A summer reading selection: green men, sovereigns, moles and bawds

We are taking our annual summer holiday from blogging and so this will be our last post until September when we will be back with plenty of new posts and some exciting news (CLICK HERE for a teaser and there’s a little more to be found at the end of this blog!). In the meantime though, we have taken a look back at a few of our favourite blogs from this year, in a summer reading recap for our readers, old and new.

We invite you to discover Henry Cope, the Green Man of Brighton. He dressed in ‘green pantaloons, green waistcoat, green frock, green cravat… He eats nothing but greens, fruits and vegetables; has his apartments painted green, and furnished with a 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, the Green Man of Brighton, 1806. © National Portrait Gallery, London

What rake is ignorant of King’s Coffee House? Moll King was the proprietress of King’s Coffee House in Covent Garden and she counted Hogarth, Henry Fielding, Alexander Pope and John Gay amongst her customers. Separating fact from fiction, we present the true account of her life in our blog post.

The Four Times of the Day: Morning by Hogarth.

Back in March, we were guest-blogging on the subject of the Allied Sovereigns’ Visit to England in 1814, when the Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and other European sovereigns were hosted by the Prince Regent to celebrate the Peace of Paris and the abdication of Napoléon Bonaparte, who had been exiled to Elba.

The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, 24 June 1814

We have a post on folklore next: Fortune Telling Using Moles. No, not the small, furry creatures! Find out why a round mole is luckier than an angular one and whether your mole denotes a good marriage, health, wealth and wisdom or a testy contention and ungovernable spirit.

A Fortune-Teller by Joshua Reynolds: Kenwood, English Heritage

Upon stumbling across a painting of two children which captured our interest, we turned art detectives and delved into the history behind it, discovering the family of Captain Richard Davison Pritchard of the Royal Navy.The Children of Captain R. D. Pritchard (1827) by Philip August Gaugain (1791–1865)<br /> Walker Art Gallery

We hope that you enjoy your summer and we’d like to thank all our readers for their continued support of our blog and for your comments. When we come back in September, we will begin to share with you the incredible but true story of a woman who history has largely forgotten, a woman whose story has to be read to be believed and which proves the old adage that fact is often much stranger than fiction. If you haven’t already subscribed to our blog, please do give us a follow to be kept updated and – if you’re too impatient to wait until September – CLICK HERE for a little ‘spoiler’ and be one of the first to find out more…

 

 

Featured image:

Outskirts of a Town (detail from), British (English) School, Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

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Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737

Moll King, proprietress of King’s Coffee House in Covent Garden

‘What rake is ignorant of King’s Coffee House?’

(Henry Fielding, The Covent Garden Tragedy, 1732).

There are many tall tales told about Mary (Moll) King, a shrewd businesswoman and proprietress of King’s Coffee House in London’s Covent Garden. Several sources also say that she was a pickpocket, stealing watches from ladies’ pockets, and spent time in Newgate for her crimes as well as being transported on more than one occasion, each time returning home to England post haste. She was, it was alleged, an accomplice of the notorious Jonathan Wild, one of his gang of thieves, and while in Newgate met Daniel Defoe who, it is alleged, used her as the inspiration for Moll Flanders. Later she settled down with her husband to run their very successful coffee shop, from where she operated as a form of bawd and was prosecuted for keeping a disorderly house.

Moll King of King's Coffee House, Covent Garden

It all seems a little far-fetched and, if we’re completely honest, we don’t believe the half of it. A certain Moll King appeared before the judges for thieving in 1693, and our Moll wasn’t born until 1696 (as claimed in a pamphlet, The Life and Character of Moll King, late mistress of King’s Coffee House in Covent Garden published anonymously in 1747 shortly after her death).

Mary King is not an uncommon name and we’re sure more than one Mary or Moll King would have been in trouble with the authorities in London in the first half of the eighteenth-century. It seems that the history of the pick-pocketing Moll King, who had a criminal career lasting between at least 1693 and 1728 and who Defoe based Moll Flanders upon, has become entwined in popular imagination with that of Moll King, mistress of King’s Coffee House. The pick-pocketing rumours abounded even during Moll’s own lifetime, as they are specifically discredited in The Life and Character.

