e. the knife he used to make pens from quills). It is incredibly sharp even after 250 years! He must have had excellent eyesight – and a very steady hand).

 

Vauxhall by Thomas Rowlandson, 1785

A likeness of Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Rowlandson

For a woman who was noted as such a beauty, it has always frustrated us that there are not more surviving portraits and drawings of our ‘infamous mistress’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. There is a miniature by Cosway, painted around the time of her marriage with Dr (later Sir) John Eliot, and the two well-known portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, plus a disputed chalk drawing by John Hoppner which may or may not depict Grace.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Imagine our surprise and delight then, to come across the drawing below by the caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson which purports to depict ‘Lady Elliott, otherwise Dally the Tall’. The inscription contains one glaring error; Grace was never Lady Eliot, her husband had divorced her well before he became a baronet but, nevertheless, this could indeed be Grace (her nickname was Dally the Tall, a play upon her surname and height), probably drawn sometime around 1782-1786 and wearing a chemise à la reine. We know that she was famous for bringing the dress into fashion here in the UK.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott (aka Dally the Tall) by Thomas Rowlandson
Lady Elliott, Commonly Called Dally The Tall. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Bequest of Mrs. A. Dean Perry 1997.84

After her divorce, Grace had been the Earl of Cholmondeley’s mistress, before leaving his arms for the protection of Philippe d’Orléans, then the duc de Chartres (later duc d’Orléans and, during the Revoution, Philippe Égalité). Grace then snared British royalty when, for just a few short weeks, she enjoyed a relationship with the young Prince of Wales (later King George IV). During the summer of 1782, Grace gave birth to the prince’s daughter.

The Prince of Wales and Grace Dalrymple Elliott's daughter Georgiana as an infant.
Grace’s daughter Georgiana as an infant. Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In February 1783, Grace appeared at a masquerade ball held at the Pantheon arm-in-arm with Charles Wyndam, 3rd son of the 2nd Earl of Egremont. Also present were Perdita (Mary Robinson), Grace’s one-time rival for the Prince of Wales, but now with her new lover, Colonel Banastre Tarleton, Lady Grosvenor and Mary (Moll) Benwell with Colonel Richard FitzPatrick.

A few of the Cyprian Corps in elevated life were present – Mrs Elliott’s dress, the chemise de la reine, and Miss Sheppard’s were the most elegant of the whole group. The Perdita and the T__le__n paired off very early. Mrs B__nw__ll, and Col. F___tz__ck were in close Teˆte-a`-Teˆte all the evening, also Mr W___nd__m and Mrs Elliot, Lady Gr__v__r likewise perambulated the circle for a considerable time.

The company were very sociable, and the dances continued till past seven in the morning.

The chemise à la reine, was the height of fashion. A diaphanous white muslin gown with a coloured sash ribbon tied high on the waist, the wearer appeared fashionably déshabillé or undressed; the chemise had, until this time, been used as an undergarment but now it was worn as a dress in its own right with no corset underneath. It was popularized in France during the early 1780s by Queen Marie Antoinette who was painted wearing such a dress by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (to the outrage of her subjects who were scandalized to see their queen dressed in such a simple and romantic way).

Marie Antoinette in a Chemise Dress,1783 Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun
Marie Antoinette in a Chemise Dress,1783
Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Marie Antoinette had sent a few of these chemises to her aristocratic friends in England, in particular to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. The duchess and Mary Robinson are usually credited with introducing the fashion to England but Grace was also an early devotee of the style. She had spent time at the French court as the mistress of the duc de Chartres; had she too been sent a chemise à la reine from friends in France?

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787; Chatsworth House

With the Prince of Wales no longer interested in Grace, and the Earl of Cholmondeley having also moved on, Grace found herself in Paris… and with a new rival: the beautiful and ‘celebrated’ Moll Benwell, a courtesan at least a decade younger than Grace. If Grace wanted to renew her relationship with the duc de Chartres she was out of luck, for Moll Benwell stole her thunder. There began a tit-for-tat game between the two women, played out in London and Paris.

If we may credit our intelligence from France, English beauties are not less admired in Paris, than in their native kingdom – the reigning toasts there at present are, the Benwell, and the Elliot; the former is allowed to be by far the most elegant woman that has appeared there these many years, they term her the Kitty Fisher of her time, from her likeness to that beautiful woman. The Duc de Chartres has made himself extremely ridiculous on her account, following her to all public places; to the contempt with which she treats him and his promises (which that nobleman is but too apt to make) she may attribute his constant attendance on her.

The fortunes of the handsome Colonel Richard FitzPatrick (second son of the Earl of Upper Ossory) fluctuated wildly. He was a close and loyal friend of Charles James Fox (the two men had known each other since their schooldays) and one of the intimate group that included the Earl of Cholmondeley, the Prince of Wales and Charles Wyndham. An officer with the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, the dashing colonel was also an inveterate gambler, a solo balloonist, bon viveur and wit.

As befitted such a great friend of Charles James Fox, FitzPatrick had stood as a Member of Parliament, holding the borough of Tavistock from 1774, but gave as little time as he could to matters of business, preferring to devote himself to pleasure instead. He lived on his credit and tradesmen were always denied access to his house when they called to press their bills. Because of her own debts, Moll had left the colonel in the spring of 1783; she couldn’t pay them and neither could he, and so she journeyed to Paris at the same time as Grace.

With an improvement in FitzPatrick’s ability to procure credit, Moll returned to London; Grace must have been pleased to see the back of her and the way to the duc de Chartres left clear once more.

The winter of 1783 found the tables turned and Grace in London with Mary Benwell back in Paris; King George III was on the verge of dismissing the government and so FitzPatrick’s credit would once more be on hold. With her rival once more stealing her thunder in Paris, Grace, in London, exacted her tit-for-tat revenge and found herself a new protector, snaring for herself the Honourable Colonel Richard FitzPatrick.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott (aka Dally the Tall) by Thomas Rowlandson
Cropped view of Thomas Rowlandson’s drawing of Grace Dalrymple Elliott. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Bequest of Mrs. A. Dean Perry 1997.84

During the 1784 election, Grace was by FitzPatrick’s side campaigning for the Whigs and Charles James Fox on the streets of Westminster (as, famously, did Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). The supporters of Charles James Fox took to wearing ‘true blue’ colours and favours on the streets, denoting their support of American Independents and their hostility to Pitt and his ministers, and Grace was no exception.

Miss Dalrymple is so azurized, that nothing under the blue sky can exceed her; she wears a blue hat; her eyes are blue, her breast-bows and ribbons are the same colour; her carriage is also blue; and she is called by way of distinction the ‘Blue Belle of Scotland, &c. &c’.

Was the Rowlandson caricature drawn around this time?

Vauxhall by Thomas Rowlandson, 1785
Vauxhall by Thomas Rowlandson, 1785; Lewis Walpole Library

In An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, you can discover Grace, and her equally fascinating relations. It is available at all good bookshops worldwide, including Amazon, in hardback and as an eBook.

Courtesan. Spy. Survivor. A gripping and meticulously researched account of the swashbuckling life of one of history’s most overlooked heroines: Hallie Rubenhold, author of The Scandalous Lady W

At the time of writing, you can download An Infamous Mistress as either a Kindle or ePub from our publisher, Pen & Sword Books, for just £4.99.

John Nicholson’s ‘The Learned Pig’

The Georgians enjoyed nothing more than a spectacle be it the ‘freak shows’ or the sight of new animals, but something which caught their attention in the 1780s was a pig … no ordinary pig, but one who could perform tricks, so we thought as a bit of light relief, we would share a few anecdotes about this curious animal and leave you to draw your own conclusions as to the truth of any of it.

By all accounts the pig had previously been owned by a Scotsman, Samuel Bisset, although there were also reports that it was a native of Ireland, educated in Chester, so, we’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions from that.

After the death of Bisset, the pig became the property of a John Nicholson, who toured the country with his ‘learned pig’. The pig was not the first creature who he had worked with, oh no!  Nicholson  possessed a peculiar power over animals, he taught a turtle to fetch and carry, a hare to beat a drum with its hind feet; he taught six cocks to perform a country dance; his three cats to play several tunes on the dulcimer with their paws and to imitate Italian opera, but he became best known for conquering the natural obstinacy and stupidity of a pig by teaching him to unite the letters of any person’s name, count the number of people in the room, the hour and minutes of any watch, etc.

The Wonderful Pig. British Museum
The Wonderful Pig. British Museum

Mid 1784, Nicholson took the pig on tour, covering Leeds, Wakefield, The Assembly Rooms in Derby, Nottingham, Northampton and onward to London.

In April 1785 however, Nicholson was invited along with his learned friend to attend Brooks’s gentlemen’s club, one of the oldest in London, to perform at a private exhibition, which according to the newspapers didn’t go quite as expected:

A good deal of confusion arose to the master of the pig and the company present, from the improper questions which were put to this grunting philosopher. He counted the company well enough; but when he was asked how many Patriots were present, snorted at every member, and looked around for fresh orders.

How many are there present who are six pence clear of encumbrances? The pig stood still.

How many honest gentlemen? The pig would not stir.

Here the master was obliged to apologise and in a confounded passion whipped the pig and beat a hasty retreat.

Despite this slight hiccup, by all accounts this was a lucrative little earner for Nicholson as he was reputed to be making over one hundred guineas a week with his ‘grunting philosopher’.

A visit to the Irish Pig!
Yale Centre for British Art

There was great excitement when it was announced that the learned pig was visiting a town, with newspapers giving all the hype you would expect.

We hear from Colchester, that there is arrived in that place, and to be seen during the fair, that most sagacious animal the learned pig, that so long and so deservedly engaged the attention of the nobility and gentry at Charing Cross and afterwards at Sadler’s Wells, where he met with universal applause to the end of the season. The above curiosity is expected in Ipswich as soon as Colchester Fair is over.

Three Pigs in a Byre by George Morland
Three Pigs in a Byre by George Morland; Kinloch Castle, Rum (Scottish Natural Heritage)

We couldn’t resist including this article from the Chester Chronicle of 1792.

Nicholson’s learned pig has, we hear, lately arrived from Oxford, where he was admitted a fellow of Brazen-Nose* college, and is now returned to his seat at Bunbury, in this county, with those two profound marks of erudition A.M. annexed to his name – the learned in that neighbourhood say ‘it would do your heart good to hear him grunt Greek’.

Pigs by T. Horsley
Pigs by T. Horsley; The Bowes Museum

The idea of a performing pig was not restricted to just this one, apparently there were several, but who knows. As we’ve said, the concept of a talking pig was a money spinner, but also a great excuse to poke fun at the government, nobility and academia, so we’ll end this with a little ditty we came across.

Gruntledum, gruntledum, gruntledum, squeak,

I hope very soon to be able to speak;

Thou’ my gristly proboscis I find that I can

Already cry ‘aye’, like a parliament man:

Like a maid I can squeak, like a lover can whine,

And snort like an Alderman laden with wine.

Gruntledum, gruntledum, gruntledum, squeak,

I hope very soon to be able to speak.

Farmyard Scene by George Morland
Farmyard Scene by George Morland; Doncaster Museum Service

* In case you wondered, no this is isn’t a typo on our part!

Sources

Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser 21 September 1785

Northampton Mercury 04 April 1785

Northampton Mercury 25 April 1785

Ipswich Journal 29 October 1785

Bury and Norwich Post 04 January 1786

Sussex Advertiser 03 July 1786

Chester Chronicle 16 March 1792

An Enquiry after Stretchit in Gloucestershire, or the Sailor's Reply, 1800-1810.

The practicalities of wearing riding habits, and riding ‘en cavalier’

We’ve written about Georgian era riding habits in an earlier blog, but this time we’re looking at the practicalities of wearing one. Female equestrians in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries were certainly hampered by their clothes, in comparison to men, and needed assistance just to mount and dismount. Then, once in the saddle, they had to arrange themselves to be perfectly positioned with their skirts all in place.

The young horsewoman’s compendium of the modern art of riding; comprising a progressive course of lessons; designed to give ladies a secure and graceful seat on horseback; at the same time, so effectively to form the hand, that they may, in a short time, acquire perfect command of their horses, (1827) gives the following instructions for a novice horsewoman.

Two persons are necessary to assist in putting a Lady on Horseback; one to hold up the Horse’s head, standing immediately in front, with a hand on each Bridoon Rein, close to the Horse’s mouth; the other to life the Lady up to the Saddle.

The Lady having first adjusted her Habit, is to place her right shoulder against the Saddle, her face turned a little from the Horse. Her right hand, with the Bridoon Rein hanging loosely on the fore-finger, or thumb, to be placed on the upright Horn, and to stand perfectly erect, resting the whole weight of the body on the right foot.

The person lifting our equestrian up, now stoops down and cups his hands together; the lady places her left foot in his hands and keeps her left knee as straight as possible.

Frontispiece: The young horsewoman's compendium of the modern art of riding, 1827
Frontispiece: The young horsewoman’s compendium of the modern art of riding, 1827

If the left knee be much bent, the person lifting the Lady up, has very little command of her weight; she is, therefore, compelled to drag herself up in the most ungraceful manner possible… by attention to the foregoing rules, the most heavy, or inactive person, may be lifted up at the first attempt, if the pressure in the man’s hands is correctly perpendicular, and the Lady stands so close to the Saddle as to touch it with her right shoulder.

Before all this, however, thought needs to be given to the riding habit… specifically keeping it out of the way.

[When being lifted onto the saddle] care must be taken, that no part of the Habit is under the Lady’s foot when placed in the man’s hands; as it acts as a check, and prevents her taking a sufficient spring, which must be proportioned to the height of the Horse the Lady is to be put on.

On arriving in the Saddle, the right knee must be put into the crutch as soon as possible; but, previously to doing so, it will be advisable to take hold of the Habit and under garments with the right hand, close to the right knee, to ease them up, in order to allow sufficient room for the knee to come quite down in the crutch, where it must remain perfectly stationary.

Should the Habit require any regulating behind, the Lady must take hold of the crutch with her right hand, and gently raise herself from the Saddle, and smooth it down with her left hand; but if it is properly adjusted, previously to being lifted up, it will require very little alteration after arriving in the Saddle.

Great care must be observed, that the Habit and under garments are particularly full and easy, in order that the Lady may be at perfect liberty, and not, in the most trifling degree, confined by them.

Costume Parisien / Costume d'Amazône, 1800.
Costume Parisien / Costume d’Amazône, 1800. Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

It is a much safer plan, to put that part of the Habit which hangs near the Horse’s side, round the foot, previously to putting it into the Stirrup, than to fasten it down with a clasp, or a pin; as, in the event of a Lady being thrown from her Horse, the Habit disengages itself with the foot.

The Skirt to the Riding Habit should not be too long, as there is a possibility of its getting between the Horse’s fore-legs, or being blown across them, so as to check his action, and throw him down. It also makes a Lady’s figure appear disproportionate.

Fashion plate from Heideloff's gallery of fashion, 1790s.
Fashion plate from Heideloff’s gallery of fashion, 1790s.

There is also advice as to headgear, but not relating to safety as we’d understand it. No hard hats here, and we do wonder what the writer would have made of a lady carrying a parasol while hawking, as in this portrait below.

A Hawking Party by Gerrit Malleyn, 1779
A Hawking Party by Gerrit Malleyn, 1779; Glasgow Museums

Long veils are also dangerous on Horseback, as they get entangled with the Reins, confuse the Rider, and cause her to lose the command of her Horse.

Never lift the right hand up, with the Whip in it, to adjust the Hat; it not only looks extremely awkward, but will sometimes cause a Horse to shy. Place the Whip under the thumb of the Bridle Hand; and should there be a Rein in the right hand, it may either be dropped, or placed under the forefinger of the Bridle Hand. This leaves the right hand quite at liberty.

This lady, then, is doing everything wrong!

L'inconvénient des perruques, 1797.
L’inconvénient des perruques, 1797. The Clark

It was advised that, as with getting into the saddle, at least two men should be present to help our lady dismount from her horse and that:

before springing from the Saddle, [she should] draw the right hand down under the right leg, to feel that the Habit is quite clear of it and the Stirrup.

It wasn’t unheard of for women to ride astride a horse rather than side-saddle. An early nineteenth-century caricature, full of innuendo, jokes about the practice.

