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, so we tried to contact the church to ask for authentication, but to date, we have not received a reply. Maybe one day the proof will appear. If it does we will update this article.

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

Advertisements
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

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.

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.

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

 

 

18th-century retail therapy

One of the things we really enjoy doing during our research is to look at the advertisements in the newspapers of the day to see what sort of items were for sale. Don’t you just wonder what it would have been like to go back in time and visit some of the shops? Perhaps a visit to the perfumier would be worth a visit, especially to get away from the pungent odours of eighteenth-century London.

From the late eighteenth-century onwards, people would have carried a vinaigrette containing a sponge soaked in perfume or vinegar, to mask the unpleasant odours from the streets, such as this lovely one depicting Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of Lord Byron.

Perfumiers weren’t quite what we view them as today. Yes, they sold perfume, but they also catered for other essentials required by both men and women.

Trade card - Charles Sharp c1770. Yale Centre for British Art
Trade card – Charles Sharp c1770. Yale Centre for British Art

In this post, we take a look at some of the ‘essentials’ that every self-respecting man or woman would have owned.  In the late 1770s, Mr Lewis Hendrie owned a shop in the Haymarket area of London and these are some of the items he sold and it’s always great to see some prices bearing in mind that one shilling would have been the equivalent of about £5 in today’s money.

Wash Balls

These would have been priced at around one shilling each, usually white or brown almond and were used to whiten the skin and to prevent chapping. White almond was slightly more expensive than brown almond.

French School; Portrait of a Lady at Her Toilet Table, Dressed in a Peignoir; The Bowes Museum

French Powders

These came in a variety of fragrances, such as jasmine, orange, rose, violet or simply ‘common hair powder’. Also, tooth powder, powder bags, powder masks and puffs.

A powder for the face which answers all the intents of white paint, without having any of its pernicious effects. 8 shillings per pound (and sold in smaller quantities).

Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg

Brushes

And combs for hair, for shaving, toothbrushes and tongue scrapers. Body brushes and oil silk bathing caps.

 Soaps & Waters

These again came in several varieties such as Castille, Windsor, Naples. Improved soap for shaving with a brush. Double distilled lavender, Hungary, honey and other floral scents.

A shop lifter. Lewis Walpole Library
A shoplifter. Lewis Walpole Library

Oils

Almond, Rhodium, Jasmine, Rosemary and shaving oil.

We weren’t quite sure how shaving oil was used and found a reference to it some ten years prior to Mr Hendrie’s advertisement which described it as ‘the best thing ever invented for the purpose of having or washing fine lace and greatly useful where there is a scarcity of water. Price 6 pence or 1 shilling for a larger bottle’. Not a cheap product then!

Winterthur Museum, garden and library
Winterthur Museum, garden and library

Foreign Pomatums

Orange, lemon, bergamot and bouquet.

Miscellaneous items such as

Genuine Bear’s Grease:

the only certain remedy to make hair grow thick and to prevent it falling out – one shilling and six pence an ounce.

Tragically, yes it was made from the rendered down fat of young bears.

A composition to take off superfluous hair from the forehead and eyebrows. Takes off hair instantly, 6 pence a stick. For a while, in the eighteenth-century, it was fashionable to remove forehead hair, although we’re not quite sure as to why you would want to do that.

Best French rouge, two shillings and sixpence per pot, which is about the same amount as a skilled tradesperson would earn for one day’s work.

A pomatum that destroys nits in the hair, warranted without the least injury to the person. One shilling per pot.

A liquid, that without injury will dye grey or red hair to a glossy black or brown. This came with a money back guarantee, if it didn’t work!.

Pen knives, scissors, powder knives, tweezers, toothpicks, patches and patch boxes and snuff boxes.

Snuff shop. Yale Centre for British Art
Snuff shop. Yale Centre for British Art

Crimping, curling, nipping, pinching, toupee irons, hair rollers and hair ribbons, but no products such as heat protector or hairspray existed! In 1783, a Mr F Day advertised a new type of styling comb to replace the ‘frizzing comb and curling iron’ which he claimed produced a better result than either of the existing products. He was selling these newfangled combs at three shillings each.

A Hairdresser curling a lady's hair, one of the sketches made in Edinburgh and the neighbourhood after the rebellion of 1745. Paul Sandby. British Museum
A Hairdresser curling a lady’s hair, one of the sketches made in Edinburgh and the neighbourhood after the rebellion of 1745. Paul Sandby. British Museum

There was no such thing as a nail bar in the Georgian era, but if you wanted your finger or toenails to look good, you could visit a chiropodist. As well as treating corns and warts, they also offered products described as ‘ivory-nail models’. They were described as being as ‘portable as a tooth-pick case, which forms the nails on the hand into an agreeable shape’. They were priced at ten shillings and sixpence and came with directions for use. Were these the first false nails? If these weren’t for you then you could buy fine steel nail-nippers at five shilling per pair.

They were nothing if not entrepreneurial, for example, in 1794 we have Mr Nosworthy of Queen Street, Norwich, a perfumier, who expanded his business to include everything you needed for sewing, toys for children, crockery and cutlery, stationery, fashion accessories such as purses, fans, parasols, umbrellas and perfumed gloves.

A barber's shop. Lewis Walpole Library
A barber’s shop. Lewis Walpole Library

Perfumed gloves date back at least a century and had a more sinister use; they were coated in a form of poison, but we’ll leave the rest of that to your imagination.

Adult only items!

Although we haven’t spotted any adverts for them, condoms would have been readily available for sale from the likes of Mrs Phillips and Perkins, on Half Moon Street in London or from Miss Jenny who sold second-hand, washed ones. The other retailers would have been apothecaries or barbers. They were made from lamb’s caecum and often tied with a ribbon.

Blackguardiana: Or, A Dictionary of Rogues by James Caulfield c 1793
Blackguardiana: Or, A Dictionary of Rogues by James Caulfield c 1793

The same went for sex toys, relatively recent discoveries have shown that there was a demand for dildos too, these were often purchased by upper-class women and made of wax, horn or leather, wood or ivory.

Blackguardiana: Or, A Dictionary of Rogues by James Caulfield c 1793
Blackguardiana: Or, A Dictionary of Rogues by James Caulfield c 1793

If only we could have gone back in time to visit their shops. They almost sound like modern-day department stores, where you could spend hours buying everything you didn’t realise that you needed.  Oh, and of course perfume!

Part of the reason we started looking at shops, apart from our own curiosity, was that we were lucky enough to have discovered the inventory for Dido Elizabeth Belle’s husband, John Daviniere and whilst it’s still in the process of being translated into English with the help of Etienne Daly, we can share with you some of the items listed within the jewellery section of it. Sadly, it is simply a list of items that he owned at the time of his death with very little by way of description, but the fact that they were silver implies that they would have been quite expensive.

There were 3 rings, two kept together and one on its own which we suspect was more than like Dido’s wedding ring. A carriage clock, a silver enamelled toothpick; a silver necessaire, scissors, a type of silver braid, perhaps John received an honour of some sort, but there are no further clues as yet to indicate what it related to.

Whilst it isn’t clear as to whether the silver necessaire was a man or woman’s it would have been a small container which held small items perhaps for sewing such as small scissors, a thimble, possibly a vial of perfume. For a man, it would perhaps contain scissors, a small knife and an earpick.

Sources used

Public Ledger or The Daily Register of Commerce and Intelligence, October 13, 1761

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 14 November 1793

Bury and Norwich Post, 06 August 1794

Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, November 15, 1783

The Georgian era fashion for straw hats

Straw hats were fashionable for women of all social classes, from very plain for the lower class to ones highly decorated for the elite throughout the Georgian era with many being imported, mainly from Italy and Germany, but Bedfordshire became the major manufacturer for straw hat making in England.

Cecilia, c1782 Yale Center for British Art
Cecilia, c1782 Yale Center for British Art

Imported straw hats were valuable commodities, as reported in this extract from Tenby in 1750:

In the night of the 3d inst. The weather being very tempestuous, a ship was cast away and beat to pieces of a point of land about three miles to the south-west of this town, and no persons saved or yet seen; nor do we know of anything of value saved. The country people have taken up a great number of straw hats and some loose juniper berries.

And this one from Applebee’s Original Weekly Journal, 1st July 1721.

Some days after one William Allen was committed to Newgate gaol, being charged upon oath, as also on his own confession, upon violent suspicion of stealing fifty Leghorn straw hats, the goods of Captain Andrew Elcam.

British (English) School; Portrait of a Lady Seated in a Landscape; Mount Edgcumbe House

In the early 1700s we were importing straw hats, from Leghorn, Italy and Hamburg, Germany; for example, in just one week, 15th – 22nd April 1728, London saw the arrival of 287 dozen straw hats and by 1731 this had increased to 636 dozen which decreased 480 dozen by the turn of the century.

Vigee-LeBrun, Elisabeth Louise; Self Portrait in a Straw Hat; The National Gallery, London

Woodstock, September 16th, 1774:

Whereas a silver watch, with a silver chain to it, was this day offered to be sold to a tradesman in this town by a very suspicious person, who said her name was Ann Brown, about twenty years of age, of brown complexion, short stature, dressed in an old green gown, checked apron and straw hat, who is committed to prison for further examination.

It was clearly a very lucrative trade to be in, as in 1747 a Mr White, of Newgate Street, a wealthy dealer in straw hats died and according to his will he left in excess of £5,000 (about half a million in today’s money).

Pickering, Henry; Miss Dixie; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

In 1751 in Constantinople and the surrounding areas there was a great plague, so, in order to prevent the spread into England ships and their crews were quarantined for 40 days and all goods on board the ships had to be opened and aired to remove any possible contamination, goods included goat hair, wool, raw silks, straw hats and all goods packed in straw.

Hoppner, John; The Honourable Elizabeth Ingram (1762-1817); Leeds Museums and Galleries

The Oracle and Public Advertiser of 23rd  January 1795 reported that the manufacture of straw hats was now being performed by prisoners, who were earning substantial sums from making such items.

Lawrence, Thomas; Sophia, Lady Burdett; National Portrait Gallery, London

Anyone who was anyone would want to wear the latest fashion and the fashion for September 1795, Morning Dress was:

The hair in small curls and ringlets, white satin ribband drawn through it. Straw hat, variegated with a Vandyke border; rose-coloured handkerchief over it, tied on the left side with a bow; green veil.

Denner, Balthasar; A Girl in a Straw Hat; Tate

From the turn of the century straw hats, à-la-Pamela were popular for informal wear and widely worn well into the 1810s. In August 1815, La Belle Assemblée reported on the continued popularity of the chapeau à-la-Pamela, worn far back on the head with a tulle and lace cap underneath.

Sanders, John; Mrs Jeffrey, nee Mary Wilkes (1728-1808); Victoria Art Gallery

La Belle Assemblée of 1820 produced a detailed article about straw hats,  but here we have just a snippet from it:

Leghorn hats were still in vogue and worn with a simple plume of marabout feathers and were made to turn up behind and turn down again. They would have been adorned with ribbons or bows. Straw hats were often worn with flowers of two colours and adorned with corn poppies with a bunch of ears of corn.

You only have to take a cursory glance at John Collet’s ‘Bath Fly’ to see how popular the straw hat was! We can see 4 in this picture alone.

John Collet, Bath Fly c1770 Yale Center for British Art
John Collet, Bath Fly c1770 Yale Center for British Art

Sources

Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette 19 September 1795

Oracle and Public Advertiser January 23, 1795

Oxford Journal 17 September 1774

Stamford Mercury April 25, 1728

Newcastle Courant 10th February 1750

Featured Image

Trade card courtesy of British Museum

 

 

Portrait of Nelly O'Brien by Joshua Reynolds, c.1762-1763.

Revealing new information about the courtesan, Nelly O’Brien

Sir Joshua Reynolds painted the courtesan, Nelly O’Brien twice, between 1762 and 1764. Both paintings were paid for by her lover, Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke, although she was introduced to Reynolds by Admiral Augustus Keppel, 1st Viscount Keppel. (Keppel was the great-grandson of Charles II by his mistress, Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth.)