Moll was born in 1696 in a garret in Vine Street (now Grape Street) in the heart of St Giles in the Fields, the daughter of a shoemaker and a fruit, fish and greens seller. As a child, she helped her mother in the market and had a brief spell as a servant but hated being indoors all day and went back to selling fruit from a barrow. According to The Life and Character, in 1717 at the Fleet, she married one Thomas King.

Vegetable seller, Covent Garden market by Pieter Angillis, c.1726. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Vegetable seller, Covent Garden market by Pieter Angillis, c.1726.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Tom King too has a somewhat fanciful story. The son of an obviously well-to-do family, he was born around 1694 in West Ashton in Wiltshire. E.J. Burford, in Wits, Wenchers, and Wantons: London’s Low Life: Covent Garden in the Eighteenth Century says he was the son of Thomas King, a squire of Thurlow in Suffolk and Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Cordell, Baronet, who had married in 1691 at St Paul’s in Covent Garden.[1] In 1708, at the age of 14 years, he went to Eton and then, in 1713, to King’s College, Cambridge. Three years later he left Cambridge under a cloud, either expelled or in apprehension that his fellowship would be denied to him, depending upon which account you read. Whatever the cause, he ended up working in Covent Garden market where he was known as Smooth’d-Fac’d-Tom, and there he met Moll.

Covent Garden Market (1726), Pieter Angillis from the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Covent Garden Market (1726), Pieter Angillis from the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Around the time she met Tom, it is alleged that Moll also had an affair with a gentleman named John Stanley who, in 1723, met his end at the gallows on Tyburn; he had stabbed his mistress. A pamphlet published the same year gave his history, including details of his brief dalliance with Moll five years earlier.

Is it true? Almost certainly not; it’s another of the many myths which surround Moll’s life, and probably relates to Moll the pick-pocket. The Life and Character admits only an affair with a man named Murray who was in high public office, whilst noting that the handsome Moll was never short of male admirers. One son was born to Tom and Moll, named Charles (Moll names him in her will as her only child and subsequent claims that she educated him at Eton appear to be a falsehood stemming from Tom King’s education there).

The next sighting of either Tom or Moll upon which we can rely comes in 1730 when ‘Thomas King, the Market’ appeared amongst the list of victuallers in St Paul’s, Covent Garden in the licensing register.

The Kings, or rather Moll, had made a tidy profit selling nuts from a stall in the Covent Garden market, and with the money rented a shabby little house (in fact nothing more than a wooden shack) in the Piazza at Covent Garden market and began selling coffee, tea and chocolate to the market sellers, naming their business King’s Coffee House. It was soon known informally as King’s College. As they opened in the very early hours of the morning, when the market traders began work and started to sell strong liquors as well as coffee, they began attracting the custom of those who had ventured to Covent Garden after dark, seeking pleasure, everyone from prostitutes to fashionable young beaux. Soon they were open all through the night. It is said that the clientele included Hogarth, Henry Fielding (who mentioned the coffee house in two of his works), Alexander Pope and John Gay. By 1732 business was booming and the Kings bought the two adjoining properties to expand their business. The new Covent Garden Theatre opened next door to their coffee house.

Inside the King's Coffee House. British Museum
Inside the King’s Coffee House.
British Museum

The business thrived. It is said that Moll acted as a procuress and bawd, but had no beds in the coffee house (except hers and Tom’s in an upstairs room, accessed via a ladder which they pulled up behind them) so she could not be prosecuted for running a brothel. Instead, the assignation would be made at her coffee house and she would then send a servant to light their way to a nearby bagnio. It is also suggested that she operated as a money lender. To deter outsiders from knowing what was going on within their doors, Tom and Moll, and their customers, started ‘Talking Flash’, their own secret language.

