Cuper’s Gardens, Lambeth’s pleasure ground

Cuper’s Gardens were described as a ‘scene of low dissipation… noted for its fireworks, and the great resort of the profligate of both sexes’. Opened in the late 17th century, they were pleasure gardens (and later a tea garden) in Lambeth on the Thames shoreline and named after Abraham Boydell Cuper, the original proprietor of the land which he leased from Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel (Cuper was the earl’s gardener). In the early days, the site was also known as Cupid’s Gardens.

Last Monday in the Evening, a Gentleman dropt down dead at Cupid’s Gardens, just as he was going to drink a Glass of Wine, having the Glass in his Hand.

Stamford Mercury, 21st May 1724

The ‘Georgian Heroine’ of our latest book, Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, was born in the early 1760s and grew up in a house on Narrow Wall in Lambeth, close by Cuper’s Gardens, but this was after its days as a pleasure ground. Instead, Charlotte knew the land as a scene of industry, the once ornate grounds dominated by a vinegar and ‘mimicked wine’ factory owned by Mark Beaufoy who was a great friend to the Williams family. No doubt Charlotte heard the tales of the great entertainments which had taken place at Cuper’s Gardens, though.

Here are pleasant Walks and Places of great Report, particularly Cuper’s Garden, Spring-Garden, and Lambeth Wells, where they drink the purging Waters. Here, in the fine Season of the Year, a Multitude of young people from London divert themselves; and there is every Evening Musick, Dancing, &c.

The guests to the gardens even included royalty, for Frederick, Prince of Wales was known to occasionally frequent them. (Frederick, the heir to the throne, predeceased his father, King George II whom he was famously at loggerheads with.)

Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his sisters by Philippe Mercier; National Portrait Gallery, London.
Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his sisters by Philippe Mercier; National Portrait Gallery, London.

From 1738 until 1740 Cuper’s Gardens were owned by a man named Ephraim Evans who improved them by installing a bandstand from which he offered concerts in the evening; after his death his widow, Nem became the proprietor. Nem Evans was described as ‘a woman of discretion’ and ‘a well-looking comely person’ and she played the hostess behind the bar during the musical entertainments. Under her direction, the gardens continued their heyday, for a time at least.

We hear that at Cuper’s Gardens last Night, among several favourite Pieces of Musick, Mr Handell’s Fire Musick, with the Fireworks, as originally perform’d in the Opera of Atalanta, was received with great Applause by a numerous Audience.

London Daily Post, 10th July 1741

Map showing Cuper's Gardes, 1746. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Map showing Cuper’s Gardens, 1746. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

There is every Evening a very great Resort of Company at Cuper’s Gardens. The extraordinary Fireworks, which are almost every Night different, are allow’d to excel all that ever were before exhibited in this Kingdom.

Daily Advertiser, 3rd June 1743

View of the Savoy, Somerset House and the Water Entrance to Cuper's Garden (bottom right). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
View of the Savoy, Somerset House and the Water Entrance to Cuper’s Garden (bottom right). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

On Monday next will be opened CUPER-GARDENS, kept by the Widow Evans; where there are great Alterations and Decorations in an elegant manner, and hopes the Continuance of the Favours of her Friends and Acquaintance, who may depend upon good Entertainment of all sorts, with a good Band of Musick, and Fireworks, with great Improvements; and the Bowling Green is in good Order.

General Advertiser, 4th May 1744

On the 1st May 1749, the gardens opened for the summer season with a recreation of the temple and fireworks which had been seen at Green Park to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.

A Perspective View of the Building for the Fireworks in the Green Park, Taken from the Reservoir, 1749. Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection.
A Perspective View of the Building for the Fireworks in the Green Park, Taken from the Reservoir, 1749. Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection.

The extravagant fireworks came at something of a cost, however, and accidents did occur.

On Monday Morning, as four Men were preparing the Fire-works to be exhibited in the Evening at Cuper’s Gardens, the Powder by some Accident took fire, and two or three of the Men were much hurt by the Explosion.