Nelly O'Brien by Joshua Reynolds; Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
Nelly O’Brien by Joshua Reynolds; Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

Bolingbroke also commissioned Reynolds to paint a picture of his wife, Diana Spencer, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Marlborough at the same time. Horace Walpole claimed that Bolingbroke had asked Reynolds to give Diana’s ‘eyes something of Nelly O’Brien, or it will not do’. Walpole continued, ‘as he has given Nelly something of his wife’s, it was but fair to give her something of Nelly’s; and my Lady will not throw away the present!’.

Lady Diana Beauclerk by Joshua Reynolds
Lady Diana Beauclerk by Joshua Reynolds; English Heritage, Kenwood

Frederick and Diana’s marriage was a disaster; he took lovers and so did she, famously having an affair with Topham Beauclerk (like Keppel also a great-grandson of Charles II, but by Nell Gwyn). When Bolingbroke divorced his wife in 1768, she promptly married her lover.

Frederick and Nelly (whose origins remain obscure) were an item certainly by 1763. Most sources seem to suggest that Nelly bore Bolingbroke a son, born c.1764, supposedly named Arthur and of whom nothing else is known. If she did bear a child by Bolingbroke, it’s more likely that he was born a year or two earlier. It was not Bolingbroke who fathered a child on Nelly in 1764, it was her new love, the splendidly named Sackville Tufton, 8th Earl of Thanet.

Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke
Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke (via Brigitte Gastel Lloyd)

Alfred (not Arthur) Tufton was born 23rd November 1764, and baptised almost a month later, on 20th December, at St George, Hanover Square. His birth was hardly a secret; Nelly was named alongside Sackville in the baptism register. The wit, George James ‘Gilly’ Williams, writing to his friend, George Selwyn on Christmas Day, 1764, said:

I told you Nelly O’Brien has a son. It was christened yesterday. Bunny and his trull were sponsors. Now for his name; guess it if you can; it is of no less consequence in this country than Alfred; but Magill was so drunk he had like to have named it Hiccup!

(Bunny is thought to be Sir Charles Bunbury, who had recently married Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond. Magill, the drunk, was Henry Magill, curate of St George’s.)

A year later, on 4 December 1765, a second son was born; this one was given his father’s name, Sackville Tufton, and baptised at the same church as his elder brother on New Years’ Day, 1766.

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

After that, things rapidly went downhill for Nelly. Her earl was seeking a wife, and his family would certainly not countenance a union with a courtesan. In the summer of 1767 (on 30th July), Sackville Tufton married Mary daughter of Lord John Sackville. Beforehand, Nelly had been turned out of his Grosvenor Square house to make way for the new bride, although she appears to have moved only a few streets away and taken rooms on Park Street, almost certainly provided for her by the earl as Nelly was once again carrying his child.

Grosvenor Square c.1789; Robert Pollard
Grosvenor Square c.1789; Robert Pollard

Nearly six months after Sackville’s marriage to Mary, Nelly was delivered of a third son. Stanley Tufton was born 18th January 1768 and baptised 5th February. In the baptism register at St George’s, his parents were described as they had been with the older boys, Sackville Tufton, Earl of Thanet and Elinor O’Brien. Presumably, the new Countess of Thanet was fully aware. She was also pregnant herself and her daughter, Lady Elizabeth Tufton, was born that spring. Nelly was, however, furious at having to leave Grosvenor Square. As she complained to anyone who would listen, her former lover had a good precedent to follow: when the wife of Augustus Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of Grafton was pregnant in 1764, the duke moved his lover, the courtesan Nancy Parsons, into their London home where they lived together openly. The Earl of Thanet had moved his courtesan out!

Nancy Parsons, also Mrs. Horton and later Viscountess Maynard by Joshua Reynolds
Nancy Parsons, also Mrs Horton and later Viscountess Maynard by Joshua Reynolds;
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A few weeks after Stanley’s birth, realising that she would never reclaim her position as the earl’s mistress and facing an uncertain future, Nelly wrote her will. All her wealth appeared to be in the form of fine clothes and a quantity of valuable diamond jewellery which, besides her three sons, were all that she had been left with. Her star, which had shone so brightly, was looking decidedly dimmed.

I Elinor O Brien do leave to my mother all my best cloaths, to my maid Ann Dixon all my old cloaths, to Miss ?Pyrott one of my best diamond rings, to Nurse Duran such token or legacy as they can chuse out. I beg Lord Thanet will take care of his children and believe them his own. To my children I give my diamonds to be equally divided between the three and I beg my ready money will be sent to my mother and some to poor Molly and I hope all my debts will be paid immediately my ??

Could ‘poor Molly’ possibly be Nelly’s sister? The will is frustrating in its ambiguity. Another mystery concerns the nurse, was she there for Nelly, or for her newborn son. Was Nelly ill? Although still just a young woman, she would be dead before the year was out. While she was afterwards said to have died in childbirth, and in anguish from being abandoned by her earl, the fact she wrote her will, to try to safeguard her children’s future, could indicate that she had indeed been unwell for several months. In March the Public Advertiser newspaper reported her demise, followed by a retraction:

Wed. March 23, 1768. Sunday last died in Park Street, Grosvenor Square, the celebrated Miss Nelly O’Brien.

Friday, 1 April, 1768. The account inserted in the Papers of the Death of Miss Nelly O’Brien in Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, is premature; that lady being in perfect health.

Unfortunately for Nelly, the account was not premature. On Saturday 2nd April 1768, Nelly O’Brien was buried at St George’s, Hanover Square (a new burial ground attached to the church had been consecrated in Bayswater three years earlier).

(A burial at St Ann, Rotherhithe on 29th December 1768 is often mistakenly thought to be hers. Likewise, Nelly’s assumed birth year of 1739 is taken from incorrect burial: the Elinor O’Brien buried in Rotherhithe was 29 years old. We still have no true idea of Nelly’s birth date.)

On 4th May 1768, one of her creditors was granted administration of her estate; the whereabouts of her diamonds are now unknown.

The two elder sons, Sackville and Alfred Tufton, joined the East India Company, Sackville in their naval service and Alfred as a writer, based at Kolkata. When his brother Sackville wrote his will in October 1788, Alfred was left the bulk of his wealth.

Stanley was not mentioned and, although we have not been able to trace him further, it would seem likely that he died young. In a later codicil, Sackville left bequests to his half-brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters from his father’s marriage to Mary Sackville, so it looks like he had been brought up as their sibling.

He also left legacies to his O’Brien aunts and uncles (sadly not named!), his mother Nelly’s siblings and to his grandmother (Nelly’s mother) who was still clearly alive in 1794. Sackville died the same year. Alfred lived to 1812; he had been promoted to the position of Judge at Gya but had returned home in the early 1800s in ill-health, and had never fully recovered. He was only 47-years of age when he died. Both Sackville and Alfred’s resting place is a shared grave in the church at Hothfield in Kent, where his ancestors, the Earls of Thanet, have their seat.

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

In September 1809, almost 41 years after Nelly’s death, a gentleman named Edward Jeremiah Curteis wrote to Alfred Tufton, who had been detained in London due to illness. There had clearly been some conversation between the two, and Alfred had been under the illusion that his long-dead mother, who he hardly recalled, had died around the time of Sackville’s birth.

Mrs Curteis, Edward’s wife or mother, recalled that:

your mother did not die until about the period of Lord Tufton’s marriage, which was more than two years later than you suppose – she was then great with child and the probable cause of death was grief and vexation at the marriage and desertion of the Earl of Thanet.

She went on to say that the earl had been persuaded to marry by his family, but before that, he had previously taken a ‘small but elegant’ and admirably furnished house in Brook Street for his mistress (which Lady Thanet went to see incognita). A Mrs Toke had told Mrs Curteis that Lord Thanet had snubbed Nelly in public which ’caused chagrin and mortification to such a degree as that a miscarriage ensued, and that having miscarried a third infant she died in childbed’.

It’s possible that Nelly had been pregnant again, but her third child was Stanley, born a year before her own premature death. Mrs Curteis’ memories had possibly become confused.

Sources not mentioned above:

George Selwyn and his contemporaries, with memoirs and notes, vol. 1, John Heneage Jesse (1843)

Correspondence of the Curteis family of Windmill Hill, Battle, East Sussex Record Office, AMS 5995/5/8

The Diaries of a Duchess: extracts from the diaries of the first Duchess of Northumberland (1716-1776), edited by James Greig (1926)

National Archives wills: PROB 11/1247/21 and PROB 11/939/51

The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, vol 82, part 1 (1812)

The letters of Horace Walpole (ed by J Wright), 1842

We would like to thank the staff at the City of Westminster Archives for confirming the record of Nelly’s burial for us.

The missing brother of Sir John Lindsay

When you begin to research a person’s life, especially one who has frequently been written about, you suddenly find that you’ve opened a real can of worms with more and more information toppling out every day. This has never more so than in the research into the life and extended family of Dido Elizabeth Belle with many new facts being found. The more time we’ve spent down this proverbial rabbit hole the more we have managed to piece together.

Dido Elizabeth Belle

Her father, Sir John Lindsay is well-known to anyone who knows anything about Dido and if they didn’t know that Sir John had several illegitimate children, then they probably know about his high achieving naval career. Our interest in his career has merely been a sideline, we needed to know more about his career in order to validate elements of Dido’s life.

We know that Sir John was the younger son of Sir Alexander Lindsay, of Evelick and his wife Amelia Murray, the sister of Lord Mansfield who lived in what today is a ruined castle at Evelick, Perth, Scotland.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

We know that they had also two daughters, one being Margaret, who married the famous artist Allan Ramsay.

Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760.
Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760. National Galleries of Scotland

We know that his elder brother Sir David Lindsay inherited the title from his father.

Lt. General Sir David Lindsay of Evelick, 4th Baronet ( circa 1732 - died 1797) c. 1761 by Gervase Spencer (Courtesy of Online Galleries)
Lt. General Sir David Lindsay of Evelick, 4th Baronet ( circa 1732 – died 1797) c. 1761 by Gervase Spencer (Courtesy of Online Galleries)

We know that Sir John’s other sister, Katherine, married Lord Henderland and that Sir Alexander’s children were nephews to Lord Mansfield.

Lady Katherine Lindsay, Lady Henderland Attributed to William Yellowlees. National Gallery of Scotland
Lady Katherine Lindsay, Lady Henderland Attributed to William Yellowlees. National Gallery of Scotland

Why are we telling you things you probably know? Well, we could argue that that is the whole point, it’s all pretty well documented, you can find all of this is in books and online in a matter of minutes if you wanted to, such being the power of the internet!

It wasn’t until we started trying to find exact dates for the baptisms of Sir Alexander’s children (with no luck whatsoever), that annoyingly, we realised that none of them appeared to have been baptised, which seems extremely unusual for that period in time. We don’t seem to have fathomed that one out. Nor, so far, does there appear to be any record of a marriage for Sir Alexander to Amelia although we’re sure they were legally married.

All references we have seen about Sir John Lindsay state that he was the younger son i.e. one of two sons. What does, however, seem to have been almost completely air-brushed out of the family history is Sir Alexander’s middle son – William Lindsay. We stumbled across his existence by chance and began to delve further and have only found two references to his existence in books, but why?

Well, in all likelihood, William who was born 18th December 1734, left Scotland when aged just 16 and set off for a role in the East India Company. Sir Alexander had an heir – David, so it fell to the second son to take a different path in life.

How do we know of his existence? Because it was his uncle, William Murray, later to become the 1st Lord Mansfield who confirmed it in a letter written in 1750. The letter was written from Lincoln’s Inn to the all-powerful East India Company (EIC) when William was being sent out to India to make his fortune and was as confirmation of his age and explaining that the EIC wouldn’t find a baptism for the boy, as none existed. The document also confirms that William had successfully undertaken a course in mathematics and book-keeping.

From the British India Collection
From the British India Collection

William appears to have been posted as a lieutenant to, what was then known as British Bencoolen in Sumatra (now Bengkula). We then came across the sad report of his death in the EIC records. He was suffering from mental health issues and was being returned home to Britain by ship when he died at sea around September 1779.

