The Complex Life of Teresia Constantia Phillips Part Two

Today, we pick up where we left off last week with the story of Con’s life.

It was about 1737 that she became involved with a gentleman she simply referred in her ‘Apology’ as Mr Worthy, his identity eventually his name came into the public domain – he was Henry Nedham. She provided at least two clues in her Apology, which helped to identify him, firstly, she referred to him being the son of a wealthy plantation owner in Jamaica and the second clue, which confirmed it was that his cousin was named Hampson (Volume 3. Page 124).

With these two clues it became possible to trace the Nedham or Needham (there seems no explanation as to the slight surname change though), family tree back and with it the connection, between not only Henry and his cousin Hampson, but also to them both being related to Henrietta Crofts, daughter of Eleanor Nedham. So, was Con telling the truth about Henrietta being her godmother? It certainly seems much more feasible than originally thought, and that the handsome, Oxford educated, Henry appeared in her orbit via her godmother, by then the dowager, Duchess of Bolton, Henrietta (the 2nd Duke having died in 1722).

Harbour Street, Kingston, Jamaica. Hakewill, James, 1778-1843, A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica, from drawings made in the years 1820 and 1821
Harbour Street, Kingston, Jamaica. Hakewill, James, 1778-1843, A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica, from drawings made in the years 1820 and 1821

It was around 1739 that Henry had to return to Jamaica to sort out an issue on the plantation pertaining to his father, and Con was determined to follow him out there. After two failed attempts to get to Jamaica and then Boston where he had gone to, she gave up on the relationship and in 1740 returned to England.

This, she admitted, was an error, as she fell ill with a fever and by then was again in debt with creditors chasing her. On her return she stayed with a friend, an unnamed surgeon, but the following morning the bailiff appeared at the door for her, but somehow she managed to avoid him by climbing out of the kitchen window and making her escape, but the bailiff was wise to her plan and set up a watch outside the rear of the premises, but Con escaped by using a ladder to climb into next door’s garden, that being the home of the Duchess of Marlborough.

Con eventually gave herself up and paid off her debts. But life was not improving for her, as she met up with an old friend, Colonel Vassall, a merchant who she knew from Boston. He was ill and broke, so Con made him a loan to help him out, but he died before being able to pay her back.

She was now penniless and sometime between 1742 and 1744 she was arrested for debt. She made been living well beyond her means and also had debts mounting for the legal action against Muilman.  With that she fled to France for several months.  Eventually on her return to England she wrote her ‘Apology’, which was going to act as a tool for blackmail, a ‘name and shame if you don’t pay me’, type document. Quite who, if anyone actually paid up we will never know, but presumably very few and it was late 1750 that according to Read’s Weekly Journal, News from Jamaica

Mrs Con Phillips was arrived there from England

So Con had returned once again to Jamaica, perhaps hoping for a better life there.

The Ipswich Journal 13 April 1751, tells us a little about of Con’s fiery personality when she was obliged to appear before a magistrate to give security and keep the peace.

A complaint had been made by an unnamed gentleman, that Con arrived at his home and without saying a word, rushed up to his bedchamber where this poor man was lying in bed, unable to move as he was suffering from gout. When she realised that he was ill her demeanour changed and she calmed down toward him, however in a fit of jealous upon seeing his black handmaid in the room, Con took her by the ear and began to slap her. The maid retaliated but was cuffed again five or six times by Con at which time she became delirious.

Con was fined one hundred pounds for this seemingly unprovoked attack on the maid and fifty pounds surety.

The same day, Con place a notice in the newspaper that she was going to have to delay the opening of her Boarding School for the Education of Young Ladies, for which purpose she had taken a large house and white women to wait on the ladies. Presumably as she had to sort out the court action.

According to an anonymous article in the Gentleman’s Magazine (1766), she:

made three further, bigamous marriages, to ‘Mr M.’, an Irish land surveyor, then to ‘Mr S. C.’, a Scotsman and commissary for French prisoners of war in Jamaica, and finally to a Frenchman named Lanteniac.

Further research does confirm that there were in fact a further three husbands, but, as Con hadn’t obtained a divorce from husband number one, they would all be classed as bigamous.

Her first of these, i.e. husband number three, was a wealthy, Irish land surveyor, Hugh Montgomery. This marriage was reputed to have taken place towards the end of 1752, as, on 4 Jan 1753, the London Evening Post said:

‘Tis said a Letter from Spanish Town in Jamaica gives an Account, that the noted Con Phillips is married there, and keeps the most considerable Publick House in that Town. Spanish Town St Catherine’s parish.

Sadly, checking the record for 1752 and 1753 there seems to be no surviving record of exactly when it took place. However, Con wrote a letter in 1755 from Jamaica, to Mr Rose Fuller, MP who had recently left Jamaica, in which she titled herself Constance Montgomery and saying:

from an abandoned woman whose understanding deserved far more of a reasonable creature than ever her beauty did;… you and only you I have to curse for the cruel exile I suffer in this damned country, for which I will thank you in the 4 volume of my life which I have almost completed; adieu.

Quite what her fit of pique toward Fuller was all about we will never know and whether he responded to her letter is equally a mystery.  The author Nick Hibbert Steele mentioned Con in his book about Hibbert House, Kingston saying that :

it was built in 1755 by Thomas Hibbert, as a result of a bet with 3 other merchants in Kingston, to see who could build the finest house. The prize was the hand in marriage of Teresia Constantia Phillips a notorious courtesan. Thomas Hibbert won the bet but declined to marry Con. Phillips recognising her as a gold-digger.

This seems a curious story if Con was already married to Montgomery by then, but perhaps all was not what it appeared to be in paradise.

In their early years together everything went well, but it was becoming clear that Hugh was unwell, his physicians were very concerned at his rapid weight loss and put it down to Cons carryings-on.

He eventually became so weak that he decided that he should write his will, which he duly did. As Hugh and his physicians felt that a trip to the country might be of benefit, fresher air and a chance to relax and recuperate, but, as Con was busy with her appointment as Mistress of Revels for the island and was too busy to accompany him, he would go alone. Con was appointed to this post by the Governor of Jamaica, Henry Moore (1713-1769).

It was only when it was time for him to leave that Con became emotional, fearing this would be the last time she saw him alive. She immediately asked him whether he had made a will and whether he had left her provided for. ‘Yes of course’, he replied – this was not quite the truth.

He had made a will, which unknown to him, Con had read and it was hidden in her her pocket, so she knew at this point that despite his words, she was not provided for. So before allowing him to leave she had him dragged back into the house, where he was made to re-write it, dictated by her and witnessed by three people, who she had on standby. No way was he leaving her without her ensuring that she was provided for.

Everything was left to her, his ‘his death and beloved wife’. The will was made on 14 January 1760. After sorting this, he was free to leave and Con watched him set off and sure enough she didn’t see him again. Hugh’s body was returned to Kingston and buried on 8 May 1760.

28 May 1760 - Kingston Jamaica - burial of Hugh Montgomery
28 May 1760 – Kingston Jamaica – burial of Hugh Montgomery

In 1760, Con, penned from her home in Jamaica, what appears to be her last piece of correspondence that has survived, perhaps reflecting on the imminent closure of her own life, to someone whom she regarded as a friend, The Right Honourable, the Earl of Chesterfield. This letter appears to be her reflecting on her life and how it turned out and was in the form of advice for young women on how not to live if they wished to be happy.

For my part, my life has been one continued scene of error, mistake, and unhappiness. I was by my ill fate, left mistress of myself, before the time I ought to have forsaken the nursery.

Within the letter she talked about her life and loves, her time in Jamaica and about her niece who was aged fifteen at the time and how she was teaching her how to live a better life than she had. Whilst it isn’t clear from the letter, Con appears to know her niece well, so it can only be assumed that she was living along with her mother, in Jamaica. The reason for writing to him was, that according to Con he had written a booklet entitled ‘The Whole Duty of a Man’.

However, Con was not in danger of imminent death, instead she was to walk up the aisle yet again, when she married yet again, husband number four. This marriage was to a young Scotsman, Samuel Callendar, Commissary for the French prisoners of war brought to the island. Quite where on the island they married is unknown, but it certainly wasn’t recorded in the records for Kingston.

He was said to have been from a good family, well respected and held a prominent position in the social life of Jamaica – until he married Con, that was.

Shortly after they married, he seemed to vanish from the social circle and was reputed to have only left his home three times during the two years of their marriage.

Before the end of their second year together, he too was dead. Although there’s no sign of their marriage, we know that it was short lived as Callendar was buried on 2 Jan 1762, again at Kingston.

2 Jan 1762 - Kingston Jamaica - burial of Samuel Callendar
2 Jan 1762 – Kingston Jamaica – burial of Samuel Callendar

Just 3 months later, on 24 April 1762, Kingston, Con married for what would be her fifth and final husband, as the widow Teresia Constantia Callendar.

24 April 1762, Kingston – Con married as widow Teresia Constantia Callendar
24 April 1762, Kingston – Con married as widow Teresia Constantia Callendar

Her final husband was Monsieur Adhamar de Lantagnac who had only recently arrived on the island as part of a batch of French prisoners over whom Con’s late husband had control over. This final husband was said to have grown up amongst the Canadian Indians whose customs he had adopted such as tattoos on his body, arms and legs. His appearance, if nothing else, caused him to be a great hit amongst Cons social circle.

The problem with this husband being that he enjoyed spending money, or to be more precise, Con’s money that she had accumulated from both previous husbands. Callendar had died without leaving a will, but Con took it upon herself as his wife, to take control of his assets including a cargo worth about £2,000 (about a quarter of a million in today’s money), which she had landed and promptly sold, netting Con a decent amount of money to live on for the rest of her life, or so she thought, but her new husband saw to it that this would not be the case. He ran through her money very rapidly on clothes, food and drink and with that Con told him to pack his bags and leave before she was completely destitute.

As was so often the case, money was in short supply again for her, her friends rallied round and help her out, but when this occurred for a second time friends were suddenly found to be in short supply.

As the curtain went down on her final show at the Kingston Theatre, Con saw her own life now coming to an end, with no husband for comfort and precious little money, she wondered how it had all gone so wrong.

As she lay on her death bed, she was terrified that her corpse might be arrested to pay off her debts on its way to the grave, as was the custom at that time.

Her wish was to die on a Saturday night so that being buried on a Sunday her body would be safe in the ground. She got her wish and was buried in Kingston graveyard on Sunday 20 January 1765, as Teresia Constantia, wife of Adhamar Delantagniac, with not even the apothecary to mourn her passing. In life, known as the Mistress of Revels and the Pride of England, her body went unnoticed to its nameless grave.

The burial of Teresia Constantia Phillips. 20 January 1765. St Catherine's, Jamaica
The burial of Teresia Constantia Phillips. 20 January 1765. St Catherine’s, Jamaica

There was no-one present at her burial, not even her niece who lived on the island. For someone who knew everyone in Jamaica, and everyone knew her, she died very much alone, but the name Teresia Constantia would live on, as I noted several children baptised with those names in the Jamaican baptism registers.

Sources

The Real Duty of a Woman, in the Education of a Daughter: A Letter Humbly addressed to the Right Honourable, The Earl of Chesterfield. 1760

The Gentleman’s and London Magazine. Volume XXXI. 1766

Morris. John. The Troubles of Our Catholic Forefathers Related by Themselves, Volume 1

Stone. Lawrence. Uncertain unions : marriage in England, 1660-1753

Black. Clinton V. Tales of Old Jamaica

East Sussex Records Office SAS-RF/21/18

Familysearch Jamaica BMD’s.

The Complex Life of Teresia Constantia Phillips Part One

Teresia Constantia Phillips, courtesan, bigamist and author of her autobiography, first appeared on the radar whilst researching the duchesses of Bolton, for our upcoming book, The History of the Dukes of Bolton which is due to be published very shortly by Pen and Sword Books.

Teresia, better known as Con, claimed that the Duchess of Bolton was her godmother, in her ‘Apology for the Conduct of Mrs T C Phillips’, written in three parts, the first of which was published in 1748, from her home at Craig’s court, Charing Cross, near Whitehall.

This appeared to be quite a claim with little to substantiate it. Of course, it became necessary to know more about Con and to establish how much of her story was true, especially the connection with the Duchess of Bolton.

Certain sources claim that the reference was to the 4th Duke of Bolton’s wife, Catherine Parry, this could not be feasible – the dates simply didn’t work, Catherine didn’t become the Duchess until 1754, long after Con published her Apology, so it had to be have been Henrietta, the 2nd Duchess of Bolton, wife of Charles Powlett.

In order to establish whether the snippet of information Con provided about the Duchess of Bolton had any truth to it, it’s necessary to take a brief look at Henrietta, Duchess of Bolton’s ancestry, which will make sense later in the story.

Born Henrietta Crofts, she was the illegitimate daughter of Eleanor Needham or Nedham (the spelling seems to vary becoming Nedham when part of the family moved to Jamaica) and James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth (1649-1685). Henrietta was given the surname Crofts as it was the name adopted by her father when he was in the care of the Crofts baronets.

Riley, John; James Scott (1649-1685), 1st Duke of Monmouth; Museums Sheffield

Her maternal grandfather being Sir Robert Needham of Lambeth, one of the sons of Thomas Needham of Pool Park, Denbighshire and his wife Eleanor Bagenal and her aunt was Jane Myddleton nee Needham, one of the Petworth Beauties’.

Jane Needham, Mrs Myddleton. Royal Collection Trust
Jane Needham, Mrs Myddleton. Royal Collection Trust

Sir Robert married twice, Eleanor being his daughter by his first wife, Jane Cockayne. She had several siblings, but after the death of Jane, Sir Robert married a second time, his new wife being a Mary Hartopp, with whom he had at least a further two sons, Robert and George.

Of these two sons Colonel George, is the significant one in this story. Colonel George Nedham left England for the Caribbean in 1680 and married Mary Byam, the daughter of William Byam, Governor of Antigua and his wife Dorothy Knollys, from an extremely distinguished family.

George and Mary had several children, but it’s the eldest child, Robert (1672-1738) that we’re interested in right now.

Robert married Elizabeth Shirley and again had several children, but the one who is important in this story is Henry. Remember that name as it will crop up in Con’s story, but in the meantime, here is the family tree to help.

Click to enlarge image
Click to enlarge image

So, let’s return to the beginning of Teresia Constantia’s complicated life; a life which she recounted in her ‘Apology’ which we know ran to three volumes, although she claimed there was a fourth, which, if it existed, hasn’t been discovered.

According to her ‘Apology’ she was born January 2, 1708/9 at somewhere she referred to as West Chester, now this could have meant west of the city of Chester, or somewhere completely different, whichever it was there is no sign of her baptism, assuming she was ever baptised.

Con claimed that she was the daughter of Thomas Phillips, the younger brother of the Phillips of Picton Castle in Wales. Her paternal grandfather, she claimed, married an heiress of the Powlett family, if that were the case, evidence is sadly lacking.

Her maternal grandfather was said to have been the younger brother of Sir Henry Goodrick of Yorkshire and her maternal grandmother was of the Deans of Wiltshire. Her parents married 1707/8 when her father was Captain of Grenadiers in Lord Slane’s regiment, afterwards Lord Longford. Colonel Thomas Phillips possibly married Frances, niece of Sir Henry Goodricke, but that too remains speculation, so all very well connected.

Henrietta Duchess of Bolton with her husband Charles, 2nd Duke of Bolton
Henrietta Duchess of Bolton with her husband Charles, 2nd Duke of Bolton

It was around 1717 that her father, Thomas left the army and was in poor circumstances so took his wife and children to London. The family at this point was split up with the eldest son being sent to Barbados and Con’s godmother, the one she claimed was the Duchess of Bolton arranging for Con to attend Mrs Filler’s (Filer’s) prestigious boarding school in Prince’s Court Westminster. There she learnt the skills which she would later rely on as one of the most well-known courtesans of the day.

Rates return for Filler’s school, Prince’s Court
Rates return for Filler’s school, Prince’s Court

This arrangement didn’t last very long as about 1720 her mother died, and Con was promptly withdrawn from the school. According to Con, her father quickly remarried, his choice of bride being the family’s servant, someone that Con didn’t get along with very well.

It was when she was just thirteen, according to her Apology, that she was seduced and raped by someone she only ever referred to as Thomas Grimes, possibly because she never knew his name, although it has often been thought this to be Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, but this has now been revised and it is now believed to have been Thomas Lumley-Saunderson, 3rd Earl of Scarborough.

Knapton, George; Philip Dormer Stanhope (1694-1773), 4th Earl of Chesterfield; National Trust, Beningbrough Hall

Irrespective of which one of them it was, Con found herself in desperate straits and by 1721 aged under thirteen, she was in need of money as she was facing arrest for debt. Desperate to rid herself of her debts and thus avoid prison, Con paid ten guineas to a Mr William Morrell of Durham Yard to procure a potential husband for her. The idea of this being that the man would marry her and that way her debts became his, allowing her to avoid debtors prison. At that time the legal age for marriage was 14 for the groom, but just 12 for the bride, this remained to situation until the Marriage Act 1753, which is part came about as a result of Con’s marriages.

Rates Return 1723 for William Morrell, Durham Yard
Rates Return 1723 for William Morrell, Durham Yard

With that thought in mind, a willing participant was found, to become husband number one, in the shape of a Francis Devall. Apparently, William Morrell got him drunk, presumably so that he couldn’t identify her later, and once somewhat inebriated, the sham marriage took place at Saint Benet Paul’s Wharf, to a Francis Devall (or Delafield), a man she had never seen before and with whom she had never exchanged a word. Clandestine marriages were often performed by needy chaplains without banns or a licence and on the day that Con married Francis Devall, a further three marriages took place which must have kept the chaplain busy.

Marriage of Francis Devall to Teresia Constantia Phillips
Marriage of Francis Devall to Teresia Constantia Phillips

After the ceremony Con suddenly became a respectable married woman, Mrs Devall and with it, came the freedom from debt, at which point, she rapidly packed her bags and left for Rouen, France, where she remained for a few months before returning to England. She offered no explanation for this sudden sojourn, but presumably it was somewhere to lay low until the dust settled with her debts all cleared, and to allow enough time so that Devall couldn’t identify her.

What of course Con perhaps didn’t know at that time, was that her new husband was already married and his wife, still very much alive. He had married Magdalen Youn of St Andrews, Holborn on 17 September 1718, using the name Francis Delafield, so as to which was his real name we will never know.

Marriage of Francis Delefield to Magdalen Youn
Marriage of Francis Delefield to Magdalen Youn

Very soon after this escapade Con found herself being courted by a wealthy Dutch merchant named Henry Muilman (c1700-1772), who quickly succumbed to her charms and whilst her expectations being that she would be his mistress, he wanted to make her his wife, so it appears that without divorcing her first husband, she married husband number two, Henry on 9 February, 1723.

Marriage of Henry Muilman to Teresia Constantia Phillips
Marriage of Henry Muilman to Teresia Constantia Phillips

But this marriage was a big mistake as they did not get along with each other and his family utterly disapproved of her. According to Con he was violent and abusive toward her and that having married her he was able to use her as he pleased – she was after all his wife, and behaviour like that was often regarded as acceptable at the time.

From her Apology, Volume 1, Con wrote of Henry

What! (he would say) not sleep with you? Are not you my wife! my dearest wife? Have I not made you so, at the price of my ruin? Yes, I will have you, and not all the powers in Heaven or in Earth shall keep you from me; and would sit sometimes on a chair whole nights by her bedside: at others, he would come to her, and half a dozen of these strange fellows with him, and beat, and abuse her in the most barbarous manner; and, if he found her in bed, strip the cloaths from off her, and expose her, to them, naked, as she lay; or drag her, by the hair of her head, out of bed.

Eventually, in order to escape from this marriage and to rid himself of her, according to the Daily Post, 3 March 1725, Henry obtained a ‘nullity of marriage with the daughter of Captain Thomas Phillips, on account of her prior marriage with an attorney’s clerk’. This annulment however, cost him a generous annuity of £200, but Muilman refused to pay up and a lengthy dispute between them began.

In 1728 Henry married for a second time, his new wife and mother to his two children being Ann Darnell, the daughter of Sir John Darnell, Sergeant at Law and Judge of the Palace Court.

Con had relationships with numerous men including the mysterious Mr B., whom she said she had known from childhood, but his identify still appears to be well hidden. Although never named, she said he was the son of a General, who would ultimately inherit a substantial fortune. The pair travelled around Europe, proclaiming to be married, living the high life and spending money like water. However, in 1728 they had a major argument and Con took herself off to a convent in Ghent where she remained for around 18 months, the couple eventually agreeing to go their separate ways.

When this relationship ended, she became moved on to have a relationship with to Sir Herbert Pakington, a wealthy baronet, who was married to Elizabeth Conyers at the time. This was to be yet another relationship which ended badly as he proved to be a jealous lover and became so jealous that he attempted to take his own life on at least two occasions, once by use of his sword at the dinner-table. On the second occasion, enough was enough for Con and she ended that relationship and disappeared to her convent in France.

However, Pakington didn’t give up easily and regularly wrote to her pleading for her to return, despite the newspapers apparently having accused her of attempted murder. The London Evening Post, 25 February 1731, however, noted that he was ‘in a fair way of recovery’. So clearly there not too much harm done.

Pakington travelled over to France to meet her but appeared to be jealous of anyone she spoke to and attempted to take his life again. That was the final straw and Con left him once back in England and placed herself under the care of Lord Falkland at his home in Hertfordshire.

However, on 16 Apr 1734, Lucius Charles Cary, 7th Viscount Falkland married the widow Jane Butler and made Con a payment for agreeing to release him from their arrangement, thereby making him free to marry some more suitable, an heiress.

Quite what became of Con for the next few years appears somewhat vague. During the time she spent with B she accumulated quite a bit of money, plus the money from Lord Falkland, so began spending it on litigation over her marriage to Muilman.

Whilst these relationships had be going on, she involved herself with someone simply named as ‘Tartuffe’ the French word for imposter or hypocrite. It has been widely acknowledged now that it was Philip Southcote, son of Sir Edward Southcote. With Tartuffe she had a child, which lived until it was aged just eleven, so until the early 1740’s, and which Tartuffe failed to support. She did not confirm the gender of this child, so it seems we will never know more about it apart from that Tartuffe only saw the child on less than a dozen occasions. There was a curious entry on 15 Jul 1740 in the General Evening Post:

By Letters from Jamaica we hear that the celebrated Con Phillips died there in April last, after a short illness

Given that we know Con hadn’t died, could this have misinterpreted and that it was her child who died, speculation of course.

The only other piece of information we know about Tartuffe being that he was married at the time. It was clearly a volatile relationship as Con spent most of the second volume of her ‘Apology’ telling readers how dreadfully he had behaved toward her.

Part 2 can be found by clicking the highlighted link here.

Who was Selina Cordelia St Charles?

Today I am delighted to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian, Paul Martinovich. After a career spent planning museum exhibits in North America and Ireland, Paul retired to pursue a longstanding interest in the Napoleonic Wars.

He first came across Selina Cordelia St Charles whilst researching for his forthcoming biography of Pulteney Malcolm: The Sea is my Element: the eventful life of Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm, in which you can find out more about the liaison between Malcolm and Selina, and the fate of their son. The biography of Malcolm is the result of several years research in archives in Britain and North America.

With that introduction I’ll now hand over to Paul to tell you more about the illusive Selina Cordelia St Charles:

In April of 1796, a 13-year-old girl boarded the East Indiaman William Pitt in Portsmouth harbour. An observer might have noted that she was well-dressed and well-spoken—these facts (along with her elegant name) would have suggested she was from a good family.  But what were her origins, why was she going to India alone (except for her maid), what would become of her when she got there? These questions are not easy to answer, but the research has revealed a strange and unexpected life, and the interesting woman who lived it.

Selina was not famous and is not well-documented in the historical record. In fact, her origins are shrouded in mystery, and are the least-understood part of her life. She was almost certainly illegitimate, and born in 1782 or 1783. She was said to have been born in Quebec, and named ‘Selina Cordelia St Charles’, ‘facts’ which it has not been possible to verify, and may well be a red herring to conceal her true parentage. Her father was almost certainly one of a clan of prosperous traders and professional men named Birch, possibly William Henry Birch, an officer in the British Army. Her mother’s identity remains unknown.

John Zephaniah Holwell (1711-1798), East India Company servant. National Portrait Gallery
John Zephaniah Holwell (1711-1798), East India Company servant. National Portrait Gallery

The infant Selina was brought up by her Birch grandparents, William and Sally Birch, in Pinner just outside London. Sally Birch was born a Holwell, a family that, like the Birches, had long-standing trading connections with India. She was the daughter of John Zephaniah Holwell, survivor and publicist of the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’. In this famous outrage nearly a hundred-and-fifty British civilians, captured by an Indian ruler, were crammed overnight into a space the size of a good-sized bedroom. The next morning most of them were dead, but Holwell was among the living. After the British recaptured Calcutta, in order to perpetuate the memory of his dead companions he had a monument erected on the site and wrote a widely read book on the incident.

Selina would have learned of these events, and of her family’s Indian links from her grandparents. They also provided her with a good education judging by her letters, which are well-composed and written in an elegant hand.

In 1796, possibly as a result of the death of her father, it was decided to send Selina to India, even though she was only about 13 years old. There she would live with her Birch uncles, prominent businessmen with the East India Company, and would be expected eventually to find a husband. The dispatching of children to live with relatives in distant countries was not unknown in Georgian times, and the annual traffic in young women travelling to India to seek a husband was so common that it came to be nicknamed ‘the fishing fleet’.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

So when Selina boarded the Indiaman she must have felt she was about to begin a great adventure. Another passenger was Major John Shee, a British Army officer going out to join his regiment (the 33rd) in Bengal.

Their shipboard acquaintance led the astonishingly young Selina (she was still playing with dolls) to marry the 26-year-old Shee when the ship stopped at Cape Town. Even though marriages to 16 or even 15-year old girls were not unheard of in the Georgian period, it is difficult to understand how under any circumstances a child of 13 could be allowed to marry a man of 26. Probably, Shee got around the legal prohibition on those under 21 from marrying without parental consent by having the banns read in three successive Sundays at a church in Cape Town. Shee’s regiment stayed at the Cape for a couple of months before embarking for India. Selina (now Mrs Shee) seems to have proceeded to Calcutta on a different ship to her husband, under the protection of a Captain Henry Churchill, who was probably her uncle. Perhaps this was because it was felt that such a young girl should not be exposed to the sights and sounds on the troopship in which Shee travelled.

