Wolstan Dixie (1701-1767) 4th Bt of Boston Hall, Leicestershire, and his family seated around a harpsichord by Henry Pickering, 1755 (via Wikimedia)

Sir Wolstan Dixie, 4th Baronet: myths and facts

We looked at Sir Wolstan Dixie, 4th Baronet of Market Bosworth in an earlier blog, and we promised we’d return to him in due course, to take a closer look at the man and his family.

Sir Wolstan was a pugnacious and pig-headed bully, and legend suggests he committed an awful crime.

Sir Wolstan Dixie (1700-1767), 4th Bt, Market Bosworth by Henry Pickering, 1741; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries
Sir Wolstan Dixie (1700-1767), 4th Bt, Market Bosworth by Henry Pickering, 1741; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

We mentioned in our previous blog that Samuel Johnson lived with the family at Bosworth Hall for a time, while he was employed by Dixie as an usher at the local grammar school, ‘but was treated with what he represented as intolerable harshness; and, after suffering for a few months such complicated misery, he relinquished a situation for which all his life afterwards he recollected with the strongest aversion, and even a degree of horror’. At times, it’s difficult to know what is true and what is a tall tale when it comes to Sir Wolstan: he’s reputed to have made his butler the headmaster of the grammar school, purely because he could do so and no-one could nay say him. But, we reckon we can debunk that last one as a myth; we’ll say why at the end of this blog.

Sir Wolstan Dixie also fell out with his neighbours, particularly with Wrightson Mundy of Osbaston Hall and Markeaton. Dixie attacked one of Mundy’s waggoners when he caught the man driving across his park so Mundy disguised himself as a waggoner and repeated the offence. When Dixie tried to pull the waggoner down he got the surprise of his life when the man revealed himself to by Mundy, who then proceeded to deliver one almighty beating to the bemused Sir Wolstan Dixie. Possibly Mundy was the same squire with whom Sir Wolstan came to blows after the latter had closed off a footpath which gave access across some of his land. Shortly afterwards, Sir Wolstan appeared at court and was presented to George II and the king, when he heard that Sir Wolstan’s estate was Bosworth Park, recalled the ancient battle fought in 1485 and asked, “Bosworth! Big battle at Bosworth, wasn’t it?” With the memory of his recent fight fresh in his mind, Sir Wolstan stupefied the king when he replied, “Yes, Sire. But, I thrashed him!”

Wrightson Mundy, Esq. (1715-1762) by an unknown artist; Derby Museums Trust
Wrightson Mundy, Esq. (1715-1762) by an unknown artist; Derby Museums Trust

In May 1735, at All Hallows by London Wall, he married Anna Frere, a young, beautiful and – most importantly for Sir Wolstan – an extremely wealthy heiress. Anna had been born on the island of Barbados in 1711, the daughter of John Frere who, just before his death in 1721, was the acting governor of Barbados. After his death, his widow, Elizabeth, and her young family (there were four daughters, of whom Anna was the eldest, and two sons) returned to London and took a house on Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury. Elizabeth Frere died in March 1735 and just two months later, Sir Wolstan snared his young bride… and her fortune which amounted to over 20,000l.

In our earlier blog we recounted how Sir Wolstan kept Anna a virtual prisoner at his Leicestershire estate, Bosworth Hall at Market Bosworth, while she was pregnant later that year, having given his coachmen instructions that Lady Dixie was not to be driven further than three or four miles distant from her home. He also had Anna’s old family servant arrested and thrown into Newgate on a trumped up charge of theft when she displeased him.

Bosworth Hall. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Bosworth Hall. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The couple’s first child, born in 1736, was a daughter who was named Rebecca. There followed a son, Wolstan in 1737 and another daughter, Anna born in July 1739. Lady Dixie died giving birth to Anna; she was buried at Market Bosworth on 5 July 1739.