An Enquiry after Stretchit in Gloucestershire, or the Sailor's Reply, 1800-1810.
An Enquiry after Stretchit in Gloucestershire, or the Sailor’s Reply, 1800-1810. Wikimedia

It was more commonplace on mainland Europe for ladies to ‘ride astride’ or en cavalier (literally, as a rider or horseman). There are famous portraits of both Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great riding in male clothing in this way. The ill-fated Caroline Matilda, George III’s younger sister, embraced the custom after she married the Danish king.

The [Danish] Queen Consort, young, gay, affable and obliging, gained all hearts by her assiduity to please. It is no wonder that such a person should give occasion for censure to those who were already disposed to find fault… The ladies of Denmark, unlike our countrywomen, when they ride, bestride their horses like men; but to preserve the decorum of the sex, they wear a petticoat over their drawers or breeches. Unhappily her Majesty looked upon the petticoat as an incumbrance, and when she hunted, dressed herself en cavalier. This was immediately taken notice of by her enemies as a great act of indecency.

Caroline Mathilde and Struensee riding at Hørsholm
A later depiction of Caroline Mathilde and Struensee riding at Hørsholm. SMK Denmark

Nevertheless, riding in this way caused much astonishment and excitement in England.

A German Lady who dresses, and rides en cavalier, has for several days past attracted the attention of the beaux and belles in Hyde-park. She is well mounted, takes her morning rides without any attendant, and leaps over the different bars in the park with all imaginable coolness, and resolution.

Marie-Antoinette, reine de France à cheval, Louis-Auguste Brun, 1783. © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN / © Christophe Fouin
Marie-Antoinette, reine de France à cheval, Louis-Auguste Brun, 1783. © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN / © Christophe Fouin

And, just slipping in within our timeframe, is this account of the trend-setting Lady Mary Deerhurst, taking full advantage of her freedoms while living and travelling abroad.

The lady alluded to in the Morning Post as astonishing the natives of Rome by riding in the public streets in Turkish trowsers, and en cavalier, with her daughter in a similar costume is Lady Mary Deerhurst, the lively daughter of Aubrey, Duke of St Albans. Her elopement with Viscount Deerhurst was followed in a few years by separation between the parties; since which period, being in possession of a splendid fortune, she has lived an independent life in Italy, somewhat after the fashion of Lady Hester Stanhope. In her exploring parties in the vicinity of Rome, Lady Mary frequently remains on horseback from twelve to sixteen hours, to the no small consternation of her languid Italian attendants.

Sources not mentioned above:

Caledonian Mercury, 10 February 1772

Morning Post, 3 March 1778

Globe, 30 January 1830

Resuscitation in the Eighteenth-Century

The Royal Humane Society was founded in London in 1774 by two eminent medical men, Dr William Hawes (shown in the header picture at the bedside) and Dr Thomas Cogan, who were keen to promote techniques of resuscitation.

We think of resuscitation as something relatively modern, however, in 1775, The Royal Humane Society produced a booklet entitled ‘Address for extending the benefits of a practice for recovery from accidental death’.

It would appear that after several fatal drownings they felt it beneficial to write a booklet to advise people how to assist someone who appeared to be dead and a variety of techniques that could be used to revive them. We thought we would share some with you.

Firstly, the body should, if found outdoors, be taken by hand cart or other means available indoors where it would be warmer. It should be stripped with all speed, warmed in blankets in front of a fire, gently moved and shaken. Rubbing the body, especially the backbone, the belly, the breast, neck and head is one of the most efficacious operations. Some recoveries it is said were owed to that alone. It should be performed with cloths, often of flannel, warmed and sprinkled over with brandy, rum or gin and a volatile spirit.

A bed warmed naturally or artificially is of great use or stone bottles filled with hot water, also heated bricks, wrapped in a flannel should be efficaciously laid at the feet, sides and hands.

Resuscitation set, Europe, 1801-1850 Wellcome Library
Resuscitation set, Europe, 1801-1850 Wellcome Library

The next stage was to blow smoke of common tobacco into the intestines via the bowels. It was said to be easier to administer with the use of a fumigator. Bellows could be used to force up either vapour or common air. The use of tobacco should only be used on strong bodies i.e. men. For weak and delicate persons i.e. women and children, the use of dried rosemary, marjoram and mint should be used instead. At the same time, the belly must be gently moved and pressed upward with the hand. This must be continued until signs of life are obtained.

Plate illustrating the resuscitation of a drowned woman  Wellcome Library
Plate illustrating the resuscitation of a drowned woman. Wellcome Library

The idea was to get the blood circulating again. This should be continued for an hour or two.

Do not become discouraged if it takes longer

Towards the latter end, volatile spirits and salts may have a beneficial effect. Wine and cordials had the greatest effect once the body had recovered a little from its insensible state but must be given at not more than a spoonful at a time and must be allowed to go down slowly.

A surgeon preparing to let blood by cupping, his apprentice warming the cupping glass. Oil painting attributed to Jan Baptist Lambrechts. Wellcome Library
A surgeon preparing to let blood by cupping, his apprentice warming the cupping glass. Oil painting attributed to Jan Baptist Lambrechts. Wellcome Library

Bleeding should not be omitted once the blood has warmed up enough to get a drop out of the veins.  However, before the blood was liquified this would have no effect and once circulation had started. The use of ligatures necessary to stop blood loss would counteract the attempt to revive circulation.

Dr John Fothergill by Gilbert Stuart. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Dr John Fothergill by Gilbert Stuart. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Next, we have the eighteenth-century version of what today we refer to as Cardio Pulmonary Massage, better known as (CPR) or mouth-to-mouth. It was a Dr John Fothergill, of Yorkshire, who gave a lecture to the Royal Society in London in 1745 about mouth-to-mouth.

To put blood in motion force air in at the mouth, holding the nose and stroking the breast, to distend the lungs and raise the chest with the hand to them act on each other and produce motion, are happily attempted: also, such irritation which causes retching and sneezing, are properly excited in the throat and nose with a crow feather, or some stimulating drug.

The booklet reports that many recoveries despaired of were obtained by an uninterrupted treatment of five or six hours duration.

The air of the room in which the treatment is performed being better than that immediately breathed by the operator, a small clean bellows may be used by a second person, while the first holds it in the mouth and keeps the nostrils closes. Some dextrous persons attempt to convey the air through a metal pipe, called a ‘cannula’, having a crooked end, which with the finger, they cautiously guide into the wind-pipe, to produce a more immediate effect.

Smirke, Robert; Young Man Lifted from a River, Apparently Drowned; Government Art Collection.

The public was advised that if anyone appeared to have died suddenly either by choking, drowning, strangulation or suffocation they should immediately be taken to the nearest hospital or parish workhouse where treatment could be administered.  Watermen were advised that if they found a body which appeared not to have been in the water for long that they should carefully roll it or hold it upside down to remove the water from inside the body.

One of the main concerns that people naturally had, was about people being buried alive. This guide attempted to prevent such events from happening.

Featured Image

A man recuperating in bed at a receiving-house of the Royal Humane Society, after resuscitation by Dr William Hawes and JC Lettsom from near drowning. Watercolour by R. Smirke. Wellcome Library

Throwing at cocks and other pastimes: Shrove Tuesday in the Georgian Era

The person, Sir, who I informed you had last year swallowed a fork on Shrove Tuesday, discharged it by the anus the same year, (1715) on the 25th June.

Ahem! Now we’ve got your attention, today being Shrove Tuesday, we’re taking a look at some of the events which occurred on the day in the Georgian era. Often celebrated as a half-holiday with bell-ringing and games, we all know of the custom of pancakes; today pancake races are still often held. But, what about other traditions? And no, fork swallowing wasn’t one of them; that was just an accident which occurred on the day. Mind you, some of the customs were just as awful…

Woman Baking Pancakes, Adriaan de Lelie, c. 1790 – c. 1810
Rijksmuseum

An old custom around the mid-1700s was to throw sticks at cocks on this day… no, we don’t know why either. One theory, given in a letter in the Stamford Mercury of 1768 said that:

Gallieide, or cock-throwing, was first introduced by way of contempt to the French, and to exasperate the minds of the people against that nation: but why should the custom be continued when we are no longer at war with them?

Shrove Tuesday all the year round - a cock wot every one throws at.
Shrove Tuesday all the year round – a cock wot every one throws at. © The Trustees of the British Museum

A cockerel would be tied to a post and then coksteles (weighted sticks) thrown at the bird until, inevitably, it died. In 1763, the mayor and justices of Bath printed an appeal for this practice to end, it being ‘barbarous, and therefore doubtless offensive to Almighty God’. They asked the country folk who lived nearby the city not to bring their cocks to market and sell them for this purpose. Possibly their plea went largely unheeded, as they were forced to repeat their appeal the following year too. In 1753, a riot broke out in Dublin when some soldiers, who were watching the proceedings, expressed their distaste at the practice.  In 1766, at Blackburn in Lancashire, some of the local lads were throwing sticks at a cock in the churchyard, but their aim was off and instead they hit a woman walking past.

The stick flew into her eye, and up into her head, which put her into very great torture, and after languishing some time, she died.

The First Stage of Cruelty by Hogarth
The First Stage of Cruelty by Hogarth via Wikimedia

Mind you, with the custom of throwing at cocks all but forgotten by the end of the eighteenth-century, the Justices of Derby worried instead about the practice of:

…playing at Foot Ball on Shrove Tuesdays; a custom which whilst it has no better recommendation than its antiquity, for its further continuance, is disgraceful to humanity, and civilization; subversive of good order, and Government, and destructive of the morals, properties, and very lives of our inhabitants.

Foot Ball played at Market Place, Barnet by Robert Dighton, c.1784.
Foot Ball played at Market Place, Barnet by Robert Dighton, c.1784. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The year before, it seems, one John Sneap had lost his life while indulging in the game on Shrove Tuesday. Rowdy ‘mob football’ games were yet another odd Shrove Tuesday tradition. And so the city of Derby:

… being fully satisfied that many public and private evils have been occasioned by the custom of playing at FOOT BALL in this Borough on Shrove Tuesdays.

We have unanimously resolved, THAT SUCH CUSTOM SHALL FROM HENCEFORTH BE DISCONTINUED.

Some towns in England still continue this tradition. A much more satisfactory custom was gathering for drinks and a feast.

An English Merry-Making, a Hundred Years Ago by William Powell Frith, 1846.
An English Merry-Making, a Hundred Years Ago by William Powell Frith, 1846. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In Bury, on 24 February 1762, 72 people who all lived within a mile of the town met at the Old Hare and Hounds, to drink the health of the royal family. Amongst the crowed were 38 elderly folk, whose ages amounted to ‘upwards of 3040 years’. Adding the combined ages of those gathered to celebrate Shrove Tuesday seems to be of national interest. The following dates to 1759.

At an entertainment given by the Master of the Talbot Inn, at Ripley in Surrey, on Shrove Tuesday last, to twelve of his neighbours, inhabitants of the said parish, and who lived within five hundred yards distance, the age of the whole amounted to one thousand and eighteen years. What is most remarkable, one of the company is the mother of twelve children, the youngest of whom is sixty. She has within the fortnight walked to Guildford and back again (which is twelve miles) in one day. Another has worked as a journeyman with his Master (a shoemaker, who dined with him) forty-nine years. The all enjoyed their senses and not one made use of a crutch.

And, let’s not forget the poor fork swallower. He was reputed to be a Spanish officer who had accidentally gulped down the fork (it was only a small implement) while cleaning the root of his tongue with the end of the handle. And, the account we have read suggests he came to no permanent harm.

Sources:

Derby Mercury, 16 March 1753, 7 March 1766 and 18 February 1796

Manchester Mercury, 6 March 1759 and 2 March 1762

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 10 February 1763 and 23 February 1764

Caledonian Mercury, 12 November 1766

Stamford Mercury, 18 February 1768

A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner's Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782.

Employment opportunities for girls in the eighteenth-century

Not all women in the eighteen-century were able to marry a wealthy aristocrat, in fact very few did, the majority had to hold down a job as well as running the home and raising children. We thought today we would follow on from an earlier article in which we looked at eighteenth-century careers and have picked out a few of the career options listed in Joseph Collyer’s book of 1761, that were deemed suitable for girls and women, of which of course, there were only a limited number, far fewer choices than for men.

Basket Maker

There are several sorts of basket-maker. Some who form baskets of green oziers (willow), chiefly for the use of gardeners. These are the most considerable branches; for some of the masters employ many hands, and also rent large ozier plantations; which not only produce sufficient for themselves, but many to spare. This part of the work requires no other abilities but strength and application. Another sort of basked makers make finer works with rods stripped, split, halved and dyed; or with split cane or dyed straw of various colours. The workers in the finer sort of baskets, which are chiefly to be found in the turner’s shops, require less strength and more ingenuity. This is chiefly carried out by girls and women who make the smaller wares.

A young girl and child carry baskets on their heads
A young girl and child carry baskets on their heads. Wellcome Library

Bodice Maker

This was once a trade of universal use, but now bodices are worn by none but the poorer sort of women and girls in the country. They are made of canvas and whale-bone or cane and sometimes leather. Women are principally employed in making them; they can get six or seven pounds a week and require no great qualification. Their apprentices are generally parish children, whom they take with little or nothing. As their dealings are mostly in the country, they require a pretty large stock; most of them now deal also in ordinary stays, by which means they make a handsome livelihood.

Strawberrys, Scarlet Strawberrys from The Cries of London, 1795.
Strawberrys, Scarlet Strawberrys from The Cries of London, 1795. The strawberry seller wears a simple canvas or leather bodice. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Button Maker

The greatest part of the mohair, silk and horsehair buttons are made in the county and sent up to shops in town. Those made here are chiefly livery buttons, or some patterns particularly bespoke. Those who work at this are chiefly women, who are paid by the dozen and are able to get but a poor living. The boy or girl designed for the business of making gold and silver buttons ought to have some fancy and genius, that they may be able to invent new fashions. They should also have good eyes and a dry hand. The lace-man furnishes them with all the material for his buttons, except the moulds and pays him for the work when done.

Portrait of a Trumpeter in Livery (called ‘Valentine Snow, 1685–1759, Sergeant Trumpeter’); Michael Dahl I (1656/1659–1743) (style of); National Trust, Fenton House

Cap Maker

These are shopkeepers who make and sell caps for men or women to travel in and also men’s morning caps. They deal in many sorts of millinery goods, such as ladies’ hats, bonnets, cloaks, cardinals, short aprons, hoods, handkerchiefs, or almost anything made of black silk or velvet. Their apprentices ought to be smart girls of a genteel appearance, they should work well at their needles and be ready accomptants. They serve only five years and are kept the first part of their time close to the needle. Once qualified they may be cap-makers but may also be shop women to the milliners, the haberdashers or to any buying and selling trade proper for women.

A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner's Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782.
A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner’s Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Child’s coat maker

This branch of business is generally performed by women and is a pretty profitable employ. They take ten or fifteen pounds with a girl; who ought to be ingenious, handy and a tolerable needle-woman. The boning part is hard work for the fingers, but the rest is easy enough. As the apprentice must appear neat and gentle, and, when out of her time, must depend on a good acquaintance this trade is not fit for the children of people in low circumstances; but for those a little above the vulgar it is a very proper one. A journey-woman may get a pound a day in summer, but they are generally out of business some of the winter months.

Fan Painter

Fan painting is an ingenious business and requires skill in drawing, in perspective, in the proper disposition of the lights and shades and in laying on the colours. This business is however almost ruined by the introduction of printers fan-mounts. Therefore it would be a pity that any ingenious girl, who has a taste for drawing should be put apprentice to it.

Fan depicting the gardens of Chiswick Villa, 1757.
Fan depicting the gardens of Chiswick Villa, 1757. Met Museum

The Gilder

The gilding of metals is a very profitable and at the same time a dangerous business with respect to those who perform the work, occasioned by the quicksilver used in this art, which is apt to affect their nerves and render their lives a burden to them; whence the trade is but in a few and some of them women.  Gilding is performed with the following amalgam of gold and Quicksilver. The gold is then heated in a crucible and when just ready to flow, three or four times the weight of quicksilver is poured upon it and immediately quenched in water, both together become a soft substance like butter. When the artist intends to gild, the piece is rubbed with aqua fortis and then covered with the amalgam. When is all covered over and smother it is held over a charcoal fire, by which means the mercury evaporates and the gold remains upon the piece. The artist then rubs off all the roughness and at the same time spreads the gold with an instrument called a scratch brush, the work is then burnished to give the colour wanted.