The couple reunited in India and the marriage seems to have been briefly happy as Selina lived with John Shee at Fort William in Calcutta. However in 1798, he sent her back to England on the Indiaman Hawke. Later Selina claimed that this move was for her health, and that she expected Shee to soon join her. Another explanation for sending Selina to England might be to remove her from being caught up in a war with Tipu Sultan, which was clearly imminent. Whatever the reason, Shee not only sent his teenage wife home without making any provision for her support while she was in England, but then also failed to communicate with her in any way for more than two years.

Description from Bellmans Sussex saleroom 7112017
Description from Bellmans Sussex saleroom 7112017

In England Selina lived with her grandparents in Pinner. Naturally she was very short of money, so she wrote a series of polite letters to her husband’s relatives (which included Sir George Shee, a rich nabob with an important government post) asking for support, while proclaiming her continued affection for her delinquent spouse. Selina’s efforts to convince herself that her husband was not the callous spouse that he seemed to be are captured in this extract from a letter she wrote to Jane Jackson, Shee’s sister.

 It is the appearance of neglect from him who is dearer to me than life which has stung me to the heart; how then can I help tenderly loving her [Jane Jackson] who assures me of the truth of that which I have always believed? that cruel accident [letters having gone missing] and not neglect is the cause of all my anxieties. I have had every proof of the goodness and Generosity of Col. Shee’s heart, not only in his behavior to me while in India (which was all tenderness and affection), but from his general Character. Is it likely then that his Wife alone should have just reason to doubt the Excellency of his heart?

Selina seems to have received little or no assistance from the Shees, so when the financial situation of her Birch relatives became more difficult, she resolved to return to her husband in India. Where the money came from to pay for her passage is not clear.

Lawrence, Thomas; Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), 1st Duke of Wellington; English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House

John Shee had meanwhile risen to the rank of brevet lieutenant-colonel in the 33rd, which happened to be the regiment of Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington. There is ample evidence that Wellesley despised Shee, considering him an incompetent officer, and ‘a species of assassin’, who practiced with a pistol in order to be able to kill his opponents in duels more efficiently.

Selina reached India in July 1801 but did not stay long, since Shee (apparently because of Wellesley’s enmity) decided to return to England and sell his army commission. She accompanied her husband on this journey, but the marriage was now breaking down, and it seems likely that Shee was physically abusing his wife.

The couple was offered a passage from Cape Town to England by a naval captain named Pulteney Malcolm, who was returning in his ship of the line after some years in Indian waters. A number of other passengers and about a hundred troops were also crammed aboard the ship, which was in poor condition and urgently needed repairs.

Sir Pulteney Malcolm by George Engleheart Dumfries Museum
Sir Pulteney Malcolm by George Engleheart Dumfries Museum

During the passage, Malcolm and Selina became lovers, despite the proximity of her husband, who on discovering the liaison quitted the ship to complete his journey on another vessel. On reaching England Shee sued Malcolm for Criminal Conversation, essentially an action for ‘damages’ to his ‘property’ i.e. his wife’s reputation. During the trial it became apparent that Shee had beaten Selina, and while the jury found for the plaintiff, it clearly did not feel he deserved any sympathy in the situation.

As was customary in such cases, Selina did not testify in the trial. In fact she was now pregnant with Malcolm’s child, and gave birth to a son a few months later.

Somewhat conveniently, John Shee died (possibly due to alcohol, since he was a heavy drinker) in March 1804.

Three weeks later Selina married one James Martin Holwell, a haberdasher aged 21. This was no sudden infatuation—James Martin was her cousin, another descendant of John Zephaniah Holwell, and she had surely known him from her childhood in Pinner.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

At this point, Selina’s life settles into a more typical path. The couple moved to Devon, where Selina had two children with James Martin. His haberdashery business did not prosper and he went bankrupt, but was rescued by Captain Malcolm, who got him a job with the Navy. In the post-war slump, the Holwell family emigrated to Canada, and settled in Montreal. It is not clear if by this move Selina was returning to her roots in the New World: this is just another aspect of the mystery of her eventful life. Selina Cordelia Holwell died in Montreal, still only 42, in 1825.

Burial of Selina. Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives.
Burial of Selina. Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives.

Should anyone happen to know something about Selina’s origins—where and when she was born and who her parents were Paul would be grateful to learn the details. Such an extraordinary woman deserves a full accounting of her life.

Featured Image

East Indiaman Pitt in two positions by Whitcombe (Christies)

The Sussex Giantess – Jane Cobden

In the 18th and 19th centuries people were fascinated with people who were different in some way to the ‘average person’ and people such as the Sussex Giantess were bought by often unscrupulous people, to be on show for the paying public. So let’s find out a little more about Jane Cobden and her family.

William Cobden and Millicent Amber were married in 1798 and together they had eleven children, five boys and six girls, including their famous second son, Richard Cobden, who was noted in history as being a politician.

 

William and Millicent. Manchester City Library
William and Millicent. Manchester City Library

Their children were – Frederick (1799); Emma (1800-1836); Millicent (1802); Richard (1804-1865); Jane (1806); Charles (1808); Priscilla (1809); Miles (1812); Henry Andrews (1813-1858); Mary (1815); and their youngest, Sarah (1817).

Richard was probably best known for his association with two major free trade campaigns, the Anti-corn law league, and the Cobden Chevalier Treaty, which promoted closer interdependence between Britain and France. He was so well respected that he even has a memorial bust in the west aisle of the north transept of Westminster Abbey.

Fagnani, Giuseppe; Richard Cobden (1804-1865); Rochdale Arts & Heritage Service;

To give you a little background into the family, they were a long-standing Sussex family who could trace their ancestors back to the fourteenth century. They lived in the hamlet of Heyshott, near Chichester, Sussex in an old farmhouse, known as Dunford.

Dunford Farm Sussex National Library of Australia
Dunford Farm Sussex National Library of Australia

They were not a wealthy family and Richard’s father was described by Richard’s biographer, John Morley as

a man of soft and affectionate disposition, but without the energy of affairs. He was the gentlest and kindest of men. He was cheated without suspecting it, and he had not the force of character enough to redeem a fortune which gradually slipped away from him.

Millicent, however, appears to have been the stronger character, described as being

endowed with native sense, shrewdness and force of mind.

She would have to have been a strong character, given the number of children she had to raise. It must have been difficult trying to raise such a large family with limited income, always trying to find ways to make ends meet. In 1809, the family had to be sold and the family moved to a smaller farm, Gilder’s Oak.

By 1813, the family hit hard time and had to move again, finally settling in West Meon, Hampshire.

By this time their third daughter, Jane was only seven years old, but was there anything unusual about Jane at that time? We will never know. The first sighting of a Jane Cobden was not until 1824, when her name appeared in the Norfolk Chronicle where she was described appearing as part of a travelling show of ‘curiosities’ at Mr Hubbard’s’ Great Room, Kings Head, upper side of the market. Sadly, the advert carries no further information as to quite where Mr Hubbard’s Great Room was, given that the notice appeared in a local newspaper, possibly Norfolk.

Jane was described as being

Only 18 years of age, stands near seven feet high. This young lady is allowed by all ranks of people, to be the tallest, handsomest, most elegant and accomplished young lady ever exhibited to be British public.

She was appearing alongside Mr Thomson, the Scottish Giant, who stood at over seven feet tall and Mr Robertson who stood a mere twenty-six inches tall. Admittance being one shilling for ladies and gentlemen and just six pence for servants.

In July 1825, Jane’s mother, Millicent Cobden died at the age of 50, did Jane know as she was busy travelling around the country?

It was the festival at York in December 1825, that provided just  one more clue as to her identity when it specified that she was a native of Chichester and that:

This British phenomenon is a striking instance of the power of nature and the natural beauty of this young lady has proved a magnet of irresistible attraction to a wonderful world.

The final sighting of Jane was in the Evening Mail, 9 June 1826, when she appeared at Ascot Races, accompanied by a ‘dwarf from the Low Countries’, a ‘Bohemian who balanced coach wheels on his chin’, a black sleight of hand player, several dogs and a lady who ‘took money’, all dwelling in a covered cart not twelve feet square, and all to be seen for just one penny.

Jane simply vanished after this, but it is reputed that she died in Hertfordshire in 1830, making her just 24 years of age. Whilst I cannot be absolutely certain that this young lady was the sister of Richard, she was the only Jane Cobden, born in Sussex whose year of birth matches or even comes close and there seems nothing to suggest that it wasn’t her – perhaps someone out there might be able to confirm one way or the other.

UPDATE

I have now found a burial for Jane and the ages ties in nicely with it being Richard’s sister. She was buried at Chipping Barnet 31st May 1830, aged 24 years.

 

Sources:

The life of Richard Cobden by Morley, John, 1838-1923

Hurley and Skidmore Family History

Liverpool Mercury Friday 9 December 1825

Norfolk Chronicle Friday 24 December 1824

A Most Horrible Murder in Hankelow, Cheshire

On April 18, 1797, George Morrey, from the village of Hankelow, near Nantwich, Cheshire married Edith Coomer, from the neighbouring village of Wybunbury. The couple went on to have six known children, the first, Elizabeth, born in 1798, followed by William, James, Mary (who only lived for a year), Edith and finally, George in 1810.

Marriage of George and Edith 1797
Marriage of George and Edith 1797

Clearly, despite George being a successful farmer, their marriage was not as happy as it ought to have been and as the saying goes ‘while the cat’s away …’ it was whilst George was away selling his wares, that Edith began an affair with a younger man, their former farmhand, John Lomas late 1811. It was in the Spring of 1812 that things came to a head when Edith found herself pregnant with John’s child. Things had to change and with that, John and Edith hatched a plan to murder Edith’s husband, George.

Between two and three o’clock in the morning of Sunday 12 April, the family servant, Hannah Evans, who slept with the children in the room adjoining the parlour heard a noise which sounded like several blows being delivered in her master’s room.

She quickly got up and could hear groans coming from the bedroom. She opened her chamber window to get through it, and, as she was putting her head out of the window she heard the door open, and turning her head saw her mistress come in with a lit candle, and caught hold of her, saying, she must not go out, as there was a murder in the house, and if she went through the window she was likely to be killed. After a few minutes, all went quiet, Edith sent Hannah to fetch John Lomas, their servant. Hannah then told him to wake the neighbours which, after some persuading, he agree to do.

Having gathered some neighbours and George’s brother they went upstairs to George’s bedroom, where they found him lying in dead on the floor, his throat having been cut through the windpipe, a left temple bone fractured. A large, blood-stained axe, covered in blood was found underneath his body. Claims of a break-in were made, but on checking there were no signs of any sort of break-in.

When daylight appeared, one of the neighbours noticed that Lomas had blood on his nose and on one of his wrists, creating suspicion of guilt. The room in which he slept was also found to have traces of blood on the floor and the stairs leading up to his bed. Also, his bed showed traces of blood and he was wearing a clean shirt. On finding the one he had worn the previous day, needless to say, other items of clothing were found with had blood on them too. This was hardly a well-thought-out crime as he had left evidence of his crime, everywhere.

British School; The Port of Chester; Grosvenor Museum
British School; The Port of Chester; Grosvenor Museum

Once the search was complete Lomas was taken away by the constables to await his fate. Whilst on the journey not only did Lomas confess to the crime but also implicated his mistress, Edith as his co-conspirator, saying that it was she who had administered alcohol to her husband to get him drunk and that she had urged Lomas to kill her husband so that once he was out of the way she would inherit the farm and the money they had and she would be free to be with Lomas.

When Edith was questioned the constable went to arrest her when she produced a razor and attempted to cut her own throat, but as a doctor was already present in the house examining George’s body, he was summoned and quickly sewed up the wound.

After the trial at which both pleaded not guilty, after just a few hours deliberation and, with a packed courtroom, the like of which had never been seen before, the death sentence was passed for the pair. Lomas immediately said ‘I, John Lomas, deserve my fate’. He was taken from the County to the city goal in Chester, and at midday ascended the drop and met his maker.

According to the Criminal Registers, John Lomas was executed on 31st August 1812 and that prior to his execution, it was agreed that both he and Edith should receive the sacrament together at which time the pair made a full confession of their guilt.

But what about his accomplice, Edith. She pleaded ‘the belly‘ i.e. that she was pregnant, a fact that was substantiated by a jury of matrons who confirmed that she was between four and five months pregnant and therefore permitted to live until the birth of her child, once born she would then suffer the same fate as Lomas.

On 23 April 1813 Edith was taken to the scaffold. She walked from the Castle to Glover’s Stone, having hold of Mr Hudson’s arm, with the utmost firmness, amidst an unusual pressure from the immense crowd assembled. She then got into the cart, and immediately laid herself down on one side, concealing her face with her handkerchief, which she has invariably done when in public, from her first appearance before the judges to her final dissolution, and we venture to affirm that no person obtained a view of her face out of the Castle since her commitment. She remained in prayer with the Rev. W Fish till one o’clock when she ascended the scaffold with a firm and undaunted step, with her face covered with a handkerchief and she immediately turned her back to the populace. When ready Edith dropped the handkerchief as a sign that she was ready to die.

By the time Edith died, her son Thomas was now aged four months, having been born on 21 December 1812.

But what became of this ‘love child’? He was raised by Edith’s brother, Thomas Coomer, but this child had his own story to tell. He was baptised in 1814, his baptism showing clearly that his parents were dead.

Life was not to be plain-sailing for this young man, who frequently found himself in trouble for thieving and according to the Chester Chronicle, 12 April 1833, yet again young Thomas found himself in trouble with the law –

A Jail Bird

At the present session, a youth named Thomas Morrey, only 20 years of age, appeared before the court for the third time, charged on this occasion, with stealing a quantity of wearing apparel, and some fowls, from his uncle, Thomas Coomes, of Basford, who had humanely taking him into his house, in the hope of snatching him from a career of crime which must end in bringing him to the gallows. This ill-starred boy is the son of Edith Morrey, who was convicted at the August assizes of 1812, of the murder of her husband and whose execution took place in April 1813, was stayed on account of her pregnancy until after the birth of this boy.

The court despaired of ever being able to reform young Thomas, so opted for having him transported to Tasmania, for a period of 7 years.

Following his sentence, he was removed to the prison hulk, Cumberland, moored at Chatham, Kent, where he remained until being transported the following year on board The Moffatt. On arrival in Tasmania, he was appointed to ‘public works’ and received a ticket of freedom in 1846.

Certification of Freedom for Thomas Morrey
Certification of Freedom for Thomas Morrey

As to what became of him after that is lost to history, so far, perhaps someone out there knows!

Sources

Leicester Journal 24 April 1812

Chester Courant 27 April 1813

Lancaster Gazette 20 April 1833

Home Office: Convict Prison Hulks: Registers and Letter Books; Class: HO9; Piece: 1

England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892. Class: HO 27; Piece: 31; Page: 72

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 82, Part 1; Volume 111

The full story of this family’s life has been told in a book, ‘Rope Dance’ by Maureen Nields.

Featured Image

Stanfield, Clarkson Frederick; Prison Hulks and Other Shipping; University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

The Colour of Mourning

I accidentally came across this trade card below, for a Matthias Otto of The Strand, London, and for those who are regular readers of All Things Georgian, you will no doubt be aware of my interest in trade cards, but something about this one specific jumped out at me on this one.

British Museum
British Museum

It was dated c1765 and referred to Matthias Otto as being a seller of amongst other things – ‘widow’s weeds‘.

Little seems to be known about Matthias, however, we do know that following his death, his son Matthias junior continued the business after his father as another trade card exists which depicts him selling the same items of clothing.

Now, I have to confess I thought the term ‘widow’s weeds’ was a term usually associated with the Victorian period rather than Georgian when women wore black for long periods of time and didn’t realise that it was in common usage prior to this.

The term ‘weeds’, according to Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language:

originated from the word waed –  a garment of clothing, habit, or dress. Now scarce in use, except in ‘widows weeds’, the mourning dress of a widow.

With that, I decided to what more I could find out and my first point of reference was the trusty, Ackermann’s Repository and in 1809 there was a little more information about widow’s weeds:

In every country on the earth some emblem of grief, or token of esteem, is worn by the surviving relatives of deceased persons; but the mode of expressing this affection varies according to the custom or fashion in different nations.

In Syria, Cappadocia and Armenia, sky-blue dress is worn on this occasion, because it is the colour of those regions which it is hoped their departed friends inhabit.  In Egypt, a yellow dress is used on such occasions, being a symbol that death terminates our mortal expectations, as the leaves of the trees turn yellow when decayed. The Ethiopians wear grey, and Europeans black. Grey is emblematic of the earth to which the dead return and black, which is a privation of light, it is also typical of the absence of life, but for virgins, a white dress is worn, because it is an emblem of purity.

Another thing that I hadn’t really given any thought to was the process of dying fabric to produce the colour black which given the high mortality rate in Britain would have been something in great demand. Again Ackermann’s provided some answers.

Mourning Dress - Ackermanns Repository 1809
Mourning Dress – Ackermanns Repository 1809

A Mr Vitalis found an improved way of producing a good quality black fabric and thread to make mourning weeds. There had clearly been an issue with the dye, as it was not long-lasting and turned fabrics a rusty colour fairly quickly. For those unable to buy specific mourning clothes it was common practice to dye existing clothes black using iron filings and the bark of an elder tree. The use of iron filings would explain this rusty colour and then keeping such items to be passed down through the family.

Lady Hall of Dunglass 1752 Allan Ramsay 1713-1784 Bequeathed by Sophy, Lady Hall in memory of Lt-Col. Sir John Hall, 9th Baronet of Dunglass 1952
Lady Hall of Dunglass 1752 Allan Ramsay 1713-1784 Bequeathed by Sophy, Lady Hall in memory of Lt-Col. Sir John Hall, 9th Baronet of Dunglass 1952

General rules for behaving whilst in mourning were published, as someone decided that the correct etiquette was not being correctly observed and that people needed to be reminded about how to behave.

A wife losing her husband

She should not appear in public the first week, nor in private without a handkerchief.

The second Sunday at church, much affected with the sermon, the handkerchief not omitted.

She may go to a tragedy after the first month, and weep in character, either the play or the loss of her husband. The second month she may attend a comedy and smile, but not languishingly.

Drake, Nathan; Lady in Mourning; Ripon City Council

A husband losing his wife

Must weep or seem to weep at the funeral.

Should not appear at the chocolate house during the first week.

Should vent a proper sigh whenever to good wife or even matrimony is mentioned.

May take a mistress into keeping the third week, provided he had not had one before.

May appear with her in public at the end of the month, and as he, probably, may not choose to marry again, he may, at the close of the second month, be allowed a couple of mistresses, to solace him in his melancholy.

Sources

Johnson, Samuel. A Dictionary of the English Language. Volume 4

The Town and Country Magazine, Or Universal Repository of Knowledge, Instruction, and Entertainment, Vol. 1. 1769

The Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics by Ackermann, Rudolph, 1764-1834. 1809

Town and Country Magazine. Etiquette for mourning. 1769

 

Charlotte Howe of Thames Ditton

Captain Tyringham Howe, the son of Millicent Philips and William Howe. Tyringham was one of five children. His siblings being – Millicent who married Thomas Wilkinson in 1796 at Harwich, Essex; William Howe, a naval captain, who remained unmarried until his death in 1760; Stephen, who was a lieutenant colonel and aide-de-camp to the King, who died 1796; Captain Philip who lived with his wife Mary Anne Tongue (?-1826), prior to his death at Warblington, Hampshire in 1815 and finally Grace, about whom nothing appears to be known.

Back to Captain Tyringham Howe though, like his siblings he was a naval man through and through, serving from 1765 on a variety of ships, all over the world, becoming a captain on 11 May 1775. In December 1780, he was promoted to commander of HMS Thames, but just before that, the same year, he found the time to marry the widow, Elizabeth Stein at Ross, County Cork, Ireland. The couple had no children, nor it would seem did any of his siblings.

Source - Familysearch
Source – Familysearch – Click to enlarge image

There has been much written about the story of Charlotte Howe, but so much of it remains annoyingly vague. Tyringham returned to England at some time during 1781 bringing with him a black slave girl, believed to be around 15 years old at the time, whom he had purchased whilst in America, to live with Tyringham and his wife at Thames Ditton.

Just a couple of years later Tyringham’s life was cut short, as he died in June 1783 and was buried in the parish church of St Nicholas in Thames Ditton, aged just 38, thus leaving his widow Elizabeth with the girl, along with another servant.

He clearly knew that his life was coming to an end having written his will he added a codicil to it, appointing a Mr Alington Hodges of Middle Temple to be joint executor, along with his ‘dear wife, Elizabeth’ who became the sole beneficiary, but he made with no mention of the girl who was living with them or in fact of any other servants who may have been resident in the household at the time.

On 17 December 1783, the girl was presented for baptism at the same parish church and from then on she was known to history, as Charlotte Howe.

Click to enlarge image
Click to enlarge image

It was perhaps about a year later that Elizabeth took a property on Sloane Street, Mayfair in the parish of St Luke, taking Charlotte with her, along with another servant; both of whom it appears were unpaid workers.

It appears that something occurred in 1784, causing Charlotte to leave the house, presumably with no money or belongings and no husband to support her, thereby making herself free and no longer a slave, but of course, this equally meant that she had no money or possessions.

It would appear that Charlotte must have somehow returned to Thames Ditton, where, with no money, she found it necessary to apply to Thames Ditton for poor relief. There seems no explanation as to why she would have returned there rather than remaining in London, which seems somewhat strange. What was the appeal of Thames Ditton? A question for which there appears no answer.

However, as she had been living in the parish of St Luke’s she was deemed ineligible to receive parish relief in Thames Ditton and as such, they returned her to St Luke’s where she was admitted to the parish workhouse on 25 October 1784, although Thames Ditton agreed to fund her relief for three months.

St Luke’s appealed against the decision to keep her there, as they didn’t want to fund her and eventually it took a court judgement to resolve the situation. The parishes played a game of ‘ping pong’ with poor Charlotte, with neither wishing to take responsibility for her.

This process went on from late summer 1784. St Luke’s won its appeal against Thames Ditton and Charlotte was returned from St Luke’s to Thames Ditton on 20 January 1785.

William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield by Jean Baptiste van Loo
William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield by Jean Baptiste van Loo. © National Portrait Gallery, London

At the end of January however, the vestrymen sought the opinion of the King’s Bench regarding the costs and Charlotte’s case was put before the highest judge in the land, Lord Mansfield which is interesting given his familial connection with Dido Elizabeth Belle, who would no doubt have been aware of this situation and it would be fascinating to have known her view of this case, especially as the two women would have been the same sort of age and with Dido’s mother having been a slave.

The argument being that Charlotte had worked in the role of servant and according to the attorneys, she understood the nature of her obligation and that she never thought of leaving until after the death of her master and that before she could benefit from parish relief she would need to prove that she had worked for forty days within the parish, which of course she could not, as she had been living and working in St Luke’s parish for Elizabeth Howe, prior to returning to Thames Ditton. Lord Mansfield ruled that Charlotte neither qualified for relief in neither St Luke nor Thames Ditton as she was not receiving payment for the work carried out for Captain and Mrs Howe. She was therefore homeless and penniless.

There are several things which are unclear about this story, firstly whilst Elizabeth Howe appears on the rates return for 1786 i.e. just prior to her death and she also specifically gave her address as being ‘of Sloane Street‘, in her will, but there is no sign of her being there prior to that time and no explanation as to exactly where she was living nor why she was not involved in Charlotte’s court case to provide evidence.

Elizabeth died 29th December 1785, and as requested in her will she wished for her funeral to consist of a hearse and four horses, a mourning coach and four, and for her body to be buried with her late husband at Thames Ditton. In her will, she named various beneficiaries including a servant, but no mention was made of Charlotte. It was as if this girl had suddenly appeared, then just as quickly disappeared from any records.

Charlotte simply vanished from any records found to date, but it would seem likely that she remained around the Thames Ditton area, why else would she have returned there after leaving Elizabeth? Did she feel more comfortable living there, rather than in London, could that have been why she headed there when she left Elizabeth? So many unanswered questions.

I came across is a very curious entry, however, dated 22 August 1852 in the parish burial register of Hersham, a village just three miles away from Thames Ditton.

The Charlotte Howe named on the entry would have been born about 1763,  which looks to have been about the right sort of age. Of course, there is no way of confirming this that this entry was for the same person or just purely coincidence, but it seems feasible that Charlotte remained close to Thames Ditton for the remainder of her exceptionally long life, but doing what, who knows.

I searched for a Charlotte Howe and variations of that name on the 1851 census and for nearby Walton on Thames, there was in fact, a Charlotte Howes, she was recorded as visiting a William Hobbs, a rail labourer and his wife Mary Ann. The surname is slightly different with the addition of an ‘s’, and she was recorded as being a widow from Hampshire, so on the face of it could it be the same person or simply a coincidence and she was also the person buried at Hersham? But given that Hersham is only two miles from Walton on Thames it seems tantalisingly likely and that she had made up a story about her origins.

I tried to find her on the 1841 census in Thames Ditton, Walton and Hersham but with no luck, especially as the census for Thames Ditton is no longer available.

Sadly it appears likely that we will never really know what became of her, but it would be good to think that she had a good life and that it was the Charlotte Howe buried at Hersham.

UPDATE

Thanks to a lovely reader, Bernadette, we have solved the mystery of the Charlotte buried at Hersham. Bernadette was able to confirm her as being the wife of Henry Howe, a gamekeeper. With this I managed to find a marriage entry for her in Hampshire, which is where she said she was from on the 1851 census and she was a Miss  Charlotte Keene. Sadly, the hunt for the other Charlotte Howe will have to continue.

Sources

London, England, Land Tax Records, 1692-1932. Call Number: MR/PLT/4612

An Alphabetical List of the commissions of His Majesty’s fleet: with the dates of their first commissions.