Their good fortune enabled Tom to build two or three ‘substantial houses’ and a villa on Haverstock Hill on the road to Hampstead, and he and Moll moved into one of them. The dancer and actress Nancy Dawson (famous for her hornpipe between acts in The Beggar’s Opera) later lived in the villa. Tom King died in the October of 1737 at his Hampstead home after a lingering illness exacerbated by his drinking and was buried at St Paul’s in Covent Garden on the 11th of that month. Moll was granted administration of his estate (goods in Hart Street, Covent Garden and the Coffee House in Covent Garden were mentioned) and took over the running of their coffee house, together with her nephew, William King.

Moll now took to drink – she was previously known for remaining sober – and the coffee house gained a worse reputation than that which it had previously enjoyed under Tom’s management and she began to appear before the courts charged with keeping a disorderly house. It was around this time that Hogarth depicted King’s College in his painting Morning, one of ‘The Four Times of the Day’ series. The scene shows two rakes and their prostitutes who have just staggered out of King’s into the early morning sunshine of a wintry day; icicles can be seen hanging from the timber roof of the coffee shop. Inside, a fight can be seen taking place.

Morning, one of the Four Times of Day series by William Hogarth.
British Museum

Moll stayed a widow for a twelvemonth, and when her year of mourning was over she married again, on the 11th October 1738 at St Dunstan in the West, to John Hoff, a carpenter and builder who lived on Compton Street in Soho. It was thought that John Hoff married Moll for her money, and indeed she did continue to use her former married name, at least in connection with her coffee house, but none of the evidence suggests that Mr Hoff was after Moll’s fortune. He died just less than four months into their marriage and his will, written on the 6th February 1739, appoints Moll as his executrix and everything is left to her. Moll proved the will on the 9th February before her husband was even in his grave. (John Hoff was buried at St Paul’s in Covent Garden on the 14th February 1739.)

It was in 1739, shortly after Mr Hoff’s death, that a disturbance at King’s Coffee House made the newspapers. A young gentleman claimed that Moll had beaten him in her house and the case ended up in the Court of the King’s Bench. Moll was found guilty. She was told that she was to be fined the considerable sum of £200, had to find sureties for her future good behaviour and that she would be held in prison until the fine was paid. Moll stubbornly went to prison refusing to pay the fine for, as she said, “if she was to pay two hundred pounds to all the insolent boys she had thrash’d for their impudence, the Bank of England would be unable to furnish her with the cash”. In her absence, the coffee house was run by her nephew and Moll languished in prison. It was said that she eventually came to an arrangement to pay less than half the fine in return for her release.

Moll retained her Hampstead villa (which was known locally as Moll King’s Folly), but when she came to write her will on the 6th June 1747 she was ‘Mary Hoff of the parish of St Paul Covent Garden, widow’. She left a few small bequests to her sister-in-law and friends, but the bulk of her reputedly considerable fortune she left to her only child, Charles King, in trust for him until he reached 30 years of age. If he died before that, she willed that her estate be used by the parish of St Giles in the Fields to benefit poor children. Moll obviously hadn’t forgotten her roots. She died later that year, on the 17th September 1747 and was buried ten days later in the same churchyard as her two husbands, St Paul’s Covent Garden.

A view of Hampstead Road near Tom King's House
British Museum

It was after Moll’s death that The Life and Character of Moll King appeared on the streets, which gave details of her criminal career. But how much truth is there in it? To be honest, we’re still not completely sure. Our opinion, and it is no more than that, is that the legend of the pick-pocketing Moll King has become entwined with that of Moll King, mistress of King’s Coffee House. You could accuse the latter Moll of being a bawd, a drunk and the keeper of a disorderly house, but we’re not sure that you could accuse her of much else. Unfortunately, it’s probably one of those cases which will never truly be proved one way or the other.

A Monument for Tom King of King's Coffee House. British Museum
A Monument for Tom King of King’s Coffee House
British Museum

 

Notes:

[1] E. J. Burford says Thurlow in Essex, but the marriage register at Covent Garden gives Thurlow in Suffolk. Thomas was the son of Robert King of Great Thurlow in Suffolk; Robert’s will c.1709 mentions his ‘unfortunate son’ Thomas and a grandson named John King, but not a grandson named Thomas.

