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

The Truth about the Eccentric Jane Lewson who died aged 116

Where do we begin with this story? Let’s begin with the accounts of Jane’s life as repeatedly recorded ad nauseum since her death in 1816 and which has entered into folklore … after all, why let the facts get in the way of a good story! Except that for those who read our articles will know we have a penchant for setting records straight.

Jane Lewson, remarkable for her age and peculiarities. © The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Jane Lewson died on 28th May 1816, at her home, no. 12 Coldbath Square, Clerkenwell, aged 116. She was reputedly one of the figures who may have provided the inspiration for Dickens’s Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. She was known in the local area as Lady Lewson due to her eccentric appearance: she chose to wear clothes that would have been worn during the reign of George I.

Clerkenwell c1806. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Clerkenwell c.1806. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

Jane Vaughan was born in 1700, in Essex Street, The Strand of most respectable parents. She married a wealthy gentleman, Mr Lewson, who died when she was only 26, leaving her to raise her daughter alone.  Jane apparently had many suitors but never remarried. When her daughter married, Jane became almost a recluse, rarely going out or allowing visitors and as the years passed, Jane became more and more eccentric and retained no servants except one old female servant and then, after this lady’s death, an old man who looked after several houses in the square and who would go on errands for her, clean shoes etc. Jane eventually took this man into her house where he acted as her steward, butler, cook and housemaid, and, with the exception of two old lap-dogs and a cat, he was her only companion.

A later depiction of The Strand, Looking Eastwards from Exeter Change, London; Caleb Robert Stanley; Museum of London. Exeter Exchange was a shopping centre. The church in the centre is St Mary-le-Strand and the tower behind it is that of St Clement Danes.
A later depiction of The Strand, Looking Eastwards from Exeter Change, London; Caleb Robert Stanley; Museum of London. Exeter Exchange was a shopping centre. The church in the centre is St Mary-le-Strand and the tower behind it is that of St Clement Danes.

The house was large and elegantly furnished but very run down. The beds were kept constantly made, although they had not been slept in for about 50 years. Despite the attention of the old lady and gentleman retained as a servant, Jane’s apartment was only occasionally swept out but never washed, the windows were so crusted with dirt, that they let in virtually no light.

Jane never washed as she believed that those who did so caught colds, so instead smeared herself with hog’s lard because it was soft and lubricating Her overall health was good, and she apparently cut two teeth when aged 87.  She would only drink tea from her favourite cup and always sat in her favourite chair. She lived through five reigns and was supposed to be the most faithful historian of her time, the events of 1715 being fresh in her recollection. Jane loved her garden and that was the only part of her home that was well maintained.

She always wore powder, with a large téte, made of horse hair, on her head, near half a foot high, over which her hair was turned up; a cap over it, which knotted under her chin and three or four curls hanging down her neck. She generally wore silk gowns, and a long train with a deep flounce all round; a very long waist and very tightly laced up to her neck, round which was a kind of ruff or frill. The sleeves of her gown came below the elbow. A large straw bonnet, high-heeled shoes, a large black silk cloak, trimmed with lace and a gold-headed cane, completed her everyday costume for around 80 years.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/392524
The Met Museum.

Her funeral consisted of a hearse and four, and two mourning carriages, containing Mr Anthony, of Clerkenwell, her executor and some relatives.

Charing Cross looking up The Strand. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Charing Cross looking up The Strand. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

After her death, a witness recalled visiting the house and was shocked to find the number of bolts and bars fitted to the doors and windows. The ceiling of the upper floors lined with bars to prevent anyone getting into the property through the ceiling. The cinder ashes had not been removed for many years and were piled up as if to form beds.

Right, so we’ve finished with the fiction, let’s get down to the facts. The ODNB gave us a slightly cryptic clue that all may not be well the existing information about Jane, but it stopped short of following it through.

Had further investigation been carried out the clues contained in the 1846 book, The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk by Alfred Inigo Suckling would have been found. Suckling also placed Jane’s husband in a very wealthy family with links to the house of Cromwell.