Goldsmith's workshop: interior view, gilding dishes and the implements used.
Goldsmith’s workshop: interior view, gilding dishes and the implements used. Wellcome Library

A Quilter

Quilting is chiefly performed by the women, but there are some masters, who employ a number of women and girls in making bed quilts for the upholsterers. The women of this business not only make bed quilts but quilted petticoats. They either take poor girls as apprentices, whom they keep for the sake of their work or have a small for learning those grown up, whom they afterwards pay about ten or twelve pounds a week.

Portrait of Nelly O'Brien by Joshua Reynolds, c.1762-1763.
Portrait of Nelly O’Brien wearing a quilted petticoat by Joshua Reynolds, c.1762-1763. © The Wallace Collection

Tassel Maker

These are more frequently women than men. They make tassels for pulpit cushions, window curtain cords and for a variety of other uses. These tassels are made of gold or silver thread, silk, mohair or worsted, worked over a mould. When tassels were worn by the ladies to their mantels, this was exceedingly good employment, and many families go a genteel maintenance by it, but now, I believe, it is hardly worth learning. The masters take girls out of the schools and parish children with little or no money who, if in good hands, may, when out of their time, be able to get six or eight pounds a week as journey-women, or may set up with a very little. All materials being found from the lace or worsted men.

Late eighteenth-century purse with pink tassels.
Late eighteenth-century purse with pink tassels. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Tire woman

Thirty years ago this business gave many women in London genteel bread; but now the ladies cannot be dressed with elegance, except by a French barber, or one who passes for such, by speaking broken English, adjust and curls their hair at the exorbitant price of a crown or half a guinea a time. Our grandmothers thought it bordered on immodesty to appear with their heads uncovered; but probably our grandchildren, despising such narrow prejudices, may not be ashamed of going naked from the waist upwards or of having men chamberlains or dressers. I believe the few women, who now cut hair, cannot live by the employment and therefore need to say nothing of the terms on which they teach others.

The preposterous head dress, or the featherd lady, 1776.
The preposterous head dress, or the featherd lady, 1776. © The Trustees of the British Museum

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Paul, John Dean; Greyhound in a Landscape by John Dean Paul

Tales of faithful dogs from the Georgian era

There are many accounts of dogs seeking help for their owner following an accident. Here we’ve collected a few tales from contemporary newspapers.

In the early evening of a mid-November day in 1767, a man named Gabriel Park was walking to his home at Carntyne, a Glasgow mining area, when he fell into an old and deep abandoned coal pit by the roadside. Luckily it had no water in it, but he had no way of escape. Gabriel’s small pointer dog was with him, and all night it ran around the mouth of the pit, yelping and howling. This noise alerted several colliers who, early the next morning, were walking to their place of work; they came over to see what the commotion was. Gabriel was fair spent by this time, and had barely the strength left to call his name, but his rescuers heard his faint cries for help. They fetched ropes and brought him to safety; although he was in a bad state, Gabriel was expected to survive. And, if the Gabriel Park who was buried at Glasgow in 1794 at the age of 67 is him, then survive he did, thanks to his dog.

Another rescue by a dog also occurred in Scotland, on a similar winter’s evening in 1811. Andrew Frame and John Corbet, from Larkhall, were on their way home in an open cart together with their dog. They had to cross the Clyde, which was swollen, and by a mishap, cart, horse and the two men ended up in the river. John Corbet disappeared under the surface and was drowned, but his companion, Andrew, survived, thanks to the dog who grabbed hold of his master’s clothes and kept his head above the water until they got to the shore. The horse also managed to make it to safety; after getting away from his harness he swam to one side of the river only to find the bank too steep to escape, so made his way to the opposite side where he was able to scramble out.

View of the Clyde, by John Knox.
View of the Clyde (in better weather!) by John Knox; Government Art Collection

When the Comet II paddle steamer collided with another steamer off Kempock Point, Gourock, Scotland, and sank with the loss of 62 of the 80 passengers on board, a lady named Jane Monro was saved when she managed to grab hold of a greyhound who had been onboard, and who kept her afloat. The fate of the greyhound was not recorded (but we hope he was pulled to safety too!).

Paul, John Dean; Greyhound in a Landscape by John Dean Paul
Paul, John Dean; Greyhound in a Landscape by John Dean Paul; Leicestershire County Council Museums Service

Many other accounts relate stories of faithful hounds refusing to leave their dead masters. The following is from early February, 1799.

On Tuesday, an officer’s servant belonging to West Suffolk, was found near the Newmarket turnpike, supposed to have lain in the snow since Saturday. A faithful dog was found lying near his deceased master, buried in the snow by whose barking the body was discovered.

Several years earlier, in 1778, a Southampton man known as French Frank was sent on horseback to Stoke, accompanied by his faithful Newfoundland dog. Somehow met with an accident and both French Frank and the horse ended up tangled together in what was described as ‘the Barge River’ (possibly this means the Trent and Mersey Canal which was completed the year before and that French Frank was heading to Stoke-on-Trent). They both drowned, the bodies discovered due to the Newfoundland, who swam next to French Frank’s body and who could not be coaxed from the water until he was almost exhausted.

A clearly well-to-do gentleman from the London area (for the family had servants) had, in the summer of 1752, been missing for a fortnight. He had a favourite dog who rarely left his side, and this dog had also been absent, returning only for his dinner each day, then quickly vanishing again. Eventually, someone decided that it would be an idea to follow the dog, to see if he could lead them to the missing man. The dog led his owner’s relations to the side of a flooded gravel pit on the road to Marylebone where the dog’s master was found drowned.

Kensington Gravel Pits (1811-1812) by John Linnell
A later depiction of Gravel Pits at Kensington (1811-1812) by John Linnell; The Tate

Guide Dogs

Faithful dogs to guide the blind are nothing new.

In the summer of 1810, a blind man accepted a bet of seven shillings, that he could walk six miles in an hour and a half.  In this undertaking, he would be guided by his faithful dog. The pair started at 8 o’clock in the morning, on the Fulham road, and walked one mile out and then one mile back in until the six miles was completed. There was a huge crowd of people gathered to watch the event and, to their surprise, the whole six miles was completed with fifteen minutes to spare. The spectators, so impressed by the blind man’s feat, hastily started a collection amongst themselves, and in no time at all they’d raised 40 shillings, which was handed over to the blind pedestrian. Let’s hope he treated his pooch to a good meal with some of the proceeds!

Blind girl led by a dog, 1785.
Blind girl led by a dog, 1785. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Things didn’t always go so well, though. In 1776, a blind woman was walking along Newcastle’s Quayside, led by her dog. Unfortunately, the dog got a bit too close to the edge, and the poor woman fell into the water. It was near full tide, and a passing stranger grabbed a boat hook, managed to get hold of her dress, and dragged her back to dry land before any great harm came to her.

Ferry boat with passengers disembarking; Newcastle upon Tyne; Luke Clennell;
Ferry boat with passengers disembarking; Newcastle upon Tyne; Luke Clennell; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

We found another account of a blind man falling into a river, but this time you couldn’t blame his faithful dog as it was down to foul play.

Sunday night a poor blind man, who was led about the streets by a dog, fell into the Liffey, and was drowned. This was occasioned by some abominable villain cutting the cord with which the poor man was guided by the dog. The animal displayed astonishing affection to the body of his master, when taken out of the river, by licking it over, and signifying great concern at his fate.

Sources:

Derby Mercury, 17 July 1752

The Scots Magazine, 1 November 1767

Newcastle Courant, 11 May 1776

Hampshire Chronicle, 11 May 1778

Cambridge Intelligencer, 9 February 1799

Oxford Journal, 9 October 1802

London Courier and Evening Gazette, 19 July 1810

Globe, 20 December 1811

Morning Chronicle, 26 December 1825

Taxing of Dogs in the eighteenth-century

As we’ve discussed in previous articles, those pesky Georgians struck again with their diverse ways of taxing people.  We have previously looked at a whole range of taxes from hair powder tax and window tax that were implemented during the 1700s, but we came across a tax which appears to have proposed from much earlier than we had thought – the dog tax.

A Gentleman Out Shooting with Two Setters by John Francis Sartorius
A Gentleman Out Shooting with Two Setters by John Francis Sartorius; Walker Art Gallery

This was initially proposed in 1758, along with, interestingly, a bachelor tax which was a tax on bachelors aged over 25 and widowers under 50 having no children.

A Setter in a Landscape by Thomas Gainsborough
A Setter in a Landscape by Thomas Gainsborough; National Trust, Petworth House

Returning to the dog tax, in our research, we have never come across an Act of Parliament that has been so divisive nor taken Parliament quite so long to pass – nearly forty years!! Parliament simply could not agree on the best way to implement it.

Muff, a Black and White Dog by John Wootton
Muff, a Black and White Dog by John Wootton; Tate

Initially, the plan was relatively simple.

A tax for one dog of 1 shilling, for two dogs 5 shillings and for every dog between two and ten 5 shillings each. Between twenty and forty – £10 and for more than forty – £20.

Clearly this was an extremely unpopular option and eventually, after four years of debate, the whole concept was dropped in favour of a horse tax.

However, it reared its head again in the 1782 budget which said that there was to be:

An annual tax of ten guineas on every pack of hounds and five shillings for every other game dog.

Maria, from Sterne by Joseph Wright of Derby
Maria, from Sterne by Joseph Wright of Derby; Ferens Art Gallery

This bill took a further two years to be passed by Cabinet and to then be heard in Parliament by which time they had firmed up the actual tax, which of course had increased and was more specific. It is interesting to note that a ‘guide dog’ was to be exempt.

The dog-tax bill, it is said, has passed in the Cabinet and we apprehend will be carried into the House at the ensuing Meeting of Parliament.

Greyhounds and Lurchers are to be paid for at the rate of twenty shilling each

Pointers and all other dogs of sport, ten shilling each

And dogs of different descriptions, such as mastiffs, lap-dogs etc five shillings each.

Blind men’s dogs should be exempted for the tax.

A person who keeps a flock of sheep, can very well afford to pay for his shepherd dog.

Dog of the Havana Breed by Jean Jacques Bachelier
Dog of the Havana Breed by Jean Jacques Bachelier; The Bowes Museum

It all went quiet for a while as this proposal was thrown out by Parliament, as the collection of such a tax was deemed too difficult. However, feelings around the country ran high about the taxation of dogs, both for and against as can be seen in this letter to William Pitt the Younger, in March 1791.

Finally, according to the Staffordshire Advertiser of 19th March 1796, William Pitt gave his support to a dog tax. The tax of two shillings and sixpence (half a crown), was to be paid by all dog owners, with just a few exceptions.

A Hound, a Spaniel and a Pug (A Portrait of a Mastiff) by Francis Hayman
A Hound, a Spaniel and a Pug (A Portrait of a Mastiff) by Francis Hayman; Norfolk Museums Service

This was not the end of it, however, as the battles on either side of the argument continued, so much so that even Parliament itself commented on that fact that this proposal had been kicked around for nearly forty years – clearly, they couldn’t agree on how or if to implement it.

A simple proposal was put forward that with the exception of guide dogs that everyone who owned a dog should pay a flat tax of two shillings and sixpence, which was estimated would generate an income of £125,000 per annum.

Study of a King Charles Spaniel by Henry Bernard Chalon
Study of a King Charles Spaniel by Henry Bernard Chalon; Laing Art Gallery

But no! This option was not suitable. Goodness, how this debate dragged on, it even became so dramatic that there was talk in Parliament of possible bloodshed across the Kingdom over it! One of the main problems appears to have been the emotional attachment we have to dogs.

An Old English Terrier by John Nost Sartorius
An Old English Terrier by John Nost Sartorius; National Trust, Fenton House

Finally, we found the wording of the Act, in a newspaper dated 11th June 1796. This was nothing like keeping it simple. If it could be made complicated, then Parliament really did manage to achieve this. See what you make of it. We think it’s as clear as mud and the reference to guide dogs appears to have vanished.

DOG TAX

The words of the Act are “That from and after the 5th day of July 1796, every person who shall keep any Greyhound, Hound, Pointer, Setting Dog, Spaniel, Lurcher or Terrier or who shall keep two or more dogs, of whatever description or denomination shall be charged and assessed annually with the sum of five shillings for each Greyhound, Pointer, Setting dog, Spaniel, Lurcher or Terrier;

and also, for each dog, where two or more dogs shall be kept, and every person who shall inhabit any dwelling house, assessed toto any of the duties on inhabited houses, or on windows or lights, and shall keep one dog and no more, such dog not being a Greyhound, Pointer, Setting dog, Spaniel, Lurcher or Terrier, shall be charged and assessed annually, with the sum of three shillings for such dog.

There are clauses which provide, that the duty shall not extend to dogs not six months old, and that gentlemen keeping hounds may compound for any number, on paying this year fifteen pounds, and every subsequent one, twenty pounds; as it is understood only three-fourths of the tax are to be collected this year.”

It’s no wonder that people began to complain about it and try to find loopholes to avoid paying – and in this instance below – winning.  This remained in place until 1882.

A gentleman near Warwick, who keeps only one dog merely for the purpose of a house-dog, returned it as such to the Surveyor of Taxes. That return was objected to because, it was insisted, the dog, of a spaniel kind, was liable to the higher rate of duty, the same a sporting dog. The gentleman remonstrated; stating that the dog not being, in his opinion, a true sporting spaniel, but a common mongrel, did not, therefore, come within the letter of the Act of Parliament; and, at all events, not being trained nor even used for the purpose of sporting, most certainly did not fall within the spirit and meaning of the act. The remonstrance was, however, unavailing: and notice of an appeal was given. The case was heard before the Commissioners at Wellesbourne, when, without a moment’s hesitation, it was decided against the Surveyor of Taxes.

 

Sources

Leeds Intelligencer 14 March 1758

Derby Mercury 04 November 1784

Bury and Norwich Post 07 March 1792

Hampshire Chronicle 09 April 1796

Lancaster Gazette 02 March 1811

Featured Image

A Couple of Foxhounds, George Stubbs. Tate.

Picking mulberries by Thomas Rowlandson

Buried beneath the mulberry tree

We have the following odd affair transmitted to us from Windsor, viz. That a few days ago there died at Portsmouth a person who had lived at Windsor for many years, and by his will order’d that a relation of his (to whom he had bequeathed his all) should go to Portsmouth, bring his body from thence in a hearse, and bury it at six o’clock in the morning, in a grave ten feet deep, in his orchard, where he had himself buried a favourite dog some time ago…

The man was John Mathews, a hat maker from Windsor in Berkshire, who died sometime in late August 1741. (It’s hard to be sure, without a ‘regular’ burial in a churchyard, but his will was opened on 27 August and proved on 3 September 1741, and the newspaper report was dated two days later.) The Will actually stipulated that John should be buried in his ten foot deep grave in his garden under the mulberry tree. No more than a dozen of his friends ‘that have been used to sport with me’ were to be present. A French horn was to be played (the newspaper said it should sound the Death of the Hare while John’s body was being lowered into the ground).

Each mourner was to get a bottle of wine and the parson, who John’s executor should choose, should have a pair of gloves.

An orchard by a stream by Jonathan Skelton, c.1750s.
An orchard by a stream by Jonathan Skelton, c.1750s. Yale Center for British Art. Paul Mellon Collection.

John specifically stipulated that if he died away from his home, his executor should bring his body back to be buried beneath the mulberry tree and, if he’d already been buried, to exhume his remains and rebury them as directed. If not, the executor would ‘answer it at the last day and forfeit ten pounds to my next heir at law in three months after my decease…’.

This executor was John’s nephew, William Mathews, who lived with his uncle at Windsor. In return for carrying out his uncle’s wishes, William got the bulk of John Mathew’s wealth and possessions.

We’re not sure what John’s wife, Martha, made of all this, but she was also named in his will, getting 5l. within twenty days of his death and then 20l. a year thereafter, to be paid quarterly unless she remarried in which case her annuity would cease.

Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane c. 1780 by Paul Sandby. The viewpoint is taken from Datchet Lane to the east of Isherwood's Brewery.
Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane c. 1780 by Paul Sandby. © Royal Collection Trust

There was one further condition placed on William Mathews.

The said relation (who is not of the Establish’d Church) should within three calendar months [of John’s death], receive the Sacrament according to the Ceremony of the Church of England; and upon neglecting to comply with these things, to be cut off from all that this whimsical person died possess’d of, which we hear is about 1000l.