 

Header image:

Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737 (The Tate)

 

Sources:

The Records of Old Westminsters, Up to 1927

The Life and Character of Moll King, late mistress of King’s Coffee House in Covent Garden, 1747

Women in Business, 1700-1850 by Nicola Jane Phillips, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2006

London – The Wicked City: A Thousand Years of Prostitution and Vice by Fergus Linnane, Robson, 2007

Wits, Wenchers, and Wantons: London’s Low Life: Covent Garden in the Eighteenth Century by E. J. Burford, Robert Hale Ltd, 1986

Transactions of the Royal Historical Society: Volume 11: Sixth Series, The Royal Historical Society, Cambridge University Press, 2003

Tom King’s Coffee House on Wikipedia

Old and New London: Volume 5. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

Derby Mercury, 13th October 1737 and 7th June 1739

National Archives: PROB 3/36/147, 20th December 1737

The celebrated Mrs Lessingham: lover, mother, sister, daughter

In our last article on Samuel Derrick we mentioned that he lived for a time with ‘the celebrated Mrs L’, otherwise the actress Jane Lessingham.  As we have managed to find out some new information on her children and relatives we thought the following might be of interest to our readers.

Mrs Lessingham in The Inconstant, Cornell University Library.
Mrs Lessingham in The Inconstant, Cornell University Library.

Jane Lessingham had been born Jane Hemet around 1734, the daughter of Francis Hemet, an ‘operator of teeth’ (dentist) and his wife, the splendidly named Polehampton Feuillet who had married in 1725;  both of whose families had been Huguenot refugees. Jane was their youngest child, three older brothers having already been born with only two, John René and Jacob Hemet surviving infancy.

Jane’s paternal grandfather Peter Hemet, had been ‘operator of the teeth’ to King George II and her brother Jacob was to fill the same post to King George III’s wife Queen Charlotte, to the Prince of Wales and to the King’s favourite daughter, the Princess Amelia. Jane’s maternal grandfather, René Feuillet, was a history painter. Learn more about the Hemet family of dentists.

Francis Hemet died in 1736 and his widow married again in 1739 to a confectioner and grocer, John Francklin of St. Martin in the Fields, a friend of the Hemet family. Five Francklin children, half brothers and sisters to Jane, quickly followed, another Polehampton, Edward, James, Frances Isabella and George.

Jane Hemet, when she came of age on her twenty first birthday, could expect a small inheritance, having been named in both her father and paternal grandfathers wills.  On the 28th December 1755, at St. Paul’s Covent Garden (commonly known as the Actor’s Church), she married John Stott a widowed naval captain, Jane herself applying for the licence to enable them to marry.  The couple had lived together for little more than two years when, in February 1758, John Stott left to sail for America aboard HMS Gramont of which he was commander. Mrs Jane Stott after travelling to Portsmouth to wave goodbye to her husband proceeded to take lodgings in London, living first in Mattock Street, Hanover Square before moving to Dean Street in the parish of St. Anne’s, Soho.

Covent Garden Piazza and Market, London by Samuel Scott (showing St Paul's Church), 1749-1758 out of copyright; (c) Museum of London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Covent Garden Piazza and Market, London by Samuel Scott (showing St Paul’s Church), 1749-1758
out of copyright; (c) Museum of London

At around the time that John Stott had left, Jane’s half-sister Polehampton came to live with her to keep her company whilst he was away.  Before Stott had sailed the family had lived in Twickenham and Polehampton had been at a boarding school in Hounslow since the beginning of 1757. She had visited the Stott’s in Twickenham weekly, leaving the boarding school to move to London and Mattock Street with Jane in March 1758 and she remained with Jane until January 1763.

It was at the Dean Street house that Captain John Stott discovered his wife on his return to England in July 1761, visibly pregnant and with a two year old daughter, neither of his begetting. The daughter, Amelia, was born in Dean Street on the 7th June 1759, delivered by Dr Hunter and baptized on the 13th June 1759 at St. Anne’s, Soho, as the daughter of John and Jane Stott.

