The Staymaker c.1745; William Hogarth; The Tate

Frith Street, Soho: Mozart’s London Tour

One Wolfgang Mozart, a German Boy, of about eight Years old, is arrived here, who can play upon various sorts of Instruments of Music, in Concert, or Solo, and can compose Music surprisingly; so that he may be reckoned a Wonder at his Age.

The Mozart family made a grand journey around Europe during the 1760s and early 1770s which became a concert tour in which Wolfgang and his elder sister Maria Anna (Nannerl) performed under the supervision of their father.

Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart playing in Paris with his father Léopold and his sister Maria Anna by Louis Carrogis Carmontelle, 1763, Musée Condé.
Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart playing in Paris with his father Léopold and his sister Maria Anna by Louis Carrogis Carmontelle, 1763, Musée Condé.

After visiting various German towns, Brussels and then Paris, the Mozarts arrived in London in April 1764. It was something of an impromptu addition to the schedule: the family had not planned on performing in the British capital but after calls to do so after their performances in Paris, they hastily crossed the Channel.

An advertisement for these concerts announced that “the girl, in her twelfth year, and the boy, in his seventh will not only play on the harpsichord or the fortepiano, the former playing the most difficult pieces by the greatest masters, but the boy will also play a concerto on the violin, accompany symphonies on the keyboard and play with the keyboard completely covered by a cloth as well as though he could see the keyboard; he will also name, most accurately, from a distance, any note that may be sounded for him, singly or in chords on the keyboard, or on any conceivable instrument, including bells, glasses or clocks. Finally, he will improvise out of his head, not only on the fortepiano but also on the organ (for as long as anyone wants to listen, and in all the keys, even the most difficult, that he may be asked).”

Leopold wrote that he was ‘in a city that no-one from our Salzburg court has yet dared visit and to which perhaps no-one ever will go in the future’. He had high hopes of making a fortune while in the city but it did not go as planned. The London season was all but over and the nobility were retreating from the capital to their country estates, but Wolfgang appeared before the king and queen and made his debut in the concert rooms at Spring Gardens. Wolfgang and Nannerl then played at Ranelagh and Vauxhall: Leopold was awestruck at the sheer size of London and the multitude of people living in the city. One thing that did not impress Wolfgang’s father was, however, the English weather: Leopold fell ill with a ‘kind of native complaint, which is called a cold’. By the beginning of August, the Mozart family were lodging at a house in Ebury Row, Chelsea so that Leopold could recover in the country.

Childhood of Mozart; Ebenezer Crawford; Jersey Heritage
Childhood of Mozart; Ebenezer Crawford; Jersey Heritage

The London season began again in November and so, in anticipation of that, the family relocated during September back to London and took rooms in the house of Thomas Williamson and his wife, Jane, in Frith Street, Soho.

Frith Street, at the time, was known as Thrift Street and bounded at one end by Monmouth House, beyond which lay Soho Square, or King Square as it was then known. The Williamsons house, no. 15, was a brick built dwelling, three or four storeys high and dating from the 1720s. (Following the demolition of Monmouth House in 1773, the houses on Frith Street were renumbered: no. 15 is no longer standing, but its site is now occupied by no. 20 which is the back of the Prince Edward Theatre and opposite Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club.)

King Square in Soho, looking towards Monmouth House beyond which, to the right of the building, is Frith Street. © The Trustees of the British Museum
King Square in Soho, looking towards Monmouth House beyond which, to the right of the building, is Frith Street.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Thomas Williamson followed the joint and somewhat incongruous professions of staymaker and wax and spermaceti candle chandler, trading as Williamson & Tonson in the latter capacity by 1777.

The Staymaker c.1745; William Hogarth; The Tate
The Staymaker c.1745; William Hogarth; The Tate

Spermaceti candles – made from a waxy substance found in the head cavities of sperm whales – were preferred by those who could afford them as they were odourless: Thomas had royal patronage as two of George III’s younger brothers purchased their candles from him, Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn. A Daniel Williamson in Hull, East Yorkshire appears to have manufactured the candles and sold them from his premises. Possibly he was Thomas’ brother, the two siblings running a joint operation.