The Will of Tyringham Howe, late commander of His Majesty’s ship, Thames of Thames Ditton, 9 July 1783. PROB 11/1106/110

The Will of Elizabeth Howe, Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1142

Surrey History Centre; Woking, Surrey, England; Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: 2568/1/4

Surrey History Centre; Woking, Surrey, England; Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: 2843/1/26

1851 census – Class: HO107; Piece: 1593; Folio: 77; Page: 10; GSU roll: 193490

The Times. 29 April 1785

London Lives. St Luke’s Workhouse Registers: Workhouse Admission and Discharge Registers 25 October 1784 – 20 January 1785

 Featured Image

King’s Bench. Rudolph Microcosm of London. British Library

Elizabeth Woodcock – Buried in the snow in 1799

Born December 1756 in the small village of Impington, about 3 miles from Cambridge, Elizabeth Williams married her first husband, John Sockling and shortly after this they started their family, culminating in at least five children from 1785 onwards.

However, John died whilst the children were still young, leaving  Elizabeth in need of another husband to help her raise these children, and with that Daniel Woodcock, a local farmer stepped up to the mark and the couple were married in 1796, shortly after which, their son William was born.

It was when young William was only about two years of age, in 1799, that Elizabeth found herself making news.

Wellcome Collection
Wellcome Collection

On market day, 2 February 1799, Elizabeth rode off on her horse to the market in Cambridge, purchased the goods she needed and began to ride back home with her basket of goods. The weather, as would be expected for February, was very cold, but it began to deteriorate further.

Rhodes, Joseph; Snow in the Farmyard; Leeds Museums and Galleries

It had been snowing when she had left home, but on her return journey the snow was coming down even harder, making her journey treacherous.  Suddenly there was a flash of light in the sky,  perhaps a meteor, she thought, whatever it was it startled her horse, ‘Tinker’.

She quickly dismounted and thought she should walk the horse back home rather than risk it being startled again, however, she accidentally let go of the reins and off the horse went. She tried to catch it but having a full basket of goods on her arm she simply could not catch it and had to let it go of both the horse and her basket. She finally managed to trudge through the snow until she caught up with the animal, but by this time she was cold and exhausted and had managed to lose a shoe during the chase. She sent the horse, off towards her home, in the hope that her husband would realise what had happened and come out to rescue her.

St. Andrew's church at Chesterton (Robert Edwards)
St. Andrew’s church at Chesterton (Robert Edwards)

She sat down in the field, knowing exactly where she was, but too tired to go further and she could hear the church bell of neighbouring Chesterton, ring for eight o’clock, by which time she was unfortunately completely snowed in.

The snow was about six feet perpendicular and over her head between two and three feet, completely imprisoning her. She was unable to escape from this icy prison, minus one shoe and now with her clothes frozen with ice. She sat like this all night, calmly resigned to the situation.  She remained here for a couple of days, trying to keep herself occupied, hoping, of course, that she would be found, but knowing that she was in quite a predicament as she was buried under the snow, how could anyone possibly find her?

She noticed a small part of the ‘igloo’ had a light covering of snow over it and she could just see daylight through it, so she managed to break through this using her handkerchief, but by the following day it had closed up, the next day though it stayed open. She found a small twig to which she tied her red handkerchief and pushed it through the hole, in the hope that someone would spot it.

Sure enough, people were passing close by, some gipsies, but they were busy talking to each other and didn’t hear her shouts or spot the handkerchief. She recalled watching the moon so that she could work out day and night to ascertain how long she had been there and consulted her almanack which she eventually managed to extricate from her frozen pocket.  She also had access to snuff and some brandy which she had purchased just before setting off from Cambridge. But, as the cold began to numb her hands she took off her two rings and the little money she had and put them in a box, hoping that if she was going to die, it would be possible for someone to identify her quickly from these items.

Whilst trapped, her husband and others had been out frantically searching for her but without any success, he felt sure that she must have died. She, of course, had no food, having let go of her basket earlier, but managed to survive by melting the snow and drinking it.

She remained there long enough to have heard the church bells ring on two Sundays until eventually the snow began to thaw and the hole in the snowdrift got larger, she tried to free herself, but without having eaten and being trapped in such a confined space her legs simply would bear her weight. She knew that if help didn’t arrive soon, that she would surely die from cold and malnutrition.

Portrait of Elizabeth Woodcock; whole length, lying in bed propped-up on a pillow, leaning and looking to right, her left arm resting on duvet; wearing bonnet and gown with broad collar; original design reduced at the top; after drawing by Baldrey. 1799 British Museum
Portrait of Elizabeth Woodcock; whole length, lying in bed propped up on a pillow, leaning and looking to the right, her left arm resting on duvet; wearing bonnet and gown with broad collar; original design reduced at the top; after drawing by Baldrey. 1799. British Museum

It was on Sunday 10 February that a local farmer, Joseph Muncey was on his way back from Cambridge across the fields where Elizabeth was when he spotted her handkerchief. He peered into the hole and saw a woman sitting there, frail and breathing hard.

He immediately shouted to a nearby shepherd, John Sittle, who came over and asked if she was Elizabeth Woodcock. Elizabeth instantly recognised him and asked them to help her to get out of there.  Muncey went to find her husband, who swiftly returned with his horse, cart and blankets and they returned home.

Sadly, she didn’t really recover fully from this ordeal and died later the same year. Elizabeth was buried at the parish church on 14 July 1799, followed by her husband, Daniel just over a year later, leaving the children orphaned.

According to a newspaper of 1939, alongside her burial entry in the parish register, was a note in different handwriting, stating:

She was in a state of intoxication when she was lost and her death was accelerated (to say the least) by spirituous liquors afterwards taken – procured by the donations of numerous visitors.

Elizabeth’ former home is still there, at no. 83, Station Road, Impington and it is just possible to see a plaque to the side of the door, which bears her name.

Sources used

Chester Courant 6 August 1799

Cambridge Independent Press 10 March 1939

Who was Kitty Clive? Guest post by Dr Berta Joncus

Today I have the honour to host a guest post about the famous 18th-century celebrity, Kitty Clive, by Dr Berta Joncus.

Berta is Senior Lecturer in Music at Goldsmiths, University of London. Before joining Goldsmiths, she was at the University of Oxford: she took her doctorate there and was a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow at St Catherine’s (2004–7), then music lecturer at St Anne’s and St. Hilda’s (2007­–9). As a scholar, she focuses on the intersection in eighteenth-century vocal music of creative practice and identity politics.

Book jacket, illustration: William Verelst, Catherine Clive, 1740. Oil on canvas. By kind permission of the Garrick Club. Paintings: G0122.
Book jacket, illustration: William Verelst, Catherine Clive, 1740. Oil on canvas. By kind permission of the Garrick Club. Paintings: G0122.

Historians have typically described Kitty Clive as a fat, vain comedienne. My book reveals another artist altogether.

From her 1728 debut until 1748, Clive was an awe-inspiring songster who changed Georgian playhouse history. She was the first playhouse performer to make music the basis of her stardom. She upended hierarchies of taste, dazzling equally with smart airs, operatic pyrotechnics and raw street ballads.

Was she a cheeky minx, a refined siren, a leering vulgarian, or all or none of these? Audiences flocked to the playhouse to find out. Handel, Thomas Arne, Henry Fielding, David Garrick and others supplied vehicles for personae Clive re-invented on the boards, defying male authority through her ability to, as she once wrote, “turn it & wind it & play it in a different manner to his intention.”

Facing systemic discrimination against women, Clive strategized brilliantly. She had some lucky breaks: in 1728, as she prepared for her debut, the collapse of London’s Italian opera company deprived audiences of high-style song, and The Beggar’s Opera whetted appetites for low-style song.

Composer and singing master Henry Carey had groomed Clive to excel in operatic and ballad singing, and Drury Lane manager Colley Cibber, desperate to rival other houses, hired the seventeen-year-old on first hearing. Carey was Clive’s friend and ally, fitting her earliest parts to her strengths, whether as a singing goddess (in masques), a witty shepherdess (in ballad opera), or a sentimental heroine (in sung comedy). Like Carey, the playwrights Charles Coffey, James Miller, and William Chetwood – this last Drury Lane’s prompter, and Clive’s first biographer – designed flattering stage characters around her gifts.

But often Drury Lane managers’ casting disadvantaged Clive, forcing her to create her own opportunities. Performing in The Devil to Pay, a 1731 ballad opera that extolled wife-beating, she used the songs Coffey had added to transform Nell, scripted as the drab victim of her cobbler husband, into a tender, courageous heroine. Overnight, she became Drury Lane’s star of ballad opera as well as of serious song.

In 1732 Cibber replaced Carey with Fielding as Drury Lane’s author of Clive vehicles, driving the indebted Carey to suicide and saddling Clive with Fielding’s unsavoury characterizations – in comedies, epilogues and air verses – through which she nonetheless shone.

With success came marketing. Illustrator John Smith claimed that an image he had engraved of a bare-breasted nymph from an old Dutch oil was a likeness of Clive igniting a years-long battle over whether she was plain or comely.

After Gottfried Schalcken [Couple d’amoureux dans un forêt, c1695], MISS RAFTER in the Character of PHILLIDA, 1729. Mezzotint. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Museum number: S.3874-2009.
After Gottfried Schalcken [Couple d’amoureux dans un forêt, c1695], MISS RAFTER in the Character of PHILLIDA, 1729. Mezzotint. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Museum number: S.3874-2009.
John Faber after Pieter van Bleeck, The Celebrated Mrs. Clive, late Miss Raftor in the Character of Philida, 1734. Mezzotint. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Museum number: S.3816-2009.
John Faber after Pieter van Bleeck, The Celebrated Mrs. Clive, late Miss Raftor in the Character of Philida, 1734. Mezzotint. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Museum number: S.3816-2009.

Fig. 6.6. Alexander van Aken after Joseph van Aken, ‘Of all the Arts…’ [Catherine Clive, ‘Printed for T. Bowles’], 1735. Mezzotint. © Trustees of the British Museum. Museum number 1902,1011.6026.
Fig. 6.6. Alexander van Aken after Joseph van Aken, ‘Of all the Arts…’ [Catherine Clive, ‘Printed for T. Bowles’], 1735. Mezzotint. © Trustees of the British Museum. Museum number 1902,1011.6026.
Theatrical wars were an occupational hazard throughout Clive’s career. In 1733 Colley Cibber’s son Theophilus, angered by not being made Drury Lane’s manager, led an actors’ revolt that Clive refused to follow.

While pamphleteers attacked her, she shored up her reputation by appearing to marry into the genteel Clive family of Shropshire. This ‘union’ was perhaps the most brilliant invention of the former Kitty Raftor: it bestowed on her the status of a Clive while allowing her to keep her earnings, and hid the same-sex desires that both she and George Clive harboured. Kitty’s reputation for propriety – one satire glossed her as ‘Miss Prudely Crotchet’ – became a critical means for garnering sympathy once Theophilus Cibber returned victorious as Drury Lane’s deputy manager.

In 1736 the younger Cibber tried to steal Clive’s parts for his new wife, Susannah. Rewriting the rules of playhouse power, Clive ran a newspaper campaign about her rectitude and her right to her parts; this battle Theophilus lost, despite having the more credible behind-the-scenes account.

Dissimulation was one of Clive’s arts, and her ability to shape-shift made her a Town favourite. She appealed to wit, not sensuality, and claimed to speak for the middling sorts. In her airs and parts of the 1730s and 1740s, Clive protested against effeminate fops, foreign entertainers, men’s authority, Spain’s perfidy, and first minister Robert Walpole’s corruption.

Mrs Riot, the Fine Lady : Lethe; or Aesop in the Shades by Van Bleeck, Peter. Garrick Club Collection
Mrs Riot, the Fine Lady : Lethe; or Aesop in the Shades by Van Bleeck Peter. Garrick Club Collection

‘The Clive’ stood for native taste in music (she was given two parts in London’s favourite masque, Comus), in legitimate drama (her Portia in The Merchant of Venice became legendary), and in celebrity connections (Handel wrote Samson for her to lead, and an elegant air for her 1740 benefit). In propria persona ‘Kitty’ roles multiplied, not least from the pen of Garrick, so that she could effervesce in the playhouse, season after season.

Clive’s very success sowed the seeds her failure. When in 1743 Drury Lane manager Charles Fleetwood cheated company members of their salaries, she co-led a company rebellion, prompting Fleetwood to claim that the house had been bled dry by stars’ outrageous salary demands.

He published Clive’s earnings, which were indeed large, and the perennial eagerness of the celebrity industry to consume its own children did the rest. Critics charged her with being vain, greedy, jealous and ambitious; a story was faked that she had been involved in a back-stage scuffle with rival actress Peg Woffington. In December 1745 Susannah Cibber engineered another press row with Clive, but this time readers believed her, not Clive. By 1747, Clive had lost her following.

Needing to work to support herself, her brother, and their household, Clive colluded with new Drury Lane manager Garrick to regain public favour. He re-cast her as a blousy, arrogant has-been whose saving grace was how cruelly she mocked herself. To verify Garrick’s version of her, Clive wrote and led self-incriminating in propria persona afterpieces; in her first such work, The Rehearsal, or Bays in Petticoats (1750), she also staged her farewell to serious song. Clive would again succeed at Drury Lane, where she would dominate for another twenty years, but in farce rather than art song or drama. She retired early and wealthy, but her former reputation as a vocal artist of rare skill, and an exponent of British virtues, was in tatters.

Kitty Clive’s rich, complex story, both familiar and foreign to our own celebrity-obsessed era, has been buried under mis-information for centuries. In Kitty Clive, or The Fair Songster, I invite readers to appreciate for the first time not only her achievements as a singer, actor, writer and self-manager, but also the obstacles she had to overcome and the compromises she had to make to reach, and regain, her leading position on the London stage.

***
For a signed author’s copy at £35.00 (or $45.00) posted free of charge, please email b.joncus@gold.ac.uk.

To listen to the song Handel composed in 1740 for Clive, please to go this link.

 

The Ladies of the Bon Ton – ‘Scoring sheet’!

One of our lovely readers asked for help in finding a document for some research he was doing. Having found the document I was fascinated by it and thought it was worth sharing with you.

The Morning Post, of 2nd October 1776 contained a ‘scoring sheet’ for twelve ladies of the ‘Bon Ton,’ Britain’s high society ladies of the day. The newspaper described it as ‘ Scale of Bon Ton’, with the ladies being marked out of twenty for each of nine virtues (there’s a copy at the end).

No explanation was offered as to who wrote it and more importantly who decided on the points awarded, but it reads a bit like the scores for a beauty pageant, so I’ll simply present them as per the newspaper and let you make your own decision about this!

The outright, clear winner was the Countess of Barrymore, who scored almost full marks in virtually all categories, but for whom there appears to be no portrait available, which is such a shame given her score.

In second place, we have joint runners-up, Lady Harriott Foley and Lady Anna Maria Stanhope, daughter of William Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Harrington who married Thomas Pelham-Clinton, 3rd Duke of Newcastle

Lady Harriot Foley NPG
Lady Harriot Foley NPG
Radicalism & Incivility, or The Fair Pensioners by John ('HB') Doyle, published by Thomas McLean lithograph, published 24 January 1831 (inscribed 1830). Anna Maria on the left. NPG
Radicalism & Incivility, or The Fair Pensioners by John (‘HB’) Doyle, published by Thomas McLean lithograph, published 24 January 1831 (inscribed 1830). Anna Maria on the left. NPG

Fourth place goes to Mrs Harriet Bouverie.

NPG D42054; Harriet Bouverie (nee Fawkener, later Lady Robert Spencer); Edward Bouverie sold by James Watson, sold by Butler Clowes, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
NPG D42054; Harriet Bouverie (nee Fawkener, later Lady Robert Spencer); Edward Bouverie sold by James Watson, sold by Butler Clowes, after Sir Joshua Reynolds

Somewhat surprisingly, given that she was always regarded as the most beautiful woman in England, the Duchess of Devonshire only achieved overall fifth place, scoring such a low mark for ‘expression’.

Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough
Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough

Sixth place, just one point behind was Mrs Damer (see image further on).

Seventh place went to the Countess of Sefton, formerly Lady Isabella Stanhope.

Thomas Gainsborough - Isabella,Viscountess Molyneux, later Countess of Sefton
Thomas Gainsborough – Isabella,Viscountess Molyneux, later Countess of Sefton

Eighth place to the Duchess of Gordon.

Jane, Duchess of Gordon, née Maxwell, standing three-quarter-length, portrayed in a green riding habit, wearing only one glove on her right hand. By Daniel Gardner c.1775.
Jane, Duchess of Gordon, née Maxwell, standing three-quarter-length, portrayed in a green riding habit, wearing only one glove on her right hand. By Daniel Gardner c.1775.

Ninth place went to Mrs Crewe, on the right, who score a zero for ‘grace’.

Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.
Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

Tenth place, to Lady Melbourne, whose ‘figure’ scored her a zero.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne – the most famous political hostesses and society beauties of their day – are shown gathered around the witches’ cauldron alongside their friend, the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer. The Three Witches from Shakespeares Macbeth by Daniel Gardner, 1775NPG
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne – the most famous political hostesses and society beauties of their day – are shown gathered around the witches’ cauldron alongside their friend, the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer. The Three Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth by Daniel Gardner, 1775

In Eleventh place, we have the Countess of Derby whose scores were well below average, to say the least.

Lady Elizabeth Hamilton (1753–1797), Countess of Derby
Lady Elizabeth Hamilton (1753–1797), Countess of Derby

Last, scoring a mere 48 out of 180 was the Countess of Jersey.

Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Thomas Beach
Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Thomas Beach

For your perusal is the full chart.

Scale of Bon Ton. Click on image to enlarge
Scale of Bon Ton. Click on image to enlarge

Nursery Duties in the Georgian Era

Today we will take a brief look at the role of one of the most important jobs within a household during the Georgian Era, that of the nursery nurse or nursery maid. When this guidance was produced for parents and for nurses alike and set out advice for them as to the role she should occupy and what tasks should be completed to ensure that their proteges were cared for.

Maternal Affection; The National Gallery, London;
Maternal Affection; The National Gallery, London

Of paramount importance was that the person be of a lively and cheerful disposition, good tempered, and clean and neat in her habits and person. She would need to be experienced in the care and management of young children as her role was of vital importance to the family as she would be in charge of a child from infancy until old enough to have a governess or to go to school. Potential employers took great care when recruiting this person and often used word of mouth for recommendations or would place an advert in the newspaper. Potential employees would naturally have been able to provide excellent references.

The morning would begin with the children being carefully washed and dressed, then once ready they would have breakfast, the children being placed for their meal quietly and in an orderly manner. After breakfast, if the weather was fine they would be taken out by the assistant nurse or nursery maid for fresh air and exercise for an hour or two, but not too long for fear of over-tiring them. On return their hands and feet would be washed if dirty, children would then have lessons until midday at which time they would be fed and then taken outside again for more fresh air, a light supper and then bed. As it is today, fresh air was seen as vitally important.

Reynolds, Joshua; The Infant Academy; English Heritage, Kenwood;
Reynolds, Joshua; The Infant Academy; English Heritage, Kenwood;

It was the nurses role to ensure that the child was kept safe at all times and particular care should be taken that a child did not climb on the furniture so as to avoid them damaging their limbs, nor to go near the fire in case their clothes catch fire, there were a surprising number of instances where this had happened, so clearly advice was necessary.

Food

Young child were to be given plain food and drink, yet some nurses apparently gave them wine, spirits spices and sugar – none of which were believed to be good for the child.

Boilly, Louis-Leopold; A Man Vaccinating a Young Child Held by Its Mother, with Other Members of the Household Looking On; Wellcome Library; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-man-vaccinating-a-young-child-held-by-its-mother-with-other-members-of-the-household-looking-on-125750
Boilly, Louis-Leopold; A Man Vaccinating a Young Child Held by Its Mother, with Other Members of the Household Looking On; Wellcome Library

The bedroom

The sleeping room of the nursery should be spacious, dry and well ventilated, with a fire being made up if a cold or damp day and the room was not be inhabited during the day. Servants were not permitted to sleep in the same room as the child as nothing should be done to contaminate the air.

Beds should not be placed close to the ground as the air was fresher high up. In cities, children should not be kept in hot rooms, but have as much air as possible and given as much exercise as possible, as lack of exercise was the cause of rickets, weak joints and lung disease.

When putting the child to sleep it should be placed on the right side rather than on the left. When awake an infant, should be laid on its back so that it can move its legs and arms with freedom. Sleep promotes a more calm and uniform circulation of the blood and also facilitates absorption of the nutriments received. The horizontal posture, likewise, is the most favourable to the growth and bodily development of the infant. Sleep ought to be in proportion to the age of the infant.

After the age of six months, the periods of sleep, may, in some degree should be regulated ; yet, even then, a child should sleep through the night, and several hours both in the morning and afternoon. Nurses should endeavour to accustom infants, from the time of their birth, to sleep in the night in preference to the day. Children should not be woken suddenly or moved from a dark room into bright light as this can cause weak eyes from early infancy.

Clothing

Clothing should be very light, and not too long, so that it is easy to get the child’s legs out with ease during the day in order to rub them with a warm hand, or flannel as this would promote the circulation of the blood. However, a nurse should hold the child as little as possible to avoid the legs being cramped and to ensure that its toes didn’t turn inwards.

During the day children should be dressed in light and loose fitting clothes, and at night it may be a shirt, a blanket to tie on, and a thin gown to tie over the blanket. Pins should never be used in an infant’s clothes and every string should be so loosely tied, that two fingers may be introduced under it.

Kauffmann, Angelica; Princess Augusta Charlotte (1737-1813), Eldest Sister of George III, with Her Infant Son; Paintings Collection
Kauffmann, Angelica; Princess Augusta Charlotte (1737-1813), Eldest Sister of George III, with Her Infant Son; Paintings Collection

Bathing

The child’s skin was to be kept perfectly clean by washing its limbs morning and evening, and likewise its neck and ears, beginning with warm water until eventually getting the child used to cold water.

After carefully drying the whole body, head, and limbs, a second dry soft cloth, somewhat warmed, should be gently used, to take all the damp from the wrinkles or soft parts of the body. Then the limbs should be rubbed. If the skin became irritated, then hair-powder should be used (today we would use talcum powder). The utmost tenderness is necessary in drying the head ; and a small, soft, brush, lightly applied, is safer than a comb.

 

*** For those with an interest in Dido Elizabeth Belle, do keep an eye out for next week’s blog ***

Sources

The Complete Servant: Being a Practical Guide to the Peculiar Duties and Business of All Descriptions of Servants

Featured Image

Morland, George, 1763-1804; A Visit to the Boarding School

 

From Dressmaker to Body Snatcher

One thing we have concluded about ourselves during our research over the years is, that we have an incredible propensity for being dragged, kicking and screaming off at tangents and this one is a case in point. How on earth is it possible to get from court dressmaker to body snatcher in a matter of a few steps? – well, with immense ease it appears.

Our research was actually about the renowned milliner and court dress maker of 32 Albemarle Street, Mrs. Charlotte Bean. She found fame as dress maker to ‘Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Kent and also the Princess Charlotte of Saxe Coburg by special appointment’. It didn’t take us long to discover another story about one of her apprentices, a Miss Elizabeth Lane.

December 1815 issue of Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politic
December 1815 issue of Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politic

On July 18th, 1810, William Webb, a resurrection man who had been the grave digger for four years at the parish of St. George, Hanover Square, London was accused of stealing a dead body, that of a young lady Miss Elizabeth Lane. She was described as being aged between eighteen and twenty years of age when she died of measles.

Elizabeth was interred on the 21st June, at 8am. Mrs. Lane said that they left after the service before the grave was filled up, but within half an hour of returning home a boy called at their house to say that the corpse which had just been buried had been stolen from the grave. Mr and Mrs Lane immediately returned to the burying ground, accompanied by Mr. Adams, the church warden, Mr. McLaughlin, the sexton and Mr. Cater, the watchman. They went straight to the grave and near it they saw the grave digger, Webb.

He was instructed to open the grave, at first he hesitated, saying it was wasn’t right to do so, stepped back a few paces and let the spade fall out of his hand, again exclaiming that all was not right, he fainted and fell down near to a newly made grave. At first they thought he had died, but after a while he recovered. Once recovered, he was asked whether Elizabeth’s body was in the grave, he answered that it was. So, again he was ordered to open it. About a foot and a half below the surface a sack was found, which, on being examined, contained the dead body of Elizabeth, who had just been committed to the earth.

Resurrection Men. Lewis Walpole Library
Resurrection Men. Lewis Walpole Library

Everyone recognised her, but the body appeared to have mangled in different parts in a shocking manner, as if it had been struck with a spade or some instrument whilst breaking open the coffin. Her body had been tied at the neck and heels, with rope, as if to prevent it having the appearance of a corpse in the sack. The shroud lying in the bottom of the coffin, folded up.

Resurrection Men. British Museum
Resurrection Men. British Museum

At his trial which took place at Westminster Sessions on July 13th, 1810, Webb, in his defence, presented a ‘frightful picture of ignorance and depravity’. He told an incoherent story about a man whom he called Jack, assisting him and that he supposed some person would come at night and take the body over the church wall. He complained that his trial was hurried on sooner than he expected and persisted he was not guilty, it’s no clear why he thought this, but in any case the jury, unanimously agreed that he guilty. So far we have not been able to find out what his sentence was.

Sources

Kentish Gazette 17th July 1810

Perthshire Courier 19 July 1810

Featured Image

A Country Burial

How the portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliott came to be in The Frick Collection

The information about the painting shown on the Frick Collection website provides a few clues about the provenance of the portrait, but we came across more which fills in some of the gaps.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough. The Frick, New York.

The portraits life began its life when Grace Dalrymple Elliott and Mary Robinson aka Perdita, mistress to the Prince of Wales, sat at the same time to have their portraits painted by Thomas Gainsborough. The portrait of Grace had, according to the late British art historian Sir Oliver Millar, been commissioned by the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) for the sum of £31 10 shillings.

Mrs Mary Robinson (Perdita) by Thomas Gainsborough, 1781
Mrs Mary Robinson (Perdita) by Thomas Gainsborough, 1781; The Wallace Collection

After completion, the portrait of Grace vanished for some considerable time and there is no further reference to it prior to Grace’s death in 1823, nor any mention of it being in the possession of either the Prince of Wales or Grace’s lover, the 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley. Research tells us, however, that it was included in several exhibitions including The British Institution 1860; International Exhibition 1862; Gainsborough Exhibition at Grosvenor Gallery 1884 and in 1894 at the Grafton Gallery.

