In a previous blog post ‘Miss Jenny Davis as a bride’ we briefly mentioned Richard Wroughton, so thought we would take a closer look at him to see if we could find out anything more about his life.
Little is known of Richard’s early life. He was born in Bath, Somerset the son of Charles Rotton, or Rotten as recorded in the baptism register of St James’s church, Bath, 22nd October 1749. A small entry for a man who was to become one of the leading players of the London theatre circuit. Quite why he changed his name we can only speculate, perhaps Wroughton appeared more suitable for the theatre than Rotten!
It is reputed that whilst Richard was ill he fell in love with his nurse, Joanna Townley, and later married her. We know he was under 21 as the parish registers of 1769 tell us that his father needed to give his consent. There was no such entry for his bride to be, however, implying that she was older than him.
Richard and Joanna left the confines of Bath so that Richard could pursue his passion for the theatre, and so they set off for the glamorous life in London. Reading about him, Richard was clearly never short of work taking on a wide variety of predominantly Shakespearian roles at both Covent Garden and Drury Lane from the late 1760s until his retirement from the stage in 1798. He also performed in Liverpool and was the manager of Sadler’s Wells.
However, his ‘exit stage left’ was a little premature as he returned to acting a year or so later and remained an actor until 1815 when he finally retired, exhausted.
We tracked down his will, in which he left everything to his ‘beloved wife Elizabeth’ – who? He had remarried, so we began to search for the death of his nurse, later to be his wife, Joanna and found a curious burial entry in the parish register of Speenhamland, Berkshire for the 14th November 1810, the burial of a Joanna Wroughton, her residence given as Bath, Somerset. Her age at the time of her death was given as 71, making her birth 1739. Was this Richard’s wife? It would certainly appear to have been, so she was a good ten years his senior.
This entry makes sense when you check the newspapers for February 1811. A mere three months later Richard married for a second time, his new bride being Miss Elizabeth Thomas, daughter of Reverend Dr Thomas. He didn’t exactly waste any time finding a replacement which when you read Michael Kelly’s description of him, doesn’t exactly make him a great ‘catch’ –
‘a sterling person, sound and sensible. His person was bad, he was knock-kneed, his face was round and inexpressive, and his voice was not good. He had, however, an easy and embarrassed carriage and deportment, was never offensive’.
Richard was clearly a popular man as he was named as a beneficiary in several wills we have come across, most notable being that of the renowned actor Robert Baddeley.
Richard was buried 22nd February 1822 at St George, Bloomsbury, Camden.
Richard Wroughton, by Robert Laurie, published by William Richardson, after Robert Dighton mezzotint, published 10 July 1779. Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery
We will now hand you over to Naomi to introduce you to an intriguing character, George Lowman Tuckett.
In the middle of a September night in 1817 Maria Glenn, aged 16, vanished from her uncle’s house in Taunton, Somerset. She had been taken by the Bowditches, a local yeoman farming family who wanted to marry her off to the second son. George Lowman Tuckett, Maria’s uncle, immediately suspected that the Bowditches knew that she was the probable future heiress of her grandfather’s valuable sugar plantations in St Vincent.
Maria had spent the summer at their farm just outside Taunton where she and two of her young cousins had been sent to recover from whooping cough. There was ample opportunity for the family to find out what she was worth. Of course, in 1817, once a girl was married, all her possessions, now and in the future, would belong to her husband.
When I was writing the book, I had to build a picture of Tuckett from the bare bones of his biography and from glimpses of him in the lives of other people. Apart from two publications about his niece’s case and one letter in the county archives at Dorchester, he left a surprisingly small footprint. There are no surviving images of him, which is surprising given that he went on to be, if only for a short time, a Lord Chief Justice of Jamaica (but we’ll come to that later).
George Lowman Tuckett was born in 1771 at Bridgwater in Somerset, the second of his father William’s sons by his first wife Martha Lowman. William was appointed Stamp Act distributor on St Kitts in the West Indies but by 1770 he was back in England, living in Bridgwater, where he was at various times a solicitor, Recorder of the Corporation, Stamp Duty Distributor for Somerset and mayor of Bridgwater.
In 1789, after boarding at Exeter School George went up to St John’s College, Cambridge. He followed his father into the law, taking his pupillage with the brilliant but notoriously grumpy Vicary Gibbs, who specialised in the laws of evidence.