South East View of Fort Marlborough, Benkulen, Sumatra, 1799. Yale Centre for British Art
South East View of Fort Marlborough, Benkulen, Sumatra, 1799. Yale Centre for British Art

His death appears to have made even more tragic as he left 3 orphans when he died. So far we haven’t been able to trace these children nor find out what became of them. We know that a committee met to discuss their plight decide what was to be done with them, but they concluded that more information was required from Scotland before any decision could be reached.

Given that both Sir John and William were in the EIC we wondered whether the two brothers would ever have met up; of course, we have no idea but it would be good to believe that if they did and that they exchanged news about both families. We do wonder what, if anything Dido knew of her uncle or of her cousins.

For a complete list of articles written to date about Dido Elizabeth Belle and her family follow the highlighted link.

Sources

Jervise, Andrew. The history and traditions of the land of the Lindsays in Angus

British India Collection

Featured Image

Government House & Council House, Fort Marlborough, Benkulen, Sumatra, 1799 Yale Centre for British Art

Gainsborough Old Hall, 1803 showing the courtyard. The theatre's outside staircase and other windows and doors no longer in existence can be seen.

Art Detectives: William Hornby of Hornby’s Bank in Gainsborough

I’ve long been intrigued by a portrait on the Art UK website of a rather dishevelled and – quite frankly – eccentric figure, which, so the label claims, depicts William Hornby (incorrectly labelled as Hornsby) of Hornby’s Bank in Gainsborough, a market town in North Lincolnshire.

The archives office in Lincoln claims differently; they believe it depicts William’s brother, Joseph who, they suggest, was a well-known eccentric character in these parts.

Which brother, then, is in the rather cruel portrait?

William Hornby, Manager of Hornby's Bank or his 'eccentric' brother, Joseph, both of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire by an unknown artist
William Hornby, Manager of Hornby’s Bank or his ‘eccentric’ brother, Joseph, both of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire by an unknown artist; Museum of Lincolnshire Life

Joseph was born at Gainsborough in 1729, the eldest child of Joseph Hornby senior, a prosperous mercer in the town. Seven more children followed but all except two, William (born in 1732) and John (1739), died in infancy. The elder two of the three sons, Joseph and William, followed their father into the mercantile trade.

At his death in 1762, Joseph Hornby senior left considerable inheritances to his three sons.

Gainsborough was a thriving and prosperous town in the eighteenth-century, boosted by trade from the busy River Trent which passes through. The Hornby family’s wealth grew and, together with Sir Joseph Esdaile, Esq, William opened a bank, the first known to exist in the town. In partnership with two other gentlemen, they also established the Chesterfield Bank in Derbyshire.

Gainsborough Old Hall, 1828.
Gainsborough Old Hall, 1828. © The Trustees of the British Museum

In 1760, William Hornby took out a lease on the medieval timber-framed Gainsborough Old Hall and established a coarse linen factory in part of the building and sublet the rest. The factory lost money and the old manor house was in a poor state of repair.

You peeped in and saw its great ground floor apartments occupied by joiners, and coopers and bricklayers – depositories for lime, hair, and bricks – and you turned away disgusted.

By 1790, Hornby had wound up his factory and sublet the Great Hall of the manor house to a Mr West, who used it as a theatre. The staircase which was temporarily added at this time to access the theatre can be seen on the print below.

Gainsborough Old Hall, 1803 showing the courtyard. The theatre's outside staircase and other windows and doors no longer in existence can be seen.
Gainsborough Old Hall, 1803 showing the courtyard. The theatre’s outside staircase and other windows and doors no longer in existence can be seen.

By the end of the century, troubles were mounting up. The partnership which ran the Chesterfield Bank (William Hornby, Joseph Esdaile, Samuel Raynes and Richard Gillett) was dissolved in 1799. By 1803, William Hornby could no longer meet his creditors’ demands and he was declared bankrupt. The Gainsborough Bank was no more.

A Gainsborough Bank banknote, exhibited in the Commission of Bankruptcy against Hornby and Esdaile in 1804.
A Gainsborough Bank banknote exhibited in the Commission of Bankruptcy against Hornby and Esdaile in 1804. © The Trustees of the British Museum

William Hornby is reputed to have ended his days in penury, being cared for by a woman who had formerly been his cook, dying ‘at an advanced age’ (he was 72) in February 1805 at Doncaster, just over the county border in South Yorkshire.

After all this, are we any closer to identifying which Hornby brother is shown in the painting? Well, there is no contemporary mention of Joseph being an eccentric. At his death in 1811 (he was buried in the churchyard of Gainsborough All Saints) he is described as formerly being ‘an eminent merchant’. No hint of madness or eccentricity.

It seems more likely that the painting is a cruel depiction of William Hornby. Perhaps in his pursuit of wealth and in his running of the bank, he made an enemy of someone who commissioned this painting in revenge? Or, was it painted after Hornby’s bankruptcy, the work of a creditor who was left out-of-pocket and wanted to leave a lasting visual legacy of the former banker, that of a miserly man down on his luck.

At this distance in time, and with no other evidence to hand, we are simply left to wonder.

Sources

Our Old Town, Thomas Miller, 1857

The London Gazette, 6-10 August 1799

Lincolnshire Archives

Image of Harriet engraved from a painting held by a Mr Oakley via UCD Special Collections on Twitter.

The curious case of Harriet Moore, alias John Murphy

Harriet was born in Sligo, Ireland in the early 1800s. Her mother died in 1816, leaving her an orphan. It is reported in one account that she was put out to service, in another, simply that being orphaned, she put on her brothers’ clothes and, dressed as a boy, changed her name to John Murphy (her mother’s maiden name) as she feared travelling alone as a female and set off to seek employment.

On the banks of Lough Gill, County Sligo by John Faulkner, RHA.
On the banks of Lough Gill, County Sligo by John Faulkner, RHA via Whyte’s.

Her first job was as a cabin boy during which time she accidentally fell overboard, and fearful of being discovered she escaped to shore and ran away.  She then took employment as a footboy to a Rev. Mr Duke where she remained for a year, during which time one of the maids, assuming Harriet was a boy, fell in love with her. The maid told her employer that she had discovered John was really a woman. Upon questioning, Harriet swore that the maid was mistaken and that he was a male but Harriet/John had no option but to move on.

She sailed on board a ship to Liverpool and assisted a Mr Lowther with driving his cattle to Leicester. Having travelled as far as Shardlow, Derbyshire she left Lowther and took up employment at the Navigation Inn, Shardlow, working for a Mr Clarke. After only a couple of months, still masquerading as a man, she was beaten up by one of the other servants for being Irish.

Shardlow Hall
Shardlow Hall

Harriet then moved on and worked as a groom to James Sutton Esq. at Shardlow Hall. This was a good position, and all went well until there was some sort of altercation and Harriet left under a cloud.

During her time in Shardlow, Harriet gained employment at the local salt works and lodged in the nearby village of Aston-on-Trent, with a Mrs Jane Lacey who had a daughter, Matilda (born 1808). Matilda found herself pregnant by the village butcher, a married man, but she was also in love in love with John aka Harriet.

A Derbyshire Landscape by William Turner of Oxford.
A Derbyshire Landscape by William Turner of Oxford. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Somehow, Mrs Lacey discovered that John was actually Harriet – blackmail began. Mrs Lacey told Harriet that if it was discovered that he was a she, she would be transported (i.e. sent to Australia on a convict ship). Mrs Lacey arranged for Matilda’s child to be raised as if the child were John’s and that John should marry Matilda.

In a state of distress at the prospect of marriage, Harriet sought employment just over the border in Nottinghamshire. At Chilwell, near Beeston, just 8 miles away, she worked for a bricklayer and first learnt to carry the hod, which she was very successful at since she had become accustomed to doing manual work. She was well-respected by her master and fellow workmen. This peace was shattered when Matilda’s mother wrote a letter to the master, saying that John had abandoned Matilda. The employer, a moral man dismissed John.

Bricklayer's labourer, c.1820
Bricklayer’s labourer, c.1820

Worried about being discovered, Harriet agreed to Mrs Lacey’s demands and married Matilda at the parish church at Aston-on-Trent on 25th August 1823. John didn’t find it easy trying to maintain a wife, child and Matilda’s mother and began to seek work away from home and this often drew the attention of the parish officers towards him, until eventually, he left.

John went on to meet a woman who became his confidante, and upon telling her the story, she procured for him suitable female clothing and Harriet divorced herself from her matrimonial troubles. Harriet was described as short, stout, good-looking and stated to be in her twentieth year but was perhaps somewhat older.

Image of Harriet engraved from a painting held by a Mr Oakley via UCD Special Collections on Twitter.
Image of Harriet engraved from a painting held by a Mr Oakley via UCD Special Collections on Twitter.

It is interesting to note that another child, Mary was born in 1826, with no father’s name being given, the child being described as a bastard.

Then a son, George, who was baptised in the north of the county at Hayfield, 19th August 1827, this time both parents, John and Matilda Murphy were named. We’re not totally certain that this was their child though.

The 1827 baptism is doubly curious because, prior to that date, John had become Harriet again and married John Gardiner, a widowed silk weaver at Derby on 17th October 1825.

In April 1830, Matilda married again too, under her maiden name, but only a few months in February 1831, an entry appears in the burial register for Aston for a Matilda Browne, so it’s relatively safe to assume that she died. Interestingly, a couple of weeks later a baby, Jane Browne, aged just 6 months was also buried, so presumably, this was their daughter.

As to what became of Harriet and her husband we have no idea, they seem to have vanished into thin air. Perhaps after all the publicity, it’s hardly surprising?

Sources

Captain Rock in London, Or, The Chieftain’s Weekly Gazette, Volume 1

Perthshire Courier 14 July 1825

Bury and Norwich Post 02 November 1825

Parish registers Hayfield and Aston-on-Trent

Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald 15 March 1930

Featured Image

Courtesy of  University College Dublin, Special Collections via Twitter

Portrait of Nelly O'Brien by Joshua Reynolds, c.1762-1763.

Quilted Petticoats: worn by all women and useful in more ways than one

Quilted petticoats were an item of clothing that transcended any notions of class or status; they were worn throughout most of the eighteenth-century by all women from nobility down to fish-wives and had a variety of uses. Usually tied at either side of the waistband, they had a gap in the side seams which allowed access to a pair of pockets worn underneath.

A mid-eighteenth-century British quilted petticoat with two bands of contrasting coloured material.
A mid-eighteenth-century British quilted petticoat with two bands of contrasting coloured material. The Met

Clearly, the primary function of the garment was that of warmth; in colder climates (and here in Britain we’re always complaining about the weather!) the padding provided an extra layer to insulate the wearer.

By the mid-eighteenth century, women’s gowns were worn open at the front and the petticoat underneath became a decorative item. Well-to-do ladies wore petticoats made of silk or satin, often in contrasting colours to their robe, although the backing was often made of a more robust material such as calico or coarse linen.

The courtesan, Nelly O’Brien is famously depicted wearing a simple diamond patterned pink quilted petticoat in her portrait by Joshua Reynolds, but embellishment is added with an embroidered gauzy apron worn over the top. Note the contrasting blue and white striped gown.

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

Flat quilting, whereby two or three layers were stitched through using a running or backstitch, and corded quilted which involved parallel channels being sown through which cord was inserted from the reverse, were the most popular forms. The latter provided a textured relief.

This European eighteenth-century quilted silk petticoat resembles the one worn by Nelly O'Brien in her portrait.
This European eighteenth-century quilted silk petticoat resembles the one worn by Nelly O’Brien in her portrait. The Met

The designs used were often more decorative and elaborate than the simple pattern on the petticoat worn by Nelly O’Brien; flowers, intricate geometric patterns and even animals all featured.

Detail from the portrait of Mr and Mrs Atherton by Arthur Devis c.1743.
Detail from the portrait of Mr and Mrs Atherton by Arthur Devis c.1743. Walker Art Gallery

The following image gives an example of a linen quilted petticoat dating to c.1700-1725, designed to be worn under a mantua. Backed with linen, the quilting pattern was worked first and then both layers of linen were overstitched with embroidery. The notes against this petticoat suggest it was made domestically rather than professionally as the join and certain other details are clumsy.

