An ‘Irregular’ marriage – Arthur Annesley Powell, did he go willingly?

Today we are supplying a little extra information on one of the people mentioned on our ‘sister’ blog, The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman. Arthur Annesley Powell was the husband of Fanny Chapman’s aunt, Jemima Neate.

The Elopement, or Lovers Stratagem Defeated. Courtesy of the British Museum.
The Elopement, or Lovers Stratagem Defeated.
Courtesy of the British Museum.

Annesley Arthur Roberts was born on the 15th April 1767, son of Elizabeth née Powell and William Roberts and was baptized at St George, Hanover Square, London.


In 1774 at the tender age of just 7 Arthur, as he was known, was sent to be educated at Harrow and according to the archivist, Joanna Badrock, this was the earliest case of a child starting at Harrow that she had come across.


In 1784, at just 17 he was admitted to Wadham College, Oxford, so we can only assume that he was quite an intelligent and well educated young man, an important assumption in light of later events!


In May 1783 his uncle, John Powell , owner of Quex House, died, so leaving no wife or children left the major part of his estate for the use of his eldest nephew, Arthur, son of his sister Elizabeth Roberts, on the condition that he change his surname to Powell.

The name change had to be ratified by Act of Parliament and this act confirmed that ‘the fruit of Powell’s body would also be entitled to continue to inherit the estate from him’. This legal change of surname however, didn’t take place until 1789, but he was commonly known as Powell straight after his uncles death.

So those are the facts. We have an intelligent and wealthy young man presumably with a bright future ahead of him, so what happened next?

Well, he was to meet a woman, some 10 years older than himself, Miss Jemima Neate and this is where we begin the story of his ‘irregular’ or clandestine marriage.

We discovered through the archives that on the 15th February 1788 a court action to nullify the marriage was taken by his father who was acting on his sons’ behalf as he was still regarded as a minor as he was still just under 21 at the time. The purpose of the Marriage Act of 1753 which came into effect March 1754, was to abolish clandestine marriages and to introduce the veto by parents on marriages of their under 21 year old children. Both aims were defeated for many reasons, but the main way of avoiding the new law was by marrying in Scotland.

There were four types of matrimonial suits open to litigants in ecclesiastical courts. The first were nullity suits, which challenged the legal validity of the marriage itself. Among those which were void in themselves were unions which involved incest, which usually meant marriage with a deceased wife’s sister, or with a niece or nephew; or an incapacitating state of mind or body—such as lunacy or male impotence (and, very rarely, female frigidity, or physical deformation of the vagina)—which prevented the essential purpose of marriage, namely sexual intercourse.

The allegation being, that whilst at Wadham College, Oxford in 1786, Fanny Chapman’s aunt, Jemima who was aged 28 and conversant in ‘the arts and management of crafty’ (don’t you just love that phrase), preyed on this soon to be exceptionally wealthy young man, described by his father as being ‘a youth of very weak faculties’ , in a nutshell Arthur’s father stated that Jemima was, what we would call today a ‘cougar’ and was after his billions!

The document reports that a plot or scheme was hatched by Jemima and her sister Christiana Chapman née Neate and other members of the family by ‘exercising an undue and improper influence over the great weakness of his understanding to entrap him into the Celebration of Marriage with Jemima, secretly and clandestinely without the consent of his father’.

It was alleged that about 6am on the 8th July 1786 at the house of Jemimas’ father William Chapman, Jemima and her sister Christiana gave him some tea for his breakfast and unknown to him, contrived to mix some drug or unknown medicine with a soporific nature in it. As to what Arthur was doing at their house apart from simply paying them a visit we have no idea and this was never questioned.

Apparently, he drank the tea, became drowsy and was bundled into a post chaise with members of the family who promptly headed off towards Scotland, so that a marriage could take place. It was alleged that he had further drugs administered during the journey, presumably to keep him sedated. When they arrived at Durham or Newcastle upon Tyne, it is alleged that they purchased some porter at an inn which they put into a glass bottle containing more drugs and gave that to him to drink too. So he was comatose throughout the journey!

Coldstream Bridge, linking Coldstream, Scottish Borders with Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, is an 18th-century Grade II listed bridge between England and Scotland, across the River Tweed.

