Elizabeth Morton and ‘The Gentleman in Black’

Elizabeth Morton was baptized May 4th May 1747 in the small, rural Nottinghamshire village of Misterton, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth. She had three siblings – Mary (25th September 1743), Thomas (25th Sept 1757) and Ann (1757).

All Saints Church, Misterton, Nottinghamshire.
All Saints Church, Misterton. Courtesy of Southwell and Nottingham Church History Project

When just 15 years old she had gained employment as a servant in the neighbouring village of Walkeringham, just over 2 miles from her home, for a farmer John Oliver and his wife Elizabeth née Clark. At that time the couple had three daughters:

Ann (baptized 12th October 1758);

Mary (baptized 7th June 1760);

Rebecca (baptized 20th May 1762)

Their son John (baptized 29th May 1763) was not born until after the incident in question.

St Mary Magdalene church, Walkeringham, Nottinghamshire.
St Mary Magdalene church, Walkeringham. Courtesy of J. Hannan-Briggs

On 10th August 1762 Elizabeth was committed to Nottingham county gaol, by Daniel Newton, one of the coroners; she was charged with the murder of an infant about two years of age, the daughter of John Oliver. The Leeds Intelligencer of 24th August 1762, reported that Elizabeth had strangled the child with her hands as it lay in the cradle. The newspaper also stated that:

there is too much reason to suspect, that this unhappy girl has murdered two other young children, in different places, where she was taken in to look after them. She is a stout made girl, has little to say for herself, can neither read nor write, and appears to be of a brutish disposition.

Some seven months later, on 10th March 1763 at the Nottingham Assizes her trial for a capital offence began i.e. the murder of a two-year-old child and the attempted murder of another child, who survived and had recovered. Also for attempting the life of another of the children, whose neck she had almost twisted round, and hid it in some straw in the barn, where it was found by its mother struggling in the agonies of death. At her trial, Elizabeth claimed that she had been incited to commit the crime by a ‘gentleman in black’ who came to her during the night (alluding to it being the devil who made her commit the crime).

The Derby Mercury of 11th March 1763 described her as:

a most profligate harden’d young wretch, the reason she gives for such inhuman acts, is that the children were cross and troublesome. Execution was respited for the time being on account of her youth.

The Derby Mercury of 1st April 1763 noted her demise.

Yesterday Elizabeth Morton, a girl of only 16 years of age, was executed at Nottingham (being her Birth-Day) for the murder of her master’s daughter, a child of two years old, who liv’d at Walkeringham, near Gainsboro’. Her behaviour since she received sentence of death has been decent. She never denied the fact but could give no satisfactory account of the motives that induc’d her to commit so shocking a crime. She was attended to the place of execution by a prodigious concourse of people where after the usual time spent in prayer with the minister, she was tuned off about one o’clock much frighted with the terrors of death.

After her death, her body was given to a surgeon of Calverton near Nottingham, to be dissected, then buried in a village near her home.

According to The annual register, or a view of the history, politicks, and literature, for the year 1763

‘… it is probable that she was an idiot …’ 

This would, if proven, have been sufficient grounds for a pardon, the register gives no indication as to whether this was tested or not.

On a final note, having found the baptism records for John Oliver’s children there are also two corresponding burials at the time Elizabeth was charged with the murder of the two-year-old. Mary was buried on 5th August 1762, but there is also an entry for the burial of Rebecca who would have been a mere three months old on 3rd August 1762 – did she die from natural causes or was she also one of Elizabeth’s victims?

 

Featured Image

Nottingham Gallows. Courtesy of University of Nottingham 

 

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The Tradition of Well Dressing

We are now approaching a fascinating tradition of well dressing. This is an annual event which takes places predominantly in villages throughout Derbyshire, but it is now also spreading to other parts of the country.

There are various ideas as to its origin varying from offering thanks to gods for a reliable water supply, to celebrating the purity of water to celebrating the waters constancy during a prolonged drought. It seems unlikely that the true origin will ever been established, but whatever its origin it is still very much alive and well today.

The village of Tissington, Derbyshire and its well-dressing or well-flowering as it was previously known, was one of the first that we came across in the Georgina era. This article in the Derby Mercury of 26 November 1823 sheds a little more light on the event.

