I came across this article, accidentally, as you do, and with my arguably warped sense of humour I found the wedding story somewhat amusing, so after much deliberation (well not much, if I’m being honest), I thought I would share it with you. Trigger warning, it doesn’t end well!
On 26th November 1811, a young couple, Thomas Paul, a shoemaker and Sarah Waite, a housekeeper to a Mr Hoges, were married at the parish church in Burgh Le Marsh in Lincolnshire.
After the wedding they were due to have their wedding breakfast in the neighbouring village of Orby where the groom’s parents lived, with their family and others guests. Things did not go according to plan however, as the Norfolk Chronicle of 28th December 1811 informs us:
A wedding lately took place between Mr Thomas Paul & Miss Sarah Waite, of Burgh in the Marsh, Lincolnshire, and the parties having gone through the church ceremony, went to the village of Orby, to dine with Mr Joseph Paul, the father of the groom.
The provident Mrs Mary Paul the elder, had prepared a goose to roast for dinner, into the body of which she had put, for stuffing – two penny loaves whole; and in her hurry on this joyous occasion, had added two ounces of gunpowder, which she mistook for black pepper.
The party were assembled around the comfortable blazing fire before dinner, enjoying by anticipation the parts they were going to play in the demolition of the hissing goose; when Mrs Paul took the poker to stir the fire; scarcely had she touched it, when raising the sparks, one of them kindled the combustible stuffing and by the explosion of the powder the goose was split into several pieces.
The explosion was very loud and the flying grease and limbs of the goose put the whole assembly to the rout in the utmost confusion.
None were killed in the affray, but several suits of white which the ladies wore were quite spoiled, and what was to have been the principal dish on the table was wanting at the feast.
So, the moral of this story, check all your ingredients carefully when stuffing poultry and don’t wear white when eating it!
We wondered what became of Sarah and Thomas after their spectacular wedding feast. In 1816 they had a son, William, followed two years later by twins, appropriately named Thomas and Sarah, and tragically just days after the twins were baptised, Thomas senior, aged 31, died, and three months later their infant daughter Sarah was to follow her father to the grave.
On August 6th, 1724 at St Ann’s Soho, Captain Francis Blake Delaval of Seaton Delaval Hall, near Newcastle Upon Tyne, married Rhoda Apreece, the heiress of Doddington Hall, which is somewhere we have previously written about.
The couple had eleven children and today we’re going to take a look at their eldest, the prankster, money loving son, named Francis Blake after his father. Francis was born in 1727 and as you would expect, was educated, as most young men of his social standing, at Oxford.
In 1749, aged just 21, he married a woman over twice his age, Isabella née Tufton, an exceptionally wealthy heiress and daughter of Thomas Tufton, 6th Earl of Thanet and Catherine Cavendish. Isabella was the widow of Nassau Powlett, a younger son of the 2nd Duke of Bolton (who had died in 1741).
We thought we would share with you the story of their meeting as it was by no means coincidental, but was totally conceived by Francis. He wanted a wife with money and concocted a cunning plan to hook this extremely wealthy widow. Looks he said weren’t important, which was perhaps just as well, as Isabella was described as extremely plain. Money was his motivator and she had plenty of it.
It was his closest friend and a man of great concern to the family, the actor, Samuel Foote that helped him to hatch this plan. It was common knowledge that Isabella wanted to marry again, and it was also known that she was fascinated by gipsies and consulted with the famous Norwood gipsy. So, armed with this information, Francis surreptitiously arranged for her to see a gipsy who would tell her that she would shortly meet the man of her dreams. She was told to walk in the park the following Thursday where she would meet a tall, fair gentleman, remarkably handsome, dressed in blue and silver and that it was irrevocably fixed by fate that this man would become her husband.
Of course, when the day arrived, Isabella took a walk in the park and surprise, surprise, she met Francis exactly as the gipsy had foretold.
Three days later on March 8th, 1749, the couple were married at St Georges Hanover Square in a clandestine marriage and with that he immediately acquired her large fortune reputed to have been between £90,000 and £150,000 (around 17.5 million in today’s money). It is said that for helping to arrange this, Francis settled an annuity upon Foote which relieved his debts.