Remembrancer, 2nd June 1750

The Licensing Act came into effect in 1752 and Nem Evans was refused a licence for Cuper’s Gardens on the grounds – which she disputed – that the gardens were no longer ‘respectable’. In the summer of 1753, she reopened them as a tea garden and held occasional private evening entertainments for subscribers.

I dined the other day with a lady of quality, who told me she was going that evening to see the ‘finest fireworks!’ at Marybone. I said fireworks was a very odd refreshment for this sultry weather; that, indeed, Cuper’s-gardens had been once famous for this summer entertainment; but then his fireworks were so well understood, and conducted with so superior an understanding, that they never made their appearance to the company till they had been well cooled, by being drawn through a long canal of water, with the same kind of refinement that the Eastern people smoke their tobacco through the same medium.”—Warburton to Hurd, July 9th, 1753.

By the time of Nem Evans’ death in July 1760, the gardens had closed for good. She was buried alongside her husband in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Newington and changes were soon afoot in her former pleasure ground.

It is said a new Street is going to be made from one End of Cuper’s Gardens to the other, and that each House will have a pretty Garden behind it.

St James’s Chronicle, 17th June 1761

Entrance to Cuper's Gardens, North Lambeth, c. 1750. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Entrance to Cuper’s Gardens, North Lambeth, c. 1750. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

They have for some time been cutting down the Trees in Cuper’s Gardens, in order to build a handsome Street upon that Spot.

Public Advertiser, 11th March 1762

In the 1740s, Mark Beaufoy had established a vinegar and ‘mimicked wines’ distillery near his three-storey house at Cuper’s Bridge Lambeth and, following the closure of the adjoining pleasure ground, he took on the lease, expanding his business.

Beaufoy's Distillery in Cuper's Gardens, c.1798
Beaufoy’s Distillery in Cuper’s Gardens, c.1798

There is a magnificence of business, in this ocean of sweets and sours, that cannot fail exciting the greatest admiration: whether we consider the number of vessels or their size. The boasted tun at Heydelberg does not surpass them. On first entering the yard, two rise before you, covered at the top with a thatched dome; between them is a circular turret, including a winding staircase, which brings you to their summits, which are above 24ft in diameter. One of these conservatories is full of sweet wine and contains 58,109 gallons; or 1,815 barrels of Winchester measure. Its superb associate is full of vinegar, to the amount of 56,799 gallons, or 1,774 barrels, of the same standard as the former.

Besides these, is an avenue of lesser vessels… After quitting this Brobdignagian scene, we pass to the acres covered with common barrels: we cannot diminish our ideas so suddenly, but at first we imagined we could quaff them off as easily as Gulliver did the little hogsheads of the kingdom of Lilliput.

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

In 1813, part of Cuper’s Gardens was bought for the construction of Waterloo Bridge Road and the Beaufoys relocated to land off Walnut Tree Walk.

We’ll leave you with a little premonition of the future, which was displayed in Cuper’s Gardens.

Mr Moore’s undertaking to make carriages go without horses, having engrossed a large share of public attention, a Correspondent assures us, that something of the same nature was done several years ago by Mr Arthur, the comedian, who constructed a chariot, which went of itself several times up and down the Mall in St James’s Park; and that a person at Trowbridge also contrived a waggon to go without horses, which was shewn to many hundreds of people in Cuper’s-gardens, and for some little time afforded great satisfaction; but one of the springs breaking, the whole machine became disordered, and the mob at length broke it all to pieces.

