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

We fly by night on ‘the wings of love’… to Hull

Around midnight, or just shortly thereafter, Miss Mary Burton crept out of her father’s house at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, into the waiting arms of her lover, William Fields, a draper from Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

William must have had a carriage waiting for his lady, but the Stamford Mercury newspaper described their escape much more poetically.

WE FLY BY NIGHT… on “the wings of love”

It is possibly a slight disappointment, after knowing that they flew through the midnight hours on the wings of love, to find that their destination was not more glamorous than William’s home town, Hull. Mary’s father, Mr Burton, a miller and baker (Mary was his only daughter), certainly knew where his errant daughter had gone to and, as soon as he discovered that she was missing, he set off for Hull in hot pursuit.

View of the South End, Hull (The Citadel, Hull) by William Barton, 1809; Ferens Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/view-of-the-south-end-hull-the-citadel-hull-78337
View of the South End, Hull (The Citadel, Hull) by William Barton, 1809; Ferens Art Gallery

But he was too late, the couple had already exchanged their vows to one another at the altar of Holy Trinity church and had married, by licence, on the same day that they had entered Hull, the 25th November 1812 in front of two witnesses, William Sotheran and Esther Fox.

Holy Trinity, Hull c.1735, History of Hull (Annales Regioduni Hullini) [1735] , 1869 reprint.
Holy Trinity, Hull c.1735, History of Hull (Annales Regioduni Hullini) [1735] , 1869 reprint. Via Wikimedia.
Mary, it would appear, was just over 21 years of age; there is a baptism at All Saints in Gainsborough for Mary, daughter of William and Ann Burton (William’s trade is given as a baker) on the 29th October 1791.

Bachelor's Fare, 1814. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016
Bachelor’s Fare, 1814.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

William Fields was likely the same man who traded with a partner, George Benjamin Everington as Everington and Fields, linen drapers of Kingston-upon-Hull. Their partnership was dissolved shortly after William’s hasty marriage, on the 18th December 1812, with William alone carrying on the business and promising to pay all debts owing. He traded from no. 9, Whitefriargate. It is also likely that it was the same William Fields who, in February 1814, announced that he had taken the grocery shop formerly occupied by a Mr Smith at no. 3 North Bridge, Witham, where tea, coffee, spices and sugars could be purchased and if so, he was declared bankrupt before the end of 1815. Perhaps his irate father-in-law was right in his initial judgment of his son-in-law?

The well-known linen drapers Harding, Howell & Co. William Field's establishment would have been much smaller.
The well-known linen drapers Harding, Howell & Co. William Field’s establishment would have been much smaller.

William and Mary Fields baptised a son, named William Burton Fields, in Hull on the 11th January 1814. He was to die young, aged only 11 years, and was buried in the churchyard at All Saints in Gainsborough on the 29th December 1825. We have so far been unable to trace the Fields further but, as William Burton Fields was living back in Gainsborough with his grandfather, we suspect that Mary had either sadly died or that she had returned, with her son, to her father’s home.

At Gainsboro, on Tuesday the 27th ult, aged 11, Henry Burton Fields, grandson to Mr Burton, baker.

(Stamford Mercury, 6 January 1826)

 

Sources:

Stamford Mercury, 4th December 1812

Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, 5th December 1812 and 2nd January 1813

Hull Packet, 17th August 1813, 1st February 1814 and 5th December 1815

Croom's Hill overlooking Hyde Vale, Blackheath by Thomas Christopher Hofland

A Right Royal Scandal blog tour

As many of our readers are no doubt aware we’ve been busy bunnies finishing our second book A Right Royal Scandal and are now working on our third and so today,  rather than hosting our own blog, we thought we’d let you know that we have, in the past few, days been guests on the blogs of Naomi Clifford and the ‘Georgian Gentleman’ which is hosted by Mike Rendell. We thought you might like to check our guest posts on their blogs – Elopement in High Life and Publish and be damned.