Can we just say here, that if this was his true fortune, we feel for his wife Martha, described by John in his Will as his ‘loving wife’. She got just a fraction and, unless her nephew allowed otherwise, doesn’t seem to have had any right to remain in her home (assuming it was owned by John and not Martha). However, the newspaper wasn’t quite correct on one thing; if William didn’t take the Sacrament, he didn’t forfeit everything, just 100l. which was to go to whoever stood next in line as John’s ‘lawful heir’.

Oh, and as a quick postscript to his Will, John left just a shilling to a niece.

Plums and mulberries by William Henry Hunt
Plums and mulberries by William Henry Hunt; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The newspapers reported that the first part of this odd will had been complied with, and John had been laid to rest in his garden at 6 o’clock in the morning. A week later, twelve people were to assemble at the makeshift grave, the invites already having been sent (John’s Will, however, seems to suggest they should have been present at the burial itself), ‘and ‘tis not doubted but the last part will be perform’d in due time’.

Picking mulberries by Thomas Rowlandson
Picking mulberries by Thomas Rowlandson; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

John Mathews’ will had been written on 9 January 1738/9, but when he died just over two years later he was described as being ‘late of New Windsor in the county of Berkshire but at Portsmouth in the county of Southampton’. As a further clue to the date of John Mathew’s death, his nephew William swore that he had opened the cover in which the Will had been sealed on Thursday 27 August 1741.

We’re reminded of the phrase, mad as a hatter. Hatters, through their trade, were susceptible to mercury poisoning. Whether or not John Mathews suffered in this way, there’s no doubt he was an eccentric character both in life and in death.

Sources:

National Archives, PROB 11/712/16 Will of John Mathews, Hat Maker of New Windsor, Berkshire, 3 September 1741

Newcastle Courant, 5 September 1741

A perspective view of the north-west front of ye parish church of St Bride’s with the beautiful spire, the height from the cross above the vain to the ground is 242 feet.

Eighteenth-century wedding cakes

As it’s Valentine’s day we thought we would have a romantic post, however, this has become a confusing one instead and one for which we don’t as yet has a conclusive answer. Everywhere we have looked to find out more about tiered wedding cakes or bride cake as it was previously called, there appear to be two different accounts as to who the cook was that originated it.

Courtesy of Little Bear Cakery
Courtesy of Little Bear Cakery

There are accounts in national newspapers, magazines and blogs with different versions. One says the tiered wedding cake first came about in 1703 and was made by a cook named Thomas Rich of Ludgate Hill who, as an apprentice, fell in love with his master’s daughter, married her and baked a beautiful tiered cake for the wedding based upon the steeple of nearby St Bride’s church.

St Bride's church. British Museum
St Bride’s church. British Museum

The other version is very nearly the same story, except that it relates to a William Rich. The only difference is the date, William (1755-1812) of 3 Ludgate Hill, was said to have married the daughter of his boss, one Susannah Prichard in 1776.

Whilst we’re unable to validate any information about the first possible candidate, as apprenticeship indentures didn’t begin until 1710 we can’t prove that there either was or there wasn’t a Thomas Rich of Ludgate Hill who was a cook, but we have, however, found records for a William Rich, who was apprenticed as a cook, but much later. On that basis alone he appears a more likely candidate.

View of St Matthew's Church, on the west side of Friday Street where William and Susannah married - quite plain in comparison to St Brides. British Museum
View of St Matthew’s Church, on the west side of Friday Street where William and Susannah married – quite plain in comparison to St Brides. British Museum

We have also found the marriage allegation and bond for William to a Susannah in 1776.  This is where the story begins to unravel. Firstly, Susannah Prichard (born 1758), was the daughter of a Davis Pritchard, a peruke maker, not a cook as we were expecting to see if the story was true.

Secondly, we have found that William was born 23rd March 1754 in Long Newnton, on the Gloucestershire border with Wiltshire, the son of Stiles Rich and his wife Mary Neale. Next, we found the Freedom of the City Admission paper for William which supports that we had found the correct person as it confirms him as the son of Stiles Rich, a yeoman in Wiltshire. The document confirms that William, aged just thirteen had been apprenticed to William Stiles, a cook, for seven years from 9th April 1767, so married his bride some two years after completing his apprenticeship.

It doesn’t mean for one minute mean that William didn’t make the cake for his bride, Susannah, but it does disprove the theory that she was the daughter of William’s master – wrong name!

William and Susannah lived at 4 Ludgate Hill, not number 3 as others have stated, but number 2, as this was confirmed in the register for St Bride’s church where the couple had seven of their children baptised.  Their eldest child, Mary Ann Elizabeth Moon Rich was baptised in 1777 just nine months after their marriage, with their youngest child, Margaret being born 1801, 34 years after their marriage. They had a total of twelve children.

William died 24th January 1811 and not 1812 as we have seen recorded elsewhere and left a very lengthy will providing for his family and friends. We do know that he died quite a wealthy man, so his baking skills were profitable, and that he was commissioned to bake for the great and the good of the day. We also know from the newspaper report of his death that he had clearly diversified from just baking into being a dealer of venison too. Susanna died the previous year and both were buried at St Bride’s church.

It’s easy to see how the story has become confused over the years and whatever the truth it’s a lovely story of boy meets girl, boy makes a beautiful tiered wedding cake for their big day, so let’s leave it at that and assume that there is a grain of truth in it. A fragment of Susannah’s wedding dress and a party dress belonging to her seems to have survived and was on display at St Bride’s church at some time.

Elizabeth Raffald (née Whitaker). NPG
Elizabeth Raffald (née Whitaker). NPG

We know that Mrs Raffald’s wrote a recipe for bride cakes which involved layers of cake with a filling, almond icing, then sugar icing, but there’s nothing to confirm that this involved using layers of cake to make tiers. It seems perfectly feasible that William adapted this recipe and created several of Mrs Raffald style cakes tiered up to look like the nearby St Bride’s church for his own wedding. This may be a myth, but we quite liked it.

A perspective view of the north-west front of ye parish church of St Bride’s with the beautiful spire, the height from the cross above the vain to the ground is 242 feet.
A perspective view of the north-west front of ye parish church of St Bride’s with the beautiful spire, the height from the cross above the vain to the ground is 242 feet. Yale Centre for British Art

Sources

The court and country confectioner: or, the housekeeper’s guide. Mr Borella. 1770

London from Blackheath by Francis Nicholson.

The Fair Swindler of Blackheath

Elizabeth Frances Robertson was born c.1773, possibly in a humble house in the outskirts of the town of Huntingdon where her father worked as a porter to an oilman and her mother as a laundress. She clearly received an education somewhere for she gained employment as a teacher in a boarding school, and did so well that a lady from Cheshire recommended her to the attention of Miss Charlotte Sharpe who ran a boarding school for young ladies at Croom’s Hill in Greenwich. From 1795, Eliza and Charlotte ran the school in partnership.

Croom's Hill overlooking Hyde Vale, Blackheath by Thomas Christopher Hofland
Croom’s Hill overlooking Hyde Vale, Blackheath by Thomas Christopher Hofland; English Heritage, Ranger’s House

Short and somewhat plain in appearance, and badly marked by smallpox, Eliza soon endeared herself to the staff and pupils, not least with the melancholy – but totally fictitious – tale of her childhood. Her father, she said, was dead. He’d upset her grandfather when he married against his wishes and was driven from his home and country, forced to wander as an exile. Mr Robertson ended up in the United States and – claimed Eliza – was given shelter at Mount Vernon by General Washington. There Mrs Robertson joined him and several children were born. An older brother, Eliza told her rapt audience, had been killed in battle, but not before he had married a woman of great fortune and even greater beauty. A sister had married a Captain Pigot who, shortly afterwards, had been killed in a duel, but nothing lost, then attracted the attention, and hand in marriage, of Lord Paget, heir apparent of the Earl of Uxbridge. Eliza was outwardly amiable and sensible, appeared very religious although later described as insinuating in her manner and speaking in an elevated tone of voice.

General George Washington (1732-1799) by John Copley Singleton
General George Washington (1732-1799) by John Copley Singleton; NT, Washington Old Hall

As everyone seemed to have swallowed these lies without murmur, Eliza went further. She claimed that she was entitled to an estate in Scotland, Fascally (it doesn’t exist but she said it was near Perth), after the death of an uncle, Alexander Stuart Robertson, and was an heiress. Lord Kenyon, Eliza asserted, had said she was entitled to this estate. Then, in 1799, Eliza received the news of her mother’s death. She was distraught, bought mourning rings for all her friends (on credit!) and announced that she had come into more money, around 700l. a year. When her grandfather died, she would receive even more, around 15 or 20,000l. Determined to enjoy her supposed new-found wealth, with the help of Charlotte Sharpe, Eliza contacted Mr Creasy of Greenwich, a man of business, to help her gain control of her Scottish estate. Mr Creasy was instantly duped. A surveyor was applied to, who would go to Fascally to give his opinion on the rents and value the timber. The surveyor also later added a somewhat gruesome piece of information to the tale: he recalled seeing a wax model of a dead child… Eliza, while weeping over it, claimed it was a (macabre!) present from Lord Paget and was the likeness of her sister’s child. Miss Robertson didn’t do things by halves! We almost suspect she began to believe her own lies.

London from Blackheath by Francis Nicholson.
London from Blackheath by Francis Nicholson. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Eliza planned to enjoy her good fortune; she wanted a fine house and fixed on a handsome one in the Paragon, an elegant crescent at Blackheath, which was half built. In early 1800, she bought it on credit… Mr Creasy had advanced her 2,000l. of his own money in lieu of her settling matters at Fascally. This Blackheath villa (it was no. 3 on the crescent) was to be finished in the most expensive style. Creasy hired bricklayers, carpenters and painters. The drawing rooms were painted in watercolours by one of the best artists money could buy, the walls in landscape and the ceiling composed of clouds. Floor to ceiling looking glasses in richly carved, burnished gold frames were hung on the walls in other rooms; six mirrors came to 1100l. Mr Driver, a nurseryman, planted the shrubberies and improved the extensive pleasure grounds. Meanwhile, Eliza set up three carriages, a coach, a sociable and a post-chariot and had a card printed which read, ‘Miss Robertson, of Fascally and Blackheath’ which she distributed around all the best houses in the neighbourhood. As we have already pointed out, why go small when you can go large.

The Paragon in Blackheath.
The Paragon in Blackheath. London Illustrated News, 19 April 1947

Creasy also went to Thomas Haycraft’s ironmongery in Deptford; Mr Haycraft had gone to Bath, leaving his two sons in charge. After being assured of Eliza’s status by Mr Creasy, they extended her credit and supplied several items for her new house. In the end, across all the tradesmen, dressmakers and milliners who were approached by Eliza and Mr Creasy, she received credit amounting to an eye-watering 15,000l. against her future expectations.

During the building work, Eliza and Charlotte stayed at Croom’s Hill. (Charlotte Sharpe was later described, unkindly, as having large black eyes, with a rather ferocious expression, pallid skin and sharp features.) Towards the end of June, they set off for Brighton, where they ‘figured away with four horses and outriders’. In August they returned, and Eliza went to Hatchett’s the coachmaker and desired him to make her an elegant chariot, with silver mouldings and raised coronets of silver. A trip to Margate also took place, with Mr Creasy accompanying the ladies. Eliza realised that he might talk to people in Margate and unravel her tales so, near to Shooter’s Hill, she stopped the carriage and told her coachman not to announce Mr Creasy; he seems to have made no resistance to this. He was a married man so had no designs on her fortune, although he may have been in on the scam.

On Shooter's Hill by George Scharf.
On Shooter’s Hill by George Scharf. British Library

Furniture was supplied by Mr Oakley, an upholsterer who had a warehouse on Bond Street. Eliza told Oakley she had great expectations from rich relations in India and was continually receiving presents of great value. Among the number lately arrived was a chimneypiece then lying at India House, and she added that she intended to build a room in which to hold balls or musical evenings. Oakley’s order amounted to almost 4,000l., again, all on credit. With the house beginning to be furnished, servants were hired and Eliza and her ever-trusting companion, Miss Sharpe, moved into their fine new mansion. They were, perhaps, lovers.

A furniture warehouse similar to that owned by Mr Oakley.
A furniture warehouse similar to that owned by Mr Oakley. Morgan and Sanders, from Ackermann’s Repository of Arts.

John Cator, Esq., the wealthy Quaker timber merchant and MP who owned the land the villa stood on, had been a mortgagee on the house and became the landlord. Eliza told him she wanted 850l. to pay the workmen, and that she did not mean to have a lease, but to purchase the house. He loaned her the money.

Oakley was the first to grow suspicious and when half the order had been completed, asked for 1000l. Eliza was hurt by his lack of trust and indignantly said if he doubted her he could write to her sister, Lady Paget, or her cousin, the Bishop of London. If he had further doubts, he could apply to Sir Richard Hill who had known her from infancy or to Sir Edward Law, the present Attorney-General, who could vouch for her. Her boldness won the day, and Oakley proceeded without contacting anyone. But, as suspicions had started to be raised – somewhat too conveniently, perhaps – Eliza’s grandfather now died. She put her entire household into mourning while her creditors looked with interest at Eliza’s increasingly large inheritance.

‘From the manner in which she was going on, he [Oakley] took it for granted that she was a woman that had so much money that she did not know what to do with it, or that she had none at all.’

Then, just before everything was finished, Mr Oakley finally did what he should have done weeks earlier, and called on the Bishop of London and Sir Richard Hill; both gentleman only knew Eliza through her card, which she had left at their door. The game was finally up!

Print via the British Museum: Madora, c.1800.
Print via the British Museum: Madora, c.1800.

Oakley took out a writ and waited for Eliza and Charlotte to return home (she was dining out), but the crafty Eliza realised what was happening, sent her carriage home empty and vanished into the night. Oakley broke in and by 6 o’clock the next morning his men had cleared the mansion of its furniture. Three hours later came in an execution, by which the remaining part of the property was to be sold by auction on the premises.

Mr Creasey, at the last minute, had gained a warrant of attorney from Eliza and took two very heavy hampers from the Blackheath villa, part of the plunder. He also reportedly took the lease of the house, so that while the others were ruined, he was safe. Had he been in on the game, or truly a dupe? Eliza was spotted by a haberdasher in St Paul’s Churchyard who chanced on her in Bishopsgate Street, dressed in men’s clothes and boots, with Charlotte leaning on her arm. After that, the two women, both in their normal dress but heavily veiled, took the Devon mail-coach out of London. They eventually ended up in Penzance in Cornwall where they took rooms in a hotel, Miss Sharp going by the name of Sydenham and claiming Eliza as her distant relative and protégé Madame Douglas, a lady of large fortune from the north of England, travelling for the benefit of her health; being reclusive, Mme Douglas didn’t want to travel with a retinue as the anxiety that would produce would counterbalance any comforts. You bet it would!

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Costume Parisien, 1 décembre 1799, An 8
Journal des Dames et des Modes, Costume Parisien, 1 décembre 1799, An 8. Rijksmuseum

They stayed in during the day, only going out at night with veils over their faces; during their week’s stay they saw no one and the staff grew suspicious. A chambermaid overheard a conversation in which the names of Oakley and Creasy were frequently mentioned, and she’d been reading the newspapers which had reported the swindle. A letter was written to Blackheath but the two ladies got wind of it and left the next day. At length, in early April 1801, Eliza and Charlotte were traced to Huntingdon where they were lodging under the name of Cunningham. Eliza, who had signed everything, was arrested and thrown into the town jail. There, the jailer made a tidy sum by charging people to see his notorious prisoner while Eliza maintained her pretence to the end, insisting she had property sufficient to meet all her debts. She managed to publish ‘an apology’, purportedly to raise money for the support of her friend, Charlotte, who was struggling to pay for lodgings.

Eliza was transferred to Bow Street in London to be examined and ended up in the Fleet Prison from where, with no prospect of repaying her debts, she knew she had little chance of escaping. Thomas Haycroft took out an action against Mr Creasy in the Court of the King’s Bench in the Guildhall. Haycroft was asking for – and won – damages of 485l. 9s. 4d., claiming that Creasy had been the one who vouched for Eliza and said she was good for credit. In a somewhat ironic twist, given that Eliza had claimed he had been the man who said she was entitled to her Scottish estate, Lord Kenyon presided at the hearing.