Kentish Gazette, 12th April 1769

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs is available now in the UK and coming soon worldwide and is available from Pen & Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Featured image: View of Beaufoy’s Distillery, formerly Cuper’s Gardens; the site of the Waterloo Bridge Road; a large warehouse on the left with barrels piled up outside, 1809. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Sources not referenced above:

Will of Nem Evans, widow of Lambeth, PROB 11/857/434, National Archives

A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers, and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800: Eagan to Garrett, Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans, SIU Press, 1978

Le guide des etrangers: on le compagnon necessaire & instructif à l’etranger & au naturel du pays en faisant le tour des villes des Londres et de Westminstre. Joseph Pote, 1740

Handbook of London: past and present, Volume 1, Peter Cunningham, J. Murray, 1849

Beaufoys of Lambeth by David Thomas and Hugh Marks, Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society

London: Being an Accurate History and Description of the British Metropolis and Its Neighbourhood, to Thirty Miles Extent, from an Actual Perambulation, Volume 4, David Hughson, 1807

Cuper’s Gardens, John Cresswell, Vauxhall History online archive

London; or, An abridgement of the celebrated Pennant’s description of the British capital and its environs, John Wallis, 1790

Advertisements

Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs: A Georgian Heroine

We’re celebrating the release of our third biography, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs which is out now in the UK (and coming soon worldwide) and can be found at Pen & Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.

It has been an immense pleasure to research Charlotte’s life even if, at times, she has frustrated us beyond measure. Her almost pathological desire to remain anonymous in her lifetime tested our abilities to the limit, but we rarely admit defeat and eventually we managed to piece together Charlotte’s story. And what a story it is!

If we had written her life as a novel, we’d probably have been accused of being too far-fetched but – amazingly – Charlotte’s story is all true, in parts tragically so but she triumphed over her adversities, continually adapted to her circumstances and succeeded in the most audacious ways possible.

Three eldest princesses by Thomas Gainsborough. Royal Collection Trust
Three eldest princesses by Thomas Gainsborough. Royal Collection Trust. Charlotte came to the attention of the royal princesses.

We are also delighted to have finally given Charlotte ownership of her voice which, while it was heard during her lifetime across the country and in establishments ranging from the Houses of Parliament to royal palaces, was always heard anonymously, or at least so discreetly that the public at large were unaware of Charlotte’s identity. Because of this, she has been overlooked by history and her achievements remain largely unrecorded and, in some cases, wrongly ascribed to other women of her generation. Now we can finally put the record straight with the release of A Georgian Heroine.

 Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs lived an incredible life, one which proved that fact is often much stranger than fiction. As a young woman she endured a tortured existence at the hands of a male tormentor, but emerged from that to reinvent herself as a playwright and author; a political pamphleteer and a spy, working for the British Government and later singlehandedly organising George III’s jubilee celebrations. Trapped in France during the revolutionary years of 1792-95, she published an anonymous account of her adventures. However, was everything as it seemed? The extraordinary Mrs Biggs lived life upon her own terms in an age when it was a man’s world, using politicians as her mouthpiece in the Houses of Parliament and corresponding with the greatest men of the day. Throughout it all though, she held on to the ideal of her one youthful true love, a man who abandoned her to her fate and spent his entire adult life in India. Who was this amazing lady?

In A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, we delve into her life to reveal her accomplishments and lay bare Mrs Biggs’ continued re-invention of herself. This is the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.

Featured image: Hotwells and Rownham Ferry by William Williams; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives. Charlotte lived in Bristol in later life.

Bude Haven by Joseph Stannard.

The Ringers of Launcells Tower

The Ringers of Launcells Tower; Frederick Smallfield; Royal Institution of Cornwall. This painting was inspired by a poem called 'The Ringers of Launcells Tower' by Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow. In this poem, the bell ringers who had rung the bells at the accession of George III in 1760, were still alive and able to ring the bells on his Golden Jubilee in 1810. The church of Launcells is midway between Stratton and Bude. As the painting was done 77 years after George III's Golden Jubilee, it is a total reconstruction.
The Ringers of Launcells Tower; Frederick Smallfield; Royal Institution of Cornwall

We came across this piece of art whilst researching the heroine of our latest book, Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs. The painting was inspired by a poem called ‘The Ringers of Launcells Tower’ that was written, some decades after the event, by Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow and which we thought we would share with you.

Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow in 1864, who wrote a poem called ‘The Ringers of Launcells Tower’.

The Ringers of Launcells

They rang at the Accession of George the Third and lived to ring again at the fiftieth anniversary of his reign.

They meet once more! That ancient band –

With furrowed cheek and failing hand, –

One peal today they fain must ring

The Jubilee of England’s King!

*************

They meet once more – but changed are now

The sinewy arm and laughing brow:

The strength that hail’d in former times

King George the third with lusty chimes!

*************

Yet proudly gaze on that lone tower!

No goodlier sight hath hall or bower, –

Meekly they strive – and closing day

Gilds with soft light their locks of gray!

*************

Hark! Proudly hark! With that true tone

They welcomed Him to Land and Throne,

So ere they die they fain would ring

The Jubilee of England’s King!

*************

Hearts of old Cornwall! Fare ye well,

Fast fade such scenes from field and dell,

How wilt thou lack, my own dear land,

Those trusty arms, that faithful band!

*************

Launcells is a rural hamlet between Stratton and Bude in Cornwall where, during the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century, there lived six bell ringers. The six men are identified as John Lyle (1736-1832), Richard Hayman (1739-1816), John Ham (1742-1825), Richard Venning (1744-?), Henry Cade and John Allen.

Stratton by Charles Henry Branscombe
Stratton by Charles Henry Branscombe; Bude-Stratton Town Council

John Lyle was the longest living member of the group and was born and bred in Launcells and remained there his entire life. He was reputed to have rung a merry peal for King George III’s coronation in 1760, then again for his golden Jubilee in 1810, then for the coronation of King George IV in 1821 and, as unlikely as it seems, also for the coronation of King William IV in 1831, just one year before he died at the ripe old age of 96. That was quite some achievement. Two others also lived long enough to join John Lyle in ringing the peals for George IV’s coronation, Richard Hayman and John Ham.

George III (1738-1820) by Allan Ramsay
George III (1738-1820) by Allan Ramsay; City of London Corporation

The only other member we managed to find out anything about was John Ham who began his working life as an apprentice cooper to the Lyle family in 1754 and who married Anna Maria Lisle in 1761 at the parish church in Launcells.

The painting was a reconstruction of the scene as Frederick Smallfield imagined it would have looked, depicting the six bell ringers ringing the bells as part of the celebrations for the golden jubilee of King George III. It was clearly important to Smallfield that he captured everything correctly so he studied bell ringers at his local church as well as visiting the church tower in Launcells.

Bude Haven by Joseph Stannard.
Bude Haven, Cornwall by Joseph Stannard; Newport Museum and Art Gallery

We know that great celebrations were held across the country to celebrate the jubilee of King George III in 1809 as it was our very own heroine who instigated them. References to this painting seem to confirm though that the bell ringing took place in 1810, i.e. at the end of King George III’s 50th year on the throne.

Three eldest princesses by Thomas Gainsborough. Royal Collection Trust

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs – cover reveal

We’re massively excited to reveal the cover for our next book A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs which is due to be published later this year, again by Pen & Sword Books. It is now available to pre-order via Pen & Swords Books or Amazon and all other bookshops.
A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden

Rachel or Charlotte as she preferred to be known, really has tested our detective skills as she spent her life ‘under the radar’ despite everything she actually achieved in life and remained something of an enigma.

Lambeth Palace and St Mary's Church with St Paul's by William Marlow
Lambeth Palace and St Mary’s Church with St Paul’s by William Marlow; Government Art Collection

This book really has been a long time in the writing, as every time we thought we had found out all there was to know about her, Charlotte threw us another snippet, as if from nowhere, and off we disappeared again down yet another rabbit hole.

Putney Bridge and Village from Fulham, London
Putney Bridge and Village from Fulham, London; Museum of London

We thought we would share with you a little about how we came across Charlotte and what a complete nightmare and joy she has proved to be. We have gone through so many emotions we can’t begin to describe whilst piecing together her life.