This daughter was cited in the divorce proceedings brought by John Stott against his errant wife in 1765, various witnesses testifying to both the birth of the daughter and to the impossibility of John Stott being the father. Curiously, the child Jane had been carrying at Stott’s return was not mentioned. This child proved to be a son, named George and born on the 11th November 1761. He was baptised fifteen days later in the same church his sister had been, again recorded as the son of John and Jane Stott.

Amongst the witnesses brought to the divorce trial was Jane’s half-sister Polehampton, who stated herself to be the wife of James Martin but lodging with Joseph Burnin of Litchfield Street in St. Anne’s Soho. Her testimony was dated the 6th April 1765 and there is the possibility that she had copied the behaviour of her elder sister for in the baptismal registers of St. Anne Soho are the following two entries:

16th October 1763 – baptism of Joseph son of Joseph and Polehampton Martin

14th April 1765 – baptism of Jane Margaret daughter of Joseph and Polehampton Bernin, (the child was born the day before).

In the divorce trial Polehampton’s husband is James and not Joseph Martin, but she would appear, in the April of 1765, to be the wife of one man whilst having a child by another with whom she is lodging. It’s also worth noting that she left Jane’s house in the January of 1763, around the same time she must have fallen pregnant with Martin’s son.

Jane Stott had first appeared on the stage in 1756 in the early days of her marriage, as Desdemona in Othello and Samuel Derrick has been cited as the man who first brought her to the stage although Tate Wilkinson, in his Memoirs, says that she was a pupil of John Rich in this year. She was certainly the mistress of Samuel Derrick at some point in the 1750s and/or 1760s, even being known as Mrs Derrick for a time, one account saying this was before her marriage and another during it and with no further proof it is entirely possible that this cohabitation coincided with her husband’s absence and that Derrick was the father of one or more of the two children baptised as being Stott’s. No possible father was named in the divorce proceedings, the proof of Jane’s infidelity being all too present in the person of her daughter, the father’s name being irrelevant to the trial.

Mrs Lessingham in the character of Flora, Cornell University Library.
Mrs Lessingham in the character of Flora, Cornell University Library.

After Jane’s initial appearance on stage in 1756 she did not appear again until February 1762. From March of that year she used the surname Lessingham as her stage name. Jane was reputed to take other lovers, including a naval officer senior to her husband, Admiral Boscawen, who died in 1761. If this rumour is correct he must also be a candidate for the father of one or both of her children.  The Captain referred to in the reference below is not Jane’s husband but Captain William Hanger, son of Baron Coleraine and one of the many lovers of the actress Sophia Baddeley.  It was written in 1772 at the time of his affair with Sophia but recounted the many amours of his past, which included, according to the author, Jane herself.

At the time Mrs. L____m, the actress, was supported in a most splendid manner by Admiral B___n, whilst he was gaining laurels for himself, and glory for his country abroad, the Captain most politely attended her at home, to prevent her grief becoming too violent in the absence of her naval admirer.

MEMOIRS OF CAPTAIN H___ and MRS. B____Y

Middlesex Journal or Chronicle of Liberty, 30th May 1772

Towards the end of the 1760s she became the mistress of Thomas Harris, one of the managers of the Covent Garden Theatre formerly owned by another of the people we have written about, John Rich, and was the cause of a quarrel between the theatre managers, Harris believing that she was not given the parts which she deserved.

Jane bore three sons to Harris, all baptised at the Percy Chapel in St. Pancras. The eldest, Edmund John Thomas Harris, was born on the 31st March 1768 and baptized a month later, his parents were recorded in the baptism register as Thomas and Jane Harris alias Jane Lessingham.

Edmund Thomas Harris 1768

Baptism of Edmund Thomas Harris – click on image to enlarge

Just a month before his birth she was on stage at Covent Garden as Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice at a benefit performance for Charles Macklin, appearing alongside Macklin himself, his daughter Maria and Ned Shuter.  Jane was given a benefit at the same theatre at the end of March, her address been given as Charlotte Street at the top of Rathbone Place, Oxford Road, the actors including Miss Macklin and George Anne Bellamy.