A domestic English quilted petticoat c.1700-1725, overstitched with embroidery.
Museum of London

When just the front of the petticoat would be glimpsed, the decoration was concentrated on that area. As polonaise gowns became fashionable, where the skirts were gathered and looped up at the back, the full hemline of the petticoat was visible. This led to a trend for decoration all around the undergarment. John Wilkes’ daughter, Mary, in this next portrait, demonstrates the fashion; her green quilted petticoat, contrasting sharply with her pink gown, has the addition of a deep frill all around the hemline.

John Wilkes and his daughter Mary by Johann Zoffany, c.1779.
John Wilkes and his daughter Mary by Johann Zoffany, c.1779. National Portrait Gallery, London

Marseille (or French) quilting is a term used to describe the distinctive cotton quilting which was a feature of the Provence area of southern France, known for fine cording and stuffed designs. There, textiles were made for export, and the London weavers suffered as a result.

Quilted, Marseilles-type petticoat in sage green-colored silk satin quilted by machine. According to family tradition, this petticoat was worn by Hannah Hopkins (1731-1766) of Springfield, Massachusetts, for her marriage to John Worthington (1719-1800), a lawyer from Springfield, in 1759.
Quilted, Marseilles-type petticoat in sage green-coloured silk satin quilted by machine. Historic Deerfield

In the 1740s, a solution was found: a weaving technique was developed in England using a loom which imitated hand quilting, making the process both quick and inexpensive although it was not true quilting. Usually made with linen, while the fabric appeared to be quilted there was no middle layer of woollen wadding so, although cheap, petticoats made this way lacked the warmth of their ‘Marseilles’ counterparts.

A Sale of Ready Made Goods, &c. by JONAS CLIFTON, SILK-WEAVER and WAREHOUSE-MAN, from SHOREDITCH, LONDON: who now sells at the FOUNTAIN in MARGATE, His CURIOUS BRITISH LOOM QUILTING, for Ladies Petticoats, Bed-gowns, and Gentleman’s Winter Waistcoats, exceeding rich, neat and serviceable…

Kentish Gazette, 9th December 1769

The Polite Maccaroni presenting a nosegay to Miss Blossom.
Lewis Walpole Library

The profession of quilted petticoat maker is described in the London Tradesman, 1747. It was not a lucrative one.

I must just peep under the Quilted-Petticoat. Every one knows the materials they are made of: they are made mostly by women, and some men, who are employed by the shops and earn but little. They quilt likewise quilts for beds for the upholder. This they make more of than of the petticoats, but not very considerable, nothing to get rich by unless they are able to purchase the materials and sell them finished to the shops, which few of them do. They rarely take apprentices, and the women they employ to help them, earn three or four shillings a week and their diet.

Portrait of a woman seated beside a table by Arthur Devis, c.1739-1740.
Portrait of a woman seated beside a table by Arthur Devis, c.1739-1740. MFA Boston

An extra cost to the manufacturers of quilted petticoats was the price of the wool used for the wadding, which was subject to the attention of customs.

Last week, the Prince Frederick, a Collier, lately arriv’d from Newcastle, was searched by a custom-house officer, who found about 200 weight of the combings of wool, in two bags, the property of a female passenger on board the said ship, who follows the business of making quilted petticoats; whereupon he seiz’d the same, together with the ship and all her cargo, as forfeited by law, for bringing wool from any part of England without entering it at the custom-house and clearing it from thence; and modestly demanded 600l. of the owners for clearing her, which was refus’d…

Ipswich Journal, 29th October 1743

The Bradshaw Family by Johan Zoffany, exhibited 1769.
The Bradshaw Family by Johan Zoffany exhibited 1769. The Tate

Quilted petticoats provided shape to the skirts worn over them. Often the wadding used in the manufacture of these petticoats did not extend all the way to the waistband, so they were less bulky at the waistline. But, in an era when women wore a variety of hoops, bum rolls and panniers to enhance and alter their natural forms, quilted petticoats were a useful tool, providing a little extra padding where needed. In fact, evidence shows that they were worn in a variety of different ways throughout the century, both with and without a little extra support and definition beneath them depending on the desired silhouette. Perhaps, when Mary Hobbins went missing, she was trying to disguise her slim frame by wearing multiple quilted petticoats: even for late September, wearing two of these garments must have been quite warm.

September 26, 1724. Whereas one Thomas Robinson… went away with one Mary Hobbins of Swineshead near Boston in Lincolnshire: She is a slender thin-vizzag’d Woman, had two quilted petticoats on, viz. one green, and the other red and blue, with a white Gown with small Stripes or a Popple and white with broad Stripes…

Stamford Mercury, 29th October 1724

The painter Arthur Devis depicted women wearing quilted petticoats over hoops and panniers which gave definition and decoration to the fine silk gowns they wore, which are clearly very wide in the hips.

Mary Cawthorne (1724-1796), Mrs Morley Unwin, by Arthur Devis, c.1750
Mary Cawthorne (1724-1796), Mrs Morley Unwin, by Arthur Devis, c.1750; National Trust, Knightshayes Court
The Reverend Streynsham Master and His Wife, Margaret of Croston, Lancashire by Arthur Devis, c.1743-1744;
The Reverend Streynsham Master and His Wife, Margaret of Croston, Lancashire by Arthur Devis, c.1743-1744; Harris Museum & Art Gallery

Towards the 1770s, it was common for fashionable ladies to wear a bum roll underneath their quilted petticoat, to add emphasis to their rear (think Kim Kardashian today!), others simply wore only their shift or another petticoat underneath.

Love in a Village by Carington Bowles.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

A working woman would, of course, need to be able to move freely; they would wear very little under their quilted petticoats, relying on the bulkiness of the garment to provide any necessary shape, more concerned with practicalities than fashion.

A Girl Gathering Filberts by William Redmore Bigg, c.1782; Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery

By the end of the eighteenth century, women’s silhouettes became more slender and quilted petticoats were no longer in vogue with women of fashion although lower class women still clung to the practical, hard wearing and warm garment.

A Bottle of Wine by William Redmore Bigg, c.1815
A Bottle of Wine by William Redmore Bigg; Lancashire County Museum Service

So, we’ve looked at quilted petticoats being worn for decoration, for warmth and to add shape to gowns, what other possible reason could there be to wear one? Well, they were handy when smuggling items such as tea or lace past the strict customs officials of the day!

Another smuggler is committed to the Castle of Norwich; from whence ‘tis added, that the Officers of the Customs there had seized a considerable Quantity of Tea, India Silk Handkerchiefs brought up from Yarmouth by a Woman, who, when taken, had several Pounds of Tea quilted in her Petticoats.

Ipswich Journal, 9th January 1731

Miss Tipapin going for all nine, 1779.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Thursday a Gentleman and Lady put up at an inn at Dover, where they had just landed from France; when two Custom-house Officers came in, and insisted upon searching the Lady, on whom they found a quantity of Brussels lace, to the value of near 300l. which was concealed in her quilted petticoat… Some of our Nobility, it seems are suspected and even accused of harbouring smuggled goods. The truth is, so many Nobility and Gentry deal so much in smuggling, that a Correspondent says, he will venture to affirm that one half of the foreign lace that shall appear at Court on the ensuing birth-day, is smuggled.

Stamford Mercury, 4th June 1772

 

Sources:

Patchwork and Quilting in Britain, Heather Audin, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013

The Dreamstress: What to wear under a quilted petticoat, 6th January 2012

FIDM Museum: Quilted petticoat, c.1840-45

Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium, Collections Database: Object Accession No. HD F.495A

The London Tradesman: Being a Compendious View of All the Trades, Professions, Arts, Both Liberal and Mechanic, Now Practised in the Cities of London and Westminster. Calculated for the Information of Parents, and Instruction of Youth in Their Choice of Business, R. Campbell, Esq, 1747

Art Detectives: Young Woman with Servant

Following on from one of our blogs about Dido Elizabeth Belle, one of our lovely readers made us aware of this unusual painting titled, Young Woman with Servant which is on display at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

Stephen Slaughter. English, 1697–1765.  Young Woman with Servant by Stephen Slaughter (1697-1765).
Stephen Slaughter. English, 1697–1765.  Young Woman with Servant by Stephen Slaughter (1697-1765). Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund.

Why unusual? It is odd on so many levels. For starters the subject matter, it is titled ‘young woman with servant’ so which is the young woman and which the servant? Whilst looking at it, we found ourselves almost playing a game of ‘spot the difference’.

Let’s look at each woman in turn. The seated woman is wearing no jewels apart from very plain earrings and a jewel on her apron. The artist has made her face appear somewhat one-dimensional and she’s staring into the distance. Would she really have been the one holding the fruit? The hat with flowers is such, a typical wide-brimmed day hat.

The servant: she is dressed in all her finery, notice the detailed lace around the neckline and the arms of the dress, much more elaborate than the lace which the other woman is wearing. She wears no hat, instead, a form of headdress with a fashionable feather in it and a jewel. And those jewels! She is much more adorned than her seated companion, wearing an elaborate necklace and earrings too. Her hand resting on the naked skin of the other woman – would a servant ever be allowed to do that? A symbol of intimacy, surely not acceptable at that time?  She is also looking directly at the artist (and viewer) and appears much more three-dimensional.

Detail from the portrait of Young Woman with Servant by Stephen Slaughter.

The setting itself looks to be a hothouse or possibly an artificial grotto. There is fruit in the seated woman’s apron and the orange just about to be picked and added to it. Notice the chair that the ‘mistress’ is sitting on.

We have tried to find a similar example of that period, but without success, although there are reproductions of virtually the same chair dating from the late 1800s which describe it as Rococo (1725-1755), possibly French or Italian, playful, ornate and curvaceous, with a shell-shaped back and serpent arms.

So, it does rather beg the question, is the young woman standing really a servant or an equal? It has also been given the title, Two Society Women.

The painting appeared in a Sotheby’s catalogue of sales dated 9th November 1986, which gave it yet a different title, Ladies Gathering Fruit, c.1750, so we contacted Sotheby’s hoping for some more information on its provenance, but unfortunately, they were unable to provide responses to individual questions, so we were no further forward. We also approached Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and are still hopeful of a more positive response from them.

Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), Prime Minister by Stephen Slaughter
Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), Prime Minister by Stephen Slaughter; Parliamentary Art Collection

We then decided to research the artist himself, Stephen Slaughter for more clues.

Sir Hans Sloane, by Stephen Slaughter
Sir Hans Sloane, by Stephen Slaughter; National Portrait Gallery, London

Stephen was born in London in January 1697, one of five surviving children of Stephen and Judith Slaughter. Their other children were Edward, Catherine, Mary and Judith.

Very little seems to be known about his life and as such he warrants very few mentions in books, only half a dozen entries in the newspapers of the day, a brief resume in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies and a short entry on Wikipedia.

Gertrude, Daughter of John Leveson Gower, 1st Lord Gower by Stephen Slaughter
Gertrude, Daughter of John Leveson Gower, 1st Lord Gower by Stephen Slaughter; The National Trust for Scotland, Alloa Tower

Slaughter studied under the famous Godfrey Kneller, then travelled abroad to France and Flanders, returning to England around 1732. He then moved to Dublin for a number of years, returning to London in the 1740s.

In 1745 he was appointed Surveyor of the King’s Pictures (George II), with a salary of £200 per annum (around £24,000 in today’s money). From 1748 until his death in 1765, Slaughter spent time on picture restoration. He was buried on 2nd April 1765 at Kensington.

Portrait of Sir Edward Walpole's Children by Stephen Slaughter
Portrait of Sir Edward Walpole’s Children by Stephen Slaughter. Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Just to set the record straight here, only one of his female siblings married and that was his sister, Judith.

There has been much debate as to whether she married the artist John Lewis, but we can confirm that she didn’t –  she married a Paul Lewis, when she was aged just 16, as confirmed by the marriage allegation dated 4th January 1726, St Giles in the Field.

Judith was widowed by the time her brother Edward wrote his will in April 1770. We can confirm, however, that the artist, John Lewis’s wife was Mary as named in his will, proven 1781.

Judith Slaughter's marriage allegation to Paul Lewis, 1726.
Judith Slaughter’s marriage allegation to Paul Lewis, 1726.

Each of the siblings left their estate to the next in line with Catherine being the last to die in 1786.

Suggestions have been made that this is a portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle with Lady Mary Milner. This seems extremely unlikely as the two women look to be of similar age and Lady Mary was considerably older than Dido.

If we accept that it was painted by Stephen Slaughter then he died when Dido was a mere toddler so it couldn’t possibly be her in the painting. So either way, as much as we would like it to be a portrait of both women, the theory falls flat on its face.

The portrait raises far more questions than it answers, so if anyone knows anything more about this painting, we would love to hear from you.

Sources

Ancestry.com. London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597-1921 [database on-line]

Anecdotes of Painting in England. Horace Walpole

Greater London Burial Index

 

A Audience at Drury Lane Theatre, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Inspiring a rivalship amongst the gentry: a letter to the papers, 1773

We’re just going to give you this letter, printed in the Reading Mercury on the 25th October 1773, in full. The author has quite clearly had his fill of the fawning sycophancy over the nobility in his morning paper. The article that sparked his ire concerned Charles Bennet, 4th Earl of Tankerville who was a noted cricketer (a good fielder rather than a batter or bowler) and patron of Surrey cricket.

A game of cricket, unknown artist after Francis Hayman, 18th century.
A game of cricket, unknown artist after Francis Hayman, 18th century. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

To the PRINTER

SIR,

It was with the utmost pleasure, and with infinite surprise, that I read the following paragraph in a London paper a few days ago:

“At the cricket match between Kent and Surrey, a few days ago, Lord T__ker__e (as we can assure the public from the best authority) caught two very difficult balls, with his own hands.”

Earth! Air! Water! And fire! Is it possible – what!! Lord T__ker__e! – Lord T__ker__e himself! – to catch two balls – nay, two very difficult balls too – and with his own hands! – Immortal tidings, and more than Elysian raptures, welcome, welcome to our land, and let England ring from shore to shore! Happy for Britain, and very happy for Europe! Why, Mr Printer, if his Lordship is already so alert at catching, who knows but he will in time, instead of catching two cricket balls, catch – three? And if he does this with ease, who knows but he may next attempt the immortal feat of swinging on a gate? And if he swings upon a gate, who knows but he will give the finishing stroke to his reputation by leaping over a stile? And if he rises this length, the L__d only knows where his glories will end.

After all, Mr Printer, and to be serious with you, it gives me pleasure to hear that such actions of our illustrious nobility are recorded as the vulgar dare not, cannot rival them in; for where is the scoundrel commoner that will even pretend to catch two cricket balls? The historian of the day, however, has omitted some very material incidents in the description; such as, whether his Lordship caught the balls with one or with both hands; which parts of his Lordship’s sacred fist the balls first hit; whether they came in a south or north, east or west direction; what was his Lordship’s attitude, &c &c and these circumstances would have certainly made the matter much more important and interesting to mankind.

Cricket played by the Gentleman's Club, Whiteconduit House by Robert Dighton, c.1784.
Cricket played by the Gentleman’s Club, Whiteconduit House by Robert Dighton, c.1784. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

To conclude I repeat the immensity of my joy. For though some of our nobility have excelled in spitting maggots and burning mice, the act of catching a cricket ball was never before performed by mankind – no, nor the nobility themselves.

While I was ruminating on these things, Sir, it occurred to me, that publishing all such like acts and feats of our nobility and gentry, would be of the greatest service to the community, by inspiring a rivalship among them to excel in deeds of such singular praise; and this scheme I myself begun in the following part of my letter, a careful perusal of which will show at once to you and your readers, both the manner and the merit of recording such important incidents. In humble imitation, therefore, of the T__ker__e paragraph, I insert the following:

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, anonymous painting dating to c.1775.
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, anonymous painting dating to c.1775.
Victoria & Albert Museum.

Last night, at the door of Drury Lane Theatre, Lord F___ was observed actually to lift his lapdog into the chariot, without once seeking the footman’s assistance.

We have it from the best authority, that his Grace the Duke of St A____s precisely at eleven yesterday morning, picked his teeth without drawing blood from his gums, which is very singular.

A portrait enamel of George Beauclerk, 3rd Duke of St. Albans (1730-1786) by Gervase Spencer.
A portrait enamel of George Beauclerk, 3rd Duke of St. Albans (1730-1786) by Gervase Spencer. Philip Mould Historical Portraits.

Lord T____t was observed yesterday to swallow a spoonful of soup, in the king’s kitchen, without chewing it.

The king actually pares his nails twice a week.

George III by Allan Ramsay.
George III by Allan Ramsay.

Lord C____e has slept very soundly these three nights past which is a thing he has not done these three years before.

It is not true that one of her Majesty’s right fingers, as was villainously reported, is affected with a pimple. It is one of her left fingers.

Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) by Thomas Gainsborough
Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) by Thomas Gainsborough; National Trust, Wimpole Hall

This morning S___n F_x stepped over the kennel at Charing Cross, though it is both deep and broad, without being drowned in it.

Satirical print of Stephen Fox, 2nd Baron Holland, as the Sleepy Macaroni, 1772.
Satirical print of Stephen Fox, 2nd Baron Holland, as the Sleepy Macaroni, 1772. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Lord S_ff__k has of late dedicated his whole time to trap-ball, in which science he has made a prodigious progress. It is said that he will next study the noble game of cricket; and after he has studied it three years, it is not doubted but he will catch a ball with all the dexterity of Lord T___ker__e.

Trap Ball played at the Black Prince, Newington Butts by Robert Dighton, c.1784.
Trap Ball played at the Black Prince, Newington Butts by Robert Dighton, c.1784. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

It is remarkable that Lord M____d was not yesterday, when he appeared in the Court of King’s Bench, so close shaved as usual. The reason is not known. Some attribute it to his barber’s razor having been blunt, and other to his Lordship’s chin increasing in wrinkles.

The Lord Chancellor drinks asses-mile every morning for the establishment of his health, his physicians being of the opinion that it is the food most natural to him.

Henry Bathurst, 2nd Earl Bathurst, Lord Chancellor (1771–1778); David Martin
Henry Bathurst, 2nd Earl Bathurst, Lord Chancellor (1771–1778);
David Martin; Balliol College, University of Oxford

We are informed that the Premier eats a very hearty breakfast every day before dinner.

Lord S____t, the publick may be assured, is come to town: And it is thought he will continue in it – till he goes out of it.

PETER PARAGRAPH

 

 

Cave Dwellers of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire

Known as the ‘rock houses’ they are a well-known feature of the town of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands and only a few miles away from Newstead Abbey, home of Lord Byron.

A View in Newstead Park, belonging to the Rt. Hon. Lord Byron. Print by James Mason. Yale Center for British Art
A View in Newstead Park, belonging to the Rt. Hon. Lord Byron. Print by James Mason. Yale Center for British Art

Rumour has it that Robin Hood and his Merry Men had used the rock houses as hiding places – true or not we will never know (it’s a great legend though), but either way, they were extremely old, cut into the local sandstone and were used as homes until the beginning of the 1900s.

View of the rock houses c1775. Samuel Hieronymus Grimm. British Library. Although very faint you can just see the rock houses below the windmill.
View of the rock houses c1775. Samuel Hieronymus Grimm. British Library. Although very faint you can just see the rock houses below the windmill

Robert Watson (1779-1839) and his wife Elizabeth née Moor, were one such couple who lived there in the early part of the 19th century. As Robert died prior to the first census taken in 1841, unfortunately, there is no information about his early life, occupation etc, we do however know that they had six children – William, Robert, Mary, John, Elizabeth and their youngest Sarah, who was born in 1810.

Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.
Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.

Their lives would not have been easy, all eight of them living in such a small dwelling, trying to make ends meet to avoid the poor house. It was often thought that these houses were the modern equivalent of squats, however, this was not the case as confirmed in a letter of 1843 from the Poor Law Commission Office, which stated

A habitation within a rock, for which the occupier pays a yearly rent, is such a dwelling place as would come within the meaning of the word ‘house’ and would consequently be a subject of rating to the relief of the poor.  
A habitation within a rock, for which the occupier pays a yearly rent, is such a dwelling place as would come within the meaning of the word ‘house’ and would consequently be a subject of rating to the relief of the poor.

In an 1813 newspaper report, we learn that whilst those rock houses had probably been there for a long time they were by no means safe and the newspaper article reported that

a melancholy accident happened at one of the rock houses – as Robert Watson with his family were partaking of breakfast the roof suddenly fell in and completely buried one of his children, about three years of age, it was dug out of the ruins dreadfully bruised and dead – the rest of the family escaped unhurt.

That child was their youngest daughter, Sarah. By 1841, Elizabeth Watson was widowed but remained in the family dwelling, after all, where else could she have gone?

1841 Census for the rock houses - Elizabeth Watson, widowed. Click to enlarge view
1841 Census for the rock houses – Elizabeth Watson, widowed. Click to enlarge view

By this time the small community numbered just under 100 people, many were stone masons, framework knitters and chimney sweeps. One of the main occupations prior to 1841 was that of besom maker (a broom made from twigs, tied with a stick), but by 1841 only two remained – John Cheesman and Joseph Freeman.

Illustrated London News 06 August 1910
Illustrated London News 06 August 1910

One of the framework knitters (an occupation we have looked at previously) was George Gilbert (1779-1853), who lived there with his wife Sarah and their grandson a John Day, aged 12, according to the 1841 census, their son had died in childhood and their daughter Roseanna had married the son of the neighbouring family, Robert, son of Robert and Elizabeth Watson who we mentioned earlier.

Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.
Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.

Sarah’s marriage to Robert took place at St Peter and St Paul church, Mansfield on March 1st, 1826, so, a long and happy life ahead of them, or so you might think, but this marriage was to be very short-lived.

At the end of August 1826, Robert Watson appears to have moved from Mansfield to Uppingham, Rutland, (with or without his new bride is unclear) at which time he was arrested for robbery along with a companion Henry Jones. It was alleged that they broke into the slaughter-house of a Mr Fludyer and stole a butcher’s frock, an apron and a piece of venison which was discovered wrapped in the frock. Both Robert and Henry were committed to trial at Oakham at the following session. GUILTY AS CHARGED.

Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.
Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.

Robert, a stonemason, was sentenced to transportation, despite petitions from his parents Robert and Elizabeth, of Mansfield, who stressed that he was of good character, from a large family and that he had never been in trouble before and how distressed the family would be if he were to be imprisoned.

The court was having none of it and Robert was sent to The York, a hulk or prison ship to await transportation, where he remained until April 1827 when he boarded The Marquis of Hastings and began the long voyage that was to take him to New South Wales where his sentence of seven years was to take place.  The convict register of New South Wales described Robert as 5 feet 9 inches, brown hair, ruddy complexion, grey eyes, missing one of his upper front teeth.

HMS York shown in Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour with the convicts going on board. Plate from Shipping and Craft by E W Cooke, 1829
HMS York is shown as a Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour with the convicts going on board. Plate from Shipping and Craft by E W Cooke, 1829

Quite how good his conduct was we may never know, but it can’t have exactly been exemplary, as six years into his sentence in 1833, he was sent to Norfolk Island, for life. This was however rescinded at the beginning of 1841 and he was given a Certificate of Freedom.

Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.
Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.

So, what of his new bride? Did she await his return? Well, it appears that Roseanna continued to live in one of the rock houses but wasted little time finding a replacement for Robert, clearly, she felt he would never return.

A little over two years after Robert’s departure Roseanna presented her first child for baptism, at the same church in which they had married, so clearly the child was not Robert’s son and no father was named in the register, a performance which she repeated virtually every two years until 1844, on each occasion Roseanna gave her address as Rock House, so she had obviously remained there after husband had been transported. At some stage, she took up with a John Day, as to whether he was the unnamed father of her children, who knows, but her eldest son, named John, was with his grandparents on census day in 1841.

People continued living in the rock houses until the turn of the century, they are now sadly derelict and overgrown – such an interesting piece of local social history, all but disappeared.

Sources

Nottingham Gazette, 18 June 1813.