Briton Ferry, Glamorgan by Julius Caesar Ibbetson
Briton Ferry, Glamorgan by Julius Caesar Ibbetson; Tate

Whilst researching Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s life (for our first book, An Infamous Mistress) we came across Charlotte’s name in connection with the home of one of Grace’s relatives. Our first thought was that it was a vaguely interesting snippet of information and perhaps worth, at the very most, a paragraph in Grace’s book, but absolutely nothing more than that.

An Account of the Celebration of George III's Jubilee in 1809

We then came across Charlotte’s ‘Testament’, her version of events that took place during her teenage years. At this point we knew her full life story needed to be told – she would either be immensely proud or absolutely furious that we haven’t left her to rest in peace (probably the former, if we’re honest).

Covent Garden Theatre from Microcosm of London, courtesy of British Library
Covent Garden Theatre from Microcosm of London, courtesy of British Library

At first, we couldn’t decide whether her Testament was a work of fiction or a factual account of shocking events that took place during her teenage years. We debated for months about her, swaying from completely believing her account, to thinking it was mere fiction as it read so much like a tragic Samuel Richardson novel.

Hotwells and Rownham Ferry by William Williams; Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives
Hotwells and Rownham Ferry by William Williams; Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives

I (Sarah) was less convinced than Jo that she was telling the truth, but the more we uncovered the more persuaded I became that the majority of it was true, too many of the facts checked out for it to be fiction.

House of Commons from Microcosm of London. Courtesy of the British Library
House of Commons from Microcosm of London. Courtesy of the British Library

So, with that one part of her life pieced together, in our usual detective fashion we simply had to find out more, where did she come from and what happened to her after this shocking ordeal? So off we went, desperate to find the missing pieces of the jigsaw.

The Conciergerie, Paris, by Henry Edridge,. Courtesy of The Yale Center for British Art
The Conciergerie, Paris, by Henry Edridge,. Courtesy of The Yale Center for British Art

What we discovered about her was far from anything we could ever have imagined. After a horrendous ordeal, she completely reinvented herself.

The York to London Coach at Bedale, c.1840; The British Postal Museum
The York to London Coach at Bedale by Anson Ambrose Martin; The British Postal Museum & Archive; c1840 (not quite Georgian)

We came across Professor Linda Colley’s book ‘Britons: Forging The Nation 1707-1837’ in which our heroine gets a mention. Colley describes her as:

an obscure, middle-class widow from the Welsh border’

From the Welsh borders – almost true. Obscure – well perhaps, she shunned the limelight, not that limelight was easy to achieve at that time for a woman. Middle class – probably. A widow – well, that’s another mystery which we’ll reveal in our book!

Rather than tell you more about the story itself we have included rather a lot of what appear to be random images, for which we offer no explanation, apart from to say that if you read the book they will make sense to you.

Louis XVI of France bids his farewell to the people of Paris, 1793. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Louis XVI of France bids his farewell to the people of Paris, 1793. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Charlotte was in fact, the instigator of our ‘All Things Georgian‘ blog as we needed to find somewhere to store pieces of information we had found about her, so we have been writing about events in Charlotte’s life in a variety of blogs for quite some time now as we’ve pieced together her life, these include:

Reverend William Dodd

‘Clarissa’ and ‘ Pamela’ by Samuel Richardson

Countess Leonor D’Oeynhausen (1750-1839)

Rolinda Sharples (1793-1838)

Helen Maria Williams

Arabella Williams – Le Petit Matelot

Robert Carpenter, Drury Lane actor

Rehab for 18th-century prostitutes – The Magdalen Hospital

The Dunston Pillar: celebrating the 50 year reign of King George III

Finally, to whet your appetite we’ll leave you with the back of the jacket.

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden

Header image: The three eldest princesses by Thomas Gainsborough. Royal Collection Trust.