Courtesy of calendarcustoms.com

Tissington ‘Well flowering’, Tissington, Nov 15th, 1823

TO THE EDITOR OF THE DERBY MERCURY

Sir, – Having a few days ago read in the Derby Mercury, some account relative to the above; I am induced with all deference to Mr. Rhodes, as the author, to submit to your notice a few particulars, therein omitted, which, tho’ trifling in themselves, will not, it is presumed, prove altogether uninteresting they form part of a letter, written by a youth at school, to his parents: –

During my residence in this village, I have been gratified by one of the most pleasing sights I ever beheld. I should much wish you to be present upon a similar occasion. I will, however, in the meantime, endeavour to give you something like a description of the festival to which I have alluded.

Holy Thursday, the time referred to, is observed here with an almost enthusiastic respect, amounting, in some instances, to a degree of veneration.

Tideswell Well Dressing

Perhaps, no part of the world is more peculiarly favoured by providence in the gift of good water than this village; and the above-mentioned day appears to have been fixed upon, by an almost immemorial custom, to make merry and return united thanks for the same, in the following impressive manner.

While the younger branches of the community are busily engaged in gathering flowers, moss etc. during the first part of the week, some few, of rather mature years, occupy themselves in preparing the Springs, or, as they are here called ‘Wells’, tho’ not exceeding in depth a foot and a half, to receive their annual decorations.

Arches, or other fancy shapes, are accordingly formed out of a strong plank, upon which, fine clay, worked to the consistence of stiff mortar, is spread, and the embroidering part, if I may be allowed the expression, commences.

A Well Dressing in the making (Hollinsclough, 2006). Courtesy of Welldressing.com
A Well Dressing in the making (Hollinsclough, 2006). Courtesy of Welldressing.com

Various tasteful devices are now sketched on the clay, upon which, short ellipt flowers, of diverse sorts and colours, among which, the blood daisy, from its rich velvet hue, is held in greatest esteem, are stuck thereon, so extremely close and regular that not the least atom of the ground-work can be seen; each Spring also a flower printed Motto, in allusion to the ascension of our Saviour. For instance

I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God’

St John, chapter 20, verse 17.

On the principal Well, May 16th 1822:

The joyous day at length arrives, ushered in by the ringing of bells, and smiling faces; the decorations are speedily erected over the wells, while garlands, bough etc. disposed in the most fantastic and fairy-like manner, embellish the whole.

And now, labourer, stand thou still ‘tis a holyday for all; the poorest peasant has contrived, out of his hard earnings, to brew a ‘peck of malt’ to treat the passing guest; all doors are thrown open, and all comers experience the English Farmer’s hearty welcome.

‘Around the glossy board in sparkling pride,

The oft fill’d Tankard reels’.

One particular which tho’ last not least, is, that an appropriate sermon is preached; after which the music and signers go around, accompanied by hundreds of visitors from many miles and sing a psalm at each Spring.

With regard to the origin of the above, I have not been able to gather any certain information; prevailing opinion however, dates its rise from the Druids; be that as it may, the custom, as practised at Tissington, far exceeds in beauty and chastity of style everything that is generally conceived of Village rusticity.

Holymoorside well dressing celebrating Jane Austen, and with Chatsworth House in the background.
Holymoorside well dressing celebrating Jane Austen, and with Chatsworth House in the background. Via Chatsworth House twitter @ChatsworthHouse.

For those interested in visiting a well dressing this year, this link will take you to this year’s calendar.

Featured Image

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Lover's Leap, Eyam, Derbyshire, Looking West, 1890s by William Highfield (1870-1957), Courtesy of Eyam Museum

‘Lover’s Leap’, Derbyshire

Just outside the village of Eyam, in the Peak District lies the village of Stoney Middleton where, according to folklore, in 1762 a young woman by the name of Hannah Baddeley, who was born in the late 1730s, tried to commit suicide by throwing herself over the cliff top.

This is her story as told by a somewhat over enthusiastic reporter for The Buxton Herald, some 80 years later the event, so read into it as you wish! We have tried to find references to the story closer to its time, but somehow the press of the day managed to miss this story, despite reporting similar ones, as you will see at the end.

