We have written about Samuel Oliver on a several previous occasions and as I keep saying, ‘he just keeps on giving’. Following on from how popular his comments were in the last article regarding the burial of his parishioners, here we go again with some more notes I have just found that were filling the empty pages of the baptism, marriage and burial registers for the parish of Whaplode, in rural Lincolnshire. If you wish to read the images more clearly, just click on them.
Quite a risky thing to do, but we begin with his justification for keeping notes about his parishioners – he thought they would be helpful to future incumbents of his post! I wonder if they were, of whether they were more a reflection on his personality.
He clearly didn’t approve of the school teacher’s morals, describing him as an infidel, so much so that Samuel felt the need to take over the running of the school himself.
Sunday November 8th, 1818
In the afternoon of this day, during the time of divine service, Joseph Blacksmith (Farmer of the great Tythes) and William Heeley (acting overseer of the poor); grossly insulted me, whilst officiating afterwards, Heeley annoyed some of the congregation. But on Wednesday Mr Blacksmith came to me with much apparent contrition and gave me five pounds as a commutation for punishment, which I sent immediately to the Society for promoting Christian knowledge. Heeley also came the same day, but without any appearance of penitence, and gave me seven pounds, which I have appropriated, wholly, to the Poor of this Parish. Dec 2nd, 1818.
The saga didn’t end there though:
On Sunday, December 20th, 1818, Jane Blacksmith, the mother and Staveley Blacksmith, the brother of the above named Joseph Blacksmith; grossly insulted me, the moment I came out of the church, without any provocation or shadow of reason. This I reported to the Arch Deacon, who sent a severe monition to the Church Wardens, which threw the whole parish into consternation; and at two Vestry meetings, after Staveley Blacksmith, Thomas Allen and John Burton, had affirmed the grossest falsehoods, which Blacksmith ad Burton acknowledged themselves to swear in court. After bringing a Holbeach attorney into the vestry to intimidate me, they all to a man promised to protect me from all insult in future. Staveley Blacksmith declared he never thought of insulting me in his life!!! This was the consequence of truth and resolution on my part. Sam’l Oliver, Curate.
or even here:
Thursday October 7th, 1819
This day the aforesaid Joseph Blacksmith came to my house and with much fulsome compliment and pretended penitence for his improper conduct on the 8th November last, he sat and drank some ale; also about half a bottle of wine. When, upon going away, finding no person in the kitchen, he deliberately set fire to some linen which was upon the clothes horse, before the kitchen fire and then endeavouring to run off! But the kitchen door (going into the porch) being difficult for him to get open, and the servant maid coming suddenly upon him; he could not escape, without detection and his diabolical purpose of involving the premises in flames, proved abortive! – Thus was my family miraculously preserved. Sam’l Oliver, Curate.
Thursday July 20th, 1820
This day at the funeral of the widow Delia Rose, the aforesaid Joseph Blacksmith came into the church, walked in a becoming manner up the middle aisle, he passed the pulpit, entered his pew and sat down., but whilst I was reading the lesson he bawled out, in a hoarse voice, ‘aren’t I to speak‘, and shortly after, before the lesson was ended, he said something else, which I could not correctly understand, but he said it in a manner which evidently conveyed an idea of intentional insult. He then followed me to the grave of the said Delia Rose, where he twice attempted to push me down whilst performing the ceremony, by throwing himself with violence against the portable shed under which I stood, made an inarticulate noise to burlesque the service, placing himself before me with a horsewhip in his hand, which he has been in the habit of using upon other people very dexterously and therefore I felt myself extremely apprehensive of experiencing its effects upon my own shoulders, before I could finish the service and make my escape.
I will leave you read in his own hand, Samuel Oliver’ final thoughts on his parish!!!
This is a man who just keeps on giving! We have previously looked at Samuel Oliver, the vicar of Whaplode church in Lincolnshire when Jo discovered his weather reports jotted down in the parish registers, then I found myself back there whilst researching The Regency Poisoning of Mary Biggadike and was fascinated and slightly amused and slightly shocked by some of his comments in the burial registers from 1812 onward.
For any genealogist who searches through burial registers, you will no doubt be aware that many simply have the basic information, name and possibly their age.
Samuel Oliver’s registers were far more detailed, whilst providing the basics he also gave their address and next of kin/family, occupation, then any comments he wanted to share within the confines of the register. Little did he know that centuries later they would be viewed by all and sundry!
They were too good not to share with you. We gain a real insight into what he thought of his flock, in his colourful descriptions. Clearly, once they died he felt free to make his views known in the burial register I wonder if the grieving family knew what he thought?
So here we go:
Sarah, illegitimate daughter of Mary Roe, or Rose buried 24th March 1814.
This corpse remained nearby for a fortnight unburied, through the obstinacy of its mother and her friends.
John Rose, a pauper. Buried February 4th, 1817.
This immoral young man, after dissipating a handsome property, lived miserable and dyed (sic) wretched.
Ambrose Edward Lunn, Yeoman. 5th September 1821.
This man was for many years the officiating parish schoolmaster ‘till compelled to decline teaching!!! As he lived, so he died!!! in ethnicism
Edward Palmer. Buried 14th December 1818.
This man has been, for several years, the longest inhabitant in the parish, but one; i.e. about 50 years resident.
Elizabeth Hardy, a blind pauper of the workhouse buried 19th January 1817.
This unfortunate young woman attempting to play with John Palin, a poor deranged man in the workhouse, he suddenly plunged a knife into her throat which entering under one ear end coming out under the other, caused her instant death.
Sarah Cooke, buried 5th March 1827.
She had been the mother of twenty children.
George Nutt, a farmer, buried 16th July 1816.
This man, a few years ago, out of frolic, took a half hogshead cask full of ale, in his hands, lifted it up to his head, and drunk out of the bung hole!!! He has left two sons, each of them able to do the same thing!!! (a hogshead barrel contained 64 gallons of beer).
Henry son of Dorothy Copeland (widow), buried aged 5 on 13th September 1826.
The Copeland family is now extinct, in this parish! Sec commands exemplified????
John Barker, pauper. Buried 6th April 1829. A worthy pious Christian
Joseph Culy, yeoman. Buried 6th October 1821.
I’m not quite sure of the translation of the Latin phrase, but roughly, I believe it’s describing him in not very complimentary terms as a wretch in death. If anyone is able to translate the phrase, we would love to hear from you.
Robert Collins Fisher, living in the workhouse. Buried 21st September 1829.
An audacious abandoned reprobate. This burial was conducted by Rev. N. Cogswell, but the footnote is clearly an addition!
Stephen Richardson. Buried 26th September 1827.
A poor ignorant profligate wretch; pretending to be an infidel!!!
Theophilus Thomas Smith. 30th March 1828.
An ignorant, presumptuous, profligate infidel.
And … finally, we have
John Limbard, a gardener, buried 31st December 1833.
A drunken, scurrilous blasphemer completely worn out with dissipation and immorality.
I came across this article, accidentally, as you do, and with my arguably warped sense of humour I found the wedding story somewhat amusing, so after much deliberation (well not much, if I’m being honest), I thought I would share it with you. Trigger warning, it doesn’t end well!
On 26th November 1811, a young couple, Thomas Paul, a shoemaker and Sarah Waite, a housekeeper to a Mr Hoges, were married at the parish church in Burgh Le Marsh in Lincolnshire.
After the wedding they were due to have their wedding breakfast in the neighbouring village of Orby where the groom’s parents lived, with their family and others guests. Things did not go according to plan however, as the Norfolk Chronicle of 28th December 1811 informs us:
A wedding lately took place between Mr Thomas Paul & Miss Sarah Waite, of Burgh in the Marsh, Lincolnshire, and the parties having gone through the church ceremony, went to the village of Orby, to dine with Mr Joseph Paul, the father of the groom.
The provident Mrs Mary Paul the elder, had prepared a goose to roast for dinner, into the body of which she had put, for stuffing – two penny loaves whole; and in her hurry on this joyous occasion, had added two ounces of gunpowder, which she mistook for black pepper.
The party were assembled around the comfortable blazing fire before dinner, enjoying by anticipation the parts they were going to play in the demolition of the hissing goose; when Mrs Paul took the poker to stir the fire; scarcely had she touched it, when raising the sparks, one of them kindled the combustible stuffing and by the explosion of the powder the goose was split into several pieces.
The explosion was very loud and the flying grease and limbs of the goose put the whole assembly to the rout in the utmost confusion.
None were killed in the affray, but several suits of white which the ladies wore were quite spoiled, and what was to have been the principal dish on the table was wanting at the feast.
So, the moral of this story, check all your ingredients carefully when stuffing poultry and don’t wear white when eating it!
We wondered what became of Sarah and Thomas after their spectacular wedding feast. In 1816 they had a son, William, followed two years later by twins, appropriately named Thomas and Sarah, and tragically just days after the twins were baptised, Thomas senior, aged 31, died, and three months later their infant daughter Sarah was to follow her father to the grave.
Amelia Maria Frances Elwes, known as Emily, was the only daughter – and heiress – of George Elwes of Marcham Park in Oxfordshire and Portman Square in London. The newspapers were probably over-egging the pudding a bit when they reported that she stood to inherit more than one million pounds, but she clearly stood in line to become an extremely wealthy woman. Of course, with those kind of prospects, Emily wasn’t short of suitors, but her heart was already given, to a man named Thomas Duffield.
Two years earlier, George Elwes had allowed Thomas to ‘pay his addresses’ to his daughter, but ‘some changes in the opinions of the governing part of the family had arisen, and other suitors were strongly recommended to the young lady’. Emily had other ideas, though.
George Elwes owed his immense fortune to the miserliness of his own father, John Elwes.
Known as both an eccentric and a miser, John Elwes was born John Meggot, the son of a successful Southwark brewer. Given a classical education at Westminster School, John then embarked on the Grand Tour, becoming known as one of the best horsemen in Europe and introduced to Voltaire. He not only inherited his father’s substantial fortune, but also that of his uncle, Sir Henry Elwes, 2nd Baronet (John took his uncle’s surname too). Sir Henry was also a miser, and probably it was his influence which steered John on the path which would come to define his life: penny pinching to the extreme. It’s difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to John Elwes’ life. He was said to wear rags and wear a wig that a beggar had thrown away, let his fine Georgian mansion, Marcham Park become so dilapidated that water poured through the ceilings in heavy rain and famously, when travelling, always carried with him, in his pocket, a hardboiled egg to eat. Apart from that, he would rather starve than buy food during his journey. It’s thought that John Elwes was Charles Dickens’ inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge. Although he never married, John had two illegitimate sons who inherited some of his fortune, if not his miserly inclinations. One of those two sons was George Elwes, Emily’s father, who gained Marcham Park.
And what of Emily’s suitor? Thomas Duffield was born in 1782, the son of Michael Duffield of Syston near Grantham in Lincolnshire. He had gained his B.A. at Christ Church, Oxford in 1804 and then studied for his M.A. at Merton College. Following that, from 1807 (until 1811) Thomas was a fellow at Merton. Perhaps the Elwes family thought that Thomas’ income was insufficient, and that he was planning to live off Emily’s fortune?
With Thomas barred from the Elwes house, a plan was hatched with his friends and, it seems, with the lovestruck Emily’s knowledge and consent. Emily’s mother had a female friend staying with her, and one of Thomas’ co-conspirators contrived to be a guest in the Elwes family home in the first weeks of 1810 where he passed in the guise of this unnamed lady’s lover and future husband. One morning – just a few days before Valentine’s Day – he persuaded Mrs Elwes and her friend to go shopping together and once they had departed a chaise and four drew up to the house. George Elwes inconveniently met his daughter and his (un)gentlemanly house guest in the hallway as they walked to the front door; in answer to her father’s questioning, Emily said she was just ‘going to her mamma, who was waiting for her’. It appeared all too innocent; Emily, wearing neither a hat nor bonnet, was clearly not dressed for an outing but just popping out to her mother’s carriage on a quick errand before hurrying back inside.
The lack of headwear notwithstanding, Emily was handed in to the waiting chaise, where Thomas Duffield sat ready to spirit her away. His job completed, Thomas’s friend nonchalantly walked back in to the hallway. When George asked about his daughter’s whereabouts he was told that she had been delivered ‘to the man destined to make her happy; and that she was off to Gretna Green’.
Servants were sent after Mrs Elwes and she returned in a panic. Emily’s parents raced northwards, but having reached St Alban’s with no sight or sound of their daughter they gave up their search and returned home. While Thomas and Emily headed for the Scottish border, the newspapers picked up the story.
An elopement has taken place, which will make a very considerable noise.
The couple got safely to Gretna Green where they were married by the hale and hearty ‘old Parson Joseph’ (aka Joseph Paisley) who ‘drinks nothing but brandy, and has neither been sick nor sober these forty years’. Reputedly, Thomas Duffield paid Parson Joseph 50l. sterling to perform the ceremony.
With the deed done, George Elwes decided to make the best of things. He insisted that his daughter and new son-in-law go through a second marriage ceremony, just to be sure things were legal and above board, and this took place at Marylebone church a month later. In time, he was completely reconciled with his daughter, and grew to be fond of Thomas.
The story didn’t end there, however. Several years before Emily’s elopement and subsequent marriage, George Elwes had made a settlement (in October 1802).
George Elwes conveyed real estates upon trust for the benefit of his daughter; but he declared that, if she married under age, and without his consent, the trustees should hold the estates in trust for him and his heirs.
Emily had been a minor when she married (she was born c.1792 and so was 10 years younger than Thomas), and she certainly did so without her father’s consent. But, Thomas had been accepted as part of the family since then, and had been given possession of the Elwes’ mansion house. Upon George Elwes’ death, he left a tangled legal muddle behind him, as he never revoked the earlier settlement despite the fact that he had verbally made it clear that he wanted Emily and Thomas Duffield to inherit his estates. Emily’s mother, who had remarried to a gentleman named William Hicks, contested her first husband’s will in a protracted and complicated legal case, to the potential detriment of her son-in-law and grandchildren, but the Duffields managed to retain their rights to the Marcham Park estate and Emily and her mother clearly put any disagreements behind them. (Amelia’s will, written in 1824 during Emily’s lifetime, left her daughter and her Duffield grandchildren many personal bequests.)
After bearing nine children (three sons and six daughters) Emily Duffield died at the age of 43, and was buried 18 August 1835 at All Saints in Marcham. Thomas, who was an MP for Abingdon between 1832 and 1844, married for a second time, to Augusta Rushbrooke by whom he had four further children. He died in 1854 by which time he was living at The Priory in Wallingford while his son by Emily, Charles Philip Duffield, inhabited Marcham Park.
N.B.: County boundaries have changed over the years; Marcham Park in now in Oxfordshire, but was then in Berkshire.
Bury and Norwich Post, 14 February 1810
Leeds Mercury, 17 February 1810
New Reports of Cases Heard in the House of Lords: On Appeals and Writs of Error; and decided during the session 1827-8 by Richard Bligh, volume 1, 1829
Will of Thomas Duffield of The Priory, Wallingford, Berkshire: PROB 11/2189/352
Will of Amelia Maria Hicks of Marylebone, Middlesex: PROB 11/2102/386
On August 6th, 1724 at St Ann’s Soho, Captain Francis Blake Delaval of Seaton Delaval Hall, near Newcastle Upon Tyne, married Rhoda Apreece, the heiress of Doddington Hall, which is somewhere we have previously written about.
The couple had eleven children and today we’re going to take a look at their eldest, the prankster, money loving son, named Francis Blake after his father. Francis was born in 1727 and as you would expect, was educated, as most young men of his social standing, at Oxford.
In 1749, aged just 21, he married a woman over twice his age, Isabella née Tufton, an exceptionally wealthy heiress and daughter of Thomas Tufton, 6th Earl of Thanet and Catherine Cavendish. Isabella was the widow of Nassau Powlett, a younger son of the 2nd Duke of Bolton (who had died in 1741).
We thought we would share with you the story of their meeting as it was by no means coincidental, but was totally conceived by Francis. He wanted a wife with money and concocted a cunning plan to hook this extremely wealthy widow. Looks he said weren’t important, which was perhaps just as well, as Isabella was described as extremely plain. Money was his motivator and she had plenty of it.
It was his closest friend and a man of great concern to the family, the actor, Samuel Foote that helped him to hatch this plan. It was common knowledge that Isabella wanted to marry again, and it was also known that she was fascinated by gipsies and consulted with the famous Norwood gipsy. So, armed with this information, Francis surreptitiously arranged for her to see a gipsy who would tell her that she would shortly meet the man of her dreams. She was told to walk in the park the following Thursday where she would meet a tall, fair gentleman, remarkably handsome, dressed in blue and silver and that it was irrevocably fixed by fate that this man would become her husband.
Of course, when the day arrived, Isabella took a walk in the park and surprise, surprise, she met Francis exactly as the gipsy had foretold.
Three days later on March 8th, 1749, the couple were married at St Georges Hanover Square in a clandestine marriage and with that he immediately acquired her large fortune reputed to have been between £90,000 and £150,000 (around 17.5 million in today’s money). It is said that for helping to arrange this, Francis settled an annuity upon Foote which relieved his debts.
In 1751, Francis was elected as M.P. for Hindon in Wiltshire, then in 1754 became M.P for Andover, Hampshire – the latter being assured by Francis courtesy of the firing of a canon which dispensed 500 guineas worth of money to ‘help’ voters make the correct choice of candidate, he even hired the services of a celebrated fire eater to win over one obstinate voter.
At the age of just 25, Francis succeeded to his father’s estates. He inherited Seaton Delaval Hall, with his brother John inheriting Doddington upon the death of their mother, but long after his death young Francis was remembered at Doddington Hall for his frequent visits to the local pubs of Harby in Lincolnshire and the drinking and dancing parties that ensued, but mostly he has been remembered for his pranks, both at Seaton and Doddington.
Whilst at Seaton Delaval he became noted not only for the variety of entertainments given there, but for the practical jokes which he played on guests. Not just schoolboy pranks such as making apple-pie beds and the placing of ducks and chickens in peoples beds but also a system of pulleys which he had constructed so that when visitors retired to their bed they were suddenly let down through a trap door into a cold bath.
On one occasion a gentleman apparently was kept in bed for three whole days as Francis somehow managed to convince him it wasn’t morning yet. On another occasion he created a ‘set’ by using curtains which partitioned the rooms and whilst the people in each room were getting undressed he would suddenly let the dividing curtain fall, exposing them to each other. This was a trick which apparently took place in the Long Gallery at Doddington Hall.
Yet another prank was played upon a young man; Francis managed to persuade the rest of the gathering to go along with. He told everyone that someone known to them had just died. After supper the supposed dead man appeared in the room, dressed in a shroud, his face powdered. A young man of the party saw him, but everyone else declared that they had seen nothing. It gave the young man such a fright that he fell down in a fit and didn’t recover for quite a while. After this, apparently no more such tricks were played.
Returning to his marriage, it was to be short lived as the couple didn’t get on at all well, in fact during one particularly ferocious argument Francis actually told Isabella about his plot to marry her.
Eventually, having had enough of his affair with an actress, Miss Elizabeth Roach or La Roche (as she was also known) who, according to rates returns, lived in Poland Street, Westminster, Isabella filed for a divorce in 1755, but in order for it to happen she had to admit to being unfaithful to Francis.
The couple had no children, but Isabella had a daughter from her marriage to Nassau and it was her daughter who inherited her estate when she died in 1763.
Despite the fortune Francis had inherited from his father and the monies from his marriage, he was a spendthrift and all money went through his hands like water, so much so that in 1755 an Act of Parliament was obtained to either sell Seaton or to mortgage it to pay off his debts.
Despite his behaviour, somehow in 1761 Francis was installed a Knight Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.
Francis also retained a property in London, No 11 Downing Street, which is slightly ironic given his obvious inability to manage money that it should now be used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Francis died suddenly in 1771. His body was taken for burial at Seaton with a grand funeral where it was laid in state for all to see. Apparently, so keen were people to have a glimpse of the proceedings, that in the rush, one girl had her leg broken, a gentleman lost his watch and many people had their pockets picked.