They travelled onward to Cornhill in County Durham where they arrived about midnight on the 10th of July, Cornhill being about a mile and a half from Coldstream where they alighted at an inn known as The Bee Hive. The women then sent a messenger to procure a parson. A person calling himself Richard Powley and describing himself as the Episcopal Minister of Kelso in North Britain arrived, agreed his fees with Christiana.

Jemima, Christiana, Richard Powley and Arthur, all four in the same chaise proceeded across the Tweed to Coldstream, Arthur being under their control the whole time, although still slightly affected by the drugs he put up no resistance.

Marriage and Toll House at Coldstream Bridge

They arrived at an inn at Coldstream run by a George Weatherhead, about one o’clock on the 11th July 1786 where the marriage took place in the presence of Richard Powley, who was later described as not being a minister and that he was pretending. This fact was not checked out during the case, as if it were it would have possible to establish that he was actually a minister. They swiftly returned to London after the marriage had taken place.

Both the Public Advertiser and General Advertiser of the 15th July carried an announcement of their marriage, but sadly provided no further evidence of exactly where or when it took place. It also remains a mystery as to who notified the newspapers of this event if it weren’t true and why make such a public announcement of a clandestine marriage?

There is no judgement in this case but we know that Jemima not only retained the Powell surname but received £500 a year from Powell (about £30,000 in today’s money), we also know that a lawyer wrote to Mrs Powell only a month after the marriage, so clearly there was an assumption at that stage that the marriage was legal and everyone knew about it, so, putting all the evidence together the most likely reason for the nullity petition seems to be that Arthurs’ father was trying to protect his sons inheritance.

To a certain extent it did work as the couple only remained married for less than 3 years when they went their separate ways, but Arthur did not marry again, so arguably it did not work out at all well for him!

Arthur pursued a career in the military. The next time we hear anything of Arthur was when he shot Lord Falkland. The newspapers of the day providing us with all the details. Seemingly he managed to avoid prison or death at this time. He lived on until 1813 when he died as a result of a fall from his horse. We know far more about Jemimas life through her niece Miss Fanny Chapman whose diaries are available to read on our ‘sister’ site.

Annesley - MI

Although we don’t have any portraits of Arthur we have managed to find one for his younger brother John, who, as Arthur had no children, inherited Quex Park in Kent.


So, we are still left with the question of who to believe,

Did Jemima entrap the ‘very weak of faculties’ Arthur or did he go willingly and then regret it on his return?

Did they live together as husband and wife on their return?

Why did his father wait two years before pursuing a court case to have the marriage nullified, what happened during those two years?

Sadly, we have more questions than answers. Certainly Jemima’s family felt that she had been wronged but, given that she managed to receive £500 a year, it does look as if she wasn’t going to disappear quietly!

Sources Used

Deed Poll Office

Stone, L,  1990 –  Road to Divorce England 1530 – 1987, Oxford University

Crosby’s Complete Pocket Gazetteer of England and Wales

The Monthly Magazine, 1820

Fragmenta Genealogica

The Waterloo Tower


Fanny Chapman’s Diaries Continued 1837 – 1841


1st Sept 1840

Well, our summer break is over and our blog posts resume. We hope that for those of you who have had a break that you’re back feeling refreshed and invigorated.

We have been busy working with George and Amanda Rosenberg to finish putting together  Fanny Chapman’s later diaries so with fanfares and trumpets we can announce that the later diaries for the years 1837 – 1841 are now accessible by following this link to Fanny Chapman’s Diaries.

As well as having taken an extremely long break from writing her diary, the period moves to the Victorian Era and you will notice that the style of her diaries has initially changed in parts,  she simply provides us with people she has called upon that day and then people who have called upon her. Perhaps being older this  type of record keeping had become important to her, we will never really know.

As with the earlier ones we have added some beautiful illustrations that we hope will make it even more fascinating to read including pictures of Fanny and her sister Emma as older women.

Fashion plate for February 1839 from Ladies’ Pocket Magazine (LA Public Library; Casey Fashion Plates)

George and Amanda, owners of the diaries are busily working on an index for each year which, given the number of people Fanny knew, is no mean feat. As soon as that is complete we will  include it on the site. We are discovering new information almost daily about both about Fanny and her family, so it remains a ‘work in progress’, but we hope you will enjoy it.

