Map of Parson's Green, showing Peterborough House and its surrounding gardens.

Parson’s Green, Fulham: seclusion, secrets and novels

Parson’s Green in Fulham still has two green, open spaces in the heart of its residential area. Back in the eighteenth-century, Fulham was a pleasant rural village outside the bustle of London complete with farms and market gardens that supplied the capital with fruit and vegetables, and Parson’s Green was a hamlet within the manor of Fulham where several fine villas were located.

Parson's Green, Fulham by William Pengree Sherlock, early 19th century.
Parson’s Green, Fulham by William Pengree Sherlock, early 19th century. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Named after the village green and the parsonage where the rectors of St Anne’s, the Fulham parish church lived, it is perhaps best remembered today as the home of the novelist, Samuel Richardson.

Samuel Richardson's House at Parson's Green.
Samuel Richardson’s House at Parson’s Green. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Nearby was Peterborough House, a grand mansion set within large – and once immaculately designed – gardens. The house (originally called Brightwells, or Rightwells) was a large square building with a gallery around the rooftop, many large rooms and furnished with taste; rich frescos decorated the walls and a collection of fine paintings also hung there. Originally a fourteenth-century building, it had been remodelled and rebuilt in the early Stuart style.

Passing through several owners, eventually, it was inherited by Margaret (née Smith), wife of Thomas Carey, second son of Robert, Earl of Monmouth who refurbished the building and renamed it, Villa Carey. By descent, it passed to Charles, the celebrated 3rd Earl of Peterborough and Monmouth, and it was under his watch that the house enjoyed its heyday. Alexander Pope was a frequent visitor and a musical academy was instituted by the earl’s second – but secret – wife, the singer, Anastasia Robinson. Although Anastasia and her mother discreetly lived nearby rather than under the earl’s roof, she presided at his side as mistress of the house during entertainments.

Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough (1658-1735) by Charles Jervas (c.1675-1739). Burghley House Collections.
Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough (1658-1735) by Charles Jervas (c.1675-1739). Burghley House Collections.

Peterborough House passed to the 4th Earl of Peterborough and after his death, his widow Robinaiana (Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s maternal aunt) leased it to Richard Heaviside, a rich Lambeth timber merchant who was climbing the social ladder.

Map of Parson's Green, showing Peterborough House and its surrounding gardens.
Map of Parson’s Green, showing Peterborough House and its surrounding gardens.

Although now fading into disrepair, the real beauty of Peterborough House, the impressive pleasure grounds which surrounded it, were still largely intact. By the 1780s, some of the land had been leased to market gardeners but there remained much of the former glory of this garden, a pleasant wilderness with shady cypress trees, inset with statues and fountains. Beyond the high brick walls on three sides of the mansion, market gardens dominated down to the riverbank while the front of the mansion faced the green with its picturesque pond. It was perfectly secluded and that was perfect for Heaviside’s nefarious activities. As we relate in our latest book, A Georgian Heroine, he abducted – for the second time! – a young girl who was a neighbour of his in Lambeth, Charlotte Williams and had her brought by boat to Peterborough House. You can discover more about Charlotte’s ordeal by clicking here.

Suffice to say, it was akin to the plot of Clarissa, one of Samuel Richardson’s novels, the irony in the situation was that Richardson had lived, and written many of his works, in a villa which stood close by Peterborough House in Parson’s Green.

View of Parson's Green, Fulham, 1795. The walls are those surrounding Peterborough House, around the time that Meyrick pulled down the original mansion.
View of Parson’s Green, Fulham, 1795. The walls are those surrounding Peterborough House, around the time that Meyrick pulled down the original mansion. © The British Library

In time, and with the house and estate in ruins (part of the house had been torn down) Heaviside sold Peterborough House to John Meyrick who razed what was still standing to the ground and had a new mansion constructed in its stead.

Peterborough House, Parson's Green, Fulham, after 1797.
Peterborough House, Parson’s Green, Fulham, after 1797.

The parsonage from which the hamlet took its name stood on the west side of the green until it was demolished around 1740 and replaced with two new houses. Writing of it in 1705, Bowack said, “the house in which the rectors of Fulham used to reside, is now very old, and much decayed. There is, adjoining to it, an old stonebuilding, which seems to be of about three hundred or four hundred years standing, and designed for religious use; in all probability, a chapel for the rectors and their domestics. Before the said house is a large common, which, within the memory of several ancient inhabitants now living, was used for a bowling-green”.

