The Life of John Church Dempsey (1802-1877), artist

John Church Dempsey found his way on to my radar as we have previously looked at a couple of his paintings, ‘Black Charley‘ and ‘Jemmy, The Rockman‘ and so, I wanted to find out a little more about his life.

John was baptised in 1802 at the non-conformist chapel in Walcot, Bath, to parents Edward and his wife, Martha. Edward was possibly the master of St. Michael’s Poorhouse, in Bath, who died in 1826 from apoplexy, but further proof is needed to confirm this at present. According to baptism records, John appears to have been an only child and possibly born later in their marriage.

In 1819 at Bedminster, Somerset there is a curious marriage entry for a John Church Dempsey to a Hagar Maber. If this was his marriage and there’s no reason to doubt it, then he married at a mere 17 years old. There is no sign of his bride after their marriage, nor any evidence of her demise so far, so quite how long this marriage lasted remains unknown.

1, Chapel Row, Bath. Google maps
1, Chapel Row, Bath. Google maps

Two years after this marriage John was advertising his services as a portrait painter in the Bath Chronicle of 13 December 1821, the property still exists as you can see from above. Given that he was a mere 19-years-old, it seems highly unlikely that he had received any formal training as an artist, so perhaps just a natural talent for capturing likenesses.

And this one just a couple of days later.

Quite how much time John spent living in Bath seems unclear, as his paintings seem to show that during the 1820’s he travelled all around the country from north to south and east to west, over a period of just two years, during which time he painted at least 51 paintings of some fascinating characters, perhaps he thought he would achieve more by painting ‘ordinary people’ rather than the great and the good who lived Bath to take the waters and socialise.

He then seems to vanish for a number of years, reappearing in 1841 in the St James’s district of Bristol where he continued to work as an artist and was living with someone by the name of Sarah. It seems unclear as to who this Sarah was, but she was about 7 years his junior and not from the county. The 1841 census was a little vague on information so it was impossible to tell who this woman was at that stage.

Mark Custings, known as Blind Peter and his boy, Norwich, 1823 by John Dempsey. NPG, Australia
Mark Custings, known as Blind Peter and his boy, Norwich, 1823 by John Dempsey. NPG, Australia

However, three years later John married for a second time, interestingly his new wife was Sarah Neal Muirhead, the widow of Alexander Muirhead of Alverstoke near Fareham, Hampshire. John and Sarah married at nearby Portsea, so it seems feasible that his new wife was the one named on the 1841 census and perhaps it just took them a while to make their relationship legal.

Their marriage entry confirmed that John was also a widow and that his father, Edward, was a gentleman, as was John. John has been described as a semi-itinerant, quite how that description befits a gentleman I’m not quite sure.

Wilkerson, Crier, Ipswich 1823 by John Dempsey NGP Australia
Wilkerson, Crier, Ipswich 1823 by John Dempsey NGP Australia

In 1845, not only was John an artist but both he and Sarah were running a stationery shop and from there they were not only selling art-related material but also dealing in pictures, lamps and chandeliers.

This diversion from his art was perhaps due to lack of funds as the following year he was declared a bankrupt. The couple moved from their home to one on Barr’s Street, Bristol sometime after this where John was to continue working as an artist, but also interestingly, took on an additional role as a tin plate worker.

By the 1860s clearly, John was aware of the progression of the medium of photography and this fairly new technology was one that John was to embrace as he described himself as a ‘photograph artist’ on the 1861 census.

Dempsey, John Church, fl 1820s-1870s :Rev John H Bumby, late General Superintendant of Wesleyan Missions in New Zealand. Published by J Dempsey, Artist, Gallery of Likenesses, Lower Arcade, Bristol [ca. 1840]
Dempsey, John Church, fl 1820s-1870s: Rev John H Bumby, late General Superintendant of Wesleyan Missions in New Zealand. Published by J Dempsey, Artist, Gallery of Likenesses, Lower Arcade, Bristol [ca. 1840]
He obviously felt this new technology wasn’t for him and by 1871 he returned to being a landscape artist, so right back to where he began his career. John was to die on 9th February 1877 at his home, 32, Upper Arcade, Bristol. Sarah lived for a further 24 years, spending the remainder of her life living at Trinity Almshouse, Bristol.