Miss Fanny Chapman
Miss Fanny Chapman

We would love to hear from anyone who recognizes or knows anything about anyone named in her diaries. We can be contacted either via the blog or on Twitter – @sarahmurden, @joannemajor3 or @chapmandiary.


The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman

We are delighted to announce a ‘sister’ site to All Things Georgian, and would like to introduce to you ‘The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman’ which can be accessed by clicking here.

Some time ago we were approached by George and Amanda Rosenberg who had enjoyed our blog posts on this site, and thought we might like to host the diaries that they had painstakingly transcribed which were written by Fanny during the Regency, late Georgian and Victorian eras (George descends from Fanny Chapman’s family).

We were both thrilled and somewhat overwhelmed when he sent us the diaries and associated information, and quickly decided that they deserved a site of their own, for they are quite wonderful to read, and we hope that others will find them as fascinating as we have done. They are still a ‘work in progress’ as George and Amanda have far more information than we have managed to pull together as yet, so please keep checking back for further developments.

Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman
Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman

Christiana Fanny Chapman was born in 1775 to Henry Chapman and his wife Christiana (Kitty) nee Neate. Her diaries were kept in the form of notebooks and a number of loose pages and cover the years 1807 to 1812 when she lived in and around Bath and in Somerset with her aunts Jemima Powell and Mary Neate (Mary was also Fanny’s godmother), very much dependent upon them. The diaries describe their everyday life, their circle of friends and the social routine of the minor gentry of the time.

Batheaston Villa c.1825
Batheaston Villa near Bath, c.1825, Fanny’s home up to 1809.

A constant presence in the diaries is Fanny’s uncle by marriage, Colonel John Hutton Cooper. He had been the second husband of Fanny’s aunt Phillis, who had been left a wealthy widow upon the death of her first husband, Charles Meniconi. When Phillis died she left everything to Cooper, including the villa in which they all lived, probably upon the understanding that he would continue to provide for her sisters and nieces (Fanny had a sister, Emma). Cooper reneged on that agreement, but George believes, and (after reading the diaries) we agree, that Fanny was more than a little in love with her widowed uncle, at least initially. Emma later described Cooper as a ‘reprobate and a fortune hunter’.

John Hutton Cooper
John Hutton Cooper

Fanny’s diary ends in 1812, and then recommences in 1837, just weeks after the young Queen Victoria had ascended the throne. With her two aunts dead, Fanny is living in Bath with her sister, finally her own mistress. Her aunts both left Fanny the main beneficiary of their wills.

Milsom Street, Bath, where Fanny lived during her later years.
Milsom Street, Bath, where Fanny lived during her later years.

Whilst the diaries which cover the years 1807 to 1812 are all fully available, the ones covering the Victorian years will be added to the site shortly.

This painting depicts the moment in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday 20th June 1837 when Princess Victoria hears of her accession to the throne. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
This painting depicts the moment in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday 20th June 1837 when Princess Victoria hears of her accession to the throne.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015

The diaries end in 1841, but Fanny lived many more years, not dying until 1871 at the grand old age of ninety-five years.

Please feel free to share this with anyone whom you may feel will be interested in these diaries. You may also wish to follow @ChapmanDiary on twitter.

Miss Fanny Chapman
Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman

Diaries of William Goodwin (1746 – 1815)

Earl Soham is a traditional village lying in the heart of the Suffolk countryside on the Roman road that leads from the Suffolk coast to Stowmarket and as usual whilst stumbling around searching for something completely different we came across the Earl Soham village website and within it was a link to a collection of diary entries written by the Georgian surgeon, William Goodwin.

They have been carefully transcribed for the period 1785 – 1810 and make fascinating reading so we couldn’t resist adding the link to our blog so that you could peruse them at your leisure.  Apart from treating his patients, which entailed travelling long distances virtually every day Goodwin managed to find the time to keep a diary of daily life, national and international events:-

March 28th 1785 Wind W. very Cold; Frost sharp within doors, Therm’tr in Parlour 3 deg. Below Freesing –

The ground cover’d with Snow

 For the Rheumatism Take a Teaspoonfull of Aether in a glass of water 3 or 4 times a Day – sometimes add a few Drops of Laudanum – The above is thought infallible

May 1785 On an Average the Amount of our Taxes is 30-000£s a Day… (1/2 page)

86-000£ was produc’d by the Duty on Muslins in the last quarter, wh. was equal to a whole year’s income on that Article previous to Mr. Pitts Smugling Bill –

There were 240£ in Drury Lane at Mrs Siddon’s benefit and twice that amount eager for admission and could not get in – ?What a Symptom of our Poverty!