View of the inner court of the Fleet Prison, with the prisoners playing rackets and skittles on the left, 1807.
View of the inner court of the Fleet Prison, with the prisoners playing rackets and skittles on the left, 1807. © The Trustees of the British Museum

During August 1802, Eliza was represented by no less a person than the famed Mr Garrow in a case she brought to Maidstone assizes to try to recover the goods and furniture Mr Oakley had ‘unlawfully possessed himself of’. Some of the furniture, Eliza claimed, was Charlotte’s property, brought from Croom’s Hill, and she suggested Oakley and his men had helped themselves to more than they were entitled to. Charlotte took to the witness stand, well-dressed and demure, wearing a fashionable ‘gypsy hat’ and said that she had believed all Eliza’s tall tales, and was as hurt and surprised as anyone else to find them false. It didn’t help; Garrow lost this case.

Fashion plate dated October 1801 from the Ladies' Museum: the hat on the left is a gypsy hat
Fashion plate dated October 1801 from the Ladies’ Museum: the hat on the left is a gypsy hat. Los Angeles Public Library

Eliza remained in the Fleet and continued to publish several works. There, in June 1805, aged 32-years, Eliza died of a decline and was buried, on 11 June, in the churchyard of St Bride’s, the only mourners her father, mother and one of the turnkeys of the fleet.

Sources:

Chester Courant, 24 March 1801

Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 6 April 1801

Caledonian Mercury, 9 April 1801

Morning Chronicle, 15 July 1801

Stamford Mercury, 17 July 1801

Caledonian Mercury, 14 September 1801

Oxford Journal, 20 March 1802

Morning Chronicle, 9 August 1802

Caledonian Mercury, 14 August 1802

Staffordshire Advertiser, 14 August 1802

The New Annual Register, Or General Repository of History, Politics, Arts, Sciences and Literature: For the Year 1805

The Paragon, Blackheath (published 16 September 2016 on The Regency Redingote website)

Beaufoy's Vinegar Works, Cuper's Gardens, Lambeth by Charles Tomkins, c.1800.

A Careers Guide for the Eighteenth-century

In 1761, Joseph Collyer developed a careers guide for parents including information about the requirements for being an apprentice. He stressed the importance of good education of course, but it also began with a ‘how to’ guide for new parents describing how the mother should establish a moral code for children and ensuring that they behaved well from infancy, including discipline. Mothers should take care not to create groundless fears in the child, such as making the child afraid of the dark, telling him idle tales of ghosts, hobgoblins and haunted houses. She should instil the principles of religion and virtue. She should help shape not only their bodies but their minds too. The book offers guidance on many trades, so here are a just a few of them with more to follow in future articles.

The first three occupations that Collyer considers are Divinity, Law and Physic.

In a nutshell, if the child is likely to be easily led into drink, women and other vices then divinity would not be the right careers path and law would be a much better option as people are more forgiving of these vices.  They would need to be fluent in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. To study ethics and moral philosophy and to apply himself to the Holy Scriptures and be good at public speaking in order to deliver sermons.

The Country Vicar's Fire Side.
The Country Vicar’s Fire Side. © The Trustees of the British Museum

To enter the legal profession a boy would need to have a quick understanding.  A lively wit and volubility of speech. He should have a great command of temper and a sincere love of justice. They must learn languages and read the works of great orators. Upon leaving university he must enter one of the four Inns and apply himself to the laws of the country.

Mr Bannister Junior and Mr Parsons as Scout and Sheepface in 'The Village Lawyer' by Samuel de Wilde (Scout the lawyer on the left)
Mr Bannister Junior and Mr Parsons as Scout and Sheepface in ‘The Village Lawyer’ by Samuel de Wilde (Scout the lawyer on the left); Leicester Arts and Museums Service

The physician – the youth intended for the study of physic ought also to have an extensive genius, particularly clear perception, a found judgment and a retentive memory. He should have the liberal education of a gentleman. He should have a tender compassion for his fellow creatures.  Well versed in the dead languages, skilled in natural philosophy, anatomy, botany, pharmacy and chemistry. A periwig is essential headgear for a doctor as it imparts an air of gravitas and his patients will trust him more than wearing any other type of wig.

A Physician in His Study, Writing a Prescription for His Waiting Patient by Pieter Jacob Horemans, 1745
(c) Wellcome Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Collyer moved on to the other trades rather than professions and outlined various occupations and what a master would expect to be paid for training their new apprentice. For most apprentices, the amount paid was between five and ten pounds.  The book runs to well over two hundred pages, so far too many occupations for us to cover in this post so it may be one we will return to if people find it of interest.

Anvil Smith

A boy designed for this trade needs only a basic education, with no great mental abilities being required. The art of his trade is learnt by feeling the tempering of the steel. However, it requires a good deal of strength. It is a very profitable business for the master.

A blacksmith at his anvil
A blacksmith at his anvil. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The baker

The boy, designed for this useful trade, ought to be of an honest disposition, and both strong and industrious; since the apprentices in London are obliged to carry out great loads of bread by day and to work had most of the night. The money given with an apprentice is from 5 pounds to 20 pounds. The journeymen have 6 or 7 pounds a week and their board, and a master cannot well set up with less than 100 pounds considering he is obliged to give credit.

Baker's boy, 1746.
Baker’s boy, 1746. Met Museum

Catgut spinner

A cat-gut spinner is a necessary article in several trades; in the making of whips, the stringing of violins etc. But yet, cat-gut spinning is a very mean, nasty and stinking trade, that requires no genius or abilities. None but the poorest children are put apprentice to it, and when out of their time, they are able to earn only very mean support.

Catgut makers: various stages in the process of catgut making and instruments used. Etching by Antonio Baratti.
Catgut makers: various stages in the process of catgut making and instruments used. Etching by Antonio Baratti. Wellcome Library

Drapery painter

The boy designed for this business, which is the lowest degree of liberal painter, ought to learn to draw and to form a just knowledge of the nature of light and shade; and this may serve as a sufficient preparatory for his being put apprentice; when, if he be bound to a proper master, he will learn, though he has no very extraordinary genius, to obtain a tolerable notion of painting in general, a sufficient knowledge of colours, and the manner of mixing them. To exhibit the folds of a garment in such a manner as to show the materials of which it is composed, whether woollen, linen, silk or velvet.

Though this business does not require a very great genius, yet those who are eminent in their way and employed by a celebrated limner (portrait painter), may frequently earn a guinea a day.

Joseph Van Aken, The Drapery Painter by Thomas Hudson. (Writing in 1743 George Vertue observed in one of his notebooks that the most skilled living drapery painter was Joseph Van Aken.)
Joseph Van Aken, The Drapery Painter by Thomas Hudson. Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd. (Writing in 1743 George Vertue observed in one of his notebooks that the most skilled living drapery painter was Joseph Van Aken.)

Fan Stick Maker

This is a business for weakly boys. Fan stick makers are employed by those who keep a fan shop and make sticks of ivory, tortoiseshell, wood etc. Many fans now are brought ready mounted from the East Indies and sold here extremely cheaply and have almost ruined this branch of the business.

Fan depicting the gardens of Chiswick Villa, 1757.
Fan depicting the gardens of Chiswick Villa, 1757. Met Museum

Iron Hoop Maker

This is a class of Smith solely employed in making iron hoops for large vessels belonging to the brewers and distillers. It is a laborious, noisy and requires no extraordinary abilities.

Beaufoy's Vinegar Works, Cuper's Gardens, Lambeth by Charles Tomkins, c.1800.
Beaufoy’s Vinegar Works, Cuper’s Gardens, Lambeth by Charles Tomkins, c.1800.

Muffin Maker

This business has but of late years been carried on in shops, but they are now pretty numerous. The muffins are cakes made of white flour and used at the tea-table. It is a tolerable business for a master; though a poor one for a journeyman. They take poor lads from the parish or others with no money; who the first part of their time cry the muffins through the streets early in the morning, and again in the afternoon; and also work hard when they are making these cakes.

London Cries: A Muffin Man by Paul Sandby, c.1759.
London Cries: A Muffin Man by Paul Sandby, c.1759. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Patten Makers

These keep shops and make wooden clogs as well as pattens. It is an easy light business and requires few talents, and very little learning is necessary. It is enough, if the boy designed for it, can write a plain hand and understands the first rules of arithmetic. When he has completed his apprenticeship, he may earn twelve pounds a week.

Piety in Pattens or Timbertoe on Tiptoe
Piety in Pattens or Timbertoe on Tiptoe. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Screen Maker

The boy, who is designed for this business, would do well to learn to draw and to obtain some knowledge in perspective before he becomes an apprentice.  There is great variety in this piece of furniture, serving both for ornament and use; and therefore, there is some room for a boy of genius to exert his talents. The master, who are but few in number, generally keep handsome shops. The make their own frames, which they mount with gilt or painted leather etc and the sometimes deal also in cabinet and chair makers goods. They take about twenty pounds with an apprentice and if they keep a genteel shop, employ several hundred pounds in trade.

Screen depicting Hunting, Cock-Fighting, Card-Playing, Horse-Riding, Game-Shooting, Dice-Throwing, Fishing and Bathing by an unknown artist, 1746.
Screen depicting Hunting, Cock-Fighting, Card-Playing, Horse-Riding, Game-Shooting, Dice-Throwing, Fishing and Bathing by an unknown artist, 1746. Victorian and Albert Museum

Tire Smith

His is an ingenious branch of the Smith’s business, consisting of making ironwork belonging to the carriages, coaches and chaises. The nicest and most curious part of their work are springs for the spring coaches and other vehicles of pleasure. There is great variety in this business.

English coaches and carriages from Le Costume Historique.
English coaches and carriages from Le Costume Historique.

In a later article, we’ll share some of the jobs available to women.

The north front of Windsor Castle from Isherwood's Brewery in Datchet Lane c. 1765, by Paul Sandby.

The Isherwoods: Brewers of Windsor

The Nottingham born artist, Paul Sandby, painted and drew many scenes in and around Windsor and also informal portraits of some of the inhabitants. One of his drawings, held in the Royal Collection, caught our eye: the Miss Isherwoods, the Brewer’s daughters, c.1770-1780. Isherwood is an uncommon surname, and with the father’s occupation, surely it would be possible to track down the forenames of these two young women and complete the attribution?

Miss Isherwoods, the Brewer's daughters, Windsor, c.1770-1780, by Paul Sandby.
Miss Isherwoods, the Brewer’s daughters, Windsor, c.1770-1780, by Paul Sandby. © Royal Collection Trust

The father of these two young women was Henry Isherwood who owned an ale brewery which traded from premises on Datchet Lane/Lower Thames Street in Windsor (around where St George’s School now stands on Datchet Road). From the brewhouse yard, you had an excellent view of Windsor Castle.

View from Mr Isherwood's Brewhouse, Datchet Lane; view down a street, with wagons in a shed at the foot of it, and Windsor Castle beyond, by Paul Sandby.
View from Mr Isherwood’s Brewhouse, Datchet Lane; view down a street, with wagons in a shed at the foot of it, and Windsor Castle beyond, by Paul Sandby. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Henry Isherwood was reputed to be ‘a poor lad’ from Yorkshire who had made his way to Eton in Berkshire where he found work at the Christopher Inn. He married well, to Sarah Kendal (on 5 May 1737 at Hedgerley in Buckinghamshire) whose money helped her husband establish his brewery at Windsor (the town had a thriving brewing industry).

Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane c. 1780 by Paul Sandby. The viewpoint is taken from Datchet Lane to the east of Isherwood's Brewery.
Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane c. 1780 by Paul Sandby. The viewpoint is taken from Datchet Lane to the east of Isherwood’s Brewery. © Royal Collection Trust

The couple had three known children, a son, Henry (baptized 9 February 1739) and two daughters, the two young ladies in the drawing above, Sarah (born c.1743) and Christiana Maria (born c.1745). The family prospered and grew wealthy on their business’s profits.

Paul Sandby in 1761, painted by Francis Cotes. The Tate
Paul Sandby in 1761, painted by Francis Cotes. The Tate

Also in the Royal Collection is a drawing by Sandby which features another of the Isherwood family, although the name of the man depicted seems to have got muddled over time. When exhibited at the Royal Academy, the man stood on the far left was just denoted as ‘Isherwood the brewer’, a later mount now attached to the picture claims the man to be J. Isherwood and the notes on the RCT website mark the man out as Henry Isherwood senior. However, this drawing dates to 1760 and the man depicted looks to be very young; we believe that it is more likely the man shown is Henry Isherwood junior, who would have been around 21 years of age in 1760.

On Windsor Terrace, c.1760 by Paul Sandby; on the left is Isherwood, the brewer.
On Windsor Terrace, c.1760 by Paul Sandby; on the left is Isherwood, the brewer. © Royal Collection Trust.

The four men are standing on Windsor Terrace; in the middle is Davis, Windsor Castle’s smith and to the right a man identified as Captain Archibald Campbell (the RCT notes suggest that he is possibly the same man who married Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the painter Allan Ramsay, but as Amelia Ramsay’s future husband saw action in the Seven Years’ War, we’re not totally sure about this).

Windsor Castle from Mr Isherwood's Brewhouse in Datchet Lane, 1780 by Paul Sandby.
Windsor Castle from Mr Isherwood’s Brewhouse in Datchet Lane, 1780 by Paul Sandby. King George III’s personal coloured views collection – SPL Rare Books

Then tragedy struck the family. Henry Isherwood senior died suddenly in 1773… and it was hinted that he had been poisoned.

Henry Isherwood’s will left his family well provided for. His son took over the running of the brewery and also later – for just a short time – became New Windsor’s MP. Henry junior’s death, on 22 January 1797, cut short his parliamentary career. Sarah and Christiana Isherwood were both left financially secure by their father, each receiving 10,000l. They never married. Around 1790, the Isherwood family built a substantial mansion-house, situated in large grounds, at Bushey in Hertfordshire and named Laurel Lodge. There Sarah and Christiana lived in their old age, often visited by their brother’s children. (Laurel Lodge was remodelled in the late 1800s and has now been converted into flats known as Herne Mansions (formerly Sparrows Herne House); it stands in Bushey Heath down Fuller Close, a short distance from the junction of Little Bushey Lane and Elstree Road.) Sarah died in 1820 aged 77 and Christiana in 1827, aged 81. Both women are buried in the churchyard at New Windsor.

We’ve already mentioned Henry Isherwood senior’s melancholy end. We’ll relate the events leading up to his death and leave you to decide if he was indeed poisoned.

The north front of Windsor Castle from Isherwood's Brewery in Datchet Lane c. 1765, by Paul Sandby.
The north front of Windsor Castle from Isherwood’s Brewery in Datchet Lane c. 1765, by Paul Sandby. © Royal Collection Trust

Henry was a member of the Colnbrook Turnpike Commission and on 29 March 1773, he and the other members dined at an inn named The Castle, at Salt Hill outside Slough. The men present were the Hon Mr O’Brien, the Hon Captain Thomas Needham (aged 33 and the eldest son of ‘Jack’, 10th Viscount Kilmorey), Edward Mason Esq, Major Mayne, Mr Cheshire, Walpole Eyre Esq (aged 38 and whose godfather was Sir Robert Walpole, hence his name), Captain Salter, Henry Isherwood, Mr Joseph Benwell, a draper from Eton who was the Commission’s treasure, Mr Pote senior (on business) and Mr Burcombe, the Commission’s surveyor. Over the course of the next two weeks, all but one of the gentlemen were taken seriously ill. At first, the wine was suspected to be the cause; Captain Salter had preferred to drink punch instead, and Mr Cheshire had drunk very little. Both men were only mildly ill. It was initially believed that Mrs Partridge, the landlady, had added a little arsenic to the wine, to ‘refine’ it.

Bachelor's Hall, Robert Dighton.
Bachelor’s Hall, Robert Dighton. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The dinner was turtle soup, followed by fish, jack, perch and eel, spatchcock fowls, bacon and greens, veal cutlets, a ragout of pigs ears, a chine of mutton and salad, a course of lamb and cucumbers, crayfish and, as if you needed more after that feast, pastry and jellies. All was described as:

…plain and innocent, nothing high-seasoned, or that could give cause of suspicion of any bad consequence; the wine, Madeira and Port, of the best sorts. In both articles of meat and drink, the company were moderate, and no excess appeared.

After their dinner, some people were brought in to be examined before the members of the commission, among them a poor man, in a ‘distressed, miserable condition’. He seems to have been in ill-health. Mr Pote, perhaps wisely it seems, had gone out to the gardens of the inn to stretch his legs; he was there on other business relating to the commission but had no need to be present during the examinations. Mr Pote was the only one of the company not to suffer any ill effects, all the others fell ill to varying degrees. Four of the men died: Captain Needham, Joseph Benwell, Walpole Eyre and Henry Isherwood.