There are still many of his paintings in the collection which need to have their stories told … maybe one day they’ll all be clearly identified.

Bunman, Plymouth by John Dempsey NPG Australia
Bun man, Plymouth by John Dempsey NPG Australia

Sources

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 7 December 1826

Births, Marriages and Death registers

Featured Image 

‘The Singing Minstrel’, Billy Button (b.c.1778–1838). John Church Dempsey (1802–1877)  Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

The Minuet by Filippo Baratti

The Rules of Bath

Richard ‘Beau’ Nash, dandy, Bath’s Master of Ceremonies and unofficial ‘king’ of the city was born in 1674. He set the rules by which Bath society regulated their days, and established it as a resort of fashion. You had to pass Beau Nash’s scrutiny just to be granted admission to the balls and card parties and even the highest in the land had to do as he said.

Richard Beau Nash (1674-1761) by William Hoare; Bath Pump Room/Victoria Art Gallery
Richard Beau Nash (1674-1761) by William Hoare; Bath Pump Room/Victoria Art Gallery

When Kitty, Duchess of Queensberry, one of the era’s fashion icons, appeared at the Assembly Rooms with a delicate white apron over her skirt (which was against the rules), Beau Nash snatched it away and threw it onto the back benches, where the ladies attendants sat, acidly remarking that ‘none but Abigails appeared in white aprons!’ The duchess good-humouredly played the game and laughing, begged pardon of the Master of Ceremonies.

Lady Catherine Hyde (1700-1777), Duchess of Queensberry, as a Milkmaid by Charles Jervas
Lady Catherine Hyde (1700-1777), Duchess of Queensberry, as a Milkmaid by Charles Jervas; National Trust, Petworth House

Even after his death in 1761, Beau Nash’s rules continued to be the basis for the Rules of Bath. The list below is from 1771, as published by Nash’s successor, William Wade and printed in The new Bath guide; or, useful pocket companion (1771).

Bath, October 1, 1771. This day the following new rules were published by the Master of the Ceremonies, and hung up in the Assembly-Rooms.

It being absolutely necessary, that a propriety of dress should be observed at so polite an assembly as that of Bath, it is humbly requested of the company to comply with the following regulations:

That ladies who dance minuets be dressed in a suit of clothes, or a full-trimmed sack, with lappets and dressed hoops, such as are usually worn at St James’s.

It is requested of those ladies who do not dance minuets, not to take up the front seats at the balls.

An early 1770s embroidered mantua which is thought to have been worn to court by Elizabeth Linley, possibly around the same time that she became the wife of the playwright and theatre owner, Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
An early 1770s embroidered mantua which is thought to have been worn to court by Elizabeth Linley, possibly around the same time that she became the wife of the playwright and theatre owner, Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Bath Fashion Museum.

That no lady dance country-dances in a hoop of any kind and those who chuse to pull their hoops off, will be assisted by proper servants in an apartment for that purpose.

That no lady of precedence has a right to take place in country-dances after they have begun.

The Country Dance (The Happy Marriage) by William Hogarth; Tate. (The lady in the hat would never have got away with that at Bath!)
The Country Dance (The Happy Marriage) by William Hogarth; Tate. (The lady in the hat would never have got away with that at Bath!)

The places at the top of the room are reserved for ladies of precedence of the rank of a Peeress of Great Britain and Ireland, it being found very inconvenient to have seats called for and placed before the company, after the ball has begun.

That gentlemen who dance minuets, do wear a full-trimmed suit of clothes, or French frock, hair or wig dressed with a bag.