Making a sailor a free mason Piercy Roberts 1807, Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Signs & signals used by the members of the Society of Freemasons 1724

As part of our research for our next book, we briefly delved into the secret world of the Freemasonry, specifically, Bartholomew Ruspini and his acquaintances.

Bartholomew Ruspini, Wellcome Library
Bartholomew Ruspini. Stipple engraving by W. S. Leney.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

So, today we thought we would share with you some information from a book we came across from 1724, The secret history of the free-masons. Being an accidental discovery, of the ceremonies made use of in the several lodges.  The book contained a dictionary explaining the private signs or signals used by the members of the Society of Freemasons and though there were too many for us to include all of them, we thought you might find this selection interesting.

unknown artist; Portrait of a Freemason; The Library and Museum of Freemasonry; 

As to the truth or accuracy of these, we couldn’t possibly comment, but it seems highly unlikely that any of these are in use today. How on earth people remembered all these discreet codes remains a mystery, so we’ll be testing you later just to be sure you’ve learnt them all!

Back. To put the right hand behind him, fetches a member down from any edifice that is not built to a Holy use and to put the left hand behind him, signifies that the member must come to the public-house nearest the place where he is at work, whether it be tavern, alehouse or the like.

Belly. To put the right hand on it, is a sign for the member to be in the Mall in St. James’s Park in an hour. And to put the left hand upon the belly, is a sign for his being in Westminster Abbey in two hours.

Westminster Abbey; British School | Bowles, Thomas, Government Art Collection.
Westminster Abbey; British School | Bowles, Thomas; Government Art Collection

Breast. To clap the right hand upon the right breast is a signal for a member to meet him makes it in St Paul’s Cathedral at the time of morning prayer. And to clap the left hand upon the left breast, signified you will be at St Paul’s Cathedral at the time of evening prayer.

Button. To rub the right hand down the coat buttons is a sign for a member to be upon the Royal Exchange at the beginning of change time. And to rub the left hand down the coat buttons signifies he shall be at the Sun Tavern in Threadneedle Street, as soon as change is over. Also, to rub the right hand down the waistcoat buttons signifies he must be at The Horns Ale House in Gutter Lane at nine of the clock the next morning. And to rub the left hand down the waistcoat buttons signifies that you must be at the same alehouse at eight of the clock next night.

Cheek. To scratch your right cheek with either hand signifies the member must be in Lincoln’s Inn Walks at eight of the clock next morning. And to scratch his left cheek with either hand signifies he must be walking under the chapel of the same Inn next day about dinner time.

Dog. If the member that makes the sign has a dog with him and calls him to him to stroke him, it signifies that the member to whom the sign is made must be in the long Piazza in Covent Garden, at two of the clock in the afternoon.

Covent Garden, British School, Government Art Collection.
Covent Garden; British School; Government Art Collection

Eye. To rub the right eye with either hand signifies the member must come to his house that makes the sign, at seven of the clock next morning. And to rub the left eye with either hand signifies that he must go to the same place at dinner time.

Heel. To touch the heel of either shoe, with either hand, by lifting it up, signifies that the member must be at the King’s Arms in Southwark, precisely by noon.

View in St James's Park; British School; Government Art Collection
View in St James’s Park; British School Government Art Collection

Knee. To touch either knee, with either hand, signifies the member must be walking upon the Parade in St. James’s Park, about four of the clock in the afternoon.

Paper. To send a piece of paper done up like a letter, tho’ there is nothing writ in it, signifies the member to whom it is sent must be at the Bussler’s Head Tavern by Charing Cross at four of the clock in the afternoon.

Sword. To put either hand upon the hilt of the sword signifies the member must be at The Half Moon Tavern in the Strand by eight of the clock at night.

Buckingham House, c1754. Courtesy of British Museum
Buckingham House, c1754. Courtesy of British Museum

Watch. To pull a watch out of the fob signifies the member must be walking by Buckingham House, in St. James’s Park about one of the clock in the afternoon.