Draft letter from the Poor Law Commission to Richard Goulding. MH 12/9360/63

The Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, Friday, September 01, 1826

New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867

Featured Image

Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.

Whaplode near Holbeach, Lincolnshire.

The Weather in Whaplode, Lincolnshire

It’s a well-known fact that we Brits are obsessed with the weather… and with talking about it. Being an island, the old saying of ‘four seasons in a day’ sometimes seems more than a little accurate, and the weather can – on occasion – change quite dramatically in the space of a few hours. However, despite this, more often than not, the climate is generally reasonably calm and mild. Still, we love nothing better than a grumble about the rain and it’s quite frequently either ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’ for us.

One theory is that the British are known for polite detachment when dealing with others, and hate to show too much emotion. The weather is a safe and neutral topic of conversation… but we think it’s more than that. We are, as a nation, genuinely fascinated by the subject. And so, it came as quite a delight to find that the Reverend Samuel Oliver (c.1756-1847), the Eton and Cambridge educated curate of St Mary’s church at Whaplode in the remote Lincolnshire fenland, was obsessed to such a degree that he carefully recorded information about the climate in the spare pages of his parish burial registers.

Whaplode near Holbeach, Lincolnshire.
Image via South Holland Life.

Sunday, February 2nd, 1817

During the last ten days, the weather has been more serene; warm; & remarkably mild; than ever I knew it in the month of May, during the term of my residence here; which is nearly fifteen years.

Sunday, February 9th, 1817

Last night, for the first time (I think) these twenty years, the atmosphere was very strongly illuminated with Aurora Borealis. The moon entered her last quarter yesternight, a 46 min. past 7 o’clock. Today has been exceeding warm, & mild.

Monday, March 29th, 1819

This last has been the most mild, warm, & open winter ever known, in the memory of any man living. Polyanthuses & Anemonies have always been in flower.

Friday, June 29th, 1821

The season has been so excessively cold, that we were under the necessity of having large fires in the Keeping Room up to this day; when, suddenly, it became very hot!

Friday, July 6th, 1821

The cold weather has returned, so violently, as obliges us to rekindle our K. Room fire.

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

Thursday, July 25th, 1822

The former part of last winter was excessively wet, the new year brought fine weather, the spring was uncommonly dry & warm; & the season altogether the most forward & plentiful ever known.

Friday, November 7th, 1823

From the first week in July to the first week in September, we were scarcely 12 hours without rain; from thence to October 30 was remarkably fine; October 31 and November 1 were most excessively tempestuous.

Thursday, July 22nd, 1824

The last winter very much resembled that [of] 1821, 2; the spring was indescribably dry, cold, & unhealthy; the wind being nearly due east for the space of two months. Midsummer brought fine weather, & the prospective harvest is good as a human heart could wish.

Friday, December 31st, 1824

There have been more storms, tempests, inundations, & shipwrecks; & a greater quantity of rain has fallen this year, in various parts of Europe, than for a century back. Yet we had a fine spring seed time, hay time, & harvest. Not many apples.

Drainage mills in the Fens, John Sell Cottman
Drainage mills in the Fens, John Sell Cottman. Yale Center for British Art. Paul Mellon Collection.

Thursday, March 22nd, 1827

From the beginning of March 1826 to this day, has been the driest year ever known. Hay, oats, beans, & barley, were very deficient, so were potatoes, wheat good, both crop & quality.

Saturday, September 15th & Tuesday, September 18th, 1827

These two evenings the Aurora Borealis was remarkably brilliant; & merry dancers, very active.

1829

This was an excessive wet, cold, & stormy summer. Wheat good, crops & quality. About November 18, the snow & frost commenced, & was not completely gone before March 1st, 1830.

Old Draining Mill in the Huntingdonshire Fens; Edward William Cooke
Old Draining Mill in the Fens; Edward William Cooke; Norris Museum

Monday, August 27th, 1832

We have had four very cold, wet, & luxuriant summers, in succession; wheat is generally well got in. Last winter was very much like that of 1818, 19.

Thursday, July 22nd 1824, Dr Goddard the Archdeacon made his Parochial Visitation; & ordered repairs of the Vestry Room, a new fence to the Vicarage yard, & all necessary repairs to the House & Premises.

March 20th, 1835

The dykes, within the last three weeks, have become tolerably full of water, at least a foot deep; where, for the last three years, the water has never stood, 12 hours together, at the depth of six inches.

November 20th, 1839

These two last summers have been remarkably wet & cold.

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

And, from the back of the marriage register, we find this entry. Not about the weather but also clearly a subject of huge importance to the curate, judging by his increasing use of exclamation marks.

May 28th, 1821

On this, & the three subsequent days, the population of the parish was taken (by Act of Parliament). Mr Longstaff, the Overseer of the Poor, taking Mr Roberts, the Vestry Clerk, to assist him. I also went round the Parish, in my Ecclesiastical capacity, & found 154 Persons unXtned; & eight couples who notoriously cohabit, as Man & Wife, together! Four of these couples call themselves Methodists, & regularly attend the Meeting Houses! One couple holds a Meeting in their own House! Two couples are within the degrees of Affinity! And five couples have had children born!! I likewise found another couple, who will not acknowledge that they sleep together, tho’ they both sleep in one room!!!

Reverend Samuel Oliver, Curate

Rev Oliver was the curate at Whaplode for 42 years, preaching three times every Sunday, until, in 1842 the vicar of the parish died and the Rev Oliver was removed from his curacy. A few months later, and despite his advanced years (he was 84), Rev Oliver was appointed to the living of Lambley in Nottinghamshire, worth £1,000 per year. There he died on the 9th August 1847.

Sources not mentioned above

Lincolnshire Chronicle, 13th January 1843

Nottingham Evening Post, 2nd June 1950

Cheshire’s Wizard in Stone, Guest Post by Sue Wilkes

We are thrilled to welcome back the author of Regency Cheshire, Sue Wilkes who explores the county during the age of Jane Austen and Walter Scott; Regency Cheshire is now available on Kindle. Here’s a brief look at one of Cheshire’s most famous Regency-era architects.

Thomas Harrison (1744–1829), a Yorkshireman of humble origin, learnt his craft in Italy during the early 1770s.

Harrison’s works brought a restrained classicism to the city. His first major project was the Castle site, home to the civil and crown courts, county gaol, and an army garrison. Prison reformer John Howard, who visited in 1788, likened conditions in the cells (which housed debtors and felons) to the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Harrison’s Chester Castle works. The Propylea Gate is on the very far left. The county gaol, jury rooms and prothonotary’s office are in the building on the left. The Shire Hall with its Doric columns is to the right. The east wing (left) of the Hall was the military barracks; the west wing was the armoury.
Harrison’s Chester Castle works. The Propylea Gate is on the very far left. The county gaol, jury rooms and prothonotary’s office are in the building on the left. The Shire Hall with its Doric columns is to the right. The east wing (left) of the Hall was the military barracks; the west wing was the armoury.

In the summer of 1784, Cheshire magistrates, following a country-wide typhus epidemic the previous year, held a design competition for a new gaol within the castle. Thomas Harrison, now in his early forties, won the 50-guinea prize for his plans. Preliminary work began on site in 1788.

Harrison’s new gaol was laid out in the shape of a half-octagon fanning out from the Shire Hall. When the building was finally completed in 1801, conditions had greatly improved. The gaoler’s house looked out over an exercise yard; the cells, nine ft. by seven ft., were built in two-storey blocks along the inside of the perimeter wall. Robert Southey commented on how comfortably the jailor was housed:

The new jail is considered as a perfect model of prison architecture… The main objects attended to are, that the prisoners be kept apart from each other, and that the cells should always be open to inspection, and well ventilated so as to prevent infectious disorders… The structure of this particular prison is singularly curious, the cells being so constructed that the jailor from his dwelling-house can look into every one…The apartment from whence we were shown the interior of the prison was well, and even elegantly furnished; there were geraniums flowering upon stands, – a pianoforte, and music-books lying open – , and when we looked from the window we saw criminals with irons upon their legs, in solitary dungeons: – one of them, who was intently reading some devotional book, was, we were told, certainly to be executed at the next assizes…

Although Harrison’s design was very beautiful, it wasn’t necessarily secure; five prisoners escaped in the spring of 1802, and another five absconded in November 1807.

Harrison’s beautiful Propylaea Gateway, inspired by the Acropolis in Athens, was the crowning glory of the Castle complex. The gateway, with its Doric porticos and massy columns, is a high point of Greek Revival architecture in England.

Harrison’s new Shire Hall, with a grand façade of a Doric portico in fine ashlar stone, formed a harmonious whole with the prison buildings. Work continued on the Castle site for the rest of the decade; a new Armoury and Barracks (the present day Regimental Museum) for the garrison was added.

Harrison was also asked to revamp the city’s last surviving medieval gate, the Northgate. It housed the city gaol and had a dire reputation. This mouldering pile had a dreadful dungeon thirty feet below street level.

The Northgate was demolished and replaced by Harrison with a ’light, elegant structure of white stone.’ He also designed a new city gaol and House of Correction, built between 1806 and 1808, close to the medieval walls, but these buildings no longer survive.

Chester Grandstand
Chester Grandstand

Harrison was a very busy man in Chester during the Regency era. Thomas repaired the crumbling fabric of Chester Cathedral and refurbished the Exchange. His elegant Commercial News Room on Northgate St was a quiet haven for gentlemen wishing to peruse the daily newspapers.  At Chester’s famous racecourse, the Roodee, he designed the first permanent grandstand to give genteel race-goers some protection from the weather. His skills were also greatly in demand for private homes.

South east view of Chester Cathedral
Southeast view of Chester Cathedral

Harrison’s works form a wonderful legacy for Cheshire architecture. His obituary in the Chester Chronicle (3 April 1829) called him a ‘highly distinguished artist,’ who ‘in his professional character, had few equals.’

Regency Cheshire by Sue WilkesAbout the Author

Sue Wilkes is the author of several history and family history booksA Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England explores life in Austen’s day.

Regency Cheshire is out now on Kindle,  and her latest family history book, Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors, is available from Pen and Sword.

She blogs at Sue Wilkes and A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England.

The remains of Lincoln's Roman East Gate, drawing by Nathan Drake c.1740.

Lincoln’s History: Sir Cecil Wray

Sir Cecil Wray, 13th Baronet Wray of Glentworth, was born in 1734 into an ancient Lincolnshire family. In 1752, still some months away from his eighteenth birthday, Cecil inherited the baronetcy and the family estates (in Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Yorkshire) when his father, Sir John Wray, 12th Baronet died.

Sir Cecil stood for parliament as a Whig representing Retford in Nottinghamshire (he won the seat in 1768) and then Westminster between 1782 and 1784. However, during this latter period, Sir Cecil stood up in the House of Commons to oppose the East India Bill proposed by Charles James Fox and he denounced the coalition between Fox and Lord North; subsequently – and with the support of the Tory party – at the 1784 election, Sir Cecil tried to oust Fox from representing Westminster. In the print below, the naval officer Sir Samuel Hood (Tory) is shown as Themistocles, Charles James Fox, the Whig candidate is Demosthenes and Sir Cecil Wray, who had switched allegiance from the Whigs to the Tories is depicted as Judas Iscariot. In the end, Sir Cecil finished last, a result which he contested for some time.

The Rival Candidates: Sir Samuel Hood, Charles James Fox and Sir Cecil Wray
© The Trustees of the British Museum

The wits and wags of the day had a field time with Sir Cecil after the 1784 election; not only had he appeared to betray Charles James Fox but he was also – reputedly – a bit of a skinflint. He drank ‘small beer’, his grand house in Pall Mall was left unfinished and he proposed plans to abolish Chelsea Hospital and to tax maid-servants in order to ease the National Debt.