The Minuet by Filippo Baratti
The Minuet by Filippo Baratti; Lytham Art Collection of Fylde Borough Council

Officers in the navy or army in their uniforms are desired to wear their hair or wig en queue.

Ladies are not to appear with hats, nor gentlemen with boots, in an evening, after the balls are begun for the season; nor the gentlemen with spurs in the Pump Room in a morning.

The subscription balls will begin as soon as possible after six o’clock, and finish precisely at eleven, even in the middle of a dance.

That no hazard or unlawful games will be allowed in these rooms on any account whatever, and no cards on Sundays.

Beau Nash at the Gaming Table by Charles Octavious Wright
Beau Nash at the Gaming Table by Charles Octavious Wright; Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery

That in case any subscriber to the balls should leave Bath before the season is over, such subscriber may, by leaving an order under their hand, transfer his or her tickets for the remaining part of the season.

The major part of the company having expressed their desire that the tea, on public ball-nights, may be paid for by every person that comes into the rooms; the managing committee at the New Rooms, and Mr Gyde at his room, are come to a resolution, that each gentleman or lady on a ball-night are to pay six-pence on their admission at the outer door, which will entitle them to tea.

Wm. Wade, M.C.

Captain William Wade by Thomas Gainsborough; Victoria Art Gallery
Captain William Wade by Thomas Gainsborough; Victoria Art Gallery

Guest post: The Early Dance Circle Annual Lecture

We are delighted to welcome The Early Dance Circle to the blog. On Friday 1st March they have their Annual Lecture, with this year’s guest speaker our good friend and fellow Pen and Sword author, Georgian Gentleman, Mike Rendell. So, to find out more about the event we hand over to Sharon, from the centre, to tell you more:

Join us on the dance floor of history – Learn how to dance Britain’s heritage or come to enjoy watching and help to pass it on.

If you love dance and want to safeguard and pass on its earliest forms in the UK and Europe, join us now. You can help us to secure a thriving future for early dance.

A Ball at Scarborough. Thomas Rowlandson. Yale Centre for British Art
A Ball at Scarborough. Thomas Rowlandson. Yale Centre for British Art

The Early Dance Circle (EDC) is a UK charity that aims to promote the enjoyment, performance and study of historical dance in the UK and beyond.  Formed in 1984, it counts individuals and groups, both amateur and professional, among its members. We believe that a knowledge of earlier forms of dance helps enrich the cultural life of the UK, by accessing a heritage of international importance that belongs to us all, but has been until recently largely forgotten.

Waltzing, c.1810s.
Waltzing, c.1810s. New York Public Library.

Our website, Early Dance Circle, offers information about classes & teachers, all our many events (including an Annual Early Dance Festival) our publications and lots of free resources about the 500 years of dance history in the UK and the rest of Europe. We have sponsored a free annual lecture since 1988.

Our Annual Lecture for 2019 will take place on

Friday 1st March 2019 at 7.15pm

Best foot forward – Georgian Style: Waltzing through History

Speaker: Mike Rendell, Social historian

Venue: Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20 Bloomsbury Way,

London WC1A 2TH

Mike will look at dance in the Georgian era from a social history point of view – its importance, what it was like to go to Bath, to the Pantheon, to Almacks, what people wore, how they travelled, the role of the Master of Ceremonies, the growth of Masquerades – and finally some press reaction to the introduction of that grossly immoral and shocking dance, the waltz.

Her First Dance, William Quiller Orchardson
Her First Dance, William Quiller Orchardson; Tate

Mike is the custodian of a vast array of family papers dating back to the early 1700s. After he retired, he published The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman: The Life and Times of Richard Hall 1729-1801 (2011) about his Georgian ancestor. Currently working on no fewer than three books, Mike is known to 18th Century enthusiasts through his highly varied blogs on life in the Georgian period. He speaks regularly in the UK and abroad.