After just over a year’s mourning, Sir Wolstan married again. His second bride was Theodosia, daughter of Henry Wright of Mobberly Cheshire, and the wedding took place on 26 December 1740, at the bride’s parish church. With Theodosia, Sir Wolstan had six more children, one son, Willoughby, born 1742 and then five daughters, Purefoy (born 1743), Theodosia (born 1744), Eleanor Frances (born 1746), Rosamond (born 1747) and Juliana (born 1749).

Lady Dixie by Henry Pickering; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries
Lady Dixie (it is not known which of Sir Wolstan’s wives this is) by Henry Pickering; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

Theodosia died in 1751. The painting below, of Sir Wolstan Dixie and his family, is dated four years after her death, and shows Sir Wolstan’s nine children. From left to right, they are probably Juliana, Eleanor Frances, Willoughby, Rebecca, Purefoy, Theodosia, Anna, Wolstan and Rosamond, with Sir Wolstan Dixie seated far right.

Wolstan Dixie (1701-1767) 4th Bt of Boston Hall, Leicestershire, and his family seated around a harpsichord by Henry Pickering, 1755 (via Wikimedia)
Wolstan Dixie (1701-1767) 4th Bt of Boston Hall, Leicestershire, and his family seated around a harpsichord by Henry Pickering, 1755 (via Wikimedia)

At Scarborough, in September 1758, Sir Wolstan married for a third and final time, to another wealthy heiress, Margaret daughter of William Cross, a ‘young lady with a handsome fortune’. Two of his children had, however, died since that family portrait had been painted. Purefoy Dixie was buried on 22 July 1757 at Market Bosworth and her sister Theodosia is also said to have died the same year.

Anna Dixie, the younger of the two daughters from Sir Wolstan’s first marriage to Anna Frere also died, and was buried 13 February 1758, aged around 19-years. It is Anna’s death which has given rise to a terrible legend. We can find no corroboration of it in contemporary sources, so give it here merely as hearsay.

It came to Sir Wolstan’s attention that Anna was surreptitiously meeting a young man in Bosworth Park (some sources say he was the gardener). In a cruel plan, Dixie set man-traps, intending to catch his daughter’s beau in one, but it was Anna herself who stepped into the device. Her screams led to her rescue from the jaws of the trap and she was carried back to the hall, bleeding heavily. There she died, and it’s said that her ghost haunts the hall to this day.

Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740
Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot.

We have absolutely no idea how much of that tale is true, if any at all. What we can say, however, is that the portrait below, merely labelled as Miss Dixie and by Henry Pickering, dated to c.1750-1755, must be either Rebecca or Anna Dixie. (We have seen it erroneously called a portrait of Eleanor Frances Dixie, but this is impossible as she is too young to be the lady in this portrait.)

Miss Dixie by Henry Pickering, c.1750-55 (probably either Rebecca or Anna, eldest daughters of Sir Wolstan Dixie, 4th Baronet)
Miss Dixie by Henry Pickering, c.1750-55 (probably either Rebecca or Anna, eldest daughters of Sir Wolstan Dixie, 4th Baronet); Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

Rebecca Dixie died, unmarried, in 1762 and was buried 19 April at Market Bosworth while Juliana, the youngest of the Dixie children died in the December of the same year. Only the two sons, Wolstan and Willoughby, and two of the girls, Eleanor Frances and Rosamond survived their father, who died in 1767.

Miniature of Sir Wolstan Dixie by Gervase Spencer, 1748. © Bonhams
Miniature of Sir Wolstan Dixie by Gervase Spencer, 1748. © Bonhams

Two years later, Sir Wolstan’s eldest son, also Wolstan and, since his father’s death, the 5th Baronet, was declared a lunatic. Willoughby Dixie, the second son, took over the management of the estate, and of the grammar school. It was Willoughby who appointed Joseph Moxon, a waiter at a local pub, to the position of headmaster. This is clearly the origin of the story that Willoughby’s father appointed his butler to the job. Unless, of course, it was a case of like father, like son?