Cricket matches were also held on the green; two notable matches between teams from Fulham and Chelsea were contested there in 1731 and 1733.

A game of cricket, unknown artist after Francis Hayman, 18th century.
A game of cricket, unknown artist after Francis Hayman, 18th century. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

In later years, Maria Fitzherbert, George IV’s ‘clandestine’ wife lived in East End House on the east side of Parson’s Green

Fair at Parson's Green by Thomas Rowlandson.
Fair at Parson’s Green by Thomas Rowlandson. Sotheby’s

Sources:

Fulham, pp.344-424, The Environs of London: Volume 2, County of Middlesex. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1795

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Joanne Major and Sarah Murden, Pen and Sword, 2015

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, Joanne Major and Sarah Murden, Pen and Sword, 2017

(From left to right) John Glynn, John Wilkes and John Horne Tooke and is a copy after Richard Houston, (original 1769) (National Portrait Gallery London)

John Wilkes and Knighton Gorges Manor House

In the late eighteenth-century, John Wilkes, journalist, radical and politician, took a cottage on the Isle of Wight in which he installed his middle aged mistress Amelia Arnold and subsequently he was a frequent guest at Knighton Gorges Manor, the nearby house of Maurice George Bisset and his wife.  Bisset’s wife, formerly Harriat Mordaunt, was the illegitimate daughter of Charles Henry Mordaunt, the 4th Earl of Peterborough and his mistress (and later second wife) Robinaiana Brown and also cousin to the infamous courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, as we reveal in our book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliot. Another local landowner was Sir Richard Worsley whose wife Bisset had, some years earlier, eloped with, leading to a very public and shocking criminal conversation case (for more information on the infamous Lady Worsley see Hallie Rubenhold’s excellent biography, The Scandalous Lady W).

John Wilkes's Cottage [near Sandown Fort] on the Isle of Wight.
John Wilkes’s Cottage [near Sandown Fort] on the Isle of Wight. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
John Wilkes had a legitimate daughter, Mary (Polly) (to whom he wrote about Lady Peterborough and Miss Mordaunt in 1775) and two illegitimate children, a son by his housekeeper Catherine Smith who he passed off as his nephew and a daughter named Harriet by his mistress, Amelia Arnold.

Brighthelmstone,

Thursday, Oct. 16, 1775

Lady Peterborough, Miss M___t, more gloomy and dejected than ever, and Miss G___d as pert and flippant as at Bath, more is impossible, are here, and no other ladies I believe of your acquaintance.

Wilkes wrote to his daughter Polly from Sandham Cottage, his house on the Isle of Wight, on 15th July 1791 to tell her that ‘Captain Bissett dined here yesterday, but I have neither seen nor heard of Sir Richard Worsley. The French ladies are at Knighton House, a grandmother, mother and little daughter’ and later that same month he wrote again, mentioning that he was kindly supplied with melons and other fruit from Knighton Gorges.  The French ladies were perhaps aristocratic emigrants who had run for their lives before they lost their heads to the guillotine during the French Revolution. Grace Dalrymple Elliot and her friend Lady Seymour Worsley (Sir Richard’s wife) were not quite so lucky, and while they kept their heads on their shoulders, they were unable to flee Paris and had to endure the terror of those years, documented in An Infamous Mistress.

John Wilkes and his daughter Mary by Johann Zoffany, c.1779.
John Wilkes and his daughter Mary (Polly) by Johann Zoffany, c.1779. National Portrait Gallery, London

Knighton Gorges (now demolished) was one of the most magnificent houses on the island, a contemporary description in an island history says of it:

The manor house is an ancient building, but appears to have been constructed with much taste and judgment; and great attention has been evidently paid to it, to preserve its original beauty, in the various reparations which inevitably have been bestowed upon it. In particular we may observe, that one part of the building is finely variegated by the ivy that binds its gable ends, which perhaps, are too numerous to afford pleasure and delight to the eye; and that the windows in front are all latticed and retain their antique pillars of stone for their present supporters. It is finely situated on the gentle rising of a hill between some fine woods, but at a sufficient distance to afford some very beautiful prospects.