At this time, it appeared in a brochure by Charles Fairfax Murray who catalogued all the paintings belonging to his Grace Duke of Portland, so we can only assume that it was loaned to the Grafton Gallery by the duke. We still have no idea exactly how it entered into his possession although Murray stated that:

The fine Gainsborough, Mrs Elliott, was no doubt, also purchased by the last Duke, possibly in France as the lady died at Ville D’Avray and the picture may have belonged to her at her death.

If that information is correct then the painting would appear to have been purchased by the 6th Duke of Portland, William Cavendish-Bentinck, but the most likely explanation is that it was inherited somehow by the family at the time of Grace’s death as the family also own other paintings connected to Grace.

William John Cavendish Bentinck (1857-1943), 6th Duke of Portland by Reginald Grenville Eves
William John Cavendish Bentinck (1857-1943), 6th Duke of Portland by Reginald Grenville Eves; The Bowes Museum

The book Thomas Gainsborough by Arthur B Chamberlain published in 1906 contains a photograph of Mrs Elliott’s portrait, which was included with the permission of the Duke of Portland.

In 1909 a photograph of the portrait also appeared in The Masterpieces of Gainsborough, again, with the permission of the Duke of Portland, so we know that the portrait had remained under the ownership of the Portland estate for some considerable time.

It was then exhibited in February 1909, at the New Gallery, London as part of an exhibition entitled ‘Fair Women’. Then again in October 1927 in Ipswich as part of a celebration of the bicentenary of Gainsborough.

A photograph of the portrait of Grace in the book, 'Thomas Gainsborough' by Arthur B Chamberlain.
A photograph of the portrait of Grace in the book, ‘Thomas Gainsborough’ by Arthur B Chamberlain.

It was at the end of 1927 that the fun and games began when we came across letters and cables at the Getty Research Institute regarding the sale of the ‘head and shoulders’ portrait of Grace between Joseph Duveen & the Portland Estate, and they make for fascinating reading. Duveen being one of the most influential art dealers at that time.

Joseph Duveen, 1st Baron Duveen, 1920s.
Joseph Duveen, 1st Baron Duveen, 1920s. Library of Congress Digital Images.

It seems that Duveen approached the Duke of Portland and trustees wishing to purchase the portrait and he had a figure in mind in the region of £25,000 to £30,000 maximum that he was willing to pay for it.

The Duke, on the other hand, believed it to worth in excess of £50,000. Duveen described this price as ‘ridiculous’.

On the 6th December 1927 Duveen thought that an offer of around £40,000 might be closer to the mark to secure the painting, but as he was a skilled negotiator and felt that the Duke and the trustees needed to come down much closer to £30,000 before he would be interested in buying it.

Duveen said he’d seen the portrait at the Ipswich Exhibition and that it was a very beautiful and saleable one, but in spite of this, he was adamant that the £50,000 price was far too high.

This is where the really cryptic cable exchanges began on 17th December 1927 between Duveen and Herbert Silva White (fine art dealer, 175, Piccadilly, London) – instead of referring to the picture by name Duveen referred to it as the ‘landport topaz’.  Duveen continued to confirm that the price too high for them and that it would be too high for other dealers and that

the sooner the Duke of Portland realized that the better.

Less than a week later White approached the Portland lawyers who said £40,000 was not enough for the painting and that Portland had been approached by others but was not keen to sell. A few days later White contacted Duveen saying that if the offer was below £40,000 the Duke would ‘be mad and refuse to sell’.

The Duke and the trustees dug their heels in at this point and refused to allow either White or Duveen access to view the portrait as they had requested, saying that they had seen it at the exhibition and that should be enough for them! The saga continued with the duke and trustees becoming more and more annoyed.

On the 30th January 1928 in a letter from White to Duveen he stated that the duke would not allow them to see the painting again under any circumstances, the duke understood how good the painting was and how much the public enjoyed seeing it at the exhibition and that it would stay on his wall until it was purchased! Nor would he allow a photograph of it to be taken. He said that a representation existed in the Ipswich catalogue and that really should be good enough for them. A minimum payment required of £40,000 was requested or the matter would be closed.

White said to Duveen that they were now several months on and no further forward in negotiations. White said that the duke had another extremely interested party and so it was time they made their decision. So, the battle continued.

One month later Duveen described the portrait as ‘marvellous‘, and that it would be a good purchase at between £25,000 & £28,000 but added that

we’re dealing with very difficult people and under 30k would be useless.

So White was instructed to offer £32,000. The Duke and trustees were still sticking to their guns –  £40,000, so it was agreed that White should back off for now. A further two months passed.

These people will not budge from £40k and still refuse to let us see the picture.

Duveen then instructed White to insist that he must be allowed to see the portrait if he was expected to pay £40,000 for it. White decided that the best approach would be to arrange for Duveen to see the picture when Portland’s were not in residence and eventually, he managed to arrange a visit to Welbeck without the permission of the duke, who he knew was away, but he hadn’t bargained for the Duchess being there.

He described Welbeck as being

more difficult to get into than Buckingham Palace

but said that he’d learnt a few things about how to get in at a later date! Cryptic messages continued until 23rd August 1929 when a letter from Duveen refers to someone named Colnaghi who had offered £45,000 for the painting. Duveen still wanted to actually see the picture and apparently, Colnaghi might be able to arrange this.

On the 24th October 1929, the Duke stated that if the price was high enough he would sell, then a week later he had a change of mind and wouldn’t sell at any price as his financial situation had changed and he no longer needed to sell, but if he were to sell it would be for somewhere in excess of £50k.

Somehow Duveen eventually managed to view it; agreed it was lovely, but the agreement was that he could see that portrait and nothing else whilst there. On the 5th July 1930, a photograph of the portrait was sent to Duveen by the Duke of Portland. Less than a week later Duveen confirmed that he had purchased the portrait, but annoyingly, no mention as to how much had finally been settled on, which after so much hassle is immensely annoying.

Some six years later on the 19th February 1936, the Sassoon Exhibition opened; Mrs Elliot looked ‘marvellous‘ (Sir Phillip Sassoon, 45 Park Lane, London).

7 April 1936 – confirming a letter rec’d thanking them for loaning the Gainsborough to the Sassoon Exhibition, from Mrs Gubbay.

 

Richard Paul Jodrell by Thomas Gainsborough. Frick Collection
Richard Paul Jodrell by Thomas Gainsborough. Frick Collection

On 23 June 1938:

can you offer Oakes two Gainsborough portraits –  Mrs Elliot, Mister Richard Paul Jodrell, MP?

This final telegram could possibly relate to Roscoe & Margaret Oakes, they had a connection to the Frick and were philanthropists and art collectors. On 28 June 1938, a shipment containing both paintings was sent on SS Aquitania.

So finally, we had the explanation as to how Grace found her way into Frick Collection, along with the portrait of Richard Paul Jodrell. After all of this ‘cloak and dagger’ saga, Joseph Duveen was to die just a year later.

You can discover more about Grace’s fascinating life, her family and her lovers in An Infamous Mistress.

Sources

Morning Herald of 25th, August 1781

Catalogue of pictures belonging to his Grace Duke of Portland (1894) by C Fairfax Murray

The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Feb 23, 1909

The Times (London, England), Friday, Sep 16, 1927

Files regarding works of art: Gainsborough, Mrs Eliott, ex-Duke of Portland, ca. 1927-1946 Getty Research Institute

 

An Amazing Woman of the Georgian Era: Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs

In the eighteenth-century women were largely viewed as subservient, a commodity, a man’s possession, much like their house or dog. An object for men to do with as they saw fit, including – in extreme cases – beating or raping if they wished. In upper-class households, it was not uncommon for the man to take a mistress if he chose and his expectation of his wife was to produce children, to ‘look the part’, to be talented in the arts and to oversee household management. For working-class women, life would be incredibly tough as they helped to support the family financially, bore and raised numerous children and tried to keep the family from the workhouse door.

So how did our ‘Georgian Heroine’ fit into either scenario? Well, she simply didn’t. Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, known as Charlotte, fell between two worlds, neither upper nor working class, and almost obsessively private.

Charlotte first crossed our path whilst researching Peterborough House, Fulham and Grace Dalrymple Elliott. We came across a story by the author and poet, Marius Kociejowski who had researched part of Charlotte’s life and were hooked; we had to find out what became of this teenager. We began to retrace Kociejowski’s work and piece together her life from a document she had written (Kociejowski refers to it as Charlotte’s Testament, the original of which he still owns; he has also kindly written an introduction to our book).

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.

As a teenager living in Lambeth, Charlotte lost her first love when he set sail for India, where he found great fame as a military man, never to return. She was then abducted and raped, held prisoner and even bearing a child to her captor until she found the courage to escape. Charlotte’s abduction and rape had parallels with a novel written some thirty years prior to her abduction; Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson, bears many similarities to Charlotte’s story. Unlike Clarissa, Charlotte didn’t have a fortune, but her captor undoubtedly wished to possess her, both body and soul.

After this horrendous ordeal, Charlotte travelled to France, becoming trapped and imprisoned during the French Revolution. She showed amazing resilience and subsequently reinvented herself as a peculiar form of female spy, working for the British government while travelling backwards and forwards to France, reporting upon the state of the nation in the years following the revolution, even suggesting plans by which Napoléon Bonaparte might be thwarted. Charlotte spoke fluent French and could pass for a native of the country.  Returning to England, she became an author, a minor playwright and had works published anonymously including, A Residence in France during the Years 1792, 1793, 1794 and 1795, the manuscript of which she cleverly manipulated to suit both her own political views and appeal to the public at large.

Charlotte held strong opinions which she wanted to have voiced. Clearly, she couldn’t speak publicly, so had to find other ways of getting her opinions heard. She used the power of letter writing and we unearthed copious numbers of letters, mainly to politicians and peers of the realm. Charlotte was never afraid of offering her opinion as to what they should do about certain matters and seemingly they respected and took note of her, great men including Nicholas Vansittart, Chancellor of the Exchequer and William Wilberforce who acted as her mouthpiece on at least one occasion in the Houses of Parliament.

Owen, William; Nicholas Vansittart (1766-1851), Baron Bexley; Christ Church, University of Oxford; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/nicholas-vansittart-17661851-baron-bexley-229020 Owen, William; Nicholas Vansittart (1766-1851), Baron Bexley; Christ Church, University of Oxford

Although her identity was known to the men to whom she wrote, a combination of ‘female modesty’ and a fear of not being taken seriously should her sex be revealed induced Charlotte to an obsessive level of public anonymity. In her later years, she almost single-handedly orchestrated King George III’s golden jubilee celebrations – again with her identity protected – and was in contact with George III’s daughters for whom she acted as a courier.

Princess Charlotte, later Queen of Württemberg, after Edward Miles. Courtesy of the Royal Collection Princess Charlotte, later Queen of Württemberg, after Edward Miles. Courtesy of the Royal Collection

Charlotte’s life took many twists and turns and piecing it together has been no mean feat. We are amazed at how this unfortunate young girl grew into such a determined and articulate woman in a world where this was not the norm for her gender.

There was a Mr Biggs, but it appears to be largely a union of convenience for both he and Charlotte. Unable to track down a marriage, we suspect that Charlotte used the appellation ‘Mrs’ for her own protection within society, giving her a veil of respectability which allowed her to move freely both in England and France without raising suspicion. The final clue as to Charlotte’s marital status appeared in her will, which suggested she was a spinster and not a wife.

Linda Colley, in Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837, referred to Charlotte as ‘a middle-class widow from the Welsh borders’. She was in part correct, but Charlotte was much more than that, she was an enigma who until now has remained off the radar of history, a woman in a man’s world. Had she been male we would certainly have heard more of her before today. Despite her many misfortunes, she continually reinvented herself, manipulating the world and men around her but never publicly having ownership of her voice or her words during her lifetime. We felt it was time to give her back ownership of that voice.

Featured Image

Old Westminster Bridge from Lambeth by R. Paul. City of Westminster Archives centre

Devonshire House in 1844 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire – her final days

March 1806 began well for the Duchess of Devonshire as she held a ball for the social elite. The whole suite of magnificent apartments was thrown open at ten in the evening and about eleven ‘the fashionables’ arrived, including The Prince of Wales, Duke of Sussex plus a whole host of lords, earls, counts and their respective spouses. There were supper tables consisting of every delicacy of the season and as you would expect, plenty of dancing and of course, with Georgiana’s love of gambling, there were card tables.  It was said that Georgiana never appeared in better health, with the whole party dancing the night away, until five in the morning.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Gainsborough. 1783
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Gainsborough 1783

A week or so later, Georgiana was to hold a supper party and according to the ‘Fashionable Arrangements for the Week’, all was well, or so it would appear.  It wasn’t until March 21st that the media first reported Georgiana as being dangerously ill. No further details of the cause were given, but it was reported a few days later that she was making a good recovery from her recent indisposition.

By March 28th however, her health was in serious decline, she was suffering from a fever and did not appear to be showing any signs of making a speedy recovery. So well thought of was Georgiana that there was a constant stream of well-wishers arriving at her London home, Devonshire House, with none more anxious than the Countess of Uxbridge who was with her constantly as was Lady Melbourne, his Grace and all members of her family since the fever began. At 3.30am on the 30th March 1806, Georgiana’s life came to an end.

The cause of death was believed to be due to an abscess on her liver, but a post mortem was carried out to confirm this. Her body was opened up at seven in the morning in the presence of five physicians who had attended her whilst she was alive. A consultation was held afterwards, and the gentleman were much divided in their opinion on the cause of death, they felt it was either gallstones or an abscess on the liver, but it was ultimately agreed that the abscess was the cause.

It would appear that the whole of her social circle was shocked by her untimely death, aged only 48, and so upset were they by this news that many retired to their country home, it was not a time to be socialising, even the Prince of Wales left for Brighton. The Duke of Devonshire and family remained at Devonshire House until after the funeral, then left London to visit the Prince of Wales at Brighton.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire by Henry Lark Pratt
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire by Henry Lark Pratt; Buxton Museum & Art Gallery

The Morning Advertiser of 2nd April 1806 reported that Georgiana was to be buried at Chatsworth as it was a place she loved and was loved by all on the estate; however this was suddenly changed and she was buried at All Saints Church, Derby.

View of Derby from the Meadows; Derby Museums Trust. E.M 
View of Derby from the Meadows; Derby Museums Trust. E.M

Needless to say, the newspapers all paid tribute to her; they loved Georgiana, despite some mockery of her involvement in politics and her some of her more unique tastes in fashion. The Bath Chronicle described her being:

A woman more exalted in every accomplishment of rapturous beauty, of elevated genius and of angelic temper, has not adorned the present age.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) c. 1774. JEREMIAH MEYER. Royal Collection Trust
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) c. 1774. Jeremiah Meyer. Royal Collection Trust

Georgiana’s funeral took place on April 9th.  At five o’clock in the morning, the procession left Devonshire House in the following order –

Eight mutes on horseback, an attendant on horseback carrying the coronet and cushion, the hearse drawn by eight horses, the deceased’s private coach and two morning coaches, containing the principal family and Mr Wilson of The Strand, the undertaker.

The coffin, which is very elegant, is six feet two inches in length by twenty three inches. It is covered with a very rich crimson velvet and ornamented with uncommonly rich and beautiful chased ornaments. At the head are placed a variety of appropriate devices, and at the foot a highly chased weeping figure, admirably executed. The inscription plate contains the arms of the two great families, namely Cavendish and Spencer Underneath is written – The Most Noble Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, died the 30th March 1806, in the 48th year of her age. The coffin had eight gilt handles on each appeared her initials G.D.

RICHARD COSWAY (1742-1821) Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806)
RICHARD COSWAY (1742-1821) Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806)
Burial register, Derby
Burial register, Derby

ELEGIAC LINES

ON THE DEATH OF THE DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE

Faint are the numbers, and unskill’d the Muse,

Who vainly shall attempt to paint her worth;

Afflictions tear, what heart, or eye refuse,

To her whose virtues grac’d her rank and birth.

Well might our Gracious Prince then sorrowing say,

“Of England’s fairest daughter, none remain

More kind or amiable” – diffusely gay,

Her genuine merits shone in fashion’s train.

A mother’s sacred duties to discharge,

She sought retirement from the giddy town;

Taught the young mind with freedom to enlarge,

And form’d them good and virtuous like her own.

By all belov’d, by ev’ry heart deplor’d

Still mem’ry mourns amidst a nation’s sighs;

And mem’ry still her virtues shall record,

Virtues that waft her to her native skies

FRANCESCA JULIA

Sources

Morning Post 01 March 1806 

Stamford Mercury 21 March 1806

Morning Post 02 April 1806

Morning Post 03 April 1806

Morning Post 07 April 1806

Jane Scott, The Preston Poisoner

On the bitterly cold morning of Saturday 22nd March 1828, a twenty two year old woman sat in her prison cell at Lancaster Castle, awaiting the hangman’s noose, with just the long standing prison chaplain, Reverend Mr Joseph Rowley to comfort her before her final journey. Outside, waiting to witness this event was one of the largest crowds ever seen at the castle, with many travelling from far afield to witness this spectacle.

The New Buildings on the West Front of Lancaster Castle. Yale Center for British Art
The New Buildings on the West Front of Lancaster Castle. Yale Center for British Art

So how did this unfortunate young woman find herself in this most desperate of all situations? To find out we return to the beginning of this story, and to a John Scott, a Methodist preacher and shop keeper on Bridge Street, Preston and his wife Mary. The couple were well respected in their local community and further afield, as John Scott travelled to local fairs and markets selling his wares.

The couple had three daughters – Mary, Jane and Maria, who died in aged eight.

It was the very year Maria died that Jane, aged just 15, found herself unmarried and pregnant as the parish register of April 13th, 1821 confirms, Jane presented her first illegitimate child, a daughter, Anne, for baptism at the local parish church, not at the non-conformist church her parents attended.

Baptism of Anne Scott 1821
Baptism of Anne Scott 1821

Jane’s behaviour began to deteriorate, becoming rebellious, stealing from her parents and drinking. As to what became of Anne can only be speculated upon, but in all likelihood she died in infancy.

On 29th January 1824, aged 18, still unmarried and living with her parents, Jane presented a second child, for baptism, a son named John, but just three years later she would return to the church, this time to bury him.

The burial of John Scott aged 3
The burial of John Scott aged 3

Questions were raised at the time about the death of this child, but there was nothing tangible to suspect that anything untoward had happened to him.  Perhaps her daughter Anne had in fact died, leading people to question Jane’s untoward lifestyle and her ability to care for children. She now frequented the local public house, ‘The Three Tars’ and continued stealing from her parents.

History has a habit of repeating itself, this time on 6th May 1825, Jane presented another illegitimate child, Harriet, for baptism. Then, only a few months later this child’s name too was to appear in the parish burial register.

Baptism of Harriet Scott (illegitimate)
Baptism of Harriet Scott (illegitimate)
Burial of infant, Harriet Scott
Burial of infant, Harriet Scott

Mortality rates in this parish were high and the parish registers showed many children dying young, well over fifty percent of the entries were for under-fives, so the deaths of Jane’s children, although tragic, might not have appeared that unusual.

June 1825, just one month later, there was another baptism, for a Robert Scott (illegitimate), this time the child belonged to Jane’s elder, unmarried sister, Mary.

Eighteen months later, on 13th January 1827, Mary married James Woods with her father, John, present as a witness, perhaps given the girls’ history he was glad to have one safely married off.

Flicking through the pages of the parish register two more Scott names jump out – burials which took place on the same day at Holy Trinity church, Preston on May 17th, 1827. The names were John and Mary Scott, the parents of these girls, so how did they die and why were they buried on the same day?

Burial of Mary Scott
Burial of Mary Scott
Burial of John Scott
Burial of John Scott

The answer to that lurked in the numerous newspaper reports of the time, which provided somewhat grisly accounts of their deaths and the coroner’s inquest which led to the subsequent trial of their daughter, Jane ‘a short, thick set woman’, at the Lancashire Assizes on August 29th, 1827.

Preston Market Place, 1820; unknown artist; Harris Museum & Art Gallery
Preston Market Place, 1820; unknown artist; Harris Museum & Art Gallery

On the 13th May 1827 John Scott was alive and in good health but died just one day later. The first witness called was Mrs Hannah Cragg, who was well acquainted with the couple and confirmed that Jane still lived with her parents. Mrs Cragg said that she had taken tea with them on Sunday and that Mrs Scott took her home a little after eight. The couple were both well and appeared on good terms with their daughter.

She stated that on the following evening, just after nine, Jane had run to her home, asking her to ‘come to our house, my mother is dead’. She appeared to be very alarmed. She told Jane to go straight home and that she would follow her.

On arriving, she saw Mrs Scott in the kitchen.

I had a conversation with her, but Jane was not present. I saw John Scott afterwards in the yard, vomiting. He went into the kitchen with me; Mrs Scott was still there. Jane came in and was going about the kitchen but could hear what was said.’

Mrs Scott said, ‘I am poisoned by the porridge’. So did Mr Scott. Jane said she would get rid of the porridge and that nothing more should be said of it.

Mrs Cragg said she saw it whilst she was holding Mrs Scott’s head. Mrs Scott told Jane not to dispose of it, but, Jane, who was close enough to hear completely ignored her and disposed of it. Dr Brown, the surgeon, was immediately sent for and instructed Jane to put the tin pan used to make the porridge to one side, but not to wash it out.

Jane and a Mrs Bilsborough went to fetch Jane’s half-brother, David Graham, as she feared her parents were dying. On arriving at the house, David found the doctor busily using a stomach pump on his mother and immediately accused Jane of causing them to be unwell.

Stomach Pump by Henry Heath. Wellcome Library
Stomach Pump by Henry Heath. Wellcome Library

David also told the court that Jane had been prone to violent convulsions over the past 3 years, which left her feeling weak for the next few hours, but he didn’t think it had impaired her mind. Mrs Bilsborough also confirmed that they had become more frequent, occasionally they were so bad that Jane would fall over in the street.

Just before midnight, Mrs Cragg went home, leaving Mr and Mrs Scott in bed being cared for by David who continued his vigil until, about three when his mother died.

His stepfather was still alive, but extremely unwell. David said that his stepfather told him that he feared he didn’t have much longer to live, he believed Jane had put poison in the porridge. At half- past five in the morning John Scott also died.

At the trial, Thomas Emmett, the druggist confirmed that Jane had visited his shop to purchase quarter of a pound of arsenic to use at her parents house in Bridge Street, as they had rats in the shop that she needed to kill and that two weeks later she returned for a further supply as she hadn’t managed to kill all of them. She returned for a third time, just days before the Scott’s died, saying that on this occasion she needed some to kill bugs around the bedstead.

The next witness was George Richardson, who said he had known Jane for a couple of months and that he saw her on the Sunday night whilst on his way home for tea and that Jane called him to come in. Jane then asked him, ‘When do you intend to marry me?.’ George said that he had already told her that he had no intention of marrying her yet as he wasn’t ready for marriage, he had no money or possessions.

Jane then told him that her father had signed over all his goods to her, but George didn’t believe her, so she produced a paper to prove it. George though, was semi-literate, but recalled that there was both writing and printing on the paper with her name at the bottom of it. He returned it to Jane saying he didn’t understand it, but that he had seen the words ‘tobacco and snuff’ on it. Jane said that snuff was there, along with a list of other goods meant for her. It later transpired that this was merely a snuff licence.

Next, was James Shorrock, who confirmed that he knew Jane and George Richardson. He said that he had seen Jane on the Sunday evening and Jane told him that her mother was very ill. He said that he saw her again on the Monday night about eight o’clock near a factory on Bridge Street when she said to him:

Here, Jem, I want thee’, I have just been watching George go into the dandy shop, Betty Watsons. George thinks to make a fool of me. I’ll make a bigger fool of him. He’ll be here after a while. My father and mother are very badly. I’ll go in to my supper, stop here till I come back’.

Jane disappeared and returned after about twenty minutes and said, ‘Oh Jem my father and mother are sure to die’. He replied:

we are all sure to die,’ Jane’s response was ‘we’re all sure to die, but not so soon as them. Next week I’m going to Manchester. I owe you two shillings. Come tomorrow night and I’ll pay thee’.

She went on to say, that on her return she would be married, but didn’t say to whom.  She told him that her parents had signed over everything to her, they had three houses and when she returned she would sell one, which would set them up in some kind of business, and then they would go to Liverpool to her sister, Mary.

The surgeon, Dr Robert Brown was next to be called to give his testimony. He confirmed that when he arrived at the house about half past nine on the Monday evening, Mrs Scott was sitting in a chair in the kitchen, supported by Mrs Cragg and was vomiting violently. Dr Brown concluded that she had been poisoned. He called for a quantity of warm water and applied the stomach pump to Mrs Scott. He stated that he took care of the contents of her stomach and that Mr Scott’s condition was very similar to that of his wife. He then used the stomach pump on Mr Scott and the couple were then put to bed.

Mr Scott was sick and complained of pains in the bowels. Mrs Scott was still being violently sick and complained of great cramp in her legs. Dr Brown confirmed that he had some conversations with Jane and asked to see the pan in which the porridge was made and confirmed that Jane had told him when she fetched him that her parents had eaten porridge and that caused them to become ill.

He asked for the bowl to be left for examination, he then gave it to his apprentice for safe keeping.

After he had finished administering the pump he asked Jane for the pan used to make the porridge. When Jane produced it, he noted that it had already been washed. He said he was somewhat surprised that she had not understood his earlier instructions to leave it, but her response was that she needed to use the pan to boil the water for the pump. He said that the pan in question had not been used, as he had watched her boil the water in a different pan. She made no reply.

The following day Dr Brown carried out a post mortem on John Scott’s body. He believed from the original symptoms which were borne out in the post mortem, showed that the death was caused by arsenic. Vomiting, purging and cramp in the legs were indicative of having ingested arsenic.

The judge was concerned that no tests had been carried out by Dr Brown as they might have yielded a different or conclusive outcome. He addressed the jury advising them that without conclusive proof of poisoning it was difficult for them to find Jane guilty. The case so far had only related to Jane’s father and the judge advised the jury that they should make their decision about this one count, as it was the fault of the prosecutor that necessary evidence was not available.

The judge confirmed that the case against her of murdering her mother would need to wait to allow the prosecutors the necessary time to supply further evidence and that a verdict on the case against Jane of murdering her father should be given.

Mary, now Mrs James Woods (Jane’s sister) was called to give her statement. She confirmed that the household regularly used arsenic and that they mixed it with oatmeal and sugar to kill rats and to eliminate bugs around the bedstead. Mary said that her father sold bread in his shop and that rats were abundant in the property, so she often made up a solution for use as an when required and that a solution was always kept at hand, so it was more than likely that there would have been some in the house on the day her parents died.

She said that she had seen some arsenic a few days before she went home to Liverpool, and that it was in the drawer of a wash-stand, wrapped up in blue paper, without any string and warned her mother about leaving it about the house.

Mary also confirmed that Jane on occasion, had as many as fifty fits in one day and could be ill for a week afterwards. Mary was sure that her mind had become afflicted as a result of them. She told the court that Jane was on good terms with her parents, in fact, that they thought more of Jane than they did of her.

An interior view of Lancaster Castle in 1824, pen and ink drawing by J. Weetman. The keep is right of centre. Lancashire Museum
An interior view of Lancaster Castle in 1824, pen and ink drawing by J. Weetman. The keep is right of centre. Lancashire Museum

Mrs Alice Berchell was called next. She described herself as being Mrs Scott’s neighbour for over seven years and that they were very close. She corroborated  Mary’s evidence. She too confirmed that Jane suffered from fits and that on occasion she had held Jane whilst she had been fitting. She said that Jane had been in the Dispensary at Preston and in Manchester Infirmary and that Mr and Mrs Scott were always kind and affectionate toward Jane, but were extremely worried that Jane would never be well enough to work for her living due to these fits.

The judge summed up the case for the jury who retired and returned with their verdict of:

Not Guilty due to weak intellect

Jane was however, returned to the prison to await trial for the murder of her mother. During this time, she ate very little and became weaker by the day.

On 20th March 1828, Jane was brought before the court again, some ten months after the death of her mother, having already been acquitted of the murder of her father and feeling convinced she would receive the same outcome. This time the jury took a mere five minutes to reach their conclusion and found her:

Guilty

Jane sat quietly and calmly throughout the trial until the verdict of hanging was delivered, she sobbed and pleaded for mercy, asking to be transported instead. This request was declined, she was returned to her cell where she became agitated and unable to support herself so much so, that she had to be put to bed by the castle matron.

Finally, when time was running out for Jane she confessed her crimes.  She stated that she had been well brought up, but from the age of fourteen she had led a dissolute life and had been seduced by a local man when she was just fifteen. She said her mother and father had always been kind to her and tried to keep her on the straight and narrow, but it was too late, ‘the devil got possession of her’. She confessed to robbing her parents of their property and money before they died.

The day before her parents were poisoned she said that she had met up with George Richardson, who she wished to marry. The couple went to ‘The Three Tars’ public house for a few drinks then went their separate ways, meeting up later when Richardson tried to persuade her to get money from her father. She refused. Richardson goaded her until eventually she went home and made up a porridge containing arsenic which she gave to her parents. Shortly after this she felt guilty and ran to fetch help from a Mrs Cragg. She said that she was convinced that she could get away with it.

Two days before her death her sister, Mary visited her, accompanied by the prison matron. When asked by her sister whether there was anything she wished to confess. Jane, presumably realising that she now had nothing to lose, confessed to having killed Mary’s child as an act of revenge following an argument that they had had. Jane said that she had taken the baby out for a walk, it was then that she gave it laudanum. Jane said that everyone believed the child died from a fit, but that was not true.

Jane also confessed to having killed her son, as she had hoped the child’s father would marry her, but he wouldn’t, so she bought an ounce of white powder from the local doctor and when the child was sitting at the table, she gave him a kiss, mixed the arsenic with treacle, spread it on some bread and gave it to him. As she watched, the child’s eyes glaze over and he died shortly after. Jane confirmed that there had been questions raised about the child’s death, but these weren’t pursued.

"Hanging Corner" – the site of public executions until 1865. The double doors on the right led to the gallows situated in front of the sealed archway. Wikipedia
“Hanging Corner” – the site of public executions until 1865. The double doors on the right led to the gallows situated in front of the sealed archway. Wikipedia

At 10 o’clock on Saturday 22nd March 1828, Jane was helped to the chapel where the sacrament was administered by Rev. Mr Rowley. She was so weak that it took two people to support her, having refused food since sentence was passed and only drank one cup of tea.

A few minutes after midday, the door from which culprits passed on to the scaffold was opened, a deathly silence instantly fell amongst the crowd.  Jane was so weak so weak that she had to be wheeled to the gallows using this chair.

Execution Chair, Lancaster Castle The chair was used once only in 1828 to aid the execution of Jane Scott who was too weak to walk to the gallows. Lancashire County Council
Execution Chair, Lancaster Castle The chair was used once only in 1828 to aid the execution of Jane Scott who was too weak to walk to the gallows. Lancashire County Council

The executioner then turned her to face toward the prison, put a cap over her head, hooked the halter around her neck and to the chain that was suspended to the fatal beam and retired. Many places report the hangman as Ned (Edward) Barlow, but this was not true as he died in 1812. The most likely candidate was Samuel Haywood, from Leicestershire, who was hired by several assizes as he was highly regarded for his skills.

The two women supported her for a moment, one quickly left in a state of distress, the other gave Jane a kiss, pulled the cap over Jane’s eyes and left. The rope swung round leaving Jane facing the crowd and she was immediately launched into eternity in less than two minutes. An hour later her body was removed to be dissected and anatomized.

The final twist to this tale was, that Jane’s body was sold for dissection and was purchased by a respected local doctor, Dr Thomas Monk, who ultimately found himself jailed for ten years hard labour. Sometime during this time Jane’s skeleton was sold by public auction. The purchaser in the 1870’s, was reputed to run an herbal shop on Walker Street, Preston, who decided to put Jane’s skeleton to profitable use, by displaying it to the public, charging one half penny to view it. So, there really was no rest for the wicked, but hopefully now the victims have been named and can rest in peace.

Sources

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 2 June 1823

The Examiner, Sunday, May 27, 1827

Evening Mail 10 September 1827

Evening Mail 24 March 1828

The Times 25th March 1828

Chester Courant 1 April 1828

Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser 1 April 1828

Lancaster Gazette 21 August 1875

Fleury. C. Time-honoured Lancaster

Hurren. Elizabeth T. Dissecting the Criminal Corpse: Staging Post-Execution Punishment in Early Modern England

Female dentists of the 18th century

As you may be aware we have previously written about 18th century dentistry and I was interested when I came across ‘City Women in the 18th Century’ which showed a trade card for a female dentist, Catherine Madden.

British Museum
British Museum

Catherine Madden of 53, St John’s Street, West Smithfield was working as a dentist between 1790 and 1799, whose cures were so efficacious that she guaranteed ‘no recurrence of the trouble’.

This started me wondering whether she was unique, as we hadn’t spotted any when writing the previous article. No, it seems, she was not unique. Women were working as some form of dentist dating back for centuries, as can be seen here.

1500 - 1600 female dentist. Wellcome Library
1500 – 1600 female dentist. Wellcome Library

The earliest advert I have come across to date, was from December 1738, for an Ann De La Mare. Ann was the widow of James De La Mare, operator for teeth to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

Ann was giving the public notification that she had gone into partnership with a Mr John Baptist Landies, the son of Mr Landies, operator for teeth, in Paris, who ‘draws, cleans and sets artificial teeth etc in the best manner’.

There was a Mrs Clokowski apparently working in Bristol around 1775, but so far I haven’t managed to find any more details about her, so I’m not sure where she was advertising her services.

1777 saw a Mrs Levis or Lewis and her husband, both ‘surgeon dentists in all its particular branches’, who were running their business from Queen Street, Bath, but who were telling potential clients that for a period of time, they would be working at a Miss Hardwick’s muffin and lace warehouse, Marylebone Street, Golden Square. Mrs Levis would attend the ladies and Mr Levis, the gentlemen.  Free advice on procedures would be given for all difficult cases.

The same year we also have a Mrs De St Raymond, dentist, who was working from her home, No. 9, Kings-square Court, Soho. She was recommending her services to the nobility and gentry:

Her well known skill in the performance of chirurgical operations, for the various disorders of the mouth; especially the lightness of her hand, in removing all tartarous concretions, destructive to the teeth, and her dexterity in extracting stumps, splints and fangs of teeth. She also draws, fastens, fills up and preserves teeth, corrects their deformity, transplants the fore-teeth from one mouth to another. Likewise grafts on and sets in human teeth; makes and fixes in artificial teeth, from one to an entire set, and executes her newly invented asks for the teeth, and obturators for the loss of the palate.

In 1792 we have a Mrs Hunter, who worked from her home, No 78 Great Titchfield Street. Not only was she a dentist, but she also treated people’s complexion, so effectively a beautician too. She claimed to be able to relieve tooth ache and prevent it from returning with the need for extractions. She especially commended her services to women, who may prefer to be treated by another woman. She also treated children as she had a gentle touch, which would make the process less apprehensive for children.

She charged one guinea at the start of treatment and then four guineas per annum, which would include tooth powder and tincture; or half a guinea for each consultation after he first and half price for children.

The London Dentist. British Museum
The London Dentist. British Museum

These are the ones I have found a little information about, so far, but I’m sure there must be more, so if anyone comes across details of any other female dentists do let me know and I’ll update this post. It would be useful to get a reasonably complete record of women working in a profession where I thought there were none.

Sources

London Daily Post and General Advertiser, December 18, 1738

Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, Saturday, January 11, 1777

Morning Herald, Saturday, June 16, 1792

Observer, Sunday, December 2, 1798

Featured Image

Published by Bowles and Carver. British Museum

Drainage mills in the Fens, John Sell Cottman

The Regency poisoning of Mary Biggadike

Mary Biggadike was born May 1801 and baptised in the parish church, of Whaplode, a village in Lincolnshire, by the somewhat forthright vicar, Samuel Oliver.

In early 1818 she found herself pregnant and so, doing the right thing, James Cawthorn, a labourer of Whaplode walked her up the aisle her in August of that year. In due course, she gave birth to a daughter, Marian, who tragically survived for only a few months.

Two years later the couple had another child, a son, James, but by this time their marriage was well and truly ‘on the rocks’ and in March 1821, James clearly needed to find a way of extricating himself from the marriage as he had found a new love.

James found his means of escaping the relationship – but it was to come at the highest price of all, for in August 1821, he found himself indicted for the wilful murder of his wife on 23rd March 1821.

The indictment was that he

wilfully, feloniously, and of malice aforethought, did secretly mix and mingle with milk, flour and sugar, a certain deadly poison, viz. one drachm of arsenic, which he knowing it to be poison, did give to his wife of the 19th March 1821, intending that she should drink it.

He was also charged with assaulting Mary on the day of her death by strangling her.

Mr Franklin representing James wanted him to be charged on only one count, which eventually the prosecution agreed to and it was the charge of poisoning that they proceeded with. The first witness, John Smith who lived close by and knew the family well, he confirmed that he had seen Mary on Monday 19th and she appeared fit and well. He then saw her on Thursday 22nd, when she appeared extremely unwell, her face was swollen and her eyes black and bulging. His wife who also saw her said she thought that Mary had been beaten. At six o’clock the next day he heard that she had died in great agony.

Mary’s mother lived a mere 200 yards from her daughter and when called to give evidence, she said that the young couple had not been getting along well for six months prior to her daughter’s death.  She also confirmed that she saw her daughter every day from Sunday 18th March to Thursday 22nd March and that her daughter had been taken ill on the Monday. Mary’s sister Elizabeth had called upon her on Tuesday and at which time Mary was very sick and complaining of stomach pains.

Mary was convinced she was dying and told Mrs Smith that when her husband returned on the Monday he told her that he felt unwell and asked her to make him some ‘thickened milk’ and having eaten part of it, he asked her to go to the public-house and fetch him a pint of ale, leaving him alone in the house. On her return, he said he had eaten enough and that she should finish the remainder, which she did, and it was then that she was taken ill.

Next to be called to give evidence was Mr Franklin, a surgeon, of Holbeach, who said that Mary had a purple hue on her face, purple spots on her body and a small wound on her leg and internally she showed signs of inflammation. Franklin attempted to carry out tests on her body but was unable to prove conclusively that she had been poisoned.

Mary Sindall was called in to lay out the deceased and she confirmed that the prisoner had followed her upstairs and taking hold of Mary’s cold hand, said ‘Bless you! I little thought your death so nigh’.

Robert Collins, the constable of Whaplode, received James into his custody to take him to Lincoln Castle on the Coroner’s warrant, but just before setting out from Whaplode, James, who up to this point had remained calm, asked to hold his son before they left, at which point he broke down in tears at leaving his only child and as if he knew he would never be returning.

Landscape with a Stagecoach c1840. Metropolitan Museum
Landscape with a Stagecoach c1840. Metropolitan Museum

The carriage took them on to Spalding and when they arrived at the White Lion, James asked permission to write a letter. This letter was to the love of his life, Charlotte Tomlinson, a girl from the same village.  James asked the constable to deliver the letter to her, but instead, Collins kept it as evidence. James continually declared himself innocent of the crime and said in court that he was forced to write the letter, which was vehemently denied by the constable.

The letter was produced in court.

March 26th, 1821

Dear Charlotte – I for the love of you a desolate death must go through. I hope you will have a good Christian heart in you for to come up this afternoon, my dear, and let me bid you adieu. Love don’t feel yourself unhappy, I pay the debt for you. Come up today, love, for I am sure to be put to death. O! Charlotte, what must I go through.

James Cawthorn

It took the jury just minutes to find James guilty of murder and Mr Justice Park pronounced the sentence of death. He confirmed that James was to be executed on Thursday at midday and his body was to be delivered for dissection.  James remained unmoved.

The night before his sentence was to be carried out he made a full confession saying that he could not suffer enough for what he had done. He acknowledged that her murder was carried out by putting poison in the milk.  Having been used to church music, at his request, a psalm was sung at the preaching of the condemned sermon, and he took a part in the melody.

Mary was buried March 26th, 1821 at Whaplode church, aged just 20. Samuel Oliver, who baptised and married her, now buried her, with a note in the register (as he frequently did!) stating that she was

murdered by her husband in the night in a most deliberate manner! The inquest continued for three days!

The love of his life, Charlotte Tomlinson went on to marry in Whaplode, three years later.  The child James went on to have three children of his own who were baptised at Spalding – John, Elizabeth and Mary Ann Biggadike Cawthorn.

UPDATE

Following questions raised by one of our lovely readers I did some more digging and have just discovered this letter which James sent to Charlotte two days after the previous one above, which, it could be argued raises some doubt as to his guilt.

Featured Image

Drainage mills in the Fens, John Sell Cottman. Yale Center for British Art. Paul Mellon Collection.

Filial Affection, or a Trip to Gretna Green by Thomas Rowlandson; Metropolitan Museum of Art

The miser’s granddaughter: inheritance and elopement

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.

Satire on John Elwes: Temperance, enjoying a frugal meal. © British Museum
Satire on John Elwes: Temperance, enjoying a frugal meal. © British Museum

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.

Marcham Park (via Wikimedia)
Marcham Park (via Wikimedia)

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?

Merton College, Oxford by Michael Angelo Rooker; Yale Center for British Art
Merton College, Oxford by Michael Angelo Rooker; Yale Center for British Art

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’.

Filial Affection, or a Trip to Gretna Green by Thomas Rowlandson; Metropolitan Museum of Art
Filial Affection, or a Trip to Gretna Green by Thomas Rowlandson; Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

Gretna Green. © British Museum
Gretna Green. © British Museum

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.

Church at Marylebone by James Miller.
Church at Marylebone by James Miller. Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Paul Mellon in memory of Dudley Snelgrove

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.

Sources:

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

National Archives:

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

A View of Chiswick House from the South West by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack

The Duchess of Devonshire’s Public Breakfast at Chiswick House, 1802

Today, we’re taking you back in time to a public breakfast given by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire at the end of June 1802, at her villa, Chiswick House. Public it might have been, but entry was only for those ‘of note’ in the fashionable world. You’ll be mingling with around 700 members of London’s high society so, in order to look the part you’ll need to dress in the latest fashions. Gentlemen should wear boots for practicality as the event is mainly outdoors. For ladies, we’d recommend a simple white muslin dress with an understated headdress (maybe one with just a few feathers as decoration). You’ll have to manage in a pair of dainty slippers, but we’re sure the suited and booted gentlemen will be on hand to offer assistance.

A View of Chiswick House from the South West by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack
A View of Chiswick House from the South West by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack; English Heritage, Chiswick House

The breakfast rounded off the ‘fashionable arrangements’ for that particular week, which had started with a grand dinner given by the Prince of Wales on Monday 21st June and continued with a variety of musical evenings, routs and balls on every evening. By the time the weekend dawned, on Saturday 26th June, the haute ton were faced with the choice of attending two public breakfasts, one given by Mr Angerstein at his mansion, the Woodlands at Blackheath, or the Duchess of Devonshire’s gathering. No contest, we’re going to the latter!

Her Grace’s villa has long been deservedly the theme of public panegyric; but if it were always inhabited by as many beautiful women as appeared there on Saturday last, it would be a perfect Elysium.

Breakfast it might have been, but this was polite society and they kept fashionably late hours. The guests did not start arriving until the early afternoon, and they were the crème de la crème of society, headed by no less a person than the duchess’s friend, George, Prince of Wales who arrived dressed in green.

Miniature of George IV when Prince of Wales by George Engleheart, 1801-02.
Miniature of George IV when Prince of Wales by George Engleheart, 1801-02. Royal Collection Trust

We’ll pick you a handful of others from the list of noted attendees. The Duke of Orléans was present (Philippe Égalité’s son) and the Countess Conyngham who would become the Prince of Wales’ mistress some years hence. From a banking family, the countess was a beauty but snootily regarded as somewhat vulgar, due to her ancestry. The Prince’s current mistress, Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey is not mentioned as being in attendance… but a Mrs Fitzherbert is, and she is more than likely Maria Fitzherbert, the prince’s on-again, off-again one true love.

A View of Chiswick House Gardens with the Bagnio and Domed Building Alleys; Pieter Andreas Rysbrack
A View of Chiswick House Gardens with the Bagnio and Domed Building Alleys; Pieter Andreas Rysbrack; English Heritage, Chiswick House

Some of the people present were those we know well; they are present within the pages of the books we have written. The Earl and Countess (later Marquess and Marchioness) of Cholmondeley were there; the earl was, for several years, the lover of our ‘infamous courtesan’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, and he brought up her daughter, Georgiana Seymour, even though the girl’s father was not the earl but the Prince of Wales. Georgiana would have been almost 20 years of age and although she is not specifically mentioned as attending, it’s totally possible that she was there. If so, then she would have seen the man who, six years later, she would marry: Lord Charles Bentinck, a younger son of the 3rd Duke of Portland.

Other guests are familiar from our former blog posts, ladies such as the Marchioness of Salisbury, the Honourable Mr and Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe.

Large French print of Chiswick with a plan of the gardens
Large French print of Chiswick with a plan of the gardens; Royal Collection Trust.

It was a perfect summer’s day and the guests strolled on the lawns and in the grounds. The Serpentine River provided rowing for any gentlemen who wanted a bit of exercise (aren’t you glad you wore your boots now?), and swings and a see-saw had been set up to provide a bit of fun (the latter reportedly ‘afforded much diversion’ and on the former, the ‘ladies assisted one another in swinging’).

A View of the Back Part of the Cassina, & Part of the Serpentine River, terminated by the Cascade in the Garden of Chiswick House.
A View of the Back Part of the Cassina, & Part of the Serpentine River, terminated by the Cascade in the Garden of Chiswick House. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Amongst this elevated and merry company strolled the Duchess of Devonshire, arm-in-arm with her eldest daughter, fondly known as Little G, Georgiana, Viscountess Morpeth. Just 20 years of age, Lady Morpeth had married a year earlier, to the 5th Earl of Carlisle’s eldest son. Little G had recently become a mother; her son, the future 7th Earl of Carlisle, had been born on the 18th April 1802, so a little over two months before this breakfast. In a sea of white dresses, the Duchess of Devonshire and her daughter managed to be the centre of attention. They both ‘looked remarkably well [and] wore a new sort of bonnet, with a large lace veil over it, serving as both cloak and bonnet. This was one of the handsomest promenade dresses we saw’.

The day was hot, so the veil which doubled as a cloak must have provided a little protection from the sun while not being too heavy. We wonder if it resembled the fashion plate below, which dates to the same period?

Journal des dames et des modes, 14 June 1802
Journal des dames et des modes, 14 June 1802

Around 4 o’clock, the company sat down to their breakfast. The tables, set with bouquets of fresh flowers and piled with refreshments, were scattered over the estate.

In the house covers were laid for 200, viz. in the two salons, the dining and green-rooms, and the dressing-room. In the Temple, &c. 100 were accommodated, and in the two Grand Marquees, and the other tents, about 200 more. Tables were likewise placed under the trees at the entrance of the lawn; the effect was cool and refreshing, the situation being impervious to the rays of the sun… the desert of fruit was very fine, cherries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, pines, in abundance.

The Pond and the Temple at Chiswick House by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack
The Pond and the Temple at Chiswick House by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack; English Heritage, Chiswick House

By 7 o’clock the guests started to drift away and an hour later most had departed, leaving the clearing up operation by the duchess’ servants to begin.

It had been a great success, but we have to note that two very important names did not appear on the list of guests. Neither the Duke of Devonshire nor his mistress Lady Bess Foster who lived with the couple in a form of ménage à trois, appear to have been present.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster, miniature by Jean-Urbain Guérin, 1791.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster, miniature by Jean-Urbain Guérin, 1791. The Wallace Collection

NB: The images used of Chiswick House are of an earlier date when the house was owned by the Duke of Devonshire’s ancestor, the Earl of Burlington, but give a good idea of how the house and grounds would have looked.

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Sources:

Morning Post, 21 June and 28 June 1802

Maidservant (British English School); The National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle

Betty Barker: no ordinary servant

Sir Wolstan Dixie (1700-1767), 4th Baronet of Bosworth Hall at Market Bosworth in Leicestershire was many things, and chief among them was the fact that he was a bully. For a few short months, Samuel Johnson lived with the family at Bosworth Hall while he was employed by Dixie as an usher at the local grammar school, ‘but was treated with what he represented as intolerable harshness; and, after suffering for a few months such complicated misery, he relinquished a situation for which all his life afterwards he recollected with the strongest aversion, and even a degree of horror’.

Sir Wolstan Dixie (1700-1767), 4th Bt, Market Bosworth by Henry Pickering, 1741; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries
Sir Wolstan Dixie (1700-1767), 4th Bt, Market Bosworth by Henry Pickering, 1741; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

On 1 May 1735, at All Hallows by London Wall, Dixie married 24-year-old Anna Frere, the wealthy eldest daughter of John Frere of Barbados (Anna had been born on the island in 1711 and was also one of the heiresses of her grandfather, Tobias Frere). Anna’s mother had died just weeks before. It’s tempting to speculate that Dixie saw his chance and pursued solely Anna for her money (she had ‘upwards of 20,000l.), and probably that’s pretty close to the mark.  Along with his bride, Sir Wolstan also took on the employment of Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Barker, who had worked as housekeeper and head servant for Anna’s mother, Elizabeth, for twelve years until Madam Frere’s death in March 1735, and then for Anna until her marriage. The Frere’s London house was in Bloomsbury, on Great Russell Street; John Frere had been acting Governor of Barbados just before his death on the island in 1721, after which his widow and children had returned to England. Betty Barker had worked for the family since that time.

The Southeast Prospect of the Church of All Hallows, London Wall in 1736
The Southeast Prospect of the Church of All Hallows, London Wall in 1736; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Betty was utterly trustworthy. When, straight after the wedding, she was ordered to quickly pack up all the household belongings, close up the London house and head to the Dixie’s Leicestershire mansion, Bosworth Hall, she followed the instructions implicitly. There just wasn’t enough time, however, to pack properly and Betty ended up opening drawers and throwing armfuls of the contents into packing trunks which she left with trusted friends. She was honest about their contents, saying to her friends as she deposited the trunks with them that she knew some of the Freres’ belongings had got mixed up with her own, and that she would sort them out and return everything to its rightful owner when she was next in London. It was to prove a disastrous mistake, one compounded by the fact that Betty had been gifted so many of the Freres’ cast-offs. (The Frere family quite obviously viewed Betty with great affection; she had cared for them during all their time in London and they held her in high regard.) Betty had also pretty much worked for nothing except the gifts that the family had bestowed on her; by the end of 1735, Betty was owed five years wages. It’s clear that she viewed the cast-offs she’d received from the family as a form of recompense for her labour.

Maidservant (British English School); The National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle
Maidservant (British English School); The National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle

Reading between the lines of what happened next, it looks like Sir Wolstan had been snooping on his wife’s letters in the interim. He had intercepted one from Betty to Anna, Lady Dixie, in which Betty ‘mentioned the names of Capt ___ and a Baronet; and told [Anna] it was unfortunate she married so soon, for she might have had such, or such a Gentleman’. Betty, it seems, already had the measure of Sir Wolstan. He saw his chance in the Frere and Dixie belongings found in poor Betty’s possession, dismissed her and, after Betty had returned to London, had her charged with theft. Declaring he would have Betty hanged before Christmas, if it cost him a thousand pounds, he saw his wife’s servant incarcerated in Newgate prison.

It must have been an horrendous ordeal for Betty who caught gaol fever and nearly died before she even got to court to be tried for theft, on 10 December 1735.

Prisoner: I lived twelve Years with my Old Lady Madam Freer. I kept all the Keys, and was entrusted with every thing that was of Value in the House. After my Old Lady dyed, my Young Lady Married to Sir Wolstan Dixie. In a little time we left off House-keeping in Town, and the Goods were all pack’d up in great haste, to go to Sir Wolstan’s Country-Seat in Leicester shire. And its very likely that I might, when we were in such a hurry and Confusion, put some of my old Lady’s things among my own. The Night before we went away, I would have settled with Madam Freer (my old Lady’s Sister and Executrix) but she said she had not leisure then, and she would settle with me when the Family came to Town again – Sir Wolstan turn’d me away suddenly, and I return’d to London in August last, but Mrs. Freer has never yet called in to settle the Account, and the Five Year Wages and other Money is yet due to mes.

Mrs. Freer: Tis true the Account is not-yet settled and I believe there is five Years Wages due to her

Witness after witness took the stand to testify to Betty’s honesty, and the fact that the numerous items she was supposed to have stolen had been either freely gifted to her, or had been among the ones thrown into the packing cases to be sorted out at a later date.

Mrs. Bainton: I knew her twelve Years when she lived with Old Madam Freer, and, she always behaved in the best Manner and so much to her Mistress’s satisfaction that she left her a Legacy of Ten Pound. Madam Freer dyed the 13th of March and on the first of May her Daughter was married to Sir Wolstan Dixy and they went directly to Lewisham. Sir Wolstan and his Lady came to Town again on Friday the rest of the Familiy came on Saturday. And on Sunday the Goods were pack’d up in a great hurry and Confusion, in order to set out the next Morning for Bosworth in Leicester-shire. The Room was strewed all over with Goods, and the Prisoner was putting them up in Trunks and Boxes, she said she scarce knew where to put things, and believed that by mistake she had put up some of her Lady’s Goods with her own.

Mrs. Collins: I have known her eleven or twelve Years, she was House-keeper and Head-servant , and had the best of Characters from the Family.

When I heard she was in Newgate, I was amazed, and should as soon have thought of hearing the King was there – I live at the Colour Shop. in King’s Gate Street.

Cornelius Maddox, Porter: I assisted her in cording up the Boxes, and Trunks. I said, Here is a great many Things, what must I do with them. Aye, says she, Here is a great many things of my Ladies, as well as mine, I think I will send them to Lewisham. But Mrs. Bingham, and Mrs. Smith, told her she might leave them at their Houses, and accordingly, the Boxes were carried to their Houses publickly.

Mrs. Wright: The Day Sir Wolstan went out of Town, the Prisoner said to Mrs. Freer, Mam, there is a great many things put up, but if in this hurry there should be any thing of my Lady’s intermixt with mine, here are my Boxes, we shall not stay for ever in the Country, and when we return we will put all to rights.

Bosworth Hall. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Bosworth Hall. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Also among the witnesses were Elizabeth and Rebecca Frere, Lady Dixie’s sister and aunt respectively. Mrs Smith, the Freres’ dressmaker, was also called and asked about a scarlet silk night gown, which was held up in the court.

Mrs. Smith. I believe I made this for my Lady; I have made her three, four, or five such in a Winter.

Prisoner. Would not you have bought that Gown of me when I was going into Mourning for my old Lady?

Smith. She offered to sell me a scarlet Gown before they went into mourning, which was about eight Months ago; and she said, her Lady gave it her – This may be the same for ought I know.

Dress (English) made from Spitalfields silk, c.1735. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Dress (English) made from Spitalfields silk, c.1735. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Next, a yellow silk gown and petticoat was held up for the jury to see.

Smith: I made such a Coat and Gown for my Lady.

Question: How many new Gowns might you make the Lady in a Year?

Smith: A great many – I believe a Dozen in a Year.

Question: And what could she do with so many, if she did not give some of them to her Maids?

Smith: The Lady used to give the Prisoner a great many Clothes, and she never denied or concealed them, but wore them in publick – She told me when her Lady married, she had given her all her Clothes.

Question: Is it not usual for single Ladies of great Fortunes to give away their Maiden Clothes when they marry?

Smith: Yes, it is usual – And all these Clothes in Court were made before my Lady married, for when she married she was in Mourning.

Finally, the bombastic Sir Wolstan Dixie took to the stand. He stuck to his story that the goods had been stolen, and also that his wife had become ‘sick of the Prisoner’. Lady Dixie had been called to appear at the trial, but wasn’t present.

Sir Wolstan: She is at my Country Seat in Leicestershire – She is with Child, and in her Condition, and the badness of the Roads, it might endanger her Life to come up.

Council: Have you not said that you had prevented her coming to Town?

Sir Wolstan: No.

Council: Have you not commanded that your Coach should not go above four Miles from home?

Sir Wolstan: I am not to answer all Questions.

Miniature of Sir Wolstan Dixie by Gervase Spencer, 1748. © Bonhams
Miniature of Sir Wolstan Dixie by Gervase Spencer, 1748. © Bonhams

Unfortunately for Sir Wolstan, all his endeavours to lock his wife away at Bosworth Hall proved fruitless, as two men took the stand who had talked with Lady Dixie in the meantime.

Thomas Weaver: This Subpoena I served Lady Dixy at Market Bosworth, on Day last. I told her I came from Mr. Nelson, who desired she would come to Town to clear her Servant. She said, she was nevermore surprized; that she believed the Maid was very innocent; and that she would come with all her heart, but that Sir Wolstan had sent her down a Letter, and threatened it should cost her her Life if she came – she said she had been served with one Subpoena before by Mr. Street – I set out on Saturday Night last at half an Hour past eight. I took post at Littleworth, and rid a-cross the Country with the Post-boy.

Robert Nelson: The Prisoner sent for me to Newgate, and I knowing how she had been trusted, and what Character she bore, I took Horse this [Satur] day was a Fort-night, and arrived at Bosworth on Sunday. I told Lady Dixy, that Sir Wolstan had sent her Maid to Newgate. She said I am surprised that Sir Wolstan should offer such a thing, I believe she is as innocent as the Child unborn. He must know that she had a great many things of mine which I gave her. I told her among other Things, that she was charged with stealing a Locket and some China. She answered I gave her the China, and as for the Locket it was but a paultry Thing, that Sir Wolstan gave me, and I bid her lay it by among her other odd Things till I came to Town, and then I would settle with her, for I owe her a hundred Pound, I told her, when I came to London I would send her a Subpoena. She cryed, and said she would come with all her Heart, and would pack up her Things to be ready against next Friday

We said at the beginning that Sir Wolstan was a bully; he had told his wife that if she went to London for the trial he would ‘throw her off, and she shall never live with me again’. Lady Dixie was, effectively, a prisoner in her own home.

It took the jury no time at all to find Betty Barker not guilty on all the charges.

…after a long trial, she was acquitted, with the greatest honour that ever woman was, the jury not going out of Court about the verdict; after he acquittal, her Counsel mov’d for a Copy of her Indictment; which was directly order’d her by the Court, without any Debate.

There was one more prisoner at the Old Bailey that day, and Betty Barker acted as a witness for him. Richard Paine had been Sir Wolstan’s butler, and he too had been committed to Newgate on a charge of stealing two shirts and a bob-wig belonging to Dixie.

Prisoner: I lived with Sir Wolstan from May the first, to June the twenty second. And when I went into his service, I agreed to have his old Cloaths. One day as I was puting on his Shirt, he asked me why I gave him a torn Shirt, Sir, says I, they are all so bad the Maids can’t mend them. Well, says he, I have got some new Cloth, and I’ll have Caps made of the best of these, and do you see that the Maids do not make Aprons of the rest. I told him I would take care of that for my own sake; but Sir, says I. you have got several old mouldy Wigs, what shall I do with them? He bid me take ’em, and do what I would with them.

Sir Wolstan: I never said so.

Elizabeth Barker, (the last Person that was try’d.): He was my Fellow-servant, at Sr. Wolstan’s, where he behaved in a very civil honest manner – Two Weeks before he was discharged, I heard him say publickly, that Sir Wolstan had given him two old Shirts, and an old Wig.

Richard Paine was also acquitted. For the gutsy Betty though, the story didn’t end quite there. She brought a civil action against Sir Wolstan Dixie for false imprisonment and for a malicious prosecution, seeking damages of 2,000l. and, while she won, she was only awarded damages of five shillings. Sir Wolstan was better prepared for this fight; he turned up with his wife (and no doubt she had little option but to reinforce her husband’s words) and managed to persuade the jury that Betty Barker didn’t quite merit the good character she’d been given at her trial. (It’s worth remembering here that not one person other than Sir Wolstan said anything to Betty’s detriment during her trial at the Old Bailey, and their were numerous witnesses.) Betty was outraged and did try to take things further and bring about another action, but Sir Wolstan had taken enough and pulled his weight to halt the proceedings.

Thereafter, Betty Barker fades from sight; we know she was living on Great Winchester Street in the City of London during 1736. Unfortunately, there were many women with the same name in London and it’s nigh on impossible to track her further.

Watch out for a further blog when we’ll delve a little further into the life, and family, of Sir Wolstan Dixie.

Sources:

Old Bailey Online

National Archives, C 11/321/32

Samuel Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate, 1975

London Evening Post, 29 April-1 May 1735

Daily Journal, 11 June 1736

Old Whig, or The Consistent Protestant, 8 July 1736

Newcastle Courant, 19 June 1736

Princess Charlotte (1796-1817) by Charlotte Jones, 1807.

Princess Charlotte of Wales’ account books

Amongst the wonderful resource of the ‘George III Papers’ which are now in the public domain, I came across some early account books for the teenager, Princess Charlotte of Wales, which make fascinating reading. Perhaps it’s just me, but don’t you just love rifling through old account books and diaries? It’s amazing what you can learn about people’s lives, that they’d never expect to be divulged.

Lady de Clifford by Joshua Reynolds (Wiki commons)
Lady de Clifford by Joshua Reynolds (Wiki commons)

I thought I would share with you just a few of the purchases made with her £10 a month ‘pocket-money’, given to her via Lady de Clifford, who replaced Lady Elgin as her governess. I did, however, notice that Charlotte managed to boost her monthly allowance, not by doing odd jobs, but from winnings made from playing card games – yes, she did make some loses too, in fact one week in particular she lost fourteen shillings each day, but overall it looks as if she this pastime was quite lucrative and she was clearly an accomplished card player, but not so good at chess, the only entries denote losses made and never any wins.

Much of her pocket-money was spent on charitable donations mainly to the poor, entries show a wide variety of such payments made most months, such as

Gave to a poor woman 10 shillings and six pence

Gave to a little girl one pound one shilling

A poor man five shillings

To a sailor two shillings and three pence

To a fisherman two shillings

She also clearly enjoyed reading as she paid twelve shillings for a German book, plus a further four shillings and sixpence to have it bound, then a few days later she spent five shillings on a book of maps. There were also regular payments for bibles and ten shillings and six pence for a copy of The Pilgrims Progress.

Charlotte clearly took an interest in art, as there were regular payments made to Paul Colnaghi, the appointed print seller to the Prince Regent who employed him to arrange the Royal Collection.

Miniature of Princess Charlotte by Charlotte Jones. c 1815. Royal Collection Trust
Miniature of Princess Charlotte by Charlotte Jones. c 1815. Royal Collection Trust

For some unknown reason she on 15th July 1808 she paid two pounds two shillings for 4 blackbirds – I have absolutely no idea what that was about!

As you would expect for a teenager she was becoming aware of fashion and jewellery. Eye jewellery was very popular and to keep up with the trends of the day Charlotte purchased ‘an eye with garnets’ at two pounds twelves shillings and sixpence. A coral necklace, perhaps the one worn in this miniature.

 Eye of Princess Charlotte (1796-1817) c. 1816-17. Royal Collection Trust
Eye of Princess Charlotte (1796-1817) c. 1816-17. Royal Collection Trust

Two red leather purses at a cost of fifteen shillings and six pence. A silver snuff-box at two pounds, eleven shilling and six pence and a slightly cheaper tortoiseshell snuff-box. Quite regular payments were made to a Mr Duncan, a tailor.

Miniature of Princess Charlotte by Charlotte Jones. Inscribed 1812. Royal Collection Trust
Miniature of Princess Charlotte by Charlotte Jones. Inscribed 1812. Royal Collection Trust

An umbrella, a parasol and a bonnet were bought for the autumn of 1808 and a pair of spectacles early 1809 along with a frock, a gown and some handkerchiefs.

Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817) by Mrs Anne Mee (before 1814).
Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817) by Mrs Anne Mee (before 1814).

Charlotte appear to have been taken an interest in music as she paid four pounds, eight shillings and six pence for a flageolet and nineteen shillings for a flute.

Less likely purchases for a Regency teenager included two swords, one of which she had engraved, a knife, and a medal of Lord Nelson.  Quite who all of her purchases were for we will never know, but it’s a fascinating read.

In our latest book, All Things Georgian, one of our stories relates one of the two sub-governesses to Princess Charlotte of Wales, a Mrs Martha Udny and coincidentally we have come across various references to payments made to her, simply referred to as Mrs U, in the account books.

Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory. In roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830, set within the framework of the main events of the era and accompanied by over 100 stunning colour images. Available in hardback, April 2019.

Source Used

Account book of Princess Charlotte of Wales  – GEO/ADD/17/82

Featured Image

Princess Charlotte. Inscribed 1807 by Charlotte Jones. Royal Collection Trust. Princess Charlotte gave this portrait to her sub-governess, Martha Udny, in 1807 when she was 10 years old.

Mary Linwood (18th July 1755 – 2nd March 1845) – needlework artist

‘Mary Linwood was to needlework; what Chippendale was to carpentry’.

Hoppner, John; Miss Mary Linwood (1755-1845), Artist in Needlework; Paintings Collection

She was the daughter of Matthew Linwood and his wife Hannah Turner, (daughter of John Turner, a silversmith in Birmingham). The couple were married in Birmingham 19th May 1753, Matthew’s occupation was that of a linen-draper at that time.

The couple produced 6 children: Matthew (1754), Mary (1755), Samuel Whalley (1756), Sarah (1758), John (1760) and William (c.1762), but in March 1783 Matthew died. When Mary was only 9, her mother, Hannah opened a private boarding school in Leicester, and upon her death, Mary continued to run it for a further 50 years.

Matthew the eldest son and in turn his son, Matthew were to become a plater and buckle maker silversmiths in Birmingham, whilst two of Mary’s brother’s, Samuel Whalley Linwood and his brother, William, went off to Jamaica to make their fortune.

It was here that Samuel met a ‘mulatto’ girl, Priscilla Reid and the couple produced four children George, 1788; Mary 1789; Jane 1791 and James 1794). Samuel died in Jamaica and was buried at Kingston on 11th June 1801. He must have had some financial help from his mother, Hannah, as in her will of 1805, she made specific reference to his death and monies owed amounting to over £750. Equally, she ensured that his four offspring were provided for. Whether she ever met these grandchildren we may never know.

Apart from taking over as the matriarch of the family, acting as a witness at her sister, Sarah’s marriage, sorting out the will for her sister when her husband, Samuel Markland died, Mary was renowned for her undoubted talent for producing tapestries creating stitches of different lengths on fabric made especially for her. Her works were mainly copies of works by the likes of Joshua Reynolds and in particular, Gainsborough.

Illustrated London News 24 March 1945
Illustrated London News 24 March 1945

It was at the end of 1844 that Mary was taken ill, with influenza during her annual visit to London for an exhibition of needlework. She was so ill that she was taken back to Leicester in an invalid carriage and died just before her 90th birthday.

The Ipswich Journal reported that many poor families would miss her benevolence. It reported that for at least the previous thirty years Mary would rise no later than 4.30am to capture as much daylight as possible and would work until sunset. She was described as possessing:

singular energy and enduring vivacity and was apparently producing work for well over fifty years. She was also well-known for dancing locally to see out the old year and welcome in the new year.

A Mr Gardiner said of her that:

Miss Linwood’s mode is analogous to that of a painter. She sketches the outline, then the parts in detail and brings out the whole of the design by degrees. I once saw her at work, accoutred as she was with pincushions all around her, stuck with needles, threaded with worsted of every colour, and having once touched the picture with a needle, instead of a brush, she would recede five or six paces to view the effect. Leicester was a convenient place for dyeing her worsteds, but still, there were some she could not obtain, but being a woman of great genius, she set to work and dyed them herself. Her works were displayed in London for almost forty years. They were arranged in two galleries on the north side of Leicester Square. A small room called the ‘Scripture Room’ opens from the first gallery. In this smaller room, there is ‘The Judgement of Cain’ and a copy of Carlo Dolci’s ‘Salvator Mundi for which she was offered and refused three thousand guineas. The judgement of Cain was her last piece of work and took her 10 years to complete and was finished when she was 75. She was also to meet Napoleon and Josephine on one of her visits to Paris.

Mary exhibited her work around Europe including France and Russia, where Catherine the Great offered £40,000 for the whole collection.

Napoleon Bonaparte. Victoria & Albert Museum
Napoleon Bonaparte. Victoria & Albert Museum

In her will, she bequeathed £100 to Leicester Infirmary, the remainder of her estate to family members. She bequeathed the Salvator Mundi to Queen Victoria, who accepted. She asked that if her works were not sold in one lot to a private collector that they should be split up and sold, with the proceeds being divided equally between seventeen recipients.

Courtesy of the Story of Leicester
Courtesy of the Story of Leicester

Mary died on 2nd March 1845 and was buried, at St Margret’s church, Leicester at which she was a regular attendee and where her parents were also buried.

Sources

24D65/A4.  Burial of Matthew Linwood senior parish register, 7th March 1783. St Margaret’s Leicester

The History and antiquities of the county of Leicester. Compiled from the best and most ancient historians (1795-1815) Matthew Linwood. Died 28th February 1783, aged 56.

Familysearch Jamaica parish registers

Miss Linwood’s gallery of pictures in worsted, Leicester square

Legacies of British Slave Ownership

Bailey’s western and midland directory; or, merchant’s and tradesman’s useful companion for the year 1783.

Exhibition of Miss Linwood’s pictures at the Hanover Square concert rooms. Admittance one shilling. 1798

A catalogue of the pictures, sculptures, models, designs in architecture, prints etc exhibited by the Royal Incorporated Society of Artists. 1776

Leicestershire Mercury 8th March 1845

The Ipswich Journal, Saturday, March 22, 1845

The birth of the future Queen Victoria, 24th May 1819

To mark the birth 200 years ago today of the future Queen Victoria we thought you might like to know a little more about the event itself.

Interestingly, she was born on the same date as her paternal grandfather, King George III, whose birthday was later changed to 4th June when the calendars were altered to the new Gregorian style from the Julian style.

We came across quite a detailed hour by hour account in a newspaper of the day to share with you.

The Duchess of Kent continued her airings in Kensington Garden to last Thursday. On Friday her Royal Highness was slightly indisposed, in which state she continued on Saturday and Sunday, when the symptoms of her Royal Highness giving birth to a Prince or Princess increased.

Victoria, Duchess of Kent (1786-1861) 1818. George Dawe. Royal Collection Trust
Victoria, Duchess of Kent (1786-1861) 1818. George Dawe. Royal Collection Trust
Edward, Duke of Kent (1767-1820) Signed and dated 1818 by George Dawe. Royal Collection Trust
Edward, Duke of Kent (1767-1820) Signed and dated 1818 by George Dawe. Royal Collection Trust

In the morning the Duke of Kent left Kensington Palace for Carlton House, to inform the Prince Regent of the state of his Royal Duchess. The room appointed for the confinement of the Duchess is on the east side of the palace, close to which is a public path from Kensington Gardens, which, as it would subject her Royal Highness to be disturbed by various noises, the gate leading to it was closed by command of the Prince Regent.

Princess Victoria, later Queen. 1819 signed 1819. Johann Georg Paul Fischer. Royal Collection Trust
Princess Victoria, later Queen. 1819 signed 1819. Johann Georg Paul Fischer. Royal Collection Trust

Dr Davis, the physician to the Duke and Duchess, having had the honour of being appointed accoucher to the Duchess, frequently visited her Royal Highness. On Sunday the doctor visited the Duchess three times, the last visit was at seven o’clock in the evening, when he returned to town.

At twelve o’clock the Duchess, and those in attendance upon her, being of the opinion that the time of her delivery was approaching fast, the Duke of Sussex’s carriage was sent off for Dr Davis at his residence in George Street, Hanover Square and the doctor returned in the carriage with all possible speed. At the same time messengers were sent off to the Members of the Privy Council appointed to attend upon this occasion, with summonses commanding their attendance agreeably to the laws of England for Royal births.

Victoria, Duchess of Kent with Princess Victoria (holding a miniature of her late father, Edward, Duke of Kent) by Sir William Beechey, 1821.
Victoria, Duchess of Kent with Princess Victoria (holding a miniature of her late father, Edward, Duke of Kent) by Sir William Beechey, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust

The Marquis of Lansdowne was the first Privy Counsellor who arrived, and he reached the Palace at a quarter before two o’clock Mr Canning arrived next at two o’clock, The Duke of Wellington came about a quarter of an hour after. The Duke of Sussex entered from his apartment in the Palace about the same time. Earl Bathurst, the Bishop of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer followed. The Chancellor did not arrive until about three o’clock, owing to his being at Blackheath on a visit to his mother.

Lansdowne, Canning, Wellington & Bathurst
Lansdowne, Canning, Wellington & Bathurst

The Members of the Privy Council sat in the saloon adjoining the Duchess’s chamber, where, at a quarter past four o’clock they were satisfied of the delivery of the Duchess of a female child, which was testified by the following certificate:

The undersigned hereby certify, that her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent was safely delivered of a female child, living, at a quarter past four o’clock in the morning of the 24th day of May 1819.

Signed David Davis, J Wilson – Domestic Physicians to their Royal Highnesses.

The room appointed for the nursery in the palace is that which was the North drawing room.

Expresses were sent off to the Prince Regent, the Duke and Duchess of York, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Princess Sophia of Gloucester, the Princesses Augusta and Sophia at Windsor.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) when Princess Victoria c.1821-2. Emanuel Thomas Peter. Royal Collection Trust
Queen Victoria (1819-1901) when Princess Victoria c.1821-2. Emanuel Thomas Peter. Royal Collection Trust

The Duke of Kent has shown the most marked affectionate attention towards his amiable Duchess and did not retire to rest till nine o’clock, although His Royal Highness had been up the whole of the night and had very little rest on the preceding night.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) when Princess Victoria 1823. Anthony Stewart. Royal Collection Trust
Queen Victoria (1819-1901) when Princess Victoria 1823. Anthony Stewart. Royal Collection Trust

Dr Davis remained in attendance till ten o’clock. The following statement of the event was issued from the Palace:

24th May 1819

The following Noblemen and Gentlemen, of his Majesty’s Privy Council attended at the accouchement of her royal Highness the Duchess of Kent – His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, his Grace the Duke of Wellington, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Noble the Marquis of Lansdowne, the Right Hon. Earl Bathurst, The Right Hon. George Canning, the Bishop of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

At a quarter past four o’clock, a.m. her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent was safely delivered of a Princess.

F.A. WEATHERALL

Lieut. General and Comptroller

In addition to the above, General Weatherall, General More and Captain Conroyd, were in attendance. The Earl of Liverpool called at the Palace about eleven o’clock to make his respectful enquiries.

Dr Davis visited the Duchess again between two and three o’clock, after which the following bulletin was issued –

Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent and her infant continue in a favourable state.

J Wilson

David D Davis

Monday, three o’clock

A few days later the Morning Post reported

Considering the high destiny of the Royal infant, there is nothing which is more calculated to enhance the satisfaction of its parents in particular, and the nation at large, next indeed to that of its having been born in Old England, than this event. Should she be ever elevated to the throne of this mighty Empire, it must be the wish of every sincere lover of this country, that she may reign like her venerable grandsire, in the hearts of its inhabitants. The nation already begins to indulge the hope that the infant may be baptised by the much loved and cherished name of Charlotte.

The press didn’t get their wish when she was christened on June 24th 1819 as Princess Alexandrina Victoria, in the Grand saloon of Kensington Palace using the Royal gold font which had been moved from The Tower of London and the crimson velvet coverings from The Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.

To find out a little more about Queen Victoria you might enjoy a couple of articles we wrote a while ago:

Princess Victoria and the gypsies, Part 1 and Part 2

Source:

Oxford University and City Herald 29 May 1819

Morning Post 31 May 1819

Morning Chronicle 25 June 1819

Featured Image

Princess ( 1819-1901), later Queen Victoria Signed & dated 1819, Johann Georg Paul Fischer. Royal Collection Trust

Princess Charlotte of Wales, after George Dawe, 1817.

Princess Charlotte of Wales’ Russian dress, 1817

We recently ran a post on our Facebook page which shared images of Princess Charlotte of Wales in a blue Russian style dress. It proved really popular, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to look at the dress, and the portrait of Charlotte where she is depicted wearing it, in greater detail.

With the end of the Napoleonic Wars two years earlier, anything Russian was eminently fashionable in 1817, when the portrait was painted. Princess Charlotte of Wales, only legitimate child of the Prince Regent (later George IV) was desperate to have the Russian Order of St Catherine bestowed on her. She’d been trying for the honour since at least 1813, with little success. (The order was only given to women, primarily those of the Russian royal family but also occasionally granted to foreign queens and high-ranking princesses.)

Princess Charlotte of Wales, after George Dawe, 1817.
Princess Charlotte of Wales, after George Dawe, 1817. Royal Collection Trust.

The well-known portrait of her, by George Dawe and dated to 1817 (shown above), depicts the princess in a Russian style dress, known as a sarafan, and – supposedly – wearing the Star of the Order of St Catherine’s. The notes on the Royal Collection Trust website say of the portrait:

At her left breast she wears the star of the Order of St Catherine, which she received on 1 July 1817, from Maria Feodorovna, wife of Paul I, in gratitude for hospitality shown to her son Nicholas during his visit to London. (Princess Charlotte’s husband, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, also served under the Russian Emperor during the Napoleonic Wars.)

Now, we don’t want to contradict the RCT who surely know better than us, but we can find no corroborating evidence that Charlotte ever received this honour, and upon zooming in to the portrait, the Star insignia which she is wearing looks incorrect. It almost appears to have the Prince of Wales feathers atop it and is not studded with diamonds, as it should be. Maybe, however, Dawe chose to paint it this way? Although we have our suspicions, we really can give no confirmation one way or another and will have to rely on the royal collection’s assertion that this is the Star of the Order of St Catherine.

Detail from the portrait of Princess Charlotte of Wales
Detail from the portrait of Princess Charlotte of Wales by George Dawe.

The dress Charlotte wears could almost have been copied from a portrait of Sophia Petrovna Svechina, a Russian exile in Paris. She was painted by François Joseph Kinson in 1816, just a year before Charlotte sat for her portrait, wearing a remarkably similar dress.

Portrait of Sophia Petrovna Svechina (1782—1857) by François Joseph Kinson. An outstanding Russian woman of her time, a daughter of state secretary of the Empress Catherine II, a lady-in-waiting, writer, mistress of the famous literary salon in Paris, took a special place among Russian Catholics.
Sophia Petrovna Svechina (1782—1857) by François Joseph Kinson. An outstanding Russian woman of her time, a daughter of state secretary of the Empress Catherine II, a lady-in-waiting, writer and mistress of the famous literary salon in Paris. Via Wikimedia.

A Sarafan is a Russian trapezoidal jumper (or pinafore) dress, and a traditional folk costume. These two Russian portraits show the subjects wearing dresses that are also very like that worn by Charlotte.

Russian woman and child
Russian woman and child – image sourced via Pinterest.
Portrait of a girl in Russian dress by an unknown artist.
Portrait of a girl in Russian dress by an unknown artist. State Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

No doubt Charlotte had her dress especially made (it was produced in England) for the portrait and to set off her Russian order, whether being worn legitimately or not. Charlotte’s version of this Russian dress is made from blue silk, trimmed with gold lace which has red highlights, and edged with gold fringe. Amazingly, it has survived and is also in the royal collection. As you can see from the images below, it has either faded slightly, or Dawe used a little artistic licence to darken it in his portrait of the princess.

Princess Charlotte of Wales' Russian style dress.
Princess Charlotte of Wales’ Russian style dress. Royal Collection Trust.
Back view of Princess Charlotte of Wales' Russian style dress. Royal Collection Trust.
Back view of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ Russian style dress. Royal Collection Trust.

When she sat for her portrait, the princess was pregnant. Her child – a son – was stillborn, and Charlotte died from complications following the birth the next day, 6 November 1817. She was just twenty-one years of age. Had she or her son lived, they would have been heir to the British throne.

Copies of the painting were made, many with slight variations. One shows the dress in white instead of blue, another leaves off the gold trimming. This version below shows the dress in a darker hue, and with a much more extravagant ‘blouse’ beneath, with lace sleeves.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales by George Dawe. © National Portrait Gallery, London.
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales by George Dawe. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Interestingly, when George Dawe’s brother, Henry Edward Dawe, made a mezzotint copy of the portrait after the princess’ death, which was published in January 1818 and an amalgamation of two of the portraits already given above, the Order of St Catherine pinned to Princess Charlotte’s breast was totally omitted.

Hand coloured mezzotint of Princess Charlotte by Henry Edward Dawe, after the painting by George Dawe.
Hand coloured mezzotint of Princess Charlotte by Henry Edward Dawe, after the painting by George Dawe. Royal Collection Trust.

George Dawe subsequently spent many years at the Russian court where he painted many of the nobility there. It is thought that he used the portrait of Princess Charlotte as inspiration for his later one of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Certainly, the rich colour of the dress and the pose are reminiscent of the princess’ portrait. It increases the pathos of poor Princess Charlotte’s picture however; how she would have loved to be painted with her arms around her children. Sadly, that was not to be.

Charlotte (Alexandra Feodorovna), Empress of Russia, with her eldest children, Alexander and Maria c. 1821
Charlotte (Alexandra Feodorovna), Empress of Russia, with her eldest children, Alexander and Maria c. 1821. Via Wikimedia

We’ll leave you with this fantastic video, which looks at Princess Charlotte’s dress and the portrait.

 

Sources not mentioned above:

Letters of the Princess Charlotte, 1811-1817 (1949)

Autobiography of Cornelia Knight, Lady Companion to the Princess Charlotte of Wales: With Extracts from Her Journals and Anecdote Books, Volume 1 (1861)

* Please note: this week, our next blog post will be on Friday. *

Wedgwood jasperware teapot with Domestic Employment designs by Lady Templetown. V&A Museum

Artists, Workers and Tastemakers: Wedgwood and Women – a guest post by Sophie Guiny

Today we are thrilled to welcome to our blog,  Sophie Guiny. Sophie is a Wedgwood collector and researcher. She is also the newsletter editor for the Wedgwood Society of Washington, D.C.

Wedgwood jasperware teapot with Domestic Employment designs by Lady Templetown. V&A Museum
Wedgwood jasperware teapot with Domestic Employment designs by Lady Templetown. V&A Museum

In May 1759, 260 years ago this month, 29-year old Josiah Wedgwood founded his own pottery works. Born in a family of potters in Burslem, Staffordshire, young Josiah was struck by smallpox and the resulting damage to his leg (which would eventually be amputated) left him unable to operate a potter’s wheel. He turned his attention to design and experimentation with new clays and glazes, improving on known techniques and creating new styles and ceramics bodies, including the now iconic jasperware, which Wedgwood perfected around 1775. In both pursuits, women played a critical role as patrons, artists and factory workers.

Wedgwood jasperware portrait medallion depicting Josiah Wedgwood. Sophie Guiny's personal collection.
Wedgwood jasperware portrait medallion depicting Josiah Wedgwood. Sophie Guiny’s personal collection.

Josiah Wedgwood’s sense of innovation extended to marketing his wares in what was a crowded market. As the quality of his creamware (a type of ceramic made of pure white clay with a clear lead glaze) had garnered him royal orders, he petitioned Queen Charlotte for the right to use her name in selling his products. Starting in 1763, Wedgwood’s creamware was sold as Queen’s ware, and the Queen’s patronage became very visible on all advertising materials.

The Frog Service commissioned by Empress Catherine II of Russia in 1773 is a good case study of the role of women in Wedgwood’s business. First, as with the naming of Queen’s ware, Josiah Wedgwood aggressively courted royal and aristocratic female patrons, as they had the ability to influence the taste of other women, both in the aristocracy and in England’s burgeoning middle class. In a letter to his partner Thomas Bentley, Wedgwood muses, “Suppose you present the Duchess of Devonshire with a Set and beg leave to call them Devonshire Flowerpots.” This was never to be. But having Catherine the Great as a repeat customer (she had already ordered a service in 1768) was a marketing coup for which Wedgwood was prepared to incur financial losses.

Wedgwood jasperware portrait medallion of Catherine II, Empress of Russia. V&A Museum
Wedgwood jasperware portrait medallion of Catherine II, Empress of Russia. V&A Museum

The Frog Service comprised 952 pieces, and was to be decorated with a different view of England on each piece, an extremely ambitious task. The only repeating designs would be the border and the frog emblem, as the service was destined for a palace known as “Frog Marsh.” To realise the service, Wedgwood had to hire numerous skilled painters, which included a number of women: factory records show that at least half a dozen women were employed to paint the Frog Service, working on both the borders and the centre landscapes. The highest paid woman, a Mrs Wilcox, was paid eighteen shillings a week, which is just over half of what the highest-paid man earned (thirty-one shillings).

Wedgwood Queen’s ware dessert plate from the Frog Service painted with a view of 'Mr Hopkins' Gardens, Painshill, Surrey.' British Museum
Wedgwood Queen’s ware dessert plate from the Frog Service painted with a view of ‘Mr Hopkins’ Gardens, Painshill, Surrey.’ British Museum

Wedgwood catered to a variety of tastes, and was always trying to introduce new styles. Many pieces were decorated with classical designs, inspired by antiquity, and modelled by such noted artists as John Flaxman Junior and George Stubbs. It is worth noting, however, that in the 1787 company catalogue, Wedgwood gives a place of pride to designs made by three women artists: Elizabeth, Lady Templetown, Lady Diana Beauclerk, and Miss Emma Crewe. All three were gifted amateur artists, and their designs were used exclusively to decorate the very fashionable jasperware.

Lady Templetown, often misspelled as “Templeton”, perhaps based on Josiah Wedgwood’s own frequent misspelling in his letters, was inspired by sentimentalist literature (such as Laurence Sterne’s novels) and traditional domestic activities. Born Elizabeth Boughton in 1747, she came from an aristocratic, if not particularly wealthy, family and married Clotworthy Upton in 1769. In 1776, in recognition for his services to the royal family, Upton was made Baron Templetown of Templetown, County Antrim in Ireland, and Elizabeth became the first Lady Templetown. Left a widow with three children in 1785, she managed her family’s Irish estates until her son’s coming of age, and retired to Rome where she died in 1823.

Wedgwood jasperware brooch with The Bourbonnais Shepherd, designed by Elizabeth Lady Templetown after Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. V&A Museum
Wedgwood jasperware brooch with The Bourbonnais Shepherd, designed by Elizabeth Lady Templetown after Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. V&A Museum.

Her drawings caught the eye of Josiah Wedgwood who commissioned several designs from her starting in 1783. In a letter to Lady Templetown dated June 27, 1783, Josiah Wedgwood expresses: “a wish to be indulged in copying a few more such [figure] groups” in addition to what she had already lent him. She provided drawings or cut-outs in Indian paper of her designs, and William Hackwood, a sculptor employed by Wedgwood, modelled the actual reliefs to be applied on the jasperware. The etching below, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is based on one of Lady Templetown’s series of cut-outs on the theme of Domestic Employment. The jasperware version of this design (which is the mirror image of the cut-out) is on the teapot at the top of this post.

Peltro William Tomkins, “Book of Etchings from Papers cut by The Right Honourable Lady Templeton,” 1790. V&A Museum.
Peltro William Tomkins, “Book of Etchings from Papers cut by The Right Honourable Lady Templeton,” 1790. V&A Museum.

Emma Crewe’s designs were quite similar in inspiration to Lady Templetown’s, but much less is known about her life. She was born in 1741 and was the sister of John Crewe, a Member of Parliament and a staunch supporter of Whig party leader Charles James Fox.  It is likely that these personal acquaintances played a role in Emma’s designs being used by Wedgwood, as Josiah Wedgwood was also a committed Whig.

Wedgwood jasperware covered sugar bowl with The Reading Lesson, a design attributed to Emma Crewe. Sophie Guiny's personal collection.
Wedgwood jasperware covered sugar bowl with The Reading Lesson, a design attributed to Emma Crewe. Sophie Guiny’s personal collection.

Lady Diana Beauclerk’s designs were of a different style, although they too feature boys and cherubs at play. She was born Lady Diana Spencer in 1724 in one of Britain’s most prominent families: she was the great-granddaughter of the first Duke of Marlborough and grew up at Blenheim Palace. In 1757, she married Lord Bolingbroke, but her unhappy marriage was dissolved in 1768. That same year, she married Topham Beauclerk. The Beauclerks were part of the literary and artistic society of the time, counting among their inner circle such luminaries as Horace Walpole and Joshua Reynolds, and her life was the source of some gossip, which had been featured on this blog. Lady Diana Beauclerk died in 1808, having spent the last years of her life mostly blind and in much reduced circumstances (her husband Topham died in 1780).

According to Beatrice Erskine’s 1903 Lady Diana Beauclerk Her Life and Work, the first contact between Lady Diana Beauclerk and Josiah Wedgwood occurred in 1780 through their mutual friend Charles James Fox.

Wedgwood jasperware wine cooler with Bacchanalian Boys designs after Lady Diana Beauclerk, c. 1783. V&A Museum
Wedgwood jasperware wine cooler with Bacchanalian Boys designs after Lady Diana Beauclerk, c. 1783. V&A Museum

It is likely that Josiah Wedgwood chose to hire women artists and to publicise their work because he thought that it would appeal to the market, showing a softer side than scenes inspired by the Iliad, or portrait medallions of Roman emperors. Wedgwood has reproduced Domestic Employment and Bacchanalian Boys countless times since the eighteenth century, showing the long-lasting appeal of the more feminine designs.

However, Josiah Wedgwood was ahead of his time on many social and political issues, from his commitment to the anti-slavery movement  to his position in favour of the independence of the American colonies, and was involved in the latest scientific research of his time through his membership in the Lunar Society. So it is not inappropriate to think that hiring women artists may have gone beyond commercial considerations and reflected Josiah Wedgwood’s progressive positions.

For more on this topic:

  • The Wedgwood Museum is part of the World of Wedgwood experience in Barlaston, Staffordshire
  • Both the British Museum and the V&A have large collections of Wedgwood, including works by women designers
  • The Frog Service is in the collections of the Hermitage Museum  in Saint Petersburg
  • The most comprehensive reference book is Robin Reilly, Wedgwood (two volumes), Macmillan & Co, 1989.
  • For more on Wedgwood during and beyond the Georgian era, the Wedgwood Society of Washington, D.C. publishes a bi-monthly newsletter.
Meissonier, Jean Louis Ernest; An Artist Showing his Work; The Wallace Collection

Art Detectives: Thomas Gainsborough’s red-headed beauty

In our latest book, which is based on our blog and titled All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, one of the 25 true tales within tells of the life of the red-headed actress, Elizabeth Hartley. Elizabeth was a beauty, but not particularly vain; she disparagingly said of herself ‘Nay, my face may be well enough for shape, but sure ‘tis freckled as a toad’s belly’.

Elizabeth Hartley by Angelica Kauffman as Hermione in The Winter's Tale. Image via the Garrick Club Collection.
Elizabeth Hartley by Angelica Kauffman as Hermione in The Winter’s Tale. Image via the Garrick Club Collection.

Born Elizabeth White, and from Berrow in Somerset, Elizabeth had a sister, Mary, who also had strikingly red hair. Mary made a good marriage to the Reverend, later Sir Henry Bate Dudley, minister, playwright and newspaper editor, a ‘witty and profligate man’ who glorified in the nickname, the Fighting Parson.

Rev Henry Bate Dudley by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1780 (image sourced via Pinterest).
Rev Henry Bate Dudley by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1780 (image sourced via Pinterest).

While researching Elizabeth Hartley we came across a Thomas Gainsborough portrait held by the Ascott Estate (National Trust), painted in the late 1780s and depicting a woman with red hair. The identity of the subject is disputed: it is labelled as either Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond or Elizabeth Hartley.

This is the painting.

A portrait of a red haired lady by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1786/1787 and in the collection at Ascott Estate. Labelled as either Lady Mary Bruce or Elizabeth Hartley, we believe it actually depicts Lady Mary Bate Dudley née White.
A portrait of a red haired lady by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1786/1787. Ascott, The Anthony de Rothschild Collection (National Trust)

We contacted the estate who gave us some information from their guidebook relating to the portrait.

John Hayes has called this ‘one of the most ravishing of Gainsborough’s late romantic portraits. . . . The enigmatic smile and slightly distant expression heighten the poetic mood of the canvas.’ The supposed sitter was the daughter and co-heir of Charles, 4th Earl of Elgin and 3rd Earl of Aylesbury by his third marriage, in 1739, to Caroline, daughter of the 4th Duke of Argyll. She married in 1757 Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond and Lennox. There were no children of the marriage and the title devolved upon a nephew.

The picture has been called a ‘late London work’ by Waterhouse, and ascribed more precisely by Hayes to 1786–7, when Lady Mary would have been more than 45 years old. In an endeavour to resolve the discrepancy between the sitter’s apparent age and the evident date of the picture, it has been suggested that she is the wife, Lady Louisa Gordon Lennox, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond, and not the sister-in-law of Thomas Conolly, to whom this picture is said to have belonged, but neither the dark-haired Hugh Douglas Hamilton pastel of her at Springhill, Co. Londonderry, nor the Romney of her at Goodwood, Sussex, bear this out. Yet nor can one detect any resemblance with the equally dark-haired sitter in the Chardinesque Reynolds of Mary, Duchess of Richmond, sewing that is likewise at Goodwood.

Two of the images mentioned of Mary, Duchess of Richmond are shown below and we think you’ll agree that they look nothing like the redhead in the Gainsborough held by the Ascott Estate.

Pastel of Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond by Hugh Douglas Hamilton
Pastel of Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond by Hugh Douglas Hamilton; via Wikimedia
Mary, Duchess of Richmond, sewing by Joshua Reynolds, 1767
Mary, Duchess of Richmond, sewing by Joshua Reynolds, 1767 (via Wikiart).

There appears to be no record as to why it is suggested that it may be a portrait of Elizabeth Hartley, other than the obvious red hair, but if it is not Elizabeth, we have another suggestion for the identity of the sitter in the Ascott portrait. We believe that she might be Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, Lady Bate Dudley. The Fighting Parson was a patron of Gainsborough, and a good friend to the artist. Thomas Gainsborough painted Henry Bate Dudley in 1780.

And, in 1787, he painted a glorious full-length portrait of Mary, Lady Bate Dudley. Did he also paint a second portrait around the same time? We think that the lady in the Ascott portrait bears a marked resemblance to Lady Bate Dudley. The two images below are from the known 1787 portrait of Mary, both unfortunately losing some of the impact of the true colour of the original which was recently exhibited at the Tate. The gallery label at the time said that:

Mary Bate-Dudley was married to Gainsborough’s friend and champion, Henry Bate-Dudley. She’s shown here in a romantic woodland setting, leaning on a classical pedestal and an urn. Her pose is languid yet statuesque and the gesture of her left hand suggests a refined sensibility. Unusually in Gainsborough’s art, Lady Bate-Dudley’s head is shown in profile. This is a dramatic ploy intended to elevate the painting beyond the everyday world of conventional portraiture to the realm of High Art.

Gallery label, February 2016

Lady Mary Bate Dudley by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787 (via Web Gallery of Art)
Lady Mary Bate Dudley by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787 (via Web Gallery of Art)
Detail from the full length portrait of Lady Mary Bate Dudley, 1787 by Thomas Gainsborough (private collection via Wikiart).
Detail from the full length portrait of Lady Mary Bate Dudley, 1787 by Thomas Gainsborough (private collection via Wikiart).

As an aside to this, Henry Bate Dudley did have a connection to Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond as, in 1780, the Fighting Parson was sentenced to a year in prison for libelling her husband. And, you can read more about him and his sister-in-law, Elizabeth, in the pages of All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, available now in the UK in hardback and illustrated with over 100 colour images.

Harriette Wilson (1786-1845), courtesan, and her siblings

For anyone not familiar with Harriette Dubochet who used the assumed surname of Wilson whilst alive, (although when buried her baptismal name was given) I would definitely recommend both volumes of her memoirs published in 1825, as they make fascinating reading and are online via Internet Archive.

Harriette lived life to the full and was virtually penniless at the end. Her death certificate gives cause of death as ‘old age’, although in all likelihood a cause of alcohol related disease might have been more accurate. As well as finding religion toward the end of her life, she also found the bottle. She was apparently extremely fond of brandy, to the point of dependency and was reported to have been having a tipple or several just 24 hours prior to her death.

I came across this extract from Frances Wilson’s book, The Courtesan’s Revenge and wanted to check out what became of Harriette’s siblings and possibly find Harriette’s burial.

Harriette’s place of burial has always been something of a mystery, but I can now reveal that she was buried at Brompton Cemetery and the location of her grave is still visible.

Search Brompton Cemetery for Harriett Du Bochet to see where her grave is located within the grounds. Click on image to enlarge
Search Brompton Cemetery for Harriett Du Bochet to see where her grave is located within the grounds. Click on image to enlarge

The newspapers were not at all kind to her in life as can be observed in this article about her in 1826.

The present appearance of this unfortunate woman makes it difficult to conceive that she could ever have been attractive, either as to person or manner: her features are now ugly and coarse, her person bad and her manners vulgar, with a harsh discordant voice.

A correspondent informs us that the notorious ‘Harriette Wilson’ resides at Chelsea and has become a convert to Popery,  and is a very active promoter of the objects of the virtuous priesthood! What next? Is she a candidate for the office of  a Lady Abbess, or Principal of a Nunnery?

And even more derogatory about her death:

We have now done with this woman, and we hope no stone will be erected to commemorate her memory and disgrace the place of her burial.

Satirical print depicting the courtesan, Harriette Wilson.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Just for the record, Harriette was born 22nd February 1786 and baptised on 19 March the same year at St George’s, Hanover Square, the same place her other siblings were baptised.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Back to her memoirs, she thought nothing of naming and shaming the gentlemen in whose company she and three of her sisters, Amy,  Frances, better known as Fanny  and Sophia spent much of their youth.

Harriette Wilson receives Wellington in a room hung with pictures of those who figure in her Memoirs. Print by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1825.
Harriette Wilson receives Wellington in a room hung with pictures of those who figure in her Memoirs. Print by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1825. © The Trustees of the British Museum

When Harriette wrote to the Duke of Wellington advising him she was about to publish her memoirs and that to keep his name out she wanted money from him, his famous response was reputed to have been ‘publish and be damned‘, so with that she went ahead and published (the famous phrase is probably not strictly accurate).

The courtesan, Harriette Wilson.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

I’m not planning to revisit the memoirs in this article as there’s already more information about Harriette and her memoirs online than you can shake a stick at. I will, however, say that in a letter I came across, Harriette was described as being ‘the worst and wickedest bitch in the world’.

Harriette Wilson's last letter-or a new method of raising the wind!!
Print by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1825. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Harriette was one of 15 children (11 girls and 4 boys, not all of whom survived childhood), born to Amelia Gadsden, not Cook as previously named elsewhere, Amelia was raised by John Cook and his wife, which is probably where the assumption of her surname has come from, and John James Dubochet, a Swiss coal merchant.

1784 Electoral Register. Carrington Street, Coal Merchant
1784 Electoral Register. Carrington Street, Coal Merchant

I have noticed that John seems to have had several occupations including that of a stocking cleaner, a mathematician and watch maker, but there’s no evidence to support this,. On the children’s baptism and in his will, proven in 1826, he continued to give coal merchant as his occupation.

Little is known of several of Harriette’s siblings in particular that of the boys. The family seems to have been of mixed repute.

Rose (1799 – ?)

After her baptism there appears to be no proof that she survived into adulthood.

Jane (1779-1857)

Known in Harriette’s memoirs as Diana, remained single and taught the piano from her home 34 Chapel Street, in the St Marylebone area of London.

Mary (1784 – ?)

Mary was referred to as Paragon, in Harriette’s memoirs. She married an Irish gentleman, Richard Borough(s), in 1812 in Dublin, and the couple went on to have four children, Mary, John, Henry and Augusta Sophia. At least one child was baptised in France so it looks likely that they remained  there at least until Richard died at Calais in 1847.

Charlotte (1801 – 1873)

Charlotte, born 1801, married  a surgeon and apothecary, William Jones Percival in 1825. The couple moved  about with William’s business, from Poplar to Soham, Suffolk and finally to Birmingham  to raise their family, where William ultimately took on the post of surgeon at the Kings Norton and Union Workhouse. After his death Charlotte moved to Aberystwyth to live with one of her three daughters, Mary Sophia and her husband the renowned Dr Charles Rice Williams and it was there that she died in 1873.

Julia Elizabeth (1814-1883)

Like her sister Jane, Julia also remained single and spent her later life living with her, by then, widowed sister and former courtesan, Sophia, Lady Berwick (1794-1875), at 7 Clarendon Crescent, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. After the death of her sister, Julia moved to The Mansion, Richmond (now home to Richmond Golf Club).

Miniature of Sophia Dubochet, Lady Berwick by Richard Cosway, c.1812.
Miniature of Sophia Dubochet, Lady Berwick by Richard Cosway, c.1812. Attingham Park © National Trust

Frances (Fanny) (1782-1815)

Also a courtesan who, according to Harriette, produced three children with her lover, then upon his death, moved on to have a relationship with a Colonel Parker, who in all likelihood was John Boteler Parker, the son of Sir Hyde Parker. She took his name as if they were married although they were not.  Frances was buried in 1815, at Kensington as Frances Parker, her assumed surname.

Amelia, aka Amy (1781-1838)

In 1794, at the age of 13, Amelia became apprentice to a Mary Barker, mantua maker. However, like her sisters, she became a courtesan and had a relationship with George Campbell, 6th Duke of Argyll, with whom, according to Harriette she had a son around 1810, although there’s appear no proof of this and no baptism that we have found so far.

She did however marry the musician Nicholas Robert Charles Bochsa, in 1818 despite him still being married to the Marquis Ducrest’s daughter who was, apparently still alive. Bochsa was both famous and infamous throughout the Georgian and Victorian eras!

He was believed to have been born around 1789 in France, where he studied music at the Paris Conservatoire. Regarded as a child protégé he could play both the flute and piano competently, by the age of just seven. In 1813, he apparently became harpist to the Imperial Court, however, by 1817 he allegedly became involved in counterfeiting, fraud and forgery and fled to London to avoid being prosecuted.  In his absence he was sentenced to twelve years hard labour and a fine of 4,000 Francs, so clearly, he was unlikely ever to return to his place of birth.

By 1821, the couple were the height of respectability, with Bochsa, in 1822, becoming one of the founders of the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, London together with John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland.

Nicholas Bochsa
Nicholas Bochsa

He was however, required to sever his ties with the Academy when news of his previous misdemeanours were discovered and two years later he was bankrupt, but became the musical director of the King’s Theatre, London. Newspapers began reporting that he not only committed the crimes of forgery and fraud, but also that he was a bigamist. We can find no proof of the final accusation, but there was probably some truth in his dubious reputation, as he found himself with a five-pound fine, this time for assault.

On 27th December 1837 Amelia died at her home, 2 Orchard Street, St Marylebone from an inflammation of  the intestines and was subsequently buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Bochsa eloped with Mrs Anna Bishop, the wife of Sir Henry Rowley Bishop. Frances Wilson, in her book, queried whether Bochsa had eloped with Anna Bishop prior to Amy’s death; the jury’s out on that one, but clearly he wasn’t with her on the day she died as her death was not witnessed by him, but by a John Knight, a collector, who lived there with his wife, Sarah, eight children and their servants.

Bochsa and Bishop left England and reappeared eventually on the other side of the world, having spent the subsequent years touring Europe, America, Mexico and then Australia, where Anna appeared on stage as his protégé. They continued to perform on the stage until his death in 1856, in Sydney.

Harriette’s male siblings were Charles Frederick (1791 -?), Henry Cook , John Emmanuel and George Edward. Very little is known about the first three boys and in all likelihood Charles died during childhood, although there is no evidence of a burial for him.

John Emmanuel (1790-1821)

Apart from his birth and death, the only snippet of information about John comes from the marriage entry for his sister, Sophia, where he was present as a witness.

Henry Cook (1804-1855-9)

After his baptism, there is little known of  Henry, apart from one mention of a brother to Lady Berwick in Naples, Italy in 1848. I eventually discovered his death dated simply as being sometime between 1855 and 1859, in Naples (British Armed Forces and Overseas deaths and burials records).