The newspapers of the day said that Francis died leaving some £36,000 of which £10,000 was to be paid to his two illegitimate children by Miss La Roche however, his actual will read very differently and shows the benefit of hindsight, so we thought we’d share it with you in full
Foote was said to be distraught at his friends death and retired to his room for three days. Finally, Foote was advised that it would be a few days before the funeral as doctors were to dissect Francis’s head to which Foote replied:
and what in the world will they get there? I am sure I have known poor Frank these five and twenty years, and I never could find anything in it.
The Dublin Penny Journal, Volumes 3-4
Sympson, Edward. Memorials of Old Lincolnshire
Cole R.E.G. History of the manor and township of Doddington : otherwise Doddington-Pigot, in the county of Lincoln, and its successive owners, with pedigrees
I’ve long been intrigued by a portrait on the Art UK website of a rather dishevelled and – quite frankly – eccentric figure, which, so the label claims, depicts William Hornby (incorrectly labelled as Hornsby) of Hornby’s Bank in Gainsborough, a market town in North Lincolnshire.
The archives office in Lincoln claims differently; they believe it depicts William’s brother, Joseph who, they suggest, was a well-known eccentric character in these parts.
Which brother, then, is in the rather cruel portrait?
Joseph was born at Gainsborough in 1729, the eldest child of Joseph Hornby senior, a prosperous mercer in the town. Seven more children followed but all except two, William (born in 1732) and John (1739), died in infancy. The elder two of the three sons, Joseph and William, followed their father into the mercantile trade.
At his death in 1762, Joseph Hornby senior left considerable inheritances to his three sons.
Gainsborough was a thriving and prosperous town in the eighteenth-century, boosted by trade from the busy River Trent which passes through. The Hornby family’s wealth grew and, together with Sir Joseph Esdaile, Esq, William opened a bank, the first known to exist in the town. In partnership with two other gentlemen, they also established the Chesterfield Bank in Derbyshire.
In 1760, William Hornby took out a lease on the medieval timber-framed Gainsborough Old Hall and established a coarse linen factory in part of the building and sublet the rest. The factory lost money and the old manor house was in a poor state of repair.
You peeped in and saw its great ground floor apartments occupied by joiners, and coopers and bricklayers – depositories for lime, hair, and bricks – and you turned away disgusted.
By 1790, Hornby had wound up his factory and sublet the Great Hall of the manor house to a Mr West, who used it as a theatre. The staircase which was temporarily added at this time to access the theatre can be seen on the print below.
By the end of the century, troubles were mounting up. The partnership which ran the Chesterfield Bank (William Hornby, Joseph Esdaile, Samuel Raynes and Richard Gillett) was dissolved in 1799. By 1803, William Hornby could no longer meet his creditors’ demands and he was declared bankrupt. The Gainsborough Bank was no more.
William Hornby is reputed to have ended his days in penury, being cared for by a woman who had formerly been his cook, dying ‘at an advanced age’ (he was 72) in February 1805 at Doncaster, just over the county border in South Yorkshire.
After all this, are we any closer to identifying which Hornby brother is shown in the painting? Well, there is no contemporary mention of Joseph being an eccentric. At his death in 1811 (he was buried in the churchyard of Gainsborough All Saints) he is described as formerly being ‘an eminent merchant’. No hint of madness or eccentricity.
It seems more likely that the painting is a cruel depiction of William Hornby. Perhaps in his pursuit of wealth and in his running of the bank, he made an enemy of someone who commissioned this painting in revenge? Or, was it painted after Hornby’s bankruptcy, the work of a creditor who was left out-of-pocket and wanted to leave a lasting visual legacy of the former banker, that of a miserly man down on his luck.
At this distance in time, and with no other evidence to hand, we are simply left to wonder.
It’s a well-known fact that we Brits are obsessed with the weather… and with talking about it. Being an island, the old saying of ‘four seasons in a day’ sometimes seems more than a little accurate, and the weather can – on occasion – change quite dramatically in the space of a few hours. However, despite this, more often than not, the climate is generally reasonably calm and mild. Still, we love nothing better than a grumble about the rain and it’s quite frequently either ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’ for us.
One theory is that the British are known for polite detachment when dealing with others, and hate to show too much emotion. The weather is a safe and neutral topic of conversation… but we think it’s more than that. We are, as a nation, genuinely fascinated by the subject. And so, it came as quite a delight to find that the Reverend Samuel Oliver (c.1756-1847), the curate of St Mary’s church at Whaplode in the remote Lincolnshire fenland, was obsessed to such a degree that he carefully recorded information about the climate in the spare pages of his parish burial registers.
Sunday, February 2nd, 1817
During the last ten days, the weather has been more serene; warm; & remarkably mild; than ever I knew it in the month of May, during the term of my residence here; which is nearly fifteen years.
Sunday, February 9th, 1817
Last night, for the first time (I think) these twenty years, the atmosphere was very strongly illuminated with Aurora Borealis. The moon entered her last quarter yesternight, a 46 min. past 7 o’clock. Today has been exceeding warm, & mild.
Monday, March 29th, 1819
This last has been the most mild, warm, & open winter ever known, in the memory of any man living. Polyanthuses & Anemonies have always been in flower.
Friday, June 29th, 1821
The season has been so excessively cold, that we were under the necessity of having large fires in the Keeping Room up to this day; when, suddenly, it became very hot!
Friday, July 6th, 1821
The cold weather has returned, so violently, as obliges us to rekindle our K. Room fire.
Thursday, July 25th, 1822
The former part of last winter was excessively wet, the new year brought fine weather, the spring was uncommonly dry & warm; & the season altogether the most forward & plentiful ever known.
Friday, November 7th, 1823
From the first week in July to the first week in September, we were scarcely 12 hours without rain; from thence to October 30 was remarkably fine; October 31 and November 1 were most excessively tempestuous.
Thursday, July 22nd, 1824
The last winter very much resembled that [of] 1821, 2; the spring was indescribably dry, cold, & unhealthy; the wind being nearly due east for the space of two months. Midsummer brought fine weather, & the prospective harvest is good as a human heart could wish.
Friday, December 31st, 1824
There have been more storms, tempests, inundations, & shipwrecks; & a greater quantity of rain has fallen this year, in various parts of Europe, than for a century back. Yet we had a fine spring seed time, hay time, & harvest. Not many apples.
Thursday, March 22nd, 1827
From the beginning of March 1826 to this day, has been the driest year ever known. Hay, oats, beans, & barley, were very deficient, so were potatoes, wheat good, both crop & quality.
Saturday, September 15th & Tuesday, September 18th, 1827
These two evenings the Aurora Borealis was remarkably brilliant; & merry dancers, very active.
This was an excessive wet, cold, & stormy summer. Wheat good, crops & quality. About November 18, the snow & frost commenced, & was not completely gone before March 1st, 1830.
Monday, August 27th, 1832
We have had four very cold, wet, & luxuriant summers, in succession; wheat is generally well got in. Last winter was very much like that of 1818, 19.
Thursday, July 22nd 1824, Dr Goddard the Archdeacon made his Parochial Visitation; & ordered repairs of the Vestry Room, a new fence to the Vicarage yard, & all necessary repairs to the House & Premises.
March 20th, 1835
The dykes, within the last three weeks, have become tolerably full of water, at least a foot deep; where, for the last three years, the water has never stood, 12 hours together, at the depth of six inches.
November 20th, 1839
These two last summers have been remarkably wet & cold.
And, from the back of the marriage register, we find this entry. Not about the weather but also clearly a subject of huge importance to the curate, judging by his increasing use of exclamation marks.
May 28th, 1821
On this, & the three subsequent days, the population of the parish was taken (by Act of Parliament). Mr Longstaff, the Overseer of the Poor, taking Mr Roberts, the Vestry Clerk, to assist him. I also went round the Parish, in my Ecclesiastical capacity, & found 154 Persons unXtned; & eight couples who notoriously cohabit, as Man & Wife, together! Four of these couples call themselves Methodists, & regularly attend the Meeting Houses! One couple holds a Meeting in their own House! Two couples are within the degrees of Affinity! And five couples have had children born!! I likewise found another couple, who will not acknowledge that they sleep together, tho’ they both sleep in one room!!!
Reverend Samuel Oliver, Curate
Rev Oliver was the curate at Whaplode for 42 years, preaching three times every Sunday, until, in 1842 the vicar of the parish died and the Rev Oliver was removed from his curacy. A few months later, and despite his advanced years (he was 84), Rev Oliver was appointed to the living of Lambley in Nottinghamshire, worth £1,000 per year. There he died on the 9th August 1847.
Sir Cecil Wray, 13th Baronet Wray of Glentworth, was born in 1734 into an ancient Lincolnshire family. In 1752, still some months away from his eighteenth birthday, Cecil inherited the baronetcy and the family estates (in Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Yorkshire) when his father, Sir John Wray, 12th Baronet died.
Sir Cecil stood for parliament as a Whig representing Retford in Nottinghamshire (he won the seat in 1768) and then Westminster between 1782 and 1784. However, during this latter period, Sir Cecil stood up in the House of Commons to oppose the East India Bill proposed by Charles James Fox and he denounced the coalition between Fox and Lord North; subsequently – and with the support of the Tory party – at the 1784 election, Sir Cecil tried to oust Fox from representing Westminster. In the print below, the naval officer Sir Samuel Hood (Tory) is shown as Themistocles, Charles James Fox, the Whig candidate is Demosthenes and Sir Cecil Wray, who had switched allegiance from the Whigs to the Tories is depicted as Judas Iscariot. In the end, Sir Cecil finished last, a result which he contested for some time.
The wits and wags of the day had a field time with Sir Cecil after the 1784 election; not only had he appeared to betray Charles James Fox but he was also – reputedly – a bit of a skinflint. He drank ‘small beer’, his grand house in Pall Mall was left unfinished and he proposed plans to abolish Chelsea Hospital and to tax maid-servants in order to ease the National Debt.
We have a different reason to pour scorn upon Sir Cecil, however. In 1750 he built a house on Eastgate in Lincoln, to the northeast of the Cathedral. This house, named Eastgate House, was extended in 1763 but an old stone structure interrupted Sir Cecil’s views of Lincoln Cathedral. That couldn’t be allowed, and so the edifice was demolished… unfortunately for us today, that structure was the remains of the Roman Upper East Gate to the city.
This particular gate had only been rediscovered in 1730 as it had been walled up and formed part of the north gable end of a house on one side and a stable on the other.
Eastgate House was further added to in the nineteenth-century; Sir Cecil’s original house has gone the same way as the remains of the Roman Upper East Gate and no longer survives but one of the later wings can still be seen. It is now part of the Lincoln Hotel and, in front of the hotel, the foundations of the old East Gate – all that remained after Sir Cecil’s handiwork – are visible. They were uncovered in 1945 during excavations to lay new sewers. Before it was pulled down, the East Gate looked very similar to the nearby Newport Gate, which – as it was not blocking an important view – has managed so far to stand the test of time, although, in recent years, lorries have been known to get stuck beneath it, causing damage.
Around the same time as he was destroying the Roman heritage of the city of Lincoln, Sir Cecil started building a country seat at Fillingham, about ten miles north. This fine house, built in the style of a Gothic castle, he named Somers or Summer Castle after his wife, Dame Esther Wray née Summers (or Somers), although it is also now known as Fillingham Castle.
Little is known of Dame Esther; she was born around 1735 and is said to be the daughter of a James Summers. We love a challenge, and have tried our hardest to uncover Dame Esther’s origins but – at the moment – we are having to admit defeat although we can add a little more information to her story. From our research, it appears likely that she is from Essex and certainly the Wrays were married by the summer of 1763 for the Leeds Intelligencer newspaper recorded ‘Sir Cecil Wray and Lady’ amongst the arrivals in Scarborough in their 19th July edition.
Her brother John Summers (variously recorded as Sumers and Sommers) lived at Fairsted in Essex in the mid-1760s. There, together with his wife, Jane, he baptised three children, Esther and Eades in 1764 and a second daughter, Charlotte a year later. Eades and Charlotte later lived with their aunt at Summer Castle. Another of her nieces, who also lived at the castle, was Esther Taylor who, in 1785, married Captain Charles Hare, RN; various others of this family lived at Billericay in Essex.
On the 11th January 1804, when Sir Cecil Wray wrote his will, he named his wife’s great-niece, Elizabeth Ann Jeffries who was residing at his castle. Elizabeth Ann was born c.1786 in Essex; during 1804 she made not one but two marriages, both – luckily – to the same man, William Thomas Goodchild, a naval officer who had been born on Christmas Day 1777 at Christiansted, St Croix in the Virgin Islands. Goodchild was the grandson of Isabella Wray, the sister of Sir John Wray, 12th Baronet.
Sir Cecil Wray died in 1805 and was buried at Fillingham; his wife, Dame Esther Wray lived at Summer Castle until her death in 1825, aged 89 years. What remains of Summer Castle is now a private residence: the remains of a gatehouse and lodge can be seen on the side of the A15.
Sources not mentioned above:
Will of Sir Cecil Wray of Fillingham, Lincolnshire, National Archives PROB 11/1421/217
Will of Dame Esther Wray, Dowager of Summer Castle, Lincolnshire, National Archives PROB 11/1697/79
Until 1745, Lincoln’s County Assembly Rooms were in a one-storied house on Eastgate (opposite James Street) which was known as Atton Place. (Atton Place was re-fronted in the late eighteenth-century and later had an extra storey added.)
The architect Joseph Hayward was responsible for the new Assembly Rooms, located on Bailgate, just a short distance from Newport Arch, the remains of a 3rd-century Roman gate. Bailgate was once the site of a Roman Colonnade, and the Forum stood opposite the site of the Assembly Rooms.
Featuring a spacious ballroom and ‘convenient refreshment rooms’ the building was opened to the public in 1745, and still stands to this day although it has been added to and adapted over the years.
Those who lived ‘downhill’ were not permitted to set foot in the ‘sacred’ precincts of the County Assembly Rooms, which were for the ‘uphill’ gentry and county magnates. A City Assembly Rooms was built in 1757 above the Butter Market on the High Street at the bottom of Steep Hill, for the Lincoln tradesmen and their wives; in appearance it was remarkably similar to the County Assembly Rooms as it appears today (the façade of the City Assembly Rooms still exists, but it has been located to the Central Market on Sincil Street).
During September 1776, George III’s brother, Prince Edward, Duke of York made a visit to Lincoln. He saw the play, Midas performed by Mr Steven’s Company and then ‘repaired to the grand assembly room above Hill, where a ball was prepared for his entertainment, which was very brilliant. There was a great appearance of Nobility and Gentry richly dressed. His Highness opened the ball with the Countess of Scarborough, and staid near two hours in the room.’
The Duke of York, after a short naval career, devoted himself to a life of pleasure. In the same year that he came to Lincoln, the duke was described by Horace Walpole as ‘a milk-white angel, white even to his eyes and eyelashes’; he died the following September in Monaco.
From 1789, the Lincolnshire Stuff Ball was held every October at the County Assembly Rooms. This was an annual event which encouraged and promoted the manufacture and industry of a fabric known as Lincolnshire stuff. Each year the lady patroness chose the colour theme for the ball and all the guests had to order new clothes made in good Lincolnshire stuff which came from Lincolnshire wool and had been manufactured and dyed – in the colour chosen – in the county. You can read more about the Lincolnshire Stuff Balls in a previous blog post.
During the Regency period, the people of Lincoln were tricked by a con man by the name of Jones. In October 1815, this man circulated bills in and around Lincoln, announcing his intention of giving a concert and ball at the County Assembly Rooms. A small company assembled on the night.
During the ball, the manager [Jones] took French leave of Lincoln, leaving the printer, the musicians and attendants engaged for the night, and some other persons whom he had duped, to make the most of the comfort of companionship in misery! He has been heard of in other parts of the county since. If he elude the grasp of those whom he has incensed, this notice of his tricks may at least be serviceable to others.
I took the chance to visit the Assembly Rooms recently; there is a tea room in the side of the building (the Arches Tearoom, which I highly recommend) and research is always best undertaken with a slice of cake and a cup of coffee, I find. By 1813 the state of the rooms had necessitated immediate repairs, funded by a subscription although we have no description of the works carried out.
Originally, the Assembly Rooms sat well back from the Bailgate, with a courtyard in front. Although we have been unable to find any contemporary image from the original building, we do know that a portico adorned the front in 1866 as it was specifically mentioned.
The County Assembly-rooms are being richly decorated for the Fancy Dress Ball to be given by the High Sheriff on the 19th[of January]. The portico will be closed in and used as an ante-room. A passage will also be made in the court-yard, and at the end of it will be the entrance. This promises to be a great improvement.
Renovations were carried out in 1908, to specifications by the Lincoln architect William Watkins, but a newspaper report at the time specifically mentions the exterior of the building and no additions were made to the frontage at that time.
Visitors to the Lincoln County Assembly Rooms during the coming winter season will recognise and appreciate a series of ingenious alterations and improvements that are just approaching completion. They are concerned with the entrance, and include the provision of a large crush-room and a more commodious gentleman’s cloak room, while the lighting and seating arrangements have been brought to perfection. The ballroom has, of course, long held the reputation of being one of the finest in the country, and the new additions to the premises (which have not, however, necessitated any external structural alterations) make the approach considerably better than previously. Under the old arrangement the cloak rooms bordered the entrance hall on either hand, and the main corridor was crowded at times of the departure and arrival of the company, often to the point of inconvenience.
The improvements will be admitted at once. On the right, the creation of a large lobby greatly increases the space, preventing any crowding near the door, and a gentleman’s cloak room has been evolved from a store room further back, which has been fitted with larger and deeper shelves, etc., and is altogether better than the old ones. But the chief improvement is obtained by the cutting out, further along the main corridor, of the wall separating the corridor from the gentleman’s waiting room. That room and the corridor are now thrown into one, making a very satisfactory crush-room, which has been very beautifully decorated and furnished.
However, in 1914, the Assembly Rooms received a substantial makeover. A new frontage and facade was added, covering the old courtyard and almost doubling the space within the building and bringing the front level to the Bailgate. (Pevsner says of this addition that ‘the front in dry classical style is of 1914, but some yards behind can be seen the bold quoins and fine entablature of the original front of 1745. The interior is certainly the finest Georgian room in Lincoln.).
If you look down the passage at the left-hand side of the Assembly Rooms, you can indeed see the ‘bold quoins and fine entablature’ of the original front.
Williamson’s Illustrated Guide to Lincoln, 4th Edition
The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, Nikolaus Pevsner and John Harris, second edition revised by Nicholas Antram, Yale University Press, 1989
History, gazetteer, and directory of Lincolnshire, and the city and diocese of Lincoln, William White, second edition, 1856
Stamford Mercury, 9th October 1766, 22nd October 1813, 13th October 1815 and 12th January 1866
In the early eighteenth-century, the women who sold butter, milk, poultry and eggs on Fridays at the Butter Market in Lincoln had to do so with no shelter from the elements. Until 1572 their forebears had sold their wares at the Butter Cross on Newland but when that was taken down the Butter Market moved to the churchyard of St Peter at Arches.
For ten years, the Corporation of Lincoln agreed, at the instance of the mayor, John Lobsey, Esq, to forego its annual feast, saving £1,000 (their feasts must have been something to behold!) and they donated this to pay for a new market, providing shelter for the traders, which was erected in 1736.
The Butter Market was located on the High Street in ‘downhill’ Lincoln, close to the junction with Silver Street and just behind St Peter at Arches church (the market still extended into the churchyard). The Stonebow is on the other side of Silver Street. Neither the Butter Market or St Peter’s still stand; for anyone who knows Lincoln, the corner building (dating to the 1930s but built in a Georgian style) which now houses The Works is where St Peter’s and the Butter Market once stood.
The openings along the side of the building were originally open arches but they were later glazed to make things more comfortable for the stallholders. The façade had a fine pediment made of Portland stone with the city shield carved into it.
In 1744, Lincoln gained an Assembly Room on Bailgate, in the ‘uphill’ area of the city (Lincoln is famous for the aptly named Steep Hill, neatly dividing the city into uphill and downhill sections). In the twentieth century, a newspaper columnist recalled that:
Those who lived ‘downhill’ were not permitted to set foot in the ‘sacred’ precincts of the County Assembly Rooms, which were for the ‘uphill’ people and county magnates.