Lovers Leap. In 1762 Hannah Baddeley was the most beautiful girl in Stoney Middleton. Unable to face the future after being rejected by her lover William Barnsley, she decided to end her life. She climbed the cliff above you, proclaimed her love for William and jumped. Her woollen petticoats billowed out and parachuted her down to safety, Cured of her desire for William, she died December 12th 1764. Derbyshire folklore
© Copyright David Lally and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Hannah Baddeley, a very beautiful young lady was greatly admired for the ardour of love which her incomparable charms created in the bosom of the village swains of Stoney Middleton, the place of her birth and residence. Amongst the many who sought to obtain the affections of the innocent young Hannah, was a young, intelligent man, named Baldwin, who, after countless visits had the happiness to think that his labour would be crowned with success. Enraptured with joy, Baldwin became even more assiduous until he beheld in ecstasy the unequivocal signs of reciprocal affection.

Humble in worldly circumstances, yet the loving couple felt all the blissful glow, the undefinable and delicious sensation of first, pure love. Often, they walked forth and enjoyed their lonely wandering a happiness that to them momentarily increased. The tangled walks along the rugged steeps which overhang the village of their homes, were as a paradise; their hearts were entwined round each other in all the glowing fervency of concentrated bliss.

Months passed away, yet the blissful sunshine of love, in which Baldwin and Hannah walked seemed to increase in glowing, fervent and deeply intoxicating splendor: they were happy and dreamed not of its transitory nature. Alas! Alas! experience tells us of countless instances, in which suns have risen in hope and glory, in which bright prospects of future happiness have been suddenly overshadowed and darkened by the sable shades of maddening disappointment, bitterly agonizing.

Inscrutable as are the operations of the human mind, still, from certain effects, it may be presumed that there is in reality a kind of similarly exiting between the immaterial portion of man, and the material things of the world. When any physical agent or instrument is exercised immoderately, it is soon destroyed; so with the mind, if any of its affections be excited to an unnatural height or pitch, it will, if not regulated in time, lose its zest, become in a manner paralyzed and decay.

The conduct of Baldwin might be instanced in corroboration of the opinion here advanced: for, strange and novel as it may appear, in about twelve months from the commencement of his love for the lovely Hannah, he relapsed gradually into a state of luke-warmness as respects his passion, and at length into total apathy. His visits became less frequent and soon ceased forever. But how was this borne by the lovely confiding Hannah she sank beneath the stroke with all the terrible anguish of a broken spirit. For hours she would sit gazing at the wall in silent stupefaction; then would burst forth a flood of tears bringing short solace. Hapless Hannah! Despair at length began to urge her to escape the bitter pangs she endured by self-destruction: terrible – awful remedy!

A Country Girl by Paul Sandby, c.1760s. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
A Country Girl by Paul Sandby, c.1760s. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

After a few months past in this deplorable condition, Hannah resolved to put period to her miserable existence by throwing herself from one of the highest rocks in Middleton dale, a resolution too horrible to contemplate. She repaired to the top of a towering rock early in the morning of the day following her resolution. Her bonnet and handkerchief she laid on an adjoining thorn, and with clasped hands and loose hair waving in the morning breeze, she passionately thus exclaimed

‘O my Baldwin, my Baldwin, false Baldwin, no I will not call thee false, my love, my life, thee whom I loved, I still love thee still. O my love, wilt thou not come to my grave and shed one tear to the memory of her who died for thee? I’ll bless thee again, my love, and then from this dizzy height I’ll cast myself and prove to thee and the world, my love is stronger than death. I sink, I go, my love, my love’.

Hannah sprang from the rock, which is upwards of eighty feet high, but incredible as it may seem, she fell upon a rocky projection, then among some thorns which then grew from the side of the rock, and reached the ground very little injured. The villagers were soon on the spot, and the rash maid was conveyed home, but the sense of her miraculous escape totally erased from her mind the maddening it of love under which she had laboured. She lived a few years after, unmarried and died after having spent that period in a pious and highly exemplary manner*. Such is a brief outline of the story which has been given the designation ‘Lover’s Leap’ to the high and romantic rock in Middleton Dale – a story well authenticated, as may be satisfactorily proved.

Not until the last line of the article does the author tells their readers that ‘the name Baldwin is assumed in consequence of the author not having any means at hand to ascertain the real name of Hannah’s lover‘. Quite why he came up with that name will remain a mystery!

