146 Piccadilly – who lived in a house like this?

For all our regular followers you will no doubt be aware that as well as all of our other research, we have, in the background, been researching Dido Elizabeth Belle and her husband (If you’d like to read about all of our NEW research then follow the highlighted link).

For those aware of Dido’s life you will know that she died in 1804 and was buried at St George’s Field (it appears likely, according to Etienne Daly that her remains may well still be there) leaving her husband John with two sons, William and Charles, to raise alone.

146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage
146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage

As we have said previously, we know that by 1811 John Davinière was working as a steward/valet to John (known as ‘fish’) Craufurd, MP, and had found a new love in his life, Jane Holland, with whom he had a further two children, Lavinia (1809-1881) and Edward Henri (1812-1867), who was later to be placed in an asylum when John and Jane returned to France.

It was in February 1811 that John applied for naturalisation, having lived in England for over 25 years, confirmed in a letter written by William Augustus Fawkener, close family friend to the Craufords, just prior to Fawkener’s death in August of that year.  Fawkener was brother to Harriet Bouverie, the London beauty, society hostess, ardent supporter of Charles James Fox and close friend to the Duchess of Devonshire.

London society at that time was so small that everyone who was anyone was closely linked, so John would have been well aware of them all, but would of course, have been expected to remain tight lipped about the things he heard.

146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage
146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage

In the late 1790s, John Crauford and Charles Cockerell purchased the properties of 146 and 147 Piccadilly respectively, quite prestigious places to live at the time and just a stone’s throw from the then newly opened John Hatchards bookshop at 187 Piccadilly, the oldest surviving bookshop in Britain and a mere five minute walk to the world famous Fortnum and Mason (181 Piccadilly), who were, by this time selling every food you could imagine – and may you couldn’t – such as a fruits from overseas including Jordan almonds, guava jelly, green Madeira citron and preserved West India ginger, perfect products for the well-to-do of London.

146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage
146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage

On 25th August 1810, John Craufurd’s nephew, General James Catlin Craufurd, died in the Peninsular Wars.  James’ father had been Governor of Bermuda but had a serious gambling problem and it appears that little of his estate was left for James Catlin to inherit. So, when James died his wife, his will consisted of a mere two lines, confirming that should he die abroad his possessions should go to his wife, Ann Elizabeth Barnard (the sister of Sir Andrew Barnard), there was no mention as to what his possessions or estate consisted of, but it seems safe to assume that there wasn’t very much of it to give to her and with that Ann and her five children were taken in by James’ uncle. She did, however, at the instigation of the Duke of Wellington, receive a pension.

The property itself was quite substantial so could, house them all in relative comfort, along with all the other servants required including a servant, groom and footman. John was living at 9 Portman Place at this time, only about a mile away.

The neighbouring properties belonging to Sir Charles Cockerell, Sir Nathaniel Holland, Lady Smith Burgess, Sir Drummond Smith, Earl of Dysart and of course, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington at Apsley House which Robert Adam built in 1771 and he purchased in 1807.

Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), 1st Duke of Wellington by Thomas Lawrence
Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), 1st Duke of Wellington by Thomas Lawrence; English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House

After the death of John Craufurd, his will confirmed that he had made financial provision for Ann Elizabeth and the children, all of whom he thought highly of,  upwards of ten thousand pounds, plus all the household goods and that shortly after his death she and her brood moved out and took a property close by on Stratton Street, she also pleaded poverty saying she had so little to bequeath to her children, in her will of 1823, a mere nine thousand pounds (if you can call half a million pounds in today’s money poverty!).

We still have no clues as to who Davinière worked for after this, as yet, but John Crauford left him fifty pounds annuity, plus one hundred pounds and all of his wardrobe to help him on his way and had supported John’s son, Charles’ application to join the East India Company.

We know that Davinière and Jane remained in England until at least 1819 when they eventually married, they then reappeared back in his native town of Ducey, France, where he was to ultimately die. You can find out more about their life here.