Knighton, the Seat of George M. Bisset, Esq.
Knighton, the Seat of George M. Bisset, Esq. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Featured image:

The picture at the head of the article is of (from left to right) John Glynn, John Wilkes and John Horne Tooke and is a copy after Richard Houston, (original 1769) (National Portrait Gallery London)

Sources:

Letters from the year 1774 to the year 1796, of John Wilkes, Esq. addressed to his daughter the late Miss Wilkes, Volume 4, 1804.82-83

A New, Correct and much improved History of the Isle of Wight, John Albin, London, 1795

The Earl and Countess of Mexborough, in their coronation robes, with Their Son, Lord Pollington by Joshua Reynolds; Doddington Hall

Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s aunt and uncle at the coronation of George III in 1761

Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the subject of our book An Infamous Mistress, was only around seven years of age at the time of the coronation of King George III on the 22nd September 1761 at Westminster Abbey.

George III in his coronation robes, by Allan Ramsay.
George III in his coronation robes, by Allan Ramsay.

Grace, living in Scotland with her maternal relatives after her father had abandoned his young family, might just have had a first-hand account of the ceremony from her aunt, Robinaiana, Countess of Peterborough, who attended the coronation.

Ramsay, Allan; Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of George III; National Galleries of Scotland; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/queen-charlotte-17441818-princess-sophia-charlotte-of-mecklenburg-strelitz-queen-of-george-iii-213105
Ramsay, Allan; Queen Charlotte in her coronation robes (1744-1818), Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of George III; National Galleries of Scotland

As Peers of the Realm, the Earl and Countess of Peterborough would have been expected to wear their robes of state and coronets. An Earl’s coronet was a:

 . . . circle [of gold], richly chased, having eight pearls raised upon high points of gold, which spring out of the upper rim, with an equal number of strawberry leaves, formed of the same metal, standing upon lower points between them. It has also a doubling of Ermine, cap and tassel . . .

The Earl of Peterborough’s robes would have been of crimson velvet, lined with white sarcenet and with three guards of Ermine. Robinaiana’s state robe too would have consisted of crimson velvet and ermine, with her coronet having a cap also of crimson velvet turned up with Ermine and a button and tassel of gold on the top. The length of the train of the robe was regulated by the rank of the wearer; a Countess was allowed a train of up to a yard and a half in length.

Form of the Procession to the Coronation of the Sovereigns of England, 1760. (University of Virginia)
Form of the Procession to the Coronation of the Sovereigns of England.
(University of Virginia)

Whilst we know of no picture representing the Earl and Countess of Peterborough dressed for the coronation, there is one hanging at Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire which shows the Earl and Countess of Mexborough dressed for the occasion.

The Earl and Countess of Mexborough, in their coronation robes, with Their Son, Lord Pollington by Joshua Reynolds; Doddington Hall
The Earl and Countess of Mexborough, in their coronation robes, with Their Son, Lord Pollington by Joshua Reynolds; Doddington Hall

Horace Walpole mentioned Robinaiana, Countess of Peterborough’s appearance at the coronation, and you can read more about that in our book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, available now from Pen and Sword Books and all good bookshops.

 

Sources:

A Faithful Account of the Processions and Ceremonies observed in the Coronation of the Kings and Queen of England: exemplified in that of their late most sacred Majesties King George the Third and Queen Charlotte with all the other interesting proceedings connected with that magnificent festival. Edited by Richard Thomson, 1820.

Burglary, French servants and Mrs Elliott’s aunt – a 1778 crime gone terribly wrong

Janet Edmondes was one of the constant presences in the life of the courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  She was Grace’s maternal aunt and by the late 1770s was on to her third husband, Colonel Thomas Edmondes.  Janet is mentioned frequently in our book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott but the following is a little extra information, especially for the readers of our blog and containing some information not found in our book.