Youth. To send a letter with the word Youth writ in it signifies the member must be walking behind the Banqueting House in White-Hall at four of the clock in the afternoon.

Banqueting House in Whitehall (1723-1724) Courtesy of British Museum
Banqueting House in Whitehall (1723-1724) Courtesy of British Museum

Zachary. To send a letter with only the word Zachary writ in it signifies the member must be at the Sun Tavern in King’s Street in Westminster, at eight of the clock at night.

Chevalier Ruspini, the founder of the first school, leading the pupils into Grand Lodge in the presence of HRH George, Prince of Wales.
Chevalier Ruspini, the founder of the first school, leading the pupils into Grand Lodge in the presence of HRH George, Prince of Wales. Courtesy of Freemasonry Today, 13 March 2013

Featured Image

Making a sailor a freemason, Piercy Roberts 1807, courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library.

Rehab for 18th century prostitutes – The Magdalen Hospital

So you’ve sinned and need rehabilitation in eighteenth-century London; where would you go? Well, that was easy, you applied to The Magdalen hospital in London. The hospital was established by laymen rather than the clergy, in particular a Robert Dingley (*see end of article for more information) who, with a committee including Rev. William Dodd, referred to it as a hospital but who insisted that it be more akin to a home.

by John Dixon, after William Hoare, mezzotint, (1762) by John Dixon, after William Hoare, mezzotint, (1762)
by John Dixon, after William Hoare, mezzotint, (1762)

It was to be a safe place for girls and women in eighteenth-century London (similar hospitals were sent up around the world too) where they could be rehabilitated and resume a good and honest life.

Saint Mary Magdalene reading in a landscape, Correggio, Bonhams
Saint Mary Magdalene reading in a landscape, Correggio. Courtesy of Bonhams

The first general meeting to discuss setting up such a place took place on the 1st of June 1758 and it was agreed that:

There was to be a ‘superiority of ward, the lower wards to take ‘inferior person’ or those ‘degraded for misbehaviour’.  The women might be promoted to higher wards.

The matron was to inspect the inmates’ correspondence.

Inmates were to be known by their Christian names alone. If further differentiation were needed, the name of the ward, or a number, should be added.

Various kinds of employment were suggested

We then have the most poignant sentence at the end:

… always observing in this and every other circumstance the utmost care and delicacy, humanity and tenderness; so that this establishment, instead of being apprehended to be a house of correction, may be gladly embraced as a safe, desirable and happy retreat from their wretched and distressful circumstances.

It took very little time to raise the funds required and secure appropriate premises.  Staff were duly appointed.

Staff appointed

The first admission was Ann Blore, a native of Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Two other women were promised admission as soon as they were cured of disease. One was admitted as servant to the matron and Mary Truman was rejected as she wasn’t a prostitute.  Admissions day was the first Thursday of the month at 5pm and women were not permitted to be either pregnant or suffering from any disease.

Petition for AdmissionThe house was divided into parts in order to make total and distinct divisions of the objects, and the rooms were distinguished by being numbered.  The women were classed in each ward. A proper number of women were appointed to perform all the domestic business of their respective wards and the household and to keep the chapel clean. Each woman lay in a separate bed and had a box for her clothes and linen, under lock and key which was kept by herself. Strict regard was had by the matron and her assistants to ensure that the wards were kept completely ventilated and the air pure – they visited the chambers and working rooms frequently each day to ensure this. Friends or relations of the women could apply to visit and visits were held under the supervision of the matron.

Upon admission their clothes are taken from them and returned to them when they leave. They are issued with grey shalloon gowns, all women worn the same ‘uniform’. Their diet/meals were agreed by the overseeing committee with a copy of the meals being hung on a board in each ward.

A Magdalen in 1760

All women are actively employed in tasks suiting their ability predominantly sewing, any occupation that will aid employment when they leave.

From Lady-day to Michaelmas they rise at six and go to bed at ten; and from Michaelmas to Lady-day rise at seven and in bed at nine; and after that time no fire of candle are allowed, except in the sick ward.