It is not known how Tuckett made the acquaintance of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived at Ottery St Mary in Devon, but the two young men were close enough for Tuckett to take action when Coleridge, impoverished and suffering from depression, disappeared from Cambridge University in late 1793. While Coleridge’s family anxiously tried to track him down, it was Tuckett who guessed that he would have told his old Christ’s Hospital school friends where he was. He persuaded them to break their confidence, after which Coleridge, who had joined the Royal Dragoons under the name Silas Tomkyn Comberbache, wrote Tuckett an angry letter criticising his love for truth-telling. It is not known whether they communicated again. Truth-telling was important to Tuckett.
Tuckett was admitted to the Middle Temple in London in 1796, after which he completed two years’ practice in England. Two years after that, he sailed to Grenada in the West Indies. On 11 July 1800, aged 30, he married his 17-year-old first cousin, Martha Lowman, daughter of his mother’s brother George Lowman, on St Vincent. The following year he was appointed Solicitor-General of Grenada but his career was seriously affected when Martha became ill and they were forced to come to England. With the exception of a couple of years in Jamaica, where Tuckett practised at the bar, they stayed in England for the next two decades, settling initially in Taunton.
While they were living in Taunton, 11-year-old Maria Glenn, Tuckett’s wife’s sister’s daughter (and his own his second cousin – they intermarried quite a lot) joined them. By now George and Martha had five children (they went on to have another), a remarkable achievement given that Martha had an unknown but debilitating illness. Tuckett and Martha adored Maria – she was everything a genteel Regency girl was meant to be. Shy, bashful, obedient and, above all, innocent about men.
After Maria’s disappearance, in order to build evidence against the family he believed abducted her, Tuckett became a detective. There was no police force to do this work, of course, and although he could have hired an investigator, the work required sensitivity and attention to detail. Also, Tuckett has time on his hands: from what I can tell, his career as a jobbing barrister on the Western circuit was not very taxing.
He travelled extensively around Dorset and to London to interview witnesses and sometimes to conduct an impromptu identity parade. It was his practice to ask someone to describe the person they had seen at a particular time. Then he would present Maria and ask if this was who they meant. When they failed to recognise her, he concluded that Maria had been deliberately impersonated by her enemies. Of course, it’s not a technique that would be acceptable in a court of law now. What happened when the case came to court, and subsequently when the Bowditches sought revenge, is detailed in my book.
He was thorough and determined. He sometimes presented as severe and cold-hearted but underneath he was loving, generous and loyal, with a fundamental commitment to Maria and an acute sense that it was his Christian duty to tell the truth.
Many years later, when Tuckett had managed to resume his West Indian career, he showed the same compassion and adherence to the truth. By 1827, he was appointed Judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court of Jamaica and then in October 1831, with the death of William Anglin Scarlett, the acting Lord Chief Justice of Jamaica. Earl Belmore, the Governor of Jamaica, told Tuckett that it was his intention to appoint him to the post, but after the Christmas rebellion of 1831 (the Baptist War) he was ejected from office and forced to return to London. Although his actions had been approved by the Jamaican Privy Council, Sir Joshua Rowe was given the post of Lord Chief Justice. Tuckett’s brief period of service has all been but forgotten. The Jamaican historical archives have no portrait of him and no information about his role.
It was the end of Tuckett’s legal career and afterwards, he lived in retirement, supporting his four surviving children, none of whom married. Martha died in 1837. On 4 November 1851, he died from heart disease, aged 80, at his home in Ilfracombe, Devon.
If you want to read more, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn: A True Life Regency Mystery is available now from Pen and Sword Books and all good bookshops.
You can also visit Naomi’s excellent website by clicking here.
We are delighted to announce a ‘sister’ site to All Things Georgian, and would like to introduce to you ‘The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman’ which can be accessed by clicking here.
Some time ago we were approached by George and Amanda Rosenberg who had enjoyed our blog posts on this site, and thought we might like to host the diaries that they had painstakingly transcribed which were written by Fanny during the Regency, late Georgian and Victorian eras (George descends from Fanny Chapman’s family).
We were both thrilled and somewhat overwhelmed when he sent us the diaries and associated information, and quickly decided that they deserved a site of their own, for they are quite wonderful to read, and we hope that others will find them as fascinating as we have done. They are still a ‘work in progress’ as George and Amanda have far more information than we have managed to pull together as yet, so please keep checking back for further developments.
Christiana Fanny Chapman was born in 1775 to Henry Chapman and his wife Christiana (Kitty) nee Neate. Her diaries were kept in the form of notebooks and a number of loose pages and cover the years 1807 to 1812 when she lived in and around Bath and in Somerset with her aunts Jemima Powell and Mary Neate (Mary was also Fanny’s godmother), very much dependent upon them. The diaries describe their everyday life, their circle of friends and the social routine of the minor gentry of the time.
A constant presence in the diaries is Fanny’s uncle by marriage, Colonel John Hutton Cooper. He had been the second husband of Fanny’s aunt Phillis, who had been left a wealthy widow upon the death of her first husband, Charles Meniconi. When Phillis died she left everything to Cooper, including the villa in which they all lived, probably upon the understanding that he would continue to provide for her sisters and nieces (Fanny had a sister, Emma). Cooper reneged on that agreement, but George believes, and (after reading the diaries) we agree, that Fanny was more than a little in love with her widowed uncle, at least initially. Emma later described Cooper as a ‘reprobate and a fortune hunter’.
Fanny’s diary ends in 1812, and then recommences in 1837, just weeks after the young Queen Victoria had ascended the throne. With her two aunts dead, Fanny is living in Bath with her sister, finally her own mistress. Her aunts both left Fanny the main beneficiary of their wills.
Whilst the diaries which cover the years 1807 to 1812 are all fully available, the ones covering the Victorian years will be added to the site shortly.
The diaries end in 1841, but Fanny lived many more years, not dying until 1871 at the grand old age of ninety-five years.
Please feel free to share this with anyone whom you may feel will be interested in these diaries. You may also wish to follow @ChapmanDiary on twitter.
We have the immense pleasure of welcoming our first guest to the blog, none other than Professor Chris Stephens of Bristol University. He has given us the following information about himself, his excellent new book and the Reverend Dr Thomas Sedgwick Whalley.
Professor Stephens retired in 2002 after 35 years in academic dentistry spent teaching orthodontics and undertaking pioneering work in the application of computers to dentistry and dental education. By this time he was also a professional dry stone waller and had helped to establish a SW England Branch of the Dry Stone walling Association of Great Britain.
In 2006 Chris was asked by the Woodland Trust if he could assist them in restoring the perimeter wall of their Dolebury Warren Wood property on the north slope of the Mendips. The work, undertaken with the help of local volunteers took three years to complete during which time Chris discovered that the walls had formed part of the estate which surrounded Mendip Lodge, an Italianate house built in the late 18th century by the flamboyant Reverend Dr. Thomas Sedgwick Whalley.
This long lived would-be poet and playwright had married a series of rich widows, the first of whose riches enabled him to buy a house in Royal Crescent Bath which became a centre of social life in Bath at the end of the 18th century.
By 1790 he had built Mendip Lodge high above Upper Langford looking out over Somerset and the Severn estuary as his summer retreat. While his life in outline is known from his letters edited and published by his great nephew in 1863, research over the past 10 years has revealed a far more interesting and complete account, much coming from his extensive correspondence with his friends Mrs Thrale (Piozzi), Hannah More, Anna Seward and the actress Sarah Siddons.
Whalley was a highly intelligent, sensitive and generous man who spent a large part of his long life and much of his wealth supporting his beautiful and talented young niece after the tragic death of her mother when she was only 8 years old. This recently published book is one of very few to detail the long of life of a sensitive and wealthy 18th century man from the correspondence of his friends both male and female. Much of Whalley’s estate, which included Dolebury Camp now in the ownership of the National Trust, is accessible to the public. A foot path runs past the remains of Mendip Lodge which was sadly demolished in the 1950’s.
Chris also appears in the new film Hannah More which is due out early next year, in the role of Rev Thomas Sedgwick Whalley.
Stephens, C. The Rev Dr Thomas Sedgwick Whalley and the Queen of Bath – A true story of Georgian England at the time of Jane Austen. (Candy Jar Books, 2014) ISBN 978-0-9928607-6-9. £9-99