In 1751, Francis was elected as M.P. for Hindon in Wiltshire, then in 1754 became M.P for Andover, Hampshire – the latter being assured by Francis courtesy of the firing of a canon which dispensed 500 guineas worth of money to ‘help’ voters make the correct choice of candidate, he even hired the services of a celebrated fire eater to win over one obstinate voter.
At the age of just 25, Francis succeeded to his father’s estates. He inherited Seaton Delaval Hall, with his brother John inheriting Doddington upon the death of their mother, but long after his death young Francis was remembered at Doddington Hall for his frequent visits to the local pubs of Harby in Lincolnshire and the drinking and dancing parties that ensued, but mostly he has been remembered for his pranks, both at Seaton and Doddington.
Whilst at Seaton Delaval he became noted not only for the variety of entertainments given there, but for the practical jokes which he played on guests. Not just schoolboy pranks such as making apple-pie beds and the placing of ducks and chickens in peoples beds but also a system of pulleys which he had constructed so that when visitors retired to their bed they were suddenly let down through a trap door into a cold bath.
On one occasion a gentleman apparently was kept in bed for three whole days as Francis somehow managed to convince him it wasn’t morning yet. On another occasion he created a ‘set’ by using curtains which partitioned the rooms and whilst the people in each room were getting undressed he would suddenly let the dividing curtain fall, exposing them to each other. This was a trick which apparently took place in the Long Gallery at Doddington Hall.
Yet another prank was played upon a young man; Francis managed to persuade the rest of the gathering to go along with. He told everyone that someone known to them had just died. After supper the supposed dead man appeared in the room, dressed in a shroud, his face powdered. A young man of the party saw him, but everyone else declared that they had seen nothing. It gave the young man such a fright that he fell down in a fit and didn’t recover for quite a while. After this, apparently no more such tricks were played.
Returning to his marriage, it was to be short lived as the couple didn’t get on at all well, in fact during one particularly ferocious argument Francis actually told Isabella about his plot to marry her.
Eventually, having had enough of his affair with an actress, Miss Elizabeth Roach or La Roche (as she was also known) who, according to rates returns, lived in Poland Street, Westminster, Isabella filed for a divorce in 1755, but in order for it to happen she had to admit to being unfaithful to Francis.
The couple had no children, but Isabella had a daughter from her marriage to Nassau and it was her daughter who inherited her estate when she died in 1763.
Despite the fortune Francis had inherited from his father and the monies from his marriage, he was a spendthrift and all money went through his hands like water, so much so that in 1755 an Act of Parliament was obtained to either sell Seaton or to mortgage it to pay off his debts.
Despite his behaviour, somehow in 1761 Francis was installed a Knight Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.
Francis also retained a property in London, No 11 Downing Street, which is slightly ironic given his obvious inability to manage money that it should now be used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Francis died suddenly in 1771. His body was taken for burial at Seaton with a grand funeral where it was laid in state for all to see. Apparently, so keen were people to have a glimpse of the proceedings, that in the rush, one girl had her leg broken, a gentleman lost his watch and many people had their pockets picked.
The newspapers of the day said that Francis died leaving some £36,000 of which £10,000 was to be paid to his two illegitimate children by Miss La Roche however, his actual will read very differently and shows the benefit of hindsight, so we thought we’d share it with you in full
Foote was said to be distraught at his friends death and retired to his room for three days. Finally, Foote was advised that it would be a few days before the funeral as doctors were to dissect Francis’s head to which Foote replied:
and what in the world will they get there? I am sure I have known poor Frank these five and twenty years, and I never could find anything in it.
The Dublin Penny Journal, Volumes 3-4
Sympson, Edward. Memorials of Old Lincolnshire
Cole R.E.G. History of the manor and township of Doddington : otherwise Doddington-Pigot, in the county of Lincoln, and its successive owners, with pedigrees
I’ve long been intrigued by a portrait on the Art UK website of a rather dishevelled and – quite frankly – eccentric figure, which, so the label claims, depicts William Hornby (incorrectly labelled as Hornsby) of Hornby’s Bank in Gainsborough, a market town in North Lincolnshire.
The archives office in Lincoln claims differently; they believe it depicts William’s brother, Joseph who, they suggest, was a well-known eccentric character in these parts.
Which brother, then, is in the rather cruel portrait?
Joseph was born at Gainsborough in 1729, the eldest child of Joseph Hornby senior, a prosperous mercer in the town. Seven more children followed but all except two, William (born in 1732) and John (1739), died in infancy. The elder two of the three sons, Joseph and William, followed their father into the mercantile trade.