36 Old Queen Street via British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol10/pt1/plate-75
36 Old Queen Street via British History Online

The Edmondes’ London townhouse, no. 36 Old Queen Street, was the target of a burglary on the 14th March 1778. Janet had owned the house before her marriage to Colonel Edmondes, when she was the widowed Mrs Kelly, and she had taken over the house from the disgraced Reverend William Dodd, the Macaroni Preacher of whom we have written before (click here to read about him). Dodd had ended his days by swinging on the gallows at Tyburn, convicted of forgery.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Francis Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison had been hired by Colonel Edmondes in January of that year as a butler and master’s man. The Colonel had discharged the man employed as a footman soon after and had then left London (his brother died this month and it is likely that this is the reason for the Colonel’s departure) and so the only occupants of the house on the night of 14th March were Janet, three maids, including Mary Giles the cook, and Francis Lewis Crimison. Crimison had gained permission to go out and see his wife and he returned around 10 o’clock in the evening with Janet, after which the cook fastened the house up for the night and retired to bed. All was silent until the early hours of the morning when the night watchman knocked at the door. John Wadding, the watchman, had heard a pistol being discharged inside Janet’s house and on calling out heard a man inside the house cry that he had been attacked and was tied up. Constantia Jones, one of the maids, answered the door to the watchman.

Crimison claimed that three men had entered the house and he had fired a shot at one before they had tied him up, but the watchman could find no sign of any such shot in the room. The watchman stated that Crimison’s hands were tied but very loosely to his ankles and he could have easily freed his hands. A pane of glass was broken in a window, the shutters were open and a considerable amount of property had been stolen.

Sir John Fielding by Nathaniel Hone, 1762 © The National Portrait Gallery
Sir John Fielding by Nathaniel Hone, 1762
© The National Portrait Gallery

John Clarke, one of Sir John Fielding’s men, soon realised that the robbery must have been committed by someone in the house. By dint of examining the broken pane of glass and the shutters surrounding it, he came to the conclusion that what force had been used had been from the inside of the building and not the outside and, tellingly, a cobweb across the window had not been disturbed. Janet was reluctant to suspect any of her servants but once some of the missing goods were discovered at Crimison’s wife’s house the game was up for him. He took Clarke to the cistern at the Edmondes’ house where the rest of the goods were.[1]

The stolen goods are listed in full at the end of this article. They belonged to Colonel Thomas Edmondes, Charles Henry Mordaunt the 5th Earl of Peterborough (Janet Edmondes’ nephew and therefore Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s cousin) and the Right Honourable Lord George Germain (later the 1st Viscount Sackville), although all were in the house of Colonel Edmondes.

George Sackville Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville by Nathaniel Hone, 1760 © The National Portrait Gallery
George Sackville Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville by Nathaniel Hone, 1760
© The National Portrait Gallery

The London Evening Post asserted that ‘Francis Lewis Grimeson’ was a Frenchman and carried the following warning.

We hope this discovery will warm gentlemen against taking into their families foreign, or indeed any servants, without enquiring into their characters, which was the case here.  The superior confidence place by people of fashion, at this time, in foreign servants, is unaccountable, since every day’s experience proves how unworthy they are even of an equality with natives.[2]

Francis Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison, was tried at the Old Bailey on the 29th April 1778 and being found guilty was sentenced to death by hanging. On the 24th June 1778, he was taken from Newgate to Tyburn where he was executed.

Burglary - Newgate
Elevation of the front of the new prison, as it appeared before it was rebuilt following the 1780 riot; part of a larger plate with a further view of the New River Office; illustration to Maitland’s ‘The History of London’, 1772. © The Trustees of the British Museum

A little biographical information on Frances Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison and his wife follows. He married, as Francis Lewis Grimeisen, on the 4th November 1777 at St Peter and St. Paul in Mitcham, Surrey. His bride was Ann Ruth Lee of Clerkenwell St James.  Just a month before the burglary, in February 1778, Francis and Ann had baptised a daughter, Anna Maria Christiana Grimeisen at St. Clement Danes church.

Left a widow by his execution, Ann Ruth Grimeisen possibly married again as Ruth Grimeisen, a widow of St. Luke’s, Finsbury to William Gabriel on the 27th September 1780.

Notes:

[1]Old Bailey Online

[2]London Evening Post, 17-19th March 1778.