N.B.: The chapel of the Fleet Prison in London was notorious for clandestine marriages. On 19 May 1734, one Wolstan Dixie married a woman named Mary Guest. It’s an unusual name; there certainly weren’t many Wolstan Dixies around of marriageable age in 1734. We’re just throwing it in there, as a possible first marriage to Sir Wolstan… and if it was him, then either Mary Guest died within a year of her marriage or Sir Wolstan added the charge of bigamy to his many offences.


Relevant parish registers

The Baronetage of England, Thomas Wotton, Richard A Johnson and Edward Kimber, 1771

Cases in Chancery: The Attorney-General v. Dixie. Bosworth School, ex parte. 1807

Samuel Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate, 1975

London Evening Post, 28-30 September 1758

Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust

The First Duke of Edinburgh

In 1726, a new title was created in the peerage, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the recipient was Prince Frederick Louis, George I’s grandson.

The new duke was second in the line of succession to the throne behind his father, George Augustus who was, in 1726, the Prince of Wales.

Prince Frederick Louis, c.1720-1725. © Royal Collection Trust
Prince Frederick Louis, c.1720-1725. © Royal Collection Trust

News of his new title had to be carried to Hanover, for that was where Frederick lived. In 1714, when Queen Anne had died and his grandfather had taken the British throne as George I, Frederick’s parents, George, Prince of Wales and Caroline of Ansbach, the new Princess of Wales, had been forced to travel to England and leave their eldest son behind to represent the dynasty in Hanover (despite the fact that he was only seven years old).

Delighted with the news from England, celebrations were prepared at the Hanoverians’ summer residence, Herrenhausen Palace.

Hanover, Sept. 20. One the 12th inst. there was a great Entertainment at Herrenhausen, on Prince Frederick’s being created Duke of Edinburgh. There was a numerous Court, and at Night a fine Firework at the End of the Garden.

(Caledonian Mercury, 27 September 1726)

Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover, c.1708
Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover, c.1708 (via Wikimedia)

At the same time as Frederick had been created Duke of Edinburgh, his younger brother, William (who had been born in England) was made Duke of Cumberland, a title which had first been held by his 2x great-uncle, Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Prince William was only five years old, while Frederick was nineteen; the former was the focus and the favourite of the British royal court while Frederick, overseas and out-of-sight, was overlooked and becoming ostracized.

Frederick did not use his new title for long; on 11 June 1727 George I died, and Frederick’s father took the throne as George II. Frederick was – finally – brought to Britain, but father and son rarely saw eye-to-eye. On 8 January 1729, Frederick was invested as the Prince of Wales and his eldest son, George, was given the Edinburgh dukedom.

Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust
Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust

Frederick never became king; he predeceased his father, George II and instead his son, George, the 2nd Duke of Edinburgh (and Prince of Wales after Frederick’s death) succeeded as George III, and so we have the unbroken reigns of the four Georges which give the period it’s moniker, the Georgian era.

Hanoverian Family Tree. (Image sourced via the National Archives, © Royal Family History)
Hanoverian Family Tree. (Image sourced via the National Archives, © Royal Family History)

The title of Duke of Edinburgh fell into abeyance in 1760 with George III’s accession to the throne, but was resurrected by Queen Victoria for her second son, Prince Alfred (although the monarch’s second son is traditionally created Duke of York). And, in 1947, in its third creation, the title was bestowed on Prince Philip.

King George II’s Royal Household Running Costs

Today we thought we would take a look at those employed in the Royal household of George II. We had no idea how many people it took to look after George II and his family until we came across a fascinating little book published 1734, that told us not only who was employed in each position but also their salary and duties. We don’t have enough space to cover all the roles (as there were so many!) so we have just included a selection, for more information, as the book itself is available online.