At his death in 1762, Joseph Hornby senior left considerable inheritances to his three sons.
Gainsborough was a thriving and prosperous town in the eighteenth-century, boosted by trade from the busy River Trent which passes through. The Hornby family’s wealth grew and, together with Sir Joseph Esdaile, Esq, William opened a bank, the first known to exist in the town. In partnership with two other gentlemen, they also established the Chesterfield Bank in Derbyshire.
In 1760, William Hornby took out a lease on the medieval timber-framed Gainsborough Old Hall and established a coarse linen factory in part of the building and sublet the rest. The factory lost money and the old manor house was in a poor state of repair.
You peeped in and saw its great ground floor apartments occupied by joiners, and coopers and bricklayers – depositories for lime, hair, and bricks – and you turned away disgusted.
By 1790, Hornby had wound up his factory and sublet the Great Hall of the manor house to a Mr West, who used it as a theatre. The staircase which was temporarily added at this time to access the theatre can be seen on the print below.
By the end of the century, troubles were mounting up. The partnership which ran the Chesterfield Bank (William Hornby, Joseph Esdaile, Samuel Raynes and Richard Gillett) was dissolved in 1799. By 1803, William Hornby could no longer meet his creditors’ demands and he was declared bankrupt. The Gainsborough Bank was no more.
William Hornby is reputed to have ended his days in penury, being cared for by a woman who had formerly been his cook, dying ‘at an advanced age’ (he was 72) in February 1805 at Doncaster, just over the county border in South Yorkshire.
After all this, are we any closer to identifying which Hornby brother is shown in the painting? Well, there is no contemporary mention of Joseph being an eccentric. At his death in 1811 (he was buried in the churchyard of Gainsborough All Saints) he is described as formerly being ‘an eminent merchant’. No hint of madness or eccentricity.
It seems more likely that the painting is a cruel depiction of William Hornby. Perhaps in his pursuit of wealth and in his running of the bank, he made an enemy of someone who commissioned this painting in revenge? Or, was it painted after Hornby’s bankruptcy, the work of a creditor who was left out-of-pocket and wanted to leave a lasting visual legacy of the former banker, that of a miserly man down on his luck.
At this distance in time, and with no other evidence to hand, we are simply left to wonder.
Thomas Carr of Lincoln was a hawker of almanacs and fish… and yes, we think that’s an odd combination too! He was well-known around the county’s markets, famous enough for a print to be made of him.
Underneath the print is some very helpful genealogical information about Thomas.
Thomas Carr of Lincoln
The well-known dealer in Almanacks & Fish being born at Hexthorpe near Doncaster and was christenened the 19th of October 1718.
So, Thomas wasn’t really a Lincolnshire man but had obviously lived in the city of Lincoln for long enough that he was described as being of his adopted town. His baptism can be found, exactly as described on the print, in the parish registers of Hexthorpe, a small village on the outskirts of Doncaster in South Yorkshire.
He died in 1807, described as being of an advanced age: he was 89 years old, maybe not to us such an old age these days, but for someone back then, who had gained his living as a hawker which would have been a tough occupation for someone of advancing years, he didn’t do badly at all.
Last week died, at an advanced age, Thomas Carr, well-known here, and to those who frequent Lincoln markets, as a vender of almanacks.
Stamford Mercury, 7th August 1807
Thomas’ funeral was held at St Swithin’s Church in Lincoln on the 26th of July, and he was described in the burial register as a widower. St Swithin’s has undergone several reconstructions during its life. Originally located near the Sheep market, it was ravaged by fire in 1644 during the English Civil War and stood in ruins for just over a century and a half. The ruins can be seen in the drawing below, next to The Greyfriars, the remains of a Franciscan friary dating back to the 1200s.
In 1801 a new church was erected on Sheep Square; a pencil drawing of this church can be seen by clicking here. In the 1880s the present church was built. The old Greyfriars buildings still stand next to it.
The Beehive public house on Castlegate in Grantham lays claim to being the only pub in the country with a ‘living sign’. Indeed, in its early life, it was known as ‘the Living Sign’ as well as ‘the Beehive’.
Both names are apt: the living sign in question is a beehive located outside the pub in which a swarm of bees often resides and it has been there, in one form or another, since at least 1791 when it was mentioned as a curiosity in several newspapers the length and breadth of the country.