Robert's first family. Click to enlarge
Robert’s first family. Click to enlarge

 

Robert and Jane's family tree. Click to enlarge
Robert and Jane’s family tree. Click to enlarge

Jane Vaughan, according to her burial at Bunhill Fields was buried as Jane Luson, not Lewson and was aged 96, not 117, making her birth closer to 1720, rather than 1700.

3rd June 1816. Luson, Jane. Coldbath Square
3rd June 1816. Luson, Jane. Coldbath Square (click on the image to enlarge)

She did not marry until 21 July 1751, so if she had been born in 1700, then she must have been 51 when they married and in her sixties when she gave birth to three daughters, Maria, Elizabeth, Hepzibah and a son Robert (buried 1759). Her husband was Robert Luson, a very wealthy merchant from Great Yarmouth and the couple were married at St Mary-Le-Strand, Somerset House Chapel.

Robert had previously been married in Great Yarmouth, but his wife Hepzibah had died some years previously. Robert then died in 1769 almost 20 years after their marriage and left Jane well provided, but his estate Blundeston Hall he left to his eldest daughter, Maria, who married George Nicholls in 1778 and his other estates in Blundeston to his second daughter Hepzibah, who married Nathaniel Rix in 1777 and a further estate to his third daughter, Elizabeth who married Cammant Money in 1776.

Blundeston Hall, Blundeston. Courtesy of Adrian S Pye under Creative Commons Licence
Blundeston Hall, Blundeston. Courtesy of Adrian S Pye under Creative Commons Licence

There is one baptism which could feasibly be Jane’s, but we are unable to confirm that it is her. It is dated 3rd February 1720 and took place at the Temple Church, The Strand, London with the parents named as Thomas and Jane.  Temple Church is only a few minutes’ walk away from St Clement Danes which Jane gave as her home parish when she married and Essex Street where she was reputed to have been born.

Temple Church. Picturesque Views with an Historical Account of the Inns of Court in London and Westminster by Samuel Ireland. courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Temple Church. Picturesque Views with an Historical Account of the Inns of Court in London and Westminster by Samuel Ireland. courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

Jane did leave a will, dated 11th May 1816 in which she named her servant William Brunton who received many of the household belongings plus an annual payment for the remainder of his life and one or two friends, but no provision was made for any family members.

Sources

The Edinburgh Annual Register, Volume 9 edited by Walter Scott

Records of longevity: with an introductory discourse on vital statistics by Bailey, Thomas, 1785-1856

Clerkenwell News 08 November 1870

Lancaster Gazette 22 June 1816

Liverpool Mercury 28 June 1816

Featured Image

Fleet Street and Temple Bar by Samuel Scott. Courtesy of the Walker Art Gallery

Dando: the celebrated gormandizing oyster eater

Dando - gormandizer
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

To Gormandize – to eat (food) voraciously and greedily.

Edward Dando (not John Dando as he seems to be everywhere else recorded), born in Southwark on the 11th February 1803 to John and Frances Dando, grew up to be a ‘celebrated gormandizer.’

Edward Dando

Click to enlarge

He was also known by the appellation of the ‘celebrated oyster eater.’  For Dando, although not a thief (by his own reckoning) did not see why he should not have plenty of everything, even though he had no money to pay for it, when his betters relied constantly on credit to fund their lifestyles.  He was determined to live as they did.

Trained as a hatter, Edward Dando, when in his early twenties, embarked on his career as an oyster eater, devouring up to thirty dozen large oysters in a sitting, with bread and butter, washed down with quantities of porter or brandy and water, before informing the keeper of the oyster house that he could not pay for his fare, with the usual results of a beating or a spell in gaol, or sometimes both.  Although his dish of choice seems to have been oysters, he was not above devouring other fare too.

HATTON-GARDEN. – Last night the celebrated gormandiser at other people’s expense, Edward Dando, was brought before Mr. LAING, and in default of bail was committed to prison, charged with having, last evening about seven o’clock, devoured divers rounds of toast, and sundry basins of soup and coffee, at the Sun Coffee-house, Charles-street, Hatton-garden, without paying for the same.