The salary bill for the Royal household must have been enormous, although there was a major disparity between the wages of those who received board wages and those who did not and between those who were employed ‘downstairs’ and those ‘upstairs’.

As a guide, £100 in 1730 equates to slightly less than £10,000 in today’s money.

Ramsay, Allan; Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield; National Portrait Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/philip-dormer-stanhope-4th-earl-of-chesterfield-157623
Ramsay, Allan; Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield; National Portrait Gallery, London

So we begin with Lord Steward, who had overall of control of the King’s household and the servants under his direction ‘below stairs’.  The post was held by The Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield for which he received £100 per annum, plus £1360 per annum board wages. Board wages were sums of money given to the holder of the position to reside with their employers rather than in their own home.

van Loo, Jean-Baptiste; Horatio, 1st Baron Walpole of Wolterton, as Envoy and Minister-Plenipotentiary at The Hague; Norfolk Museums Service; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/horatio-1st-baron-walpole-of-wolterton-as-envoy-and-minister-plenipotentiary-at-the-hague-228921
Jean-Baptiste van Loo; Horatio, 1st Baron Walpole of Wolterton, as Envoy and Minister-Plenipotentiary at The Hague; Norfolk Museums Service

Cofferer of the King’s Household, this role was another in the King’s gift and was held by Horatio Walpole Esq whose wages were £100 plus £400 board wages. His duties were, amongst others, to pay the wages of several of the King’s servants above and below stairs.


Here is baked all the King’s bread, and bread for the household etc. which is delivered it the pantry every day.  The clerk, Thomas Holland Esq. is paid £80 per annum, John Clark, Yeoman £50 per annum and 2 grooms who were paid £40 per annum.


In the buttery is kept all the liquors, except the wine and delivered out to the Officer in Waiting. This again is managed by 2 Yeomans, Peter Campbell Gent. who received £60 and John Turner, £50.


The clerk of the Spicery keeps and delivers our spices etc. for the service of the Household which he receives from the tradesmen and keeps account of the same.  Richard D’Avenant Esq.; £100 per annum.


Takes care of the linen for the King’s own table, lays the cloth, and serves up water in the silver ewers after dinner, whence the office has its name.  William Beager, £60 and James Towers £50. 2 Grooms £40 per annum.


There are three Confectionaries, that prepare all such Kind of Delicates for the King’s Table, as Deserts of Sweet-meats, Jellies, Fruits, &c. Yeomen, £50 per annum each. John Fraigneau, Andrew Ferre, Alpon Caillo, Groom, £40 per annum.



Are purveyors of butter, eggs, fruit, pulse and all greens etc and deliver them out according to the Bill of Fare which being brought to them, the take care to have provided. John Skinner Esq; Clerk, £80 per annum; George Ackers, Yeoman £50 per annum plus 2 Grooms £40 per annum.


Whenever the King travels, they take lodgings for his Majesty and the household and ride a day before.  Peter La Roche, Gentleman-Harbingers £60 per annum, plus 5 yeomen at £50 per annum.


When the court travels, they have charge to provide waggons, carts etc to transport the King’s furniture and baggage. 2 Yeomen at £50 per annum, 3 Grooms at £40 each.


Takes care of washing all the Table and Household linen. Dorothy Phillips, Laundress of the Table and Household linen, £120 per annum


attributed to William Hoare, oil on canvas, circa 1735-1745
Charles, Duke of Grafton, Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, attributed to William Hoare, oil on canvas, circa 1735-1745

We now move on to ‘above stairs’ which was the responsibility of the Lord Chamberlain of the King’s household, a post held by Charles, Duke of Grafton, for which he received a salary of £100 plus board wages of £1,100.  The Lord Chamberlain has the principal command of all the King’s servant above stairs (except in the bedchamber, which is wholly under the Groom of the Stole), who are all sworn by him, or by his warrant to the gentlemen ushers. He has also inspection of all the officers of the wardrobe at all the King’s houses, and of the removing wardrobes, beds, tents, revels, musick, comedians, hunting, messengers, trumpeters, drummers, handicrafts, artizans retained by the King’s service; as well as of the serjeant at arms, physicians, surgeons, apothecaries and finally, of his Majesty’s chaplains.