To reserve your free place, please book on Eventbrite (click here).

A suggested donation on the evening is £5.00

View of Bath by Edmund Garvey

How George III’s 1809 Golden Jubilee was celebrated in Bath

On the 25th October 1809, the jubilee of King George III was celebrated across the nation. Opinion was divided as to whether the jubilee had been celebrated a year too early; 25th October 1809 was the first day of the 50th year of George III’s reign, he had not actually reigned yet for a full fifty years. It was a grand project instigated – and to a large degree planned – by a middle-aged, middle-class lady living in the Welsh borders, a truly amazing woman who is the subject of our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs.

George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815
George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives.

The jubilee was celebrated across the nation, and even on board ships and in foreign territories under British rule. Today, we are going to look at the celebrations that took place in Bath 209 years ago today.

Bath Abbey by an unknown artist
Bath Abbey; Victoria Art Gallery

The Jubilee was this day celebrated here with every demonstration of loyalty. The festival was ushered in by the ringing of bells, and display of flags on the different churches. At eleven o’clock the Mayor and Corporation, accompanied by the Bath Volunteer reg. of Infantry, the Young Gentleman of the Grammar School, the children of the Charity Schools, and the Friendly Societies, (33 in number, containing 2,487 members, each Society distinguished by its particular banner and colours,) went in grand procession to the Abbey Church where an admirable sermon was preached by the Rev Mr Marshall. Part of the Societies went to Walcot Church, where an equally excellent discourse was delivered by the Rev Mr Barry. Collections were made at the doors of both churches for the benevolent purpose of releasing the debtors in the County Gaol.

Looking down Grove Street to Walcot Church.
Looking down Grove Street to Walcot Church. Victoria Art Gallery

On returning to the Hall, cakes and wine were given to the juvenile part of the procession. The Volunteers marched to the Crescent Field, where they fired a feu de joie; and the members of the Friendly Societies departed to their respective club-rooms, in which they dined together in much harmony; each man received towards his expenses 1s. 6d. from the public subscription for that purpose. The Children of the Blue Coat Charity School, about 120 in number, sat down in their school-room to a plentiful dinner of roast beef and plumb pudding, provided at the expense of a highly-respected and loyal gentleman, a resident of this city.

The Crescent at Bath
The Crescent at Bath. Victoria Art Gallery

The Mayor and Corporation, the clergy, with a select party, dined at the White Hart. In the evening there was a ball at the Town Hall. Jubilee medals, with ribbons having suitable mottos in gold letters, were generally worn.

The 'White Hart' Inn, Bath by John Charles Maggs
A slightly later view of the ‘White Hart’ Inn, Bath by John Charles Maggs; Victoria Art Gallery

John Jones, esq, of Woolley, near Bradford, gave to 800 poor persons of that neighbourhood, a sufficient quantity of bread, strong beer, and mutton, in the presence of a large concourse of loyal subjects.

Messrs Divett, Price, Jackson, and Co. regaled nearly 500 persons employed in their manufactory at Bradford by giving them three fine fat sheep roasted whole, plenty of bread, and a large potion of good Wilthshire strong beer.

Bradford, Wiltshire, c.1805.
Bradford, Wiltshire, c.1805. Victoria Art Gallery

The debtors in our city gaol, five in number, were this morning liberated from confinement by the munificence of the sheriffs, Geo. Crook, and Geo. Lye, esqrs, who, from their private purse, settled the creditors’ claims, amounting to 80l.

Mrs Biggs was no radical in her political views, and she initially fought against the jubilee being used for charitable aims; she wanted to see grand and joyous celebrations, with people feasting well and toasting their king with a mug of ale or a glass of wine. Her plans were hijacked to a certain degree and she had to accept that money was put to other uses than celebrating on the day, but she lobbied – anonymously and successfully – for the continuation of her original aims. You can discover how in our book, A Georgian Heroine.