Both Naomi and Mike are Pen and Sword authors, Naomi already has her first book out, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn and Mike’s book, In Bed With the Georgians is due to be published on 30th of this month.

So, with that we would like to direct you over to our articles on both sites by following the links below and we really hope you enjoy them:

Naomi Clifford: In Elopement in High Life: Anne Wellesley and Lord Charles Bentinck we give a little taster on the details of their scandalous elopement in 1815, which is recounted in full in A Right Royal Scandal. Anne was the married niece of the Duke of Wellington, and she ran away with her lover just weeks after the Battle of Waterloo.

Georgian Gentleman: In Publish and be damned we take a look at the Regency courtesan Harriette Wilson and the dandy Beau Brummell, and their links with the people we have written about in A Right Royal Scandal.

Please do also take the time to have a look at the other wonderful articles to be found on Naomi and Mike’s sites while you’re there.

jacket-front

 

Judith Redman: errant wife or mistreated spouse?

On the 29th July, 1760, and again a week later on the 5th August, the Leeds Intelligencer newspaper carried the following warning about an errant wife.

WHEREAS JUDITH, the wife of John Redman, of Foster-Farm, within Haworth, in the Parish of Bradford, in the County of York, Yeoman, hath eloped from her said Husband:

These are therefore to give Notice to all Persons whatsoever,

Not to give any Credit to the said JUDITH, for Goods, or other Things she may want, for that they will not be paid for the same.

Judith - advert 2

There was nothing particularly unusual in this advertisement: without it John Redman would be fully liable for any and all debts which his runaway wife contracted, and he wished to disassociate himself from her financially. The couple had not been married for quite two years, their wedding taking place at Haworth on the 7th September, 1758. The marriage took place with the consent of parents, so Judith was probably not quite ‘of age’ when she wed John, and the ceremony was conducted by one John Horsfall, officiating minister, maybe a relative of Judith’s.

St. Michael's and All Angel's Church, Haworth © Dave Green via commonswikimedia.org
St. Michael’s and All Angel’s Church, Haworth
© Dave Green via commonswikimedia.org

33069_256551-00011

What is surprising, however, is the response of this wife, for, in her opinion, she was no mere runaway, but a woman who had been ill-treated and hard done by – and she was not about to have her husband deny her the means of getting credit, which she felt that she was well able to repay herself, with or without any help from him!

And so, for the following two weeks, on the 12th and 19th August, 1760, a slightly different advert appeared in the same newspaper.

NOTICE is hereby given, THAT JUDITH, the Wife of JOHN REDMAN, of Foster-Farm near Haworth, in the County of York, who was advertis’d in our last Paper, doth hereby acknowledge to have eloped from her said Husband; but, that such Elopement was not on account of her Extravagancies, as represented, but on account of her said Husband being, in Times, subject to Fits of Phrenzy and Lunacy; and who has made several Attempts to lay violent Hands upon the said Judith his Wife; and that she could not cohabit with her said Husband as she ought, but was in fear of her Life: Therefore,

As the Public is acquainted with the Reasons of the said Judith’s Elopement, ‘tis hoped no Regard will be paid to her Husband’s late Advertisement, but on the contrary, believe the said Judith, for the future, to be a Person of Credit.

Judith - advert 1

Judith Redman, née Horsfall, born c.1737, lived many years after she fled from her husband, and was buried, aged 52 years, in the churchyard of St. Michael in Haworth on the 21st January, 1789. She died of ‘spotted fever’, probably either typhus or meningitis. There is a probable burial for her husband in the same church in 1780.

33069_256548-00178

Obviously, at this remove, we can’t verify either version, but we applaud Judith’s spirit. She can’t have moved far away given that she was buried in the vicinity of her marital home, and so we do hope that the plucky lady managed to live out the rest of her years happily and peacefully, receiving as much credit from the local tradesmen as she was pleased to do so and able to comfortably repay.

N.B. for the definition of spotted fever we used this Glossary of Medical Terms.

See also our previous blog, What’s the going rate for selling your wife?