Jane and Harris’s second son, Charles, followed shortly after, being born on the 1st June 1769 and baptized on the 18th of the same month and lastly the third son, Edwin, born on the 2nd February 1771 and baptized 10th April 1771.

The baptism register records the parents of the last two children simply as Thomas and Jane Harris.  Thomas Harris and Jane parted in 1771.   Mr H___ in the article below is obviously Thomas Harris.

To the Editor of the GENERAL EVENING POST.

Since the misfortunes and indiscretions of the fair sex seem to engross more particularly the attention of the world, than any other topic, I must beg leave, for the entertainment of your readers, to acquaint them with the enlargement of Mrs L____m – who, to the unspeakable distress of Mr. H___, has eloped to some corner of the earth, with a new paramour, utterly unknow[n] to the afflicted Menelaus. This Helen of an actress very young married to Capt. S___, of the navy – she left him for Delaval; Delaval for Boscawen; Boscawen for Pembroke; Pembroke for Colbourne; Colbourne for Mason; and Mason for H___; and alas! H___ for whom neither he nor I know. By all these she has had sweet children – Is it not a pity, that so fruitful a mother has not a consideration from Government, who has made so much food for gunpowder! Mr H___, poor gentleman, is all in the fuds upon this melancholy elopement. Could he stimulate the theatric Grecians, as the injuries of Menelaus of yore did, we might be entertained with the siege of some old castle surrounded with a moat, and defended by rooks, where this delectable run-away is supposed to be immured.

TELL-TALE

General Evening Post, 27 August 1771

Towards the end of June 1772, a Mrs Lessingham was recorded passing through Canterbury on her way to France in company with a Mr Ashley Esquire.

In the mid 1770s, whilst under the protection of Sir William Addington, Bow Street magistrate, Jane Lessingham applied for the right to build herself a lodge on Hampstead Heath. Although first granted through her influential friends, objections were raised leading to a ‘riot on Hampstead Heath’; Jane herself possibly composed a pamphlet titled ‘The Hampstead Contest’ which was inscribed to her. She got her way, buying a cottage at Littleworth in 1776 to get around the objections and building Heath Lodge complete with pleasure grounds, enclosed from the surrounding heathland. A description of the house in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9: Hampstead, Paddington gives it as a ‘three-storyed cube with a central semicircular bay and flanking two-storyed wings designed by James Wyatt on the model of a villa in Italy.’ Addington was then discarded for a Covent Garden actor known as a ‘teapot actor‘, possibly from his habit of standing with one hand on his hip.  As Mrs Lessingham, Jane continued to perform at the Covent Garden theatre up to 1782, largely in comedic roles which she performed best in.

The understrapper Justice of Bow-street Lock has received his dismission in form from the suite of his long admired actress, Mrs. L____m of Covent-garden Theatre, which has so much affected his worship for this fortnight past, that even his attendant thief takers pity him, and say, it will bring the old buck’s grey hairs with sorrow to the grave!

Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 22nd April 1777

It is not known what became of Jane’s daughter, Amelia Stott; she seems to vanish without trace from the records. Her son George Stott was possibly buried in the churchyard at St. Anne’s in Soho on the 12th August 1772, being recorded in the register as a child from Pancras although his absence from the divorce trial may well indicate he had died previous to that. Her three sons by Harris were all named in Jane’s will which she wrote on the 12th December 1782; she left whatever she died possessed of to Thomas Harris in trust for the sole use of these three boys, stipulating that one further son, Frederick, was to take his share if he was not better provided for. We have not yet discovered Frederick’s birth or baptism but, as it seems that Jane hoped he would be provided for, his father was possibly a man of means. He was born c.1772 and used the name of William Frederick Williams in later life and may have penned four novels, Sketches of Modern Life; Or, Man as He Ought Not to be (1799), Fitzmaurice: A Novel in two volumes (1800), Tales of an Exile (1803) and The Witcheries of Craig Isaf (1805).