George Edward (1796-1847)

George married Christiana Hadden in 1816 and the couple had 4 children. At the baptism of their youngest child, George was a piano maker, then, by the time his youngest daughter married he had died, but had been ‘of the Treasury‘.

The Cyprian's Ball at the Argyle Rooms
Harriett Wilson and her publisher, Stockdale, in front of the harp. Lewis Walpole Library

We also wrote a guest post a while ago about Harriette. In case you missed it why not hop over to Mike Rendell’s blog to find out more.

Sources used

The London Gazette 1839

Berkshire Chronicle, 14 March 1829

John Bull 10 May 1840

Bell’s New Weekly Messenger  06 April 1845

Croome Collection at Worcestershire Archives.

The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1708

Monmouthshire Merlin 16 September 1848

Travels of Anna Bishop in Mexico, 1849

Wilson, Frances. The Courtesan’s Revenge

'Market Cross' and Conduit at St Alban's, I. Schneibbilie, 1787.

Mary Ramsay: female impostor

In our latest book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, we recount the adventures of Sarah Wilson, aka Lady Wilbrahammon… amongst other aliases! Sarah was a very convincing impostress and her life is one of those cases when fact proves to be far stranger than fiction. But, although rare, Sarah was certainly not unique. She was perhaps inspired to commit her grand fraud after reading of a girl named Mary Ramsay in the broadsheets. Mary’s story dated to April 1738, but it was widely reported in 1764 just before Sarah’s own antics.

*      *      *

In a ditch, between St Albans and Colney Heath in Hertfordshire, lay a poor starving girl, half-naked and too weak to move. Two bakers were travelling along the road, and they heard the girl’s groans and rescued her, taking her to an alehouse near the turnpike. The surgeon and apothecary, Mr Humphries, was sent for and under his care, the girl recovered.

St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire by Abraham Pether
St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire by Abraham Pether; Manchester Art Gallery

Then the girl told her story. She was Mary Ramsay, nineteen years of age and from Hull in East Yorkshire. Her father had been an eminent surgeon and man-midwife who, when he died, had left Mary, his younger daughter, a fortune of £7,000 and trusted her to the care of his brother (there was an elder daughter living in London who was married to a wealthy Suffolk gentleman named Mr Cooke). Mary’s uncle was kindness itself to his young charge and so Mary suspected nothing when he sent her to London to board with a gentlewoman who kept a school in order that she could learn the manners required for a young lady of fashion. Dressed in a new riding habit and jockey cap, Mary was placed in a stagecoach and given a letter of introduction addressed to the schoolmistress. At the coaching inn at Stamford in Lincolnshire, where Mary had stopped to dine, she accidentally dropped the letter; it was found by a fellow passenger, a sea captain whose name Mary had forgotten. Upon hearing Mary’s story, the sea captain persuaded her to open it. The note – signed by her uncle – was brief and to the point.

Sir,

The person who brings you this is the young woman I told you of. I acknowledge receipt of half the money agreed on, and expect the remainder as soon as convenient.

Lady in a riding habit (unknown artist)
Lady in a Riding Habit; Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery (unknown artist)

Mary had been effectively sold, to a man she did not know. With no-one looking she made her escape, slipped away and travelled on foot for a couple of days. In need of funds, she sold her jockey cap to an old woman and then exchanged her riding habit for a gown and some money, enough to get her to London to find her sister. It proved a fruitless search and so she set out once again, penniless now, resolving to return to Hull. Mary managed to trek as far as St Albans where – in her distressed state – she had been found.

She was the very picture of innocence and the good townsfolk of St Albans rallied around Mary, raising a subscription to clothe her and pay for her journey back to Hull. In the meantime, she lived in the mayor’s house with his family. All was going very well for young Mary until one voice of dissent was heard. A man recently returned from London cast doubt on her story, to the fury of the mayor and the inhabitants of St Albans. This man remembered that he had an acquaintance in Hull and so he wrote to him, to establish the truth of the matter. The reply was unfortunate for Mary. The acquaintance in Hull stated that:

… a surgeon of the name of Ramsay had formerly lived in the neighbourhood of Hull, who was very poor all his life-time, and who was confined for debt in the castle of Lincoln, and died there about ten years before; that he had two daughters, abandoned wretches and common prostitutes, who strolled about the country under various and fallacious pretences; that upon the strictest enquiry, he could not find that Ramsay had a brother; and that if the people of St Albans would pass her to Hull, [Mary] would there meet with her dessert.

Mary protested; the man who had written the letter was a particular friend of her uncle and had colluded in the deception practised upon her. The mayor – not knowing who to believe – directed two letters to gentlemen in Hull, asking for clarification. The answers came back, confirming that Mary was lying. The mayor wasted no time and Mary found herself in the Bridewell where she confessed all. She was a dupe, an impostor, and she was whipped at the cross as a vagrant on the next market day before being packed off back to Hull.

'Market Cross' and Conduit at St Alban's, I. Schneibbilie, 1787.
‘Market Cross’ and Conduit at St Alban’s, I. Schneibbilie, 1787. British Library

That Mary received her comeuppance didn’t deter Sarah Wilson who, just two years after this tale had been published, embarked on her own fantastical adventures. In fact, we suspect the tall-tale about Mary Ramsay to be a complete work of fiction as we can find no proof to substantiate any of it, but that probably doesn’t matter. It was reported as fact and the tale took on a life of its own in the imagination of Sarah Wilson, alias Lady Wilbrahammon, whose story is most definitely true, even though it is not quite as has been reported over the centuries. But, to discover the amazing adventures of ‘Lady Wilbrahammon’, you’ll have to read our book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century.

Source:

The Beauties of all the Magazines, selected for the year 1764, vol. iii

A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner's Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782.

The Duke of Devonshire and Charlotte Spencer

In an earlier blog, we looked at the life of Charlotte Williams, illegitimate daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire; Charlotte was brought up in the duke’s household by his beleaguered wife, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. It has proved to be one of our most popular blogs, so we thought it was worth trying to shed a little more light on Charlotte’s mother, a milliner named Charlotte Spencer.

The Duke of Devonshire and his mistress, Charlotte Spencer, a milliner. Town and Country Magazine, 1777
The Duke of Devonshire and his mistress, Charlotte Spencer, a milliner. Town and Country Magazine, 1777 (Lewis Walpole Library)

If you’ve watched the film, The Duchess, you will no doubt remember the scene early on when Georgiana, pregnant with her first child, is introduced to her husband’s young daughter, who is brought to Devonshire House in London following the death of her mother. Using artistic licence, the timings are, however, slightly out in the film.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787; Chatsworth House

On 7 June 1774, at Wimbledon, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, married Georgiana Spencer, d/o John, Earl Spencer and his wife Georgiana (née Poyntz). The groom’s parish was stated to be St George, Hanover Square, that of the bride Westminster St James. Charlotte Williams was known to be born a few months before this grand union; just weeks earlier, on 20 March, a little girl named Charlotte had been christened at St George, Hanover Square, her parents named as William and Charlotte Cavendish (and her birthdate given as 22 February).

St George's, Hanover Square by T. Malton, 1787
St George’s, Hanover Square by T. Malton, 1787

All we really know of the mother, Charlotte Spencer, comes from one of the Town and Country Magazine’s gossipy tête-à-tête articles which appeared in the spring of 1777; Memoirs of the D___ of D___ and Miss Charlotte S____r. If Georgiana had been in the dark about her husband’s mistress, she would certainly have known all about it when this magazine hit the streets.

Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, William Cavendish had succeeded to his title, on the death of his father. Left an orphan, he was raised by three bachelor uncles who sent him abroad on the aristocratic ‘gap year’, the Grand Tour. The tête-à-tête article claimed that while in Paris, Cavendish captured the heart of Louis XV’s maîtresse-en-titre, Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry, some five years older than the duke but much more worldly wise. The duke’s uncles got wind of things, and rushed him home.

Fête donné à Louveciennes, le 2 septembre 1771 (en présence de Louis XV et de la comtesse Dubarry)
Fête donné à Louveciennes, le 2 septembre 1771 (en présence de Louis XV et de la comtesse Dubarry): Louvre Museum

Finding she [Madame du Barry] had built too much upon her charms, influence, and attractions; and, at the same time, that her heart was too far engaged in the conflict, she became the dupe to her own artifice; and the young English nobleman had his vanity so far gratified as to be the rival of the grand monarque.

Jeanne Bécu, comtesse Du Barry, en Flore by François-Hubert Drouais, 1773/4 © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN / © Christophe Fouin
Jeanne Bécu, comtesse Du Barry, en Flore by François-Hubert Drouais, 1773/4 © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN / © Christophe Fouin

Returning to London, the duke made the acquaintance of a pretty milliner who had ‘the finest eyes he had ever beheld’. He became a customer, and then her lover. Charlotte Spencer was the daughter of a country curate whose situation had allowed of nothing more than a ‘tolerable education’ for his daughter. After his death, Charlotte travelled to London where she fell into the clutches of  ‘a veteran procuress, who, under the veil of religion, prevailed upon Charlotte to be a lodger in her house, that she might take care of her salvation’. It is suggested that Charlotte had at least one pregnancy (and possibly a termination) while lodged in this brothel before leaving, only to fall into the hands of ‘an old debauchee, who pretended to adore her mental, as well as her personal attractions’. This old rake gave Charlotte a handsome allowance and set her up in an elegant house, but she hated the life; after a few months her ‘keeper’ died and left her mistress of a fortune enough for her to set up a milliner’s shop. Where, soon afterwards, the 5th Duke of Devonshire found her…

A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner's Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782.
A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner’s Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The duke and Miss Spencer seem to have lived happily together for some years; she left the milliner’s shop behind and the duke provided for her. He set her up in a discreet rented villa.

We may now suppose our hero in full possession of all Charlotte’s charms, and that she was happy in an alliance with a young nobleman every way amiable. Yet a paradox still remains to be solved; which is, that after some years intercourse with Miss S___r, who was now rather approaching the decline of beauty, our hero should marry a nobleman’s daughter, a universal toast, still in her teens, with every personal accomplishment, who gives the Ton wherever she goes, and that he should still be fond of his antiquated (by comparison) Charlotte?

The truth is that the duke needed a male heir, and while he was clearly fond of Charlotte Spencer, the teenaged, wealthy and well-connected Miss Georgiana Spencer (it is an ironic coincidence that the two ladies bore the same surname) was the more suitable bride and prospective mother for a son and heir. Poor Charlotte had only given him a daughter.

Georgiana married her duke in May 1774, and this little scandal broke in the press almost three years later. Popular gossip said that the duke continued to see Charlotte regularly during the first years of his marriage.

There is a caprice in mankind, it is true, that cannot be accounted for – whim prevails more than reason – but that the blooming, the blythe, and beautiful D___ should be neglected for Charlotte S___r is really astonishing!

The duke’s affair with Charlotte Spencer fizzled out after 1778, and all available evidence suggests that she had died by May 1780 when the six-year-old Charlotte Williams was brought, with her nurse, Mrs Gardner, into the Cavendish household.

Despite her unhappy marriage, the Duchess of Devonshire was the toast of the town. Extravagant, vivacious and addicted to gambling, Georgiana was also compassionate and caring; when the young and motherless Charlotte Williams was presented to her, Georgiana took the girl to her heart and brought her up as her own daughter. In time, Georgiana had three children of her own by the duke, Georgiana (Little G) born 1783, Harriet (Harry-O) in 1785 and William (known as Hart, as his courtesy title was Marquess of Hartington) who was born in 1790. (Georgiana suffered many miscarriages during her marriage.)

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire with her infant daughter Lady Georgiana Cavendish by Joshua Reynolds; Chatsworth House.

A couple of years or so after Charlotte Spencer’s death, Georgiana met Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster at Bath; Bess quickly became an indispensable member of the Cavendish household, given a role as Charlotte Williams governess and replacing Charlotte Spencer in the duke’s affections. Something of a ménage à trois developed. Georgiana retaliated with an affair of her own, falling in love with the future prime minister, Charles Grey; in 1792 and in exile from her husband and children, Georgiana gave birth to Grey’s daughter. Known as Eliza Courtney, this girl was brought up by Grey’s family although Georgiana did manage to make secret visits to her. Bess Foster accompanied Georgiana during these years of exile before the two returned to the duke in 1793. Bess, after Georgiana’s death, would become the duke’s next wife.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster, miniature by Jean-Urbain Guérin, 1791.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster, miniature by Jean-Urbain Guérin, 1791. The Wallace Collection

Sources:

Town and Country Magazine, March 1777

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman (Flamingo/Harper Collins, 1999)

Vauxhall by Thomas Rowlandson, 1785

A likeness of Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Rowlandson

For a woman who was noted as such a beauty, it has always frustrated us that there are not more surviving portraits and drawings of our ‘infamous mistress’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. There is a miniature by Cosway, painted around the time of her marriage with Dr (later Sir) John Eliot, and the two well-known portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, plus a disputed chalk drawing by John Hoppner which may or may not depict Grace.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Imagine our surprise and delight then, to come across the drawing below by the caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson which purports to depict ‘Lady Elliott, otherwise Dally the Tall’. The inscription contains one glaring error; Grace was never Lady Eliot, her husband had divorced her well before he became a baronet but, nevertheless, this could indeed be Grace (her nickname was Dally the Tall, a play upon her surname and height), probably drawn sometime around 1782-1786 and wearing a chemise à la reine. We know that she was famous for bringing the dress into fashion here in the UK.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott (aka Dally the Tall) by Thomas Rowlandson
Lady Elliott, Commonly Called Dally The Tall. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Bequest of Mrs. A. Dean Perry 1997.84

After her divorce, Grace had been the Earl of Cholmondeley’s mistress, before leaving his arms for the protection of Philippe d’Orléans, then the duc de Chartres (later duc d’Orléans and, during the Revoution, Philippe Égalité). Grace then snared British royalty when, for just a few short weeks, she enjoyed a relationship with the young Prince of Wales (later King George IV). During the summer of 1782, Grace gave birth to the prince’s daughter.

The Prince of Wales and Grace Dalrymple Elliott's daughter Georgiana as an infant.
Grace’s daughter Georgiana as an infant. Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In February 1783, Grace appeared at a masquerade ball held at the Pantheon arm-in-arm with Charles Wyndam, 3rd son of the 2nd Earl of Egremont. Also present were Perdita (Mary Robinson), Grace’s one-time rival for the Prince of Wales, but now with her new lover, Colonel Banastre Tarleton, Lady Grosvenor and Mary (Moll) Benwell with Colonel Richard FitzPatrick.

A few of the Cyprian Corps in elevated life were present – Mrs Elliott’s dress, the chemise de la reine, and Miss Sheppard’s were the most elegant of the whole group. The Perdita and the T__le__n paired off very early. Mrs B__nw__ll, and Col. F___tz__ck were in close Teˆte-a`-Teˆte all the evening, also Mr W___nd__m and Mrs Elliot, Lady Gr__v__r likewise perambulated the circle for a considerable time.

The company were very sociable, and the dances continued till past seven in the morning.

The chemise à la reine, was the height of fashion. A diaphanous white muslin gown with a coloured sash ribbon tied high on the waist, the wearer appeared fashionably déshabillé or undressed; the chemise had, until this time, been used as an undergarment but now it was worn as a dress in its own right with no corset underneath. It was popularized in France during the early 1780s by Queen Marie Antoinette who was painted wearing such a dress by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (to the outrage of her subjects who were scandalized to see their queen dressed in such a simple and romantic way).

Marie Antoinette en chemise, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1783
Marie Antoinette en chemise, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1783

Marie Antoinette had sent a few of these chemises to her aristocratic friends in England, in particular to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. The duchess and Mary Robinson are usually credited with introducing the fashion to England but Grace was also an early devotee of the style. She had spent time at the French court as the mistress of the duc de Chartres; had she too been sent a chemise à la reine from friends in France?

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787; Chatsworth House

With the Prince of Wales no longer interested in Grace, and the Earl of Cholmondeley having also moved on, Grace found herself in Paris… and with a new rival: the beautiful and ‘celebrated’ Moll Benwell, a courtesan at least a decade younger than Grace. If Grace wanted to renew her relationship with the duc de Chartres she was out of luck, for Moll Benwell stole her thunder. There began a tit-for-tat game between the two women, played out in London and Paris.

If we may credit our intelligence from France, English beauties are not less admired in Paris, than in their native kingdom – the reigning toasts there at present are, the Benwell, and the Elliot; the former is allowed to be by far the most elegant woman that has appeared there these many years, they term her the Kitty Fisher of her time, from her likeness to that beautiful woman. The Duc de Chartres has made himself extremely ridiculous on her account, following her to all public places; to the contempt with which she treats him and his promises (which that nobleman is but too apt to make) she may attribute his constant attendance on her.

The fortunes of the handsome Colonel Richard FitzPatrick (second son of the Earl of Upper Ossory) fluctuated wildly. He was a close and loyal friend of Charles James Fox (the two men had known each other since their schooldays) and one of the intimate group that included the Earl of Cholmondeley, the Prince of Wales and Charles Wyndham. An officer with the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, the dashing colonel was also an inveterate gambler, a solo balloonist, bon viveur and wit.

As befitted such a great friend of Charles James Fox, FitzPatrick had stood as a Member of Parliament, holding the borough of Tavistock from 1774, but gave as little time as he could to matters of business, preferring to devote himself to pleasure instead. He lived on his credit and tradesmen were always denied access to his house when they called to press their bills. Because of her own debts, Moll had left the colonel in the spring of 1783; she couldn’t pay them and neither could he, and so she journeyed to Paris at the same time as Grace.

With an improvement in FitzPatrick’s ability to procure credit, Moll returned to London; Grace must have been pleased to see the back of her and the way to the duc de Chartres left clear once more.

The winter of 1783 found the tables turned and Grace in London with Mary Benwell back in Paris; King George III was on the verge of dismissing the government and so FitzPatrick’s credit would once more be on hold. With her rival once more stealing her thunder in Paris, Grace, in London, exacted her tit-for-tat revenge and found herself a new protector, snaring for herself the Honourable Colonel Richard FitzPatrick.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott (aka Dally the Tall) by Thomas Rowlandson
Cropped view of Thomas Rowlandson’s drawing of Grace Dalrymple Elliott. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Bequest of Mrs. A. Dean Perry 1997.84

During the 1784 election, Grace was by FitzPatrick’s side campaigning for the Whigs and Charles James Fox on the streets of Westminster (as, famously, did Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). The supporters of Charles James Fox took to wearing ‘true blue’ colours and favours on the streets, denoting their support of American Independents and their hostility to Pitt and his ministers, and Grace was no exception.

Miss Dalrymple is so azurized, that nothing under the blue sky can exceed her; she wears a blue hat; her eyes are blue, her breast-bows and ribbons are the same colour; her carriage is also blue; and she is called by way of distinction the ‘Blue Belle of Scotland, &c. &c’.

Was the Rowlandson caricature drawn around this time?

Vauxhall by Thomas Rowlandson, 1785
Vauxhall by Thomas Rowlandson, 1785; Lewis Walpole Library

In An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, you can discover Grace, and her equally fascinating relations. It is available at all good bookshops worldwide, including Amazon, in hardback and as an eBook.

Courtesan. Spy. Survivor. A gripping and meticulously researched account of the swashbuckling life of one of history’s most overlooked heroines: Hallie Rubenhold, author of The Scandalous Lady W

At the time of writing, you can download An Infamous Mistress as either a Kindle or ePub from our publisher, Pen & Sword Books, for just £4.99.

A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner's Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782.

Employment opportunities for girls in the eighteenth-century

Not all women in the eighteen-century were able to marry a wealthy aristocrat, in fact very few did, the majority had to hold down a job as well as running the home and raising children. We thought today we would follow on from an earlier article in which we looked at eighteenth-century careers and have picked out a few of the career options listed in Joseph Collyer’s book of 1761, that were deemed suitable for girls and women, of which of course, there were only a limited number, far fewer choices than for men.

Basket Maker

There are several sorts of basket-maker. Some who form baskets of green oziers (willow), chiefly for the use of gardeners. These are the most considerable branches; for some of the masters employ many hands, and also rent large ozier plantations; which not only produce sufficient for themselves, but many to spare. This part of the work requires no other abilities but strength and application. Another sort of basked makers make finer works with rods stripped, split, halved and dyed; or with split cane or dyed straw of various colours. The workers in the finer sort of baskets, which are chiefly to be found in the turner’s shops, require less strength and more ingenuity. This is chiefly carried out by girls and women who make the smaller wares.

A young girl and child carry baskets on their heads
A young girl and child carry baskets on their heads. Wellcome Library

Bodice Maker

This was once a trade of universal use, but now bodices are worn by none but the poorer sort of women and girls in the country. They are made of canvas and whale-bone or cane and sometimes leather. Women are principally employed in making them; they can get six or seven pounds a week and require no great qualification. Their apprentices are generally parish children, whom they take with little or nothing. As their dealings are mostly in the country, they require a pretty large stock; most of them now deal also in ordinary stays, by which means they make a handsome livelihood.

Strawberrys, Scarlet Strawberrys from The Cries of London, 1795.
Strawberrys, Scarlet Strawberrys from The Cries of London, 1795. The strawberry seller wears a simple canvas or leather bodice. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Button Maker

The greatest part of the mohair, silk and horsehair buttons are made in the county and sent up to shops in town. Those made here are chiefly livery buttons, or some patterns particularly bespoke. Those who work at this are chiefly women, who are paid by the dozen and are able to get but a poor living. The boy or girl designed for the business of making gold and silver buttons ought to have some fancy and genius, that they may be able to invent new fashions. They should also have good eyes and a dry hand. The lace-man furnishes them with all the material for his buttons, except the moulds and pays him for the work when done.

Portrait of a Trumpeter in Livery (called ‘Valentine Snow, 1685–1759, Sergeant Trumpeter’); Michael Dahl I (1656/1659–1743) (style of); National Trust, Fenton House

Cap Maker

These are shopkeepers who make and sell caps for men or women to travel in and also men’s morning caps. They deal in many sorts of millinery goods, such as ladies’ hats, bonnets, cloaks, cardinals, short aprons, hoods, handkerchiefs, or almost anything made of black silk or velvet. Their apprentices ought to be smart girls of a genteel appearance, they should work well at their needles and be ready accomptants. They serve only five years and are kept the first part of their time close to the needle. Once qualified they may be cap-makers but may also be shop women to the milliners, the haberdashers or to any buying and selling trade proper for women.

A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner's Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782.
A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner’s Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Child’s coat maker

This branch of business is generally performed by women and is a pretty profitable employ. They take ten or fifteen pounds with a girl; who ought to be ingenious, handy and a tolerable needle-woman. The boning part is hard work for the fingers, but the rest is easy enough. As the apprentice must appear neat and gentle, and, when out of her time, must depend on a good acquaintance this trade is not fit for the children of people in low circumstances; but for those a little above the vulgar it is a very proper one. A journey-woman may get a pound a day in summer, but they are generally out of business some of the winter months.

Fan Painter

Fan painting is an ingenious business and requires skill in drawing, in perspective, in the proper disposition of the lights and shades and in laying on the colours. This business is however almost ruined by the introduction of printers fan-mounts. Therefore it would be a pity that any ingenious girl, who has a taste for drawing should be put apprentice to it.

Fan depicting the gardens of Chiswick Villa, 1757.
Fan depicting the gardens of Chiswick Villa, 1757. Met Museum

The Gilder

The gilding of metals is a very profitable and at the same time a dangerous business with respect to those who perform the work, occasioned by the quicksilver used in this art, which is apt to affect their nerves and render their lives a burden to them; whence the trade is but in a few and some of them women.  Gilding is performed with the following amalgam of gold and Quicksilver. The gold is then heated in a crucible and when just ready to flow, three or four times the weight of quicksilver is poured upon it and immediately quenched in water, both together become a soft substance like butter. When the artist intends to gild, the piece is rubbed with aqua fortis and then covered with the amalgam. When is all covered over and smother it is held over a charcoal fire, by which means the mercury evaporates and the gold remains upon the piece. The artist then rubs off all the roughness and at the same time spreads the gold with an instrument called a scratch brush, the work is then burnished to give the colour wanted.

Goldsmith's workshop: interior view, gilding dishes and the implements used.
Goldsmith’s workshop: interior view, gilding dishes and the implements used. Wellcome Library

A Quilter

Quilting is chiefly performed by the women, but there are some masters, who employ a number of women and girls in making bed quilts for the upholsterers. The women of this business not only make bed quilts but quilted petticoats. They either take poor girls as apprentices, whom they keep for the sake of their work or have a small for learning those grown up, whom they afterwards pay about ten or twelve pounds a week.

Portrait of Nelly O'Brien by Joshua Reynolds, c.1762-1763.
Portrait of Nelly O’Brien wearing a quilted petticoat by Joshua Reynolds, c.1762-1763. © The Wallace Collection

Tassel Maker

These are more frequently women than men. They make tassels for pulpit cushions, window curtain cords and for a variety of other uses. These tassels are made of gold or silver thread, silk, mohair or worsted, worked over a mould. When tassels were worn by the ladies to their mantels, this was exceedingly good employment, and many families go a genteel maintenance by it, but now, I believe, it is hardly worth learning. The masters take girls out of the schools and parish children with little or no money who, if in good hands, may, when out of their time, be able to get six or eight pounds a week as journey-women, or may set up with a very little. All materials being found from the lace or worsted men.

Late eighteenth-century purse with pink tassels.
Late eighteenth-century purse with pink tassels. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Tire woman

Thirty years ago this business gave many women in London genteel bread; but now the ladies cannot be dressed with elegance, except by a French barber, or one who passes for such, by speaking broken English, adjust and curls their hair at the exorbitant price of a crown or half a guinea a time. Our grandmothers thought it bordered on immodesty to appear with their heads uncovered; but probably our grandchildren, despising such narrow prejudices, may not be ashamed of going naked from the waist upwards or of having men chamberlains or dressers. I believe the few women, who now cut hair, cannot live by the employment and therefore need to say nothing of the terms on which they teach others.

The preposterous head dress, or the featherd lady, 1776.
The preposterous head dress, or the featherd lady, 1776. © The Trustees of the British Museum

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