(The Morning Post, Police Intelligence, 4th January, 1831).

Often notices were put in the papers, warning of his presence, ‘CAUTION TO SHELL FISH DEALERS, PUBLICANS, &c. – DANDO THE OYSTER-EATER, ABROAD’ (The Morning Chronicle 2nd April 1832).

© Yale University Library
© Yale University Library

A few months later the Morning Chronicle repeated a paragraph on Dando from the Kentish Gazette; Dando had travelled into Kent to continue his gormandizing there, possibly having become too well known in his usual London haunts to carry on his trade.  The Kentish Gazette had issued a description of Dando.

DANDO ON HIS TRAVELS!  Dando, the celebrated oyster eater . . . committed for vagrancy . . . 29 years of age, lame in the right foot, stands five feet seven inches in height, his hair is brown, complexion fair, and he generally wears a gaol dress. (Kentish Gazette)

(The Morning Chronicle, 25th June 1832)

Edward Dando, now twenty-nine years of age, returned to London, having been imprisoned in Kent several times during his tour, and it was only a matter of days before he found himself in Coldbath Fields prison, otherwise known as the Middlesex House of Correction, located in Clerkenwell.  There he was taken ill with cholera, and a beggar named James Martin who was likewise a prisoner went to his assistance.  Both men were removed to the infirmary where they both died within a few hours of each other.  The two men were buried alongside each other on Wednesday 29th August 1832 at St. James in Clerkenwell.

Burial 1832

DEATH OF DANDO, THE OYSTER EATER – We have this day to record the death of the well-known Dando, the terror of shell-fish dealers, and all other purveyors of the necessaries of life.

(Morning Post, 1st September 1832)

 Years after Dando died his exploits were still remembered.  In 1838 Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, presumably unaware of his death, joked that ‘the celebrated Mr Dando, the oyster-eater’ was intended to be resident stipendiary commissioner of a “Central Metropolitan Oyster Emporium” in Dublin and Charles Dickens recalled Dando when he wrote to Professor Felton in 1842:
. . . but perhaps you don’t know who Dando was.  He was an oyster-eater, my dear Felton.  He used to go into oyster-shops, without a farthing of money, and stand at the counter eating natives, until the man who opened them grew pale, cast down his knife, staggered backward, struck his white forehead with his open hand, and cried, “You are Dando!!!” He has been known to eat twenty dozen at one sitting, and would have eaten forty, if the truth had not flashed upon the shopkeeper. For these offences he was constantly committed to the House of Correction. During his last imprisonment he was taken ill, got worse and worse, and at last began knocking violent double knocks at Death’s door. The doctor stood beside his bed, with his fingers on his pulse.

“He is going,” says the doctor. “I see it in his eye. There is only one thing that would keep life in him for another hour, and that is–oysters.” They were immediately brought. Dando swallowed eight, and feebly took a ninth. He held it in his mouth and looked round the bed strangely. “Not a bad one, is it?” says the doctor. The patient shook his head, rubbed his trembling hand upon his stomach, bolted the oyster, and fell back–dead. They buried him in the prison-yard, and paved his grave with oyster-shells.

Oyster Seller by O. J. Mason (c) City of London Corporation; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Oyster Seller by O. J. Mason
(c) City of London Corporation; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A farce by Edward Stirling, ‘Dandolo; or, the last of the Doges,’ produced in 1838 was based on Dando’s gormandizing career, Dandolo being played by Sam Vale.

 There was also a ballad produced about Edward Dando:
lifetimesofjames00hindrich_0360
lifetimesofjames00hindrich_0361
  IMPORTANT UPDATE
The brilliantly talented poet Luke Wright has written an amazing poem about Edward Dando that we would like to share with you . . . we’re sure you will enjoy it.
 Featured Image
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Sources not otherwise noted above:
The Life and Times of James Catnach of Seven Dials, ballad monger by Charles Hindley, 1878