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Sources

Burnham, Robert & McGuigan Ron.  Wellington’s Brigade Commanders: Peninsula and Waterloo

Westminster Rates books 1634-1900

Featured Image

Piccadilly from Hyde Park corner turnpike from Ackermann’s Repository 1810

Dido Elizabeth Belle and John Davinière, what became of them?

For our regular readers, you will by now have probably gathered that as well as all the other research we usually do, we have also been investigating the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle.  Dido, her life and family have become something of an obsession for us of late and we have been busy piecing it together and trying to rectify some of the misinformation that currently exists.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido Elizabeth Belle & Sam Reid as John Davinieré
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido Elizabeth Belle & Sam Reid as John Davinière

We have recently shared with you new information about Dido’s siblings who were born in Jamaica, but in today’s post we are taking a look at what happened to the real Dido Belle, who, at the end of the film Bellewalked off into the sunset’ with her man, the lawyer, John Davinière.

*SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN THE FILM BELLE*

 Ducey as it looks today. Courtesy of Wikipedia
Ducey as it looks today. Courtesy of Wikipedia

John was not, the son of the local Reverend in Hampstead, nor was he a lawyer and as such would have had absolutely no involvement in the Zong massacre case. A little creative licence used with that one! 

John Davinière as he was known in England, was born Jean Louis Charles Davinière in the town of Ducey in the Normandy region of France and was one of several children born to Charles Davinière and his wife Madeleine Le Sellier. He was baptised on 16th November 1768, and so was several years Dido’s junior.

He left his native France for England towards the end of the 1780s, so, just prior to the French Revolution; the date of his departure from France is not quite clear as it appears in a couple of places later in his life at which time he gave differing years for his arrival into England. However, on coming to the country, he found work as a steward or valet, again the terminology of his occupation varies slightly.

No-one knows how he would have met Dido, but it seems likely that the Murray or Ramsay family would have been involved in some way. We do know that Allan Ramsay had painted a portrait of the 6th Earl of Coventry in the 1760s and Dido’s marriage entry provided us with a snippet of information in the shape of one of the witnesses – John Coventry, who was the third son of the 6th Earl of Coventry who owned a townhouse on Piccadilly so it seems quite likely that this would have been who John initially worked for as a steward. The other witness was Dido’s close friend, Martha Darnell.

St George's, Hanover Square by T. Malton, 1787
St George’s, Hanover Square by T. Malton, 1787

According to the Westminster rates books, not long after their marriage on 5th December 1793, at St George’s, Hanover Square, the couple moved into a newly built house, 14, Ranelagh Street North, near St George’s Hanover Square. It’s interesting to note that the happy couple married on the same day, at the same church and by the same vicar as the first Duke of Sussex and his bride Lady Augusta Murray.

Click to see enlarged image
Click to see enlarged image

They appear to have lived a happy life and with it, the arrival of 3 sons, of which two, Charles (1795-1873) and William Thomas (1800-1867) survived into adulthood, John, who we now know survived until at least 1804, then seems to have completely vanished. They wouldn’t exactly have been destitute as Dido received not only an inheritance from Lord Mansfield who died in 1793, but also, in 1799 upon the death of Lady Margery Murray, she received a further legacy of £100, as ‘a token of her regard for Dido’.

John Crauford. National Portrait Gallery.
John Craufurd. National Portrait Gallery.

In July 1804, Dido was sadly to die, leaving John to raise the boys alone. We now know that Lady Anne Murray who died in 1817, wrote her will after Dido died in 1804, in which she acknowledged that she knew Dido had left, but still left money to all 3 of her boys.

The actual date of her burial remains unknown as there were many burials at St George’s Fields that month and most unhelpfully there were not dated. Dido’s was number 56 out of  73, so it was probably towards the end of that month.

The entry in the burial register for Dido July 1804

The entry in the burial register for Dido July 1804. It is believed that her remains were removed during the development of that site, but no conclusive evidence exists to substantiate this. The whole site was not redeveloped, so it is quite feasible that her remains may still be there, potentially buried some 10+ feet down as deep burials were thought to prevent grave robbers.  Part of the redevelopment of that area now consists of dwellings.