A recipe for yeast, we have absolutely no idea whether it works or not!

August 1798

Persian Yeast

Take a teacupful of split peas, boiling water one pint, infuse them all night, in a warm place, or in winter longer; the froth that arises will answer as Yeast

Also amongst his entries were records of all the carts passing through the village and recorded any possible contraband for example in 1785 he recorded that

‘2500 Gallons of Smugled Spirits were carried thro’ this village in 20 carts within the last six Days

16th Five Smugling Carts past through this Village at 8 this Morning loaded with 150 Tubs of Spirits containing 600 Gallons’

Chasing Smugglers on a Rocky Coast; British School
British School; Chasing Smugglers on a Rocky Coast; National Maritime Museum

There are some mildly amusing entries and for a ‘Top Tip’ if you’re bitten by a mad dog you should:-

‘Wash the part immediately with warm water – continuing the operation for an hour at least, by which. the poison will be prevented entering the Circulation’

Another extract from his diary, that we would recommend that those with a sensitive constitution avoid was regarding the death of his mother Sarah; presumably, William would have assumed that his diary was private and that no-one would ever read his scribblings:-

Friday ye 20th of Sept’r 1793 Died Mrs Sarah Goodwin, my dear mother, aged 81 years and 9 months – She vomited many gallons of bile in the Course of the 8 days she laid ill – suffer’d little or no pain, and went off without a groan’

The Oxford Journal of 18th March 1815 confirms the demise of William, described as ‘an eminent and skillful physician‘. William was buried on the 3rd March at St Mary’s, Earl Soham aged 69.

The diaries can be read online here.

The Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter

For anyone who has not come across Agnes Porter before, she was a prolific writer of letters and, like many women of her day, she also kept a journal. Both her journal and letters were a serendipitous discovery several years ago in the attic of Penrice Castle, by Joanna Martin, who has spent time both transcribing and researching them in order to write a book about the life of Agnes which largely consists of extracts from both her letters and journals along with some background information about Agnes and the Georgian period.

Agnes was born not long after the Jacobite rising of 1745, in Edinburgh and lived between 1784 and 1806 in Somerset and then South Wales. She was governess to the children and grandchildren of the second Earl of Ilchester.

Our interest in her is somewhat superficial to be perfectly honest. Agnes appears to have been very fond of ‘name dropping’ in her journal and letters and as usual we stumbled across her purely by chance when researching a possible link to a lady who we think may have had a familial connection with a Rev’d David Williams. Agnes, it appears  was a close friend of his wife . David was for some years the vicar at Wroughton, a small parish in Wiltshire, his predecessor in that post being Agnes’s father.

Rev’d Williams we know had two brothers, Evan Williams, whom along with another brother, Thomas were booksellers and stationers in London.

We also noticed that Agnes’s sister Frances was friends with a Mrs Dyke of Syrencot House, Figheldean, Wiltshire.

William and Elizabeth Dyke had 5 children, one of whom, Caroline born c.1776, went on to marry Rev’d James Williams of Matherne, Monmouthshire by licence on the 19th May 1803 at Figheldean Parish church where James was a curate at the time. The Rev’d James Williams and Caroline went on to have four children – Samuel Rosser Williams, Elizabeth Arabella Williams, Frances Maria Williams and Thomas Lewis Williams.

We know that James was a beneficiary in the will of a relative of the lady we are researching which makes it seems highly likely, given the personal nature of the bequest, that  he had some close familial connection to her, but we have yet to verify the connection.  The family moved to Mathern, Monmouthshire as the memorial inscriptions inside the church testify.

Sacred to the Memory of The Rev James Williams MA in the Commission of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant of this County who died January 31 1846 at Clifton Aged 76