The Honourable Thomas Needham (d.1773), in the Uniform of the 3rd Footguards at Ascott, Buckinghamshire, by Thomas Gainsborough
The Honourable Thomas Needham (d.1773), in the Uniform of the 3rd Footguards at Ascot, Buckinghamshire, by Thomas Gainsborough; National Trust, Ascot

Mrs Partridge was horrified and willingly allowed her kitchen and cellar to be fully inspected. Major Mayne’s doctor, Dr James, was of the opinion that his patient’s illness was due to an infection; if it had been poison, he assured the public, the men would have fallen ill within hours, not days. There were reports that a Clerk of the Justices, a Mr Mason who had dined on beefsteaks in a private room in the inn (confusingly, an Edward Mason Esq was said to be present at the commission’s dinner too), was also dangerously ill; the Justices had examined a poor man, brought before them in a ‘dying condition’ from Taplow to be passed to his own parish. This man later died, as did the farmer at whose house he lodged on his journey. Local gossip also claimed that several prisoners had travelled from Reading gaol on their way to London, to be transported for their crimes, and stopped at the inn. Gaol fever could have been the cause.

A view of the interior of a room at an inn in Salt Hill (prepared for the "Montem" dinner in 1793).
A view of the interior of a room at an inn in Salt Hill (prepared for the “Montem” dinner in 1793). © British Library

In short, it appears from the newspapers of the day that there was certainly an outbreak of a contagious fever in the area, but nevertheless, with all the talk of poison, trade at the Castle Inn dropped dramatically and Mrs Partridge struggled for a good twelve months afterwards. And, rumours abounded years later. Years later, Queen Charlotte’s Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe, Charlotte Papendick, in her memoirs recounted the tale and claimed that Mrs Partridge, on her deathbed, confessed.

…she considered it right to disclose the secret of the poisoning now it could no longer hurt any individual, and was at the time purely accidental, she would confess that it arose from the turtle having been left in the stewpans cold, and then heated afresh for the dinner. The cook, renowned for the dressing of this favorite luxury, came down from London late the evening before, expressly for this purpose. He said that as the turtle was better for long stewing, he should do it through the night, during which time he would be preparing various other dainties. He didn’t keep to his word. He slept, let the fire out, and heated the turtle soup up again without removing it from the pan… From the acids used in dressing the turtle, the pan was covered with verdigris. When she showed it to the cook he said he wasn’t aware of harm…

In fairness, Mrs Papendick’s account contains many errors, so we’re not at all sure of her accuracy. Another account also blames the soup, however, again attributing the poisoning to an accidental cause. The soup had been allowed to stand in a copper vessel, and the gentlemen died of mineral poisoning. So, arsenic in the wine, mineral poisoning, a bad batch of turtle soup or an infectious pauper? Sadly, we’ll never know the true cause, but we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sources not mentioned above:

The Bath Road: History, Fashion & Frivolity on an Old Highway by Charles G. Harper, 1899

Royal Academy: 1934 – Exhibition of British Art c.1000-1860, 6 January 1934 to 17 March 1934

Northampton Mercury, 26 April 1773

Reading Mercury, 26 April 1773

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 5 February 1820

The Scots Magazine, vol 35, 1773

Collectanea topographica et genealogica, 1837

Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte; Being the Journals of Mrs Papendick, Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe and Reader to Her Majesty, 1887

The History of Parliament online

Sarah Biffin, painted by herself.

Disability in the Eighteenth-century

We came across an engraving posted on social media by Dr Hannah Greig recently and for those of you who know of our propensity for disliking unsolved mysteries we were immediately intrigued and wanted to see if there was any more information about the woman depicted.

Mrs Morell
Mrs Morell. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The engraving was produced by Robert Thew, historical engraver to His Majesty Prince of Wales and the British Museum had dated the engraving as being sometime between 1778 and 1802. We double checked the parish records to make sure when Robert Thew died and found his burial on 10th July 1802 so we knew that this engraving must have been produced out prior to this date.

An example of a watch paper c.1803-1818
An example of a watch paper c.1803-1818. © The Trustees of the British Museum

 

An embroidered watch paper. late eighteenth-century.
An embroidered watch paper. late eighteenth-century. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Manchester Mercury, June 10th, 1794.

Exhibited before the King and queen

To all who are admirers of the extraordinary productions of nature.

Just arrived and may be seen, by many number of persons, in a commodious caravan, in a field, adjoining the race ground on Kersal Moor, from eleven o’clock in the morning till nine in the evening.

Mrs MORRELL

Born without arms, and will work with her toes, in a complete manner as with hands and arms, she cuts watch papers, opens watches and put the papers in.

This curious artist threads her needle well and does wonder of the age excel!

She, with her TOES, exhibits more to view

Than thousands, with their fingers, ev’r can do;

The numbers flock to see her ev’ry day

And each, amaz’d go satify’d away.

Mrs Morell, showing her working with her toes.
Close up of the image of Mrs Morell, showing her working with her toes. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Checking through the newspapers, sure enough, we found her burial in the Lancaster Gazette, April 21st, 1804, so assuming her age was roughly correct then she was born around 1760. From her burial, we know her name was Mary and that she was the wife of John Morrall. The trail goes cold at this point as there as quite a few possible marriages which could be for them.

Suddenly, at Bury, Mrs Morrall, aged 44; a woman well-known throughout the kingdom, as an extraordinary production of nature, having been born without arms. She could cut the small watch papers and devices, in the most ingenious manner, with a pair of scissors, by means of her toes. She appeared in a public exhibition, in good health, so recently as at last Salford fair.

We did however come across some other people who were in a similar situation to Mary Morrell who used their feet in a like manner including the wealthy Mary Evans and a Miss Hawtin of Warwickshire.

True Briton, Tuesday, June 25, 1799.

A marriage took place on Tuesday celebrated at Wells, which excited a considerable degree of curiosity and entertainment. The bride, Mary Evans, was born without arms but enjoyed the use of her feet in such a manner as to be able by her toes to cut out watch-papers and work at her needle with singular facility. For many years past she has attended the principal provincial fairs as a show, and thereby acquired a fortune of nearly £800. She is now between 30 and 40 years of age, of very diminutive stature, and with a countenance certainly not overcharged with feminine loveliness; added to these, her eyes are weak. But love, imperious love, who knows no discrimination of rank or person, impressed this spinster with passions ardent and animated. The driver of her caravan, a young man named Simpson, was the object of her choice; time had made him familiar to her deformity, and to her riches. On Tuesday last they were married amidst an immense concourse of spectators. During the ceremony some difficulty arose as to the disposing of the ring, the bride not having a finger on which to place it, but as the earnest solicitations of the parties, this form was dispensed with.

Miss Hawtin, c.1774.
Miss Hawtin, c.1774. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Norfolk Chronicle 30th October 1784.

Miss Hawtin, the celebrated Warwickshire young lady, born without arms, and will mark with her toes as a compleat manner s with arms and hands, she also cuts curious watch papers etc.

As shown in the header image, we have the artist, Miss Sarah Biffin (1784-1850) and a snippet of her biography courtesy of  Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 24th May 1830:

Sarah Biffin was born at East Quontoxhead, in Somersetshire, on the 25th October 1786. Her father was a draper and she was reared with much care and tenderness under the immediate eye of an affectionate mother, and in the society of four brothers and sisters, until her nineteenth year, when from the improvement she made in drawing, unaided by instruction, and the circumstance of her being enabled to work at her needle, write and, and in fact, execute with more than ordinary facility (notwithstanding the want of arms), the duties that devolve on females of the middling class it was determined to accede to her wishes, by placing her with an artist named Dukes. This individual soon adopted a very profitable course, and Miss Biffin exhibited in every part of the United Kingdom.

Of the perfection to which Miss B. has arrived as an artist, the best proof that can be adduced is, that the Duke of Sussex presented her with the largest medal at the Society of Arts in 1821. Early in life, she was honoured by the particular attention of Lord Morton, and to that nobleman, who was himself an excellent artist, Miss B, is much indebted for the wonderful progress she made in the art. His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange was amongst the number of her patrons, and, during a visit to Brussels, he sat for his miniature, with which he was much satisfied, that his Royal Highness presented Miss B, with a sum of money far exceeding her demand.

On the 6th September 1824, Miss B was married, by the Rev. Mr Hole, at Killton, Somerset, to a Mr William Stephen Wright, a gentleman who had been long attached to her. At the ceremony of marrying a lady without arms may be looked upon by some as a matter of difficulty, the following mode was adopted. Mr. Wright was desired to the ring against the should of the lady, and afterwards, having put it on a gold chain which she wore around her neck, it was placed in the bosom.

Edward, Duke of Kent (1767-1820) Painted by Sarah Biffin Signed and dated 1839. Royal Collection
Edward, Duke of Kent (1767-1820) Painted by Sarah Biffin Signed and dated 1839. Royal Collection

Curiously, their entry in the marriage register has been crossed through with no explanation provided. All the details match those of the newspaper report except for the date itself which wasn’t quite correct. It was reported some years later though, that although married they never actually lived together and went their separate ways. There were rumours, which Sarah strenuously denied, that her husband had made off with her money.

Whilst the people we have looked at were regarded as ‘human oddities or freaks’ at the time, with the public at large often paying money to see them at the likes of Bartholomew’s Fair, it’s interesting to note that their absence of limb(s) is not the main focus of the reports it’s almost an aside. The focus is on what they could do and about the skills they developed to live a full life.

Featured Image

Sarah Biffin (October 1784 – 2 October 1850), painted by herself. Wellcome Library

The north prospect of London taken from the Bowling Green, Islington.

Who was she? A mysterious stranger in Regency Clerkenwell

A few days ago, I was browsing through an 1819 copy of the Morning Advertiser looking for something completely different when this story caught my eye.

Around early July 1819, a pretty young woman, reckoned to be in her early 20s, turned up at a lodging house in George Court off Aylesbury Street in Clerkenwell. She was, she told the owner, a complete stranger in London, having just arrived from the country, and asked if she could take a room for a few weeks while she attended to some proceedings in Chancery.

The woman’s appearance was decent and, as she was happy to pay the rent on her lodgings in advance, she was accommodated in the house with no further ado.

It didn’t take the other women who lived there long, however, to notice that the lady was in the advanced stages of pregnancy, however well she might have tried to hide it. A nearby apothecary was called in to attend to her and, in the first week of August, this unnamed woman gave birth to a fine and healthy child (if the evidence we have is correct, on 2nd August 1819).

Extract of an 1806 map of Clerkenwell
Extract of an 1806 map of Clerkenwell, showing Aylesbury Street at the bottom, centre left, and the head of the New River and Sadler’s Wells top right. Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

The next day, against all advice to the contrary, the new mother got up and dressed herself.

She was remonstrated with on the danger to which she exposed herself, but she made light of it. This and other circumstances drew the attention of the people in the house more particularly towards her…

Four days after the birth of her child, and under close observation from the family and other lodgers, the young woman was seen to leave George Court, carrying a small box under her arm. Two women who were fellow lodgers followed her, one of whom was a Mrs Baker, a printer’s wife. The mysterious young woman and her two spies wended their way some distance across the fields of rural Clerkenwell towards the New River (really a form of canal dating from 1613, created to supply London with fresh drinking water from a series of Hertfordshire springs). When near Sadler’s Wells, where the New River terminated in a reservoir known as the New River Head, it looked as if she was going to throw the box she carried into the water, but then changed her mind and instead veered away over the adjoining fields.

Sadler's Wells from the bridge over the New River.
Sadler’s Wells from the bridge over the New River. © The Trustees of the British Museum

With Mrs Baker and her friend still in hot pursuit, our mystery lady headed across the fields towards Islington and made for a secluded area where she sat down, opened the box, took something out and tied it in her shawl. Then she closed the box, picked up both it and the bundle tied in her shawl, and walked on until she came to a gentleman’s house. There she put both the box and bundle down and was about to walk away when Mrs Baker and her accomplice caught up: they darted forward and grabbed hold of her. Once the box was opened, as they’d suspected, they found the baby, naked and gasping for breath. The infant’s clothes were wrapped in the shawl.

Mrs Baker called for a watchman and ‘the inhuman mother’ (as a newspaper report termed her) was apprehended and marched to the watch house.

View from the New River, Islington in 1816.
View from the New River, Islington in 1816. © The Trustees of the British Museum

It was now that a sensational twist to the tale was revealed, if we believe the reports which surfaced. During a search of the woman, ‘upwards of 1000l. in good Country and Bank of England notes were found in her possession’. To put that into perspective, it’s the equivalent of over £50,000 in today’s money, a small fortune then, as now. Certainly enough for her to have disappeared and set up in a house with her child, rather than abandon the babe at the doorway of a gentleman’s house.

Taken overnight to the workhouse, before she could be hauled before the Hatton Garden magistrates the woman fell into a fever. A reluctant inmate, she slowly recovered but stubbornly refused to answer any questions about her identity.

Clerkenwell workhouse
Clerkenwell workhouse (via Wikimedia)

This snippet of factual evidence sounds like a great start to a work of historical fiction. We already have many different theories buzzing around our heads as to how the young woman had found herself in this position.

We’ve searched for more information on her, hoping to find out her name. That still, unfortunately, eludes us, but we did find one more newspaper report. The lady’s husband turned up to claim her! We’ll relate the report from the newspapers but, attempting to read between the lines, we are still left wondering as to the truth of the matter. Incidentally, no further mention was made of the huge sum of money that she was supposedly carrying: was this myth or just a further strand of the whole mystery? She had, remember, paid for her rent at George Court in advance. Money worries don’t seem to have been an issue for her.

The north prospect of London taken from the Bowling Green, Islington.
The north prospect of London taken from the Bowling Green, Islington. The head of the New River can be seen centre left, with Sadler’s Wells next to it. Beyond lies Clerkenwell and the hubbub of the City of London. Folger Shakespeare Library

The couple were from Yorkshire, and the husband was of ‘respectable appearance’ and seemed dutifully affected by his wife’s distress. He claimed that she was suffering from the ‘consequence of a severe hurt she had formerly received in her head, was at times deranged, and he could no otherwise account for her leaving a comfortable home, and acting in the extraordinary manner she had done, than by supposing she was under the influence of the disorder to which she was subject’.

The magistrate agreed to bail the woman as long as her husband entered into a recognizance for £50 and found two other householders who would each join him in promising £25 each, to secure her future appearance at the court. The Yorkshire husband pleaded against this: could he not provide the full £100 himself, for he didn’t know anybody in London who would be prepared to stand as the additional surety? He went further, urging as a reason:

the deplorable state of his family, one child having died since his wife left her home, and two lying at present in a state of imminent danger.

The magistrate commiserated with the man, but rules were rules. If he couldn’t meet the required bail conditions, then his wife must remain in custody.

And there, sadly, we must also leave her until such time as further information comes to light. In the meantime, we reckon there’s a novel in this story for anyone disposed to write it and rescue our mystery woman. Which way would you take it: was she fleeing from her husband or was his story of woe true? How did she come by the injury to her head in that case? Why did she want to give up her child? And, all that money! Where did that come from?

Sources:

Morning Advertiser, 12 August 1819

The Morning Chronicle, 18 August 1819

French Tester bed (lit à la duchesse en impériale), c.1782/83

Find out more about the job of a calenderer in the 18th-century

Here’s a new one for you. What did a calenderer do? Any ideas? We hadn’t, so off down the proverbial rabbit hole we disappeared to find out more.

When you’ve visited a stately home and wandered into the bedrooms with those immense four-poster beds, like this one at Houghton Hall, have you ever wondered how on earth they cleaned the drapes around the bed – or is that just us (rhetorical)?  We have looked at beds and bedding in a previous article, so we thought this subject required further investigation.

Courtesy of Houghton Hall
Courtesy of Houghton Hall

Looking at the sheer amount of fabric they must have been incredibly heavy, can you imagine trying to climb up there, take them down and wash them by hand? We have visions of several servants attempting to do this precariously balancing on ladders.

But no, if you were wealthy you would employ a calenderer to do part of this process for you at around 12-15 shillings per bed which equates to roughly the wages to employ a tradesperson for 5 days in 1790.

French Tester bed (lit à la duchesse en impériale), c.1782/83
French Tester bed (lit à la duchesse en impériale), c.1782/83; Met Museum

Calenderers, also known as calico glazers (the term appears to be interchangeable), would visit the home and were often described as ‘journeymen’ (we should point out at this stage that our research has shown that quite a few women also carried out this type of work), unstitch the drapes, from the bed frame, take down the canopies and bedding. The fabric would be washed by the domestic servants, then the calenderman (person) as they were often termed, would apply the final process and rehang the fabric.  It was a process that would have been carried out for the most affluent in society. We noted that Dido Elizabeth Belle had her mahogany bed at Kenwood House, ‘washed and glazed’ for 12 shillings.