Gentlemen of the King’s Bed-Chamber

These are frequently call’d Lord of the bed-chamber. They were ‘till late years, but eleven in number, whereof the Groom of the Stole, is the first, who, by his office has the honour to put on the King’s first garment, or shirt, every morning, but it is now alternatively perform’d by the Lord in waiting, which they take in turn weekly, and attend in the King’s bed-chamber, when he eats in private; for then the cup-bearer, carvers and sewers do not wait. They are in the King’s gift.

Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin by Sir Godfrey Kneller

Groom of the Stole, Francis, Earl of Godolphin.

Grooms of the King’s Bed-chamber £500 per annum

They wait in the King’s chamber during his Majesty’s dressing and wait at dinner, take wine etc., from the under-servants and give it to the Lords to serve to his majesty. When the gentlemen of the bed-chamber are not there, they perform the office and have waiting weekly, two and two, by turns. They are in the King’s gift.

Pages of Preference £25 per annum. They are the subordinate also to the gentlemen ushers, wait in the Privy chamber, and take care of fire and candles etc.

Coffer-Bearers £54 per annum. When the court removes, they take care to see the baggage loaded.

Laundress of the Body Linen

Mrs Margaret Purcell £400 per annum

Necessary Woman

Mrs Susannah White £121 5 shillings per annum, for cleaning his Majesty’s private lodgings and find necessaries thereto.

We really like this one! Master of the Revels. Francis Henry Lee Esq. £10 per annum.

His office is to order all things which relate to the performance of tragedies, comedies, masques, balls etc. at court. He hath likewise a jurisdiction of granting licences to all who travel, to act plays, puppet shews, or other such like diversions; which is very beneficial to him and increases the smallness of the salary to a very considerable income: neither can of right any new play, at either of the two houses, be acted till it has passed his perusal and licence first, that he may castrate anything which shall be offensive or religion or virtue.

Groom-Porter £550 per annum

Has the inspection of the King’s lodgings, and takes care that they are provided with tables, chairs, firing etc. As also to provide cards, dice etc. when there is playing at court and to decide disputes which arise in gaming.

Messenger of the Avery, Nathaniel Bridgewater, £15 per annum

Thomas Panton Esq., for keeping six racehorses at Newmarket, with all necessaries £500 per annum.

Master of the Tennis court

Has the keeping of the king’s tennis court and the profits which arise by playing; he has likewise the apartments belonging to it, which yield considerable perquisites. Charles Fitzroy Esq. £130 per annum.

perhaps from the workshop of Sir Henry Cheere, 1st Bt, painted plaster bust, circa 1740
Colley Cibber Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, perhaps from the workshop of Sir Henry Cheere, 1st Bt, painted plaster bust, circa 1740

Poet Laureate, Colley Cibber Esq. £60 per annum

There we other listed for whom there was no salary mentioned.

Embroiderer – Mr Thomas Haywood

Operator of the teeth – Mr Peter Hemet

Making Chocolate, via History Extra
Making Chocolate, via History Extra

Chocolate maker – Mr Alphonse. Now that’s a job we would have enjoyed!

One we wouldn’t have been so keen on – Rat Killer, Mrs Elizabeth Stubbs, but the pay was quite good (about £12,000 in today’s money).

Yesterday sen’night died, at her House at Hitching in Hertfordshire, Mrs Stubbs, Rat-killer to his Majesty’s Palaces. Her Place, worth above 100l. per Annum, is in the Gift of the Lord Chamberlain.

Newcastle Courant, 26 September 1741.

And we finish with one close to our hearts, that of Historiographer, Rob Stephens, Esq. £200 per annum.