Jane signed herself as Jane Hemet on her will; she died on the 13th March 1783 at her house on Hampstead Heath and was buried on the 17th in Hampstead churchyard, the burial register and her tombstone recording her under her maiden surname. Although her house was sold just months after her death, her will was not proved by Harris till more than a year later.  The house sold for substantially more than it had cost to erect and was bought by Lord Byron, uncle of the poet.

By Mr. BARFORD

On the premises, on Friday the 30th instant, punctua’ly at one o’clock, unless previously Let or Sold by Private Contract.

A Small, but elegant Villa, situate on the most elevated part of the north side of Hampstead Heath, with about two acres of land laid out with distinguished taste in pleasure grounds, shrubberies, and kitchen gardens, &c. This beautiful erection, entirely detached from any neighbourhood; has been the admiration of all who have seen it. To the North-east and West, a series of prospects richly adorned by the hand of Nature, and agreeably variegated by the innovations of Art, open to the view, and form a landscape replete, with every decoration that can delight the eye, or gratify the judgment. The premises are copyhold, and although at present adapted to the reception of a small family, may be considerably enlarged, and an additional quantity of land, if necessary, obtained. The contiguity of the situation to the metropolis, and the uncommon salubrity of the air, renders the whole a most amiable retreat to a person whose avocations may require an attendance in town.

To be viewed, and particulars known, by applying to Mr. Barford, Covent Garden.

Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 19th May 1783

The elegant villa of the late Mrs Lessingham was on Friday put up by public auction, when it was bought in at the very low price of 560l. The whole expence attending this villa, including the taking up of the ground in Copyholders Court – law contests thence ensuing – enclosing – planting and building, are computed at near 3000l.

General Evening Post, 7th June 1783

Lord Byron, who bought poor Mrs Lessingham’s little Villa, near Hampstead, keeps it exactly in the order in which she left it. – His Lordship, both in this place and an Newste[a]d Abbey, shews an imagination negligent of art, and addicted to the wilder beauties of nature.

After the divorce was finally granted in the late 1760’s Captain John Stott married for a third time in Soho on the 18th October 1770 to a woman named Elizabeth Graham. When he wrote his will in 1771 he was Captain of his Majesty’s Ship of War the Juno and he left his entire estate to his ‘dear wife‘ whom he made sole executor of his will. He died on the 22nd August 1778, in command of a 32 gun frigate, the Minerva, in the West Indies. Unaware that the American War of Independence had broken out and that France had declared war on Britain, he approached the Concorde, a French ship; the Concorde fired a broadside at Minerva causing an explosion of the powder held below deck. Amongst the dead and wounded was Captain John Stott, fatally injured by two wounds to his head.

Battle between the french frigate Concorde and the English frigate Minerva 22 Aug 1778 (Wikimedia)
Battle between the french frigate Concorde and the English frigate Minerva 22 Aug 1778 (Wikimedia)

These words were written of Jane in her lifetime; we are unable to say if they are applied to her fairly or unfairly:

What shall we say of LESSINGHAM, the fair,

She has of managers been long the care;

Oh, that regard would make her all their own,

And snatch a tasteless milksop from the town;

One who for parts eternally would fight,

Without the sense, or talents, to be right.

The Theatres. A Poetical Dissection by Sir Nicholas Nipclose, Baronet, 1771

[pseudonym of Francis Gentleman, Irish actor, poet and writer]

However, we shall leave her with a testament to her from one of her sons and she was obviously a much beloved and lamented mother. When she was buried at Hampstead in 1783 her memorial recorded her name as Mrs Hemet. Jane’s youngest child replaced this almost twenty years after her death with the following inscription on her tomb in the churchyard although the age given makes her about five years younger than she would actually have been.

MRS JANE LESSINGHAM,

late of the Theatre Royal

Covent Garden

Obt 13 March 1783

æt 44

Her grateful and affectionate son WILLIAM FREDERICK,

caused this tomb to be repaired, anno 1802,

as a last token of respect to her memory.