And so, it was decided that the people living ‘downhill’ needed their own assembly room. Funds were raised by public subscription and, in 1757, the council allowed the upper floor of the Butter Market to be developed to include an assembly room with a tea room and a small card room, overlooking the street. Accessed by a staircase from the rear of the Butter Market, it was the finest ballroom in the lower part of Lincoln and the scene of many important gatherings. Subscription Assemblies were hugely popular and well attended by the ‘city’ tradesmen who, together with their wives, were not admitted to the County Assembly Rooms uphill. The façades of both buildings are strikingly similar.
In 1813, some bronze statues and elegant decorations were contributed by Lady Monson (Sarah Elizabeth Grevile, wife of John Monson, Baron Monson of Burton). Gradually though, over the decades, the building declined and while the ground floor continued to be used as a market hall (selling fruit and vegetables in the week as well as milk, butter, eggs and poultry on a Friday), the upper rooms saw service as a ‘People’s News Room’, were the home of the mechanics institute and housed the city library for a time; by 1934 the school medical service used the space.
A bugbear of any Lincoln resident to this day is traffic congestion in the city; in the 1930s Lincoln was undergoing redevelopment and the Ministry of Transport had stipulated that the roadway in that area had to be 50 feet wide. The Butter Market and St Peter at Arches were in the way and had to go, despite their history.
We have the Bishop of Grantham (the Right Rev E M Blackie) to thank for the fact that the façade of the Butter Market has survived. The bishop wrote a paper, Architecture and the Ordinary Man, in which he referred to the Butter Market as a fine specimen of eighteenth-century work, pointing out that very few towns in England possessed anything of its kind quite so good. He urged that the beautiful façade facing High-street should be taken down and carefully rebuilt.
“What is going to be its fate? Will it be pulled down and destroyed and forgotten? I am told that this is likely to happen, and I can only hope that the prophecy is not entirely true.”
The bishop’s advice was heeded and the façade was taken down, brick by brick, each carefully numbered, and it was rebuilt on Sincil Bank, the focal point of a new central market where the stallholders from the Butter Market could share the space with the vendors from the existing Cornhill Market. This new building, four times as big as the former market, was opened on the 18th May 1938. Within the fabric of the building, care had been given to provide space to continue an old custom which would have been familiar to the eighteenth-century residents of Lincoln.
An Old Custom: An interesting feature of the new market was the fact that the Corporation had provided sittings for the sale of butter, eggs and poultry, thus continuing an old-established custom, and indeed a custom which was almost unique in England.
The provision of these sittings on Fridays in each week had meant, of course, that the building had to be built sufficiently large to accommodate the sittings and ordinary stall-holders as well, the sittings were used only one day per week.
Lincolnshire Chronicle, 1st July 1904
Lincolnshire Echo, 19th February 1932
Lincolnshire Echo, 22nd January 1934
Lincolnshire Echo, 19th May 1938
Williamson’s Illustrated Guide through Lincoln, 4th Edition
A Survey of the Antiquities of Lincoln
Tudor and Stuart Lincoln, J.W.F Hill, Cambridge University Press, 1956
Just in case you weren’t aware of Sir Joseph Banks, he was born in London, but when he was 21 he inherited the impressive estate of Revesby Abbey in Lincolnshire from his father. After leaving university, minus a degree, he became a renowned British naturalist, patron of the natural sciences, travelling the globe, ultimately he became president of the Royal Society from 1778 until his death in 1820.
In March 1779, Banks finally settled down and married Dorothea Hugessen. The couple spent most of their time in London, however, each autumn they made a trip back to Banks’ ancestral Lincolnshire.
During these visits, apart from numerous other things that he had to attend to on his estate, Banks, his wife Dorothea and his younger sister, Sarah Sophia, who lived with them, made several fishing trips to survey the fish in the river Witham.
A record of these trips was brought to our attention so, naturally, we had to find out more. A copy of the book itself is available via the Yale Centre for British Art, ‘Sir Joseph Banks’s fishery book of the River Witham in Lincolnshire, 1784-1800’. The book itself contains records of the number of fish in the river along with their measurements, which unless you’re interested in fishing it isn’t terribly exciting, but it also contains information about the weather and any unusual events, such as the eclipse of 5th September 1795. Sadly, we only have space to include some of the sketches in this post, so for more information, we recommend checking out the book itself on the Yale website (it has been scanned page by page, so it’s not the easiest of books to navigate, so a little patience is required).
By far the most fascinating aspect of this book is the sketches, we doubt they were meant for public viewing, but simply a reminder and a way of describing their trip to friends and family – the way we do today with our cameras, but for historians, they provide a fascinating snapshot of life during that period.
On their travels, they took along a large number of friends who ate with them on the river bank or on the boat. Note the canopy in this next image, which was used to shelter under when it rained, which it often did!
They also took along some ‘would be’ artists who drew sketches along the route they were travelling, which ran from the Kyme Eau, which runs through the centre of the tiny village of South Kyme, (which is a few miles from the town of Sleaford), when it became the Witham, for a distance of around 15 miles through neighbouring villages of Dog Dyke, Langrick Bridge, Anton’s Gowt until it reached the outskirts of the port of Boston.
The book contains sketches of the routes taken on each occasion plus 26 colour illustrations of places and people.
One name kept recurring in the sketches, ‘Eno’s House’. At first, we thought perhaps it was a reference to an acquaintance until we tracked it down to being the name of the landlord, Edward Eno, who, with his wife Rosamond, was the landlord of The Monson Arms, near Anton’s Gowt, on the bank of the river. His son, Hildred Eno, took over as the landlord in the 1850s. The pub no longer exists as such, but there is a house on the bank of the river which could just possibly be it.
The book is well worth taking a look at to give you an idea of how rural Lincolnshire looked back in the late 1700s.
We have recently been researching Sir Joseph Banks for our latest book, All Things Georgian in which we tell more about Sir Joseph Banks’ Women.
Around midnight, or just shortly thereafter, Miss Mary Burton crept out of her father’s house at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, into the waiting arms of her lover, William Fields, a draper from Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
William must have had a carriage waiting for his lady, but the Stamford Mercury newspaper described their escape much more poetically.
WE FLY BY NIGHT… on “the wings of love”
It is possibly a slight disappointment, after knowing that they flew through the midnight hours on the wings of love, to find that their destination was not more glamorous than William’s home town, Hull. Mary’s father, Mr Burton, a miller and baker (Mary was his only daughter), certainly knew where his errant daughter had gone to and, as soon as he discovered that she was missing, he set off for Hull in hot pursuit.
But he was too late, the couple had already exchanged their vows to one another at the altar of Holy Trinity church and had married, by licence, on the same day that they had entered Hull, the 25th November 1812 in front of two witnesses, William Sotheran and Esther Fox.
Mary, it would appear, was just over 21 years of age; there is a baptism at All Saints in Gainsborough for Mary, daughter of William and Ann Burton (William’s trade is given as a baker) on the 29th October 1791.
William Fields was likely the same man who traded with a partner, George Benjamin Everington as Everington and Fields, linen drapers of Kingston-upon-Hull. Their partnership was dissolved shortly after William’s hasty marriage, on the 18th December 1812, with William alone carrying on the business and promising to pay all debts owing. He traded from no. 9, Whitefriargate. It is also likely that it was the same William Fields who, in February 1814, announced that he had taken the grocery shop formerly occupied by a Mr Smith at no. 3 North Bridge, Witham, where tea, coffee, spices and sugars could be purchased and if so, he was declared bankrupt before the end of 1815. Perhaps his irate father-in-law was right in his initial judgment of his son-in-law?
William and Mary Fields baptised a son, named William Burton Fields, in Hull on the 11th January 1814. He was to die young, aged only 11 years, and was buried in the churchyard at All Saints in Gainsborough on the 29th December 1825. We have so far been unable to trace the Fields further but, as William Burton Fields was living back in Gainsborough with his grandfather, we suspect that Mary had either sadly died or that she had returned, with her son, to her father’s home.
At Gainsboro, on Tuesday the 27th ult, aged 11, Henry Burton Fields, grandson to Mr Burton, baker.
(Stamford Mercury, 6 January 1826)
Stamford Mercury, 4th December 1812
Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, 5th December 1812 and 2nd January 1813
Hull Packet, 17th August 1813, 1st February 1814 and 5th December 1815
Remember, Remember the 5th of November, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
So, how, in the Georgian Era did England celebrate this failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament? Well, it seems that things have changed little since then, bonfires, burning effigies and setting off fireworks were the order of the day, just as they are today. We thought we would take a look at a few reports from the newspapers. The first thing we should just point out is the spelling of his name has evolved from Guy Faux as he was known in the Georgian Era to the name by which we know him today – Guy Fawkes.
In the 1600’s Popish books and pictures were burnt and from the early 1700’s the event was celebrated with the ringing of church bells and bonfires. This is the earliest reference we have come across regarding the symbolic creation and burning of an effigy.
Last Night there were also Bonfires and Illuminations every where, and the Pope, the Devil, and the Pretender, were burnt in Effigie, as a proper Token of Rejoycing, for the double Deliverance this Nation met with from Popery and Slavery on the Fifth of November, to the great Mortifications of Abel’s Masters.
God Bless the Queen, and the Family of Hanover.
Flying Post, or The Post Master, 4-6 November 1712
Even royal residences joined in, as demonstrated in an etching by Paul Sandby which depicts a view of the festivities in the lower court of Windsor Castle during Guy Faux Night, showing the gathering near the bonfire and fireworks in the sky.
According to the Derby Mercury, 15th November 1792:
On the 5th of November, a number of people, at least five hundred, assembled in St George’s Field’s, carrying at their head an exceedingly elegant dressed figure, with a crown upon its head, which as occasion required they denoted Guy Faux or the Duke of Brunswick; this was preceded by a man carrying a long pole, on the top of which was a board, with the inscription’ Universal Liberty and no Despots’. This figure, after they sufficiently paraded it about the streets, they carried to Kennington Common, when a large gallows was erected, upon which, after burning the crown, they hung it, and then burnt it, gallows and all, the mob dancing round signing.
A completely different approach to the day was taken in Hampshire in 1801, it was a far more sedate occasion, with the day being ushered in by the ringing of bells and at twelve o’clock the guns on the platform and at one o’clock the ships at Spithead fired a salute.
In 1801, The Stamford Mercury, however, carried the following news:
Among the different effigies of Guy Faux which were exited in this city [Lincoln] on the 5th November, we could not but notice one in the habit of an honest farmer, with the characteristic emblems of a sickle, smock frock etc which was hung up near the toll bar. While we can smile at such a piece of harmless wit, we are happy to congratulate the more peaceable inhabitants on a second year passing over without the horrid practice of bull baiting; the enormity and cruelty of which, we should hope, the populace themselves are at last fully sensible of, and will in future discontinue.
In 1802 a great annoyance was occasioned to the public by a set of idle fellows going about previous to, and on, the fifth of November, with a figure dressed up as Guy Faux and, after assembling a mob, was the cause of many depredations and disorders. The magistrate determined to punish all such offenders in the future and, therefore, five men and a boy were apprehended in St. Martin’s Street, with a cart, in which was a rude figure as the effigy of Guy Faux. One of the party was dressed as a priest, habited in a white smock-frock, with a large wig, the boy riding on horseback as the sheriff conducting the offender to the place of execution. They were immediately taken before Mr Graham, at Bow Street; and it being proven on oath, that the prisoners were seen to beg and receive money, they were all, except the boy, committed to prison as idle and disorderly persons.
In 1814, a most melancholy accident happened in Northampton Street, Clerkenwell, where some boys had a bonfire to celebrate the annual burning of Guy Faux, and throwing squibs; a wagon and horses passing at the time, the horses took fright and ran off, when a young man ran in front to stop them, he was pushed down by the foremost horse and the wagon passed over his boy and killed him on the spot.
London celebrated relatively peacefully in 1821, as The Morning Post reported that:
The anniversary of the gunpowder plot, which has caused so many scenes of painful confusion here, passed off last night, with the hissing explosions of a few squibs and crackers, here and there a bonfire, with Guy Faux in flames and with but little inconvenience or damage to anyone. The constables were commendably on the alert.
In The Globe of 1812, we learnt that:
Ever since the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, when Guy Faux meant to blow up the Parliament House, it has been the custom, on the first day of the session, for certain officers to examine the cellars under the House, and ascertain that all is right. Accordingly, at eleven o’clock, on Tuesday morning, Lord Gwydir, the officiating Great Chamberlain of England; Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, the Usher of the Black Rod; Mr Curtis, Exon of the Yeoman of the Yeoman of the Guard, attended at the House of Lords to examine the premises. For this purpose, the table in (the House of Peers was removed, the trap door under it was taken up, and the passages underneath were closely inspected. They also inspected the vaults under the House of Commons, which are filled with excellent wines, of which the inspectors tested, that they might be sure they were not gunpowder.
Just in case you weren’t aware, this tradition still takes place today.
Following on from our previous post, the heroine of our new book, A Georgian Heroine, was a Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, and one of the many fascinating things she achieved in her life was that she virtually single-handedly and anonymously instigated the national celebrations for the Golden Jubilee of King George III which took place on 25th October 1809, the beginning of his 50th year on the throne. This was something which she was immensely proud of, but for which until now, she has remained largely unknown for. To find out more about this achievement you will need to read our book. The event was celebrated across the country and with this in mind, we thought we would take a look at how some parts of just one county celebrated – Lincolnshire.
These examples are just a few that were typical of events held throughout Lincolnshire, with the exception of one town; according to a local newspaper
‘the good people of Gainsboro’, owing to the pressure of business forgot’!
In Boston, the bells were rung in the morning of the Jubilee itself and the vessels in the harbour displayed their colours and throughout the day fired their guns in succession. Twenty pounds worth of flour was given by a gentleman to the poor; a handsome subscription was also raised and distributed in ale. All ranks of people partook of the festivities throughout the day. A sumptuous dinner at the Town Hall was numerously attended, and the evening concluded with the largest bonfire ever witnessed in the town.
Folkingham held a ball and supper at the Greyhound Inn with dancing commencing at seven o’clock; Gentleman – ten shillings and 6 pence, Ladies – ten shillings.
Mr Booth regaled a few small tenants and his poor neighbours with beef and ale and their children with cake and tea at Hull bridge.
In the village of Little Ponton, near Grantham, Mrs Dorothy Pennyman regaled the whole of her tenantry with a handsome dinner in the true style of English hospitality; she also sent a plentiful supply of meat and beer to all the poor of the parish.
According to the Stamford Mercury of October 27th, 1809:
In Louth, an elegant transparency was exhibited at West-gate house, the seat of John Simpson Esq to commemorate the jubilee. In the centre of the piece is the figure of Justice, most correctly and classically painted: she seems to be pronouncing the words of the wise man, “by Justice King’s reign” – a fiery sword extended, denotes the entire destruction of his Majesty’s naval enemies; whilst where rich and poor at under the protection of wise and equal laws. The regalia in front of the transparency are evidently guarded by the sword of the Goddess, and the whole has a majestic and appropriate effect.
Market Deeping raised enough funds from the more opulent inhabitants in order that a donation of a pound of meat and a shilling loaf was delivered to every man in the parish who chose to accept it; and the like quantity of meat and bread and a pint of ale to every woman and child; and such a quantity of ale was allotted for free distribution in the evening, that two barrels remained over and above what could be consumed. A very pleasant and respectable ball took place at the New Inn, about 60 persons present; and the lodge of Odd Fellows in the town and the Post-office were illuminated.
The villagers of Pinchbeck, near Spalding, dined together at the Bull Inn owned by Mr Richard Sharman and regaled 50 poor people at the Bell, with roast beef and plum-pudding. The very musical peal of bells also gladdened the whole village throughout the day.
The Jubilee was observed at Spalding with the demonstrations of loyalty for which that town was on all occasion truly conspicuous – a liberal contribution, amounting to £120 having been made two or three days before, the jubilee commenced with the early distribution of meat, a twelve-penny loaf, and a shilling, to every poor family in the town; by which upwards of 700 families were richly enabled to partake of the festivities of the day. At eleven o’clock the Yeomanry Cavalry, the principal inhabitants and the benefit societies of the town, preceded by bands of music, marched to the church where a sermon was preached by the Rev. Dr Johnson. God Save the King, with additions for the occasion, was sung by the congregation. After the service at church, the troop of cavalry fired a feu de joie in the marketplace. The cavalry then dined at the George Inn, where every delicacy of the season was provided. In the evening, there was a bonfire in the marketplace, with the firing of cannons, squibs and crackers. One gentleman (Mr Dawson, surgeon) prepared a small balloon for the occasion which went off in very good style.
A subscription of £130 was raised in the six parishes of Stamford which enabled the committee appointed for its distribution to give one shilling to every poor person (man, woman or child) who chose to accept it.
Hay Harvest at Stamford by Nathan Fielding (Peterborough Museums)
Thomas Carr of Lincoln was a hawker of almanacs and fish… and yes, we think that’s an odd combination too! He was well-known around the county’s markets, famous enough for a print to be made of him.
Underneath the print is some very helpful genealogical information about Thomas.
Thomas Carr of Lincoln
The well-known dealer in Almanacks & Fish being born at Hexthorpe near Doncaster and was christenened the 19th of October 1718.
So, Thomas wasn’t really a Lincolnshire man but had obviously lived in the city of Lincoln for long enough that he was described as being of his adopted town. His baptism can be found, exactly as described on the print, in the parish registers of Hexthorpe, a small village on the outskirts of Doncaster in South Yorkshire.
He died in 1807, described as being of an advanced age: he was 89 years old, maybe not to us such an old age these days, but for someone back then, who had gained his living as a hawker which would have been a tough occupation for someone of advancing years, he didn’t do badly at all.
Last week died, at an advanced age, Thomas Carr, well-known here, and to those who frequent Lincoln markets, as a vender of almanacks.
Stamford Mercury, 7th August 1807
Thomas’ funeral was held at St Swithin’s Church in Lincoln on the 26th of July, and he was described in the burial register as a widower. St Swithin’s has undergone several reconstructions during its life. Originally located near the Sheep market, it was ravaged by fire in 1644 during the English Civil War and stood in ruins for just over a century and a half. The ruins can be seen in the drawing below, next to The Greyfriars, the remains of a Franciscan friary dating back to the 1200s.
In 1801 a new church was erected on Sheep Square; a pencil drawing of this church can be seen by clicking here. In the 1880s the present church was built. The old Greyfriars buildings still stand next to it.
As you do, we have just stumbled upon a book titled ‘An Account of Prisons and Houses of Correction in the Midland Circuit’, which provides details of the conditions within the prisons following a review carried out by John Howard Esq., prison reformer, on behalf of the Duke of Montagu, so we thought we would share some bits with you.
Howard’s aim was to review the physical condition of the prisons, and the benefits or otherwise of the prisoners themselves.
The morals of prisoners were at this time as much neglected as their health. Idleness, drunkenness and all kinds of vice, were suffered to continue in such a manner as to confirm old offenders in their bad practices, and to render it almost certain, that the minds of those who were confined for their first faults, would be corrupted instead of being corrected, by their imprisonment.
Howard made a series of recommendations regarding prisons including these:
Every prison be white-washed at least once every year, and that this be done twice in prisons which are much crowded.
That a pump and plentiful supply of water be provided, and that every part of the prison be kept as clean as possible.
That every prison be supplied with a warm and cold bath, or commodious bathing tubs, and that the prisoners be indulged in the use of such baths, with a proper allowance of soap and the use of towels.
That attention be paid to the sewers in order to render them as little offensive as possible.
That great care be taken, that as perfect a separation as possible be made of the following classes of prisoners. That felons be kept entirely separate from debtors; men from women’ old offenders from young beginners; convicts from those who have not yet been tried.
That all prisoners, except debtors be clothed on their admission with a prison uniform and that their own clothes be returned to them when they are brought to trial or are dismissed.
That care be taken that the prisoners are properly supplied with food, and their allowance not deficient, either in weight or quality.
He also recommended that gaolers were to be paid a proper salary, that religious services take place and that no swearing was to be permitted. A surgeon or apothecary be appointed to tend to the sick. That attention be paid to the prisoners on their discharge and that, if possible some means be pointed out to them by which they may be enabled to gain a livelihood in an honest manner.