As with any folklore story, newspapers over time have recorded events somewhat differently, some saying that her fall was broken by some small trees and when found she was taken home and gradually recovered from the serious injuries, although she was crippled as a result of the fall.

Other accounts say that she was found by workmen at the pit and when asked how she fell she said that she had been walking up the dale to fetch the cows and her foot slipped.

We know that Baldwin was not the real name of the gentleman, but other reports name him as Johnson and say that he was quite a charmer and told all the young girls the same story about how much he loved them, Hannah was, apparently, just one of many and that he moved on from the neighbourhood after this occurrence. According to reports locally however, the gentleman in question was in fact a William Barnsley.

This idea of young women throwing themselves off high cliffs after being rejected seems to have been somewhat more commonplace than you would have imagined, as there are several places named ‘Lover’s Leap’ around the country, all with similar stories as their origin. We’ve listed a few below, including one leap down the necessary!

True Briton, Wednesday, February 1, 1797

 

St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, April 25, 1769 – April 27, 1769

 

* Although we have not been able to view the parish records for Stoney Middleton, another site appears to confirm Hannah’s burial on the 12th December 1764 and gives her parents’ names as William and Joan Baddeley.

Sources used:

Derbyshire Courier, 21 September 1878

The Derby Mercury, Wednesday, February 14, 1883

The Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, Saturday, May 04, 1889

True Briton, Wednesday, February 1, 1797

Featured Image (although not Georgian it shows exactly where Lover’s Leap is):

Lover’s Leap, Eyam, Derbyshire, Looking West, 1890s by William Highfield (1870-1957), Courtesy of Eyam Museum

 

Punch or May Day by Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1829; Tate;

May Day: the tradition of the Jack-in-the-Green and chimney sweeps

May Day, or, Jack-in-the-Green

We’ll banish Care, and all his Train

Nor thought of Sadness round us play

Fly distant hence, corroding pain

For happiness shall crown this Day.

(20th June 1795)

A Jack-in-the-Green was once a traditional sight amongst English May Day celebrations. Dancing at the head of processions on the day, often noisy and drunk, the Jack-in-the-Green was a man who covered himself in a conical or pyramidal framework decorated with green foliage, concealing his body. He resembled a walking tree or bush. The parades were riotous affairs, usually consisting of a King and Queen (or a Lord and Lady) as well as the Jack-in-the-Green, together with jesters, clowns, chimney sweeps and musicians.

A Jack-in-the-Green procession in a village, with the Jack in the centre flanked by two figures, and two children dancing in the foreground. c.1840. © The Trustees of the British Museum
A Jack-in-the-Green procession in a village, with the Jack in the centre flanked by two figures, and two children dancing in the foreground. c.1840. © The Trustees of the British Museum

It is believed that the custom began from the tradition of making garlands of flowers for May Day and got a little out of hand, resulting in the Jack-in-the-Green being covered head to foot. Although no-one is too sure why the Jack-in-the-Green is usually associated with chimney sweeps. One theory is that it was the Sweeps Guilds who increasingly enlarged the size of the May Day garlands, hoping that the people watching the procession would give them their coins as they passed by rather than donate them to the other participants in the parade. (May Day was a traditional holiday for chimney sweeps; it is sometimes known as ‘Chimney Sweeper’s day’.) First recorded in London, Jack-in-the-Greens were soon appearing across the country.

Sweeps' Day in Upper Lisson Street, London, British School, c.1835-37. Museum of London
Sweeps’ Day in Upper Lisson Street, London, British School, c.1835-37. Museum of London

Although Jack-in-the-Greens can still be seen in some town and village May Day celebrations, often associated now with the custom of the Green Man and signifying spring and rebirth, the custom largely died out in the Victorian era, replaced instead by a more sedate May Queen.

We’ve found some references to eighteenth-century May Day celebrations which include Jack-in-the-Greens in the newspapers. The earliest known reference dates to 1775.

Jack of the Green had made his garland by five in the morning, and got under his shady building by seven…

(Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 2nd May 1775)

May Day - or Jack in the green, 1795. © The Trustees of the British Museum
May Day – or Jack in the green, 1795. © The Trustees of the British Museum

May Day in London, 1786 was awash with events which caused the newspapers to take note. Warren Hastings, statesman and first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal, India was facing questions by government ministers over his role in the Maratha War, Frances Lewis stood trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Ann Rose and a Jack-in-the-Green merrily cantered through the London streets.