Trade receipt of Williamson & Tonson, Wax Chandlers. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Trade receipt of Williamson & Tonson, Wax Chandlers.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

The London season normally began when parliament reconvened but that winter, due to tensions between King George III and his government, the opening was delayed until 10th January, a further setback for the finances of the Mozarts, additionally so when their concerts during the rest of their stay were not as well attended as they had hoped they would be. They performed at private houses and their final public concert was on 13th May 1765: thereafter they continued performances for which the public were charged admission at their rooms in Frith Street until June.

Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart; Royal College of Music
Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart; Royal College of Music

The family left London at the end of July and sailed for France on 1st August 1765. Thomas Williamson continued his joint professions from Frith Street until his death in the summer of 1778. By his will, he left his businesses and stock in trade to his wife and to his son, John.

The blue plaque on the site of the house in Frith Street where Mozart lodged.
The blue plaque on the site of the house in Frith Street where Mozart lodged.

The subject of our latest biography, Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs owned two houses on Frith Street in the early 1800s, inherited from her father. They stood about where Ronnie Scott’s is, so opposite the house in which Mozart had lodged. A relation had lived on Frith Street in the 1780s, so it is entirely possible that our Mrs Biggs had heard tales of the child prodigy’s stay in Soho from someone who had personally known the Williamson family.

Sources:

Oxford Journal, 23rd February 1765

Newcastle Chronicle, 14th May 1768

Mozart, Stanley Sadie, Oxford University Press, 2006

National Archives, PROB 11/1041/84

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Merry Christmas: Reviews, Guest Blogs and More

We’re now ending yet another year of blogging. It’s true, as you get older time goes faster. It feels like five minutes ago that we were wishing everyone a Happy 2017 and we’re now almost at the end of it. We’re taking our usual break until January to spend time with our families and to draw breath, but of course, we’ll  be back next year with even more stories from the Georgian era – we already have plenty in the pipeline.

We have just launched our third book, so if you’re still looking for that last-minute Christmas present or just a treat for yourself, then you may wish to check out A Georgian Heroine. There’s also a direct link on the right-hand side of the blog to all our books.

The bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man's world. A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs.

We are delighted with the first reviews of A Georgian Heroine. Regan Walker, author of Georgian, Regency and Medieval romances had this to say:

We authors try and cast our heroines as noble women who overcome great odds to lead significant lives and win the hero’s love. Though she never found true love, Charlotte was just such a woman. I could not recommend a more delightful heroine to you than Charlotte. The authors have done a thoroughly researched job of bringing her story to light in a fast-paced narrative. I recommend it!

You can read the full review on Regan’s website.

We’ve been guest blogging to promote A Georgian Heroine so, if you’d like to discover more about this truly amazing woman, the links you need are below.

Charlotte, as our Georgian Heroine preferred to be known, suffered a tortured existence at the hands of a man she should have been able to trust when she was in her late teens. On Naomi Clifford’s blog, we discuss Abduction and Rape in 18th Century London: The Multiple Misfortunes of Charlotte Williams.

Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa by Francis Hayman, Southampton City Art Gallery.
Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa by Francis Hayman, Southampton City Art Gallery.

Charlotte grew up in Lambeth on the banks of the River Thames and her close neighbour was the Georgian era businesswoman, Eleanor Coade, a lady we looked at in more detail in our post on Sue Wilkes’ site.

Coade Stone Factory, Narrow Wall, Lambeth, anonymous, 1790s.
Coade Stone Factory, Narrow Wall, Lambeth, anonymous, 1790s.

Finally, we headed over to Anna M. Thane’s website, Regency Explorer for a look at a daring scheme to end Napoleon Bonaparte’s life, The Plot of The Infernal Machine, which Charlotte had links to. You can find out more in The Lady is a Spy.