Detail of French Tester bed (lit à la duchesse en impériale), c.1782/83
Detail of French Tester bed (lit à la duchesse en impériale), c.1782/83; Met Museum

Glazed or shiny chintz originally known as calico, was the favoured style of the eighteenth-century for bed drapes and curtains. The fabric would be scoured and washed, then stretched. The material would be starched with a special solution and finally, the glaze, similar to a waxy substance would be applied using a machine with heated rollers, known as a calender to give it a lovely sheen.

The Garrick Bed, ca.1775. A four-poster bed designed by Thomas Chippendale with 20th-century reproduction hangings. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

It would have been a very time-consuming job to unpick the curtains and drapes, carry out the process, then restitch everything back into place.  Despite this, it was a relatively cheap job to do, around 12 shillings. This was because although labour intensive, labour was cheap at that time.

London had relatively few calenderers, unlike Manchester which seems to have had plenty, but there were quite a few calico glazers. The job of calico glazer required a seven-year apprenticeship to be undertaken, so a skilled trade.  Quite a few of these companies went bankrupt as we’ve found them appearing in the newspaper lists, so it doesn’t look to have been the most lucrative of occupations.

Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700
Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700; V&A

It wasn’t just drapes that were calendered as we can see from this advertisement from The Morning Herald, January 25th, 1793:

Clout. Calenderer and Calico-Glazer. No, 10 King Street, Golden Square, facing the chapel begs leave to inform his friends and the Ladies in general, of Chintz, Muslins, Dimities, Cotton and Linen Gowns and Dresses, in the most elegant manner, without taking to pieces, on the following terms.

Camp beds, Window Hangings, Chair Covers, Coach Linings etc, in proportion

N.B Wanted an apprentice or any young man, that would wish to learn the above business; none need apply who cannot command a small premium.

In The Morning Post and Fashionable World of September 21, 1795, we see Mr Bunting of 41, New Bond Street offering his services as:

Silk dyer, Calenderer and Glazer to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.

Caroline of Brunswick when Princess of Wales, depicted in her wedding dress by Gainsborough Dupont, 1795-96. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Caroline of Brunswick when Princess of Wales, depicted in her wedding dress by Gainsborough Dupont, 1795-96. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

We came across several newspaper advertisements by women, including the family firm of Wrights, which included the three daughters of Mrs Wright, the owner, who took over the business upon the death of their mother. We have looked for wills for all the calenderers that we’ve found and not one, so this leads us to conclude that in all likelihood they didn’t have enough to make it worthwhile leaving one.

Sources not mentioned

Records of London’s Livery Companies Online Apprentices and Freemen 1400-1900

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, February 8, 1775

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London, England), Saturday, May 2, 1778

Public Advertiser (London, England), Saturday, May 13, 1780;

Hall Genealogy, Old Occupation Names

 

Guest post: The Early Dance Circle Annual Lecture

We are delighted to welcome The Early Dance Circle to the blog. On Friday 1st March they have their Annual Lecture, with this year’s guest speaker our good friend and fellow Pen and Sword author, Georgian Gentleman, Mike Rendell. So, to find out more about the event we hand over to Sharon, from the centre, to tell you more:

Join us on the dance floor of history – Learn how to dance Britain’s heritage or come to enjoy watching and help to pass it on.

If you love dance and want to safeguard and pass on its earliest forms in the UK and Europe, join us now. You can help us to secure a thriving future for early dance.

A Ball at Scarborough. Thomas Rowlandson. Yale Centre for British Art
A Ball at Scarborough. Thomas Rowlandson. Yale Centre for British Art

The Early Dance Circle (EDC) is a UK charity that aims to promote the enjoyment, performance and study of historical dance in the UK and beyond.  Formed in 1984, it counts individuals and groups, both amateur and professional, among its members. We believe that a knowledge of earlier forms of dance helps enrich the cultural life of the UK, by accessing a heritage of international importance that belongs to us all, but has been until recently largely forgotten.

Waltzing, c.1810s.
Waltzing, c.1810s. New York Public Library.

Our website, Early Dance Circle, offers information about classes & teachers, all our many events (including an Annual Early Dance Festival) our publications and lots of free resources about the 500 years of dance history in the UK and the rest of Europe. We have sponsored a free annual lecture since 1988.

Our Annual Lecture for 2019 will take place on

Friday 1st March 2019 at 7.15pm

Best foot forward – Georgian Style: Waltzing through History

Speaker: Mike Rendell, Social historian

Venue: Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20 Bloomsbury Way,

London WC1A 2TH

Mike will look at dance in the Georgian era from a social history point of view – its importance, what it was like to go to Bath, to the Pantheon, to Almacks, what people wore, how they travelled, the role of the Master of Ceremonies, the growth of Masquerades – and finally some press reaction to the introduction of that grossly immoral and shocking dance, the waltz.

Her First Dance, William Quiller Orchardson
Her First Dance, William Quiller Orchardson; Tate

Mike is the custodian of a vast array of family papers dating back to the early 1700s. After he retired, he published The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman: The Life and Times of Richard Hall 1729-1801 (2011) about his Georgian ancestor. Currently working on no fewer than three books, Mike is known to 18th Century enthusiasts through his highly varied blogs on life in the Georgian period. He speaks regularly in the UK and abroad.

To reserve your free place, please book on Eventbrite (click here).

A suggested donation on the evening is £5.00

Extraordinary Exploit During the Frost, 1826.

William Leftwich and the Ice Well

As we’re sure you have probably read in the news recently, an eighteenth-century ice house or ice well has been discovered in London.

The egg-shaped cavern, 9.5 metres deep and 7.5 metres wide, had been backfilled with demolition rubble after the terrace was bombed during the war, requiring three months of careful excavation before its structure could be fully revealed.

It appears to have originally been constructed in the 1780s for use in connection with the brewing industry, but it was taken over by a William Leftwich, who used it as an ice well. At the turn of the century, it was mainly the affluent who had an ice house or possibly a well on their land, places such as Chatsworth, Petworth and possibly Kenwood, but William’s idea was on a much larger scale, his aim was to supply commercially, so we thought we would try to find out a little more about his life and business.

William was born July 1770, the son of William and Martha Leftwich, née Barns of Aldford, a village in rural Cheshire. At the end of January 1785, William was apprenticed to James Reynolds, a pastry cook living in Tower Street, London.

Having completed his apprenticeship he became a confectioner and established shops in Fleet Street and Kingston upon Thames (which is where his two youngest children were baptised).

It was in 1795 at St Marys, Newington, Surrey that William married Susanna Ricketts, some eight years his junior. The couple went on to have many mouths to feed, which, being a pastry cook must have helped –William Henry and Thomas Robert (twins) (1796), George (1799-1802), Susannah (1801), Thomas (1803), Eliza (1806), Martha (1807), George (1810), Mary Ann (1813) and finally Charles (1815).

Goodness! William’s wife died in 1818 leaving him to not only run his confectionery business but also to raise the children – so, not an easy task.

Britain had developed a taste for ice in drinks such as sherry cobblers, mint julep and iced desserts and the likes of William struggled to keep dairy foods cool, as did fishmongers. Working class men who owned a donkey or horse and cart would club together, pay rent to the landholder so that when the water was frozen they could collect ice from their water supply which they could then sell on to fishmongers and confectioners for a small profit.

‘Homegrown’ ice was reliant upon the country having a cold winter, thereby allowing ice to be gathered from the frozen rivers, so was unreliable and quantities were somewhat limited.

The Thames Frozen Over, near the Tower of London. Yale Centre for British Art
The Thames Frozen Over, near the Tower of London. Yale Centre for British Art

William hit upon an idea to import ice from Norway and with that, in 1822, he went to Norway where he purchased a large quantity of ice and in May 1822, he chartered a vessel, ‘The Spring’ to sail to Norway to collect it. Apart from the obvious problem of the ice melting it also created problems for customs as when the vessel returned they had no idea how much tax to charge him, so a charge of 20% was levied on his cargo. Concerned by such a high levy William then decided to send vessels elsewhere, mainly America and in doing so, the importation duty was reduced to 5%, making the whole operation more profitable.

It was suggested to him that he had a large well dug on Little Albany Street. This would hold some 1,500 tons of ice. The ice was thrown in and descended on a platform, the waste due to melting, filtered through the sand layer and fell into the space below, from where it ran off by means of a pipe into a deeper and smaller well by the side of the large one. The water, by the means of machinery, was pumped up to supply several neighbouring houses with a fresh supply of water.

Glaciarium 1876
Glaciarium 1876

The ice was drawn up in buckets and onto a cart (the weight of the cart having previously been determined), then the whole load weighed again to determine the weight of the ice itself. The cost of ice varied between 2 shillings and 2 shillings and 6 pence a load. William also had a further two wells constructed, one being in Wood Street.

As well as selling to London, William also sold to amongst others, the towns of Bath, Cheltenham and Bristol.

Morning Post 31 March 1826
Morning Post 31 March 1826

William took the trouble to explain in his newspaper advertisements how it could be used to preserve beef during hot weather.

London Courier and Evening Gazette 05 June 1827
London Courier and Evening Gazette 05 June 1827

William was quite the entrepreneur and made himself and his family a handsome profit and by 1835, William was a ‘Purveyor of Ice’ to His Majesty, as we see in this newspaper advertisement.

Morning Post 06 April 1835
Morning Post 06 April 1835

In 1841 we find William living a comfortable life at 43, Cumberland Market, Regent’s Park, with two of his daughters, Susanna and Martha, which was where he was to remain for the remainder of his life. Two of his sons, William and Thomas lived on the same street with their respective families, both still working in the family, with all supplying ice to affluent families in the area.

William was died November 1843 and was buried on 23rd November 1843, at Kensal Green. He died leaving an extremely detailed will in which he provided for all his surviving children.  His sons continued the business for some considerable years to come.

Sources

Online baptism, marriage and burial registers, census returns, wills and the apprentice register

DNB

The Guardian online 28 December 2018

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 10 May 1822

Dandy in a Droshky, Russia, 1820s

Chatsworth’s Russian Coachman

This is the third in a series of blogs in which we have taken a closer look at some of the staff and servants of the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire. Today we’re taking a look at the 6th duke’s trips to Russia and concentrating on just one man, a larger than life Russian coachman. He certainly merits his own blog.

William Spencer, 6th Duke of Devonshire by Thomas Lawrence
William Spencer, 6th Duke of Devonshire by Thomas Lawrence (via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1817, William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (known as Hart due to his former title, the Marquess of Hartington) travelled to St Petersburg in Russia with a whole host of attendants for the wedding of his friend, the Grand Duke Nicholas Pavolvich of Russia (later Czar Nicholas I and Catherine the Great’s grandson). The bride was Charlotte of Prussia (subsequently known as Alexandra Feodorovna); Hart loved St Petersburg and thought it ‘more beautiful than Paris’.

The Empress Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796); Russian School
The Empress Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796); Russian School; The Bowes Museum

His Grace the Duke of Devonshire is about to sail for the Continent, in company with the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. His Grace has seceded to an invitation from the Grand Duke, to make a tour in Russia, and other parts of the Continent, which will occupy the whole of the ensuing summer.

During the trip, one of the duke’s attendants was his courier, Xavier Faldyer. He was ‘not agreeable, a sort of obstinate old Don Quixote, in an eternal wrangle with the Doctor, who had undertaken to regulate the expences and never ceased to exclaim, “terrible! terrible!”’ From the Chatsworth archives relating to the family’s servants, we can glean further information. Edwin Jones was the clearly long-suffering doctor who accompanied the duke.

Michael Lemm went along as a footman but didn’t think much of Russia, observing that ‘he would rather be hung in England than die in Russia’. Mr Worrall was the coachman.

Another expedition to Russia took place in 1826 when the 6th Duke of Devonshire travelled there to attend the coronation of Nicolas I. George Spencer Ridgway, the duke’s valet and ‘foster brother’ was by his side; George’s mother, Mrs Ridgway had been the duke’s wetnurse and George’s middle name, Spencer, indicates a close relationship with the family. He started at Devonshire House as a footman in 1802 and, when appointed the duke’s valet, Ridgway was his most trusted servant, acting as personal secretary, agent and steward too until 1858.

Miniature portrait of Emperor Nicholas I, 1826-1830; The State Hermitage Museum

In Russia, the duke and George were given a Russian coach by the emperor, known as a droshky. They also acquired a coachman who they brought back to Chatsworth along with the droshky. Peter Wisternoff (also Westerney, Wisternou and Ustinowica and born c.1796) was known as Peter the Russian or just the Russian Coachman; his helper was a man named Thomas Hawkins (who seems to have ended up the Porter at Devonshire House). Wisternoff stayed at Chatsworth until the early 1840s, a brilliantly eccentric character, tall and with a fine, intelligent countenance who wore his traditional Russian clothes rather than livery and sported the biggest and bushiest of beards.

Major General Norcliffe of Dalton Hall Riding in a Russian Droshky
This is titled ‘Major General Norcliffe of Dalton Hall Riding in a Russian Droshky’ although it’s very similar to a Russian print from the 1820s, ‘Dandy in a Droshky’ (see next image). Nevertheless, it is exactly how Peter the Russian must have appeared as coachman of the Duke of Devonshire’s Droshky. Portrait by David Dalry; Scarborough Collections

He is habited in the costume of his country, which consists of a large coat, generally green, which is gathered in folds round the waist, crimson sash, with an ample flow of black beard.

Dandy in a Droshky, Russia, 1820s.
Dandy in a Droshky, Russia, 1820s; The State Hermitage Museum

The Russian Coachman is one of the subjects in Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time by Sir Edwin Landseer, the original of which hangs in Chatsworth. The image below is a very good copy of the painting in tapestry; there are three men with beards but Peter the Russian is the one in the foreground, kneeling with the stag.

Tapesty of Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time
Tapestry of Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time; Massachusetts Collection Online

In 1832, Princess Victoria visited Chatsworth.

[Saturday 20th October, 1832] … we went to the stables where we saw some pretty ponies and a Russian coachman in his full dress, and the only Russian horse which remained reared at command; there were 3 other horses, English ones, but trained like the other.

A Russian Droshky (light horse-driven carriage) from the 1820s
A Russian Droshky (light horse-driven carriage) from the 1820s; The State Hermitage Museum

[Sunday 21st October, 1832] … Mamma and me drove in front in the pony phaeton and the Duke and Lady Cavendish behind; Lady Catherine and Lehzen going in another little phaeton; while Lord Morpeth and Mr Cooper went in the Russian drotchky. This curious carriage is drawn by one horse (which was the piebald one) in the shafts with a houp over its head, and the harness is golden without and winkers, and the horse in the shafts always trots, while the other, a pretty chestnut one, always gallops and puts its head on one side; the coachman, called Peter, sitting in his full dress on the box and driving the horses without any whip.

Princess Victoria by Henry Collen, 1836.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Peter the Russian married a girl named Sarah from Clowne, Derbyshire by whom he had at least eight children, one of whom was disabled. He fell foul of the duke’s Steward, George Spencer Ridgway, who forbade Peter from taking beer from the cellar, a disagreement which seems to have culminated in Peter leaving the duke’s service.

Peter, the Duke of Devonshire's Russian Coachman, portrait painted soon after his arrival in England
Peter the Russian Coachman, portrait painted soon after his arrival in England; Chatsworth.org

In the early 1840s (certainly after the 1841 census when Peter was living with his family at the Chatsworth stables), the duke broke up his Russian establishment and granted a liberal pension to Peter who subsequently lived – rent-free – on a 10 acre farm at Nether Handley near Staveley where, in 1851, he described himself as a ‘retired gentleman’. One the 1861 and 1871 census returns his occupation was that of a farmer of 10 acres. Peter died on Saturday 4th May 1878 at the age of 82 years, having been a pensioner ‘on the bounty of the Dukes of Devonshire for nearly forty years’.

South west view of Chatsworth House, 1812.
Southwest view of Chatsworth House, 1812. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Sources for all three of our blogs on Chatsworth’s staff and servants not referenced in the relevant articles are:

The Eighteenth-century Woman by Olivier Bernier (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1981)

Queen Victoria’s Journals (online resource)

Chatsworth: Historic Staff and Servants database

Chatsworth blog: The Russian Coachman’s Beard

Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 18 May 1878

Carlisle Patriot, 15 March 1817

If you want to explore the database of staff and servants further, you can find it by clicking here. It lists those who have worked at Chatsworth or on the Cavendish estates going back to 1700, and will be added to over the coming years.