LONDON

Yesterday being the first of May, several curious Circumstances took Place. – The Sweeps and Milkmaids, with Jack o’ th’ Green, danced through the Streets – Mr. Hastings appeared at the Bar of the House of Commons to defend his Cause, though no Impeachment is yet made out – And a Woman tried a the Old-Bailey for the Murder of another Woman, was found guilty of Manslaughter.

(Northampton Mercury, 6th May 1786)

View of the large detached Montagu House at the north west corner of Portman Square, its name derived from Elizabeth Montagu, who the house was built for; figures in colourful costumes dance on street outside supported by men with instruments, a small crowd gathers to watch, the building was demolished in the Blitz. 1851 © The Trustees of the British Museum
A later view of the large detached Montagu House at the north west corner of Portman Square, its name derived from Elizabeth Montagu, who the house was built for; figures in colourful costumes dance on street outside supported by men with instruments, a small crowd gathers to watch. © The Trustees of the British Museum

LONDON

Yesterday being the 1st of May, the Honourable Mrs. Montague entertained the Chimney-sweepers according to annual custom, with roast beef, mutton, and baked plumb-pudding, in the lawn of her house in Portman-square, and after their regale gave them each a shilling. Mrs. Montague appeared in good spirits among the Nobility whom she invited to see the motley company. The outside of the place was thronged with people, carriages, and carts; among the latter several broke down by being overloaded with spectators. The Duchess of York, in her curricle, stopped some time, and seemed highly delighted with the Jacks in the Green, the pyramids of tankards, and the dancing of the sweeps and their ladies on the lawn.

(Staffordshire Advertiser, 6th May 1797)

Frederica, Duchess of York, 1795. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Frederica, Duchess of York, 1795. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

We’ll leave you with this video of a modern day Jack-in-the-Green, from the May Day Festival at Hastings in 2016.

Sources not mentioned above:

Jack in the Green – a chimney sweep’s tale by Lucy Lilliman, Social History intern at Leeds Museums and Galleries, 2013

The Company of the Green Man – The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green

Header image:

Punch or May Day by Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1829; Tate;

Fortune-Telling using Moles

Yes, this is folklore, unless anyone can confirm otherwise, and no, we are not talking about the small furry creature kind of moles! These are often referred to as birth marks or beauty marks and judging back the lack of images we have been able to find depicting people with moles, it seems likely that the artists of the day possibly ignored these.

cover

According to ‘Every lady’s own fortune-teller, or an infallible guide to the hidden decrees of fate, being a new & regular system for foretelling future events’ which was published towards the end of the 1700s, experience shows that the presence of moles can provide clues as to one’s future. So do let us know if you have a mole and if the statement pertaining to it is true – we would love to know.

First it is necessary to know the size of the mole, its colour, whether it is perfectly round, oblong or angular because each of those will add to, or diminish the force of the indication. The larger the mole, the great will be the propensity or adversity of the person; the smaller the mole, the less will be his good or bad luck.

lwlpr06283
A mole on either cheek signifies that the person never shall rise above mediocrity in the point of fortune, though at the same time he never will sink to real poverty. Image courtesy of Lewis Walpole

If the mole is round, it forebodes good; if oblong, a moderate share of fortunate events; if angular, it indicates a mixture of good and evil.

The deeper its colour, the more it announces favour or disgrace; the lighter the less of either.

If it is very hairy, much misfortune is to be expected, but if few long hairs grow upon it, it denotes that your undertakings will be prosperous.

We will further remark only, that moles of the middling and common size and colour are those we speak; the rest may be gathered from what we have said above; but as it may frequently happen that modesty will sometimes hinder persons from showing their moles, you must depend upon their own representation of the for your opinion.

A mole that stands on the right side of the forehead or right temple, signifies that the person will arrive to sudden wealth and honour.

On the right eyebrow, announces speedy marriage, and that the person to whom you will be married will possess many amiable qualities and a good fortune. On the left of either of those three places, announces unexpected disappointment in your most sanguine wishes.

A mole on the outside corner of either eye, denotes the person to be of a steady, sober and sedate disposition; but will be liable to a violent death.

A mole on either cheek signifies that the person never shall rise above mediocrity in the point of fortune, though at the same time he never will sink to real poverty.