Breakfast was taken at 9 o’clock and they were allowed half an hour, they dined at one o’clock and were allowed one hour; and left off work at six in the winter and seven in the summer.

Magdalen by Thomas Rowlandson
Magdalen by Thomas Rowlandson

The hospital had opened on 10th August 1758 and by its 10th anniversary some 1,036 women had been admitted.

509 had been reconciled to and received by their friends or placed in services in reputable families and to trades

38 proved lunatics, and afflicted with incurable fits

28 died

150 were uneasy under restraint and dismissed at their own desire

37 never returned from hospitals, to which they were sent to be cured

201 were discharged for faults and irregularities

73 were still present

Total 1,036

Did this method of reform work? Well seemingly so, if you believe the statistics, it did. To correct and to train rather than to punish seemed to be the order of the day. The hospital adapted to change over the years and finally closed its doors in 1966.

For anyone wishing to find out more about the Magdalene laundries in Ireland which were set up a few years after the one in London you may find wish to follow the link here.

Image of the hospital

 

*  More about Robert Dingley

Robert Dingley was born around 1710 , the eldest surviving son of Susanna and Robert Dingley, a prosperous jeweller and goldsmith of Bishopsgate Street, London. Robert took a keen interest in the arts and became a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was also founder member of the Society of Dilettanti, held a lifelong career with the Russia Company and was also Director with the Bank of England and trustee at the Foundling home.

On December 30th 1744 Robert married Elizabeth Thomson, daughter of Henry Thomson Esq, of Kirby Hall, Yorkshire.

Elizabeth was to die in 1759 and Robert married his second wife, Esther Spencer the following year, on 21st March 1760. Esther died 1784.

Robert died 1781 and there is a memorial for both Robert and Esther in the same church.

There is an obelisk and bust of Elizabeth (Thompson) Dingley at St Luke’s church, Charlton, Kent
There is an obelisk and bust of Elizabeth at St Luke’s church, Charlton, Kent.

They had a daughter, Susanna Cecilia (1743–1795) of Lamb Abbey, near Eltham, Kent, who married Richard Hoare (d.1778) of Boreham House, Essex, a partner in Hoare’s bank, in 1762.

Richard Hoares' marriage to Susanna in 1762 in the presence of her father Robert. The marriage was carried out by none other than Rev. William Dodd.
Richard Hoares’ marriage to Susanna in 1762 in the presence of her father Robert. The marriage was carried out by none other than Rev. William Dodd.
Mrs Susanna Hoare and Child by Joshua Reynolds; The Wallace Collection
Mrs Susanna Hoare and Child by Joshua Reynolds; The Wallace Collection

The couple had five children, and the present picture probably depicts their eldest child, called Susanna Cecilia after her mother, who died young in 1768. In 1765 Mrs. Hoare paid 70 guineas for the picture, which was probably painted 1763–1764.

Robert and his first wife also had a son Robert Henry Dingley.

There is no trace of Robert having left a will, but his second wife Esther left a will in which she made provision both of Robert’s children.

Sources Used:

The Magdalen Hospital: The Story of a Great Charity, 1917

An account of the rise, progress, and present state of the Magdalen Hospital, for the reception of penitent prostitutes. Together with Dr. Dodd’s sermons…, 1770

The Environs of London: Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent

Featured Image:

Courtesy of British Museum

General Jean Sarrazin

general-sarrazin pic for blog

 

This week we planned to write about  one of the French Generals, however, there has been a change of plan as we have had the immense honour of  being asked to write a guest blog for the wonderful Madame Gilflurt,renowned for her love of Georgian gossip and whose fascinating blog is one we would highly recommend to all our readers.   Our blog concerns General Jean Sarrazin, one of Napoleon’s highest ranking generals, a spy, traitor to his country and not just a bigamist but worse, a trigamist! Learn all about him at Madame Gilflurt’s A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life‘.