In 1791 the beehive was located on a pillar in front of the house, now a newer hive is located in a tree to the side of the doorway.
In May 1814 the landlord of the Beehive was one Edward Wood, and presumably, he was there when Colour-Serjeant George Calldine of the 19th Foot visited.
Grantham has a very fine spire, the highest in England except Salisbury. Here also is a living sign, it being a bee-hive up in a tree, which I remember seeing when I passed through in 1814.
By March 1822 Mrs Elizabeth Wood was the landlady of the Beehive (presumably Edward Wood had died and Elizabeth was his widow) and it was Elizabeth who was painted in the doorway of the pub, with the ‘living sign’ on proud display.
Interestingly, George Calladine refers to the beehive being in a tree in 1814, but in 1791 it is recorded as being on a pillar. In this painting, it is still, quite clearly, on a pillar, so either painted earlier than 1814 or George has misremembered his anecdote. The sign with the rhyme on it can also be seen on the corner above Elizabeth’s head.
The church spire alluded to in the rhyme is atop St Wulfram’s in Grantham, the sixth highest spire in the country.
Our blog today is a grisly one as we relate the story of two barbarous murders in eighteenth-century Lincolnshire.
Mr Rands, the Lincoln post-master had cause to have some words with his servant who was thrown into jail by his master owing to a considerable debt. Later set free after paying £5, the servant left in high dudgeon, swearing he would be revenged upon his master.
On the 2nd January 1732/3 a traveller was stopped by two men near Ancaster and robbed of a small sum of money and his horse. He was, it turns out, extremely lucky that this was all he lost. Two hours later the two men met with William Wright, an 18 or 19-year old youth from Market Rasen. He was travelling in his chaise from Ancaster where he had spent the day with a friend, and had a second horse tethered behind. Wright recognised the post-master’s servant and, as the two men were both upon the one poor horse, offered the man a ride on his spare horse. They parted company at an inn, after a disagreement, but the men knew where William Wright was heading and lay in wait for him. At Faldingworth near to Market Rasen, at around five o’clock in the evening darkness, the two men murdered young William although he put up a brave fight. His throat was cut and his head almost severed, and his body was then put back into his chaise and one report said that some flesh was cut from his leg and ‘tied’ upon his face. The murderous pair left, having rifled the corpse’s pockets and taking the two horses with them, leaving the gruesome discovery to be made by a milkmaid. It was assumed that Wright had been murdered to silence his tongue and prevent discovery of his assailants.
A day later the young post-boy, a lad named Thomas Gardner (or Gardiner) who hailed from the village of Nettleham to the north of the city and who was around the same age as William Wright, was found murdered upon the road from Lincoln to Grimsby. Both his throat and that of his horse had been cut from ear to ear and his post bag had been stolen. Reputedly he was made the to blow his horn, before his tormentors told him that he had just sounded his ‘death peal’. Again, his murder was to silence him, but was it also, as it turned out, from hatred of his employer, Mr Rands the post-master.
Suspicion immediately fell upon the post-master’s former servant, Isaac Hallam, and his description, and that of his accomplice, was circulated along with a reward of £40 for any information leading to the capture of the murderer of William Wright.
One of the Persons supposed to have committed the said Murder, is a slender bodied Man with a thin Face, wearing a light-coloured natural Wig, and a white straight-bodied Coat, with carved or chequer’d Buttons on it, with a blue wide Riding Coat lined with yellow, and Brass Buttons; he rode upon a block lean Punch Horse, about Fourteen Hands high, with a wisked Tail. And another of the Persons supposed also to have been concerned in the said Murther, is pale-fac’d and marked with the Small-Pox; he had on a straight bodied grey double-breasted Coat with black Buttons, and a light-colour’d Riding Coat, and a light-coloured natural Wig, and rode on a brownish Bay strong Punch Horse, about Fourteen Hands high, with a wisk’d Tail. They also took from the Deceased, and carried off, a strong dark brown Punch Gelding, full aged, trots well, and paces also, and has a small star on the Forehead, and no other white about him; he is about Fourteen Hands and a half high, and as a long whole Tail, if not altered.
It was not many days before the keepers of Salisbury gaol realised that one of two men who had lately been committed there appeared to be the sought after fugitive. Isaac Hallam, together with his brother Thomas, had committed a robbery near to the city of Salisbury, although it seems their victim, in this instance, was allowed to escape with his life.