The book provides brief details of the finding at some of the prisons, so we thought we would share a few of these with you:
County Bridewell – Warwick
A new prison is finished and occupied. There are separate apartments and courts with water, for men and women; and vagrants have a court and apartments separate from the other prisoners. Allowance, as in a gaol.
No coals: no employment at present; but a long room, ten feet and a half wide is provided, with looms, and other materials for work.
1788, Feb. 15 Prisoners – 10.
Birmingham Town Gaol
The court is now paved with broad stones, but dirty with fowls. There is only one dayroom for both sexes, over the door of which there is impudently painted ‘Universal Academy’. Neither the act for preserving the health of prisoners, nor clauses against spirituous liquors are hung up. The gaoler has no salary, but still a licence for beer.
1788, Feb. 14 Prisoners – 13.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
Two rooms. No court: no water. Keeper’s salary only £4
1788 Aug. 7. No prisoners.
An old house lately purchased. Prisoner were formerly confined in a room in the inn keeper’s public house. No allowance, keeper’s salary £20
1788, Aug 3. No prisoners.
County Gaol at Nottingham
At the entrance is this inscription on a board ‘No ale, nor any sort of liquor sold within the prison’. Gaoler’s salary now £140. The prison too small. The debtors in three rooms, pay 2s a week each, though two in a bed. They who can pay only 6d are in two rooms below, confined with such felons as pay 2s a week. The other felons lie in two dark, offensive dungeons, down thirty-six steps called pits, which are never white-washed.
Another dungeon in 1787 was occupied by a man sentenced to two years solitary confinement. The town ‘transports’ and criminals are here confined with the county felons, which it may be hoped the magistrates will soon rectify. The room used for a chapel was too close, though when I was there, only one debtor attended the service. Allowance to felons now 1 and a half pence in bread and a half penny in money. Five of the felons were county, and give town convicts.
1787, Oct 23, Debtors 9
Felons etc. 21
1788, Aug 6, Debtors 12
Felons etc. 10
County Bridewell, Folkingham, Lincolnshire
No alteration in this offensive prison. Court not secure. Prisoners locked up. No water: no employment. Keeper’s salary £40 out of which he maintains (of starves) his prisoners.
1788, Jan. 17, Prisoners 3
Lincoln City and County Gaol
No alteration. Through the window of the two damp cells, both men and women freely converse with idle people in the street, who often supply them with spirituous liquors till they are intoxicated. No court: no sewers: no water accessible to the prisoners. Gaoler’s salary augments £20 in lieu of the tap.
1788, Jan 16 Debtors none. Felons etc. 5
County Gaol at Northampton
Gaoler’s salary £200, out of which he is to give every prisoner three pints of small beer a day.
In the walls of the felons court there are now apertures for air. The prison clean as usual. The new room for the sick is over the Bridewell, with iron bedsteads and proper bedding. The bread allowance to felons is a fourpenny loaf every other day (weight 3lb 2oz). County convicts 2s 6d a week.
1787, Oct 27 Debtors 9. Felons etc. 20.
The Humours of the Fleet. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
There are many reasons to visit Lincoln and when you do, the one place you can’t avoid is the magnificent cathedral that dominates the Lincoln skyline. As we both live in the county we thought we really should write a bit about it. So let’s begin with its dimensions:
The foundations of the cathedral were laid in 1088, and as with any building, maintenance is required over the years and of course, the cathedral has been no exception. Today we thought we would take a look at what renovations those Georgians undertook.
In 1762 the centre window of coloured glass at the East end was executed by Mr Picket of York.
1775 The embattlement on the top of the Broad Tower was designed by Mr Essex of Cambridge and erected under his directions. The same eminent architect was employed in various extensive repairs to the edifice, particularly the roof; he also added the pointed arch with open balustrade which connects the two first pillars of the nave (a little in advance of the centre door in the West Front); and constructed the present Altar Screen.
1782 The floor of the church was newly paved, which occasioned the removal of many monuments that had escaped the ravages of time, fanaticism and mischief; and of the greater part of the inscribed gravestones. The new paving was certainly necessary and is a great improvement, but it is in consequence rendered very difficult to trace the graves of many of the learned and pious men who are there deposited.
1793 The Roman Pavement discovered several feet below the surface, in the centre of the Cloister Quadrangle. Steps descend to it, for the accommodation of visitors; and a brick shed has been built round to protect it from the weather.
1800 The Altar Piece was painted by Mr Peters, Prebendary of Langford Ecclesia.
The Stamford Mercury, 19 July 1805 reports details of the theft of Communion Plate
On Sunday morning the cathedral church of this city was discovered to have been robbed of the whole of the communion plate, consisting of several massy silver vessels, the value of which is supposed to exceed 500l. The last time the plate was seen was on Tuesday se’nnight, when the person who had it under his care sent a little boy with the keys to show it to a stranger. The robbers must have picked five locks, and there is no appearance of violence on any of them, four of them being re-shot. Everything proves this sacrilegious transaction to have resulted from a pre-concerted and well-digested plan. What occasions much conversation is, the circumstances of a convict in the city goal (lately a dragoon solider) having intimated to the gaoler who a few weeks ago conveyed him to the hulks at Woolwich, that ‘no long time would elapse before a great building Above-hill, and the warehouse of an eminent draper in Lincoln would be robbed by two persons, one of who was well know, and little suspected to be capable of such a transaction’. In consequence of this information which Mr. Tuke, the gaoler, divulged o his return to Lincoln, Mr. Smith, who was the draper alluded to, and fortunately paid to the assertion to the convict more attention that it was generally though worthy of, had new locks and bars put upon the doors of his valuable warehouse, and the robbery of the cathedral has proved with what well-employed caution. Proper persons have been sent from Lincoln to obtain what further intelligence respecting this mysterious affair it is possible to extort from the convict dragoon.
1807 The two Western spires which were made of timber and lead were taken down. The Norfolk Chronicle, 22 August 1807 reported:
It is determined to remove from that noble pile, Lincoln Cathedral, the two spires which surmounted St Hugh’s and St Mary’s Towers. Although necessity may require this the picturesque effects of that fine building will be greatly injured by it.
1824 The ancient service of Communion Plate having been some years before sacrilegiously stolen from the Vestry, the present splendid Service was presented to the church.
Also in 1824 repairs were needed according to the Stamford Mercury on 29 October.
The high winds of Tuesday blew off one of the weathercocks from the broad tower of Lincoln Cathedral, as well as the ponderous ball on which it stood. The ball fell with great force on the roof of the church making a large aperture in the lead, but was prevented from going through the stone-groined roof below by the strength of the rafters. The vane fell to the ground near to the cloisters. It is the north-east pinnacle, which has thus suffered; it is feared that the tops of the other three pinnacles are in nearly the same decayed state.
Bell’s Weekly Messenger 9 May 1825:
For the magnificent Minster at Lincoln, a large and splendid organ is now building in London, which has been already performed upon by professors, and has been pronounced equal in power and superior in many points to any in the United Kingdom. The Rev. the Dean has also presented the Minster with a set of communion plate to the value of 1,000l. It is silver chased and gilt, and is similar to that which the King has ordered for his private chapel at Windsor.
1826 The new organ erected by the Dean and Chapter was opened, the church having previously undergone a thorough cleaning.
December 1827 Great Tom of Lincoln was found to be ‘cracked’ and unfit or duty to the great regret of the inhabitants of the ancient city. In 1834 it was broken up and a new one made to replace it. This was the bell that hung in St Mary’s Tower at the West End or Front of the Cathedral (St Mary’s is one tower, the other is St Hugh’s).
And, to finish, we came across this curious article for which can offer no explanation.
Extract of a Letter from M. Johnson Esq.; to William Bogdani Esq.; concerning an extraordinary Interment.
In a letter to me from Mr. Symson, master of the works of the cathedral of Lincoln, dated 28 September last, I was informed that, in digging a grave at the west end of that church, they opened the foot of an ancient sepulcher – the corpse was sewed up in a strong tanned leather hide, the seam running up the middle of the breast. I should suppose it to be some great lay lord, before the custom prevailed of laying them within the church itself.
An augmented reality app is being designed which will allow users to experience the history of the cathedral spires giving them a taste of the height they once were before their removal in the early 1800s, in relation to the well-known building today.
A Guide Through Lincoln Cathedral
Archaeologia: or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity. Published by the Society of Antiquaries of London. The second edition. Volume 1. 1779
Baker, Joseph; A View of Lincoln Cathedral from the West; The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery)
The Beehive public house on Castlegate in Grantham lays claim to being the only pub in the country with a ‘living sign’. Indeed, in its early life, it was known as ‘the Living Sign’ as well as ‘the Beehive’.
Both names are apt: the living sign in question is a beehive located outside the pub in which a swarm of bees often resides and it has been there, in one form or another, since at least 1791 when it was mentioned as a curiosity in several newspapers the length and breadth of the country.
In 1791 the beehive was located on a pillar in front of the house, now a newer hive is located in a tree to the side of the doorway.
In May 1814 the landlord of the Beehive was one Edward Wood, and presumably, he was there when Colour-Serjeant George Calldine of the 19th Foot visited.
Grantham has a very fine spire, the highest in England except Salisbury. Here also is a living sign, it being a bee-hive up in a tree, which I remember seeing when I passed through in 1814.
By March 1822 Mrs Elizabeth Wood was the landlady of the Beehive (presumably Edward Wood had died and Elizabeth was his widow) and it was Elizabeth who was painted in the doorway of the pub, with the ‘living sign’ on proud display.
Interestingly, George Calladine refers to the beehive being in a tree in 1814, but in 1791 it is recorded as being on a pillar. In this painting, it is still, quite clearly, on a pillar, so either painted earlier than 1814 or George has misremembered his anecdote. The sign with the rhyme on it can also be seen on the corner above Elizabeth’s head.
The church spire alluded to in the rhyme is atop St Wulfram’s in Grantham, the sixth highest spire in the country.
Our blog today is a grisly one as we relate the story of two barbarous murders in eighteenth-century Lincolnshire.
Mr Rands, the Lincoln post-master had cause to have some words with his servant who was thrown into jail by his master owing to a considerable debt. Later set free after paying £5, the servant left in high dudgeon, swearing he would be revenged upon his master.
On the 2nd January 1732/3 a traveller was stopped by two men near Ancaster and robbed of a small sum of money and his horse. He was, it turns out, extremely lucky that this was all he lost. Two hours later the two men met with William Wright, an 18 or 19-year old youth from Market Rasen. He was travelling in his chaise from Ancaster where he had spent the day with a friend, and had a second horse tethered behind. Wright recognised the post-master’s servant and, as the two men were both upon the one poor horse, offered the man a ride on his spare horse. They parted company at an inn, after a disagreement, but the men knew where William Wright was heading and lay in wait for him. At Faldingworth near to Market Rasen, at around five o’clock in the evening darkness, the two men murdered young William although he put up a brave fight. His throat was cut and his head almost severed, and his body was then put back into his chaise and one report said that some flesh was cut from his leg and ‘tied’ upon his face. The murderous pair left, having rifled the corpse’s pockets and taking the two horses with them, leaving the gruesome discovery to be made by a milkmaid. It was assumed that Wright had been murdered to silence his tongue and prevent discovery of his assailants.
A day later the young post-boy, a lad named Thomas Gardner (or Gardiner) who hailed from the village of Nettleham to the north of the city and who was around the same age as William Wright, was found murdered upon the road from Lincoln to Grimsby. Both his throat and that of his horse had been cut from ear to ear and his post bag had been stolen. Reputedly he was made the to blow his horn, before his tormentors told him that he had just sounded his ‘death peal’. Again, his murder was to silence him, but was it also, as it turned out, from hatred of his employer, Mr Rands the post-master.
Suspicion immediately fell upon the post-master’s former servant, Isaac Hallam, and his description, and that of his accomplice, was circulated along with a reward of £40 for any information leading to the capture of the murderer of William Wright.
One of the Persons supposed to have committed the said Murder, is a slender bodied Man with a thin Face, wearing a light-coloured natural Wig, and a white straight-bodied Coat, with carved or chequer’d Buttons on it, with a blue wide Riding Coat lined with yellow, and Brass Buttons; he rode upon a block lean Punch Horse, about Fourteen Hands high, with a wisked Tail. And another of the Persons supposed also to have been concerned in the said Murther, is pale-fac’d and marked with the Small-Pox; he had on a straight bodied grey double-breasted Coat with black Buttons, and a light-colour’d Riding Coat, and a light-coloured natural Wig, and rode on a brownish Bay strong Punch Horse, about Fourteen Hands high, with a wisk’d Tail. They also took from the Deceased, and carried off, a strong dark brown Punch Gelding, full aged, trots well, and paces also, and has a small star on the Forehead, and no other white about him; he is about Fourteen Hands and a half high, and as a long whole Tail, if not altered.
It was not many days before the keepers of Salisbury gaol realised that one of two men who had lately been committed there appeared to be the sought after fugitive. Isaac Hallam, together with his brother Thomas, had committed a robbery near to the city of Salisbury, although it seems their victim, in this instance, was allowed to escape with his life.
The two brothers did not deny the charges laid at their door and, loaded with irons, were brought back to Lincoln for trial in a coach and six from Salisbury by way of London. On the 19th February they lay at the George in St Martins at Stamford on their journey to Lincoln. Isaac showed some concern for his acquaintance William Wright who, he said, had behaved ‘so bravely’, but Thomas seemed not to care less and neither brother showed a jot of remorse for the poor young post-boy although Thomas declared he had only held Gardner’s hand while Isaac cut the boy’s throat. They had intended their list of victims to be longer, set on murdering all those whom they stole from, and on their hit-list was Mr Benjamin West (or Wells), the son of the Lincoln Carrier, a Mr Harvey and, top of their list, Mr Rands the post-master. If they had managed to murder him the two brothers would, they said, ‘have died with Pleasure’. On their entrance to Lincoln, crowds had started to gather from the Bar Gate and along the two-mile route to the Castle, and the brothers were met with jeers, hisses, shouting and, in sorrow for poor murdered Thomas Gardner, post-boys blowing their horns.
The trial was a short one as both Isaac and Thomas Hallam admitted their guilt, not only to the murders but to some sixty-three other robberies, and both men were sentenced to be executed and hung in chains. Before the sentence was passed, they were asked if they had anyone to speak on their behalf and Isaac had the nerve to call on his former employer, Mr Rands. They also asked for a fortnight’s stay of execution but this was, quite rightly, denied them. They left the court, but not before telling the judge that they ‘they hoped to meet with a more favourable judge in the other world, and valued not what man could do to them’.
On the 16th March 1732/3, at nine o’clock in the morning, the two convicted murderers were taken to the gibbet which lay around a mile outside Lincoln. There Isaac was hung and his body placed in the irons while his brother watched on – one report said that Thomas fainted at the sight. Thomas Hallam was then taken to Faldingworth Gate, eight miles further on, to the site of William Wright’s murder where he suffered the same fate as his brother.
Thomas Gardner was buried in his home village of Nettleham. The burial register reads:
Tho: Gardiner a post boy found murdered near Langworth Street was Buryed the 6th Day of Jany – 1732.
Local legend says that no grass grows around his grave. William Wright was buried at Market Rasen.
NB: Many sources say erroneously that the brothers were arrested at Shrewsbury and not at Salisbury, and most give the date of their execution as the 20th March – however, the Stamford Mercury of Thursday, March 22nd 1732/3 clearly states their demise as ‘Friday last’.
Stamford Mercury, 11th and 25th January 1732/3, 1st and 22nd February 1732/3 and 22nd March 1732/3
Derby Mercury, 18th January 1732/3 and 1st and 15th March 1732/3
Daily Journal, 12th March 1732/3
The London Gazette 13-16th January 1732/3
Ipswich Journal, 10th March 1732/3
Lincolnshire Villains: Rogues, Rascals and Reprobates by Douglas Wynn, 2012
Header image: A Distant View of Lincoln Cathedral; Peter de Wint; National Galleries of Scotland
Major Boswell was a gypsy – he was born in 1780, and baptized on the 6th August, in the Oxfordshire village of Bloxham where he was recorded as the son of John Boswell.
A noted fiddler, as a young man he earned his living by playing at different venues and one day he arrived at Longton in the Staffordshire Potteries – where ‘he was engaged to play for the dancing classes held at a young ladies’ academy’. This episode of Major’s life dates to the very end of the eighteenth- or the dawning of the nineteenth-century, as it must have occurred between 1798 and 1801.
The first and the second of these [classes] at which he was present passed without incident, but at the third or fourth a big bouncing girl answering to the name of Mary Linyon persisted in treading on his toes. She did it on purpose quite clearly, and Major recognising this, and attracted no doubt by her handsome face and wilful demeanour, was not slow to take the cue she afforded him. He spoke to her afterwards, ostensibly about her behaviour, but what the really said to one another is better judged from the fact that a night or two later Mary, who was no more than fifteen, jumped from a bedroom window into his cart drawn up beneath it, on to a thick pile of straw surmounted by blankets and a feather bed.
The couple eloped together and stayed hidden in the countryside whilst, it is said, a hue and cry was raised and a reward offered for any information which led to Major Boswell’s arrest. Perhaps this inducement worked because, supposedly, Major was eventually arrested and charged with Mary’s abduction, although he protested his innocence. The story as it was told around the campfires of their descendants places Major in a courtroom to answer the charges against him and there Mary took to the witness box, telling the judge loud and clear that it was she who had insisted on the elopement. Because of her testimony Major was acquitted and the spirited and determined Mary chose to remain by his side rather than return home to her parents.
Some say she was a gamekeeper’s daughter, and others that her father was a farm bailiff or steward. No matter, she was, by all accounts, a woman of strong character, as Major, her children and more particularly her daughters-in-law, seem to have discovered when they crossed her will; a great lover of order and cleanliness, of fine clothes, old china, and shining silver; an expert needlewoman, who taught the craft to her daughters and granddaughters with considerable success…
We have yet to turn up any information which confirms that Major Boswell did indeed elope with Mary, or that he was charged in a court of law with her abduction. But Mary had certainly received an education somewhere, so perhaps the story that she trod on poor Major’s toes in the dancing class where they first met is true, and she did indeed run away with him. In 1837 Mary (as Mary Linion and recorded as 55 years of age) was arrested for ‘fraudulently obtaining half-a-dozen silver teaspoons, the property of Mr Thomas Shepherd, of Barrow-upon-Soar, on the 1st April 1835’ along with Major Boswell (aged 60 years), their 16 year old son Alfred and daughter Edingal, 21 years of age. The case was never brought into court but, in the calendar of prisoners for trial, it was recorded that while Major, Alfred and Edingal Boswell could neither read nor write, Mary could do both well.
Mary took to her new way of life with gusto, providing Major with seventeen children, becoming expert at telling fortunes and described as the ‘best Gypsy of the lot of ‘em’. They stayed mainly in the Staffordshire area but travelled into other parts of the country too. A daughter named Tieni (or Teany) was baptized at Beoley in Worcestershire on the 8th March 1801. They were in Lincolnshire during the first two decades of the nineteenth-century for the baptism of Charles Augustus, son of Major and Mary Smith at Stamford St Michael on the 27th June 1803 is likely to be them, with Major described as a tin plate worker. The next year Mary daughter of Major and Mary Boswell was baptized at Ewerby near Sleaford on the 7th October 1804 (a William and Mary Lovil, ‘traveller & gipsy’ baptized a son, William, on the 28th of the same month at Digby, less than ten miles away from Ewerby, and perhaps they were travelling in company with Major Boswell and Mary Linyon). And then on the 7th March 1819, at Rauceby again near to Sleaford, we find the baptism of Alfred, son of Major and Mary Boswell, traveller. The couple also had a daughter whose name is transcribed as ‘Elopeh’ on the baptism records for Quainton in Buckinghamshire (she was baptized on the 22nd October 1802) – does her name refer to her parent’s reputed elopement, and provide some confirmation of it?