Sir Cecil's Budget for Paying the National Debt. In the foreground, the veterans with wooden legs and on crutches try to get away from the crumbling facade of the Chelsea Hospital. In the background, a group of women, outraged by the proposal to abolish the Chelsea Hospital and to tax employers of maid servants, attacks with brooms and a slop jar the proposal's author, Sir Cecil Wray.
In the foreground, the veterans with wooden legs and on crutches try to get away from the crumbling facade of the Chelsea Hospital. In the background, a group of women, outraged by the proposal to abolish the Chelsea Hospital and to tax employers of maidservants, attacks with brooms and a slop jar the proposal’s author, Sir Cecil Wray. Met Museum

We have a different reason to pour scorn upon Sir Cecil, however. In 1750 he built a house on Eastgate in Lincoln, to the northeast of the Cathedral. This house, named Eastgate House, was extended in 1763 but an old stone structure interrupted Sir Cecil’s views of Lincoln Cathedral. That couldn’t be allowed, and so the edifice was demolished… unfortunately for us today, that structure was the remains of the Roman Upper East Gate to the city.

The remains of Lincoln's Roman East Gate, drawing by Nathan Drake c.1740.
The remains of Lincoln’s Roman East Gate, drawing by Nathan Drake c.1740. Image via It’s About Lincoln.

This particular gate had only been rediscovered in 1730 as it had been walled up and formed part of the north gable end of a house on one side and a stable on the other.

Eastgate House was further added to in the nineteenth-century; Sir Cecil’s original house has gone the same way as the remains of the Roman Upper East Gate and no longer survives but one of the later wings can still be seen. It is now part of the Lincoln Hotel and, in front of the hotel, the foundations of the old East Gate – all that remained after Sir Cecil’s handiwork – are visible. They were uncovered in 1945 during excavations to lay new sewers. Before it was pulled down, the East Gate looked very similar to the nearby Newport Gate, which – as it was not blocking an important view – has managed so far to stand the test of time, although, in recent years, lorries have been known to get stuck beneath it, causing damage.

Newport Arch, Lincoln by Nathan Drake, 1756
Newport Arch, Lincoln by Nathan Drake, 1756; The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery)

Around the same time as he was destroying the Roman heritage of the city of Lincoln, Sir Cecil started building a country seat at Fillingham, about ten miles north. This fine house, built in the style of a Gothic castle, he named Somers or Summer Castle after his wife, Dame Esther Wray née Summers (or Somers), although it is also now known as Fillingham Castle.

Little is known of Dame Esther; she was born around 1735 and is said to be the daughter of a James Summers. We love a challenge, and have tried our hardest to uncover Dame Esther’s origins but – at the moment – we are having to admit defeat although we can add a little more information to her story. From our research, it appears likely that she is from Essex and certainly the Wrays were married by the summer of 1763 for the Leeds Intelligencer newspaper recorded ‘Sir Cecil Wray and Lady’ amongst the arrivals in Scarborough in their 19th July edition.

Summer Castle, Fillingham, Lincolnshire, 1804.
Summer Castle, Fillingham, coloured plate from A Selection of Views from the County of Lincolnshire, 1804.

Her brother John Summers (variously recorded as Sumers and Sommers) lived at Fairsted in Essex in the mid-1760s. There, together with his wife, Jane, he baptised three children, Esther and Eades in 1764 and a second daughter, Charlotte a year later. Eades and Charlotte later lived with their aunt at Summer Castle. Another of her nieces, who also lived at the castle, was Esther Taylor who, in 1785, married Captain Charles Hare, RN; various others of this family lived at Billericay in Essex.

On the 11th January 1804, when Sir Cecil Wray wrote his will, he named his wife’s great-niece, Elizabeth Ann Jeffries who was residing at his castle. Elizabeth Ann was born c.1786 in Essex; during 1804 she made not one but two marriages, both – luckily – to the same man, William Thomas Goodchild, a naval officer who had been born on Christmas Day 1777 at Christiansted, St Croix in the Virgin Islands. Goodchild was the grandson of Isabella Wray, the sister of Sir John Wray, 12th Baronet.

South east view of Fillingham Castle in Lincolnshire, from The Tatler, 30 October 1901.
The Tatler, 30 October 1901

Sir Cecil Wray died in 1805 and was buried at Fillingham; his wife, Dame Esther Wray lived at Summer Castle until her death in 1825, aged 89 years. What remains of Summer Castle is now a private residence: the remains of a gatehouse and lodge can be seen on the side of the A15.

Remains of the gate and entrance lodge to Summer Castle, Fillingham, Lincolnshire.
The remains of the gate and entrance lodge, via Google Maps.

 

Sources not mentioned above:

Will of Sir Cecil Wray of Fillingham, Lincolnshire, National Archives PROB 11/1421/217

Will of Dame Esther Wray, Dowager of Summer Castle, Lincolnshire, National Archives PROB 11/1697/79

Relevant parish registers

Lincolnshire Echo, 22nd October 1945

View of Bath by Edmund Garvey

How George III’s 1809 Golden Jubilee was celebrated in Bath

On the 25th October 1809, the jubilee of King George III was celebrated across the nation. Opinion was divided as to whether the jubilee had been celebrated a year too early; 25th October 1809 was the first day of the 50th year of George III’s reign, he had not actually reigned yet for a full fifty years. It was a grand project instigated – and to a large degree planned – by a middle-aged, middle-class lady living in the Welsh borders, a truly amazing woman who is the subject of our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs.

George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815
George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives.

The jubilee was celebrated across the nation, and even on board ships and in foreign territories under British rule. Today, we are going to look at the celebrations that took place in Bath 209 years ago today.

Bath Abbey by an unknown artist
Bath Abbey; Victoria Art Gallery

The Jubilee was this day celebrated here with every demonstration of loyalty. The festival was ushered in by the ringing of bells, and display of flags on the different churches. At eleven o’clock the Mayor and Corporation, accompanied by the Bath Volunteer reg. of Infantry, the Young Gentleman of the Grammar School, the children of the Charity Schools, and the Friendly Societies, (33 in number, containing 2,487 members, each Society distinguished by its particular banner and colours,) went in grand procession to the Abbey Church where an admirable sermon was preached by the Rev Mr Marshall. Part of the Societies went to Walcot Church, where an equally excellent discourse was delivered by the Rev Mr Barry. Collections were made at the doors of both churches for the benevolent purpose of releasing the debtors in the County Gaol.

Looking down Grove Street to Walcot Church.
Looking down Grove Street to Walcot Church. Victoria Art Gallery

On returning to the Hall, cakes and wine were given to the juvenile part of the procession. The Volunteers marched to the Crescent Field, where they fired a feu de joie; and the members of the Friendly Societies departed to their respective club-rooms, in which they dined together in much harmony; each man received towards his expenses 1s. 6d. from the public subscription for that purpose. The Children of the Blue Coat Charity School, about 120 in number, sat down in their school-room to a plentiful dinner of roast beef and plumb pudding, provided at the expense of a highly-respected and loyal gentleman, a resident of this city.

The Crescent at Bath
The Crescent at Bath. Victoria Art Gallery

The Mayor and Corporation, the clergy, with a select party, dined at the White Hart. In the evening there was a ball at the Town Hall. Jubilee medals, with ribbons having suitable mottos in gold letters, were generally worn.

The 'White Hart' Inn, Bath by John Charles Maggs
A slightly later view of the ‘White Hart’ Inn, Bath by John Charles Maggs; Victoria Art Gallery

John Jones, esq, of Woolley, near Bradford, gave to 800 poor persons of that neighbourhood, a sufficient quantity of bread, strong beer, and mutton, in the presence of a large concourse of loyal subjects.

Messrs Divett, Price, Jackson, and Co. regaled nearly 500 persons employed in their manufactory at Bradford by giving them three fine fat sheep roasted whole, plenty of bread, and a large potion of good Wilthshire strong beer.

Bradford, Wiltshire, c.1805.
Bradford, Wiltshire, c.1805. Victoria Art Gallery

The debtors in our city gaol, five in number, were this morning liberated from confinement by the munificence of the sheriffs, Geo. Crook, and Geo. Lye, esqrs, who, from their private purse, settled the creditors’ claims, amounting to 80l.

Mrs Biggs was no radical in her political views, and she initially fought against the jubilee being used for charitable aims; she wanted to see grand and joyous celebrations, with people feasting well and toasting their king with a mug of ale or a glass of wine. Her plans were hijacked to a certain degree and she had to accept that money was put to other uses than celebrating on the day, but she lobbied – anonymously and successfully – for the continuation of her original aims. You can discover how in our book, A Georgian Heroine.

As some of our long-term readers will know, we also host a ‘sister-blog’, The Diaries of Fanny Chapman. Fanny was a middle-class spinster who lived in Bath through the late Georgian and into the Victorian eras, often in company with her aunts. Her diaries from 1807-1812 and 1837-1841 have survived and we were given permission to publish them; they are a wonderful first-hand resource.

Unfortunately, while Fanny heard the jubilee celebrations in Bath, and no doubt was told all about them by the family servants who took advantage of the impromptu holiday, she herself largely stayed indoors, only venturing out for a quick errand. Still, we thought it might be interesting to read her diary entries for the relevant days.

An Account of the Celebration of the Jubilee on the 25th October 1809

Tuesday, 24 October, 1809

A most beautiful day.  My Aunt was so unwell she did not get up till near dinner time.  Admiral and Mrs Phillip calld and sat some time.  He came up stairs.  They were both very friendly and kind.  I went to Mrs Vassall’s to ask if she intended to fulfill her engagement of dinner with us today.  She said she did.  Saw Mrs Horne with her.  I went and ordered a couple of chicken and then calld at my mother’s, but they were not at home.  Only Mrs Vassall and Betsey dined here.  Mr Wiltshire came in while we were at dinner, but did not stay long.  It raind fast in the evening and Mrs Vassall and Betsey went home in a Chair between eight and nine o’clock.  We went to bed early, but were disturbed after twelve o’clock by the ringing of bells and firing of guns to usher in the Jubilee, which is to take place tomorrow on the King’s entering the 50th year of his Reign.  My Aunt heard from Cooper!!!

View of Bath by Edmund Garvey
View of Bath by Edmund Garvey; Number 1 Royal Crescent

Wednesday, 25 October, 1809

A beautiful day.  The whole town was in motion early to see the Processions of the Corporate Volunteers and different Clubs to Church.  All the servants, except Kitty, went out before breakfast and did not return till after two o’clock.  Mrs Gibson calld (for the first time) and sat an hour here.  Miss Workman came in the morning, before we were up, to say she had got a room in the square to see the Procession, where she wishd us to come.  My Aunt P was not well enough to go, but tried to persuade me.  However, I had not the least inclination and was not sorry to be able to stay at home.  I was obliged to go to the Sidney Hotel before dinner to enquire if Mr Gale had heard any thing about the house he mentiond to my Aunt. He told me the proprietor of it was come to Bath and would call on my Aunt today or tomorrow. There was a constant noise of ringing of bells and firing guns the whole day and the bouncing of squibs and crackers in the evening.  I heard from my Uncle James to say all our shares, except one, were blanks and that one was only fifteen pounds.  It began to rain about ten o’clock and continued, I believe, most part of the night.

The Sydney Hotel, Bath
The Sydney Hotel, Bath. Victoria Art Gallery

(To discover more about Fanny Chapman and her diaries, follow the link at the bottom of this page.)

Sources not mentioned above:

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 26th October 1809

Lotions, Potions and Pills – Druggist Trade Cards

We have looked at trade cards on a couple of previous occasions and it appears that many of our readers like them as much as we do. So, today we’re going to look at a specific trade – that of a druggist or chymist.

Wellcome library
Wellcome Library

Our first offering is a lovely card for a Joseph Leaper, who was running his business in Bishopsgate, London. We love that not only did he make up lotions and potions, but also diversified into coffee, tea, chocolate and snuffs, a real 18th-century entrepreneur.

Joseph Leaper. Wellcome Library
Joseph Leaper. Wellcome Library

As the card is giving away few clues we can’t be sure whether it relates to him Joseph senior or junior who took over the business on his father’s death in 1750. His will made no clear mention as to who was to take over the business after his death, but family were clearly important to him and he made provision for both his children grandchildren and so if this trade card postdates Joseph senior’s death, then it’s safe to assume his son Joseph took over the reins In Joseph senior’s will he specifically wished to be buried with his wife in Whitechapel, or, if he died in Derbyshire, to be buried at Osmaston, near Derby. Joseph senior got his wish to be buried with his wife and didn’t make it to the pretty village of Osmaston. He was buried 21st May 1750 at St Mary’s, Whitechapel.