The excellent Chatsworth servants and staff database and associated blog posts on the Chatsworth website were created by Lauren Butler (@HistoryButler), Hannah Wallace (@hwallace24) and Fiona Clapperton (@feeclapperton) as part of a collaborative PhD with the University of Sheffield and is the culmination of many years work.

South west view of Chatsworth House, 1812.

The Servants of the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire: the stables, grooms, valets, butlers and housekeepers

In a previous blog, we looked at a few of the staff and servants mentioned in a great new resource from the Chatsworth House archives which has been released online. It documents those who have worked for the family over the years, both at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, Devonshire House in London and elsewhere, shedding light on people who might otherwise have been forgotten. We’ve picked out a few of those mentioned for a closer look and in this blog, we’re taking a peek into the stables, and also examining just a few of the people who worked as a groom, valet, butler, steward and housekeeper.

Devonshire House, Piccadilly, with carriage in front, 1761.
Devonshire House, Piccadilly, with a carriage in front, 1761. British Museum

The Stables

Starting work in 1773 as a stable hand in the coach house of Devonshire House, Francis Beeston became the 2nd coachman in 1777 before being promoted to 1st coachman nine years later and a wage of £20 paid half-yearly. He continued as the 1st coachman at Devonshire House until 1814.

Francis must have driven coaches carrying Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, her husband the 5th duke and Georgiana’s rival for the duke’s affection, Lady Bess Foster (later also Duchess of Devonshire); Georgiana married the duke in 1774, the year after Francis had begun his employment in the stables.

Lady Elizabeth Christiana Hervey (1759-1824), Lady Elizabeth Foster, Later Duchess of Devonshire by Angelica Kauffman
Lady Elizabeth Christiana Hervey (1759-1824), Lady Elizabeth Foster, Later Duchess of Devonshire by Angelica Kauffman; National Trust, Ickworth

Besides Chatsworth in Derbyshire and Devonshire House in Piccadilly, the Cavendish family also owned Burlington House and Chiswick House. Both houses were built in the Palladian style and were inherited by the Dukes of Devonshire via Lady Charlotte Boyle, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Burlington. Lady Charlotte, who died in 1753, was the wife of the 4th Duke of Devonshire (however, as she died before he became duke, Lady Charlotte’s title was the Marchioness of Hartington).

Lady Charlotte Boyle (1731-1754) by George Knapton
Lady Charlotte Boyle (1731-1754) by George Knapton; English Heritage, Chiswick House

Robert Hunter was one of the duke’s coachmen from 1759; from 1760 to 1765 he worked at Burlington House and later he was employed at Chiswick. Ann Hunter, who is mentioned in the accounts books for Chiswick and Burlington House between 1770 and 1774 is possibly his wife.

A View of Chiswick House from the South West by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack
A View of Chiswick House from the South West by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack; English Heritage, Chiswick House

Devonshire House was also located in Piccadilly, very close to Burlington House. Later, Burlington House was rented out (from 1770 was the London home of the 4th Duke of Devonshire’s brother-in-law, the 3rd Duke of Portland). However, between 1760 and 1765, the Cavendish family clearly had need of a paid coachman at the property to retain Robert Hunter there. The Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire used Chiswick House as a country retreat.

Burlington House c.1748 by Antonio Visentini; Royal Collection Trust
Burlington House c.1748 by Antonio Visentini; Royal Collection Trust

Besides Robert Hunter, one other employee in Burlington House’s stables was John Higgs (between 1759 and 1765) who was employed as a postilion and worked his way up to coachman.

Burlington House, Piccadilly, as it appeared about 1730.
Burlington House, Piccadilly, as it appeared about 1730. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Joseph Marsden began working in Chatsworth House’s stables in 1757 when he was just a boy. Becoming a footman and then ‘his Grace’s Gent’ and ‘travelling gent’, Joseph ended up at Devonshire House as the duke’s Valet de Chambre. He was employed as such until 1798, a career spanning 41 years in the duke’s service.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire by Henry Lark Pratt
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire by Henry Lark Pratt; Buxton Museum & Art Gallery

Grooms, footmen and valet

Another man employed at Devonshire House was David Bovey, or Beauvais, a ‘snuffy old French-man’ according to the 6th Duke of Devonshire. David’s role was Groom of the Chamber, a function he fulfilled from 1774 to 1801. As he entered Devonshire House in the year of Georgiana Spencer’s marriage to the 5th Duke, it is likely that David Bovey was Groom of the Chamber to the new Duchess of Devonshire. The position was considered so vital to the family that Georgiana’s niece, Lady Caroline Lamb, who spent a large part of her childhood at Devonshire House, once remarked on the extreme poverty of an acquaintance: “Would you believe that the unfortunate lady didn’t even have a Groom of the Chamber?”

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire with her infant daughter Lady Georgiana Cavendish by Joshua Reynolds; Chatsworth House.

The duties of the ‘snuffy French-man’ included announcing company, managing the duchess’ invitations and visitors and overseeing her receiving-rooms. He eventually was promoted to the position of Attendant.

Possibly he is the same 28-year-old David Bovey who married Jane Bache, by licence, at St George’s in Hanover Square on the 25th February 1775? Unusually, it was Jane Bache, aged 21 and upwards, who applied for the marriage bond and not David Bovey. And, a David Bovey was paying rates at a house on Little Jermyn Street North in St James, Piccadilly in 1783 so it appears that, as a married man, he lived in his own home, just a short distance from Devonshire House.

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

David was succeeded in the position by James Lawton, who also was also a Groom of the Chambers and Attendant until 1811; in contrast to the ‘snuffy’ David, James Lawton was described as being very polite.

Devonshire House in 1844 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.
Devonshire House in 1844 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. British Museum

John Brown was a footman in Devonshire House’s dining room from 1773; in 1784 he became the 5th Duke of Devonshire’s footman. His wages included a yearly sum of 16s 6d for powder and shoes. In autumn 1798, John Brown landed the role of valet to the duke and, from the following year until 1804, when he was last recorded at Devonshire House, he received an annual salary of £42.

John Hawkins was Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’s groom at Chatsworth between 1793 and 1797. He had started out as one of Chatsworth’s stable hands in 1771.

South west view of Chatsworth House, 1812.
Southwest view of Chatsworth House, 1812. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The 6th Duke of Devonshire’s valet, Robert Meynell, seems to have been something of a rogue. Despite this, he served the duke from 1823 for at least 27 years, abroad and at home. Meynell drank, smoked, gambled and whored; at one Derby inn, the duke had to calm an irate innkeeper who took offence at being called a fool by the valet when he refused Meynell’s request for a woman to be sent to him. The final straw came in 1851 when Meynell was discovered in a London brothel. That in itself might have been overlooked, but Meynell had taken the duke’s dog, Vio, along with him. Even so, he received a pension from the duke which enabled him to live in comfort for the remainder of his life.

Meynell was responsible for getting another of the duke’s servants into trouble. Paul Santi, ‘a very handsome and picturesque person, with clever wicked eye’ was employed as a courier and attendant by the 6th Duke of Devonshire between 1825 and 1838, when he was dismissed, probably for gambling. In 1836, Santi had threatened to do away with himself when he was discovered to have been pilfering the housekeeping money to fund his gambling, a vice he blamed Meynell and George Spencer Ridgway (respectively the duke’s valet and steward) for encouraging.

William Spencer, 6th Duke of Devonshire by Thomas Lawrence
William Spencer, 6th Duke of Devonshire by Thomas Lawrence (via Wikimedia Commons)

Butler and steward

The position of Butler was, besides that of the Housekeeper, the most important in the household. Devonshire House’s butler, for six years from 1805, was James Duncan who, by 1811, was paid £80 a year.

Decades earlier, in the 1750s, Devonshire House’s Butler was a man named Thomas Elmes. As odd as it may sound, there was a clear ladder of promotion from starting out as a stable lad to becoming a footman indoors. A footman could aspire to become a butler and this is exactly the route Thomas Elmes took. In 1719 he began working at Chatsworth as a stable hand and by 1730 he was a Stud Groom. He was still there in 1743. In 1751 he became the Under Butler at Devonshire House and by 1759 was at the top of the ladder, as Butler.

Devonshire House in Piccadilly
Devonshire House in Piccadilly

John Edwards was the House Steward in 1792 and 1793 and, before that, he possibly worked in Devonshire House’s kitchens for several decades, starting as the Under Cook and eventually becoming the Head Cook. It is mentioned in the notes against John Edwards’ name that House Stewards are usually invisible in the wage books of stately homes, as they were in charge of these and did not often record themselves. But, during his tenure as Steward, John fell ill and the payments for doctors to attend to him are recorded. Sadly, it seems they could not help and John died in 1794; the 5th Duke of Devonshire paid for his funeral (which cost £32 12s 6d).

To leave you, we’ll just mention one other servant who, while just out of our period, merits a mention because the description of her made us smile. In the 1st Duke of Devonshire’s lifetime, Mary Hacket was the ‘angry housekeeper’ at Chatsworth between 1685 and 1697.

In a future blog, we’ll be looking at the servant from overseas who joined the family and became something of a celebrity. If you haven’t already done so, please do consider subscribing to our blog to be alerted to all our new posts.

In the meantime, if you want to explore the database of staff and servants further, you can find it by clicking here. It lists those who have worked at Chatsworth or on the Cavendish estates going back to 1700, and will be added to over the coming years.

The excellent Chatsworth servants and staff database and associated blog posts on the Chatsworth website were created by Lauren Butler (@HistoryButler), Hannah Wallace (@hwallace24) and Fiona Clapperton (@feeclapperton) as part of a collaborative PhD with the University of Sheffield and is the culmination of many years work.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire by Henry Lark Pratt

The Servants of the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire: maids, governesses and kitchen staff

A wonderful new resource from the Chatsworth House archives has been released online, looking at the staff and servants who have worked for the family, both at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, Devonshire House in London and elsewhere. It sheds light on people who might otherwise have been forgotten; we’ve picked out some for a closer look. In this blog, we’re concentrating on just a few of those who worked as maids, governess and in the kitchen.

Devonshire House in 1844 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.
Devonshire House in 1844 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. British Museum

Housemaids, laundrymaids, dairymaids and lady’s maids

Mary Austwick began working at the Cavendishes London residence, Devonshire House as a housemaid in 1795; eight years later she took over the duties of laundrymaid before, in 1811 (the year that the 5th Duke of Devonshire died), returning to her former occupation of housemaid at a yearly wage of £16. She was last recorded as an employee in 1814 but was remembered after her death by the 6th Duke of Devonshire with a clear fondness, despite her obvious quirks. He had known Mary for most of his life (the 6th Duke was born in 1795) and described her as ‘the swarthy, venerable, and cross housemaid, peace be to her soul!’. Perhaps, with his ascension to the dukedom, the 6th duke rescued Mary from the laundry?

A laundry maid leaning out of a sash window
A laundry maid leaning out of a sash window; Wellcome Library

Between 1803 and 1805, Maria Foley was Lady Harriet’s woman and, from 1800 to 1801, Elizabeth Winchester was Lady Georgiana’s dressing maid. Lady Harriet and Lady Georgiana were the daughters of the 5th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Elizabeth remained with Little G, as Lady Georgiana was known when she married. It was another Elizabeth, Elizabeth Olenrainshaw, who was Little G’s maid from 1790 to 1799. She’s probably the Elizabeth Ollenranshaw who married the Nottinghamshire born Pinder Simpson, a solicitor, at St George’s, Hanover Square on the 23rd July 1799. Pinder Simpson and John Simpson had offices at Burlington Street, Piccadilly close to Devonshire House. The couple’s first child was a daughter who they named Georgiana.

A Lady's Maid Soaping Linen by Henry Robert Morland
A Lady’s Maid Soaping Linen by Henry Robert Morland; Tate

The extended Furniss/Furness family appear to have provided many of Chatsworth’s servants; the surname crops up time and time again over a period of several decades. Two of the earliest were sisters, Barbara and Alice. Barbara was one of Chatsworth’s Dairy Maids from 1793 to 1797 when she left to marry Thomas Pursglove (in London and at St Martin in the Field). She was replaced by her sister, Alice, who worked in the dairy until 1803; a year later Alice married a man named John Thornhill in the same church as her sister had wed.

View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake; British School; Government Art Collection
View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake; British School; Government Art Collection

Governess and nursery maids

Selina Trimmer, daughter of Sarah Trimmer, was the governess between 1789 and 1805, based mainly at Devonshire House.

During 1762, the 12-year-old Lady Dorothy Cavendish, eldest daughter of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire was tutored in the nursery by a lady named Anne Gibbon. Lady Dorothy would go on to marry William Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland; it is her descendants that we have written about in A Right Royal Scandal.

Devonshire House in Piccadilly
Devonshire House in Piccadilly

Mary Griffiths started working at Devonshire House in 1787 as a maid in the Still Room. Two years later she became a housemaid and then, in 1790, nursery maid to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’s children.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787; Chatsworth House

The kitchen

A Frenchman worked as a confectioner in the kitchens between 1790 and 1805. Monsieur A Caille (his forename has not been recorded) once rushed to the rescue when a small fire broke out. He did so by pouring on to the flames ‘the contents of the kettle he was carrying’. His kettle contained melted sugar, which only made things worse.

Detail of syllabubs from A Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.
Detail of syllabubs from A Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.

In forthcoming blogs, we’ll turn our attention to the family’s coachmen and stables, and grooms, valets, butlers and stewards. If you haven’t already done so, please do consider subscribing to our blog to be alerted to all our new posts.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire by Henry Lark Pratt
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire by Henry Lark Pratt; Buxton Museum & Art Gallery

In the meantime, if you want to explore the database of staff and servants further, you can find it by clicking here. It lists those who have worked at Chatsworth or on the Cavendish estates going back to 1700, and will be added to over the coming years.

The excellent Chatsworth servants and staff database and associated blog posts on the Chatsworth website were created by Lauren Butler (@HistoryButler), Hannah Wallace (@hwallace24) and Fiona Clapperton (@feeclapperton) as part of a collaborative PhD with the University of Sheffield and is the culmination of many years work.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

To all our lovely readers, we send a massive ‘thank you‘ for all your amazing support during this year and our best wishes to you all for this holiday season. We will be taking a blog break until January 8th when we will return with plenty more stories for you and some exciting news too!

If you haven’t sorted those last-minute Christmas pressies for history-loving friends and relatives, then they might like one of our books.

If you like nonfiction books about strong and remarkable women from history, why not take a look?

This article tells you a little more information about our special offers on them.

We thought we would leave you with some of the most popular articles from this year to have a read through if you find a little time to put your feet up with a cuppa (and find out how it was made in the 18th-century), a coffeehot chocolate or something a little stronger.

The story of a domesticated tiger

A Tiger Resting: the frontispiece for "Oriental Field Sports", 1805, Samuel Howitt. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
A Tiger Resting: the frontispiece for “Oriental Field Sports”, Samuel Howitt. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Dido Elizabeth BelleDido Elizabeth Belle

Discovering the history of the Ram Jam Inn

The Ram Jam Inn sign, showing the landlady with her thumbs stuck in the barrel. © HitchinLookers/Dragontree; www.waymarking.com
The Ram Jam Inn sign, showing the landlady with her thumbs stuck in the barrel. © HitchinLookers/Dragontree; http://www.waymarking.com

An Unconventional Marchioness: The Life of Lady Salisbury

The Marchioness of Salisbury (Diana return'd from the Chace) by James Gillray.
The Marchioness of Salisbury (Diana return’d from the Chace) by James Gillray. © National Portrait Gallery, London

The humble apron of the 18th century

French School; A Young Girl Carrying Cherries in Her Apron; The Bowes Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-young-girl-carrying-cherries-in-her-apron-44714

Frith Street, Soho: Mozart’s London Tour

Leopold (1791-1787), and Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791); Royal College of Music
Leopold (1791-1787), and Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791); Royal College of Music

A Serial Killer on the island of Jamaica, 1773

Skittles and Nine Holes, or Bumble Puppy: sporting pastimes in the Georgian era

The game of Bumble Puppy or Bubbling, 1803.
The game of Bumble Puppy or Bubbling, 1803. © The Trustees of the British Museum