A Major Boswell had married in 1798 at Breedon on the Hill in Leicestershire, to Lucy Boswell (a short lived son had been the product of that marriage), and if this was the same man it may explain why Mary continued to use her maiden name (as at her 1837 arrest), and could not legally marry her husband although they lived as man and wife. The couple are to be found at Willenhall near to Wolverhampton in Staffordshire in the 1861 census, living in a caravan parked in a field on the High Street; Major Boswell was aged 87 years, a tinman born at Bloxham in Oxfordshire and Mary, his wife, was 82 years of age and gave her birthplace as Gravesend in Kent.
Major Boswell ended his long life in Longton in Staffordshire, the village where he reputedly met his wife, his age exaggerated by a good few years at his death.
Major Boswell, who for the last seven years has made a tent on the Stone-road, Longton, his principal place of abode, died on Sunday, at the advanced age of 108 years. The body is ‘laid out’ in characteristic gipsy style. He ‘lies in state’ on a bed on the ground, covered with a white sheet, and a tuft of grass on the chest. The part of the tent where the body lies is lined with white, decorated with flowers, a picture of the Saviour, and wax candles on either side. The old man has not a wrinkle on his face, had only lost three teeth, and never consulted a doctor during his long earthly pilgrimage. He was twice married, and had by his second wife seventeen children, amongst whom he numbered fifty-nine grandchildren. His remains will be interred in Dresden churchyard to-day, and will no doubt be followed to the grave by an unusually large number of relatives.
Leicester Chronicle, 11th March 1837
Staffordshire Advertiser, 21st May 1870
Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, Third Series, Vol III, 1924
Potteries Landscape by Henry Lark I Pratt from The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery via Your Paintings
Today’s blog is going to be a sad little tale of a family destroyed by opium in late Georgian England. It perhaps struck us so much because the family lived not in an inner city slum but instead in the flat and open agricultural landscape of the Lincolnshire Fens, a marshland close to the Wash, an estuary on the eastern coastline of England.
We’ll turn first to a newspaper report on the inquest of a child belonging to this family, poor little Rebecca Eason who was actually younger than mentioned; she had not yet reached her fifth birthday.
An inquest was held at Whaplode on the 21st inst., by Samuel Edwards, Gent. coroner, on view of the body of Rebecca Eason, a child aged 5 years, who had been diseased from its birth and was unable to walk or to articulate, and from its size did not appear to be more than a few weeks old:- The mother had been for many years in the habit of taking opium in very large quantities, (nearly a quarter of an ounce in the day), and it is supposed from that circumstance had entailed a disease on her child which caused its death:- it was reduced to a mere skeleton, and had been in that emaciated state nearly from its birth. – Verdict, “Died by the visitation of God, but that from the great quantity of opium taken by the mother during her pregnancy of the said child and of her suckling it, she had greatly injured its health.” – It appeared in evidence that the mother of the deceased had had five children – that she began to take opium after the birth and weaning of her first child, which was and is remarkably healthy – and that her four younger children have all lingered and died in the same emaciated state as the child which was the subject of this investigation. – The mother is under 30 years of age: she was severely censured by the coroner for indulging in so pernicious a practice.
Stamford Mercury, 30th September 1825
For reasons that will perhaps become clear, we’re not going to judge poor addicted Mary Eason. She was quite clearly continuing to take opium despite knowing the effect it was having on her children but we cannot, at this remove, know what induced her first to use the drug, and once addicted very little help would be available to her.
We were surprised to find that the consumption of opium in the Fenland was extremely high in comparison to other areas. Even now large areas of the Fenland appear quite isolated and in the early nineteenth-century there was limited medical assistance for the inhabitants who suffered badly from the ague (malarial fever, often leading to rheumatism), brought on by living in a marshy and largely unhealthy district. In 1867 Dr Hawkins of King’s Lynn informed the readers of the British Medical Journal that Lincolnshire and Norfolk consumed more than half of the opium which was imported into the country.[i]
The fact that these conditions had led to a noticeably high consumption of opium was commented on at the time. `There was not a labourer’s house… without its penny stick or pill of opium, and not a child that did not have it in some form.’ According to an analysis made in 1862, more opium was sold in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Manchester than in other parts of the country.’ As elsewhere, poppy-head tea had been used as a remedy long before other narcotics were commercially available. Charles Lucas, a Fenland physician, recalled the widespread use of the remedy. `A patch of white poppies was usually found in most of the Fen gardens. Poppy-head tea was in frequent use, and was taken as a remedy for ague… To the children during the teething period the poppy-head tea was often given. Poppies had been grown in the area for the London drug market, where they were used to produce syrup of white poppies; and there had even been attempts made in Norfolk to produce opium on a commercial scale.[ii]
Mary married young, very young given that she was stated (erroneously) to be under the age of thirty years in the September of 1825. Mary was, in fact, probably just on the other side of thirty as she married on the 9th September 1810 at the church of St Mary’s in Whaplode. Her maiden name was Egan and her husband, a labourer (given the location he’d be an agricultural labour), was named Thomas Eason. Mary made her mark on the register of her marriage and the two men who witnessed the ceremony were possibly two of the Church Wardens as they witnessed many marriages in the parish. Their names were Robert Collins and Robert Cook Collins.
So Mary was likely to have been little more than sixteen years of age and the marriage was a hasty one, possibly conducted with encouragement from the parish officials for Mary was heavily pregnant at the time of her wedding. Her child, a daughter named Ann, was born less than two months after she had walked up the aisle and was baptised in the same church on the 4th November 1810.
On the face of it, purely from the records available, things do not look too bad for the couple despite the unpromising start. They lived on Cobgate in Whaplode and, from the account given at the inquest, little Ann was a healthy baby and Mary initially a good mother. But the records belie the true facts. It was after Ann had been weaned that Mary Eason began to take opium.
We can’t know if her hastily made marriage was a happy one (for as the old saying goes, marry in haste and repent at leisure) nor if she was suffering from what would now be diagnosed as postnatal depression after the birth of her child. But begin to take opium she did which was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary in the area in which she lived and where the drug was widely available. It was not unknown for working-class women to dose their infant with poppy-head tea to keep them quiet or to soothe them. Sometimes their own addiction began because they ‘tasted’ the opiates which they gave to their children. Perhaps this is how Mary’s sad story of addiction began? However it came about, now the tragic procession of the baptisms and burials of her children begins to stalk the pages of the parish register.
First was William, baptized on the 15th April 1813 and buried just a few months later on the 30th September. He was followed by another girl, Susanna, baptized on the 2nd January 1815 and who lived to see only her first birthday. She was buried on the 13th May 1816. Then comes Sarah, baptized on the 1st November 1816 and possibly, contrary to the inquest, a further child who did survive Mary’s addiction for we have as yet found no corresponding burial for her.
Sarah’s birth was followed by another sister, Elisabeth who was baptized on the 6th December 1818 and buried just over a month later on the 10th January 1819. Then a son named Thomas, baptized on the 4th December 1819 and buried five days later. And next came poor Rebecca, baptized on the 29th December 1820, who somehow miraculously clung to life but failed to grow or develop. Finally the last child we have managed to trace, another son named John who was baptized on the 6th July 1823 and buried on Christmas Eve later that same year.
We’ll be honest here, when we first went hunting through the records for Mary Eason and her children we half expected to see a trail of illegitimate children. But no, Thomas Eason is named on all the baptisms and burials as the father, the address is always Cobgate and his profession does not change. For anyone reading through the Whaplode registers the household looks to be a completely stable one, albeit tinged with tragedy. As we have not judged Mary, neither will we judge Thomas Eason. Again, we have no way of knowing whether he was a kind or a cruel husband or even if he was an opium eater himself, but the mere fact that he had stuck by Mary and that their eldest child was reported, in 1825, to still be healthy, points to him trying his best to hold his troubled home together. Possibly he just got by and did what he could, not knowing what else to do or where to turn to for help?
At least five infant children belonging to Thomas and Mary Eason now lay in the churchyard at St Mary’s and it seems that they had passed as mere statistics of high infant mortality without the cause of death raising any suspicions, or at least no suspicions which reached the authorities. In the Fenland the rates of infant mortality were even higher than elsewhere, with the use of opium being one of the main causes. But Rebecca’s death in 1825 was different, because of her deformities, leading to the inquest.
After Rebecca’s burial on the 22nd September 1825 when she joined her five siblings in the churchyard Thomas and Mary Eason vanish from the pages of the parish register. We’ve looked for them in later records, hoping to put a happy ending to their lives, but we can find no trace of them or their daughter Ann (and Sarah if she did live). A sad ending for a sad tale of a Fenland family in the early nineteenth century.
[i] Beccles and Bungay Weekly News, 1st October 1867
The Boss family, notorious gypsy horse thieves and dealers, plied their dubious trade across throughout Norfolk and Suffolk, into Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire and further afield into Yorkshire.
The family used various aliases, including Heron (Hearne) and Jones. The best known was Riley Boss who had three wives, Charlotte Hammond, Lucy Boswell and Shurensi (sometimes Susannah) Smith. Also of the travelling party was Riley’s reputed half-brother, James Venus, who had taken for a wife Trinity Boswell (sister of Elijah Boswell, a notorious rogue) along with her children by George Boyling, her previous husband.
James Venus and Riley Boss had a sister named Clara. In the latter half of the 1820s, the party met Samuel Roberts (1763-1848) of Park Grange in Sheffield, the son of a local manufacturer. It is likely that this was during the summer of 1827. James and Trinity Venus had baptised a son, named Newcombe Venus, in Bowdon Cheshire on the 22nd April 1827 as James and Traineth Venus of Dunham (a neighbouring village) with James’s occupation being described as cutler, a traditional gypsy occupation; he would have travelled with a grinding machine sharpening blades.
In the summer of 1827, the party were on their way back to Lincolnshire where young Newcombe Venus was buried at Mablethorpe on the 5th August 1827, the burial register recording him as the son of James and Trinity Venus, gypsies, aged about nine months. At some point between these two dates, whilst travelling from Cheshire to Lincolnshire via the Sheffield road, the gypsy party met with Samuel Roberts. In his own words:
In taking my accustomed ride into the country, I met with a tribe, or rather family, of Gypsies, consisting, as I then supposed, of the father, mother, and five children; it, however, proved, that the older of the children, a girl apparently about thirteen, was an orphan, and sister to the man, though probably nearly twenty years younger than he. I saw them several times and at length asked the man if he would have any objections to leaving his sister with my family, at any rate till he called again, which I understood to be in about eight days . . . The man said his name was James Vanis. His sister’s Clara Vanis. I have since heard that it was Hearn and not Vanis.
From this description, we seem to have James and Trinity Venus, together with his sister Clara, the baby Newcombe and three of Trinity’s children from her previous marriage. Samuel Roberts was a religious man, a keen slavery abolitionist and he published several books, some on the subject of the gypsies and their culture and he was also known as the ‘Pauper’s Advocate’. His reason for wanting Clara to stay with him and his family was to become better acquainted with the language and habits of the gypsy people. With both James Venus and Clara being agreeable to this she returned to Park Grange with Roberts. Clara was, from Roberts’ description, a slight, well-formed girl, not strongly gypsy looking and not handsome but strikingly intelligent.
She spent the eight days with the Roberts family and they seem to have been as delighted with her as she was with them, becoming a firm favourite with two of Roberts’ daughters. She and the Roberts wished to extend the visit but James Venus came at the appointed time and insisted that Clara leave with him immediately. Clara was in tears but agreed to go with her brother, even though Samuel Roberts entreated her to remain. James Venus had told Samuel Roberts that Clara was needed as his wife and one of the children was ill, but after Clara had quit his house Roberts encountered the wife, Trinity, who told him that she was as well as usual and did not wish for Clara’s return. No further mention is made of the sickly child but seeing as the infant Newcombe Venus was buried shortly after this, James Venus was probably right to be concerned and to want his sister to help.
The Victorian gypsiologist, Rev. George Hall (1863-1918), so well known to the Lincolnshire gypsy fraternity, later talked with Clara’s family. Hall knew her as a full sister to Riley Boss and a half-sister to the slightly shadier James Venus, whose identity has always been unsure. Indeed, many authorities have decided that James Venus was simply an alias used by Riley Boss and that the two men were one and the same. George Hall had this to say, referencing the opinion of another, earlier, gypsiologist, George Borrow.
Concerning the dramatic termination of the Sheffield episode, two versions are extant. According to Mr. Roberts, it is James Vanis, otherwise Hearn, who comes of Clara with a lying pretext on his lips. In Borrow’s statement it is Ryley who snatches his young sister away in a characteristic spirit of violence. It is true, the girl had a half-brother named James, yet seeing that Borrow obtained his facts during lengthy conversations with Clara herself, it may be presumed that ‘James Vanis’ was after all only one more of Ryley’s many aliases.
However, it seems unlikely that James Venus was purely an alias; certainly Trinity, after leaving George Boyling and taking up with her second husband, consistently uses the surname Venus, or a variant thereof, as does James during several court appearances for vagrancy and theft, and not once do they use differing forenames or surnames.
The year after this Sheffield episode, in Burton by Lincoln, the name Newcombe was given to a son of Riley Boss and Shurensi (as an adult he would be transported to Australia under the name of Barthey Jones for the crime of horse stealing).
28th September 1828, Burton by Lincoln, baptism of Newcome son of William and Susan Boss, at Burton, gypsey.
A month later James Venus (as James Vanus) was sentenced to a week in prison for the crime of larceny at the Doncaster Sessions, possibly tried alongside an Abraham Herring, but he was back in Lincolnshire in November for the baptism of a child named Aswerly at Upon cum Kexby near Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, the register there recording the parents as James and Trinity Venus, travelling tinker.
Riley at least remained in the Lincolnshire area as a double baptism of his children took place at the end of 1832, one which was not all that it seemed. For Riley had a son named Adness with Shurensi and a daughter named Naomi with Lucy; polygamy was common amongst these people, and it so happened that Riley had two children born within days of each other by two of his wives. Not wanting to shock the local vicar by proclaiming himself as the father of both children, a relative stood in as the father of Lucy’s daughter. The baptisms took place in the village of Wootton.
30th Dec 1832 – Agnes daughter of Ryley and Susannah Bos, of Wootton, a gipsy
30th Dec 1832 – Naomi daughter of Thomas and Lucy Bos, of Wootton, a gipsy
The Vicar then added a note at the bottom of the page of the baptism register, “N.B. I was afterwards informed by report only, after their departure, that the child whom they named Agnes was a boy. The persons who call themselves Bos are probably Boswells”. The child was not only a boy but was Adness rather than Agness, but he also, in later life, used the names Isaac and Haggi.
James Venus made a further appearance in the dock, this time in Derbyshire for stealing an ass, along with his stepson Absalom Boyling, the two men were recorded as James Vanass aged 50 and Absalom Vanass aged 16, both gypsies. James received four months imprisonment.
At Attercliffe, Sheffield, on the 20th February 1844, Trinity Venus, wife of James Venus, brazier, died of typhus fever aged 54 years. Her death was registered by Hesilla Venus, possibly her daughter Asella by her first husband George Boyling, who had been present at the death; we can find no other trace of Hesilla/Asella. Trinity’s son Absalom, or ‘Appy Boswell, was known for his ‘Lying Tales’. Perhaps though there was more truth in them than has yet been supposed?
The Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society Journal (1925) has this on ‘Appy.
Among them was Trenit Boswell, a daughter of the Absolom or Appy Boswell who is famous all over the North Midlands and the northern counties for his Lying Tales, and about whose origin and ‘breedipen’ there has been as deep and seemingly impenetrable a mystery as any in Gypsy genealogy. Appy himself would declare that he was born at Wickersley, near Rotherham, of respectable gorgio parents, his father being a small farmer and dealer. As a boy he attended Sunday School, where he learned to read and write; after which, he said, his parents apprenticed him to Rogers of Sheffield, ‘to have him put in the way of the grinding business.’ The workmen, however, used him harshly, so he ran away, and ‘listed as a sailor’; and was shipwrecked, and lived for a week at the bottom of the sea — ‘ a beautiful tem in no mistake, only vittles wasn’t to say plentiful there, and it took you all your time to get a bit of fire going.’ Various adventures followed, bringing him back at last to England, where one day he fell in with a widow who had five children, and was so sorry for her that he married her forthwith. But, as will be seen, this is one of Appy’s Munchausen-like efforts, not sober autobiography; and so, having indicated its nature, I must pass it by now, hoping that on some future occasion I may be able to tell it, and one or two more Appy Boswell tales not printed as yet, in something approaching their original form. Here I can only add that Appy once took a sceptical listener to Wickersley, and convinced him of his parents’ residence there, for no sooner had they set down their grinding-barrows in front of the kicema than the door of a house opposite flew open, and a voice inquired : ‘ Is that you, Absolom? Your mother wants to see you. She’s bin took badly, poor old lady.’ This is what Appy said, at all events; and I know of Booths and Claytons nearly related to him who believe that things happened so — by previous arrangement or otherwise.
It seems plausible, having seen Trinity’s death certificate, that the story about his sick mother at Wickersley which is close by Sheffield may have some truth in it after all and relate to Trinity Venus. Incidentally, Absalom (or ‘Appy) was baptised at Scawby in Lincolnshire in 1821 as the son of George and Trinity Boyling, wandering gypsies.
James Venus was buried at Harewood in Yorkshire on 19 August 1850, as James Veanas, under coroner’s orders.
SUDDEN DEATH NEAR HAREWOOD – On the 19th inst., Mr. Taylor, deputy coroner, held his first inquest since his appointment by Mr. Lee, at the King’s Arms, Wigton, near Harewood, on view of the body of James Venus, aged 44. It appeared that deceased was a gipsy, and by trade a knife grinder. He had been unwell for some time past, but had been travelling about in various parts of the country. He died somewhat suddenly, at Wigton, on the day preceding the inquest. The jury returned a verdict of “Died from natural causes”.
Roll Up! Roll Up! Today we invite our readers to visit Pidcock’s Royal Menagerie at Exeter ‘Change and also touring the country, so all can join in. All manner of incredible and rare animals, some never seen before. And all for just one shilling.
Come on in, and prepare to be amazed…
TO THE CURIOUS
Whatever deserves the Epithet of RARE, must certainly be worthy the Attention of the Curious.
JUST Arriv’d from the ISLAND of JAVA, in the East-Indies, and ALIVE, one of the greatest Rarities ever brought to Europe in the Age or Memory of Man,
The GRAND CASSOWAR.
It is described by the late Dr. Goldsmith as follows, viz. The Head inspires some Degree of Terror like a Warrior; it has the Eye of a Lion, the Defence of a Porcupine, and the Swiftness of a Courser; but has neither Tongue, Wing nor Tail. Its Legs are stout like the Elephant, Heel as the Human Species, and three Toes before; it is upwards of six Feet high, and weighs above 200lb. Its Head and Neck is adorned with a Variety of beautiful Colours, the Top a Sky Blue, the Back Part Orange, the Front Purple, adorned on each side with Crimson, curiously beaded, and its Feathers resemble the Mane of a Horse – and what is more extraordinary, each Quill produces two Feathers.
The Dutch assert that it can devour Glass, Iron, Stones, and even burning Coals, without Fear or Injury.
This Bird laid a large Egg at Warwick, on the 14th of January last, which is of a green Colour, spotted with white.
Ladies and Gentlemen One shilling each.
PIDCOCK, the Proprietor of this BIRD, will be at Sheffield Fair the 28th Instant; and will visit all the other principal Towns in Yorkshire.
(Leeds Intelligencer, 16th November, 1779)
GRAND MENAGERIE of WILD BEASTS and BIRDS, all alive, is just arrived, and now exhibiting at the White Lion, Corn-Market, DERBY. This invaluable Collection consists of two Mountain Lion Tygers, Male and Female – two Satyrs, or Ætheopian Savages, ditto – a He Bengal Tyger – a Porcupine – an Ape – a Coata Munda – a Jackall – four Macaws – two Cockatoos, one of which will converse with any Person in Company; with a Number of other Curiosities not inserted.
N.B. The large Beasts are well secured, so that the most timorous may approach them with the greatest Safety.
Admittance 1s. each – a Price by no means adequate to the Variety of Curiosities exhibited.