A mole on the nose, shows that the person will have good luck in most of his or her undertakings.

A mole on the lip, either upper or lower proves the person to be fond of delicate things, and very much given to the pleasures of love, in which he or she will commonly be successful.

A mole on the chin, shows that the person will be attended with great propensity and be highly esteemed.

A mole of the side of the neck show that the person will narrowly escape suffocation, but afterwards rise to great consideration by an unexpected legacy or inheritance.

A mole on the throat denotes that the person shall become rich by marriage.

A mole on the right breast, declares the person to be exposed to a sudden reverse of comfort to distress, by unavoidable accidents; most of his children will be girls. A mole on the left breast, signifies success in undertakings, an amorous disposition and that most of his children will be boys. Under the left breast over the heart shows that a man will be of a warm disposition, unsettled in mind, fond of ramblings, and light in his conduct; in a woman, it shows sincerity in love, quick conception and easy travail in childbirth.

A mole of the belly denotes the person to be addicted to sloth and gluttony; selfish in almost all articles and seldom inclined to be nice or careful in point of dress.

A mole on either hip shows that the person will have many children and that such of them a survive will be healthy, lusty and patient of hardships.

A mole of the right thigh shows that the person will become rich and have good luck in marriage. On the left, denotes that the person suffers much by poverty and want of friends.

A mole on the right knee, signifies that the person will be fortunate in the choice of a partner for life and meet with few disappointments in the world. One on the left knee portends that the person will be rash, inconsiderate and hasty, but modest in cool blood, honest and inclined to good behaviour in every sense of the word.

A mole on either ankle denotes a man to be inclined to effeminacy and elegance of dress: a woman to be courageous, active and industrious.

A mole on either foot forebodes sudden illness or unexpected misfortune.

A mole on the right shoulder signifies prudence, discretion and wisdom. On the left, declares a testy contention and ungovernable spirit.

A mole on the right arm denotes vigour and undaunted courage; on the left resolution in battle.

A mole near either elbow denotes restlessness, a roving and unsteady temper, also a discontentedness with those the person is obliged to live constantly with.

A mole between the elbow and the wrist promises the person prosperity, but not until he has undergone many hardships.

A mole on the finger or between it and the ends of the fingers, signifies industry, fidelity and conjugal affection.

A mole on any part of the shoulders to the loins signifies imperceptible decline and gradual decay, whether of health or wealth.

A mole on the loins shows vigour, especially in the duties of love.

 

Featured Image

Mrs Bridget the Norwood Gipsey

We came across a book written in 1790 entitled The Universal Fortune Teller and concerning a gypsy, Mother Bridget of Norwood, one of the infamous Norwood gypsies who died in 1768. The Norwood gypsies lived in the area now known as Gypsy Hill. The book gives us description of Bridget along with details of fortune telling, some of which we can share with you.

mother-bridget-of-norwood

According to the book Bridget’s parents died when she was young and she was left to raise herself and managed to support herself by begging. She gained a knowledge of the solar system by spending her nights, when it was clear, considering the stars as the greatest astrologers had done and this gave her a great knowledge of the weather, the alterations of the air and the effect it had. With her knowledge and understanding she advised local farmers about growing crops and they would seek her out for her opinion as to when to they should sow their seeds for the best crop yield.

British (English) School; Two Girls Consulting a Gipsy Fortune-Teller; National Trust, Felbrigg Hall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/two-girls-consulting-a-gipsy-fortune-teller-171228
British (English) School; Two Girls Consulting a Gipsy Fortune-Teller; National Trust, Felbrigg Hall

She was described as a solitary person, preferring to avoid noise and society in general which initially led to her being ridiculed, but eventually she gained respect.

Her fame began to spread and her presence became universal, other people apart from farmers and her neighbours consulted her and the truth of her predictions made her veracity gain ground and she became the topic of conversation of the politest circles, many of whom came to consult her, and as she never asked for money so the unbounded generosity of those who applied to her oracle put her in possession of money more than sufficient to keep her.

love-marriage-and-destiny

As she grew older she became increasingly fond of animals, who were her chief companions and she was said to have hundreds of them.  Dogs and cats were her main companions during her retirement. She was exceedingly fond of pipe tobacco and was continually smoking. Ultimately though, as a result of sitting for such long periods of time her body became almost doubled, which, together with her enormous length of nose and chin, her pipe and the number of animals about her, made her cut a most hideous figure and appeared rather terrifying to those who were not apprised of it.