Hortense de Beauharnais - Rijksmuseum
Hortense de Beauharnais – Rijksmuseum

In other news, our first book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott is now a bargain £4.99 in eBook format for a limited time (click here for more).

Before we leave you for the year,  we would like to say a huge ‘Thank You’, to all our lovely readers who have taken the time to read our stories and to comment on them and to wish you a very Happy Christmas. We’ve had some lovely comments from people so hopefully, we’re writing things that interest or intrigue you, our lovely readers. We must also say a massive ‘Thank You‘ to our guest writers who have provided us with yet more amazing stories from the Georgian era.

 

 

Blackfriars Bridge and St. Paul's by Francis Nicholson, c.1790.

French Misadventure: Alexander and William Walker

As Lewis Troughton, the Beadle of Christ Church, Southwark walked along Blackfriars Road one crisp, fine November day in 1817, his attention was taken by a crowd gathered around two young and frightened boys who were dressed ‘in the French costume’. Only two years after the Battle of Waterloo, the youngsters garb might have excited some suspicions but when they began to explain their predicament the mystery only deepened. The younger of the two, aged around nine or  ten years, was sitting in the road crying, his feet blistered and his legs swollen and no matter how much the elder lad, who looked to be about twelve, begged him to get up he refused; he could not, he cried, walk another step.

Blackfriars from Southwark, London; Daniel Turner; City of London Corporation
Blackfriars from Southwark, London; Daniel Turner; City of London Corporation

The beadle intervened and took the boys to Mr Evance, the Surrey magistrate where they were asked to give their names and the elder of the two, an intelligent lad, told their sorry tale, which was then reported in the newspapers as follows.

The two boys were brothers, Alexander and William Walker; their father had been an officer in a dragoon regiment and lived in County Tyrone, Ireland. Their maternal grandfather was a Frenchman who lived near to Amiens and, some four months earlier, the family had received news that the old man was dying and wanted to see his daughter one last time. Mrs Walker set off for her former homeland, taking her two sons with her, and they made it in time to pay their respects. However, a fortnight after her father’s death, Mrs Walker was taken ill and also died. The two boys were left all alone in a strange country, with no other relatives to care for them.

French School, 19th Century. Amiens, St. Luc Neighborhood and Cathedral
French School, 19th Century. Amiens, St. Luc Neighborhood and Cathedral. Via Expertissim.

A French lady who had known their grandfather sold the clothes left by their mother, presumably fine ones, and dressed the two boys in poorer clothes. She then gave them a small sum of money, told them that it was all that was left and pointed them towards the road that led to Boulogne. Did she see an opportunity and cheat them or was this the best way she could provide for their journey home? However it came about, the brothers were destitute when they reached Boulogne but luckily they found a kindly captain of a Dover packet who took pity on them and allowed them to sail on board his ship.

Sands near Boulogne by William Clarkson Stanfield, 1838. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Sands near Boulogne by William Clarkson Stanfield, 1838. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From Dover, the boys decided to walk to London, begging their way and hoping to find a way to travel from there to Dublin where they had friends who would take them home to their father. And so they had been found, with their money spent and their legs so swollen that they could go no further. Luckily for them, the officers of Christ Church were charitable and, once the pair were recovered, they were helped to get back to Ireland and their home.

The Beggar Boy; John Opie; Falmouth Art Gallery
The Beggar Boy; John Opie; Falmouth Art Gallery

So, who was their father? Although the newspapers which reported on the story said he was an officer in a dragoon regiment, we do wonder if he was not the William Walker who was a private in the 8th (The King’s Royal Irish) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons? William Walker was born in Ballygreenan (Baile an Ghrianáin) in County Tyrone, c.1769, and enlisted at the age of nineteen. He was discharged in December 1814, at the age of 45, due to ill-health and in consequence of:

Asthma of long standing, worn out and lately returned from France where he has been a Prisoner several years.

This dragoon regiment had seen action at Bousbecque on the French/Belgian border in 1794 as part of the Flanders Campaign and had returned to England the following year. After that, they went to Africa and on to India where they remained until 1819. Had Private Walker been held a prisoner in northern France since the skirmish at Bousbecque until 1814? And had he met and married his French wife during that time, fathering two sons despite his status as a prisoner of war?

