We thought long and hard about whether to publish this on our blog, but agreed that, despite being almost unbearable to read, it was merely one short extract which doesn’t even come close describing the horrors that slaves endured during the Georgian Era on a very regular basis but decided it needed to be shared. We do however warn you from the outset, this does not make for easy reading.
This extract comes from a newspaper article published in September 1806, but it is also available to read in Volume 3 of the work written by Dr George Pinckard. His 3 volumes are available to read online (see below).
This work, which would be interesting at any time, derives a peculiar interest at the present moment, from the light which is thrown on that great question, respecting the African Slave Trade, and the system of slavery which it feeds in our West-Indian colonies, now passing under the review of the legislature of this country. The facts recorded by Dr Pinckard, are the result of his own personal observation, serve strikingly to develop the real nature of colonial bondage and are therefore entitled to particular attention from the public. The following extract will furnish a specimen of the kind of information which is to be derived from these interesting volumes, while it will afford fresh proof of West Indian humanity. The circumstances detailed in it are stated to have occurred on the estate of an English planter at Demerara, where Dr Pinckard himself was stationed at the time, and are as follows:
Two unhappy negroes, a man and woman, having been driven by cruel treatment to abscond from the plantation at Lancaster, were taken a few days since, and brought back to the estate, when the manager, whose inhuman severity had caused them to fly from his tyrannical government, dealt out to them his avenging despotism with more than savage brutality. Taking with him two of the strongest drivers, armed with the heaviest whips, he led out these trembling and wretched Africans early in the morning, to a remote part of the estate, too distant for the officers to hear their cries; and there, tying down first the man, he stood by, and made the drivers flog him with many hundred lashes, until, on releasing him from the ground, it was discovered that he was nearly exhausted; and in this state the inhuman monster struck him with the but-end of a large whip, he fell to the ground; when the poor negro, escaping at once from his slavery and his sufferings expired at the murderers feet. But not satiated with blood, this savage tyrant next tied down the naked woman, on the spot by the dead body of her husband, and with the whips, already deep in gore, compelled the drivers to inflict a punishment of several hundred lashes, which had nearly released her also from a life of toil and torture.
Hearing of these acts of cruelty, on my return from the hospital, and scarcely believing it possible they could have been committed I went immediately to the sick house to satisfy myself by ocular testimony; when alas! I discovered that all I had heard was too fatally true: for, shocking to relate I found the wretched and almost murdered woman lying stark naked on her belly, without any coverings to the horrid wounds which had been cut by the whips, and with the still warm and bloody corpse of the man extended at her side, upon the neck of which was an iron collar, and a long heavy chain, which the now murdered negro had been made to wear from the time of his return to the estate.
The flesh of the woman was so torn, as to exhibit one extensive sore from the loins almost to her hams; not had humanity administered even a drop of oil to soften her wounds. The only relief she knew was that of extending her feeble arm in order to beat off the tormenting flies with a small green bough, which had been put into her hand for that purpose by the sympathizing kindness of a fellow slave. A more shocking and stressing spectacle can scarcely be conceived. The dead man and the almost expiring woman had been brought home from the place of punishment, and thrown into the negro hospital, amidst the crowd of sick, with cruel unconcern. Lying on the opposite side of the corpse was a fellow sufferer in similar condition to the poor woman. His buttocks, thighs and part of his back, had been flogged into one large sore, which was still raw although he had been punished a fortnight before.
The owner was challenged about the severity of his manager’s action and said that the slaves only got what they deserved. The law of the colonies restricted slave owners to lashings of up to a maximum of 39, but the fine being so small for excessive use meant that 100 lashes were very commonplace.
Sir Wolstan Dixie (1700-1767), 4th Baronet of Bosworth Hall at Market Bosworth in Leicestershire was many things, and chief among them was the fact that he was a bully. For a few short months, Samuel Johnson lived with the family at Bosworth Hall while he was employed by Dixie as an usher at the local grammar school, ‘but was treated with what he represented as intolerable harshness; and, after suffering for a few months such complicated misery, he relinquished a situation for which all his life afterwards he recollected with the strongest aversion, and even a degree of horror’.
On 1 May 1735, at All Hallows by London Wall, Dixie married 24-year-old Anna Frere, the wealthy eldest daughter of John Frere of Barbados (Anna had been born on the island in 1711 and was also one of the heiresses of her grandfather, Tobias Frere). Anna’s mother had died just weeks before. It’s tempting to speculate that Dixie saw his chance and pursued solely Anna for her money (she had ‘upwards of 20,000l.), and probably that’s pretty close to the mark. Along with his bride, Sir Wolstan also took on the employment of Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Barker, who had worked as housekeeper and head servant for Anna’s mother, Elizabeth, for twelve years until Madam Frere’s death in March 1735, and then for Anna until her marriage. The Frere’s London house was in Bloomsbury, on Great Russell Street; John Frere had been acting Governor of Barbados just before his death on the island in 1721, after which his widow and children had returned to England. Betty Barker had worked for the family since that time.
Betty was utterly trustworthy. When, straight after the wedding, she was ordered to quickly pack up all the household belongings, close up the London house and head to the Dixie’s Leicestershire mansion, Bosworth Hall, she followed the instructions implicitly. There just wasn’t enough time, however, to pack properly and Betty ended up opening drawers and throwing armfuls of the contents into packing trunks which she left with trusted friends. She was honest about their contents, saying to her friends as she deposited the trunks with them that she knew some of the Freres’ belongings had got mixed up with her own, and that she would sort them out and return everything to its rightful owner when she was next in London. It was to prove a disastrous mistake, one compounded by the fact that Betty had been gifted so many of the Freres’ cast-offs. (The Frere family quite obviously viewed Betty with great affection; she had cared for them during all their time in London and they held her in high regard.) Betty had also pretty much worked for nothing except the gifts that the family had bestowed on her; by the end of 1735, Betty was owed five years wages. It’s clear that she viewed the cast-offs she’d received from the family as a form of recompense for her labour.
Reading between the lines of what happened next, it looks like Sir Wolstan had been snooping on his wife’s letters in the interim. He had intercepted one from Betty to Anna, Lady Dixie, in which Betty ‘mentioned the names of Capt ___ and a Baronet; and told [Anna] it was unfortunate she married so soon, for she might have had such, or such a Gentleman’. Betty, it seems, already had the measure of Sir Wolstan. He saw his chance in the Frere and Dixie belongings found in poor Betty’s possession, dismissed her and, after Betty had returned to London, had her charged with theft. Declaring he would have Betty hanged before Christmas, if it cost him a thousand pounds, he saw his wife’s servant incarcerated in Newgate prison.
It must have been an horrendous ordeal for Betty who caught gaol fever and nearly died before she even got to court to be tried for theft, on 10 December 1735.
Prisoner: I lived twelve Years with my Old Lady Madam Freer. I kept all the Keys, and was entrusted with every thing that was of Value in the House. After my Old Lady dyed, my Young Lady Married to Sir Wolstan Dixie. In a little time we left off House-keeping in Town, and the Goods were all pack’d up in great haste, to go to Sir Wolstan’s Country-Seat in Leicester shire. And its very likely that I might, when we were in such a hurry and Confusion, put some of my old Lady’s things among my own. The Night before we went away, I would have settled with Madam Freer (my old Lady’s Sister and Executrix) but she said she had not leisure then, and she would settle with me when the Family came to Town again – Sir Wolstan turn’d me away suddenly, and I return’d to London in August last, but Mrs. Freer has never yet called in to settle the Account, and the Five Year Wages and other Money is yet due to mes.
Mrs. Freer: Tis true the Account is not-yet settled and I believe there is five Years Wages due to her
Witness after witness took the stand to testify to Betty’s honesty, and the fact that the numerous items she was supposed to have stolen had been either freely gifted to her, or had been among the ones thrown into the packing cases to be sorted out at a later date.
Mrs. Bainton: I knew her twelve Years when she lived with Old Madam Freer, and, she always behaved in the best Manner and so much to her Mistress’s satisfaction that she left her a Legacy of Ten Pound. Madam Freer dyed the 13th of March and on the first of May her Daughter was married to Sir Wolstan Dixy and they went directly to Lewisham. Sir Wolstan and his Lady came to Town again on Friday the rest of the Familiy came on Saturday. And on Sunday the Goods were pack’d up in a great hurry and Confusion, in order to set out the next Morning for Bosworth in Leicester-shire. The Room was strewed all over with Goods, and the Prisoner was putting them up in Trunks and Boxes, she said she scarce knew where to put things, and believed that by mistake she had put up some of her Lady’s Goods with her own.
Mrs. Collins: I have known her eleven or twelve Years, she was House-keeper and Head-servant , and had the best of Characters from the Family.
When I heard she was in Newgate, I was amazed, and should as soon have thought of hearing the King was there – I live at the Colour Shop. in King’s Gate Street.
Cornelius Maddox, Porter: I assisted her in cording up the Boxes, and Trunks. I said, Here is a great many Things, what must I do with them. Aye, says she, Here is a great many things of my Ladies, as well as mine, I think I will send them to Lewisham. But Mrs. Bingham, and Mrs. Smith, told her she might leave them at their Houses, and accordingly, the Boxes were carried to their Houses publickly.
Mrs. Wright: The Day Sir Wolstan went out of Town, the Prisoner said to Mrs. Freer, Mam, there is a great many things put up, but if in this hurry there should be any thing of my Lady’s intermixt with mine, here are my Boxes, we shall not stay for ever in the Country, and when we return we will put all to rights.
Also among the witnesses were Elizabeth and Rebecca Frere, Lady Dixie’s sister and aunt respectively. Mrs Smith, the Freres’ dressmaker, was also called and asked about a scarlet silk night gown, which was held up in the court.
Mrs. Smith. I believe I made this for my Lady; I have made her three, four, or five such in a Winter.
Prisoner. Would not you have bought that Gown of me when I was going into Mourning for my old Lady?
Smith. She offered to sell me a scarlet Gown before they went into mourning, which was about eight Months ago; and she said, her Lady gave it her – This may be the same for ought I know.
Next, a yellow silk gown and petticoat was held up for the jury to see.
Smith: I made such a Coat and Gown for my Lady.
Question: How many new Gowns might you make the Lady in a Year?
Smith: A great many – I believe a Dozen in a Year.
Question: And what could she do with so many, if she did not give some of them to her Maids?
Smith: The Lady used to give the Prisoner a great many Clothes, and she never denied or concealed them, but wore them in publick – She told me when her Lady married, she had given her all her Clothes.
Question: Is it not usual for single Ladies of great Fortunes to give away their Maiden Clothes when they marry?
Smith: Yes, it is usual – And all these Clothes in Court were made before my Lady married, for when she married she was in Mourning.
Finally, the bombastic Sir Wolstan Dixie took to the stand. He stuck to his story that the goods had been stolen, and also that his wife had become ‘sick of the Prisoner’. Lady Dixie had been called to appear at the trial, but wasn’t present.
Sir Wolstan: She is at my Country Seat in Leicestershire – She is with Child, and in her Condition, and the badness of the Roads, it might endanger her Life to come up.
Council: Have you not said that you had prevented her coming to Town?
Sir Wolstan: No.
Council: Have you not commanded that your Coach should not go above four Miles from home?
Sir Wolstan: I am not to answer all Questions.
Unfortunately for Sir Wolstan, all his endeavours to lock his wife away at Bosworth Hall proved fruitless, as two men took the stand who had talked with Lady Dixie in the meantime.
Thomas Weaver: This Subpoena I served Lady Dixy at Market Bosworth, on Day last. I told her I came from Mr. Nelson, who desired she would come to Town to clear her Servant. She said, she was nevermore surprized; that she believed the Maid was very innocent; and that she would come with all her heart, but that Sir Wolstan had sent her down a Letter, and threatened it should cost her her Life if she came – she said she had been served with one Subpoena before by Mr. Street – I set out on Saturday Night last at half an Hour past eight. I took post at Littleworth, and rid a-cross the Country with the Post-boy.
Robert Nelson: The Prisoner sent for me to Newgate, and I knowing how she had been trusted, and what Character she bore, I took Horse this [Satur] day was a Fort-night, and arrived at Bosworth on Sunday. I told Lady Dixy, that Sir Wolstan had sent her Maid to Newgate. She said I am surprised that Sir Wolstan should offer such a thing, I believe she is as innocent as the Child unborn. He must know that she had a great many things of mine which I gave her. I told her among other Things, that she was charged with stealing a Locket and some China. She answered I gave her the China, and as for the Locket it was but a paultry Thing, that Sir Wolstan gave me, and I bid her lay it by among her other odd Things till I came to Town, and then I would settle with her, for I owe her a hundred Pound, I told her, when I came to London I would send her a Subpoena. She cryed, and said she would come with all her Heart, and would pack up her Things to be ready against next Friday
We said at the beginning that Sir Wolstan was a bully; he had told his wife that if she went to London for the trial he would ‘throw her off, and she shall never live with me again’. Lady Dixie was, effectively, a prisoner in her own home.
It took the jury no time at all to find Betty Barker not guilty on all the charges.
…after a long trial, she was acquitted, with the greatest honour that ever woman was, the jury not going out of Court about the verdict; after he acquittal, her Counsel mov’d for a Copy of her Indictment; which was directly order’d her by the Court, without any Debate.
There was one more prisoner at the Old Bailey that day, and Betty Barker acted as a witness for him. Richard Paine had been Sir Wolstan’s butler, and he too had been committed to Newgate on a charge of stealing two shirts and a bob-wig belonging to Dixie.
Prisoner: I lived with Sir Wolstan from May the first, to June the twenty second. And when I went into his service, I agreed to have his old Cloaths. One day as I was puting on his Shirt, he asked me why I gave him a torn Shirt, Sir, says I, they are all so bad the Maids can’t mend them. Well, says he, I have got some new Cloth, and I’ll have Caps made of the best of these, and do you see that the Maids do not make Aprons of the rest. I told him I would take care of that for my own sake; but Sir, says I. you have got several old mouldy Wigs, what shall I do with them? He bid me take ’em, and do what I would with them.
Sir Wolstan: I never said so.
Elizabeth Barker, (the last Person that was try’d.): He was my Fellow-servant, at Sr. Wolstan’s, where he behaved in a very civil honest manner – Two Weeks before he was discharged, I heard him say publickly, that Sir Wolstan had given him two old Shirts, and an old Wig.
Richard Paine was also acquitted. For the gutsy Betty though, the story didn’t end quite there. She brought a civil action against Sir Wolstan Dixie for false imprisonment and for a malicious prosecution, seeking damages of 2,000l. and, while she won, she was only awarded damages of five shillings. Sir Wolstan was better prepared for this fight; he turned up with his wife (and no doubt she had little option but to reinforce her husband’s words) and managed to persuade the jury that Betty Barker didn’t quite merit the good character she’d been given at her trial. (It’s worth remembering here that not one person other than Sir Wolstan said anything to Betty’s detriment during her trial at the Old Bailey, and their were numerous witnesses.) Betty was outraged and did try to take things further and bring about another action, but Sir Wolstan had taken enough and pulled his weight to halt the proceedings.
Thereafter, Betty Barker fades from sight; we know she was living on Great Winchester Street in the City of London during 1736. Unfortunately, there were many women with the same name in London and it’s nigh on impossible to track her further.
Watch out for a further blog when we’ll delve a little further into the life, and family, of Sir Wolstan Dixie.
Old Bailey Online
National Archives, C 11/321/32
Samuel Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate, 1975
London Evening Post, 29 April-1 May 1735
Daily Journal, 11 June 1736
Old Whig, or The Consistent Protestant, 8 July 1736
In today’s world gin has seen something of a resurgence, with gin bars popping up everywhere and flavoured gins becoming the drink of choice for many. So how do you take yours? Pink perhaps, with a tonic, ice and a slice – sound good, yes? Well, if we take you back to the 18th century we can offer you gin, but would have been a somewhat weaker gin than you’re used to today, as it was only about 30% proof – but how does the addition of oil of turpentine and sulphuric acid oil of vitriol (better known today as sulphuric acid or drain cleaner!) sound? No takers then, presumably? Despite this, gin became the drink of choice for the poor, including children, although, people really had little idea of what it was they were actually consuming.
We can but hope that lessons have been learnt since the 18th century as can be seen in Hogarth’s caricature of Gin Lane which shows just what the effects of it could be. The detail in this caricature show the link between poverty and the demon drink, with people taking anything they owned to the pawn broker just to raise enough money to worship at ‘The Temple of Juniper’ and to feed their addiction to ‘Juniper water’ or ‘Madam Geneva’ as it was often referred to as.
Gin became much more the drink of choice for England in the 1720s as it came from Holland, whereas, although available, it was brandy that had been the number one best seller, but as brandy was from France whom the British had been at war with, people were much more suspicious of anything French.
Gin houses were popping up everywhere, you could pretty much buy it in all the shops in London. It was even sold from wheelbarrows and ‘pop-up stalls’.
There were several Acts of Parliament designed to raise revenue, but also to reduce the obsession for gin drinking, the first being in 1732, when an Act was passed raising the retail tax to five shilling per gallon, but this didn’t stop people finding the money from somewhere, beg, borrow or steal, to buy what had arguably become an addiction.
The consumption of gin was becoming a real problem, with more women than men drinking it. The death rate was higher than the birth rate and infertility was on the rise. Hence the name ‘mother’s ruin’ a term for gin, which survives to this day.
Gin drinking even led to one famous case heard at the Old Bailey where gin led to an horrific event. Just in case you’ve never heard of it, Judith Defour found herself on trial for the murder of her two and half year old daughter, Mary Defour, otherwise Cullinder.
Judith had placed her daughter in a London workhouse, but on the 27th February 1734, she took the child out for a few hours as she was permitted to do. Then she met up with a friend who was simply named Sukey.
The court document records the tragic story:
On Sunday night we took the child into the fields, and stripp’d it, and ty’d a linen handkerchief hard about its neck to keep it from crying, and then laid it in a Ditch. And after that, we went together and sold the coat and stay for a shilling, and the petticoat and stockings for a groat. We parted the money, and join’d for a quartern of gin.
Judith and her friend simply left the child to die in a ditch. Defour was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death on February 27, 1734. She was hanged at Tyburn on the 8th of March 1734.
Two years later in 1736, the famous Gin Act came into force. The tax paid by the retailer was raised to a whopping twenty shillings per gallon and the price of holding a spirit licence also increased. It was reported in The Scots Magazine in 1743, that:
The number of gin retailers in Westminster, Holborn, the Tower and Finsbury division, exclusive of London and Southwark was 7,044 plus 3,209 alehouses that did not sell spiritous liquors, and besides a great number of persons who retailed gin privately in garrets, cellars and back rooms or places not exposed to public view.
This increase in tax led to rioting in the streets of London. The passion for gin remained and was forced underground, so in 1743 the government had little choice to but to loosen its restrictions and allowed gin-shops to operate under the same terms as ale-houses.
According to the Ipswich Journal of October 1736, licensees found ways of avoiding paying this hefty tax by selling the drink using somewhat fancy names, i.e. implying that it wasn’t actually gin, such as ‘Cuckold’s Comfort’, ‘Make shift’, ‘The Ladies Delight’ and ‘Sangree’.
The Gin Acts of 1736 and 1742 failed to be effective with an increase in crime, violent and the production of illegally distilled gin – it was a failure and was repealed.
People were actively encouraged to shop to the law anyone they believed to be producing or selling gin illegally, this simply led to more violence. In 1738 the next Gin Act all but outlawed gin and made it crime to attack informers. Yet again, it simply drove the trade underground.
By 1743 the population of England was just over six million and some seven million gallons of spirits was being consumed by them, a tenfold increase in only sixty years. Half a penny’s worth of gin was having more effect on a person than a pint of strong beer, which cost three times as much, so it’s hardly surprising people switched to the cheaper option.
The 1743 Gin Act failed too, as informers were being paid a £5 reward to inform, but those caught were being fined £10, which of course most simply couldn’t afford to pay, so the Commissioners ran out of money to pay informers.
The government eventually realised that there were major problems associated with gin drinking and in 1751 they bought in the Gin Act as a way to reduce consumption but raising taxes and fees for retailers to £2 and made licences only available to inns and taverns. Actively promoting of beer and tea as alternatives and eventually the mass craze for gin subsided and people simply switched their choice of beverage.
London Journal, Saturday, March 9, 1734
Caledonian Mercury 10 January 1744
The Scots Magazine 01 April 1743
Chester Courant 29 December 1829
A Collection of such Statues relating to his Majesty’s Customs 1734
Allegory of Drink: Effects of Intemperance (verso) British School. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
In 1726, a new title was created in the peerage, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the recipient was Prince Frederick Louis, George I’s grandson.
The new duke was second in the line of succession to the throne behind his father, George Augustus who was, in 1726, the Prince of Wales.
News of his new title had to be carried to Hanover, for that was where Frederick lived. In 1714, when Queen Anne had died and his grandfather had taken the British throne as George I, Frederick’s parents, George, Prince of Wales and Caroline of Ansbach, the new Princess of Wales, had been forced to travel to England and leave their eldest son behind to represent the dynasty in Hanover (despite the fact that he was only seven years old).
Delighted with the news from England, celebrations were prepared at the Hanoverians’ summer residence, Herrenhausen Palace.
Hanover, Sept. 20. One the 12th inst. there was a great Entertainment at Herrenhausen, on Prince Frederick’s being created Duke of Edinburgh. There was a numerous Court, and at Night a fine Firework at the End of the Garden.
(Caledonian Mercury, 27 September 1726)
At the same time as Frederick had been created Duke of Edinburgh, his younger brother, William (who had been born in England) was made Duke of Cumberland, a title which had first been held by his 2x great-uncle, Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Prince William was only five years old, while Frederick was nineteen; the former was the focus and the favourite of the British royal court while Frederick, overseas and out-of-sight, was overlooked and becoming ostracized.
Frederick did not use his new title for long; on 11 June 1727 George I died, and Frederick’s father took the throne as George II. Frederick was – finally – brought to Britain, but father and son rarely saw eye-to-eye. On 8 January 1729, Frederick was invested as the Prince of Wales and his eldest son, George, was given the Edinburgh dukedom.
Frederick never became king; he predeceased his father, George II and instead his son, George, the 2nd Duke of Edinburgh (and Prince of Wales after Frederick’s death) succeeded as George III, and so we have the unbroken reigns of the four Georges which give the period it’s moniker, the Georgian era.
The title of Duke of Edinburgh fell into abeyance in 1760 with George III’s accession to the throne, but was resurrected by Queen Victoria for her second son, Prince Alfred (although the monarch’s second son is traditionally created Duke of York). And, in 1947, in its third creation, the title was bestowed on Prince Philip.
As you will probably be aware by now, we have been busy researching Dido Elizabeth Belle and as part of this, we have looked at those within the inner circle of her extended family. This has led us to look at Sir Thomas Mills, who was reputed to be the ‘nephew’ of Lord Mansfield. We have tried to find confirmation as to Mills actual connection to Lord Mansfield, but without any success so far. Some accounts record him as Lord Mansfield’s ‘nephew’, others as a ‘consanguineal relative’ and others that he was really Lord Mansfield’s ‘illegitimate son’. Neither appear to be true.
He seems to have appeared from nowhere and the only clue as to his identity is that he had a sister, Elizabeth, who died in Edinburgh according to the newspapers on May 9th 1775, however, there’s no obvious burial for her.
It appears that Mills was born in Scotland around 1736-1738 to a mother who never left her native country. To date, we’re unable to place Lord Mansfield in Scotland, but who knows, maybe he nipped back across the border for a brief liaison and Mills was the result, but it does seem highly unlikely.
Whatever the relationship, Lord Mansfield was extremely fond of him. He regularly dined at Caenwood House. Sylvester Douglas (Lord Glenbervie), a prominent lawyer and diplomat wrote of Mills, that he was illiterate but frank, friendly and dashing and had served with ‘distinguished bravery’. Mills was given the post of Governor of Quebec after his military service, it appears that Lord Mansfield had a hand in arranging this position.
It is rare for us to take such an immediate dislike to someone we write about, but this character is one with very few redeeming qualities. He was a spendthrift and it appears a liar too; spent money like water, getting himself and his family into debt. Everything we’ve read about him seems to be negative, so it seems strange that Lord Mansfield had such a soft spot for him, unless there’s something we’re missing!
We then came across this beautiful miniature by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which is of a Lady Elizabeth Mills, née Moffatt, who was baptised 29th January 1756 at St Mary Woolnoth, London, the daughter of Andrew and Katherine (née Creighton) Moffatt. Her father, Andrew was a merchant and both he and his brothers were heavily involved with the East India Company.
The family lived at Cranbrook House in the extremely affluent area of Ilford, Essex, opposite Valentines and next to Highlands, an area where all the well-to-do families who were connected with the East India Company lived.
In November 1774, Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Mills, when she was just 18, a marriage which would prove to be an interesting one.
A marriage settlement was made by Elizabeth’s father of some £10,000 (just under one million today) but despite this large sum of money, Mills continued to spend more than he earned and even had to be bailed out by his father-in-law on more than one occasion, to the extent that Andrew Moffatt made provision in his will of 1780, for his siblings, daughters and grandchildren, but specifically mentioned that his son-in-law was indebted to him to the tune of £5,000, a debt which he wanted to be reimbursed to the estate as soon as possible, he was clearly not impressed by his son-in-law! It was slightly strange, as he also left Sir Thomas £100. Which seems to make little sense in light of his debt. Andrew also left 20 guineas to his good friend Lord Mansfield for him to buy a ring in memory of him and money for Elizabeth’s sole use, exclusive of her husband.
Despite our view of Sir Thomas, Elizabeth must have felt something for him, as the couple produced three children – Andrew Moffatt Mills born just over 9 months after they wed; Elizabeth Finch Mills (1776) and finally Catherine Crichton Mills (1779).
According to the Oxford Journal of July 1772
When Sir Thomas was returning home in a chair, he was surrounded by four street robbers in Windmill Street, Haymarket, who stopped the chair, and one of them presented a pistol and demanded his money. Sir Thomas told them that he would not be robbed and endeavoured to seize the pistol, at this point one of the assailants fired, he missed Sir Thomas who burst open the chair door and attacked the robbers who then fled. There were no watchmen nearby and the chairmen didn’t even try to assist to apprehend the robbers.
Was this a ‘set-up’? It seems highly likely, in our opinion.
Sir Thomas Mills died 23 February 1793 and left no will and it appears with no money either to leave, but despite what the newspapers said, he was not named as a beneficiary of Lord Mansfield’s will, who died 20th March 1793.
His wife Elizabeth died in June 1816.
History tells us that the Moffatt family were plantation and slave owners in Jamaica, as the family went on to make claims in 1832 for monies owed for freed slaves.
King George III celebrated his 70th birthday on 4 June 1808.
The king was losing his eyesight and, because of this, wasn’t present at his birthday court at St James’s Palace, but did receive several members of the nobility at Buckingham House (as Buckingham Palace was then known).
The morning was, as usual, ushered in with the ringing of bells, at noon the Park and Tower guns were fired, the ships in the Thames displayed their colours, and the flags and standards of the United Kingdom were hoisted on the different churches and public buildings. The streets in the neighbourhood of the Palace were crowded to an excess, and the windows in St James’s Street in particular, exhibited a display of beauty and splendour rarely to be witnessed in any country.
The royal family – minus the king – all began to arrive throughout the day, and assembled for ‘Her Majesty’s drawing-room’. The Prince of Wales, predictably, made sure everyone noticed his entrance.
At two o’clock the Prince of Wales and his Suite, in three carriages, and servants in state liveries, dress hats and feathers, proceeded from Carlton House to the Drawing Room, and entered by the private door in the Park. His Royal Highness was attended by the Duke of Clarence, Lords Keith and Dundas, Generals Lee and Hulse, and Colonels McMahon, Lee and Bloomfield.
The music playing had been specified by the king, but it was the queen who received the company, and all the nobility were present. Everyone had to wear full court dress and the queen continued to stipulate that ladies had to wear full hoops under their skirts, in an echo of the fashions of several decades earlier. Coupled with the trend for gowns with a slim silhouette in the early years of the nineteenth-century, the full skirts of the dresses which had to be worn at court looked ridiculously cumbersome. They certainly weren’t the most flattering of dresses to wear!
A sketch of one of the dresses worn has survived at this particular Drawing Room, and it was worn by the Countess, later Marchioness of Cholomondeley, someone we’ve written about at length. The Earl of Cholmondeley had, a few years prior to his marriage, been the lover of that ‘infamous courtesan’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. And Grace had also, for just a few weeks in 1781, been the mistress of Cholmondeley’s boon friend, the Prince of Wales, and had subsequently given birth to the prince’s daughter. That girl, Georgiana Seymour (no, we don’t know why she had the surname Seymour either!) was brought up by the Cholmondeleys, treated as their own daughter. Georgiana, 26-years-of-age, couldn’t attend the court, however. The queen had agreed with her son that she should not be presented until she was married, lest the king realise exactly who she was. (Georgiana married in September 1808, and she was present at King George’s 1809 birthday court, as you can discover in our first book, An Infamous Mistress.)
The newspapers described the Countess of Cholmondeley’s dress as follows:
A yellow satin petticoat, covered with a rich Brussels point lace, with a rich border; the train of yellow satin; the sleeves ornamented with rich lace.
La Belle Assemblée magazine went into more detail.
Explanation of Lady Cholmondeley’s Court-Dress: A bright primrose-coloured sarsnet petticoat trimmed full round the bottom with point lace, and a rich drapery of the same, most tastefully festooned with diamond chains, and ostrich feathers in the form of the Prince’s plume reversed. Body and train of primrose sarsnet; the latter trimmed with lace, and the former ornamented with the most splendid diamond wreath to represent the oak leaf and fruit, placed obliquely across the front of the bust; the sleeves finished to match, and the bottom of the waist confined with a diamond cestus. Head-dress court lappets of point; a diamond bandeau and rich coronet, with four ostrich feathers of unequal lengths, most tastefully disposed. Splendid earrings of the oval form; necklace and bracelets also of brilliants. Gloves of French kid, considerably above the elbow. Shoes of white satin with silver trimming.
Amongst the wonderful resource of the ‘George III Papers’ which are now in the public domain, we came across some early account books for the teenager, Princess Charlotte of Wales, which make fascinating reading. Perhaps it’s just us, but don’t you just love rifling through old account books and diaries? It’s amazing what you can learn about people’s lives, that they’d never expect to be divulged.
We thought we would share with you just a few of the purchases made with her £10 a month ‘pocket-money’, given to her via Lady de Clifford, who replaced Lady Elgin as her governess. We did, however, notice that Charlotte managed to boost her monthly allowance, not by doing odd jobs, but from winnings made from playing card games – yes, she did make some loses too, in fact one week in particular she lost fourteen shillings each day, but overall it looks as if she this pastime was quite lucrative and she was clearly an accomplished card player, but not so good at chess, the only entries denote losses made and never any wins.
Much of her pocket-money was spent on charitable donations mainly to the poor, entries show a wide variety of such payments made most months, such as
Gave to a poor woman 10 shillings and six pence
Gave to a little girl one pound one shilling
A poor man five shillings
To a sailor two shillings and three pence
To a fisherman two shillings
She also clearly enjoyed reading as she paid twelve shillings for a German book, plus a further four shillings and sixpence to have it bound, then a few days later she spent five shillings on a book of maps. There were also regular payments for bibles and ten shillings and six pence for a copy of The Pilgrims Progress.
Charlotte clearly took an interest in art, as there were regular payments made to Paul Colnaghi, the appointed print seller to the Prince Regent who employed him to arrange the Royal Collection.
For some unknown reason she on 15th July 1808 she paid two pounds two shillings for 4 blackbirds – we have absolutely no idea what that was about!
As you would expect for a teenager she was becoming aware of fashion and jewellery. Eye jewellery was very popular and to keep up with the trends of the day Charlotte purchased ‘an eye with garnets’ at two pounds twelves shillings and sixpence. A coral necklace, perhaps the one worn in this miniature.
Two red leather purses at a cost of fifteen shillings and six pence. A silver snuff-box at two pounds, eleven shilling and six pence and a slightly cheaper tortoiseshell snuff-box. Quite regular payments were made to a Mr Duncan, a tailor.
An umbrella, a parasol and a bonnet were bought for the autumn of 1808 and a pair of spectacles early 1809 along with a frock, a gown and some handkerchiefs.
Charlotte appear to have been taken an interest in music as she paid four pounds, eight shillings and six pence for a flageolet and nineteen shillings for a flute.
Less likely purchases for a Regency teenager included two swords, one of which she had engraved, a knife, and a medal of Lord Nelson. Quite who all of her purchases were for we will never know, but it’s a fascinating read.
In our latest book, All Things Georgian, one of our stories relates one of the two sub-governesses to Princess Charlotte of Wales, a Mrs Martha Udny and coincidentally we have come across various references to payments made to her, simply referred to as Mrs U, in the account books.
Account book of Princess Charlotte of Wales – GEO/ADD/17/82
Princess Charlotte. Inscribed 1807 by Charlotte Jones. Royal Collection Trust. Princess Charlotte gave this portrait to her sub-governess, Martha Udny, in 1807 when she was 10 years old.
‘Mary Linwood was to needlework; what Chippendale was to carpentry’.
She was the daughter of Matthew Linwood and his wife Hannah Turner, (daughter of John Turner, a silversmith in Birmingham). The couple were married in Birmingham 19th May 1753, Matthew’s occupation was that of a linen-draper at that time.
The couple produced 6 children: Matthew (1754), Mary (1755), Samuel Whalley (1756), Sarah (1758), John (1760) and William (c.1762), but in March 1783 Matthew died. When Mary was only 9, her mother, Hannah opened a private boarding school in Leicester, and upon her death, Mary continued to run it for a further 50 years.
Matthew the eldest son and in turn his son, Matthew were to become a plater and buckle maker silversmiths in Birmingham, whilst two of Mary’s brother’s, Samuel Whalley Linwood and his brother, William, went off to Jamaica to make their fortune.
It was here that Samuel met a mulatto girl, Priscilla Reid and the couple produced four children George, 1788; Mary 1789; Jane 1791 and James 1794). Samuel died in Jamaica and was buried at Kingston on 11th June 1801. He must have had some financial help from his mother, Hannah, as in her will of 1805, she made specific reference to his death and monies owed amounting to over £750. Equally, she ensured that his four offspring were provided for. Whether she ever met these grandchildren we may never know.
Apart from taking over as the matriarch of the family, acting as a witness at her sister, Sarah’s marriage, sorting out the will for her sister when her husband, Samuel Markland died, Mary was renowned for her undoubted talent for producing tapestries creating stitches of different lengths on fabric made especially for her. Her works were mainly copies of works by the likes of Joshua Reynolds and in particular, Gainsborough.
It was at the end of 1844 that Mary was taken ill, with influenza during her annual visit to London for an exhibition of needlework. She was so ill that she was taken back to Leicester in an invalid carriage and died just before her 90th birthday.
The Ipswich Journal reported that many poor families would miss her benevolence. It reported that for at least the previous thirty years Mary would rise no later than 4.30am to capture as much daylight as possible and would work until sunset. She was described as possessing:
singular energy and enduring vivacity and was apparently producing work for well over fifty years. She was also well-known for dancing locally to see out the old year and welcome in the new year.
A Mr Gardiner said of her that:
Miss Linwood’s mode is analogous to that of a painter. She sketches the outline, then the parts in detail and brings out the whole of the design by degrees. I once saw her at work, accoutred as she was with pincushions all around her, stuck with needles, threaded with worsted of every colour, and having once touched the picture with a needle, instead of a brush, she would recede five or six paces to view the effect. Leicester was a convenient place for dyeing her worsteds, but still, there were some she could not obtain, but being a woman of great genius, she set to work and dyed them herself. Her works were displayed in London for almost forty years. They were arranged in two galleries on the north side of Leicester Square. A small room called the ‘Scripture Room’ opens from the first gallery. In this smaller room, there is ‘The Judgement of Cain’ and a copy of Carlo Dolci’s ‘Salvator Mundi for which she was offered and refused three thousand guineas. The judgement of Cain was her last piece of work and took her 10 years to complete and was finished when she was 75. She was also to meet Napoleon and Josephine on one of her visits to Paris.
Mary exhibited her work around Europe including France and Russia, where Catherine the Great offered £40,000 for the whole collection.
In her will, she bequeathed £100 to Leicester Infirmary, the remainder of her estate to family members. She bequeathed the Salvator Mundi to Queen Victoria, who accepted. She asked that if her works were not sold in one lot to a private collector that they should be split up and sold, with the proceeds being divided equally between seventeen recipients.
Mary died on 2nd March 1845 and was buried, at St Margret’s church, Leicester at which she was a regular attendee and where her parents were also buried.
24D65/A4. Burial of Matthew Linwood senior parish register, 7th March 1783. St Margaret’s Leicester
The History and antiquities of the county of Leicester. Compiled from the best and most ancient historians (1795-1815) Matthew Linwood. Died 28th February 1783, aged 56.
Familysearch Jamaica parish registers
Miss Linwood’s gallery of pictures in worsted, Leicester square
Legacies of British Slave Ownership
Bailey’s western and midland directory; or, merchant’s and tradesman’s useful companion for the year 1783.
Exhibition of Miss Linwood’s pictures at the Hanover Square concert rooms. Admittance one shilling. 1798
A catalogue of the pictures, sculptures, models, designs in architecture, prints etc exhibited by the Royal Incorporated Society of Artists. 1776
To mark the birth 200 years ago today of the future Queen Victoria we thought you might like to know a little more about the event itself.
Interestingly, she was born on the same date as her paternal grandfather, King George III, whose birthday was later changed to 4th June when the calendars were altered to the new Gregorian style from the Julian style.
We came across quite a detailed hour by hour account in a newspaper of the day to share with you.
The Duchess of Kent continued her airings in Kensington Garden to last Thursday. On Friday her Royal Highness was slightly indisposed, in which state she continued on Saturday and Sunday, when the symptoms of her Royal Highness giving birth to a Prince or Princess increased.
In the morning the Duke of Kent left Kensington Palace for Carlton House, to inform the Prince Regent of the state of his Royal Duchess. The room appointed for the confinement of the Duchess is on the east side of the palace, close to which is a public path from Kensington Gardens, which, as it would subject her Royal Highness to be disturbed by various noises, the gate leading to it was closed by command of the Prince Regent.
Dr Davis, the physician to the Duke and Duchess, having had the honour of being appointed accoucher to the Duchess, frequently visited her Royal Highness. On Sunday the doctor visited the Duchess three times, the last visit was at seven o’clock in the evening, when he returned to town.
At twelve o’clock the Duchess, and those in attendance upon her, being of the opinion that the time of her delivery was approaching fast, the Duke of Sussex’s carriage was sent off for Dr Davis at his residence in George Street, Hanover Square and the doctor returned in the carriage with all possible speed. At the same time messengers were sent off to the Members of the Privy Council appointed to attend upon this occasion, with summonses commanding their attendance agreeably to the laws of England for Royal births.
The Marquis of Lansdowne was the first Privy Counsellor who arrived, and he reached the Palace at a quarter before two o’clock Mr Canning arrived next at two o’clock, The Duke of Wellington came about a quarter of an hour after. The Duke of Sussex entered from his apartment in the Palace about the same time. Earl Bathurst, the Bishop of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer followed. The Chancellor did not arrive until about three o’clock, owing to his being at Blackheath on a visit to his mother.
The Members of the Privy Council sat in the saloon adjoining the Duchess’s chamber, where, at a quarter past four o’clock they were satisfied of the delivery of the Duchess of a female child, which was testified by the following certificate:
The undersigned hereby certify, that her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent was safely delivered of a female child, living, at a quarter past four o’clock in the morning of the 24th day of May 1819.
Signed David Davis, J Wilson – Domestic Physicians to their Royal Highnesses.
The room appointed for the nursery in the palace is that which was the North drawing room.
Expresses were sent off to the Prince Regent, the Duke and Duchess of York, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Princess Sophia of Gloucester, the Princesses Augusta and Sophia at Windsor.
The Duke of Kent has shown the most marked affectionate attention towards his amiable Duchess and did not retire to rest till nine o’clock, although His Royal Highness had been up the whole of the night and had very little rest on the preceding night.
Dr Davis remained in attendance till ten o’clock. The following statement of the event was issued from the Palace:
24th May 1819
The following Noblemen and Gentlemen, of his Majesty’s Privy Council attended at the accouchement of her royal Highness the Duchess of Kent – His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, his Grace the Duke of Wellington, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Noble the Marquis of Lansdowne, the Right Hon. Earl Bathurst, The Right Hon. George Canning, the Bishop of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
At a quarter past four o’clock, a.m. her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent was safely delivered of a Princess.
Lieut. General and Comptroller
In addition to the above, General Weatherall, General More and Captain Conroyd, were in attendance. The Earl of Liverpool called at the Palace about eleven o’clock to make his respectful enquiries.
Dr Davis visited the Duchess again between two and three o’clock, after which the following bulletin was issued –
Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent and her infant continue in a favourable state.
David D Davis
Monday, three o’clock
A few days later the Morning Post reported
Considering the high destiny of the Royal infant, there is nothing which is more calculated to enhance the satisfaction of its parents in particular, and the nation at large, next indeed to that of its having been born in Old England, than this event. Should she be ever elevated to the throne of this mighty Empire, it must be the wish of every sincere lover of this country, that she may reign like her venerable grandsire, in the hearts of its inhabitants. The nation already begins to indulge the hope that the infant may be baptised by the much loved and cherished name of Charlotte.
The press didn’t get their wish when she was christened on June 24th 1819 as Princess Alexandrina Victoria, in the Grand saloon of Kensington Palace using the Royal gold font which had been moved from The Tower of London and the crimson velvet coverings from The Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.
To find out a little more about Queen Victoria you might enjoy a couple of articles we wrote a while ago:
We recently ran a post on our Facebook page which shared images of Princess Charlotte of Wales in a blue Russian style dress. It proved really popular, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to look at the dress, and the portrait of Charlotte where she is depicted wearing it, in greater detail.
With the end of the Napoleonic Wars two years earlier, anything Russian was eminently fashionable in 1817, when the portrait was painted. Princess Charlotte of Wales, only legitimate child of the Prince Regent (later George IV) was desperate to have the Russian Order of St Catherine bestowed on her. She’d been trying for the honour since at least 1813, with little success. (The order was only given to women, primarily those of the Russian royal family but also occasionally granted to foreign queens and high-ranking princesses.)
The well-known portrait of her, by George Dawe and dated to 1817 (shown above), depicts the princess in a Russian style dress, known as a sarafan, and – supposedly – wearing the Star of the Order of St Catherine’s. The notes on the Royal Collection Trust website say of the portrait:
At her left breast she wears the star of the Order of St Catherine, which she received on 1 July 1817, from Maria Feodorovna, wife of Paul I, in gratitude for hospitality shown to her son Nicholas during his visit to London. (Princess Charlotte’s husband, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, also served under the Russian Emperor during the Napoleonic Wars.)
Now, we don’t want to contradict the RCT who surely know better than us, but we can find no corroborating evidence that Charlotte ever received this honour, and upon zooming in to the portrait, the Star insignia which she is wearing looks incorrect. It almost appears to have the Prince of Wales feathers atop it and is not studded with diamonds, as it should be. Maybe, however, Dawe chose to paint it this way? Although we have our suspicions, we really can give no confirmation one way or another and will have to rely on the royal collection’s assertion that this is the Star of the Order of St Catherine.
The dress Charlotte wears could almost have been copied from a portrait of Sophia Petrovna Svechina, a Russian exile in Paris. She was painted by François Joseph Kinson in 1816, just a year before Charlotte sat for her portrait, wearing a remarkably similar dress.
A Sarafan is a Russian trapezoidal jumper (or pinafore) dress, and a traditional folk costume. These two Russian portraits show the subjects wearing dresses that are also very like that worn by Charlotte.
No doubt Charlotte had her dress especially made (it was produced in England) for the portrait and to set off her Russian order, whether being worn legitimately or not. Charlotte’s version of this Russian dress is made from blue silk, trimmed with gold lace which has red highlights, and edged with gold fringe. Amazingly, it has survived and is also in the royal collection. As you can see from the images below, it has either faded slightly, or Dawe used a little artistic licence to darken it in his portrait of the princess.
When she sat for her portrait, the princess was pregnant. Her child – a son – was stillborn, and Charlotte died from complications following the birth the next day, 6 November 1817. She was just twenty-one years of age. Had she or her son lived, they would have been heir to the British throne.
Copies of the painting were made, many with slight variations. One shows the dress in white instead of blue, another leaves off the gold trimming. This version below shows the dress in a darker hue, and with a much more extravagant ‘blouse’ beneath, with lace sleeves.
Interestingly, when George Dawe’s brother, Henry Edward Dawe, made a mezzotint copy of the portrait after the princess’ death, which was published in January 1818 and an amalgamation of two of the portraits already given above, the Order of St Catherine pinned to Princess Charlotte’s breast was totally omitted.
George Dawe subsequently spent many years at the Russian court where he painted many of the nobility there. It is thought that he used the portrait of Princess Charlotte as inspiration for his later one of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Certainly, the rich colour of the dress and the pose are reminiscent of the princess’ portrait. It increases the pathos of poor Princess Charlotte’s picture however; how she would have loved to be painted with her arms around her children. Sadly, that was not to be.
We’ll leave you with this fantastic video, which looks at Princess Charlotte’s dress and the portrait.
Sources not mentioned above:
Letters of the Princess Charlotte, 1811-1817 (1949)
Autobiography of Cornelia Knight, Lady Companion to the Princess Charlotte of Wales: With Extracts from Her Journals and Anecdote Books, Volume 1 (1861)
* Please note: this week, our next blog post will be on Friday. *
On Tuesday 19 May 1795, King George III held a grand fête at Frogmore House in the grounds of Home Park, Windsor (around half a mile from Windsor Castle), celebrating both Queen Charlotte’s 51st birthday and the recent arrival and marriage of his new daughter-in-law, Caroline, Princess of Wales (she’d married the Prince of Wales, later George IV, just weeks earlier, on 8 April).
The fête was in the style of a Dutch Fair. This was in honour of some recent guests: William V, the Prince of Orange and Nassau-Dietz and his family had fled their Netherlands home after the French army had invaded, and headed for exile in England. (The Prince of Orange’s wife, Wilhelmina of Prussia, was the aunt of Princess Frederica Charlotte, the wife of George III’s second son, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.)
Their Majesties and the Orange Family, &c. &c. dined at half past three in a grand saloon, superbly ornamented, in Fête Champêtre. Four tents were fitted up in front of the saloon for the reception of their noble guests.
The presence of one guest was extremely contentious. Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey was there, the Prince of Wales’ mistress despite his recent marriage. The prince famously hated Caroline, his wife, disliking her at first sight while Lady Jersey reigned supreme in his affections for some time. It was reported – wrongly, as it turned out – that Lady Jersey was pregnant with the prince’s child, and was ‘particularly distinguished’ at the fête held at Frogmore House. In fact, it was not Lady Jersey who was with child, but Caroline, Princess of Wales.
Dancers and singers from Windsor and Covent Garden, dressed in rustic character formed part of the day’s entertainment. The pastoral idyll was thrown into chaos and gales of laughter though, when the pretend haymakers were interrupted by ‘a set of ass-racers, whose obstinate steeds, in the confusion, threw some of the blushing maids on the very haycocks they had just been raising’.
George III’s eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth had been the brains behind the Dutch fair, organising the day with the assistance of the Orange family.
The booths, which were numerous, displayed a collection of articles for sale, from the dairy to a lady’s toilet; the purchase money, which was voluntary, was dropt by the purchase into boxes appropriated for the charity schools of Windsor.
While the fair continued into the evening, the royal family and their especial guests gracefully retired from the gardens of Frogmore House and made their way to Windsor Castle where a ball and supper was held.
The Frogmore Estate has been owned by the royal family from the 1500s, although Frogmore House dates from the late seventeenth-century. Various tenants lived there (including one of Charles II’s illegitimate sons) until Queen Charlotte bought the house in 1792, as an idyllic and peaceful country mansion to which she and her unmarried daughters could retreat from court life.
After the 1795 fair, a nine-year programme of alterations was embarked on; the house was enlarged and extended, and pavilions added at the wings.
Of course, the Frogmore Estate is back in the news right now as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (and their new baby, Archie), have made Frogmore Cottage their new home.
We have previously written about the very popular invention of the Georgian bathing machines, so it’s time to take a look at what people wore to take a dip in the sea. It was in the Regency era that swimwear became really popular and very much a fashion item with the newspapers of the day advising potential bathers of what they ought to be wearing to be à la mode.
Clearly there was an issue with women sharing bathing wear and so a Mrs Bell of 26, Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury came up with new invention in 1814 by creating what she called the ‘Ladies Bathing Preserver’. Its aim was:
To relieve Ladies from the nauseous idea of wearing the bathing coverings furnished by the women at the sea-side, from which dangerous permanent illnesses have arisen, in consequence of their being worn by ALL KINDS of persons, however they be afflicted. Mrs Bell’s bathing preserver is made quite in a novel manner, to which is attached a cap, to be removed at pleasure, made of a delicate oil silk, the keep the head dry. The preserver is made of such light materials, that a lady may carry it in a tasteful oiled silk bag of the same size as an ordinary lady’s ridicule.
In her advert she told potential buyers that she also:
…sold her newly invented Circassian corset, bathing and sea-side walking dresses, which enable ladies to dress and undress themselves in three minutes, without any assistance, and prevents, so much recommended by physicians, the change of taking cold by too long delay in dressing.
The Circassian corset claim might have been a good marketing strategy because this type of corset had certainly been invented by the turn of the century, if not slightly earlier, so by the time Mrs Bell was advertising it, it wasn’t new!
The Circassian Corset is the only one which displays, without indelicacy, the shape of the bosom to the greatest possible advantage; gives a width to the chest which is equally conducive to health and elegance of appearance.
The Morning Post of 1st August 1815 tells its readers what they should be wearing for the month for seaside bathing:
Sea Side Bathing Dress: This very elegant dress is composed of the newly introduced Berlin silk. It is made in the form of a pelisse, and is so contrived that the stays, petticoat, and pelisse are all put on in a few moments. A flounce of green gauze, crape, or muslin, edged with an exceedingly pretty silk trimming, ornaments the dress; which, when on, is so finished and elegant that no one could suppose it was possible to adjust it in a few moments. A Leghorn hat ornamented with a plume of straw colour feathers, and green plaid leather boots, finish this dress, which we look upon as a chef d’oeuvre in its way, since, independent of the advantage which it is to a lady to be able to dress and undress so quickly, the most fastidious belle must confess that nothing can possibly be more becoming than this Sea Side Bathing Dress. The Wellington corset, with which it is worn, is admirably adapted to display in the most easy and graceful manner the natural proportions of the shape; and the tout ensemble of this elegant and useful habit is simple, tasteful and in the highest degree appropriate.
For anyone wondering, like us, what the Wellington corset was, then the Kentish Gazette, 6 September 1814 has the answer. It was designed specifically for women who were pregnant or who had had children as it would repress that fullness which some ladies find rather troublesome in the present style of dress.
The Liverpool Mercury, in 1830, carried the following description of a new invention to aid swimmers and non swimmers to float in the sea, by the Abbé de la Chapelle which he called a ‘Scaphander’.
It was a type of jacket of cork, composed of cork and fastened round the boy by means of leather thongs, which pass between the thighs and over the shoulders. That the body of the swimmer may be in equilibrium with an equal volume of water, a jacket of this kind ought to contain TEN POUNDS OF CORK. It is added that the inventor, with this cumbrous jacket on, could hold a bottle and glass in his hands when in the water (now this is just what I need!).
We have pored over many eighteenth and nineteenth-century documents in the course of our research. Letters, diaries, legal documents, wills, you name it, we’ve probably struggled through it, including cross-hatched letters which take an eternity to read!
So you can image what an absolute joy it was to come across a letter from our ‘infamous’ eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s brother, Henry Hew Dalrymple, in the National Archives of Scotland which was written in the most beautiful, clear copperplate hand – how many of you would long to find such a letter?
The letter was to Henry Dundas and because of copyright restrictions we can’t show it in full here, but we do mention it and give the gist of the contents in our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott. But we couldn’t resist giving you a little peep at it, just so you can judge for yourselves, so we have cropped his signature from the letter to share with you.
Today we are thrilled to welcome to our blog, Sophie Guiny. Sophie is a Wedgwood collector and researcher. She is also the newsletter editor for the Wedgwood Society of Washington, D.C.
In May 1759, 260 years ago this month, 29-year old Josiah Wedgwood founded his own pottery works. Born in a family of potters in Burslem, Staffordshire, young Josiah was struck by smallpox and the resulting damage to his leg (which would eventually be amputated) left him unable to operate a potter’s wheel. He turned his attention to design and experimentation with new clays and glazes, improving on known techniques and creating new styles and ceramics bodies, including the now iconic jasperware, which Wedgwood perfected around 1775. In both pursuits, women played a critical role as patrons, artists and factory workers.
Josiah Wedgwood’s sense of innovation extended to marketing his wares in what was a crowded market. As the quality of his creamware (a type of ceramic made of pure white clay with a clear lead glaze) had garnered him royal orders, he petitioned Queen Charlotte for the right to use her name in selling his products. Starting in 1763, Wedgwood’s creamware was sold as Queen’s ware, and the Queen’s patronage became very visible on all advertising materials.
The Frog Service commissioned by Empress Catherine II of Russia in 1773 is a good case study of the role of women in Wedgwood’s business. First, as with the naming of Queen’s ware, Josiah Wedgwood aggressively courted royal and aristocratic female patrons, as they had the ability to influence the taste of other women, both in the aristocracy and in England’s burgeoning middle class. In a letter to his partner Thomas Bentley, Wedgwood muses, “Suppose you present the Duchess of Devonshire with a Set and beg leave to call them Devonshire Flowerpots.” This was never to be. But having Catherine the Great as a repeat customer (she had already ordered a service in 1768) was a marketing coup for which Wedgwood was prepared to incur financial losses.
The Frog Service comprised 952 pieces, and was to be decorated with a different view of England on each piece, an extremely ambitious task. The only repeating designs would be the border and the frog emblem, as the service was destined for a palace known as “Frog Marsh.” To realise the service, Wedgwood had to hire numerous skilled painters, which included a number of women: factory records show that at least half a dozen women were employed to paint the Frog Service, working on both the borders and the centre landscapes. The highest paid woman, a Mrs Wilcox, was paid eighteen shillings a week, which is just over half of what the highest-paid man earned (thirty-one shillings).
Wedgwood catered to a variety of tastes, and was always trying to introduce new styles. Many pieces were decorated with classical designs, inspired by antiquity, and modelled by such noted artists as John Flaxman Junior and George Stubbs. It is worth noting, however, that in the 1787 company catalogue, Wedgwood gives a place of pride to designs made by three women artists: Elizabeth, Lady Templetown, Lady Diana Beauclerk, and Miss Emma Crewe. All three were gifted amateur artists, and their designs were used exclusively to decorate the very fashionable jasperware.
Lady Templetown, often misspelled as “Templeton”, perhaps based on Josiah Wedgwood’s own frequent misspelling in his letters, was inspired by sentimentalist literature (such as Laurence Sterne’s novels) and traditional domestic activities. Born Elizabeth Boughton in 1747, she came from an aristocratic, if not particularly wealthy, family and married Clotworthy Upton in 1769. In 1776, in recognition for his services to the royal family, Upton was made Baron Templetown of Templetown, County Antrim in Ireland, and Elizabeth became the first Lady Templetown. Left a widow with three children in 1785, she managed her family’s Irish estates until her son’s coming of age, and retired to Rome where she died in 1823.
Her drawings caught the eye of Josiah Wedgwood who commissioned several designs from her starting in 1783. In a letter to Lady Templetown dated June 27, 1783, Josiah Wedgwood expresses: “a wish to be indulged in copying a few more such [figure] groups” in addition to what she had already lent him. She provided drawings or cut-outs in Indian paper of her designs, and William Hackwood, a sculptor employed by Wedgwood, modelled the actual reliefs to be applied on the jasperware. The etching below, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is based on one of Lady Templetown’s series of cut-outs on the theme of Domestic Employment. The jasperware version of this design (which is the mirror image of the cut-out) is on the teapot at the top of this post.
Emma Crewe’s designs were quite similar in inspiration to Lady Templetown’s, but much less is known about her life. She was born in 1741 and was the sister of John Crewe, a Member of Parliament and a staunch supporter of Whig party leader Charles James Fox. It is likely that these personal acquaintances played a role in Emma’s designs being used by Wedgwood, as Josiah Wedgwood was also a committed Whig.
Lady Diana Beauclerk’s designs were of a different style, although they too feature boys and cherubs at play. She was born Lady Diana Spencer in 1724 in one of Britain’s most prominent families: she was the great-granddaughter of the first Duke of Marlborough and grew up at Blenheim Palace. In 1757, she married Lord Bolingbroke, but her unhappy marriage was dissolved in 1768. That same year, she married Topham Beauclerk. The Beauclerks were part of the literary and artistic society of the time, counting among their inner circle such luminaries as Horace Walpole and Joshua Reynolds, and her life was the source of some gossip, which had been featured on this blog. Lady Diana Beauclerk died in 1808, having spent the last years of her life mostly blind and in much reduced circumstances (her husband Topham died in 1780).
According to Beatrice Erskine’s 1903 Lady Diana Beauclerk Her Life and Work, the first contact between Lady Diana Beauclerk and Josiah Wedgwood occurred in 1780 through their mutual friend Charles James Fox.
It is likely that Josiah Wedgwood chose to hire women artists and to publicise their work because he thought that it would appeal to the market, showing a softer side than scenes inspired by the Iliad, or portrait medallions of Roman emperors. Wedgwood has reproduced Domestic Employment and Bacchanalian Boys countless times since the eighteenth century, showing the long-lasting appeal of the more feminine designs.
However, Josiah Wedgwood was ahead of his time on many social and political issues, from his commitment to the anti-slavery movement to his position in favour of the independence of the American colonies, and was involved in the latest scientific research of his time through his membership in the Lunar Society. So it is not inappropriate to think that hiring women artists may have gone beyond commercial considerations and reflected Josiah Wedgwood’s progressive positions.
For more on this topic:
The Wedgwood Museum is part of the World of Wedgwood experience in Barlaston, Staffordshire
Both the British Museum and the V&A have large collections of Wedgwood, including works by women designers
The Frog Service is in the collections of the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg
The most comprehensive reference book is Robin Reilly, Wedgwood (two volumes), Macmillan & Co, 1989.
On Thursday 6 May 1819, William Hutchinson, a horse dealer from Canterbury in Kent and in consequence of a wager of 600 guineas, set off to prove that he could ride from his home city to London Bridge, a distance of 55½ miles, in three hours or less. What followed was enthusiastically described in the press of the day as ‘one of the greatest, if not unrivalled pieces of horsemanship’, especially when taking into account the hills on the route.
Hutchinson’s attempt began at 3.30am precisely, setting off at a gallop from the Falstaff Inn on St Dunstan’s Street. He changed horses along the way, at Boughton Hill, Beacon Hill, Sittingbourn, Rainham, Chatham Hill, Day’s Hill, Northfleet, Dartford, Welling and lastly, at the Green Man in Blackheath. It was on this last horse that he raced up to and over London Bridge.
The horses were all the property of either Hutchinson himself, or of his close friends, and some came from the stud of the Wellington coach. At each stop, Hutchinson dismounted himself and was assisted to mount the next horse which, Hutchinson calculated, took up less than 30 seconds at each stage (it must have been the eighteenth-century equivalent of a Formula 1 pit stop today!) The horse which took Hutchinson from Welling to Blackheath was the most troublesome, bolting twice while going down Shooter’s Hill and again on Blackheath, which lost Hutchinson quite a bit of time. Throughout the journey, Hutchinson was accompanied by a horseman on each stage just in case an accident befell him.
Two men had travelled to London ahead of Hutchinson and were in place to act as umpires. With their watches, and the watches of two more umpires present at the start of the race in Canterbury, the time was worked out accurately. And, it was found that Hutchinson had comfortably completed his feat within the allotted three hours; in fact, he ran the distance in just 2 hours, 25 minutes and 51 seconds.
Although Hutchinson bragged that he felt fit enough to return to Canterbury in less than three hours on the same day, he actually returned in more comfort, in the Wellington coach, enjoying a hearty breakfast followed by two mutton chops and a quantity of brandy at the Bricklayer’s Arms on the Kent road.
Later that day, back in Canterbury and at the Rose Inn (where he arrived at 2.45pm), William Hutchinson received the Freedom of the City of Canterbury, ‘in consideration of the extraordinary feat he has this day performed with a faithfulness as honourable to himself, as it is satisfactory to every individual concerned in the match’.
Sussex Advertiser, 10 May 1819
Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, 7 and 11 May 1819
In this post, we thought we would play a quick game of ‘sixdegrees of separation’. For anyone who is unaware of the concept, you will no doubt be familiar with the phrase ‘it’s a small world’ and it so it is. It’s been quite surprising that throughout our research, we’ve noticed just how relatively small London was in the 18th century. Everyone who was anyone knew each other and this has become quite obvious whilst exploring the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle.
So, in today’s game we show the close connection between Prince George (later George IV) and Dido Elizabeth Belle. On the face of it, they would appear to be poles apart, George, the then-future monarch and Dido the daughter of a mulatto slave. But the distance between them is only a few steps.
We begin the game with Prinny, who, in the early 1780s had a relationship with our lovely courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, who gave birth to a daughter who, Grace claimed was his. Georgina was the only illegitimate child that Prinny made payments to, so perhaps that was his way of acknowledging that she was his.
Now, Grace counted amongst her closest friends, Lady Seymour Worsley, for those who haven’t come across her before, she’s the one who found herself in court in February 1782, for criminal conversation, a euphemism for sex.
Amongst the men with whom Lady Worsley allegedly had an affair, was George, Viscount Deerhurst, later to become the 7th Earl of Coventry. Deerhurst was a bit of a ‘player’ and had previously eloped to Gretna Green with Lady Catherine Henley.
His father the then, 6th Earl of Coventry, totally disapproved of his son’s behaviour and banished him from the family home, so George took himself off to stay on the Isle of Wight, at Appuldurcombe, the home of Sir Richard Worsley and his wife, Lady Seymour Worsley – big mistake! He apparently ended up having a relationship with Lady Worsley (he was one of many, she was rumoured to have had well in excess of 20 lovers), but it was her infidelity with George Maurice Bisset that was the final nail in her coffin and she found herself in court, but George, Viscount Deerhurst, also found his name on this list of people with whom she had allegedly had ‘criminal conversation’.
Lord Mansfield was the trial judge in the case of Crim. Con. and he was also the guardian of Dido Elizabeth Belle. The trial took place in February 1782, so no doubt Dido, aged 20 would have been fully aware of it.
To add to the royal connection, Lord Mansfield, counted George III amongst his friends and a regular visitor to Caenwood (Kenwood) House, so it’s perfectly feasible that the royal family would have met or at least seen Dido. So it really was a small world.
Try this game for yourselves and if you can make connections like this from people in the 18th century we would love to hear from you as there must be plenty more out there.
In our latest book, which is based on our blog and titled All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, one of the 25 true tales within tells of the life of the red-headed actress, Elizabeth Hartley. Elizabeth was a beauty, but not particularly vain; she disparagingly said of herself ‘Nay, my face may be well enough for shape, but sure ‘tis freckled as a toad’s belly’.
Born Elizabeth White, and from Berrow in Somerset, Elizabeth had a sister, Mary, who also had strikingly red hair. Mary made a good marriage to the Reverend, later Sir Henry Bate Dudley, minister, playwright and newspaper editor, a ‘witty and profligate man’ who glorified in the nickname, the Fighting Parson.
While researching Elizabeth Hartley we came across a Thomas Gainsborough portrait held by the Ascott Estate (National Trust), painted in the late 1780s and depicting a woman with red hair. The identity of the subject is disputed: it is labelled as either Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond or Elizabeth Hartley.
This is the painting.
We contacted the estate who gave us some information from their guidebook relating to the portrait.
John Hayes has called this ‘one of the most ravishing of Gainsborough’s late romantic portraits. . . . The enigmatic smile and slightly distant expression heighten the poetic mood of the canvas.’ The supposed sitter was the daughter and co-heir of Charles, 4th Earl of Elgin and 3rd Earl of Aylesbury by his third marriage, in 1739, to Caroline, daughter of the 4th Duke of Argyll. She married in 1757 Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond and Lennox. There were no children of the marriage and the title devolved upon a nephew.
The picture has been called a ‘late London work’ by Waterhouse, and ascribed more precisely by Hayes to 1786–7, when Lady Mary would have been more than 45 years old. In an endeavour to resolve the discrepancy between the sitter’s apparent age and the evident date of the picture, it has been suggested that she is the wife, Lady Louisa Gordon Lennox, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond, and not the sister-in-law of Thomas Conolly, to whom this picture is said to have belonged, but neither the dark-haired Hugh Douglas Hamilton pastel of her at Springhill, Co. Londonderry, nor the Romney of her at Goodwood, Sussex, bear this out. Yet nor can one detect any resemblance with the equally dark-haired sitter in the Chardinesque Reynolds of Mary, Duchess of Richmond, sewing that is likewise at Goodwood.
Two of the images mentioned of Mary, Duchess of Richmond are shown below and we think you’ll agree that they look nothing like the redhead in the Gainsborough held by the Ascott Estate.
There appears to be no record as to why it is suggested that it may be a portrait of Elizabeth Hartley, other than the obvious red hair, but if it is not Elizabeth, we have another suggestion for the identity of the sitter in the Ascott portrait. We believe that she might be Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, Lady Bate Dudley. The Fighting Parson was a patron of Gainsborough, and a good friend to the artist. Thomas Gainsborough painted Henry Bate Dudley in 1780.
And, in 1787, he painted a glorious full-length portrait of Mary, Lady Bate Dudley. Did he also paint a second portrait around the same time? We think that the lady in the Ascott portrait bears a marked resemblance to Lady Bate Dudley. The two images below are from the known 1787 portrait of Mary, both unfortunately losing some of the impact of the true colour of the original which was recently exhibited at the Tate. The gallery label at the time said that:
Mary Bate-Dudley was married to Gainsborough’s friend and champion, Henry Bate-Dudley. She’s shown here in a romantic woodland setting, leaning on a classical pedestal and an urn. Her pose is languid yet statuesque and the gesture of her left hand suggests a refined sensibility. Unusually in Gainsborough’s art, Lady Bate-Dudley’s head is shown in profile. This is a dramatic ploy intended to elevate the painting beyond the everyday world of conventional portraiture to the realm of High Art.
Gallery label, February 2016
As an aside to this, Henry Bate Dudley did have a connection to Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond as, in 1780, the Fighting Parson was sentenced to a year in prison for libelling her husband. And, you can read more about him and his sister-in-law, Elizabeth, in the pages of All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, available now in the UK in hardback and illustrated with over 100 colour images.
For anyone not familiar with Harriette Dubochet who used the assumed surname of Wilson whilst alive, (although when buried her baptismal name was given) we would definitely recommend both volumes of her memoirs published in 1825, as they make fascinating reading and are online via Internet Archive.
Harriette lived life to the full and was virtually penniless at the end. Her death certificate gives cause of death as ‘old age’, although in all likelihood a cause of alcohol related disease might have been more accurate. As well as finding religion toward the end of her life, she also found the bottle. She was apparently extremely fond of brandy, to the point of dependency and was reported to have been having a tipple or several just 24 hours prior to her death.
We came across this extract from Frances Wilson’s book, The Courtesan’s Revenge and wanted to check out what became of Harriette’s siblings and possibly find Harriette’s burial.
Harriette’s place of burial has always been something of a mystery, but we can now reveal that she was buried at Brompton Cemetery and the location of her grave is still visible.
The newspapers were not at all kind to her in life as can be observed in this article about her in 1826.
The present appearance of this unfortunate woman makes it difficult to conceive that she could ever have been attractive, either as to person or manner: her features are now ugly and coarse, her person bad and her manners vulgar, with a harsh discordant voice.
A correspondent informs us that the notorious ‘Harriette Wilson’ resides at Chelsea and has become a convert to Popery, and is a very active promoter of the objects of the virtuous priesthood! What next? Is she a candidate for the office of a Lady Abbess, or Principal of a Nunnery?
And even more derogatory about her death:
We have now done with this woman, and we hope no stone will be erected to commemorate her memory and disgrace the place of her burial.
Back to her memoirs, she thought nothing of naming and shaming the gentlemen in whose company she and three of her sisters, Amy, Frances, better known as Fanny and Sophia spent much of their youth.
When Harriette wrote to the Duke of Wellington advising him she was about to publish her memoirs and that to keep his name out she wanted money from him, his famous response was reputed to have been ‘publish and be damned‘, so with that she went ahead and published (the famous phrase is probably not strictly accurate).
We’re not planning to revisit the memoirs in this article as there’s already more information about Harriette and her memoirs online than you can shake a stick at. We will, however, say that in a letter we came across, Harriette was described as being ‘the worst and wickedest bitch in the world’.
Harriette was one of 15 children (11 girls and 4 boys, not all of whom survived childhood), born to Amelia Gadsden, not Cook as previously named elsewhere, Amelia was raised by John Cook and his wife, which is probably where the error has come from and John James Dubochet, a Swiss coal merchant.
We have noticed that John seems to have had several occupations including that of a stocking cleaner, a mathematician and watch maker, but we have found no evidence to support this, on the children’s baptism and in his will, proven in 1826, he continued to give coal merchant as his occupation.
Little is known of several of Harriette’s siblings in particular that of the boys. The family seems to have been of mixed repute.
Rose (1799 – ?)
After her baptism there appears to be no proof that she survived into adulthood.
Known in Harriette’s memoirs as Diana, remained single and taught the piano from her home 34 Chapel Street, in the St Marylebone area of London.
Mary (1784 – ?)
Mary was referred to as Paragon, in Harriette’s memoirs. She married an Irish gentleman, Richard Borough(s), in 1812 in Dublin, and the couple went on to have four children, Mary, John, Henry and Augusta Sophia. At least one child was baptised in France so it looks likely that they remained there at least until Richard died at Calais in 1847.
Charlotte (1801 – 1873)
Charlotte, born 1801, married a surgeon and apothecary, William Jones Percival in 1825. The couple moved about with William’s business, from Poplar to Soham, Suffolk and finally to Birmingham to raise their family, where William ultimately took on the post of surgeon at the Kings Norton and Union Workhouse. After his death Charlotte moved to Aberystwyth to live with one of her three daughters, Mary Sophia and her husband the renowned Dr Charles Rice Williams and it was there that she died in 1873.
Julia Elizabeth (1814-1883)
Like her sister Jane, Julia also remained single and spent her later life living with her, by then, widowed sister and former courtesan, Sophia, Lady Berwick (1794-1875), at 7 Clarendon Crescent, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. After the death of her sister, Julia moved to The Mansion, Richmond (now home to Richmond Golf Club).
Frances (Fanny) (1782-1815)
Also a courtesan who, according to Harriette, produced three children with her lover, then upon his death, moved on to have a relationship with a Colonel Parker, who in all likelihood was John Boteler Parker, the son of Sir Hyde Parker. She took his name as if they were married although they were not. Frances was buried in 1815, at Kensington as Frances Parker, her assumed surname.
Amelia, aka Amy (1781-1838)
Amelia, like her sisters, was a courtesan who had a relationship with George Campbell, 6th Duke of Argyll, with whom, according to Harriette she had a son around 1810, although there’s appear no proof of this and no baptism that we have found so far.
She did however marry the musician Nicholas Robert Charles Bochsa, in 1818 despite him still being married to the Marquis Ducrest’s daughter who was, apparently still alive. Bochsa was both famous and infamous throughout the Georgian and Victorian eras!
He was believed to have been born around 1789 in France, where he studied music at the Paris Conservatoire. Regarded as a child protégé he could play both the flute and piano competently, by the age of just seven. In 1813, he apparently became harpist to the Imperial Court, however, by 1817 he allegedly became involved in counterfeiting, fraud and forgery and fled to London to avoid being prosecuted. In his absence he was sentenced to twelve years hard labour and a fine of 4,000 Francs, so clearly, he was unlikely ever to return to his place of birth.
By 1821, the couple were the height of respectability, with Bochsa, in 1822, becoming one of the founders of the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, London together with John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland.
He was however, required to sever his ties with the Academy when news of his previous misdemeanours were discovered and two years later he was bankrupt, but became the musical director of the King’s Theatre, London. Newspapers began reporting that he not only committed the crimes of forgery and fraud, but also that he was a bigamist. We can find no proof of the final accusation, but there was probably some truth in his dubious reputation, as he found himself with a five-pound fine, this time for assault.
On 27th December 1837 Amelia died at her home, 2 Orchard Street, St Marylebone from an inflammation of the intestines and was subsequently buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.
Bochsa eloped with Mrs Anna Bishop, the wife of Sir Henry Rowley Bishop. Frances Wilson, in her book, queried whether Bochsa had eloped with Anna Bishop prior to Amy’s death; the jury’s out on that one, but clearly he wasn’t with her on the day she died as her death was not witnessed by him, but by a John Knight, a collector, who lived there with his wife, Sarah, eight children and their servants.
Bochsa and Bishop left England and reappeared eventually on the other side of the world, having spent the subsequent years touring Europe, America, Mexico and then Australia, where Anna appeared on stage as his protégé. They continued to perform on the stage until his death in 1856, in Sydney.
Harriette’s male siblings were Charles Frederick (1791 -?), Henry Cook , John Emmanuel and George Edward. Very little is known about the first three boys and in all likelihood Charles died during childhood, although there is no evidence of a burial for him.
John Emmanuel (1790-1821)
Apart from his birth and death, the only snippet of information about John comes from the marriage entry for his sister, Sophia, where he was present as a witness.
Henry Cook (1804-1855-9)
After his baptism, there is little known of Henry, apart from one mention of a brother to Lady Berwick in Naples, Italy in 1848. We eventually discovered his death dated simply as being sometime between 1855 and 1859, in Naples (British Armed Forces and Overseas deaths and burials records).
George married Christiana Hadden in 1816 and the couple had 4 children. At the baptism of their youngest child, George was a piano maker, then, by the time his youngest daughter married he had died, but had been ‘of the Treasury‘.
We also wrote a guest post a while ago about Harriette. In case you missed it why not hop over to Mike Rendell’s blog to find out more.
The London Gazette 1839
Berkshire Chronicle, 14 March 1829
John Bull 10 May 1840
Bell’s New Weekly Messenger 06 April 1845
Croome Collection at Worcestershire Archives.
The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1708
Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns. These sweet, spiced buns were also popular throughout the Georgian era, known both as cross buns as well as hot cross buns, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The well-known song relating to them has its origins in the eighteenth-century.
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
This started out as a London street cry, used by the sellers of the buns. The Oxford English Dictionary references a street cry dating to 1733, printed in Poor Robin’s Almanack:
Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs,
With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns.
So, when did the street cry become a ditty? Wikipedia (not always the most reliable, we know!) dates the earliest recorded version of the rhyme to its appearance in The Christmas Box, published in London, 1798. However, we have found mention of a ‘catch’ (a round song; two or more voices singing the same song but beginning at different times) dating from 1767 and printed in the London Chronicle newspaper (2-4 June 1767).
A Catch that won the Prize at the Boarded Bagnio:
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross-buns;
If you’ve no daughters, give them to your sons;
And if you’ve no kind of pretty little elves,
Why then good faith, e’en eat them all yourselves.
One a penny, two a penny, &c.
(Da capo is an Italian term meaning to repeat from the beginning. The Boarded Bagnio was located in Banister’s Alley, St Giles.)
We’re not sure what exactly was going on at the Boarded Bagnio to merit the hot cross bun rhyme winning a prize, but this version of the popular ditty predates its appearance in The Christmas Box by over three decades and is the earliest reference to it that we can find. Is this the origin of the song?
What of the origins of the buns themselves? One writer, in 1777, refers to the custom in Greece to make presents of coloured eggs, and cakes of Easter bread. He continues:
Probably the Cross Buns made at present on Good Friday have been derived from these or such like Cakes of Easter Bread. The Country People in the North make with a knife many little Cross Marks on their Cakes, before they put them into the Oven, &c. – I have no doubt but that this too, trifling as the Remark may appear, is a Relique of Popery. Thus also persons, who cannot write, instead of signing their Names, are bid to make their Mark, which is generally done in the form of a Cross.
We’ve searched for an authentic recipe for the cross buns of the era, but the closest we have found is this from the Morning Chronicle, 23 April 1791:
GOOD FRIDAY ADVERTISEMENTS
A person, well known at Leicester, lately took this mode of informing the public, ‘that his Buns, made of the best Flour, and the genuine spices of the East, would be ready for delivery by six in the morning’. After desiring them to be aware of imposters, he concluded as follows:
GOOD FRIDAY approaches, and hard have I strove,
My highest respect for the Public to prove;
And to make my commodity worth approbation,
Collected the sweets of each spice-breathing nation.
What tho’ some base Gingerbread Weavers, for fun,
In their ribaldry, call me a Cake and a Bun;
In the making of Buns, there’s no rival I fear,
I’ve in mine, no mix’d Butter, nor rot-gut Small Beer –
But there’s everything genuine! Look at their size,
For they’ll melt in your mouth, and swell proud to your eyes.
And so, while I exist, you shall never lay fault on
Your Cross-bun Distributer, fam’d EDIS WATTON.
There was a tradition, probably harking back to the religious connotations with the buns, that stale and mouldy cross buns would cure many childhood ailments. Luckily the child does not seem to have been expected to eat the buns – sometimes several years old – but instead they would be bandaged to their body.
Sources not referenced in the text:
Observations on popular antiquities: including the whole of Mr. Bourne’s Antiquitates vulgares, with addenda to every chapter of that work: as also, an appendix, containing such articles on the subject, as have been omitted by that author. By John Brand, A. B. Of Lincoln College, Oxford. 1777
Following on from our previous articles about career choices in the eighteenth-century, from 1761, we have some more to share with you, so, here goes.
The boy, intended for this business, ought to be genteel, active and obliging. To have sweet breath and a light hand. The business of a barber is shaving and making periwigs. The former requires these qualifications and the latter, some ingenuity to imitate all the various fashions introduced by the folly of mankind. But in this trade little learning is necessary. Reading, writing and the common rules of arithmetic being sufficient. There are, however, some periwig makers who do not shave.
The barbers and periwig makers also make a kind of periwig for the ladies; among which they have imported a sort, impudently called the French, as if they intended to affront all the fair who wore them, Téte Moutons, or sheep’s heads. But the English ladies, from their complaisance for that nation, wear the wig, give it the French name and pocket the affront.
Cutting and curling of hair is also another branch of the barber’s business, though others apply themselves wholly to it and are therefore called hair cutters. The wages of a journeyman barber are but small, but if he has a good set of acquaintance and can be settled in a shop advantageously situated, he may set up with fifty pounds.
This is a very useful and extensive business, bellows being not only made for families, but also for organs, for blowing fresh air into mines and for carrying on a great number of mechanic arts, in many of which they are of very different sizes and constructions, and some of the prodigiously large. It is a profitable business for the master.
They make blue of indigo mixed with cheap materials for the use of the calico printers and dyers, and for bluing of linen when washed, but have nothing to do with the fine colours used in painting. It is a laborious business and is imagined to hurt the nerves. Those who keep shop get a good living. They take an apprentice from ten to twenty pounds, but they give low wages to a journeyman who works from six to eight.
The making of playing cards is a very easy business and requires neither judgment, strength nor ingenuity. It consists of pasting several sheets of paper upon each other and then printing off this card paper from wooden blocks. After which the court cards are coloured, the paper glazed and the cards cut out.
The chocolate maker
As the making of chocolate is hard work, mostly performed over a charcoal fire, which is apt to affect some constitutions, the boy who is to be put apprentice to it, ought to be strong and hardy. Chocolate is made of a fruit called cacao produced in the West Indies and other parts of the world. This is a kind of nut about the size of a walnut, which being stripped of its thin shell is worked upon a stone, till it is equally mellow, and then put into tin moulds in which it hardens, and from them receives the form of cakes. To perfume it they mix it with venello (vanilla).
The making of combs is divided between two branches – the ivory and the horn comb makers. The ivory comb makers buy the ivory plates, rasps them to a proper thickness and saws the teeth. They also make combs of box, tortoiseshell and sometimes of horn, in which case they buy the horn ready prepared.
The horn comb maker cuts the ox’s horn into several rings and splits each, when hot, pulls them open and then pressing them between hot iron plates until they are of a proper thickness, shapes them, and afterwards saws the teeth. The horn comb maker does not make combs of ivory etc.
Dial plate enameller
Those of this business make enamelled dial plates, which they sell to the watchmakers. They take the brass plates, cover them with white enamel when wet, make the numerals, and fix the enamel by fire.
This is a very nasty, stinking trade, much exposed to wet and cold, therefore not fit for weakly lads. The fellmongers buy up the skins of sheep and lambs, from which they discharge the wool, make the sheepskins into pelts, leather for breeches, alum leather etc. They take from five to twenty pounds with apprentices, who require only a common education. They give very poor wages to their journeymen.
The hatter or hat maker
The hatters, or hat makers, are those who work the wool, hair or fur into a proper substance for a hat. This is called felt. It is very slavish work, the men being continually stopping over the steam of a hot kettle and requires strong lads, who are taken apprentice with ten or fifteen pounds and frequently with nothing. But when out of their time, they may get, as journeymen fifteen or eighteen pounds a week, or set up in this branch with one hundred pounds.
This is a branch which requires very slender abilities to become a master of. He is partly a turner and buys his glass from the glasshouse. There are not many of them, though there are more hourglasses made than is generally imagined, especially for the sea, there not being a ship without several kinds of them, such as hour, half hour, quarter hour and minute glasses. The master will take an apprentice with five pounds who when out of his time may earn ten or twelves pounds a week or with twenty pounds may set up for himself.
The ink maker
Those who are solely employed in making black and red writing ink and ink-powder are but few in number because most retail stationers make ink to supply their own customers. The ink makers take no apprentices since whatever their secrets they may be possessed of it is in their own interest to keep them concealed.
The Loriner or bit maker
The loriner makes bits and all the ironwork belonging to a bridle, together with the stirrups. It is an ingenious and laborious branch of the smith’s business and the beauty of the work consists of filing and polishing.
This is a profitable business and requires a boy of activity and industry. The pastry cooks of London have many of their shops elegantly fitted up with carved work, gilding and looking glasses. They daily make all kinds of pastry and sometimes also deal in confections and jellies. They take ten or twenty pounds with an apprentice, who, when out of his time, may have about twenty pounds a year and his board by serving as journeyman, or if he sets up as a master, it will require 300 pounds at least to fit up a genteel shop with built-in ovens etc, but he may set up in a less splendid manner with a hundred pounds.
Snuff Box maker
The use of snuff has naturally produced the introduction of snuff boxes which are made not only of all kinds of metal, either plain, chased or embellished with stones, enamel, shells etc but of ivory, coal or even paper. This has introduced several different trades some of which the makers take ten or twenty pounds with an apprentice, in others not more than five pounds.
In our latest book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, we recount the adventures of Sarah Wilson, aka Lady Wilbrahammon… amongst other aliases! Sarah was a very convincing impostress and her life is one of those cases when fact proves to be far stranger than fiction. But, although rare, Sarah was certainly not unique. She was perhaps inspired to commit her grand fraud after reading of a girl named Mary Ramsay in the broadsheets. Mary’s story dated to April 1738, but it was widely reported in 1764 just before Sarah’s own antics.
* * *
In a ditch, between St Albans and Colney Heath in Hertfordshire, lay a poor starving girl, half-naked and too weak to move. Two bakers were travelling along the road, and they heard the girl’s groans and rescued her, taking her to an alehouse near the turnpike. The surgeon and apothecary, Mr Humphries, was sent for and under his care, the girl recovered.
Then the girl told her story. She was Mary Ramsay, nineteen years of age and from Hull in East Yorkshire. Her father had been an eminent surgeon and man-midwife who, when he died, had left Mary, his younger daughter, a fortune of £7,000 and trusted her to the care of his brother (there was an elder daughter living in London who was married to a wealthy Suffolk gentleman named Mr Cooke). Mary’s uncle was kindness itself to his young charge and so Mary suspected nothing when he sent her to London to board with a gentlewoman who kept a school in order that she could learn the manners required for a young lady of fashion. Dressed in a new riding habit and jockey cap, Mary was placed in a stagecoach and given a letter of introduction addressed to the schoolmistress. At the coaching inn at Stamford in Lincolnshire, where Mary had stopped to dine, she accidentally dropped the letter; it was found by a fellow passenger, a sea captain whose name Mary had forgotten. Upon hearing Mary’s story, the sea captain persuaded her to open it. The note – signed by her uncle – was brief and to the point.
The person who brings you this is the young woman I told you of. I acknowledge receipt of half the money agreed on, and expect the remainder as soon as convenient.
Mary had been effectively sold, to a man she did not know. With no-one looking she made her escape, slipped away and travelled on foot for a couple of days. In need of funds, she sold her jockey cap to an old woman and then exchanged her riding habit for a gown and some money, enough to get her to London to find her sister. It proved a fruitless search and so she set out once again, penniless now, resolving to return to Hull. Mary managed to trek as far as St Albans where – in her distressed state – she had been found.
She was the very picture of innocence and the good townsfolk of St Albans rallied around Mary, raising a subscription to clothe her and pay for her journey back to Hull. In the meantime, she lived in the mayor’s house with his family. All was going very well for young Mary until one voice of dissent was heard. A man recently returned from London cast doubt on her story, to the fury of the mayor and the inhabitants of St Albans. This man remembered that he had an acquaintance in Hull and so he wrote to him, to establish the truth of the matter. The reply was unfortunate for Mary. The acquaintance in Hull stated that:
… a surgeon of the name of Ramsay had formerly lived in the neighbourhood of Hull, who was very poor all his life-time, and who was confined for debt in the castle of Lincoln, and died there about ten years before; that he had two daughters, abandoned wretches and common prostitutes, who strolled about the country under various and fallacious pretences; that upon the strictest enquiry, he could not find that Ramsay had a brother; and that if the people of St Albans would pass her to Hull, [Mary] would there meet with her dessert.
Mary protested; the man who had written the letter was a particular friend of her uncle and had colluded in the deception practised upon her. The mayor – not knowing who to believe – directed two letters to gentlemen in Hull, asking for clarification. The answers came back, confirming that Mary was lying. The mayor wasted no time and Mary found herself in the Bridewell where she confessed all. She was a dupe, an impostor, and she was whipped at the cross as a vagrant on the next market day before being packed off back to Hull.
That Mary received her comeuppance didn’t deter Sarah Wilson who, just two years after this tale had been published, embarked on her own fantastical adventures. In fact, we suspect the tall-tale about Mary Ramsay to be a complete work of fiction as we can find no proof to substantiate any of it, but that probably doesn’t matter. It was reported as fact and the tale took on a life of its own in the imagination of Sarah Wilson, alias Lady Wilbrahammon, whose story is most definitely true, even though it is not quite as has been reported over the centuries. But, to discover the amazing adventures of ‘Lady Wilbrahammon’, you’ll have to read our book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century.
The Beauties of all the Magazines, selected for the year 1764, vol. iii
During the eighteenth and into the nineteenth-century it became fashionable and beneficial to enjoy the pleasures of swimming in the sea so, in order to preserve modesty, bathing machines were invented. These allowed the swimmer to enter the contraption fully clothed, undress and get into the water virtually unseen; to swim then return to the machine to get dressed again and leave through the entrance they had arrived through – all very discreet.
Scarborough, Yorkshire was reputed to have been an excellent place to swim in the 1730s, but as to whether they had bathing machines we’re really not sure. Certainly, by the 1770s as you can see above, the bathing machine was very much in evidence.
The first reference we came across of a bathing machine was in the Caledonian Mercury, dated 14th August 1750, although such a machine was believed to exist prior to this.
That the BATHING MACHINE will, from Monday next, be attended close from half flood to half ebb, every lawful day by Thomas Weir Carter in Leith; his station with the same is to be upon the sands to the west of the glasshouse, in order to carry such ladies and gentlemen who want to bathe. And no weather needs to stop the use of it, as by the contrivance persons may bathe securely, without being any ways exposed to the weather. It will hold four persons easily, furnished with pins to hang up their clothes, and clean napkins will be there ready for rubbing.
In 1754, the Whitehall Evening Post carried an advertisement for the
New invented machine for bathing in the sea. The machines move on four wheels, on which is erected a commodious dressing room, furnished in a genteel manner. The machine is contrived, that the persons who bathe descend from out of the above room into the bath, which forms itself in the natural sea, seven feet in length and five in breadth, all enclosed and railed, which renders it both secure and private. The machine during the last season met with genteel approbation; and in order to make still more useful, the proprietors have this season provided an additional machine with proper conveniences for bathing at all times. A woman is appointed to attend the ladies if desired.
As the fashion for swimming in the sea along with its reputed benefits grew, more and more coastal towns had their own machines, set up on the beach from Tynemouth, in the north, to Brighton in the south and everywhere in between.
One of the most famous people to develop a bathing machine was a Quaker, Benjamin Beale. However, in 1767 there was an immense storm in Margate and his bathing machines were damaged, as they had been twice before, in 1763 and 1764. His loss on this occasion was estimated to be worth over £1,000 and it totally wiped out his business. So much so that Sir John Shaw and a Dr Hawley, of Great Russell Street, sought assistance for him, to enable him to rebuild his business. This was successful and the business was rebuilt, and Benjamin continued his trade until his death in 1775.
As the fashion for sea swimming caught on others developed their own business too, such as these trade cards shows for the ‘The Dunn’s machine’ and ‘The Phillpot’s machine’.
In 1770, Margate became so popular that it even produced its own holiday guide containing
a particular account of Margate, with respect to its new building, assemblies, accommodations, manners of bathing, remarkable places in its neighbourhood and whatever else may be thought necessary for the information of strangers.
Swimming in the sea was a risky affair and there were quite a few incidents recorded of accidental death due to drowning. Other incidents were less dramatic, but somewhat embarrassing, such as the one noted in the St James Chronicle of 1778 when a bathing machine containing ten people capsized. Most escaped to shore… but minus their clothes. There were also reports of people having a few too many drinks, climbing into the bathing machines to sleep off their excesses and the tide changing and them waking up the next morning to find themselves in the sea.
Apparently, in 1794, two dignified ladies decided as a wager to swim from one bathing machine to another, one was seized with a cramp, but not being out of her depth was rescued. Hopefully, the wager wasn’t too high!
Men and women were segregated for the sake of women’s modesty, but occasional incidents happened where women had to be saved by a gentleman when they swam out of their depth – a few red faces there then!
Here’s a bit of newspaper gossip for you from The Public Advertiser, October 1791.
Man caught in bathing machine with woman, both naked at the time.
Sorry to spoil your fun, it transpired that they were actually husband and wife, but still, it made the newspaper.
Of course, when in Weymouth, the royal family enjoyed a swim, especially George III but apparently his daughter, the Princess Royal, less so as she appeared to feel the cold more and looked half-frozen after her swim.
To finish we couldn’t resist sharing this image of Prinny, The Prince Regent – no words!
Bathing Machine on Southsea Common. c1788. Yale Centre for British Art
Admit it – many of you are scratching already, aren’t you? I was whilst writing this if I’m honest. One of our readers asked about turpentine being used to kill head lice and this set us off to find out more about the subject and somehow ending up looking at how they dealt with bed bugs (buggs as they were known, somewhere we lost that second ‘g’) in the eighteenth century.
They were clearly a major problem, with many cures being offered to eliminate these little critters such as this from ‘The family jewel, and compleat housewife’s companion or, the whole art of cookery made plain and easy’ by Penelope Bradshaw in 1754.
If your room is very bad, take a pound of rolled brimstone, if there’s only a few, then lay it on the charcoal and get out of the room as fast as you can, or it will take away your breath. Shut the door close, with the blanket over it; and be sure to set it so as nothing can catch fire; if you have any India Pepper throw it in with the Brimstone. Do not open the door under six hours, and then let the door stand open an hour before you go in to open the windows, then brush and sweep your room very clean, wash it well with boiling water. Get a pint of spirits of wine, a pint of spirit of turpentine and an ounce of camphire, shake all well together, and with a bunch of feathers wash your bedstead very well, sprinkle the rest o over your feather-bed and about the wainscot and room.
If you find great swarms about the room, and some not dead, do this over again, and you will be quite clear. Every Spring and Autumn wash your bedstead with half a pint, and you will never have a bug; but if you find any come in with new goods, boxes etc only wash your bedstead and sprinkle it all over your bedding and bed, and you will be clear, but be sure to do it as soon as you find one. If your room is really bad it will be well to paint it.
Here we have an advert from the Daily Post of Thursday, May 18, 1738 from a gentleman offering to eliminate the critters:
Whereas I have for several years, with success, made it my business to destroy those numerous vermin call’d BUGGS, at a reasonable price, being done without the least damage to either bed, bedding or furniture, be the same ever so good; and what is used is without any offensive smell. I likewise undertake hospitals, or other large buildings, and after I have destroyed them, if any should happen the following year to be brought in by people’s cloaths, from other houses, which may happen to new furniture rather than to those I have cured and cleaned, owing to the Power of Nature of what is used, then and in such case I promise to cure them gratis. Those noble persons waited upon my directing to me, JOHN WILLIAMS, at the following coffee-houses, viz. Janeway’s in Cornhill, Richard’s near Temple-Bar.
And this one from Peter Braniff in the Public Advertiser, Saturday, May 17, 1760.
BUGGS, be the ever so intolerable, are effectively destroyed, no cure, no money by Peter Braniff at Number 4, the upper end of Union-court, Holborn, opposite St Andrew’s church; and as his name is so well-known to thousands of people of the best rank, who have employed him to their satisfaction, he refers them for a character before he is employed, which can be had in any division or neighbourhood all over London. Further satisfaction, to enquire at the British Lying-in Hospital, or the City of London Hospital.
So, how much did it cost to get rid of beds buggs – well, that of course varied upon the size of the room and quite frankly, Peter Braniffs’ charges were confusing to say the least, but given that he had a wife and six children support he would have wanted to make as much money as possible. (Peter died in 1769, of consumption, possibly an occupational hazard).
From 5 shillings to seven shillings and six pence, to ten shillings and six pence, to five shillings and some a guinea. Those who please to favour him with their commands, shall be waived on, and shall have twelve months’ time for trial, provided the sum be large. N.B. What he makes use of has no smell neither does it hurt the furniture, and if no alteration is made after he has done, the Buggs will never return, nor breed any more in them during life.
Of course, institutions such as hospitals and the workhouse were expected to maintain high standards of cleanliness, as we see here in this extract from ‘An Account of several work-houses for employing and maintaining the poor’ 1732:
Nurses take care to search all the beds for fleas, buggs and other vermin, once a week, of oftener if occasion; and to have all their beds made, and to sweep and clear their respective wards, every Monday between the hours of eight and ten; that every ward be washed once a week or oftener, as need shall require, and the windows be kept open in all, except the sick-wards, every day during dinner, to air the rooms, except in very rainy weather.
Sleep well tonight everyone and don’t let the bed buggs bite!
If you’d like to find out about flea traps follow the highlighted link – it’ll only make you scratch even more, you have been warned!
In an earlier blog, we looked at the life of Charlotte Williams, illegitimate daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire; Charlotte was brought up in the duke’s household by his beleaguered wife, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. It has proved to be one of our most popular blogs, so we thought it was worth trying to shed a little more light on Charlotte’s mother, a milliner named Charlotte Spencer.
If you’ve watched the film, The Duchess, you will no doubt remember the scene early on when Georgiana, pregnant with her first child, is introduced to her husband’s young daughter, who is brought to Devonshire House in London following the death of her mother. Using artistic licence, the timings are, however, slightly out in the film.
On 7 June 1774, at Wimbledon, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, married Georgiana Spencer, d/o John, Earl Spencer and his wife Georgiana (née Poyntz). The groom’s parish was stated to be St George, Hanover Square, that of the bride Westminster St James. Charlotte Williams was known to be born a few months before this grand union; just weeks earlier, on 20 March, a little girl named Charlotte had been christened at St George, Hanover Square, her parents named as William and Charlotte Cavendish (and her birthdate given as 22 February).
All we really know of the mother, Charlotte Spencer, comes from one of the Town and Country Magazine’s gossipy tête-à-tête articles which appeared in the spring of 1777; Memoirs of the D___ of D___ and Miss Charlotte S____r. If Georgiana had been in the dark about her husband’s mistress, she would certainly have known all about it when this magazine hit the streets.
Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, William Cavendish had succeeded to his title, on the death of his father. Left an orphan, he was raised by three bachelor uncles who sent him abroad on the aristocratic ‘gap year’, the Grand Tour. The tête-à-tête article claimed that while in Paris, Cavendish captured the heart of Louis XV’s maîtresse-en-titre, Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry, some five years older than the duke but much more worldly wise. The duke’s uncles got wind of things, and rushed him home.
Finding she [Madame du Barry] had built too much upon her charms, influence, and attractions; and, at the same time, that her heart was too far engaged in the conflict, she became the dupe to her own artifice; and the young English nobleman had his vanity so far gratified as to be the rival of the grand monarque.
Returning to London, the duke made the acquaintance of a pretty milliner who had ‘the finest eyes he had ever beheld’. He became a customer, and then her lover. Charlotte Spencer was the daughter of a country curate whose situation had allowed of nothing more than a ‘tolerable education’ for his daughter. After his death, Charlotte travelled to London where she fell into the clutches of ‘a veteran procuress, who, under the veil of religion, prevailed upon Charlotte to be a lodger in her house, that she might take care of her salvation’. It is suggested that Charlotte had at least one pregnancy (and possibly a termination) while lodged in this brothel before leaving, only to fall into the hands of ‘an old debauchee, who pretended to adore her mental, as well as her personal attractions’. This old rake gave Charlotte a handsome allowance and set her up in an elegant house, but she hated the life; after a few months her ‘keeper’ died and left her mistress of a fortune enough for her to set up a milliner’s shop. Where, soon afterwards, the 5th Duke of Devonshire found her…
The duke and Miss Spencer seem to have lived happily together for some years; she left the milliner’s shop behind and the duke provided for her. He set her up in a discreet rented villa.
We may now suppose our hero in full possession of all Charlotte’s charms, and that she was happy in an alliance with a young nobleman every way amiable. Yet a paradox still remains to be solved; which is, that after some years intercourse with Miss S___r, who was now rather approaching the decline of beauty, our hero should marry a nobleman’s daughter, a universal toast, still in her teens, with every personal accomplishment, who gives the Ton wherever she goes, and that he should still be fond of his antiquated (by comparison) Charlotte?
The truth is that the duke needed a male heir, and while he was clearly fond of Charlotte Spencer, the teenaged, wealthy and well-connected Miss Georgiana Spencer (it is an ironic coincidence that the two ladies bore the same surname) was the more suitable bride and prospective mother for a son and heir. Poor Charlotte had only given him a daughter.
Georgiana married her duke in May 1774, and this little scandal broke in the press almost three years later. Popular gossip said that the duke continued to see Charlotte regularly during the first years of his marriage.
There is a caprice in mankind, it is true, that cannot be accounted for – whim prevails more than reason – but that the blooming, the blythe, and beautiful D___ should be neglected for Charlotte S___r is really astonishing!
The duke’s affair with Charlotte Spencer fizzled out after 1778, and all available evidence suggests that she had died by May 1780 when the six-year-old Charlotte Williams was brought, with her nurse, Mrs Gardner, into the Cavendish household.
Despite her unhappy marriage, the Duchess of Devonshire was the toast of the town. Extravagant, vivacious and addicted to gambling, Georgiana was also compassionate and caring; when the young and motherless Charlotte Williams was presented to her, Georgiana took the girl to her heart and brought her up as her own daughter. In time, Georgiana had three children of her own by the duke, Georgiana (Little G) born 1783, Harriet (Harry-O) in 1785 and William (known as Hart, as his courtesy title was Marquess of Hartington) who was born in 1790. (Georgiana suffered many miscarriages during her marriage.)
A couple of years or so after Charlotte Spencer’s death, Georgiana met Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster at Bath; Bess quickly became an indispensable member of the Cavendish household, given a role as Charlotte Williams governess and replacing Charlotte Spencer in the duke’s affections. Something of a ménage à trois developed. Georgiana retaliated with an affair of her own, falling in love with the future prime minister, Charles Grey; in 1792 and in exile from her husband and children, Georgiana gave birth to Grey’s daughter. Known as Eliza Courtney, this girl was brought up by Grey’s family although Georgiana did manage to make secret visits to her. Bess Foster accompanied Georgiana during these years of exile before the two returned to the duke in 1793. Bess, after Georgiana’s death, would become the duke’s next wife.
Town and Country Magazine, March 1777
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman (Flamingo/Harper Collins, 1999)
With the turn for the century, fashions began to change from the tight-laced bodiced dresses to a softer, flimsy and floating style, often made from lightweight fabrics. Presumably it was this change of style that required women to preserve their modesty, so, on that note we’re delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, Sarah Waldock, who describes herself as ‘a Regency romance author with a morbid interest in drains and underwear’.
The post has come about following conversations we’ve had with Sarah Waldock, about one of our previous articles regarding whether Georgian women wore knickers or not! So we’ll hand over to her to tell you more.
This goes back to an assertion I made that yes, there were drawers worn by ladies in the Regency period as I had seen ads for them. Only when I uncovered the following ad, two words – invisible dresses – leaped out at me.
Radford’s Hosiery, 52 Cheapside
All manner of hosiery, gloves, flannels, drawers, ladies’ invisible dresses….
So going a bit further, I found
Mrs. Morris, once Mrs. Robertshaw, invisible dresses, petticoats, drawers and waist coats of real Spanish lamb’s wool, Welch Flannel Warehouse, 100 Oxford Street.
Plainly Mrs. Morris is a cut above Mr. Radford, being in Oxford Street where you pay three guineas a lungful to breathe [not that Cheapside was especially cheap; the name comes from the same source as Chapman, a peddler, from OE for goods for sale].
Digging around, I initially discover Mr. Radford advertising as far back as the 1st of January 1806 both the ‘Newly invented’ invisible petticoat and drawers, which is the earliest mention of drawers I had yet to find – at that point.
And then a bit of luck.
An unnamed seller advertises on Tuesday 17th September 1811;
New-invented invisible dresses [I hear you say, hang on, Radford and Morris had them in 1810; it’s the way of making them which is new invented] all in one, of a superior style for ladies and children … for ready money only, at no. 16 Poultry.
All in one, which is interesting; it suggests that invisible petticoats and waists have been combined. And in the same year, 21 December, 1811, Mr. Radford is back with his own take on this:
New-invented Brunswick invisible dresses that are such a preventative against colds and are patronised by the Royal Family.
There are also ads from him advertising them for ladies and children, reinforcing the idea that these are practical garments, no mere modesty pieces. These garments are for warmth to prevent the silly and fashionable chits in muslins from dying of pneumonia at winter balls.
I then looked up ‘Brunswick’ in the ‘Fairchild Dictionary of Textiles’. It gave me:
“A twilled wool and cotton fabric similar to cassimere”[Cassimere was a soft woollen twill cloth invented in Bradford and often combined with cotton, silk or mohair].
Now, Mr. Radford was also advertising cotton invisible petticoats in June and July of 1806, so maybe they were there as modesty pieces as well. I don’t have any more on that, nor on whether they were stockinet flesh coloured garments, like the drawers mentioned by Nicky Roberts in ‘Whores in History’ [Harper Collins 1992] to be worn under the notorious dampened muslins. It wasn’t mentioned. However I am seeing, I hope not spuriously, a connection between drawers and invisible gowns, which is an impression strengthened by a few more ads.
And this one from Mrs. Robertshaw [before she was Mrs. Morris] is the winner.
30th September 1806
SPANISH LAMBSWOOL INVISIBLE PETTICOATS
Mrs. Robertshaw begs leave to inform those ladies that found their invisible petticoats shrunk last winter that she has a kind so much improved that she will warrant them never to shrink even in the commonest wash, at the same time will be found equally as soft, pliant and warm. Everybody that has tried them allows them to be a much pleasanter article than ever before invented, being so very elastic[a word merely meaning at the time having some stretch or give] and of so beautiful a white, and, like all these comforts will add quite as little to size as her patent lambs’ wool so much approved of last winter. Likewise invisibles and stays all in one; well adapted to ladies that are confined; also under waist coats and drawers of the same description.
The ad goes on to invite mail order purchase, but what seems suggestive here is that the drawers are also for warmth as the implication is that they are also lambswool [and possibly either knitted or woven as a knit-weave like gents’ pantaloons]
The implication is also that this is not the earliest date.
So this is the ad I found, on 21st October 1805.
Spanish lamb’s wool invisible petticoats; Mrs. Robertshaw…. large assortment of her large assortment of real patent invisible petticoats which ladies will find soft, warm and pleasant at the same time adding little to the size.
Patent. A suggestive word, though I have a gut feeling that a lot of advertisers threw it around without applying for a patent. However, it does suggest that warm underclothes under skimpy top clothes was a recent response to the changes in fashion, having to be lightweight themselves rather than adding a quilted petticoat as one might do in earlier times.
The latest ad I found was in 1815, Friday 22nd December. Mrs. Morris is no longer reminding people that she was Mrs. Robertshaw before.
Ladies opera dresses, drawers, waistcoats, invisible petticoats – Mr. [sic] Morris manufacturer to the Royal Family respectfully informs those ladies that have patronised her patent invisible petticoat, opera under-dresses, drawers and waistcoats …. that she has manufactured an entire fresh and extensive assemblage.
I searched up to 1820 but could find no more ads. But after 1816, the year without a summer, the climate warmed up. Could it be that woolly longjohns and flannel petticoats disappeared for a lack of need for them?
As to earlier, in 1804 Mr. Radford was bad-mouthing those who sold inferior quality whilst proclaiming his own cheap but quality hosiery. He mentions flannels again. Was this a euphemism for flannel drawers? I haven’t tracked that down.
On 13th November 1804 he is advertising elastic cotton and other drawers in with his hosiery, gloves, lace mitts and lace sleeves. He is mentioned on 12th May 1803 as a hosier, and taking on the rent somewhere in an article too faded for me to read.
Mrs. Robertshaw however turns up in December 1804, or rather, Mr. W, Robertshaw does, at the same address, 100 Oxford Street, with a hosiery and pantaloon warehouse with fresh Spanish lambs wool and Angola waistcoats and drawers. Mrs. Robertshaw.
…begs the attention of the ladies to her patent Bath and elastic lambs wool petticoats and drawers, which ladies will find soft, warm and pleasant at the same time to add very little to size.
So, they are not yet invisible! Bath was a soft woollen cloth comparable to superfine; Bath suiting was often used for men’s jackets. It moulded nicely to the muscular form of the Corinthian.
Apart from the existence of W Robertshaw, Hosier, 100 Oxford Street in January 1804, the Robertshaws too disappear. Two families of Hosiers, whose brief, decade-long production of underwear excites the interest two hundred years later.
We have some exciting news to share with you, our readers, today. As well as writing our bi-weekly blog posts, we have also been working on our fourth book together… and this one is based on our blog! In fact, we’ve reused the name, and the title of our new book is All Things Georgian: Tales From the Long Eighteenth-Century.
It contains 25 tales that you won’t find on our blog already, all a little longer in length but, as ever, lavishly illustrated, predominantly in colour. In fact, we’ve got over 100 gorgeous colour pictures scattered throughout the text. The tales are all in roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830 and set within the framework of the main events of the era.
So, what stories can you expect to find inside? We bill ourselves as historical super-sleuths and we’ve dug into various archives to discover the weird, the wonderful and the downright strange side of long eighteenth-century.
Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Marvel at the Queen’s Ass, gaze at the celestial heavens through the eyes of the past and be amazed by the equestrian feats of the Norwich Nymph. Journey to the debauched French court at Versailles, travel to Covent Garden and take your seat in a box at the theatre and, afterwards, join the mile-high club in a new-fangled hot air balloon. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory.
Out in the UK by the end of April, 2019. Click here to discover more.
In a recent article, we looked at disability in the 18th-century and about people with no arms using their feet as an alternative, some of whom created the most beautifully delicate watch papers. One of our readers asked what more we knew about watch papers, our reply being –’not very much!‘
Always up for a challenge though, we set about seeing what else we could find, and we confess, this article is a little self-indulgent with some lovely images of watch papers which remarkably have survived in some cases for over two hundred years, most will have been lost or damaged over time, making survivors quite rare.
It was believed that initially watch papers were a form of protection for the mechanism itself, which may well be correct, they then developed into the equivalent of a trade card, which for our regular readers you will be aware that we have looked at before and have a great interest in. Early eighteenth-century watch papers appear to have been made of either paper or very fine linen. This developed in the later part of the century to include crotched or silk watch papers.
Watch papers would have been a fabulous of advertising your wares, inside the watch so every time the wearer opened it they would see an advert for the watchmaker and see what else they sold. As you can see from this image:
The Cambridge Intelligencer September 1795 carried the following advertisement
COPPERPLATE PRINTING IN GENERAL
Barford begs leave to inform his friends and the public, that he prints mezzotints, fine engravings, banker’s cheques, tutor’s bills, watch papers and music.
The British Museum has several watch papers and this one was used by John Oglethorpe, born 1823, who appears on the census returns as being of Kirkby Thore, Cumbria where was he described himself as a watch cleaner and repairer, a trade he would have learnt from his father Samuel.
This beautiful watch shows the watch paper placed inside with the makers’ name clearly visible both on the mechanism itself and on the advert on the watch paper – Thomas Bullock of Claverton Street Bath, who we discovered was trading there in 1770.
The next belonged to Camerer and Cuss, New Oxford Street. The watch paper is very plain, and we haven’t been able to locate the company, however, it nicely fits into the Georgian era, as they were trading ‘since 1788’.
Our next one shows the watch paper of a gentleman by the name of Goldsworthy. He was an Edward Goldsworthy of Exeter, who died in April 1824, aged 73 in Chelsea.
Edward was working in his home city of Exeter and here we see him in 1788 taking on an apprentice clock-maker.
Tempus Fugit! This one seems a little morbid, reminding you of impending death each time you open the watch. It is an advert for George Frankcom of Portsea, Hampshire. Frankcom must have moved to Hampshire after completing his apprenticeship which he began in 1792.
To finish, we have very kindly been given a stunning watch paper to include, by Mike Rendell (Georgian Gentleman)
Richard cut it out when his first wife died – it must have taken hours. It shows her coffin in a template, with her name, age and date of death. I still have the pen knife he would have used to make it (i.e. the knife he used to make pens from quills). It is incredibly sharp even after 250 years! He must have had excellent eyesight – and a very steady hand).
For a woman who was noted as such a beauty, it has always frustrated us that there are not more surviving portraits and drawings of our ‘infamous mistress’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. There is a miniature by Cosway, painted around the time of her marriage with Dr (later Sir) John Eliot, and the two well-known portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, plus a disputed chalk drawing by John Hoppner which may or may not depict Grace.
Imagine our surprise and delight then, to come across the drawing below by the caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson which purports to depict ‘Lady Elliott, otherwise Dally the Tall’. The inscription contains one glaring error; Grace was never Lady Eliot, her husband had divorced her well before he became a baronet but, nevertheless, this could indeed be Grace (her nickname was Dally the Tall, a play upon her surname and height), probably drawn sometime around 1782-1786 and wearing a chemise à la reine. We know that she was famous for bringing the dress into fashion here in the UK.
After her divorce, Grace had been the Earl of Cholmondeley’s mistress, before leaving his arms for the protection of Philippe d’Orléans, then the duc de Chartres (later duc d’Orléans and, during the Revoution, Philippe Égalité). Grace then snared British royalty when, for just a few short weeks, she enjoyed a relationship with the young Prince of Wales (later King George IV). During the summer of 1782, Grace gave birth to the prince’s daughter.
In February 1783, Grace appeared at a masquerade ball held at the Pantheon arm-in-arm with Charles Wyndam, 3rd son of the 2nd Earl of Egremont. Also present were Perdita (Mary Robinson), Grace’s one-time rival for the Prince of Wales, but now with her new lover, Colonel Banastre Tarleton, Lady Grosvenor and Mary (Moll) Benwell with Colonel Richard FitzPatrick.
A few of the Cyprian Corps in elevated life were present – Mrs Elliott’s dress, the chemise de la reine, and Miss Sheppard’s were the most elegant of the whole group. The Perdita and the T__le__n paired off very early. Mrs B__nw__ll, and Col. F___tz__ck were in close Teˆte-a`-Teˆte all the evening, also Mr W___nd__m and Mrs Elliot, Lady Gr__v__r likewise perambulated the circle for a considerable time.
The company were very sociable, and the dances continued till past seven in the morning.
The chemise à la reine, was the height of fashion. A diaphanous white muslin gown with a coloured sash ribbon tied high on the waist, the wearer appeared fashionably déshabillé or undressed; the chemise had, until this time, been used as an undergarment but now it was worn as a dress in its own right with no corset underneath. It was popularized in France during the early 1780s by Queen Marie Antoinette who was painted wearing such a dress by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (to the outrage of her subjects who were scandalized to see their queen dressed in such a simple and romantic way).
Marie Antoinette had sent a few of these chemises to her aristocratic friends in England, in particular to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. The duchess and Mary Robinson are usually credited with introducing the fashion to England but Grace was also an early devotee of the style. She had spent time at the French court as the mistress of the duc de Chartres; had she too been sent a chemise à la reine from friends in France?
With the Prince of Wales no longer interested in Grace, and the Earl of Cholmondeley having also moved on, Grace found herself in Paris… and with a new rival: the beautiful and ‘celebrated’ Moll Benwell, a courtesan at least a decade younger than Grace. If Grace wanted to renew her relationship with the duc de Chartres she was out of luck, for Moll Benwell stole her thunder. There began a tit-for-tat game between the two women, played out in London and Paris.
If we may credit our intelligence from France, English beauties are not less admired in Paris, than in their native kingdom – the reigning toasts there at present are, the Benwell, and the Elliot; the former is allowed to be by far the most elegant woman that has appeared there these many years, they term her the Kitty Fisher of her time, from her likeness to that beautiful woman. The Duc de Chartres has made himself extremely ridiculous on her account, following her to all public places; to the contempt with which she treats him and his promises (which that nobleman is but too apt to make) she may attribute his constant attendance on her.
The fortunes of the handsome Colonel Richard FitzPatrick (second son of the Earl of Upper Ossory) fluctuated wildly. He was a close and loyal friend of Charles James Fox (the two men had known each other since their schooldays) and one of the intimate group that included the Earl of Cholmondeley, the Prince of Wales and Charles Wyndham. An ofﬁcer with the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, the dashing colonel was also an inveterate gambler, a solo balloonist, bon viveur and wit.
As beﬁtted such a great friend of Charles James Fox, FitzPatrick had stood as a Member of Parliament, holding the borough of Tavistock from 1774, but gave as little time as he could to matters of business, preferring to devote himself to pleasure instead. He lived on his credit and tradesmen were always denied access to his house when they called to press their bills. Because of her own debts, Moll had left the colonel in the spring of 1783; she couldn’t pay them and neither could he, and so she journeyed to Paris at the same time as Grace.
With an improvement in FitzPatrick’s ability to procure credit, Moll returned to London; Grace must have been pleased to see the back of her and the way to the duc de Chartres left clear once more.
The winter of 1783 found the tables turned and Grace in London with Mary Benwell back in Paris; King George III was on the verge of dismissing the government and so FitzPatrick’s credit would once more be on hold. With her rival once more stealing her thunder in Paris, Grace, in London, exacted her tit-for-tat revenge and found herself a new protector, snaring for herself the Honourable Colonel Richard FitzPatrick.
During the 1784 election, Grace was by FitzPatrick’s side campaigning for the Whigs and Charles James Fox on the streets of Westminster (as, famously, did Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). The supporters of Charles James Fox took to wearing ‘true blue’ colours and favours on the streets, denoting their support of American Independents and their hostility to Pitt and his ministers, and Grace was no exception.
Miss Dalrymple is so azurized, that nothing under the blue sky can exceed her; she wears a blue hat; her eyes are blue, her breast-bows and ribbons are the same colour; her carriage is also blue; and she is called by way of distinction the ‘Blue Belle of Scotland, &c. &c’.
Was the Rowlandson caricature drawn around this time?
In An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, you can discover Grace, and her equally fascinating relations. It is available at all good bookshops worldwide, including Amazon, in hardback and as an eBook.
Courtesan. Spy. Survivor. A gripping and meticulously researched account of the swashbuckling life of one of history’s most overlooked heroines: Hallie Rubenhold, author of The Scandalous Lady W
At the time of writing, you can download An Infamous Mistress as either a Kindle or ePub from our publisher, Pen & Sword Books, for just £4.99.
The Georgians enjoyed nothing more than a spectacle be it the ‘freak shows’ or the sight of new animals, but something which caught their attention in the 1780s was a pig … no ordinary pig, but one who could perform tricks, so we thought as a bit of light relief, we would share a few anecdotes about this curious animal and leave you to draw your own conclusions as to the truth of any of it.
By all accounts the pig had previously been owned by a Scotsman, Samuel Bisset, although there were also reports that it was a native of Ireland, educated in Chester, so, we’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions from that.
After the death of Bisset, the pig became the property of a John Nicholson, who toured the country with his ‘learned pig’. The pig was not the first creature who he had worked with, oh no! Nicholson possessed a peculiar power over animals, he taught a turtle to fetch and carry, a hare to beat a drum with its hind feet; he taught six cocks to perform a country dance; his three cats to play several tunes on the dulcimer with their paws and to imitate Italian opera, but he became best known for conquering the natural obstinacy and stupidity of a pig by teaching him to unite the letters of any person’s name, count the number of people in the room, the hour and minutes of any watch, etc.
Mid 1784, Nicholson took the pig on tour, covering Leeds, Wakefield, The Assembly Rooms in Derby, Nottingham, Northampton and onward to London.
In April 1785 however, Nicholson was invited along with his learned friend to attend Brooks’s gentlemen’s club, one of the oldest in London, to perform at a private exhibition, which according to the newspapers didn’t go quite as expected:
A good deal of confusion arose to the master of the pig and the company present, from the improper questions which were put to this grunting philosopher. He counted the company well enough; but when he was asked how many Patriots were present, snorted at every member, and looked around for fresh orders.
How many are there present who are six pence clear of encumbrances? The pig stood still.
How many honest gentlemen? The pig would not stir.
Here the master was obliged to apologise and in a confounded passion whipped the pig and beat a hasty retreat.
Despite this slight hiccup, by all accounts this was a lucrative little earner for Nicholson as he was reputed to be making over one hundred guineas a week with his ‘grunting philosopher’.
There was great excitement when it was announced that the learned pig was visiting a town, with newspapers giving all the hype you would expect.
We hear from Colchester, that there is arrived in that place, and to be seen during the fair, that most sagacious animal the learned pig, that so long and so deservedly engaged the attention of the nobility and gentry at Charing Cross and afterwards at Sadler’s Wells, where he met with universal applause to the end of the season. The above curiosity is expected in Ipswich as soon as Colchester Fair is over.
We couldn’t resist including this article from the Chester Chronicle of 1792.
Nicholson’s learned pig has, we hear, lately arrived from Oxford, where he was admitted a fellow of Brazen-Nose* college, and is now returned to his seat at Bunbury, in this county, with those two profound marks of erudition A.M. annexed to his name – the learned in that neighbourhood say ‘it would do your heart good to hear him grunt Greek’.
The idea of a performing pig was not restricted to just this one, apparently there were several, but who knows. As we’ve said, the concept of a talking pig was a money spinner, but also a great excuse to poke fun at the government, nobility and academia, so we’ll end this with a little ditty we came across.
Gruntledum, gruntledum, gruntledum, squeak,
I hope very soon to be able to speak;
Thou’ my gristly proboscis I find that I can
Already cry ‘aye’, like a parliament man:
Like a maid I can squeak, like a lover can whine,
And snort like an Alderman laden with wine.
Gruntledum, gruntledum, gruntledum, squeak,
I hope very soon to be able to speak.
* In case you wondered, no this is isn’t a typo on our part!
Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser 21 September 1785
We’ve written about Georgian era riding habits in an earlier blog, but this time we’re looking at the practicalities of wearing one. Female equestrians in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries were certainly hampered by their clothes, in comparison to men, and needed assistance just to mount and dismount. Then, once in the saddle, they had to arrange themselves to be perfectly positioned with their skirts all in place.
The young horsewoman’s compendium of the modern art of riding; comprising a progressive course of lessons; designed to give ladies a secure and graceful seat on horseback; at the same time, so effectively to form the hand, that they may, in a short time, acquire perfect command of their horses, (1827) gives the following instructions for a novice horsewoman.
Two persons are necessary to assist in putting a Lady on Horseback; one to hold up the Horse’s head, standing immediately in front, with a hand on each Bridoon Rein, close to the Horse’s mouth; the other to life the Lady up to the Saddle.
The Lady having first adjusted her Habit, is to place her right shoulder against the Saddle, her face turned a little from the Horse. Her right hand, with the Bridoon Rein hanging loosely on the fore-finger, or thumb, to be placed on the upright Horn, and to stand perfectly erect, resting the whole weight of the body on the right foot.
The person lifting our equestrian up, now stoops down and cups his hands together; the lady places her left foot in his hands and keeps her left knee as straight as possible.
If the left knee be much bent, the person lifting the Lady up, has very little command of her weight; she is, therefore, compelled to drag herself up in the most ungraceful manner possible… by attention to the foregoing rules, the most heavy, or inactive person, may be lifted up at the first attempt, if the pressure in the man’s hands is correctly perpendicular, and the Lady stands so close to the Saddle as to touch it with her right shoulder.
Before all this, however, thought needs to be given to the riding habit… specifically keeping it out of the way.
[When being lifted onto the saddle] care must be taken, that no part of the Habit is under the Lady’s foot when placed in the man’s hands; as it acts as a check, and prevents her taking a sufficient spring, which must be proportioned to the height of the Horse the Lady is to be put on.
On arriving in the Saddle, the right knee must be put into the crutch as soon as possible; but, previously to doing so, it will be advisable to take hold of the Habit and under garments with the right hand, close to the right knee, to ease them up, in order to allow sufficient room for the knee to come quite down in the crutch, where it must remain perfectly stationary.
Should the Habit require any regulating behind, the Lady must take hold of the crutch with her right hand, and gently raise herself from the Saddle, and smooth it down with her left hand; but if it is properly adjusted, previously to being lifted up, it will require very little alteration after arriving in the Saddle.
Great care must be observed, that the Habit and under garments are particularly full and easy, in order that the Lady may be at perfect liberty, and not, in the most trifling degree, confined by them.
It is a much safer plan, to put that part of the Habit which hangs near the Horse’s side, round the foot, previously to putting it into the Stirrup, than to fasten it down with a clasp, or a pin; as, in the event of a Lady being thrown from her Horse, the Habit disengages itself with the foot.
The Skirt to the Riding Habit should not be too long, as there is a possibility of its getting between the Horse’s fore-legs, or being blown across them, so as to check his action, and throw him down. It also makes a Lady’s figure appear disproportionate.
There is also advice as to headgear, but not relating to safety as we’d understand it. No hard hats here, and we do wonder what the writer would have made of a lady carrying a parasol while hawking, as in this portrait below.
Long veils are also dangerous on Horseback, as they get entangled with the Reins, confuse the Rider, and cause her to lose the command of her Horse.
Never lift the right hand up, with the Whip in it, to adjust the Hat; it not only looks extremely awkward, but will sometimes cause a Horse to shy. Place the Whip under the thumb of the Bridle Hand; and should there be a Rein in the right hand, it may either be dropped, or placed under the forefinger of the Bridle Hand. This leaves the right hand quite at liberty.
This lady, then, is doing everything wrong!
It was advised that, as with getting into the saddle, at least two men should be present to help our lady dismount from her horse and that:
before springing from the Saddle, [she should] draw the right hand down under the right leg, to feel that the Habit is quite clear of it and the Stirrup.
It wasn’t unheard of for women to ride astride a horse rather than side-saddle. An early nineteenth-century caricature, full of innuendo, jokes about the practice.
It was more commonplace on mainland Europe for ladies to ‘ride astride’ or en cavalier (literally, as a rider or horseman). There are famous portraits of both Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great riding in male clothing in this way. The ill-fated Caroline Matilda, George III’s younger sister, embraced the custom after she married the Danish king.
The [Danish] Queen Consort, young, gay, affable and obliging, gained all hearts by her assiduity to please. It is no wonder that such a person should give occasion for censure to those who were already disposed to find fault… The ladies of Denmark, unlike our countrywomen, when they ride, bestride their horses like men; but to preserve the decorum of the sex, they wear a petticoat over their drawers or breeches. Unhappily her Majesty looked upon the petticoat as an incumbrance, and when she hunted, dressed herself en cavalier. This was immediately taken notice of by her enemies as a great act of indecency.
Nevertheless, riding in this way caused much astonishment and excitement in England.
A German Lady who dresses, and rides en cavalier, has for several days past attracted the attention of the beaux and belles in Hyde-park. She is well mounted, takes her morning rides without any attendant, and leaps over the different bars in the park with all imaginable coolness, and resolution.
And, just slipping in within our timeframe, is this account of the trend-setting Lady Mary Deerhurst, taking full advantage of her freedoms while living and travelling abroad.
The lady alluded to in the Morning Post as astonishing the natives of Rome by riding in the public streets in Turkish trowsers, and en cavalier, with her daughter in a similar costume is Lady Mary Deerhurst, the lively daughter of Aubrey, Duke of St Albans. Her elopement with Viscount Deerhurst was followed in a few years by separation between the parties; since which period, being in possession of a splendid fortune, she has lived an independent life in Italy, somewhat after the fashion of Lady Hester Stanhope. In her exploring parties in the vicinity of Rome, Lady Mary frequently remains on horseback from twelve to sixteen hours, to the no small consternation of her languid Italian attendants.
The Royal Humane Society was founded in London in 1774 by two eminent medical men, Dr William Hawes (shown in the header picture at the bedside) and Dr Thomas Cogan, who were keen to promote techniques of resuscitation.
We think of resuscitation as something relatively modern, however, in 1775, The Royal Humane Society produced a booklet entitled ‘Address for extending the benefits of a practice for recovery from accidental death’.
It would appear that after several fatal drownings they felt it beneficial to write a booklet to advise people how to assist someone who appeared to be dead and a variety of techniques that could be used to revive them. We thought we would share some with you.
Firstly, the body should, if found outdoors, be taken by hand cart or other means available indoors where it would be warmer. It should be stripped with all speed, warmed in blankets in front of a fire, gently moved and shaken. Rubbing the body, especially the backbone, the belly, the breast, neck and head is one of the most efficacious operations. Some recoveries it is said were owed to that alone. It should be performed with cloths, often of flannel, warmed and sprinkled over with brandy, rum or gin and a volatile spirit.
A bed warmed naturally or artificially is of great use or stone bottles filled with hot water, also heated bricks, wrapped in a flannel should be efficaciously laid at the feet, sides and hands.
The next stage was to blow smoke of common tobacco into the intestines via the bowels. It was said to be easier to administer with the use of a fumigator. Bellows could be used to force up either vapour or common air. The use of tobacco should only be used on strong bodies i.e. men. For weak and delicate persons i.e. women and children, the use of dried rosemary, marjoram and mint should be used instead. At the same time, the belly must be gently moved and pressed upward with the hand. This must be continued until signs of life are obtained.
The idea was to get the blood circulating again. This should be continued for an hour or two.
Do not become discouraged if it takes longer
Towards the latter end, volatile spirits and salts may have a beneficial effect. Wine and cordials had the greatest effect once the body had recovered a little from its insensible state but must be given at not more than a spoonful at a time and must be allowed to go down slowly.
Bleeding should not be omitted once the blood has warmed up enough to get a drop out of the veins. However, before the blood was liquified this would have no effect and once circulation had started. The use of ligatures necessary to stop blood loss would counteract the attempt to revive circulation.
Next, we have the eighteenth-century version of what today we refer to as Cardio Pulmonary Massage, better known as (CPR) or mouth-to-mouth. It was a Dr John Fothergill, of Yorkshire, who gave a lecture to the Royal Society in London in 1745 about mouth-to-mouth.
To put blood in motion force air in at the mouth, holding the nose and stroking the breast, to distend the lungs and raise the chest with the hand to them act on each other and produce motion, are happily attempted: also, such irritation which causes retching and sneezing, are properly excited in the throat and nose with a crow feather, or some stimulating drug.
The booklet reports that many recoveries despaired of were obtained by an uninterrupted treatment of five or six hours duration.
The air of the room in which the treatment is performed being better than that immediately breathed by the operator, a small clean bellows may be used by a second person, while the first holds it in the mouth and keeps the nostrils closes. Some dextrous persons attempt to convey the air through a metal pipe, called a ‘cannula’, having a crooked end, which with the finger, they cautiously guide into the wind-pipe, to produce a more immediate effect.
The public was advised that if anyone appeared to have died suddenly either by choking, drowning, strangulation or suffocation they should immediately be taken to the nearest hospital or parish workhouse where treatment could be administered. Watermen were advised that if they found a body which appeared not to have been in the water for long that they should carefully roll it or hold it upside down to remove the water from inside the body.
One of the main concerns that people naturally had, was about people being buried alive. This guide attempted to prevent such events from happening.
A man recuperating in bed at a receiving-house of the Royal Humane Society, after resuscitation by Dr William Hawes and JC Lettsom from near drowning. Watercolour by R. Smirke. Wellcome Library
The person, Sir, who I informed you had last year swallowed a fork on Shrove Tuesday, discharged it by the anus the same year, (1715) on the 25th June.
Ahem! Now we’ve got your attention, today being Shrove Tuesday, we’re taking a look at some of the events which occurred on the day in the Georgian era. Often celebrated as a half-holiday with bell-ringing and games, we all know of the custom of pancakes; today pancake races are still often held. But, what about other traditions? And no, fork swallowing wasn’t one of them; that was just an accident which occurred on the day. Mind you, some of the customs were just as awful…
An old custom around the mid-1700s was to throw sticks at cocks on this day… no, we don’t know why either. One theory, given in a letter in the Stamford Mercury of 1768 said that:
Gallieide, or cock-throwing, was first introduced by way of contempt to the French, and to exasperate the minds of the people against that nation: but why should the custom be continued when we are no longer at war with them?
A cockerel would be tied to a post and then coksteles (weighted sticks) thrown at the bird until, inevitably, it died. In 1763, the mayor and justices of Bath printed an appeal for this practice to end, it being ‘barbarous, and therefore doubtless offensive to Almighty God’. They asked the country folk who lived nearby the city not to bring their cocks to market and sell them for this purpose. Possibly their plea went largely unheeded, as they were forced to repeat their appeal the following year too. In 1753, a riot broke out in Dublin when some soldiers, who were watching the proceedings, expressed their distaste at the practice. In 1766, at Blackburn in Lancashire, some of the local lads were throwing sticks at a cock in the churchyard, but their aim was off and instead they hit a woman walking past.
The stick flew into her eye, and up into her head, which put her into very great torture, and after languishing some time, she died.
Mind you, with the custom of throwing at cocks all but forgotten by the end of the eighteenth-century, the Justices of Derby worried instead about the practice of:
…playing at Foot Ball on Shrove Tuesdays; a custom which whilst it has no better recommendation than its antiquity, for its further continuance, is disgraceful to humanity, and civilization; subversive of good order, and Government, and destructive of the morals, properties, and very lives of our inhabitants.
The year before, it seems, one John Sneap had lost his life while indulging in the game on Shrove Tuesday. Rowdy ‘mob football’ games were yet another odd Shrove Tuesday tradition. And so the city of Derby:
… being fully satisfied that many public and private evils have been occasioned by the custom of playing at FOOT BALL in this Borough on Shrove Tuesdays.
We have unanimously resolved, THAT SUCH CUSTOM SHALL FROM HENCEFORTH BE DISCONTINUED.
Some towns in England still continue this tradition. A much more satisfactory custom was gathering for drinks and a feast.
In Bury, on 24 February 1762, 72 people who all lived within a mile of the town met at the Old Hare and Hounds, to drink the health of the royal family. Amongst the crowed were 38 elderly folk, whose ages amounted to ‘upwards of 3040 years’. Adding the combined ages of those gathered to celebrate Shrove Tuesday seems to be of national interest. The following dates to 1759.
At an entertainment given by the Master of the Talbot Inn, at Ripley in Surrey, on Shrove Tuesday last, to twelve of his neighbours, inhabitants of the said parish, and who lived within five hundred yards distance, the age of the whole amounted to one thousand and eighteen years. What is most remarkable, one of the company is the mother of twelve children, the youngest of whom is sixty. She has within the fortnight walked to Guildford and back again (which is twelve miles) in one day. Another has worked as a journeyman with his Master (a shoemaker, who dined with him) forty-nine years. The all enjoyed their senses and not one made use of a crutch.
And, let’s not forget the poor fork swallower. He was reputed to be a Spanish officer who had accidentally gulped down the fork (it was only a small implement) while cleaning the root of his tongue with the end of the handle. And, the account we have read suggests he came to no permanent harm.
Derby Mercury, 16 March 1753, 7 March 1766 and 18 February 1796
Manchester Mercury, 6 March 1759 and 2 March 1762
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 10 February 1763 and 23 February 1764
Not all women in the eighteen-century were able to marry a wealthy aristocrat, in fact very few did, the majority had to hold down a job as well as running the home and raising children. We thought today we would follow on from an earlier article in which we looked at eighteenth-century careers and have picked out a few of the career options listed in Joseph Collyer’s book of 1761, that were deemed suitable for girls and women, of which of course, there were only a limited number, far fewer choices than for men.
There are several sorts of basket-maker. Some who form baskets of green oziers (willow), chiefly for the use of gardeners. These are the most considerable branches; for some of the masters employ many hands, and also rent large ozier plantations; which not only produce sufficient for themselves, but many to spare. This part of the work requires no other abilities but strength and application. Another sort of basked makers make finer works with rods stripped, split, halved and dyed; or with split cane or dyed straw of various colours. The workers in the finer sort of baskets, which are chiefly to be found in the turner’s shops, require less strength and more ingenuity. This is chiefly carried out by girls and women who make the smaller wares.
This was once a trade of universal use, but now bodices are worn by none but the poorer sort of women and girls in the country. They are made of canvas and whale-bone or cane and sometimes leather. Women are principally employed in making them; they can get six or seven pounds a week and require no great qualification. Their apprentices are generally parish children, whom they take with little or nothing. As their dealings are mostly in the country, they require a pretty large stock; most of them now deal also in ordinary stays, by which means they make a handsome livelihood.
The greatest part of the mohair, silk and horsehair buttons are made in the county and sent up to shops in town. Those made here are chiefly livery buttons, or some patterns particularly bespoke. Those who work at this are chiefly women, who are paid by the dozen and are able to get but a poor living. The boy or girl designed for the business of making gold and silver buttons ought to have some fancy and genius, that they may be able to invent new fashions. They should also have good eyes and a dry hand. The lace-man furnishes them with all the material for his buttons, except the moulds and pays him for the work when done.
These are shopkeepers who make and sell caps for men or women to travel in and also men’s morning caps. They deal in many sorts of millinery goods, such as ladies’ hats, bonnets, cloaks, cardinals, short aprons, hoods, handkerchiefs, or almost anything made of black silk or velvet. Their apprentices ought to be smart girls of a genteel appearance, they should work well at their needles and be ready accomptants. They serve only five years and are kept the first part of their time close to the needle. Once qualified they may be cap-makers but may also be shop women to the milliners, the haberdashers or to any buying and selling trade proper for women.
Child’s coat maker
This branch of business is generally performed by women and is a pretty profitable employ. They take ten or fifteen pounds with a girl; who ought to be ingenious, handy and a tolerable needle-woman. The boning part is hard work for the fingers, but the rest is easy enough. As the apprentice must appear neat and gentle, and, when out of her time, must depend on a good acquaintance this trade is not fit for the children of people in low circumstances; but for those a little above the vulgar it is a very proper one. A journey-woman may get a pound a day in summer, but they are generally out of business some of the winter months.
Fan painting is an ingenious business and requires skill in drawing, in perspective, in the proper disposition of the lights and shades and in laying on the colours. This business is however almost ruined by the introduction of printers fan-mounts. Therefore it would be a pity that any ingenious girl, who has a taste for drawing should be put apprentice to it.
The gilding of metals is a very profitable and at the same time a dangerous business with respect to those who perform the work, occasioned by the quicksilver used in this art, which is apt to affect their nerves and render their lives a burden to them; whence the trade is but in a few and some of them women. Gilding is performed with the following amalgam of gold and Quicksilver. The gold is then heated in a crucible and when just ready to flow, three or four times the weight of quicksilver is poured upon it and immediately quenched in water, both together become a soft substance like butter. When the artist intends to gild, the piece is rubbed with aqua fortis and then covered with the amalgam. When is all covered over and smother it is held over a charcoal fire, by which means the mercury evaporates and the gold remains upon the piece. The artist then rubs off all the roughness and at the same time spreads the gold with an instrument called a scratch brush, the work is then burnished to give the colour wanted.
Quilting is chiefly performed by the women, but there are some masters, who employ a number of women and girls in making bed quilts for the upholsterers. The women of this business not only make bed quilts but quilted petticoats. They either take poor girls as apprentices, whom they keep for the sake of their work or have a small for learning those grown up, whom they afterwards pay about ten or twelve pounds a week.
These are more frequently women than men. They make tassels for pulpit cushions, window curtain cords and for a variety of other uses. These tassels are made of gold or silver thread, silk, mohair or worsted, worked over a mould. When tassels were worn by the ladies to their mantels, this was exceedingly good employment, and many families go a genteel maintenance by it, but now, I believe, it is hardly worth learning. The masters take girls out of the schools and parish children with little or no money who, if in good hands, may, when out of their time, be able to get six or eight pounds a week as journey-women, or may set up with a very little. All materials being found from the lace or worsted men.
Thirty years ago this business gave many women in London genteel bread; but now the ladies cannot be dressed with elegance, except by a French barber, or one who passes for such, by speaking broken English, adjust and curls their hair at the exorbitant price of a crown or half a guinea a time. Our grandmothers thought it bordered on immodesty to appear with their heads uncovered; but probably our grandchildren, despising such narrow prejudices, may not be ashamed of going naked from the waist upwards or of having men chamberlains or dressers. I believe the few women, who now cut hair, cannot live by the employment and therefore need to say nothing of the terms on which they teach others.
If you enjoy our blog, you might also enjoy our books.
There are many accounts of dogs seeking help for their owner following an accident. Here we’ve collected a few tales from contemporary newspapers.
In the early evening of a mid-November day in 1767, a man named Gabriel Park was walking to his home at Carntyne, a Glasgow mining area, when he fell into an old and deep abandoned coal pit by the roadside. Luckily it had no water in it, but he had no way of escape. Gabriel’s small pointer dog was with him, and all night it ran around the mouth of the pit, yelping and howling. This noise alerted several colliers who, early the next morning, were walking to their place of work; they came over to see what the commotion was. Gabriel was fair spent by this time, and had barely the strength left to call his name, but his rescuers heard his faint cries for help. They fetched ropes and brought him to safety; although he was in a bad state, Gabriel was expected to survive. And, if the Gabriel Park who was buried at Glasgow in 1794 at the age of 67 is him, then survive he did, thanks to his dog.
Another rescue by a dog also occurred in Scotland, on a similar winter’s evening in 1811. Andrew Frame and John Corbet, from Larkhall, were on their way home in an open cart together with their dog. They had to cross the Clyde, which was swollen, and by a mishap, cart, horse and the two men ended up in the river. John Corbet disappeared under the surface and was drowned, but his companion, Andrew, survived, thanks to the dog who grabbed hold of his master’s clothes and kept his head above the water until they got to the shore. The horse also managed to make it to safety; after getting away from his harness he swam to one side of the river only to find the bank too steep to escape, so made his way to the opposite side where he was able to scramble out.
When the Comet II paddle steamer collided with another steamer off Kempock Point, Gourock, Scotland, and sank with the loss of 62 of the 80 passengers on board, a lady named Jane Monro was saved when she managed to grab hold of a greyhound who had been onboard, and who kept her afloat. The fate of the greyhound was not recorded (but we hope he was pulled to safety too!).
Many other accounts relate stories of faithful hounds refusing to leave their dead masters. The following is from early February, 1799.
On Tuesday, an officer’s servant belonging to West Suffolk, was found near the Newmarket turnpike, supposed to have lain in the snow since Saturday. A faithful dog was found lying near his deceased master, buried in the snow by whose barking the body was discovered.
Several years earlier, in 1778, a Southampton man known as French Frank was sent on horseback to Stoke, accompanied by his faithful Newfoundland dog. Somehow met with an accident and both French Frank and the horse ended up tangled together in what was described as ‘the Barge River’ (possibly this means the Trent and Mersey Canal which was completed the year before and that French Frank was heading to Stoke-on-Trent). They both drowned, the bodies discovered due to the Newfoundland, who swam next to French Frank’s body and who could not be coaxed from the water until he was almost exhausted.
A clearly well-to-do gentleman from the London area (for the family had servants) had, in the summer of 1752, been missing for a fortnight. He had a favourite dog who rarely left his side, and this dog had also been absent, returning only for his dinner each day, then quickly vanishing again. Eventually, someone decided that it would be an idea to follow the dog, to see if he could lead them to the missing man. The dog led his owner’s relations to the side of a flooded gravel pit on the road to Marylebone where the dog’s master was found drowned.
Faithful dogs to guide the blind are nothing new.
In the summer of 1810, a blind man accepted a bet of seven shillings, that he could walk six miles in an hour and a half. In this undertaking, he would be guided by his faithful dog. The pair started at 8 o’clock in the morning, on the Fulham road, and walked one mile out and then one mile back in until the six miles was completed. There was a huge crowd of people gathered to watch the event and, to their surprise, the whole six miles was completed with fifteen minutes to spare. The spectators, so impressed by the blind man’s feat, hastily started a collection amongst themselves, and in no time at all they’d raised 40 shillings, which was handed over to the blind pedestrian. Let’s hope he treated his pooch to a good meal with some of the proceeds!
Things didn’t always go so well, though. In 1776, a blind woman was walking along Newcastle’s Quayside, led by her dog. Unfortunately, the dog got a bit too close to the edge, and the poor woman fell into the water. It was near full tide, and a passing stranger grabbed a boat hook, managed to get hold of her dress, and dragged her back to dry land before any great harm came to her.
We found another account of a blind man falling into a river, but this time you couldn’t blame his faithful dog as it was down to foul play.
Sunday night a poor blind man, who was led about the streets by a dog, fell into the Liffey, and was drowned. This was occasioned by some abominable villain cutting the cord with which the poor man was guided by the dog. The animal displayed astonishing affection to the body of his master, when taken out of the river, by licking it over, and signifying great concern at his fate.
As we’ve discussed in previous articles, those pesky Georgians struck again with their diverse ways of taxing people. We have previously looked at a whole range of taxes from hair powder tax and window tax that were implemented during the 1700s, but we came across a tax which appears to have proposed from much earlier than we had thought – the dog tax.
This was initially proposed in 1758, along with, interestingly, a bachelor tax which was a tax on bachelors aged over 25 and widowers under 50 having no children.
Returning to the dog tax, in our research, we have never come across an Act of Parliament that has been so divisive nor taken Parliament quite so long to pass – nearly forty years!! Parliament simply could not agree on the best way to implement it.
Initially, the plan was relatively simple.
A tax for one dog of 1 shilling, for two dogs 5 shillings and for every dog between two and ten 5 shillings each. Between twenty and forty – £10 and for more than forty – £20.
Clearly this was an extremely unpopular option and eventually, after four years of debate, the whole concept was dropped in favour of a horse tax.
However, it reared its head again in the 1782 budget which said that there was to be:
An annual tax of ten guineas on every pack of hounds and five shillings for every other game dog.
This bill took a further two years to be passed by Cabinet and to then be heard in Parliament by which time they had firmed up the actual tax, which of course had increased and was more specific. It is interesting to note that a ‘guide dog’ was to be exempt.
The dog-tax bill, it is said, has passed in the Cabinet and we apprehend will be carried into the House at the ensuing Meeting of Parliament.
Greyhounds and Lurchers are to be paid for at the rate of twenty shilling each
Pointers and all other dogs of sport, ten shilling each
And dogs of different descriptions, such as mastiffs, lap-dogs etc five shillings each.
Blind men’s dogs should be exempted for the tax.
A person who keeps a flock of sheep, can very well afford to pay for his shepherd dog.
It all went quiet for a while as this proposal was thrown out by Parliament, as the collection of such a tax was deemed too difficult. However, feelings around the country ran high about the taxation of dogs, both for and against as can be seen in this letter to William Pitt the Younger, in March 1791.
Finally, according to the Staffordshire Advertiser of 19th March 1796, William Pitt gave his support to a dog tax. The tax of two shillings and sixpence (half a crown), was to be paid by all dog owners, with just a few exceptions.
This was not the end of it, however, as the battles on either side of the argument continued, so much so that even Parliament itself commented on that fact that this proposal had been kicked around for nearly forty years – clearly, they couldn’t agree on how or if to implement it.
A simple proposal was put forward that with the exception of guide dogs that everyone who owned a dog should pay a flat tax of two shillings and sixpence, which was estimated would generate an income of £125,000 per annum.
But no! This option was not suitable. Goodness, how this debate dragged on, it even became so dramatic that there was talk in Parliament of possible bloodshed across the Kingdom over it! One of the main problems appears to have been the emotional attachment we have to dogs.
Finally, we found the wording of the Act, in a newspaper dated 11th June 1796. This was nothing like keeping it simple. If it could be made complicated, then Parliament really did manage to achieve this. See what you make of it. We think it’s as clear as mud and the reference to guide dogs appears to have vanished.
The words of the Act are “That from and after the 5th day of July 1796, every person who shall keep any Greyhound, Hound, Pointer, Setting Dog, Spaniel, Lurcher or Terrier or who shall keep two or more dogs, of whatever description or denomination shall be charged and assessed annually with the sum of five shillings for each Greyhound, Pointer, Setting dog, Spaniel, Lurcher or Terrier;
and also, for each dog, where two or more dogs shall be kept, and every person who shall inhabit any dwelling house, assessed toto any of the duties on inhabited houses, or on windows or lights, and shall keep one dog and no more, such dog not being a Greyhound, Pointer, Setting dog, Spaniel, Lurcher or Terrier, shall be charged and assessed annually, with the sum of three shillings for such dog.
There are clauses which provide, that the duty shall not extend to dogs not six months old, and that gentlemen keeping hounds may compound for any number, on paying this year fifteen pounds, and every subsequent one, twenty pounds; as it is understood only three-fourths of the tax are to be collected this year.”
It’s no wonder that people began to complain about it and try to find loopholes to avoid paying – and in this instance below – winning. This remained in place until 1882.
A gentleman near Warwick, who keeps only one dog merely for the purpose of a house-dog, returned it as such to the Surveyor of Taxes. That return was objected to because, it was insisted, the dog, of a spaniel kind, was liable to the higher rate of duty, the same a sporting dog. The gentleman remonstrated; stating that the dog not being, in his opinion, a true sporting spaniel, but a common mongrel, did not, therefore, come within the letter of the Act of Parliament; and, at all events, not being trained nor even used for the purpose of sporting, most certainly did not fall within the spirit and meaning of the act. The remonstrance was, however, unavailing: and notice of an appeal was given. The case was heard before the Commissioners at Wellesbourne, when, without a moment’s hesitation, it was decided against the Surveyor of Taxes.
We have the following odd affair transmitted to us from Windsor, viz. That a few days ago there died at Portsmouth a person who had lived at Windsor for many years, and by his will order’d that a relation of his (to whom he had bequeathed his all) should go to Portsmouth, bring his body from thence in a hearse, and bury it at six o’clock in the morning, in a grave ten feet deep, in his orchard, where he had himself buried a favourite dog some time ago…
The man was John Mathews, a hat maker from Windsor in Berkshire, who died sometime in late August 1741. (It’s hard to be sure, without a ‘regular’ burial in a churchyard, but his will was opened on 27 August and proved on 3 September 1741, and the newspaper report was dated two days later.) The Will actually stipulated that John should be buried in his ten foot deep grave in his garden under the mulberry tree. No more than a dozen of his friends ‘that have been used to sport with me’ were to be present. A French horn was to be played (the newspaper said it should sound the Death of the Hare while John’s body was being lowered into the ground).
Each mourner was to get a bottle of wine and the parson, who John’s executor should choose, should have a pair of gloves.
John specifically stipulated that if he died away from his home, his executor should bring his body back to be buried beneath the mulberry tree and, if he’d already been buried, to exhume his remains and rebury them as directed. If not, the executor would ‘answer it at the last day and forfeit ten pounds to my next heir at law in three months after my decease…’.
This executor was John’s nephew, William Mathews, who lived with his uncle at Windsor. In return for carrying out his uncle’s wishes, William got the bulk of John Mathew’s wealth and possessions.
We’re not sure what John’s wife, Martha, made of all this, but she was also named in his will, getting 5l. within twenty days of his death and then 20l. a year thereafter, to be paid quarterly unless she remarried in which case her annuity would cease.
There was one further condition placed on William Mathews.
The said relation (who is not of the Establish’d Church) should within three calendar months [of John’s death], receive the Sacrament according to the Ceremony of the Church of England; and upon neglecting to comply with these things, to be cut off from all that this whimsical person died possess’d of, which we hear is about 1000l.
Can we just say here, that if this was his true fortune, we feel for his wife Martha, described by John in his Will as his ‘loving wife’. She got just a fraction and, unless her nephew allowed otherwise, doesn’t seem to have had any right to remain in her home (assuming it was owned by John and not Martha). However, the newspaper wasn’t quite correct on one thing; if William didn’t take the Sacrament, he didn’t forfeit everything, just 100l. which was to go to whoever stood next in line as John’s ‘lawful heir’.
Oh, and as a quick postscript to his Will, John left just a shilling to a niece.
The newspapers reported that the first part of this odd will had been complied with, and John had been laid to rest in his garden at 6 o’clock in the morning. A week later, twelve people were to assemble at the makeshift grave, the invites already having been sent (John’s Will, however, seems to suggest they should have been present at the burial itself), ‘and ‘tis not doubted but the last part will be perform’d in due time’.
John Mathews’ will had been written on 9 January 1738/9, but when he died just over two years later he was described as being ‘late of New Windsor in the county of Berkshire but at Portsmouth in the county of Southampton’. As a further clue to the date of John Mathew’s death, his nephew William swore that he had opened the cover in which the Will had been sealed on Thursday 27 August 1741.
We’re reminded of the phrase, mad as a hatter. Hatters, through their trade, were susceptible to mercury poisoning. Whether or not John Mathews suffered in this way, there’s no doubt he was an eccentric character both in life and in death.
National Archives, PROB 11/712/16 Will of John Mathews, Hat Maker of New Windsor, Berkshire, 3 September 1741