(Derby Mercury, 31st December, 1789)
Just arrived from the Lyceum, and Exeter Exchange, Strand, London, and to be seen during the fair, in the market-place, two of the grandest assemblages of living rarities in all Europe: consisting of two stupendous and royal OSTRICHES, male and female. These birds exceed in magnitude and texture of plumage all the feathered TRIBE in the CREATION. They already measure upwards of NINE FEET high, although very young! – Also a BENGAL TYGER, a young LIONESS, a real spotted HYÆNA, a ravenous WOLF, two ring-tailed PORCUPINES; an AFRICAN RAM, with four circular horns; and twenty other animals and birds, too numerous to insert. – Admittance, 1s. – Servants, half-price. – Likewise in the other exhibition is the ROYAL HEIFER with TWO HEADS, a beautiful COLT, of the race kind, foaled with only THREE LEGS, got by Sir Charles Bunbury’s Diomed, out of Barcelli, which was the dam of Marcia, now the property of Lord Derby; also a RAM with SIX LEGS. – In addition to the animal curiosities one of the most extraordinary productions of the human species will be shewn, namely the double-jointed IRISH DWARF, who will engage to carry two of the largest men now existing, both at the same time. – Admittance, as above. – Birds and beasts bought, sold, or exchanged, by G. Pidcock. – The above collection will proceed to Warrington, Liverpool, Manchester, &c.
(Chester Chronicle, 14th October, 1791)
Things did not always go to plan though. In 1792, Friday the 13th really lived up to its reputation as a day for disaster, as least as far as Gilbert Pidcock’s travelling menagerie was concerned while travelling through Lincolnshire . . .
On Friday the 13th inst. as Mr Pidcock was proceeding from Gainsborough to Brigg, with his exhibition of birds and beasts, a terrible clap of thunder, attended with lightning, took place, which frightened the horses, and they set off on full gallop, threw the ostrich carriage over, broke it to pieces, broke the back of the female ostrich which died the next day, and the male ostrich was bruised in so terrible a manner, that it died at Newark, on Wednesday the 25th. The Irish dwarf had his collar bone broke, and was otherwise much hurt, but is now in a fair way of recovery.
A rural, country lane in Lincolnshire, between the villages of Drinsey Nook and Saxilby and close to the county border with Nottinghamshire, bears the name of a murderer who was gibbeted there for his crime.
Tom Otter was the culprit: hanged on Saxilby Moor close to the scene of his awful crime, his name still resonates over two hundred years later.
He was a twenty-eight-year-old labouring banker (navvy) from Treswell in Nottinghamshire who had travelled across the border into Lincolnshire seeking work, leaving his young wife and infant daughter behind in Southwell. Described as a stout but handsome man, he stood five feet nine inches in height.
At Eakring in Nottinghamshire on the 22nd November 1804, Tom married Martha Rawlinson; their daughter was born just a month later, baptized at Hockerton near Southwell two days before Christmas.
In Lincolnshire, passing himself off as a widower and using his mother’s maiden name of Temporal, he seduced young Mary Kirkham, a local girl between twenty-one and twenty-four years of age, and got her pregnant. Forced by the parish authorities into marriage, the couple duly obtained a marriage licence and presented themselves, accompanied by the parish constables, at the parish church in South Hykeham to say their vows, Tom Otter naming himself as Thomas Temple [sic], a widower on the marriage licence if not in the marriage register, of St. Mary Wigford in Lincoln. Mary, eight months pregnant at her wedding, was a spinster from North Hykeham.
The marriage took place on Sunday, 3rd November 1805, and that same evening the couple found themselves near to Drinsey Nook, about nine miles distant from South Hykeham, after having stopped at The Sun Inn at Saxilby for a drink and a bite to eat. On the road between Saxilby and Drinsey Nook, Tom brutally murdered his pregnant bride only hours after their wedding, battering her skull with a wooden club and throwing her lifeless body into a ditch close to a bridge passing over the Ox Pasture Drain.
There poor Mary was discovered the next morning, her head almost beaten from her body, with the wooden club and one of her patterns located 40 yards away. She was carried back to The Sun Inn for an inquest to take place, following which she was buried in Saxilby on the 5th November 1805.
The burial register reads:
Nov 5th – Mary Kirkham, alias Temporel, aged 24, found murdered on the Moor. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against her husband, Thomas Temporel, or Otter.
Having been observed walking with a wooden club on the day of the murder, Tom was taken up at The Packhorse Inn in Lincoln as the prime suspect and stood trial at the Lincoln Assizes as Thomas Temporell, otherwise Thomas Otter, in March 1806. After a trial lasting five hours he was sentenced to death and to have his body dissected, but this was changed to rule that his body should be hung in chains on Saxilby Moor, at the scene of his crime. Tom had made no defence to the charge of willful murder, but twenty witnesses appeared against him, all giving circumstantial evidence but it appeared so plain and clear that after the five-hour trial the jury took but a few minutes to consider their verdict.
Tom carried himself with indifference at his trial, but on the day of his execution, 14th March 1806, he was measured for the irons in which his body was to rot, and at this point he faltered and approached the gallows adjacent to Lincoln Castle with his head bowed.
The Reverend George Hall, a friend of the gypsies and known as The Gypsy’s Parson, recounted in his book of the same name how his grandfather attended the gibbetting.
[He] was among the crowd of citizens who, starting from Lincoln Castle one March morning in the year 1806, followed the murderer’s corpse until it was hanged in irons on a post thirty feet high on Saxilby Moor. For several days after the event, the vicinity of the gibbet resembled a country fair with drinking booths, ballad singers, Gypsy fiddlers, and fortune-tellers.
The gypsies used to camp close to the gibbet, near Tom Otter’s mouldering bones; the local folk kept their distance from the place after dark and the gypsies knew they would be left in peace. Although it occurred a decade on from the Georgian era, we must recount the birth of one gypsy boy, as given in The Gypsy’s Parson.
Old Tom, whose patronymic was Petulengro, the Gypsy equivalent of Smith, was known as Tom o’ the Gibbet (he was also known as Sneezing Tommy because of his predilection for a pinch of snuff, but we’ll concentrate on the former nickname). His married sister, Ashena Brown, when an elderly lady, told the story to the Gypsy’s Parson.
The old lady, bowed and with long jet black curls, began her tale:
Wonderful fond o’ the County o’ Nottingham was my people. They know’d every stick and stone along the Trentside and in the Shirewood (Sherwood), and many’s the time we’ve stopped at Five Lane Ends nigh Drinsey Nook . . . Ay, and I minds how my daddy used to make teeny horseshoes, knife handles, and netting needles, outen the bits o’ wood he tshin’d (cut) off the gibbet post, and wery good oak it was. Mebbe you’s heard o’ Tom Otter’s post nigh to the woods? Ah, but p’raps you’s never been tell’d that our Tom was born’d under it? The night my mammy were took bad, our tents was a’most blown to bits. The wind banged the old irons agen the post all night long, as I’ve heard her say. And when they wanted to name the boy, they couldn’t think of no other name but Tom, for sure as they tried to get away from it, the name kept coming back again – Tom, Tom, Tom – till it sort o’ dinned itself into their heads. So at last my daddy says, “Let’s call him Tom and done with it,” and i’ time, folks got a-calling him Tom o’ the Gibbet, and it stuck to him, it did.
Her brother, Thomas Smith, was baptized at St. Botolph’s in Saxilby, the same church where poor Mary Kirkham lay buried, on the 1st November 1840, the baptism register recording that the boy, the son of Moses and Eldred (otherwise Eldri) Smith, gypsies, was born in Otter’s Lane.
Ashena Brown carried on her recollection of the gibbet and Tom Otter’s bones.
And whenever uncle and aunt used to pass by Tom Otter’s gibbet, they’d stop and look up at the poor man hanging there, and they allus wuser’d (threw) him a bit o’ hawben (food). They couldn’t let theirselves go by wi’out doing that. And there was a baker from Harby, and whenever he passed by the place he would put a bread loaf on to the pointed end of a long rod and shove it into that part o’ the irons where poor Tom’s head was, and sure enough the bread allus went. The baker got hisself into trouble for doing that, as I’ve heard our old people say.
The gibbet, with what was left of Tom inside, stood in its lonely spot, with only the occasional gypsy camp for company, until 1850, when a gale brought it crashing down.
Stamford Mercury, 8th November 1805
Stamford Mercury, 14th March 1806
Bury and Norwich Post, 19th March 1806
Northampton Mercury, 22nd March 1806
Northampton Mercury, 29th March 1806
The Gypsy’s Parson by the Reverend George Hall
Murder at the Inn: A Criminal History of Britain’s Pubs and Hotels, James Moore
In the first decade of the 1800s a centuries old copy of the Magna Carta was rediscovered in the archives of Lincoln Cathedral.
Magna Carta, or the Great Charter, was ‘signed’ by King John in 1215 at Runnymede near Windsor (his seal was affixed to the document by the royal chancery). It is one of the most famous documents in the world, a ‘peace treaty’ and established the principle that everybody, including the King, was subject to the law. It was signed by twenty-five Barons, and also by various Bishops and Abbots, and one of those who signed was Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln who attended alongside Lincolnshire’s Cardinal Archbishop Stephen Langton. It is thought that Bishop Hugh, who was named in the document as one of King John’s advisors, probably brought this copy back with him to his Cathedral on his return from Runnymede, and that it had been lodged there ever since.
The Record Commission gave preference to the Lincoln Magna Carta in their ‘Statutes of the Realm’ published in 1810, inserting this copy in its publication.
The Lincoln Magna Carta is widely travelled, having made quite a few trips ‘over the pond’ to America for displays there, most recently to Boston, Williamstown and Washington during 2014. During the 2nd World War, whilst the document was on show at the Library of Congress when America entered the war, it was stored for security in Fort Knox in Kentucky alongside America’s gold reserves, not returning home until 1947.
Since 1993, the Lincoln Magna Carta has been on view in Lincoln Castle, but now, in 2015, to better preserve it and to mark 800 years since the Magna Carta was sealed, the document has a new home in a vault in the refurbished Lincoln Castle, which reopened to the public on the 1st April. The Charter of the Forest, dating from 1217, will also be on display there. In honour of this, we have a couple of early references from the newspapers relating to the 19th Century rediscovery of the Lincoln Magna Carta.
Stamford Mercury, 6th December, 1811
It has been lately discovered by the Commissioners of Public Records, that the most correct and authentic manuscript of Magna Charta, is that now in the archives of Lincoln Cathedral, which is supposed to be the charter transmitted by the hands of Hugh, the then Bishop of Lincoln, who is one of the Bishop’s named in the introductory clause. The parchment on which it is written measures about 18 inches square, but has no seal.
Stamford Mercury, 22nd August, 1823
CHARTERS OF ENGLAND – That there might be a complete edition of the Statutes (which is now in progress of printing, under the sanction of Parliament,) the Royal Commissioners of Public Records lately caused the most extensive examinations to be made. For the purpose of examining all charters, and authentic copies and entries thereof, two Sub-Commissioners have occupied one whole summer in making a progress through England and Ireland, to every place where it appeared such charters, copies, or entries might be preserved; and searches have been made successively at every Cathedral in England which was known to possess any such documents, also at the Universities, &c. They have made some most valuable and interesting discoveries. Besides the rare Chantularies or collections of charters found in Rochester, Exeter, Canterbury, and other Cathedrals, in Lincoln Cathedral they found also “An Original of the Great Charter of Liberties granted by King John in the 17th year of his reign,” in a perfect state. This charter appears to be of superior authority to either of the two charters of the same date preserved in the British Museum. From the contemporary endorsements of the word Lincolnia on two folds of the charter, this may be presumed to be the charter transmitted by the hands of Hugh, the then Bishop of Lincoln, who is one of the Bishops named in the introductory clause; and it is observable that several words and sentences are inserted in the body of this charter which in both the charters preserved in the British Museum are added by way of notes for amendment, at the bottom of the Instruments.
And, incidentally, George Washington was descended from King John and twelve of the Barons who were involved in Magna Carta.
Sources not mentioned above:
Magna Carta: Through the Ages, Ralph V. Turner, 2003
Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 16th February 1790.
Two of the fair sex last week actually fought a pitched battle at Waddington in Lincolnshire attended by their seconds. When it is considered that the object of their contention was a husband, it will not be wondered that the battle was long and violent, lasting not less than half an hour. Two days after the heroine triumphantly led her happy man to the altar! – So that this may probably not be the last battle on the occasion.
Well, what a wonderful snippet of history! But, remembering the distress we caused to some of our readers when we debunked the tale of the Petticoat Duellists, we approached our research into this story with caution.
Fortunately it seems that the two Lincolnshire feminine bruisers did exist and that the fight did take place; it was confirmed in several other newspapers which gave more details.
Mary Farmery and Susanna Locker were both servants and it was Mary who challenged her rival to the fight with the prize being the young man they both claimed the affections of. The boxing match was conducted according to form and for some time the outcome seemed uncertain with both women delivering blows which felled their opponent. But Mary Farmery must have been certain of her pugilistic abilities when she suggested the boxing match for she was named the victor.
The object of their affections was a young man who was servant to a farmer in the neighbourhood, and all the newspaper accounts agree that he ‘actually had the temerity to go to church with the victor.’ Sadly, it seems possible that there was no happy ending after all for the victorious Mary Farmery, for no marriage took place in the parish church at Waddington and we have, as yet, found no record of it ever taking place at all.
We don’t want to disappoint you this time so perhaps we’ll just picture Mary sweeping her beau off his feet and disappearing off into the sunset with him?
N.B. A Mary Farmery was baptized in Navenby, just a few miles away from Waddington, in June 1771, and a Susanna Locker married a man by the name of Richard Harmstone in Caythorpe, again not too far away, in June 1795. Perhaps Susanna was luckier than Mary in finally getting up the aisle?
Brumby Wood Hall in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, now a nursing home but once a fine private mansion, is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a former housekeeper.
Sally Smith, born c.1759, was not just the housekeeper, but also the mistress of the owner, Thomas Pindar Esquire, a reserved and slightly eccentric gentleman some twenty-three years Sally’s senior who displayed ‘monkish habits’ fostered by a long residence in a college. He had inherited Brumby Wood Hall from his younger brother, the Reverend Robert Pindar who had died in 1795, and Sally presided at the table and over the house, fully mistress of it. The legend says that Sally expected to inherit Brumby (sometimes called Bromby) Wood Hall when her lover died but was cruelly cut out of his will and, in the 1830s, either threw herself from one of the windows or hung herself from the four-poster bed. Her restless spirit now walks the corridors and grounds of the hall, waiting to hear news of her inheritance.
Thomas Pinder actually died in the May of 1813 aged 77 years and was buried at Owston Ferry in the Isle of Axholme on the fifteenth of that month. His will, written on the 15th October 1811, far from cutting Sally out, left her the use of his mansion for her life together with the household furniture, carriages and several nearby farms together with a small yearly annuity and Sally lived on at Brumby Wood Hall until her death almost twenty years to the day after that of Thomas Pindar’s. Sally too was buried at Owston Ferry, on the 24th May 1833, noted in the burial register as being of Brumby Wood Hall.
Her life as mistress of the Hall was not plain sailing though, and it is the dispute ensuing after the reading of Thomas Pindar’s will which has led to the half-remembered tale and the stories of Sally haunting her former home.
In the May of 1822, a singular case was heard at the Lincoln Assizes, brought by Sir Montague Cholmeley against the Honourable John Lygon, younger brother to Earl Beauchamp of Madresfield Court near Malvern in Worcestershire. Both men had, at times, been the beneficiary of Pindar’s will and Cholmeley contested the final one which had left the life interest in the Hall to Sally Smith.
Thomas Pindar had been a fellow of Magdalen College at Oxford and it was here that he had been introduced to Earl Beauchamp and his younger brother, John Lygon, whose family name had formerly been Pyndar (their father had changed his surname upon inheriting his maternal grandfather’s estate), and a relationship was assumed between them. The two families regularly corresponded and visited from 1804 and in 1805 Thomas Pinder made a will leaving his fortune to John Lygon. In the same year, he had asked Earl Beauchamp for a substantial loan of £5000, and the Earl had complied with this request.
On the 2nd April 1810, a second will was made; Pindar had wanted Mr Foulkes, an eminent London solicitor, to draw up the will but Foulkes was unwell and instead a Mr Hutton of York was employed. This will gave the estate of Brumby Wood Hall to John Lygdon in tail male, with ultimate limitation of Lady Cholmeley, Pindar’s niece. Elizabeth Harrison, the daughter of John Harrison and Catherine Pindar of Norton Place, Lincoln, had married Sir Montague Cholmeley, 1st Baronet, on the 14th September 1801 (Catherine Pindar was the daughter of the Reverend Robert Pindar).
A month later Hutton was back at Brumby Wood Hall to draw up another will, this one however in favour of Sir Montague Cholmeley’s family and placing Cholmeley’s youngest son in the place formerly occupied by John Lygon. Hutton added two codicils to this third will, one in August 1810 and one in December to the benefit of Sally Smith.
Sir Montague Cholmeley, who had never visited Pindar at his home, now told friends that he would be benefitted by Pindar’s death, describing Brumby Wood Hall as “a charming little hunting-box here intended for my second son!” But this came to the ears of Pindar and he decided that Lygon should be the beneficiary after all.
Mr Foulkes was now once again summoned and this time complied with the request. He found Thomas Pindar frail in body, almost bedridden and with little control over his bowels (they were described as being very relaxed), virtually deaf and going blind, but, Foulke’s asserted, still in full control of his mind. On the 15th October 1811, a fourth and final will was drawn up, this one leaving the Hall to Sally for her lifetime and after her death to John Lygon. Mr Hutton was asked to hand over the will made the year previously but refused to do so.
And so the stage was set for a protracted legal battle after Thomas Pindar died in 1813. Cholmeley alleged that Pindar did not know his own mind when the 1811 will was made and accused Sally of being the person who had instigated it to her own benefit. Lygon, in turn, accused Hutton of acting in the interests of Cholmeley rather than his client.
Cholmeley had wisely waited until the two men who, along with Foulkes, had witnessed the 1811 will had died before bringing this case to court and he drew on several former servants to Pindar who testified to the old man’s feebleness and mental incapacity. Mr Foulkes dismissed this, claiming that after Sally, whose voice Pindar was familiar with, loudly repeated his words to Pindar the old man was full well able to understand and to ask genuine and rational questions about the execution of the will. Of course, all this provided enough fuel for the local gossips to keep going for many years from the death of Pindar to the case being brought to court nine years later, with Sally made out to be a gold-digging termagant who had had the feeble and kindly old gentleman, and his household, under her control. Enough to give rise to the legend about her ghost and a missing inheritance which still continues more than 180 years after her death.
The case lasted from nine o’clock on the morning of Wednesday 13th March to half-past five the next day, but at last the jury came to a verdict, finding in favour of John Lygon, who had already added the surname of Pindar (although he chose to spell it Pyndar) on to his own in anticipation of his inheritance.
John Lygon Pyndar, who also succeeded to the title and estate of Earl Beauchamp after the death of his brother in 1823, possibly then tried to recover the £5000 loan given to Thomas Pindar by his brother from the life interest and annuities granted to Sally for, in 1823, Pindar vs Smith was heard in the High Court of Chancery, after which the creditors of the late Thomas Pindar were asked to send in proof of their debts. Pindar’s earlier wills had provided for repayment of this substantial debt; the last one in 1811 ignored it to Sally’s detriment.
After Sally’s death, a sale of all the household furniture, carriages and livestock at Brumby Wood Hall (detailed below) was made, pursuant to her own will, and John Lygon Pyndar took possession of Brumby Wood Hall and its surrounding estate. We have found no record of the manner of Sally’s death, but this in itself tends to suggest that her end, at the age of 74, was a peaceful one and not suicide.
At BROMBY WOOD HALL (by order of the Executor of the late Mrs Smith,) on TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, July 9th and 10th instant, at Ten o’Clock in the Forenoon of each day.