The next one conjures up quite a dramatic image, someone clearly spent a great deal of time designing this. Something this detailed and imaginative would probably have been expensive to produce. You could spend hours just reading the symbolism contained within it.

Richard Siddall. Wellcome Library
Richard Siddall. Wellcome Library

Richard Siddall who was operating his business from the Golden Head, Panton Street, near the Haymarket. He was a maker and seller of all manner of chymical and Galenical medicines. He also sold ‘The Elixir for the Asthma and for gout and rheumatism’.

We know that he was already trading from that address when he married on 9th November 1751, as the London Magazine, or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, Volume 20 as it confirms his marriage to Miss Sukey le Febre (sic), fourth daughter to John le Febre (sic). In May 1753 Richard was declared bankrupt, so we have no idea what became of him after that. We do, however, know that his business was taken over by Daniel Swann, as he used an identical trade card showing the same address, just with a name change.

Our third one is for GJ Beavan who was trading at 114 High Street, Cheltenham, so, a fashionable spa town, an ideal place to visit for the upper classes and potentially lucrative for the businessman.

GJ Bevan Wellcome Library
GJ Bevan Wellcome Library

This one tells us little about who Beavan was, but we do know that his company took over the business from Paytherus, Savory and company who also owned a warehouse on Bond Street, London and who were involved from 1793, in the production of Cheltenham Salts. Beavan’s was certainly trading under its new name from 1818 onwards according to the newspapers and we see this advert below for one of their products in 1832.

Cheltenham Chronicle 18 October 1832
Cheltenham Chronicle 18 October 1832

The final one belonged to John Kempson Esq., a druggist of Snow Hill, London and according to Yale Centre for British Art was dated c1770. This helps us to narrow it down and we have found that John died in 1788 whilst getting into his carriage at his home in Cheam, Surrey. His will confirms that the main beneficiary of his estate was his wife, to whom he left £1,000, so not an inconsiderable sum of money. John was buried at St Dunstan church, Cheam on 6th November 1788, aged 77.

John Kempson. Yale Centre for British Art
John Kempson. Yale Centre for British Art

It would appear that John didn’t work alone but had a chemist Richardson Ferrand working with him according to a newspaper report in the Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette of May 19th, 1804.

Sources

Derby Mercury 11th May 1753

Worcester Journal 29 September 1808

Chelmsford Chronicle 07 November 1788

Featured Image

Showing the effect of taking Cheltenham Salts c,1820

Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737

The family of Allan Ramsay, principal portrait painter to George III

During research into Allan Ramsay, we have noticed that the information given online concerning his children is incorrect and – in some cases – missing altogether. So, today’s post is something of a genealogical exercise to fully document Ramsay’s twelve children, five sons and seven daughters, which, we hope, will prove informative for anyone else interested in Ramsay’s family. Plus, it is also just a fantastic opportunity to showcase some wonderful portraits and sketches.

Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756.
Allan Ramsay, self-portrait c.1755-1756. National Galleries Scotland.

Born in Edinburgh and baptised on 6th October 1713 (according to the Gregorian calendar; 11 days need to be added to correspond to the Julian calendar), Ramsay was the eldest son of the poet and bookseller, Allan Ramsay (who was a wigmaker at the time of Allan’s birth) and his wife Christian neé Ross. Three of his siblings survived into adulthood, Janet, Catherine and Anne.

Miss Ramsay in a Red Dress c.1760-5 by Allan Ramsay. Believed to be one of Ramsay's two sisters, Janet or Catherine.
Miss Ramsay in a Red Dress c.1760-5 by Allan Ramsay. Believed to be one of Ramsay’s two sisters, Janet or Catherine. The Tate

Allan Ramsay junior’s talent was evident from an early age; his father described him as painting ‘like a Raphael’ and raised money to send Allan to Italy in order that he might study there.

By 1738, Ramsay was back in England, and he took rooms in the piazza in Covent Garden.

Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737
Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737; Tate

A year later, on 29 April 1739, Ramsay married Anne Bayne, a fellow Scot and the daughter of Alexander Bayne of Rires. Around the time of their wedding (which took place at St Benet, Paul Wharf), Ramsay painted Anne’s portrait.

Anne Bayne, the first Mrs Allan Ramsay who died in 1743. Portrait painted by her husband around the time of their marriage, c.1739.
Anne Bayne, the first Mrs Allan Ramsay who died in 1743. Portrait painted by her husband around the time of their marriage, c.1739. National Galleries of Scotland

Three children were born to the couple, two sons Allan and Bayne, who both died young before Anne herself died in childbirth early in 1743 giving birth to a daughter who was named Anne, for her mother. She survived, at least for a few years. On 11 January 1747 another Anne Ramsay was buried in the churchyard at Covent Garden, this one a spinster. It seems probable that this was Ramsay’s sister, Anne.

Allan Ramsay's infant son, Allan, who survived to just 14 months of age. Painted by Ramsay c.1740-1741.
Allan Ramsay’s infant son, Allan, who survived to just 14 months of age. Painted by Ramsay c.1740-1741. National Galleries of Scotland

Ramsay spent much of the following years in Scotland, where his fame grew, if not his wealth. He was supporting not only his young daughter but his two spinster sisters too, Catherine and Janet. Certainly Sir Alexander Lindsay of Evelick didn’t consider Ramsay a suitable husband for his 26-year-old daughter, Margaret, whom Ramsay was teaching to draw. Denied her father’s approval, Margaret eloped with Ramsay and they married on 1 March 1752 at the Canongate in Edinburgh.

Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760.
Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760. National Galleries of Scotland

Later that year, just a day shy of 33 weeks after the marriage, Margaret gave birth to twins. In an attempt to placate her father, who still disapproved of her husband, the babes were named Alexander and Amelia after Margaret’s parents; they were baptized on 17 October 1752 at St Paul’s in Covent Garden and sadly buried there the very next day. By the end of 1753, the Ramsays were back in Scotland, living in Edinburgh and there, in February 1754, another son was born, again named Alexander. This infant was left behind in Scotland when his parents travelled to Italy the following year. Margaret was soon pregnant once again.

A daughter, Amelia was born in March 1755 at Rome but sadly, back in Edinburgh, little Alexander had died; he was buried on 23 June 1755.

By the end of 1758, Ramsay had brought his family back to London and taken lodgings on the western side of Soho Square (then called King’s Square, the name given because of the statue of Charles II which stood there).

King Square in Soho, looking towards Monmouth House.
King Square in Soho, looking towards Monmouth House.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

On 9 November 1758, another daughter was born to Allan and Margaret Ramsay; she was baptized with the name Elisabeth eight days later at St. Anne’s, Soho. Two more daughters were to swiftly follow, Frances born 16 February 1760 and Grizelda on 19 July 1761. Sadly, none were destined to live long: Grizelda lived for less than six weeks and was buried (as Grizell Ramsay) at Chiswick on 29 August and Elisabeth died almost a year later at three years of age. She was laid to rest in the Soho churchyard on 22 August 1762 where her sister Frances joined her on 4 July 1765.

A ray of light amongst the darkness was the birth of Charlotte in 1765, the youngest daughter of the family. Charlotte was strong and healthy and would survive.

Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the artist. Painted by her father and dated 8 July 1776.
Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the artist. Painted by her father and dated 8 July 1776. National Galleries of Scotland.

The final child born to Ramsay was a son, named John, who was baptized at St Marylebone on 14 June 1768. Probably he was named after his uncle, Margaret’s brother Sir John Lindsay who is perhaps better remembered as the father of Dido Elizabeth Belle (of whom we have written previously).

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

Allan Ramsay suffered ill health during his later years and died at Dover on his return to London from Florence on 10 August 1784; Ramsay’s wife, Margaret had passed away two years earlier. But, what of their three surviving children, Amelia, Charlotte and John?

All three Ramsay siblings appear to have shared a love of adventure, for they travelled the globe. Amelia married an army officer, Archibald Campbell (later General Sir Archibald Campbell) at St Marylebone on 8 July 1779. Campbell was posted abroad (he was governor of Jamaica between 1781 and 1784) and Amelia and her sister, Charlotte sailed to be with him in 1780. They were aboard the storeship, British Queen, captain Hodge, in a convoy of 63 ships bound for the West Indies.

Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil and Ross KB, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Madras by George Romney, 1790.
Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil and Ross KB, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Madras by George Romney, 1790. National Army Museum

The ships were East and West Indiamen, storeships, victuallers and transports (with the 90th Regiment of Foot on board), and while it might have been felt that there was safety in numbers, it was a perilous time. Spain had sided with the US in the American Revolutionary War and declared war on Britain. At Cape St Vincent in the Algarve, on 9 August 1780, the convoy of British ships met a combined Spanish and French fleet and it was disastrous. All but eight of the British vessels were captured.

The action of 9 August 1780 when all but 8 ships out of a British convoy of 63 were captured by a combined force of French and Spanish.
The action of 9 August 1780 when all but 8 ships out of a British convoy of 63 were captured by a combined force of French and Spanish. Image via Wikimedia

The new Mrs Amelia Campbell and her sister, Charlotte Ramsay were incredibly lucky; their ship, the British Queen, was one of the eight which evaded capture and they managed to make it unscathed to Jamaica and Campbell’s protection.

Seven years later, on 1 February 1787 and possibly in India, Charlotte married Lieutenant Colonel Henry Malcolm, Adjutant-General to the East-India Company’s troops on the coast of Coromandel [New Zealand].

John Ramsay joined the army and he too made his way to India. In 1789 a ship returning to England from Madras via St Helena numbered among the passengers:

Sir Archibald Campbell, K.B, family and suite; Mrs Malcolm… Capt. John Ramsay…

Amelia and Sir Archibald Campbell had no children, but she did bring up two children as her own, a boy who shared her husband’s name, Archibald Campbell and a girl born c.1784, Mary Macleod, who Amelia thought of as her adopted daughter.

Amelia Campbell née Ramsay died in 1813 and was buried (on 15 July 1813) in Westminster Abbey alongside her husband, Sir Archibald who had died 23 years earlier. (Their grave is in the south transept of the abbey, next to that of George Frederic Handel.) After Amelia’s death, Mary Macleod went to live with Charlotte who became as close to the girl as her sister had been; both Amelia and Charlotte left the bulk of their wealth to Mary. Indeed, Charlotte, in her will, declared that she viewed Mary as a daughter.

On 6 January 1837, Charlotte Malcolm née Ramsay was buried at St Marylebone. John Ramsay, who was promoted to the rank of general, lived until 1845; he died in Geneva.

John Ramsay; soldier, son of Allan Ramsay by François Ferrière, 1794.
John Ramsay; soldier, son of Allan Ramsay by François Ferrière, 1794. National Galleries of Scotland

To recap, the children of Allan Ramsay are as follows:

By Anne Bayne:

Allan – 1740-1741

Bayne – 1741-? (died young)

Anne – 1743-? (died young after 1752)

By Margaret Lindsay:

Alexander and Amelia (twins) – 1752-1752

Alexander – 1754-1755

Amelia – 1755-1813

Elisabeth – 1758-1762

Frances – 1760-1765

Grizelda – 1761-1761

Charlotte – 1765-1837

John – 1768-1845

Notes:

For ease, we have used new style rather than old style dates, except where noted.

Ramsay’s daughter Anne, from his first marriage, was alive when he remarried in 1752 as she was mentioned in a letter he wrote to his father-in-law, but she did not survive into adulthood.

Elisabeth, born 9 November 1758, seems to have been confused in most, if not all sources for Charlotte born 1765. In fact, the short-lived Elisabeth, Frances and Grizelda appear to have been totally overlooked and Charlotte, known as one of only two Ramsay’s daughters by Margaret Lindsay to have survived to adulthood, ascribed to the 1758 birth on the basis of a letter written by Ramsay to Sir Alexander Dick congratulating Sir Alexander on the birth of a daughter and remarking that he had recently been similarly blessed.

In the 1851 census, Mary Macleod said she had been born at sea but was a British subject.