Image courtesy of Etienne Daly who believes that Dido's grave may well be located in the area of the red dots (just above the square), which is outside of the property development therefore potentially still in situ
Image courtesy of Etienne Daly who believes that Dido’s grave may well be located in the area of the red dots (just above the square), which is outside of the property development therefore potentially still in situ

Shortly after Dido’s death John left Ranelagh Street and moved to live at 40 Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, then nothing until we came across him being mentioned in the will of his employer, John Craufurd*, of Errol, Perth and Kinross who described John as his valet, leaving him a couple of bequests upon his death. Craufurd also provided a reference for Davinière’s son, Charles when he joined the Madras Army, so he clearly thought quite highly of the family.

The boys were clearly educated, as confirmed by a letter written by Charles’ tutor, as Mr James Carver, who had a private school, in PimlicoThey would have been taught, English, Greek, Latin and French, along with subjects such as accounts, land surveying, mathematics and drawing. Basically, all skills they would need to get a job in the military, finance or to go to university.  

charles Dainiere school

It appears that John didn’t remain single for very long, as he met and ultimately married his second wife, Jane Holland. The marriage took place in 1819 at St Martin in the Fields, but not until some years after they had produced a couple of children, Lavinia (1809-1888), who was born whilst they lived at Mount Street and Edward Henry (born 1812). This time the marriage was simply witnessed by two ‘serial marriage witnesses’, so no aristocracy present on this occasion.

It was to be shortly after the birth of Edward Henry that the couple moved again, this time to 31 Edgware Road where it appears they remained for several years.

Their daughter, Lavinia was to marry Louis Henri Wohlegmuth, a naturalised Frenchman in 1843 and confirmed her father’s name on the marriage register, but neither John nor Jane were present at the marriage as the newspaper confirmed that they had returned to John’s native town of Ducey, France, where John was to remain until his death on 31st March 1847.

From La Manche Archives

Upon his death, he left his possessions to his wife Jane and named all four children – Charles, Guillame (William), Lavinia Amelia and Edward.

The lives of the Charles and Lavinia and to a lesser extent, William Thomas, are reasonably well documented. Certainly the boys were well-educated as a document dated 8th February 1811, relating to Charles confirms, but we know very little about Edward, except that he travelled between Le Havre and England on 24th August 1837 which was quite possibly in order to be a witness at his half-brother, William Thomas’s marriage to Fanny Graham, which took place in September of that year and was clearly still alive when his father died. I have read online that Fanny Graham was a widow, so let’s just correct another mistake, as you can see here, she was a spinster.william

As there is no sign of either John’s widow, Jane or Edward the most obvious conclusion is that they remained in France.  The trail has, for now, gone cold on that front, but at least we are briefly able to add a little new information to the story of Dido Belle and John Davinière. (UPDATE – we have now found out some more about their life, so if you’d like to read our latest findings follow this link ).

To find out more about the painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle that first sparked our interest in her follow the highlighted link.

If you’d like to listen to a podcast about Dido recorded for English Heritage click the highlighted link.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

If you’d like to know more about Dido Elizabeth Belle follow these links:

Dido Elizabeth Belle’s Descendants

The missing brother of Sir John Lindsay

Dido Elizabeth Belle portrait – BBC Fake or Fortune

Dido Elizabeth Belle – New information about her siblings

Dido Elizabeth Belle – A new perspective on her portrait

The Eighteenth-Century Fashion for Turbans

An Eighteenth-Century game of ‘Degrees of Separation’

Is Dido Elizabeth Belle still buried at St George’s burial ground in Bayswater Road?

Where are Dido Elizabeth Belle’s sons buried?

Who lived in these houses on Hertford Street, Mayfair?

HMS Dido

Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray

* History of Parliament Online (See John Craufurd)

Featured Image

Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner Turnpike, from Ackermann’s Repository, 1810