THE Genteel HOUSEHOLD FUNITURE, comprising Mahogany Sideboards; Card, Pembroke, and Round Tables, Rosewood Chiffonier; two Sofas, sets of Mahogany Hair-seated Chairs; Barrel Organ, with fours stops, Piano-Forte; two Cellarets; several Pier and Swing Glasses; Bracket-Clock; Clock in Mahogany Case; Timepiece; Chimney Ornaments; Barometer; Bookcase, and several volumes of Books; Brussels and other Carpets; Hearth Rugs; Four Post and Camp Bedsteads; Mattresses; several Lots of excellent Blankets and Counterpanes; Mahogany and Walnut Chests of Drawers; Dressing Tables; Bed-side and Stair Carpets; Brass Rods; with a large assortment of Kitchen Furniture and Culinary Utensils; a few sides of BACON, 100 Bottles of good RASPBERRY and other English-made WINES; and several other Articles too numerous to insert.
The FARMING STOCK consists of three good Milch Cows; one Calf; two Pigs; twenty-six Ewes and thirty-one Lambs; eight fat Ewes; ten Hogs; one Waggon; two Carts and Gearing; one Stack of Hay; two pieces of Stacks of Hay; Garden Rollers; and sundry lots of Old Wood.
Also, a good TRAVELLING CARRIAGE, with Harness for two Horses, two useful Carriage HORSES; a Brown Hackney PONY; Saddle, Bridle, Side Saddle, &c. &c.
The Sale of the Farming Stock, Carriage, and Horses, will take place on TUESDAY, and the Furniture on WEDNESDAY.
Hull, June 21, 1833.
Lincolnshire Pedigrees, edited by the Rev. Canon A.R. Maddison, M.A., F.S.A., 1904, volume 3
Lincolnshire Pedigrees, edited by the Rev. Canon A.R. Maddison, M.A., F.S.A., 1906, volume 4
You may be aware that just before William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire married Georgiana Spencer in 1774 he had had a relationship with a Charlotte Spencer (no relation to Georgiana) and that as a result of this liaison a child was born. This child was named Charlotte, after her mother and Williams after her father, but not until her mother had died in 1781*.
During the early part of her life, she was provided for by the Duke but raised by her mother, a milliner, until she died. At this point, Charlotte was taken into the Cavendish household and lived with him and his wife Georgiana as an ‘orphaned member of the Spencer family’.
Georgiana always treated Charlotte as if she were her own child, unlike her own illegitimate daughter, Eliza Courtney, who was taken from her shortly after her birth and raised by her lover, Charles Grey’s parents, although, perhaps a small comfort to Georgiana, was that Eliza was occasionally taken to the Grey’s London home and met up Georgiana as her ‘unofficial godmother’. Eliza was not told of her true parentage until after Georgiana’s death.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787; Chatsworth House
Everything went well until Charlotte acquired a new governess, Elizabeth Foster, who later became the Duke’s mistress. Soon after this Elizabeth took Charlotte to France, partly for her own health and partly for Charlotte’s education. Elizabeth was fond of socializing and preferred to party rather than spend time with Charlotte and so at this point, Charlotte was sent to Paris until the start of the French Revolution when she returned to England.
So, what became of Charlotte?
This question has been asked numerous times and the answer has always been that she was married off, then simply vanished. Given our love of solving mysteries we simply had to investigate. We had read in Amanda Foreman’s book, The Duchess, that Charlotte married – if that were true, who was her husband? Did she have her own family? What happened to her?
Well, on the 28th February 1793 Charlotte did marry. In fact, she married the Duke of Devonshire’s agent and auditor, John Heaton’s nephew, Jonathan Kendal, at St James in Piccadilly. The Morning Post of the 1st March 1793 noted that they were both of Old Burlington Street. (John Heaton’s sister Ann, married Reginald Kendal at Romaldkirk, Yorkshire in 1759).
According to his baptism Jonathan was some nine years older than Charlotte and Robert Athol, the Archives and Records Manager at Lincolns Inn Library, says that Jonathan was ‘admitted on 21st February 1784, the nephew of John Heaton, also a member of Lincoln’s Inn. He is not listed in our bar books that list members of the Inn who have been called to the bar, however, nor does he appear in any of the Law lists for the time which suggests to me that although he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, he didn’t pursue a career in law’.
We know from the Land Tax records that the Heaton family were living in a property owned by the Duke of Devonshire on Old Burlington Street so it seems highly likely that Charlotte, shortly after her return from France, moved to there and that is where she met her future husband.
Tantalizingly, the baptismal register for St George, Hanover Square records the birth of a Charlotte Cavendish, daughter of Charlotte and William, born February 22nd, 1774 and baptised March 20th, 1774 – could this be her? It seems highly likely, as the 1851 census recorded that she was born in London. If so, she was born just before the Duke of Devonshire’s marriage to Lady Georgiana Spencer on June 7th, 1774.
If we assume that this birth was for Charlotte, then she had not reached adulthood when the couple married, i.e. she was under 21-years. That being the case it is usual to see parent’s permission on the marriage entry but there was no such reference as you can see.
The couple lived at Barrowby in Lincolnshire for the majority of their married life as Jonathan appeared on Polls books and electoral registers in that village for many years.
According to the Clergy of the Church of England Database, on the 10th March 1800 Jonathan became a curate and served in the church for the remainder of his life; the living of Barrowby was in the gift of the Duke of Devonshire who was Lord of the Manor. One interesting entry against his name is that he was also appointed as Domestic Chaplain to the 6th Duke of Devonshire.
The 1841 census shows the couple still married and living at Barrowby at the Rectory House, along with 7 servants. Their son was born 1797 and followed in his father’s footsteps. After graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge he became the Rev Charles Edward Kendal, stipendiary curate of Barrowby in 1821, then in 1822 took a posting at Brindle, Lancashire. Charlotte was to see her son be married by her husband to a Miss Catherine Downing in Barrowby church in 1825.
As the parish vicar and his wife, Jonathan and Charlotte would have led a life typical of any rural cleric, spending time tending to his flock, supported by his wife. According to the parish register at Barrowby Jonathan was buried there on the 11th May 1849. Charlotte outlived Jonathan by just over 7 years. In Jonathan’s will, he refers to Charlotte as ‘my most dearly beloved and truly affectionate wife‘.
It certainly appears that the couple were happy together and Charlotte specified in her will that she wished to be interred in the vault alongside her beloved husband at Barrowby.
However, after Jonathan’s death we find that Charlotte had moved to Leamington in Warwickshire, and on the 1851 census, she was visiting a relative in Dover. The census recorded her as a widow, aged 78 and her place of birth as London, although as yet no baptismal entry has been found, as to what name she would have been baptized under remains a mystery, if she were baptized at all!
The next and seemingly final record of Charlotte appeared in The Standard of Saturday 13th December 1856 with the record of her death:
On the 8th Inst. in Newbold Terrace, Leamington Charlotte, the relict of Rev Jonathan Kendal, Rector of Barrowby, in her 84th year.
For some reason her wish to be buried in the same vault as her husband in Barrowby was not carried out and she was buried at Leamington Priors on the 15th December 1856.
Whilst the 5th Duke of Devonshire made bequests in his will to his second wife, his children and John Heaton Esquire, sadly, there was no mention of Charlotte, but overall, it would appear that Charlotte led a quiet and happy life and the mystery is now solved. We know from John Heaton’s will though that he made a bequest to Charlotte’s husband of £100 a year when he died in 1818, which would be worth about £6,000 in today’s money.
For some relatively unknown, private sketches of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire that were drawn by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton, at a private event in Buxton, Derbyshire in 1777, just a few years after her marriage to the Duke of Devonshire, click on the highlighted link.
And, to read our blog about Charlotte’s mother, the duke’s mistress, Charlotte Spencer, click here.
But, if you are interested in the mysterious life of another Charlotte Williams, one who was a Georgian heroine, then click here to discover the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.
* A burial took place on 8th May 1781 for a Charlotte Spencer at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster.
View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake; British School; Government Art Collection
When you picture gypsies of the past, do you picture them travelling in their gaudily painted horse-drawn caravans or vardos? In truth, this form of transport is a relatively modern invention, and the gypsy people generally sheltered in ‘bender’ tents, using donkeys and carts to transport and carry their tents and their belongings from place to place. A bender tent is formed from a covering of tarpaulin placed over flexible branches, usually willow or hazel, which are staked into the ground, a crude but very effective form of shelter.
For this reason, it was common for these people to ‘overwinter’ in lodgings in towns and cities rather than camp in the very coldest months. Sometimes though, they did find themselves living in their tents during the freezing temperatures. On the evening of the 17th February 1820, in the Lincolnshire countryside, a boy was born in such a tent in sub-zero temperatures.
The Stamford Mercury newspaper, dated the 25th February 1820, reported on the birth.
LINCOLN, FEBRUARY 24
At eleven o’clock on the night of the 17th inst. a poor woman of the gipsy tribe was safely delivered of a fine boy in a lane a mile distant from the village of Wellingore, in this county, under scarcely any other covering than the canopy of heaven. The thermometer that night was ten degrees below freezing point: but notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather then and since (the ground being covered with frost and snow), the mother and child are both doing extremely well in their humble camp.
The infant was baptised at the parish church in Wellingore three days later, on the 20th February, and given the name of Nathaniel. His parents were named as Joshua and Ann Smith, with Joshua’s trade in the baptism register listed as ‘beggar.’
On the 4th April 1792 Spence Broughton, formerly a Lincolnshire farmer, swung at York Tyburn for committing highway robbery.
Just over a year earlier, on the 29th January 1791, together with a man named John Oxley or Oxen and with financial backing from a Thomas Shaw of Prospect Row, St. George’s Fields, Spence Broughton robbed the Rotherham to Sheffield mail coach. Five or six days before the robbery, Shaw had turned up at Oxley’s house in London, No. 1 Francis Street, Tottenham Court Road, and suggested that Oxley, together with Broughton, should hold up the Rotherham Mail. This being agreed to, Shaw lent the two men ten guineas and they travelled to Nottingham, catching the coach there from the Swan and Two Necks Inn in Lad Lane. They slept the night at Nottingham and, the next day, set off on foot towards Chesterfield, stopping the second night at Sheffield.
On the day of the robbery they set out on the Rotherham Road, and were passed by the Mail heading towards Sheffield. They intended to rob it on the return journey and so lay in wait for it on Attercliffe Common. Spence Broughton had brought a smock frock as a disguise and he took off his coat, threw on the smock frock and an old little hat. He then took a gate off an adjacent field and told Oxley he would lead the Mail cart and the Post Boy in charge of it into that field. Oxley was directed to take Broughton’s coat and wait in another field.
Broughton, dressed as a labouring rustic, flagged down the Mail and then put his plan into action. The Post Boy was not physically hurt, just frightened, and after he had bound him securely Broughton took the post and went to find Oxley. The two men set off, on foot, for Mansfield, just over the Yorkshire border into Nottinghamshire. Disappointingly for the two men, the only thing of value in the Mail was a bill for £123 drawn from Paris on the banking house of Minet and Fector and the rest of the mail was thrown into a brook. At Mansfield they parted company and Oxley took the bill to London and cashed it.
The Post-boy, with the mail between Sheffield and Rotherham, was robbed on Saturday night last.
St James’s Chronicle, 1st February 1791 (proving the date of the robbery as 29th January 1791 and not the 9th February as it is sometimes given).
Shaw then suggested another robbery, to again be carried out by Broughton and Oxley, this time on the Aylesbury Mail. On the 28th May 1791, this robbery was executed but nothing of value was taken and Shaw was left complaining that, as he had funded the venture, he was £14 out of pocket.
To repay Shaw, it was now proposed to rob the Cambridge Mail at Bourne Bridge. Again, Shaw backed the enterprise financially. Oxley recounted that they used the same ruse as with the Rotherham Mail, Broughton donning his smock frock and Oxley hiding a little way distant, but Shaw, who had some female connections with Broughton, deposed that it was actually Oxley who had carried out the heist on this occasion, the smock frock Broughton had brought as a disguise being too small for him, necessitating Oxley to wear it.
The Cambridge Post Boy could not see his attackers, it was too dark for that, but he remembered that the man who had bound him had been tall and well built. Broughton stood 6 feet and one inch in height; although he was not related to the well-known boxer of the time, Jack Broughton, who had died a couple of years earlier, he was mentioned to be of a similar build. The boy therefore identified Broughton as his attacker rather than the smaller Oxley.
The Cambridge Mail yielded bank notes, it was later estimated that perhaps even to the value of five or ten thousand pounds, but not all could be passed. Some were burnt and some needed identifying marks to be erased from them before they could be used.
Within months all three men had been arrested. They were captured when John Oxley and a woman handed over £10 notes from the Cambridge robbery at a silversmiths in Cheapside. The note proving to be from the robbery, the silversmiths shop boy saw Oxley a day or two later and tracked him to a public house where he alerted a constable. Oxley claimed he had been given the notes by Thomas Shaw and, while he was being questioned, the officers duly made their way to Shaw’s house. There they waited for Shaw to come home but the first man to appear at the door was Spence Broughton himself who made a run for it when he saw that the game was up. When he was caught his pockets were found to be stuffed with bank notes.
Thomas Shaw turned King’s Evidence and evaded trial (although the Morning Post newspaper thought him the most culpable of the three) and put all the guilt onto Oxley, trying to exonerate Broughton and himself; Oxley pointed the finger squarely at the other two before escaping the gaol he was being held in (Clerkenwell Bridewell) and the subsequent trial.
With the help of some smugglers at Folkestone in Kent he was soon reported to be on his way to America, escaping justice. Spence Broughton alone then was left to face the music and he was moved from the Cambridgeshire gaol he had been held in to Newgate before being taken to York for trial. It was reported that on his arrival at the York Castle gaol he gave £50 to the gaoler for liberty to walk with the debtors. On the 24th March, 1792, he was found guilty and sentenced to hang, and was told his body would be gibbeted afterwards.
On the scaffold Spence Broughton proclaimed his innocence and said that although he had intended to rob the Rotherham mail he was in fact six miles distant when the robbery took place, and that he was only guilty of receiving his share of the booty. It made not a jot of difference though, he was duly hung on the York Tyburn gallows (the same on which Dick Turpin swung many decades earlier) and then his body carted back up to Attercliffe Common on the outskirts of Sheffield, the site of the robbery, where his decomposing remains hung in the gibbet for many years.
Spence Broughton was 45 years of age when he robbed the mail coach, but his earlier life had been one of respectability and good bearing. He had been born in 1744 in the Lincolnshire village of Horbling, a few miles from Sleaford to a farmer named John Broughton and his wife Anne. John Broughton had been married before but his first wife and daughter, both named Mary, had died. It is known that Spence had one sister, who was living at the time of his arrest and running an inn on the South road, and this is probably Frances, daughter of John Broughton, who was baptised at Sleaford on the 16th October 1741. Three years later, on the 19th December 1744, Spence was baptised at Horbling.
On the 9th October 1770, at Folkingham in Lincolnshire, he married Frances Graves or Greaves, by licence. Frances is sometimes mentioned as bringing a fortune to the marriage and was quite possibly the daughter of a prosperous local farmer. Three children were born to the couple, a son named Spence for his father in 1771, another son, Greaves, in 1773, both baptised in Horbling, and a daughter, named Frances for her mother and Spence’s sister, in 1777. By the time little Frances was born Spence Broughton was tenant of a farm in Martin, Lincolnshire, leased from Mr. King, Esq., and Frances was baptised at the nearby church of Timberland.
It was after this that Broughton started to keep bad company, gambling and attending the races and cockings. He was asked by his long-suffering wife to leave their home as he had run up debts she was struggling to pay, and he accordingly did. He made his way to Lambeth where he took some lodgings and lived with a woman named Eliza as his wife. He penned a letter to Eliza just before his death, reconciled to his fate but hating the thought of his body being gibbeted rather than decently buried, and in this letter he refers to his children and asks Eliza to see to their education. He can’t be referring to his children by Frances as they were no longer young, and it appears that he had a second family by Eliza.
After his execution, Spence Broughton’s widow possibly married again, to a James Carter. Her eldest son, Spence Broughton junior, became a successful surgeon in Leicester.
A postscript to this article belongs to John Oxley, reputed to have made his way to America. At the time, it was thought that he finally met his end in the January of 1793, found frozen to death in a barn on Loxley Moor near Sheffield, although the body was never properly identified. The clothes the man was found dressed in matched those Oxley had last been seen in though and he had marks around his ankles as though he had been manacled; he had been wandering in the area for some weeks and, it was said, had made the journey across the moor to visit the mouldering bones of his old friend, suspended in the gibbet. But then, in May, 1798, reports surfaced in the newspapers naming, ‘Oxley, the supposed accomplice of Spence Broughton, who was executed at York some time back for robbing the mail passed through Stamford, as a deserter from the 34th regiment.’ This was then countered a few days later with the following information.
A man, calling himself John Oxley, now in the Savoy, as a deserter from one of His Majesty’s regiments, and who asserted himself to be the famous mail robber of that name, turns out to be the same man who imposed the like story on the Magistrates at Northton, about a year and an half since.
So, was it John Oxley, hiding in full view of the authorities, or an imposter with the same name? This man had in fact been questioned by Richard Ford, Esq., at Bow Street in December 1796 after being taken into custody in Northamptonshire, but had obviously not been believed and released if he was at large in the May of 1798, even though on that occasion it was reported that he had confessed to being the same man who had been concerned in robbing the Rotherham Mail and who had broken out of Clerkenwell Bridewell. Not for want of trying, it appears that if this was the same John Oxley, then he couldn’t talk himself into standing trial.
Sources used not already referenced:
St. James’s Chronicle, 1 February 1791, London Chronicle, 13 October 1791, Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 18 October 1791, Derby Mercury, 27 October 1791, Stamford Mercury, 4 November 1791, Norfolk Chronicle, 11 February 1792, Caledonian Mercury, 31 March 1792, Stamford Mercury, 13 April 1792, Derby Mercury, 26 April 1792, Oracle and Public Advertiser, 16 December 1796, London Packet, 11 May 1798 and Criminal Chronlogy of York Castle by William Knipe, 1867.
On the 25th October 1809 the jubilee of King George III was celebrated across the nation. Opinion was divided as to whether the jubilee had been celebrated a year too early; 25th October 1809 was the first day of the 50th year of George III’s reign, he had not actually reigned yet for a full fifty years.
In honour of the completion of the fiftieth year of his reign Robert Hobart, the 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire decided to place a statue of the King, made out of Coade Stone (artificial stone manufactured by Eleanor Coade in Lambeth) on the top of Dunston Pillar in Lincolnshire, an old ‘land lighthouse.’
The Dunston Pillar, originally known as Dashwood’s Lighthouse, stands six miles to the south of the City of Lincoln, actually much closer to the village of Harmston than to Dunstan itself, and the pillar, with a spiral staircase inside and originally with a lantern on top reached by a surrounding balustraded gallery, was erected in 1751 by Sir Francis Dashwood (of Hellfire Club fame) to guide travellers across the dark and desolate heathland and to attempt to deter highwaymen and, so it is said, to please his wife.
It is reputed that Sir Francis, 15th Baron le Despencer, later landscaped the area around the pillar, even adding a two story dining hall and it became a popular place for picnics, known as the ‘Vauxhall’ of Lincolnshire. Around the pillar Dashwood built ‘a square walled garden, less than an acre in extent, within a larger enclosure of heathland. There was an opening or gateway in each side of the wall, and a little stone pavilion at each corner. There were plantations outside the walls, and a bowling green just beyond the opening on the north side’. It was recorded in 1836 that an inhabitant of Lincoln remembered seeing as many as sixteen or eighteen carriages there at one time about fifty years previously.
William Wroughton, the Vicar of nearby Welbourn, described the pillar in a letter to Lord le Despencer in 1776 thus:
. . . the Vauxhall of this part of the world. The Bowling Green is the best and kept in the best order I have ever seen and the plantations are all in a very thriving state and will in a few years be the Paradise of Lincolnshire. It was used for the accommodation of parties resorting thither.
From the gallery at the top of the Pillar the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral could be seen to the north and, weather permitting, the Boston Stump to the south.
A decade earlier than the construction of the pillar a local landowner named Charles Chaplin had remodelled the Green Man Inn, part of the Blankney estate and situated very close to the Pillar, where the ‘Lincoln Club’ which included Dashwood and Chaplin, met in the 1740s, although the purpose or aims of the Club have been lost to time. Indeed, as it is not even known how long the Lincoln Club continued to meet then the story that Dashwood built the ‘land lighthouse’ to please his wife may perhaps more realistically be retold to say that he built it to light his and his friends journey to the ‘Lincoln Club’.