William Frederick was to die young just three years later. His last request was to be buried in the same grave as his mother, adding his name to her memorial.

WILLIAM FREDERICK WILLIAMS

died October 24th, MDCCCV,

aged 33 years.

Covent Garden Theatre from Microcosm of London, courtesy of British Library

Charles Macklin

Charles Macklin, actor and playwright, was well known to many of the people we have been writing about. The following is the account of his funeral, taken from an addendum to volume 2 of his own memoirs published in 1798, which is of particular interest to us as the Reverend John Ambrose, subject of our last article, was present. Macklin had died at his house on Tavistock Row on 11 July, 1797. 

Charles Macklin by John Opie c.1792, National Portrait Gallery
Charles Macklin by John Opie c.1792, National Portrait Gallery

The funeral took place on the 16th July 1797.

His remains were conveyed on the Saturday following, at half past one in the afternoon, to Covent Garden Church, the cavalcade consisted of a hearse and four, and three coaches and four.

The following Gentlemen attended as mourners.

Mr Hull, of Covent-Garden theatre,  Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Griffith, Dr. Akinson, Mr. Barlow, Dr. Kennedy, Mr. Kirkman, Mr. Brandon, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Davies, Mr. Ledger, Drury Lane theatre, Mr. Munden, Covent-Garden theatre.

The corpse was taken into the vestry, and prayers were read over it in a very impressive manner, by the Rev. Mr. Ambrose, who had been a pupil of Mr. Macklin, and from the respect he bore his tutor, had come from Cambridge, to perform the last act of kindness, in reading over him the funeral service. – After this ceremony, the body was interred in the vault close to the north gate of the Churchyard, at the entrance of Covent-garden.

On the coffin plate was inscribed,

MR. CHARLES MACKLIN,

Comedian,

Died the 11th of July, 1797,

Aged 97 Years.

The funeral was respectfully conducted by Mr. Slope of Covent Garden Theatre.

His true age has long been disputed, some accounts adding ten years on to his age at death.

macklin

Great crowds of people had assembled to view the procession and burial. Macklin reputedly left £50 for Parson Ambrose to attend his funeral, possibly not with the intended result as in Charles Macklin: An Actor’s Life by William W. Appleton is the following note:

It had always been the actor’s wish to avoid useless pomp and, accordingly, only three coaches followed the hearse. But at St Paul’s [Covent Garden] a great number of spectators had gathered, and a delegation of friends from the Antelope. Prayers were recited by an ex-pupil, the Reverend Mr. Ambrose, ‘in an impressive and pathetic manner’ which would no doubt have displeased him.

‘The Antelope’ was Macklin’s favourite tavern, situated in White Horse Yard, Drury Lane, a place where he spent a great deal of time. Of the mourners listed above, we can give the following information.

Johan Zoffany's Charles Macklin as Shylock, detail of paintwork for Tate conservation project (www.tate.org.uk)
Johan Zoffany’s Charles Macklin as Shylock, detail of paintwork for Tate conservation project (www.tate.org.uk)

Edward Barlow and Richard Hughes were both treasurers of the Covent Garden theatre. Thomas Hull was an actor, manager and playwright, Mr Kirkman was Macklin’s biographer, Mr Brandon was the box office keeper and Dr Akinson is given elsewhere as Dr Atkinson. Joseph Munden was an actor at the theatre and Dr Morgan Hugh Kennedy was a close friend of David Garrick, Samuel Foote and others. His wife, the former Mrs Margaret Farrell, had formerly been a popular singer at both Covent Garden and the Haymarket. Dr Kennedy was active in petitioning for clemency (without success) for the Reverend William Dodd, the Macaroni Parson, whom we have written of before.

Charles Macklin as Shylock in Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice', Covent Garden, 1767/1768 by Johann Zoffany (c) The Holburne Museum
Charles Macklin as Shylock in Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’, Covent Garden, 1767/1768 by Johann Zoffany
(c) The Holburne Museum