As some of our long-term readers will know, we also host a ‘sister-blog’, The Diaries of Fanny Chapman. Fanny was a middle-class spinster who lived in Bath through the late Georgian and into the Victorian eras, often in company with her aunts. Her diaries from 1807-1812 and 1837-1841 have survived and we were given permission to publish them; they are a wonderful first-hand resource.

Unfortunately, while Fanny heard the jubilee celebrations in Bath, and no doubt was told all about them by the family servants who took advantage of the impromptu holiday, she herself largely stayed indoors, only venturing out for a quick errand. Still, we thought it might be interesting to read her diary entries for the relevant days.

An Account of the Celebration of the Jubilee on the 25th October 1809

Tuesday, 24 October, 1809

A most beautiful day.  My Aunt was so unwell she did not get up till near dinner time.  Admiral and Mrs Phillip calld and sat some time.  He came up stairs.  They were both very friendly and kind.  I went to Mrs Vassall’s to ask if she intended to fulfill her engagement of dinner with us today.  She said she did.  Saw Mrs Horne with her.  I went and ordered a couple of chicken and then calld at my mother’s, but they were not at home.  Only Mrs Vassall and Betsey dined here.  Mr Wiltshire came in while we were at dinner, but did not stay long.  It raind fast in the evening and Mrs Vassall and Betsey went home in a Chair between eight and nine o’clock.  We went to bed early, but were disturbed after twelve o’clock by the ringing of bells and firing of guns to usher in the Jubilee, which is to take place tomorrow on the King’s entering the 50th year of his Reign.  My Aunt heard from Cooper!!!

View of Bath by Edmund Garvey
View of Bath by Edmund Garvey; Number 1 Royal Crescent

Wednesday, 25 October, 1809

A beautiful day.  The whole town was in motion early to see the Processions of the Corporate Volunteers and different Clubs to Church.  All the servants, except Kitty, went out before breakfast and did not return till after two o’clock.  Mrs Gibson calld (for the first time) and sat an hour here.  Miss Workman came in the morning, before we were up, to say she had got a room in the square to see the Procession, where she wishd us to come.  My Aunt P was not well enough to go, but tried to persuade me.  However, I had not the least inclination and was not sorry to be able to stay at home.  I was obliged to go to the Sidney Hotel before dinner to enquire if Mr Gale had heard any thing about the house he mentiond to my Aunt. He told me the proprietor of it was come to Bath and would call on my Aunt today or tomorrow. There was a constant noise of ringing of bells and firing guns the whole day and the bouncing of squibs and crackers in the evening.  I heard from my Uncle James to say all our shares, except one, were blanks and that one was only fifteen pounds.  It began to rain about ten o’clock and continued, I believe, most part of the night.

The Sydney Hotel, Bath
The Sydney Hotel, Bath. Victoria Art Gallery

(To discover more about Fanny Chapman and her diaries, follow the link at the bottom of this page.)

Sources not mentioned above:

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 26th October 1809

Miss Jenny Davis as a bride, 1780

Charles Davis (or Davies) was a painter and artists’ supplier who lived in Bath in the eighteenth-century. In 1778 he placed an advertisement in the Bath Chronicle which both promoted his own business and offered a house in Westgate Buildings for rental. The house was taken by another painter, Thomas Beach, who evidently got to know the Davis family very well for he painted Charles Davis as well as three other members of the family.

CHARLES DAVIS, Painter, the lower end of Westgate-street, near King’s mead-square, sells on the best terms, – All sorts of fine Colours, dry or prepared in oil or water… Crayons… N.B. A convenient House, with four rooms on a floor, situate in Westgate-Buildings, to lett.

East view of Bath Abbey c1805 (Victoria Art Gallery)
East view of Bath Abbey c1805 (Victoria Art Gallery)

Charles Davis had married Hannah Rotten in 1764 at St. James’s in Bath. Thomas Beach’s portrait of Hannah was executed shortly before her death in 1782.