Featured image

The Family of George II c. 1731-2, William Hogarth, RCIN 401358.  Courtesy of the Royal Collection

Queen Caroline of Ansbach

The Bathing Habits of Queen Caroline

Mistress of the Court

Today we welcome another guest to All Things Georgian, the lovely writer Laura Purcell  (http://laurapurcell.com/), author of Queen of Bedlam. Laura has another book due to be released on the 4th August 2015 which is the  biographical story of Henrietta Howard  –  Mistress of the Court.  With that we will hand over to Laura to tell us all about Queen Caroline’s bathing habits –  it makes fascinating reading.

Queen, Queen Caroline washed her hair in turpentine,

Turpentine to make it shine, Queen, Queen Caroline

 The personal grooming habits of George II’s wife, Queen Caroline, were so unusual that they passed into legend and nursery rhyme. And while I have not found any proof that she used such a dangerous substance as turpentine for her hair, she was certainly washing it more often than the average Georgian woman at court.

In general the hair would be cleaned only by a thorough brushing, with washing in rosemary water taking place perhaps fortnightly, or at even greater intervals. And as far as the skin went, it was the hands, face, feet and personal areas that were cleaned every day. Full immersion in water was rare. Partly, this was due to the difficulty, not to mention the expense, of heating the amount of water required for a bath. You would also need to afford the help of servants to lug the water forward and backwards. But even those rich enough to obtain steaming tubs of water would use it sparingly. Medical science at the time considered it dangerous to overindulge in baths. The sudden changes of temperature when getting in and out of the water threatened chills, while opening up the pores made them susceptible to infections. This is not to say that every early Georgian had an unpleasant odour – the habit of brushing the skin, particularly under the arms, helped to carry away many impurities.

out of; (c) Warwick Shire Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

When Caroline arrived in England as Princess of Wales in 1714, she amazed the court with her regular bathing habits. She was always a progressive thinker, challenging opinions of science and religion amongst other subjects. She liked her skin and gowns to be clean and her servants well manicured – a feat which must have been quite difficult for those involved in the dirty work of running a household. At one point in her life, Caroline was separated from her children with only limited access to them. It is interesting to note that she insisted on bathing them and putting them to bed herself. While I imagine the heavy lifting of water would have been done by a servant, the main point is that Caroline considered it good practice to bath her children regularly – something which may well have earned her censure as a ‘careless’ mother.

If you visit Hampton Court Palace, you can still see Caroline’s bathroom. The bath itself is hidden behind a reconstruction of an early 18th century wooden partition, screening the royal bather from anyone peeking up through the windows from Fountain Court. The tub would be lined with linen, and a little stool placed in it for Caroline to sit upon. She would not bathe naked like us – some accounts say she wore a thin muslin gown while others describe a yellow canvas shift. Ornamental ewers of hot water would be fetched from the kitchens and poured into the bath. There was also a tank of cold water in a room out the back – just in case temperatures got a bit too steamy! The soapy concoctions whipped up for Caroline to wash with were mainly scented with orange and rosewater. These would be brought to her by her ladies, who would then retire to wait in the closet next door. When summoned, they would return and help to wrap Caroline in hot linen towels, which had been warmed by the fire.


Occasionally, you will smell a heavy, old-fashioned perfume in Caroline’s rooms at Hampton Court. To me it resembles rose otto, which is not the same as the rose scent we know today but a deeper, rather waxy fragrance used frequently in the Georgian period. The scent seems to travel through the rooms, sometimes following people around – a strange phenomenon I have personally experienced. Other people say they cannot smell it at all. Legend has it that this is Queen Caroline’s spirit, hovering around her old quarters. The idea is perhaps a little fanciful, but it is a testament to the cleanliness and good grooming habits of this queen that even her ghost has a reputation for smelling pleasant.


Queen of Bedlam 

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Mistress of the Court

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