Finally in 1794 the 8th moved to the low countries for eighteen months of conflict. The first battle they fought on the continent in May surpassed even “The Charge of the Light Brigade” for bravery and devotion to duty. Two squadrons of the 8th charged a body of French infantry supported by four guns well positioned in a churchyard in the village of Bousbecque. The 8th Light Dragoons routed the infantry, jumped the churchyard walls and captured the guns. The casualties were staggering, of the 200 men who engaged the French, 186 were killed, wounded or captured. Lesser skirmishes followed for a year as the allies were pushed back into Germany and then left for England in November 1795.

NB: Private Walker’s discharge papers gave his birthplace as Ballygrina, Co. Tyrone, Ballygreenan is the closest approximation to this that we could find.

Sources:

Evening Mail, 5th November 1817

The Queen’s Royal Hussar’s Association – click here for more

National Archives, British Army Service Records WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760-1913, WO 97/137/100

Header image:

Blackfriars Bridge and St. Paul’s by Francis Nicholson, c.1790. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

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.

Guy Vaux or Fox blowing up the Parliament House.
Guy Vaux or Fox blowing up the Parliament House. courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

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.

Flying Post or The Post Master , November 4, 1712 - November 6, 1712
Flying Post or The Post Master, November 4, 1712 – November 6, 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.

Windsor Castle from the lower court on the 5th of Nov[embe]r by Paul Sandby, 1776. British Library.
Windsor Castle from the lower court on the 5th of Nov[embe]r by Paul Sandby, 1776. British Library.
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.

Execution of two celebrated enemies of old England and their dying speeches Novr. 5 1813.
Execution of two celebrated enemies of old England and their dying speeches Novr. 5 1813. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

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.

Guy-Vaux discovered in his attempt to destroy the King & the House of Lords : his companions attempting to escape. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Guy Vaux discovered in his attempt to destroy the King & the House of Lords: his companions attempting to escape. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

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.

Featured Image

The Fairs or Guy Fawkes a Print made by Rowney & Forster, active 1820–1822,  after John Augustus Atkinson, 1775–1831. Courtesy of the Yale Centre for British Art

A visit to Uppark House, Sussex

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to pay a visit to Uppark House, near Petersfield, Sussex and thought I would share a little information from my trip.

Tillemans, Peter; A View of Uppark; National Trust, Uppark;  A view of the house as it would have looked around 1720.
Tillemans, Peter; A View of Uppark; National Trust, Uppark;  A view of the house as it would have looked around 1720.

In 1747 Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh and his wife Sarah Lethieullier purchased Uppark House and estate in Sussex.

Sarah Lethieullier (1722-1788), Lady Fetherstonhaugh, with the Branch of a Pear Tree; Pompeo Batoni; National Trust, Uppark
Sarah Lethieullier (1722-1788), Lady Fetherstonhaugh, with the Branch of a Pear Tree; Pompeo Batoni; National Trust, Uppark
Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh (1714-1774), 1st Bt, MP, with Wreaths of Fruit and Corn; Pompeo Batoni; National Trust, Uppark
Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh (1714-1774), 1st Bt, MP, with Wreaths of Fruit and Corn; Pompeo Batoni; National Trust, Uppark

For around ten years the couple redecorated the house and spent much of their time travelling in France, Italy and Austria on lavish shopping trips, purchasing a wide variety of antiquities for their new house.

Dolls house, Uppark House
Dolls house, Uppark House

The couple only had one child, Henry, known as Harry, who was ‘safely delivered’ at Uppark on 22nd December 1754 according to the newspaper report in the Newcastle Courant just less than one week later. He was baptized at the local church in Harting, Sussex a few weeks later, on January 14th, 1755.

Matthew was to die before Harry reached his majority but fortuitously wrote his will just before he died in March 1774, appointing his widow Sarah and her brother Benjamin Lethieullier as guardians to their only son Harry.

Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh (1754-1846), 2nd Bt; Pompeo Batoni; National Trust, Uppark
Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh (1754-1846), 2nd Bt; Pompeo Batoni; National Trust, Uppark

Like his father, the educated and extremely wealthy Harry also undertook the Grand Tour and added to the antiquities that his parents had purchased.

He also commissioned the renowned Humphry Repton to add a new pillared portico, a dairy and to landscape the garden, creating some spectacular views from the house.

Portico at Uppark House, the entrance used by visitors
Portico at Uppark House, the entrance now used by visitors

Harry was a good friend of the Prince of Wales who stayed at Uppark during the mid-1780s. In 1780, Harry had a short-lived affair with Emma Hart, later to become Lady Emma Hamilton, he even provided her with a cottage on the estate.

The stable block and gothic seat at Uppark House
The stable block and gothic seat at Uppark House

After this he became something of a confirmed bachelor and recluse until that is, at the ripe old age of 71 he happened to hear the head of the milking parlour, Mary Ann Bullock singing and fell in love with her immediately.

Gothic Seat, Uppark House
Gothic Seat, Uppark House

Mary Ann was a mere 21 years of age. A marriage licence was issued 9th September 1825 and the couple married a few days later, despite such a massive age gap. Harry also arranged for Mary Ann to be educated in Paris. Upon his death in 1846, he left the entire estate to her.

Mary Ann’s family moved to the village from Streatham, Surrey, where Mary Ann was born on 16th December 1804 (her parents were William and Ann Bullock). The couple had several children baptized in Surrey, prior to moving to Harting, Sussex at which point they produced several more children including Frances (1817) who lived at Uppark with her sister and was sole executrix of her sisters will in 1874. Despite being a scandalous marriage in its day, the union lasted some 21 years, so perhaps the age gap didn’t matter after all.

A summer reading selection: green men, sovereigns, moles and bawds

We are taking our annual summer holiday from blogging and so this will be our last post until September when we will be back with plenty of new posts and some exciting news (CLICK HERE for a teaser and there’s a little more to be found at the end of this blog!). In the meantime though, we have taken a look back at a few of our favourite blogs from this year, in a summer reading recap for our readers, old and new.

We invite you to discover Henry Cope, the Green Man of Brighton. He dressed in ‘green pantaloons, green waistcoat, green frock, green cravat… He eats nothing but greens, fruits and vegetables; has his apartments painted green, and furnished with a green sofa, green chairs, green tables, green bed and green curtains. His gig, his livery his portmanteau, his gloves and his whips, are all green. With a green silk handkerchief in his hand and a large watch chain with green seals, fastened to the green buttons of his green waistcoat he parades every day on the Steyne, Brighton’.

Henry Cope, the Green Man of Brighton, 1806. © National Portrait Gallery, London

What rake is ignorant of King’s Coffee House? Moll King was the proprietress of King’s Coffee House in Covent Garden and she counted Hogarth, Henry Fielding, Alexander Pope and John Gay amongst her customers. Separating fact from fiction, we present the true account of her life in our blog post.

The Four Times of the Day: Morning by Hogarth.

Back in March, we were guest-blogging on the subject of the Allied Sovereigns’ Visit to England in 1814, when the Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and other European sovereigns were hosted by the Prince Regent to celebrate the Peace of Paris and the abdication of Napoléon Bonaparte, who had been exiled to Elba.

The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, 24 June 1814

We have a post on folklore next: Fortune Telling Using Moles. No, not the small, furry creatures! Find out why a round mole is luckier than an angular one and whether your mole denotes a good marriage, health, wealth and wisdom or a testy contention and ungovernable spirit.