Mrs Charles Davis (1726-1782) by Thomas Beach. Victoria Art Gallery
Mrs Charles Davis (1726-1782) by Thomas Beach; Victoria Art Gallery

The Davis’ only daughter was known as Jenny but was probably the Ann Davis born in Bath in 1766. She was painted by Thomas Beach twice.

Miss Jenny Davis by Thomas Beach. Victoria Art Gallery
Miss Jenny Davis by Thomas Beach; Victoria Art Gallery

In the second portrait of her, painted c.1780, Jenny is portrayed as a bride but it would be a further two years before she actually walked down the aisle of Bath Abbey to marry John Langton, a wholesale linen-draper from Cheapside. She married as Jenny Davis, on 16th April 1782, by licence and with the consent of her father; if hers is the baptism found in 1766 then she was only aged around 16-years at the time of her wedding and was a mere 14-years-of-age when she posed as a bride for Thomas Beach.

Miss Davis as a Bride by Thomas Beach. Victoria Art Gallery
Miss Davis as a Bride by Thomas Beach; Victoria Art Gallery

Eight years later, in 1790, the Davis’ eldest son, Charles Davis Jr, married Lydia Winter; by this union they are the grandparents of the noted Bath architect Major Charles Edward Davis. Lydia was also painted by Thomas Beach, after her marriage. (This painting is incorrectly noted in some sources as being the image of Charles Davis Senior’s second wife.)

MARRIAGES – Thursday, at St. Andrew’s church, Holborn, Mr. Charles Davis, jun. of Bath, to Miss Lydia Winter, of New Ormond-street.

Mrs Charles Davis, Grandmother of Major C.E. Davis by Thomas Beach. Victoria Art Gallery
Mrs Charles Davis, Grandmother of Major C. E. Davis by Thomas Beach; Victoria Art Gallery

Charles Davis Senior married for a second time on 18th October 1792, to Dorothy Townley. The marriage took place at St George’s in Bloomsbury. Dorothy was the sister-in-law of the Bath born actor, Richard Wroughton, who trod the boards of both the Covent Garden and Drury Lane theatres to some acclaim, and who was later a theatre manager. He was an ‘actor of the old school, in which he always maintained a most respectable rank; and as a private Gentleman he was throughout life deservedly respected and esteemed’. Dorothy was mentioned alongside Richard Wroughton in the will of the actress Elizabeth Bennet who died in 1791. Richard Wroughton’s first wife had been Joanna Wroughton.

MARRIAGES – Mr. Charles Davis, of Mount Beacon, near Bath, to Miss Townley, sister-in-law to Richard Wroughton, Esq; of Charlotte-street, Bloomsbury.

Charles Davis (1741-1805) by Thomas Beach. Victoria Art Gallery
Charles Davis (1741-1805) by Thomas Beach; Victoria Art Gallery

 

Sources used:

Dictionary of pastellists before 1800 (online edition), Neil Jeffares

British and Irish Paintings in Public Collections: An Index of British and Irish Oil Paintings by Artists Born Before 1870 in Public and Institutional Collections in the United Kingdom and Ireland by Christopher Wright and Catherine May Gordon. (Yale University Press, 2006)

The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, part two: 1798-1803, edited by Ian Packer and Lynda Pratt.

A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1600-1800, volumes 1 and 2, Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim and Edward A. Langhans. (SIU Press, 1973)

A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1600-1800: W. West to Zwingham, Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim and Edward A. Langhans. (SIU Press, 1993)

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 18th April 1782

Kentish Gazette, 23rd April 1790 and 26th October 1792.

Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 10th February 1822

Fanny Chapman’s Diaries Continued 1837 – 1841

 

1st Sept 1840

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Fanny Chapman
Miss Fanny Chapman

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

 

The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman

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

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

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

Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman
Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman

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

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

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

John Hutton Cooper
John Hutton Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Fanny Chapman
Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman