Prinny’s Brighton, Piccadilly by the Sea-side By Regan Walker

We are thrilled as always, to welcome back Regan Walker, whose latest book in the Agents of the Crown series, ‘Rogue’s Holiday‘ has just been released and for which there are further details of how to obtain a copy at the end of her article.  Today Regan is going to tell us more about Prinny’s Brighton, so, over to Regan:

When George, the Prince of Wales, reigned as the Prince Regent, beginning in 1811, and even after he became king in 1820, Brighton on the south coast of England was his favourite destination. It was fifty-four miles from London as the road winds, close enough to travel to in one day. The seaside resort provided all the pleasures of the Beau Monde without the discomforts of town. William Wilberforce, after a visit in 1815, dubbed the town “Piccadilly by the sea-side.”

Brighton loved the Prince Regent. Whatever criticisms he may have faced for his lifestyle, the Brighton newspapers celebrated his frequent visits and looked forward to welcoming all those who flocked the seaside town to enjoy what became “the Brighton Season”.

In 1822, the Brighton Gazette reported:

Gay and fashionable equipages are daily pouring into the town, and every thing gives promise of a brilliant and prosperous winter season. Many large houses on the Cliffs, Marine Parade, etc. have been engaged for Noblemen within the last fortnight… Who indeed would not fly the dirt and smoke of the crowded metropolis for a place like Brighton, where he may at once enjoy the pure and healthful breezes of the ocean, and a salubrious climate, without being subject to the dreary ennui of a country life?

Nash’s ‘Views of the Royal Pavilion’, 1826. Brighton Museums
Nash’s ‘Views of the Royal Pavilion’, 1826. Brighton Museums

For the Prince, Brighton became a fantasy escape from his narrow-minded and staid parents who failed to appreciate their son and heir. More than anyone, they were responsible for making Prinny the Grand Corinthian. Thus, it should have come as no surprise that the Prince would build a palace that would be a mogul’s dream where he could entertain his eclectic bevy of friends in grand fashion, including of course, the characters in my story.

The Marine Parade that ran along the shore and the Old Steyne that fronted the Pavilion were wide paths available for a morning or afternoon stroll. But one could certainly keep busy in Brighton. Visitors were offered an endless array of balls, concerts, soirees, private dinners, theatrical events, interspersed with riding, card games and other entertainments.

Nash’s ‘Views of the Royal Pavilion’, 1826. Brighton Museums
Nash’s ‘Views of the Royal Pavilion’, 1826. Brighton Museums

The Pavilion’s designer was architect John Nash who built it in three stages until it became the palace we think of today with its many domes and minarets. There, Prinny reigned as the beneficent patron of the foremost artists and literary men of his age and entertained his diverse friends in the rooms decorated in chinoiserie style to look like the home of a Chinese emperor who lived in a kingdom of flowers and perpetual spring. Rooms, such as the Music Room, pictured above, which Prinny kept overheated with candles and gas lamps.

As the town grew, entertainments were added to rival those of London. Hotels, shops, theatres and a racecourse stood at ready. Castle Square next to the Pavilion and half of North Street were the Bond Street of Brighton where one could buy cloth, shoes, cigars, porcelain and many other things. North Street was home to sixty shops by 1820, the year of my story. By 1808, Brighton also had a department store, Hanningtons, on North Street. Added to that, there were dozens of taverns and hotels, that featured balls and card games. All of the taverns, shops, shopkeepers and hotels mentioned in Rogue’s Holiday existed at the time.

The Castle Inn adjacent to the Pavilion had an assembly room and a smaller room used as a tearoom. The Old Ship Inn, the oldest hotel in Brighton, also had a tearoom. And there was yet another tearoom erected in 1805 in the gardens of a public house a mile away in Preston.

Brighton Museums
Brighton Museums

Among Brighton’s many attractions was sea bathing, where one could be towed to the water in small boxes on wheels to swim, as my heroine does, in the altogether or, if you prefer, in one of the gowns provided. The men’s and women’s bathing areas were separated, of course. Dippers (for women) and bathers (for men) were employed to make sure the person’s head was dipped into the water. Dipping took place year round since the cold water was considered to be good for the health.

Brighton Fishing Boats on the Beach. Drawn and etched by E.W. Cooke, 1829. Pavilion archive
Brighton Fishing Boats on the Beach. Drawn and etched by E.W. Cooke, 1829. Pavilion archive

A wholesale fish market was held on the beach, supplied by 100 ships that sailed in the afternoon or evening and returned in the morning. Mackerel were in season from May to the end of July. Also, Sole, Brill, Turbot (common at all seasons) and Dories were in plentiful supply. As you will see in Rogue’s Holiday, while the fish market proceeded on shore, the boats hoisted their nets to dry.

Among Brighton’s most famous residents was Prinny’s Catholic wife, Maria Fitzherbert,  a virtuous woman who took her marriage to Prince George seriously even if he did not. All of Brighton respected her. The king must have had her on his mind when he died in 1830, for he was buried wearing a locket containing her miniature.

Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert Thomas Gainsborough - 1784. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco - Legion of Honor (United States - San Francisco, California)
Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert Thomas Gainsborough – 1784. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco – Legion of Honor (United States – San Francisco, California)

A curious feature in the category of equipages was the fly carriage, a small covered carriage you might see around Brighton drawn by a man and an assistant. They were very convenient for navigating the narrow streets and had room for two. The ones that Prinny and his noble friends used for midnight excursions were dubbed “fly-by-nights”.

Fly by Night c1823 Brighton Museums
Fly by Night c1823 Brighton Museums

Prinny’s yacht, the HMY the Royal George, was commissioned in 1817 and could often be seen anchored off shore of Brighton when he was in residence. In my story, set in 1820, the king invites my characters to dine onboard. Among Prinny’s friends invited that evening were Lord Alvanley, Sir Bellingham and his wife Harriot, Sir John Lade and his wife Letty, and Elizabeth Conyngham, Marchioness Conyngham, the king’s mistress.

I have described the Royal George, in detail as my research provided. The great cabin really did have windows of plate glass, a skylight, gilded dark wood panelling, a Brussels carpet beneath a mahogany table and a pianoforte, among other accoutrements. As my hero, Sir Robert, said, the king liked to travel in style.

The Royal Yacht 'The Royal George', at Portsmouth Signed and dated 1820. Royal Collection Trust
The Royal Yacht ‘The Royal George’, at Portsmouth Signed and dated 1820. Royal Collection Trust

Even a spy needs a holiday…

​Robert Powell’s work as a spy saves the Cabinet ministers from a gruesome death and wins him accolades from George IV. As a reward, the king grants him a baronetcy and a much-deserved holiday at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton where he thinks to indulge in brandy, cards, good horseflesh and women.

But when Muriel, Dowager Countess of Claremont, learns of Sir Robert’s intended destination, she begs a favour…to watch over an “errant child” who is the grandniece of her good friend living in the resort town. Little does Robbie know that Miss Chastity Reynolds is no child but a beautiful hoyden who is seemingly immune to his charms.

Chastity lives in the shadow of her mother and sisters, dark-haired beauties men admire. Her first Season was a failure but, as she will soon come into a family legacy, she has no need to wed. When she first encounters Sir Robert, she dubs him The Rogue, certain he indulges in a profligate lifestyle she wants no part in.

In Brighton, Robbie discovers he is being followed by friends of the conspirators who had planned to murder the Cabinet. Worse, they know the location of Chastity’s residence.

Below are all the ways you can find out about and purchase Regan’s books, so feel free to click on the highlighted links.

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The Pinterest board for Rogue’s Holiday:

Regan’s website:

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Goodreads

Selected sources for post:

A Prince’s Passion: The Life of the Royal Pavilion by Jessica Rutherford

The Royal Pavilion Brighton, edited by David Beevers

Brighton and Hove by Nicholas Antram and Richard Morrice

Prinny and His Pals by Tom Ambrose

The Brighton Road by Charles Harper

The Brighton and Lewes Guide, by J.V. Button, 1805

The Brighton Gleaner, 1822

The New Brighton Guide, 1796

Eighteenth-century bathing machines

During the eighteenth and into the nineteenth-century it became fashionable and beneficial to enjoy the pleasures of swimming in the sea so, in order to preserve modesty, bathing machines were invented. These allowed the swimmer to enter the contraption fully clothed, undress and get into the water virtually unseen; to swim then return to the machine to get dressed again and leave through the entrance they had arrived through – all very discreet.

Holidaymakers on Scarborough Beach by T. Ramsay
Holidaymakers on Scarborough Beach by T. Ramsay; Scarborough Collections

Scarborough, Yorkshire was reputed to have been an excellent place to swim in the 1730s, but as to whether they had bathing machines we’re really not sure.  Certainly, by the 1770s as you can see above, the bathing machine was very much in evidence.

The first reference we came across of a bathing machine was in the Caledonian Mercury, dated 14th August 1750, although such a machine was believed to exist prior to this.

That the BATHING MACHINE will, from Monday next, be attended close from half flood to half ebb, every lawful day by Thomas Weir Carter in Leith; his station with the same is to be upon the sands to the west of the glasshouse, in order to carry such ladies and gentlemen who want to bathe. And no weather needs to stop the use of it, as by the contrivance persons may bathe securely, without being any ways exposed to the weather. It will hold four persons easily, furnished with pins to hang up their clothes, and clean napkins will be there ready for rubbing.

In 1754, the Whitehall Evening Post carried an advertisement for the

New invented machine for bathing in the sea. The machines move on four wheels, on which is erected a commodious dressing room, furnished in a genteel manner. The machine is contrived, that the persons who bathe descend from out of the above room into the bath, which forms itself in the natural sea, seven feet in length and five in breadth, all enclosed and railed, which renders it both secure and private. The machine during the last season met with genteel approbation; and in order to make still more useful, the proprietors have this season provided an additional machine with proper conveniences for bathing at all times. A woman is appointed to attend the ladies if desired.

As the fashion for swimming in the sea along with its reputed benefits grew, more and more coastal towns had their own machines, set up on the beach from Tynemouth, in the north, to Brighton in the south and everywhere in between.

Figures and Bathing Machines in the Bay below Tynemouth Castle by Ralph I Waters
Figures and Bathing Machines in the Bay below Tynemouth Castle by Ralph I Waters; Laing Art Gallery

One of the most famous people to develop a bathing machine was a Quaker, Benjamin Beale. However, in 1767 there was an immense storm in Margate and his bathing machines were damaged, as they had been twice before, in 1763 and 1764. His loss on this occasion was estimated to be worth over £1,000 and it totally wiped out his business. So much so that Sir John Shaw and a Dr Hawley, of Great Russell Street, sought assistance for him, to enable him to rebuild his business. This was successful and the business was rebuilt, and Benjamin continued his trade until his death in 1775.

On the Sands at Brighton Figures Walking on the Shore by John Dixon. Yale Centre for British Art
On the Sands at Brighton Figures Walking on the Shore by John Dixon. Yale Centre for British Art

As the fashion for sea swimming caught on others developed their own business too, such as these trade cards shows for the ‘The Dunn’s machine’ and ‘The Phillpot’s machine’.

In 1770, Margate became so popular that it even produced its own holiday guide containing

a particular account of Margate, with respect to its new building, assemblies, accommodations, manners of bathing, remarkable places in its neighbourhood and whatever else may be thought necessary for the information of strangers.

Swimming in the sea was a risky affair and there were quite a few incidents recorded of accidental death due to drowning. Other incidents were less dramatic, but somewhat embarrassing, such as the one noted in the St James Chronicle of 1778 when a bathing machine containing ten people capsized. Most escaped to shore… but minus their clothes. There were also reports of people having a few too many drinks, climbing into the bathing machines to sleep off their excesses and the tide changing and them waking up the next morning to find themselves in the sea.

British Museum
British Museum

Apparently, in 1794, two dignified ladies decided as a wager to swim from one bathing machine to another, one was seized with a cramp, but not being out of her depth was rescued. Hopefully, the wager wasn’t too high!

Men and women were segregated for the sake of women’s modesty, but occasional incidents happened where women had to be saved by a gentleman when they swam out of their depth – a few red faces there then!

Margate, Kent a woman diving off a bathing wagon into the sea Coloured etching, ca 1800 Wellcome Library
Margate, Kent a woman diving off a bathing wagon into the sea Coloured etching, ca 1800 Wellcome Library

Here’s a bit of newspaper gossip for you from The Public Advertiser, October 1791.

Man caught in bathing machine with woman, both naked at the time.

Sorry to spoil your fun, it transpired that they were actually husband and wife, but still, it made the newspaper.

Of course, when in Weymouth, the royal family enjoyed a swim, especially George III but apparently his daughter, the Princess Royal, less so as she appeared to feel the cold more and looked half-frozen after her swim.

To finish we couldn’t resist sharing this image of Prinny, The Prince Regent – no words!

Prince of Wales. 1819. Wellcome Library
Prince of Wales. 1819. Wellcome Library

Featured Image

Bathing Machine on Southsea Common. c1788. Yale Centre for British Art

Martha Gunn (1726-1815), Brighton 'dipper'

Martha Gunn – Brighton Celebrity

We’re not quite sure that Martha’s claim to fame would work in today’s celebrity culture, for Martha, who was born Martha Killick daughter of Friend and Anne Killick in 1726 (baptized 19 September 1731), was a ‘dipper‘. Much has been written about her already, but we thought we would add a few extra bits.

'A Calm' by James Gillray (1810).
‘A Calm’ by James Gillray (1810). Courtesy of Princeton University Library

What was a ‘dipper’? Well, in the 1700 and early 1800s doctors would recommend that people bath in seawater to restore their health. Needless to say, this concept was terrifying for many, so in places such as Brighton people were employed as ‘dippers‘.

Huts on wheels, like the one below were used to allow the bather to protect their modesty, the bather would climb into the hut, change into their swimming attire, the machine was then pulled by dippers into the sea. Dippers were also expected to ensure that people were not swept away by the current, arguably like a modern day lifeguard, so they would need to be very strong.

Bathing machine at Weymouth
Weymouth

This occupation in itself was never going to give Martha celebrity status, but her royal connection to the Prince of Wales, later George IV, did. She was a favourite of his and apparently enjoyed special privileges including free access to the kitchen at the Royal Pavilion.

Martha Gunn, Bather at Brighton, 1791 Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Martha Gunn, Bather at Brighton, 1791 Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

The portrait of her below is reputed to show Martha holding the Prince of Wales as a small child, however, this is not feasible as the Prince did not visit Brighton until September 7th, 1783, he was 21. So despite the annotation at the top of the painting this must have been added at a later stage.

Todd’s print catalogue of 1799 simply described the painting as being with an unnamed child.

There was also another copy of the piece produced by William Nutter which is now held by The Met, dated 1797. It does not state that the child was the Prince of Wales, but that the original was in his possession and this one was dedicated to the Prince of Wales.

V0017100 Martha Gunn, a Brighton bather holding a small child that she has just saved from drowning. Coloured engraving by W. Nutter, 1797, after J. Russell. 1797 By: John Russell after: William NutterPublished: 1 June 1797

It also appeared in the following catalogue which confirmed the artist to be John Russell – ‘A catalogue of all the capital and valuable finished and unfinished original works of the distinguished artist, John Russell, Esq. R.A where it was to be sold along with other paintings by Mr Christie on February 14th, 1807.

Martha Gunn and the Prince of Wales by John Russell
Martha Gunn and the Prince of Wales by John Russell; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries
The Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV born 1762 and Mrs Gunn

Martha was a large and strong woman and was well respected by the town and she even featured in the caricature below.

French Invasion or Brighton in a Bustle. Martha Gunn is depicted just left of centre, throttling a Frenchman.
French Invasion or Brighton in a Bustle, Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library. Martha Gunn is depicted just left of centre, throttling a Frenchman.

She died in May 1815 and was buried in the local churchyard.

On Monday last, died, in the 89th year of her age, at Brighton, that well-known and esteemed character, as a bather, Martha Gunn, of that town. Her remains were followed to the grave by a large train of mourners and others.

Hampshire Chronicle, 15 May 1815

Martha Gunn (1726-1815), Brighton 'dipper'
Martha Gunn (1726-1815); Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

Long after her death, a plaque was added to the house where she and her family lived.

Plaque on the Brighton house where Martha Gunn lived. It says: Martha Gunn 1727-1815, the original bathing woman lived here.

 

The Little Green Man or the Bath Bugabo, or the Widows Terror, 1802.

The Green Man of Brighton – Henry Cope

Following one from one of our earlier posts about the colour green, we find ourselves once again on the same topic. This time, however, it is about an English eccentric: Henry Cope aka The Green Man. It is reported that Henry loved anything and everything green. This extract about Henry comes from The Omnium Gatherum, 1809.

The Green Man at Brighton – Amongst the visitors this season is an original, or would-be original, generally known by the appellation of ‘The Green Man’. He is dressed in green pantaloons, green waistcoat, green frock, green cravat and though his ears, whiskers, eye-brows and chin are better powdered than his head, which is, however, covered with flour, his countenance, no doubt, from the reflection of his clothes, is also green. He eats nothing but greens, fruits and vegetables; has his apartments painted green, and furnished with green sofa, green chairs, green tables, green bed and green curtains. His gig, his livery his portmanteau, his gloves and his whips, are all green. With a green silk handkerchief in his hand and a large watch chain with green seals, fastened to the green buttons of his green waistcoat he parades every day on the Steyne, Brighton.

Henry Cope by an unknown artist, published 1806. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Henry Cope by an unknown artist published 1806.
© National Portrait Gallery, London

He became so famous that a verse was written about him, also contained in the above book.

A spruce little man, in a doublet of green,

Perambulates daily the streets and the Steyne;

Green stripe is his waistcoat, his small-clothes are green,

And oft round his neck, a green ‘kerchief is seen;

Green watch-strings, green seals, and for certain I’ve heard,

(Tho’ they’re powder’d) green whiskers, and eke a green beard!

Green garters, green hose, and, deny it who can,

The brains too are green, of the little Green Man!

Virtually nothing seems to be known of his early life, but many tall tales were told about him. Henry was reputed to have been a descendant of Sir John Cope, owner of Bramshill House, Hampshire (later Bramshill Police College) and Henry’s ghost is one of many said to haunt the house. The Morning Advertiser (10 October 1806) however, claimed that The Green Man was a student of Lincoln’s Inn, his mental faculties deranged by intense study, and a near relative of the Duchess of Dorset, Arabella Diana née Cope, daughter of Sir Charles Cope, 2nd Baronet. Others said that he had lost his wits over his love for a beautiful woman. Perhaps she was the Crazy Jane mentioned in this snippet?

Morning Post, 13 October 1806

An interesting young female, in whimsical attire, resembling the costume of the time of Queen ELIZABETH, appeared on Friday evening on the Steyne, at Brighton, in quest, as she said, ‘of the “Knight of the Green Man, who had stolen the wits of Crazy Jane.” She, however, precipitately retired to her residence, before the crowd around her could increase.

A portrait on the Sotheby’s website supposedly shows Henry Cope, The Green Man, as a young man c.1765-1770, identifying him as one of the family of Cope of Bramshill House and holding a ring. The catalogue notes suggest that possibly the portrait was commissioned to mark the sitter’s marriage, but no record of a marriage exists. What happened to Henry Cope’s bride-to-be? Perhaps this might also be a clue to his mental affliction? The artist was Francis Cotes who died in 1775.

Portrait of Henry Cope, 'The Green Man', half-length, wearing green and holding a ring in his left hand. Sotheby's
Portrait of Henry Cope, ‘The Green Man’, half-length, wearing green and holding a ring in his left hand. Sotheby’s

His fame soon spread, and the London newspapers continued to run stories, laughing at his expense.

Morning Advertiser, 16 October 1806

The servant of the Green Man at Brighton arrived yesterday in town, at the Green Man and Still in Oxford-street, for the purpose of contracting with an eminent Poulterer to supply him constantly with green geese at any price at which they can be obtained. The Physicians have pronounced that the unfortunate man is afflicted with the green sickness.

(A green goose is one which is killed when under four months old, and eaten without any stuffing, and hypochromic anaemia was, historically, referred to as ‘the green sickness’.)

The Little Green Man or the Bath Bugabo, or the Widows Terror, 1802. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
The Little Green Man or the Bath Bugabo, or the Widows Terror, 1802.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Henry Cope’s death is often said to have taken place in 1806 as a result of either committing suicide or accidentally falling off a cliff in Brighton. The newspapers of the day suggest that such an event occurred, but he did not die as a result of it.

Staffordshire Advertiser, 01 November 1806

Last Saturday morning, a little after six o’clock, the gentleman and other eccentricities (exhibited on the Steine, at Brighton, for several weeks past) had obtained the appellation of The Green Man, leaped from the window of his lodgings on the South Parade, into the street, ran from thence to the verge of the Cliff nearly opposite, and threw himself over the precipice to the beach below. Several persons immediately ran to his assistance, and carried him, bleeding at the mouth and ears back to his lodging. The height of the Cliff from whence he precipitated himself is about 20 feet perpendicular; but whether his fall has proved dangerous we have not yet heard. From the general demeanour of the above gentleman it is supposed he is deranged. His name, we understand is Henry Cope, and that he is related to some highly-distinguished family.

The Pavilion & Steyne at Brighton, 1806. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
The Pavilion & Steyne at Brighton, 1806. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Morning Post, 24 October 1806

The Green Man of Brighton has received no serious injury from his late accident, though it has effected some change in his colour – for he has ever since looked rather blue.

Several newspapers related that The Green Man had fancied that there was a serious riot in progress and that his presence was needed to quell the disturbance. The person in whose house he was living travelled to London, to contact Cope’s friends and ensure his future safety (Morning Post, 22 October 1806). It would seem, therefore, that the unfortunate Henry Cope lived primarily in London, and his friends did indeed take measures to prevent him from harming himself again for he found himself in St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics in London.

st-lukes-hospital-london

Almost a year later, according to the Morning Advertiser of 5th September 1807, he was still alive but presumably in dire straits.

This day an auction at Fisher’s Rooms, St James’s Street, excited much attention. It consisted of the wearing apparel, gold watch, chain and seals, and other effects belonging to the well-known character, Mr. Henry Cope, commonly called The Green Man, taken in execution for board, lodgings etc. Most of the articles of dress were sold far below their original value and real worth. They were purchased by some of the most respected people, more for curiosities than for use. A full green suit, not much the worse for wear, and consisting of coat, pantaloons, and waistcoat were knocked down at 1l 6s; another green coat and pantaloons, of somewhat a darker hue, went off at 6s 6d; and a green great coat, of exactly the same tinge, at 1l, 12s.  The chapeau de bras, which had been so often and anxiously gazed at by all the fashionable fair upon the Steyne, and public promenades during last season, was disposed of at the moderate rate of one guinea; and for the same amount also went off the miniature set in gold of the beautiful Dulcinea, for whom it is said this unfortunate gentleman has gone mad. It is reported that he is at present in that unhappy state in St. Luke’s hospital, London. The most valuable article, however, disposed of upon this occasion, was a gold repeater, with its chain and seal, which originally cost Mr. Cope 188 guineas. Upon the seal was beautifully engraven the arms and supporters of Earl Vernor, the title this insane Gentleman thought to assume. In the inside of the watch were also engraven ‘the Right Hon. H. Cope, Earl Vernor’ but not withstanding these claims to rank and high estimation, it was sold at the reduced price of 39l 7s 6d. Such are the bargains to be got at Brighton. If sold in London these articles would, no doubt, from the eccentricity of the character to whom they once belonged have brought double the sum.

We have searched as many places as we can think of to locate his death and burial, but all in vain. If anyone out there has any luck please do let us know.