Morland, George; Gipsy Camp; The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/gipsy-camp-39194
Morland, George; Gipsy Camp; The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

Though this famous old woman had never been taught to write, yet by long practice she had developed a system of hieroglyphics in which she recorded her observations, knowledge and remarks. The author of the book took Bridget’s hieroglyphics and converted them into English. The remainder of the book consists of:

Fortune telling by use of the planets, cards and dice etc

Interpretation of dreams

A brief prognostication concerning children born on any day of the week

And amongst many other things the art of palmistry. palmistry

Now, be honest, you did look at your own hand after viewing this image didn’t you? We did! To find out more about any of these topics we recommend taking a peek at the book itself which can be read online (page 63).

 The Norwood gypsies became synonymous with that area, so much so that in 1777 a pantomime was written about them and was performed at Covent Garden Theatre for many years.

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Monday, November 24, 1777.

Covent-Garden Theatre

Ladies and Gentlemen who have places for 7th night of the new comic opera will please observe it will on Wednesday next. Tomorrow the tragedy of Sir Thomas Overbuy, to which was be added a new pantomime (never performed) called the Norwood Gypsies, which new music, scenes, machinery decorations etc.

The Green Man of Brighton – Henry Cope

Following one from one of our earlier posts about the colour green, we find ourselves once again on the same topic. This time however, it is about an English eccentric: Henry Cope aka The Green Man. It is reported that Henry loved anything and everything green. This extract about Henry comes from The Omnium Gatherum, 1809.

The Green Man at Brighton – Amongst the visitors this season is an original, or would-be original, generally known by the appellation of ‘The Green Man’. He is dressed in green pantaloons, green waistcoat, green frock, green cravat and though his ears, whiskers, eye-brows and chin are better powdered than his head, which is, however, covered with flour, his countenance, no doubt, from the reflection of his clothes, is also green. He eats nothing but greens, fruits and vegetables; has his apartments painted green, and furnished with green sofa, green chairs, green tables, green bed and green curtains. His gig, his livery his portmanteau, his gloves and his whips, are all green. With a green silk handkerchief in his hand and a large watch chain with green seals, fastened to the green buttons of his green waistcoat he parades every day on the Steyne, Brighton.

Henry Cope by an unknown artist, published 1806. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Henry Cope by an unknown artist published 1806.
© National Portrait Gallery, London

He became so famous that a verse was written about him, also contained in the above book.

ballad-of-henry-cope-the-green-man

Virtually nothing seems to be known of his early life, but many tall tales were told about him. Henry was reputed to have been a descendant of Sir John Cope, owner of Bramshill House, Hampshire (now Bramshill Police College) and Henry’s ghost is one of many said to haunt the house. The Morning Advertiser (10 October 1806) however, claimed that The Green Man was a student of Lincoln’s Inn, his mental faculties deranged by intense study, and a near relative of the Duchess of Dorset, Arabella Diana née Cope, daughter of Sir Charles Cope, 2nd Baronet. Others said that he had lost his wits over his love for a beautiful woman. Perhaps she was the Crazy Jane mentioned in this snippet?

Morning Post, 13 October 1806

An interesting young female, in whimsical attire, resembling the costume of the time of Queen ELIZABETH, appeared on Friday evening on the Steyne, at Brighton, in quest, as she said, ‘of the “Knight of the Green Man, who had stolen the wits of Crazy Jane.” She, however, precipitately retired to her residence, before the crowd around her could increase.

A portrait on the Sotheby’s website supposedly shows Henry Cope, The Green Man, as a young man c.1765-1770, identifying him as one of the family of Cope of Bramshill House and holding a ring. The catalogue notes suggest that possibly the portrait was commissioned to mark the sitter’s marriage, but no record of a marriage exists. What happened to Henry Cope’s bride-to-be? Perhaps this might also be a clue to his mental affliction? The artist was Francis Cotes who died 1775.

Portrait of Henry Cope, 'The Green Man', half-length, wearing green and holding a ring in his left hand. Sotheby's
Portrait of Henry Cope, ‘The Green Man’, half-length, wearing green and holding a ring in his left hand. Sotheby’s

His fame soon spread, and the London newspapers continued to run stories, laughing at his expense.