A Fortune-Teller by Joshua Reynolds: Kenwood, English Heritage

Upon stumbling across a painting of two children which captured our interest, we turned art detectives and delved into the history behind it, discovering the family of Captain Richard Davison Pritchard of the Royal Navy.The Children of Captain R. D. Pritchard (1827) by Philip August Gaugain (1791–1865)<br /> Walker Art Gallery

We hope that you enjoy your summer and we’d like to thank all our readers for their continued support of our blog and for your comments. When we come back in September, we will begin to share with you the incredible but true story of a woman who history has largely forgotten, a woman whose story has to be read to be believed and which proves the old adage that fact is often much stranger than fiction. If you haven’t already subscribed to our blog, please do give us a follow to be kept updated and – if you’re too impatient to wait until September – CLICK HERE for a little ‘spoiler’ and be one of the first to find out more…

 

 

Featured image:

Outskirts of a Town (detail from), British (English) School, Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

Robert Dingley, founder of The Magdalen Hospital

Having already written about The Magdalen Hospital we thought it would make an interesting article to provide a little more information about one of its founders – Robert Dingley. Robert was later referred to by Mary Ann Radcliffe in ‘The Female Advocate‘ as ‘the first humane proposer of the charity‘.

Robert Dingley was born around 1710 , the eldest surviving son of Susanna and Robert Dingley, a prosperous jeweller and goldsmith of Bishopsgate Street, London and a descendant of Sir John Dingley of Wolverton Manor, Isle of Wight.

Robert Dingley by John Dixon, after William Hoare, 1762 (National Portrait Gallery)
Robert Dingley by John Dixon, after William Hoare, 1762 (National Portrait Gallery)

Robert was an extremely busy man, with fingers in many pies it appears. He took a keen interest in the arts and was an active member of  The Society of Antiquaries from 1734 and ‘dabbled in architecture‘ ; became a Fellow of the Royal Society in November 1748; was also founder member of the Society of Dilettanti, along with Sir Francis Dashwood about whom we have previous written in connection with The Dunston Pillar; held a lifelong career with the Russia Company and was also Director with the Bank of England and according to The Whitehall Evening Post of March 30th, 1749 he was appointed Governor of the Foundling Hospital.

On December 30th 1744 Robert married into another affluent family, his first wife being Elizabeth Thomson, daughter of Henry Thomson Esq, of Kirby Hall, Yorkshire.

Stamford Mercury 03 January 1745

The couple had three children Susanna (born November 22nd, 1745) and Robert Henry Dingley in 1746. A later child Elizabeth who was born 19th June 1748 did not survive infancy.

In 1759 his first wife Elizabeth died leaving Robert to raise two teenage children.

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

With this in mind Robert wasted no time and married his second wife, Esther Spencer, sister and heir of Thomas Spencer, the following year, on 21st March 1760.

For someone who led such a public life the newspaper report of his death was succinct to say the least –

St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, August 9, 1781 – August 11, 1781

Died yesterday at Lamb-Abbey. Near Eltham, aged 72, Robert Dingley Esq.

However, there is a memorial for both Robert and Esther in the same church. Esther died 1784.

An interesting piece appeared some years after his death in Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, Saturday, September 9, 1786, just after the death of Jonas Hanway.

So what became of Robert’s children, well his daughter, Susanna Cecilia (1743–1795) of Lamb Abbey, near Eltham, Kent, married Richard Hoare (d.1778) of Boreham House, Essex, a partner in Hoare’s bank, in 1762.

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

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

His son, Robert Henry took holy orders and became the rector of Beaumont cum Mose and south Shobury, Essex until his death in March 1793.

Robert Henry followed in his father’s footsteps and became a governor of Magdalen Hospital, as did Robert’s second wife, Esther.

 

Featured Image

Courtesy of the British Museum

Portrait, three-quarter length seated wearing velvet suit and long white wig, directed to right holding a book open on right knee to show the title-page of ‘An Account of the Rise, Progress and Present State of the Magdalen Charity’ faced by a picture of a woman, his left arm on arm of his chair beside a table on which are papers bound with ribbons; after Hoare.

 

Sources Used

ODNB

The Ipswich Journal 19 November 1748

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, Volume 2 By Edward Hasted

An Account of the Rise, Progress and Present State of the Magdalen Hospital By William Dodd