Standing over 90ft high the lantern was lighted every night until 1788 and it was last used in 1808. A year later a storm brought the lantern tumbling to the ground.
On the 9th September, 1810, a Lambeth stonemason named John Wilson, no doubt employed by the Coade works, whilst engaged in fixing the statue of George III to the Pillar fell from the top to his death. He was buried in the nearby Harmston churchyard, his epitaph reading:
He who erected the Noble King,
Is here now dead by deaths sharp sting.
To the memory of John Wilson who departed this life Sept. 9th 1810
The Stamford Mercury newspaper dated 9th November 1810 reported the following once the statue of the King had been firmly fixed atop the pillar:
Among the numerous testimonies of loyalty offered by a grateful people to their Sovereign, none perhaps has been more appropriate than what the Earl of Buckinghamshire has recently completed upon his estate at Dunston, in this county. In the year 1751, Sir Francis Dashwood erected the Pillar on Dunston Heath, about five miles south of this city. It was a plain quadrangular building, 92 feet in height, with an octagonal lantern on the top, 15½ feet high, surrounded at its base with a gallery. – It was then of considerable utility to the public, the heath at that time being an uncultivated and extensive waste; but since that period the lands have been inclosed, which has rendered it entirely useless. – Upon the west side of it is the following inscription:-
The lantern and gallery having been removed, the Earl of Buckinghamshire has erected upon the Pillar a magnificent colossal Statue of our venerable Sovereign. It was executed by Code in artificial stone, and measures 14 feet in height, standing upon a pedestal 9 feet high. His Majesty is represented in his coronation robes, with a crown upon his head and a sceptre in his right hand. – Though its elevation from the ground is 115 feet, yet the features are perfectly distinct, and altogether it makes a grand and magnificent appearance. – Two feet above the old inscription is affixed a tablet, with the following record of his Lordship’s loyalty:-
“The Statue upon this Pillar
was erected A.D. 1810,
by Robert Earl of Buckinghamshire,
to commemorate the 50th anniversary
of the reign of his Majesty
King George the Third.”
During WWII the statue was taken down (and damaged in doing so) and the Pillar shortened to prevent any collision with low-flying aircraft as it was near to two airbases. The bust of King George III, all that remains of the statue, can still be seen in the grounds of Lincoln Castle.
Our forthcoming book, A Georgian Heroine: the intriguing life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, sheds more light on George III’s jubilee, as Mrs Biggs, amongst her many other achievements, single-handedly planned the event from her modest home near Chepstow in the Welsh Borders. Discover more here.
Doddington Hall, just a few miles outside Lincoln, is a wonderful Elizabethan manor house, notable for never having been sold in its entire history. Built in 1595 by the architect Robert Smythson for Thomas Tailor who was registrar to the Bishop of Lincoln the house underwent a transformation in the Georgian period when it was inherited by Sir John Hussey Delaval (1728-1808) and the interior remodelled.
The house is replete with many wonderful portraits, from Mary Queen of Scots to portraits of the family including one of the Earl and Countess of Mexborough (the Countess was sister to John Hussey Delaval) pictured dressed in the robes they wore for the coronation of George III in 1761.
John Hussey Delaval was the second son and Doddington had come into his family as the inheritance of his mother, Rhoda Apreece. Francis Blake Delaval, the eldest of the Delaval brothers and the black sheep of the family, inherited the family’s principal estate of Seaton Delaval in Northumberland, Rhoda stipulating that Doddington Hall could not be owned by the same person who owned the Northumberland estate.
A full-length portrait of Francis Blake Delaval by Sir Joshua Reynolds can be viewed at Doddington Hall. A true rake, he married Isabella, widow of Lord Nassau Powlett for her money (she was much older than him) but Isabella ended up taking legal action against her husband due to his affair with an actress, Miss La Roche or Elizabeth Roach. Delaval himself took to the stage, acting with Samuel Foote.
Rhoda’s decision to split the estate in this way between the two eldest sons paid dividends for the future of Doddington Hall; whilst Francis was a spendthrift and a gambler John was the opposite, prudent and conscientious. His redecoration of the Hall, even installing double glazing to the windows, is still extant to this day making it a real treat to visit for anyone who, like us, is fascinated by the Georgian era.
When Francis, having run through his fortune and destroyed his health, died of a stroke at the young age of 44 years in 1771 Sir John Delaval launched a lengthy legal process to gain control of the Seaton Delaval estate too, eventually succeeding by an agreement to pay £400 a year to his younger brother Edward, but whilst John gained Seaton Delaval he lived out his days at his beloved Doddington Hall.
Of all the Delaval brothers, only Sir John Hussey Delaval of Doddington had a son and this son, also named John, died of consumption in Bath before he attained his majority. Doddington, therefore, passed to Edward, the third brother, and then to Edwards daughter Sarah, the wife of Admiral James Gunman.
The Gunmans lived in Dover and there Sarah, who was twenty-five years younger than her husband, fell in love with a dashing soldier, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars and a widower, Colonel George Ralph Payne Jarvis. Visitors to Doddington today can see his military uniform. Admiral Gunman died in 1824 and Sarah, still young, was free to marry the man she loved. However, what looked to become a Regency love story quickly became a tragedy instead. Sarah, suffering from consumption, followed her husband to the grave just six months later, still a widow. As a testament to the love she bore for the dashing Colonel she left everything she owned, including the estate of Doddington Hall, to the man she had wanted to marry. Colonel Jarvis moved into the house, married and sired a family and it is his descendants who live at the Hall today.
A new addition to Doddington Hall this year is the pyramid folly set in the grounds which is reminiscent of the Egyptian Pyramid built in 1778 as one of the follies in the pleasure gardens of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s lover the Duke of Orléans’ house at Monceau, Paris.
Pyramid at Doddington with the Pyramid at Monceau, Paris below.
More information on Doddington Hall can be found on their website and also in their guidebook which gives full details of the estate and the people who have inhabited it.
The Doddington Hall guide book says that Sir John’s son, John Delaval, died of consumption at Bath, but one of our followers Kathleen Jones (@KAF1athome), a volunteer at Seaton Deleval Hall, has been in touch with a different version which we simply had to share.
Young John was sickly and was sent to Bristol to recuperate but he had an eye for the ladies and tried his luck with a serving girl named Annie at the Hotwells. He picked on the wrong girl though, Annie kicked him in the crotch and, because she was wearing clogs at the time, caused him to haemorrhage, and it was this which led to his death.
A mausoleum was built for him at Seaton Delaval but, as it was going to cost too much money to consecrate it, he was buried at Doddington instead.
In January 1786, in a small rural Lincolnshire village, an elderly gypsy died. Cornelius Blewitt was no ordinary gypsy though, he was a King of the Gypsies, and he was still remembered at the dawn of the 19th century. We think it is fitting that he is remembered once again now.
Cornelius was possibly born in Rochdale in Lancashire, baptized shortly afterwards at Davenham in Cheshire on the 26th February 1721, the son of Eliza Bluet, ‘a travailer‘ although at a baptism of one of his children he and his wife Phillis Boswell were described as being of Woolstone near Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire. Wherever he started his days he ended them at Thurlby-by-Bourne in southern Lincolnshire, where he was buried on the 7th January 1786, the burial register stating his age as 66 years.
Another gypsy also lies in the churchyard at Thurlby-by-Bourne, a girl named Lucia, daughter of Parcenos and Mary Bluet from Kentford in Suffolk who was buried there in 1754.
On December 19th, 1799, the Oracle and Daily Advertiser newspaper published the following article.
THE COUNTRY CHURCH YARD
“Ha! ha! My Friend!” said EUGENIO, interrupting me, “the wings of thy fancy have borne thee again into the Regions of Delusion – as far from the point as Morality from a canting Face. CORNELIUS BLEWITT was a Gypsy.
“And yet, perhaps, you have rather undervalued, than exalted, his importance; for with the alteration of no single circumstance, except the change of scene, from fertile England to the Desert of Arabia, the dust we now despise might, during Life, have been entitled to its seraglio of Beauties, and its guard of Eunuchs; and have ordered the Heads of a hundred Captives to be struck off, to appease his capricious spleen, whenever a tempestuous wind prevented an excursion of Plunder, or a cruel Fair one had neglected the mandate of his love.
Take Physic, Pomp! Ambition check thy rashness. PULTOWA’S loss sunk SWEDEN’S Madman nearly to this level, though BENDER trembled at his shattered greatness; and an unfortunate day on the Banks of the Ganges might have rendered the mighty Son of PHILIP (like him whose mouldering bones we are moralizing upon) the Monarch only of a wandering Tribe of Robbers, as much despised, though I fear, not so little detested, as CORNELIUS BLEWITT.
In short, CORNELIUS, was King of the Gypsies: and was used, every year, attended by his Royal Family, and Officers of State, to visit this Village. He kept his Court at the House of that same honest, grey-headed Farmer, or Publican, where we have left our Horses; and in that very parlour where we enjoyed our tankard of excellent Home brewed, was erected his rustic Throne.
I met the Wanderers there in one of my former excursions: nor ever beheld I a set of merrier, or, apparently, more harmless Beings. And, believe me, the venerable Majesty of CORNELIUS, the despotic Ruler of the mysterious Counsellors of Fate, was regarded with no little reverence by the Country Maidens. Nay, and what will surprise you, his arrival was hailed with no small degree of pleasure by the whole Village; for CORNELIUS and his Subjects spent their money liberally, and paid with punctuality, and it is an invariable rule with these people never to rob in the neighbourhood of their settled Haunts.
But the Majestic Nod and Imperial Frown Death values not. KING CORNELIUS sleeps in the humble Grave, and the Five Bells at Thurlby is no longer a Royal Residence. The Palace and the Empire have shared one common Revolution; though the latter, it seems, has been considerably the greater loser by the change, for not only the Family, but the Nation of our Hero is reported considerably to have declined from its splendour since it has been deprived of his wise Administration.
A solemn deputation is, however, annually, sent to visit the venerated Tomb, to pay it, as is supposed, some mysterious honours, and to keep it in constant repair, a practice which would do honour to more regular Societies; and the neglect of which is a disgrace to the surviving relatives of departed Grandeur; for what can be more ridiculous or irreverent, than, after immense sums have been expended on Sepulchral Monuments to let them moulder away in neglect, and mingle with that dust they were designed to immortalize!
Header image: Gipsy Camp; George Morland; The Stanleyand Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds
In the mid 1780s Lincolnshire society established an annual ball, known as the ‘Stuff Ball’, to encourage and promote the local manufactory and industry of the fabric known as ‘Lincolnshire Stuff.’ The first ball was held in 1785 at The Windmill Inn, Alford.
‘Stuff’ could refer to any woven fabric and the rules for these balls stipulated that only ‘Lincolnshire Stuff‘ made from Lincolnshire wool and both manufactured and dyed in the county could be worn, the only exception being for gentlemen to be allowed silk stockings. Each year the titled patroness of the ball chose the colour theme for the year ensuring that all the guests had to order new clothes rather than wear those from the previous year.
Due to the success of the ball, the venue had to be changed to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend and it was held at the Assembly rooms on Lincoln’s Bailgate from 1789 when the first patroness there was Lady Banks, wife of Sir Joseph Banks.
In 1790 Lady Monson was patroness when the colour scheme chosen was brown. One wonders how the ladies present dressed that one up!
Click to enlarge
A contemporary report described it thus:
The Lady’s magazine: or, Entertaining companion for the fair sex, 1791
At a time when the amusements of the wealthy are more calculated for their private gratification than for the good of the public, the following information relative to the Lincolnshire ball, cannot be unacceptable.
The annual ball for the benefit of the stuff manufactory of Lincolnshire, was begun about six or eight years ago at Alford, with an intention to encourage the spinning of worsted among the poor, and in the houses of industry in this country; and removed to Lincoln in 1789 when Lady Banks was patroness.
The following are the rules by which the ball is conducted.
Ladies are admitted gratis, appearing in a stuff gown and petticoat of the colour appointed by the patroness, spun, woven, and finished within the county, and producing a ticket signed by the weaver, and countersigned by the dyer; one of which tickets is to be delivered with every twelve yards of stuff.
Tickets to gentlemen are 10s. 6d. who are to appear without any silk or cotton in their dress, stockings excepted.
The first year, the assembly-room was so very much crowded, that the stewards erected a temporary booth for the cold collation the year following; when the ball was honoured with most of the nobility and gentry of the county; 466 being present, viz. 252 ladies, and 214 gentlemen. Lady Monson was patroness, and the ball colour a dark brown or carmelite.
The Morning Post, on the 1st December 1796, and amidst the backdrop of the French Revolution, reported that:
Lady BERTIE is the patroness of a Ball at Lincoln for the encouragement of Lincolnshire Stuffs, and at which those stuffs are, of course, alone worn. If our Nobility followed the example of Lady BERTIE, and Lord EGREMONT, the Duke of BEDFORD, &c., the great Patrons of improvement in agriculture, the discontented would have less ground of complaint against the Aristocracy.
In 1809 the annual Stuff Ball was combined with the Royal Jubilee celebrations for King George III on October 25th and ‘perhaps, never before exhibited such an universal scene of elegant and decorous festivity.’
By the end of the 19th century, although the balls continued in the same tradition, with the patroness picking the colour, the rules regarding the wearing of Lincolnshire Stuff had been waylaid and much lighter fabrics, such as muslin were the norm, more suited to the ballroom. The balls were also moved from their usual date of October or November to January. The ball scheduled for January 1900 was cancelled; it was felt that a time when so many families were anxious for relatives serving in the Boer War it was not suitable to be enjoying the festivities of a ball, and the tradition gradually lapsed.
History often tends to record a primarily male perspective. The letters of great men have survived, where those of their womenfolk have not. That these are of prime importance is not disputed, but where the letters documenting the military, political and business dealings of the male world can easily be found in various record offices and repositories around the globe, the gossipy letters of their wives, sisters and daughters, more often than not, have been lost to us. And those gossipy letters are what interests me most.
And so it was that, with idle curiosity my only motive, I sat down at the County Archives Office in Lincoln to view the diary of Miss Jane Reeve.
The diarist was the daughter of William Reeve Esquire, of Leadenham Hall and, in 1808 when she was writing her diary, was a young unmarried woman of 22 years. I have debated, in writing this, whether to share with you the additional knowledge I had of Jane before reading her diary; is it wise to reveal an unhappy ending at the beginning of a tale? However, to understand the poignancy with which I read this diary, it is necessary to know that poor Jane died in the year she commenced writing this diary, before even the spring flowers were fully in bloom.
It was a slightly discomforting experience to read the diary, a personal and private journal belonging to someone else, even with a distance of more than two hundred years between Jane and myself. Added to this, to read at the beginning of the diary, the hopes Jane had for that coming year was almost heartbreaking.
January started quietly enough for Jane, at home in Leadenham, with her Mama and younger sister Millicent Mary for company, but then the excitement of the local elections provided a diversion from her usual routine. On the 6th of January she ‘arrived at Lincoln at one o’clock, the town all in a bustle about ye election, went to the Ball introduced by Uncle King to Col. Harcourt wished most sincerely for him & danced with his friend Mr. Howard.’ I have a feeling that Miss Jane Reeve would be horrified by my suggesting it, but there is a hint that she was more than a little attracted by Colonel Harcourt, as he warrants a few more entries in her diary. Indeed, she bumped into him the very next day, after walking in Lincoln Minster with her sister Millicent (referred to as Mili in the diary).
7th Jan. Mili and I walked in ye Minster, returned home were delighted at seeing Col. Harcourt’s party who stood some time before the House, the Col. with Uncle K. came in……..
8th Jan. After breakfast six favors sent us by the Col., was happy in sporting one & flourished out of town with true blue, sorry to leave the interesting scene.
After all the fun home seemed a little dull on Jane’s return the next day. Colonel George William Richard Harcourt, a godson of King George III and a handsome military hero, was aged 32 at the time of the Lincoln election in 1808. He stood as a friend of government, at the time nominally Tory. Jane might have wished Harcourt to be the victor, but he lost the election to Lord Mexborough by 348 votes to 639. The total costs of the election for both Mexborough and Harcourt were estimated at the time as being not less than 25,000 to 30,000l., and it is recorded that Harcourt left many bills unpaid and went abroad soon after.
Though living in genteel obscurity in the country Jane was on visiting terms with some of the best families in Lincolnshire. On the 12th January she visited General and Mrs Manners at Bloxholm, relations of the Duke of Rutland and on the following day Mrs and Miss Chaplin called to fetch Jane and Mili to Blankney Hall for a short stay where there was a party of people their age. January 14th was spent working and gossiping during the day, and then gossiping again after dinner whilst the gentlemen played whist. Jane mentions that, despite the fun, she felt ‘rather flat, did not to my sorrow spot Col. Harcourt.’ Jane and Mili’s Mama arrived the next day to escort them back home whilst the rest of the Blankney party set out for a Ball at Newark.
And so life returned to a quiet round of visiting local families, needlework and reading, until the excitement of a visit to London. Setting out on Friday 22nd January, with her Papa, they visited both Fineshade [Abbey] in Northamptonshire to stay for a few days, home of Colonel the Hon. John Monckton, also Great Stukeley Hall in Huntingdonshire to stay overnight with Mr James Torkington and his family. Jane played chess with Mr Torkington after dinner. The next day, accompanied by Mr Torkington, Jane and her Papa completed their journey and arrived in London. Whilst the menfolk stayed elsewhere, Jane took a room with her Aunt King.
Jane and Aunt King spent the time shopping and sight-seeing, taking in St. Paul’s, the Tower of London, the British Museum and Kensington Gardens. Papa visited, sometimes taking breakfast or dinner with Jane and her aunt, as did Jane’s elder brother, John. Jane no doubt enjoyed the bright lights of the big city; she mentions going to the opera, which she enjoyed and dines out several times.
Sadly though, on February 5th she mentions visiting a play at Covent Garden with a large party, only to record that she is ‘perfectly happy except no real pleasure.’ Her last full day in London, February 6th, was spent being rushed around with a Miss Manners, taking in Westminster Abbey, the House of Lords and Commons and the Court of the King’s Bench, and the next day she left the metropolis in company with her Papa and brother. Taking a detour, they stayed in Cambridge for three days, looking around the colleges, before starting on the journey home to Leadenham.
John travelled with them as far as Wansford before bidding his sister goodbye, not knowing that it would be for the last time. Jane and her Papa once more stayed at Fineshade where they had a quiet family dinner. Jane records that the weather was terribly cold; they had only planned to stay for two nights but were delayed by a day from returning home as a heavy snowstorm fell. The journey was continued despite the snow and in company with Colonel Monckton, getting as far as Stamford on the first day before finally arriving home again on February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day. Jane is no doubt relieved, recording in her diary her happiness in being home.
After having faithfully recorded the events of every day of the year so far, there is a gap until the 22nd February when Jane writes that the weather was terribly cold and that she has spent the day in writing, etc. She gives no reason for neglecting her diary for the previous week. And, with that short entry on February 22nd, Jane’s entries into her diary cease altogether.
A different hand writes an entry on the 3rd of March:
Dear Jane departed this life at half past six in the evening aged 22 the 2nd of January March last.
January is struck through, and March pencilled in; the writer was too distressed to notice her mistake at the time and corrected it later. A further entry, in the same hand, records Jane’s funeral which took place at 2 o’clock on the afternoon of the 9th of March.
The Leadenham parish burial registers confirm her burial on that day, ‘Jane, eldest daughter of William Reeve Esq.’
The author of the last two entries was Jane’s sister, Mili. Her identity is revealed by three subsequent entries in Jane’s diary in the same hand and signed as Millicent Mary Reeve. Still distraught two years later, in an entry dated 2nd March 1810 Mili wrote a further entry, observing that two years had passed since she said farewell to her sister. She writes again on 9th March 1810, the two dates having a painful significance for her, again imploring that she may be as good as her sister was.
Her final entry, and the last in the diary is a further lamentation for her loss of both a sister and a friend, dated 19th July 1814.