Morning Advertiser, 16 October 1806

The servant of the Green Man at Brighton arrived yesterday in town, at the Green Man and Still in Oxford-street, for the purpose of contracting with an eminent Poulterer to supply him constantly with green geese at any price at which they can be obtained. The Physicians have pronounced that the unfortunate man is afflicted with the green sickness.

(A green goose is one which is killed when under four months old, and eaten without any stuffing, and hypochromic anaemia was, historically, referred to as ‘the green sickness’.)

The Little Green Man or the Bath Bugabo, or the Widows Terror, 1802. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
The Little Green Man or the Bath Bugabo, or the Widows Terror, 1802.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Henry Cope’s death is often said to have taken place in 1806 as a result of either committing suicide or accidentally falling off a cliff in Brighton. The newspapers of the day suggest that such an event occurred, but he did not die as a result of it.

Staffordshire Advertiser, 01 November 1806

Last Saturday morning, a little after six o’clock, the gentleman and other eccentricities (exhibited on the Steine, at Brighton, for several weeks past) had obtained the appellation of The Green Man, leaped from the window of his lodgings on the South Parade, into the street, ran from thence to the verge of the Cliff nearly opposite, and threw himself over the precipice to the beach below. Several persons immediately ran to his assistance, and carried him, bleeding at the mouth and ears back to his lodging. The height of the Cliff from whence he precipitated himself is about 20 feet perpendicular; but whether his fall has proved dangerous we have not yet heard. From the general demeanour of the above gentleman it is supposed he is deranged. His name, we understand is Henry Cope, and that he is related to some highly-distinguished family.

The Pavilion & Steyne at Brighton, 1806. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
The Pavilion & Steyne at Brighton, 1806.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Morning Post, 24 October 1806

The Green Man of Brighton has received no serious injury from his late accident, though it has effected some change in his colour – for he has ever since looked rather blue.

Several newspapers related that The Green Man had fancied that there was a serious riot in progress and that his presence was needed to quell the disturbance. The person in whose house he was living travelled to London, to contact Cope’s friends and ensure his future safety (Morning Post, 22 October 1806). It would seem, therefore, that the unfortunate Henry Cope lived primarily in London, and his friends did indeed take measures to prevent him from harming himself again for he found himself in St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics in London.

st-lukes-hospital-london

Almost a year later, according to the Morning Advertiser of 5th September 1807, he was still alive but presumably in dire straits.

This day an auction at Fisher’s Rooms, St James’s Street, excited much attention. It consisted of the wearing apparel, gold watch, chain and seals, and other effects belonging to the well-known character, Mr. Henry Cope, commonly called The Green Man, taken in execution for board, lodgings etc. Most of the articles of dress were sold far below their original value and real worth. They were purchased by some of the most respected people, more for curiosities than for use. A full green suit, not much the worse for wear, and consisting of coat, pantaloons, and waistcoat were knocked down at 1l 6s; another green coat and pantaloons, of somewhat a darker hue, went off at 6s 6d; and a green great coat, of exactly the same tinge, at 1l, 12s.  The chapeau de bras, which had been so often and anxiously gazed at by all the fashionable fair upon the Steyne, and public promenades during last season, was disposed of at the moderate rate of one guinea; and for the same amount also went off the miniature set in gold of the beautiful Dulcinea, for whom it is said this unfortunate gentleman has gone mad. It is reported that he is at present in that unhappy state in St. Luke’s hospital, London. The most valuable article, however, disposed of upon this occasion, was a gold repeater, with its chain and seal, which originally cost Mr. Cope 188 guineas. Upon the seal was beautifully engraven the arms and supporters of Earl Vernor, the title this insane Gentleman thought to assume. In the inside of the watch were also engraven ‘the Right Hon. H. Cope, Earl Vernor’ but not withstanding these claims to rank and high estimation, it was sold at the reduced price of 39l 7s 6d. Such are the bargains to be got at Brighton. If sold in London these articles would, no doubt, from the eccentricity of the character to whom they once belonged have brought double the sum.

We have searched as many places as we can think of to locate his death and burial, but all in vain. If anyone out there has any luck please do let us know.