 

And finally, for interest, the rather lengthy list of stolen goods:

a gold ring, set with diamonds, value £40

a silver pin, set with a diamond, value £10

a silver shirt buckle, set with diamonds, value £10

two pairs of silver shoe buckles, set with stone, value £5

a gold neckcloth slider, value 10 s. 6 d.

a silver cream pot, value 20 s.

two silver ragoo spoons, value 20 s.

a silver marrow spoon, value 10 s.

twelve silver tea spoons, value 24 s.

two pairs of silver sugar tongs, value 20 s.

eight silver table spoons, value 40 s.

a silver sugar basket, value 40 s.

two silver ale-cups, value £6

four silver scewers, value 20 s.

a silver strainer, value 15 s.

a silver strainer spoon, value 5 s.

a silver fork, value 10 s.

a cork-screw with a silver handle, value 5 s.

a silver tea-pot, value £5

a cane with a gold head, value 20 s.

a silver tea tray, value £50

a silver salver, value £10

two silver waiters, value £10

a pair of silver candlesticks, value £10

a silver sauce-boat, value 50 s.

two silver salts, value 20 s.

a silver mustard castor, value 35 s.

a silver mustard spoon, value 5 s.

a silver bread basket, value £10

two woollen cloth coats, value £3

2 woollen cloth waistcoats, value 20 s.

two pairs of woollen cloth breeches, value 20 s.

eleven pairs of silk stockings, value 50 s.

a woollen cloth coat, with gold-lace thereon, value 20 s.

a woollen cloth waistcoat, with gold-lace thereon, value 20 s.

a pair of woollen cloth breeches, value 10 s.

a gilt sword knot, value 20 s.

 

Header image: Attribution: Hallwyl Museum / CC BY-SA

More detail on Grace and her Aunt Janet can be found in our book, An Infamous Mistress.

Samuel Richardson, the Novelist (1684-1761), Seated, Surrounded by his Second Family by Francis Hayman, 1740-41; Tate

‘Clarissa’ and ‘ Pamela’ by Samuel Richardson

Samuel Richardson wrote two best-selling novels – Clarissa and Pamela in the 1740′s, published whilst he was living at Parson’s Green in Fulham, a close neighbour of the Earl of Peterborough and his mansion, Peterborough House. Clarissa tells the story of Clarissa Harlowe, a young girl whose family are newly come into a fortune.

The Harlowe Family, from Samuel Richardson's "Clarissa" by Joseph Highmore (Yale Centre for British Art)
The Harlowe Family, from Samuel Richardson’s “Clarissa” by Joseph Highmore (Yale Centre for British Art)

First betrothed to Richard Lovelace in anticipation of the Earldom he will inherit, she is then forced by her family to marry a man she loathes, Roger Solmes.  Lovelace, intent on marrying her to avenge himself on her family as well as wanting to possess her, tricks Clarissa into running away with him before she can marry Solmes; she is subsequently held prisoner by his before being drugged and raped. Pamela was published slightly earlier tells the story of a maidservant Pamela Andrews whose master Mr B made unwanted advances toward her.

Pamela in the Bedroom with Mrs Jewkes and Mr B. by Joseph Highmore, 1743-4, The Tate
Pamela in the Bedroom with Mrs Jewkes and Mr B. by Joseph Highmore, 1743-4, The Tate

Mr B was infatuated with her looks and her innocence and intelligence, but his position in society prevented him from marrying her, so instead, he abducted her and locked him up in one of his houses, during which time he attempted to seduce and rape her. She, of course, resisted, but over time fell in love with him. He intercepted letters she wrote to her parents, eventually, she tried to escape. Her virtue was finally rewarded when he proposed marriage to her. In the second part of the novel, Pamela attempts to build a successful relationship with him and to acclimate to upper-class society.

Pamela is Married by Joseph Highmore, 1743-4, The Tate
Pamela is Married by Joseph Highmore, 1743-4, The Tate

The reason for mentioning this is that there are many similarities between Richardson’s stories and one of our future books. It does raise the question was our heroine telling the truth or had she actually read his fictional stories and decided that her life story would be more interesting if there had been more drama in it? You’d have to read our book for the answer to that question.

Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa Harlow by Francis Hayman, 1753
Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa Harlow by Francis Hayman, 1753

Header image:

Samuel Richardson, the Novelist (1684-1761), Seated, Surrounded by his Second Family by Francis Hayman, 1740-41; Tate