The two brothers did not deny the charges laid at their door and, loaded with irons, were brought back to Lincoln for trial in a coach and six from Salisbury by way of London. On the 19th February they lay at the George in St Martins at Stamford on their journey to Lincoln. Isaac showed some concern for his acquaintance William Wright who, he said, had behaved ‘so bravely’, but Thomas seemed not to care less and neither brother showed a jot of remorse for the poor young post-boy although Thomas declared he had only held Gardner’s hand while Isaac cut the boy’s throat. They had intended their list of victims to be longer, set on murdering all those whom they stole from, and on their hit-list was Mr Benjamin West (or Wells), the son of the Lincoln Carrier, a Mr Harvey and, top of their list, Mr Rands the post-master. If they had managed to murder him the two brothers would, they said, ‘have died with Pleasure’. On their entrance to Lincoln, crowds had started to gather from the Bar Gate and along the two-mile route to the Castle, and the brothers were met with jeers, hisses, shouting and, in sorrow for poor murdered Thomas Gardner, post-boys blowing their horns.
The trial was a short one as both Isaac and Thomas Hallam admitted their guilt, not only to the murders but to some sixty-three other robberies, and both men were sentenced to be executed and hung in chains. Before the sentence was passed, they were asked if they had anyone to speak on their behalf and Isaac had the nerve to call on his former employer, Mr Rands. They also asked for a fortnight’s stay of execution but this was, quite rightly, denied them. They left the court, but not before telling the judge that they ‘they hoped to meet with a more favourable judge in the other world, and valued not what man could do to them’.
On the 16th March 1732/3, at nine o’clock in the morning, the two convicted murderers were taken to the gibbet which lay around a mile outside Lincoln. There Isaac was hung and his body placed in the irons while his brother watched on – one report said that Thomas fainted at the sight. Thomas Hallam was then taken to Faldingworth Gate, eight miles further on, to the site of William Wright’s murder where he suffered the same fate as his brother.
Thomas Gardner was buried in his home village of Nettleham. The burial register reads:
Tho: Gardiner a post boy found murdered near Langworth Street was Buryed the 6th Day of Jany – 1732.
Local legend says that no grass grows around his grave. William Wright was buried at Market Rasen.
NB: Many sources say erroneously that the brothers were arrested at Shrewsbury and not at Salisbury, and most give the date of their execution as the 20th March – however, the Stamford Mercury of Thursday, March 22nd 1732/3 clearly states their demise as ‘Friday last’.
Stamford Mercury, 11th and 25th January 1732/3, 1st and 22nd February 1732/3 and 22nd March 1732/3
Derby Mercury, 18th January 1732/3 and 1st and 15th March 1732/3
Daily Journal, 12th March 1732/3
The London Gazette 13-16th January 1732/3
Ipswich Journal, 10th March 1732/3
Lincolnshire Villains: Rogues, Rascals and Reprobates by Douglas Wynn, 2012
Header image: A Distant View of Lincoln Cathedral; Peter de Wint; National Galleries of Scotland
Major Boswell was a gypsy – he was born in 1780, and baptized on the 6th August, in the Oxfordshire village of Bloxham where he was recorded as the son of John Boswell.
A noted fiddler, as a young man he earned his living by playing at different venues and one day he arrived at Longton in the Staffordshire Potteries – where ‘he was engaged to play for the dancing classes held at a young ladies’ academy’. This episode of Major’s life dates to the very end of the eighteenth- or the dawning of the nineteenth-century, as it must have occurred between 1798 and 1801.
The first and the second of these [classes] at which he was present passed without incident, but at the third or fourth a big bouncing girl answering to the name of Mary Linyon persisted in treading on his toes. She did it on purpose quite clearly, and Major recognising this, and attracted no doubt by her handsome face and wilful demeanour, was not slow to take the cue she afforded him. He spoke to her afterwards, ostensibly about her behaviour, but what the really said to one another is better judged from the fact that a night or two later Mary, who was no more than fifteen, jumped from a bedroom window into his cart drawn up beneath it, on to a thick pile of straw surmounted by blankets and a feather bed.
The couple eloped together and stayed hidden in the countryside whilst, it is said, a hue and cry was raised and a reward offered for any information which led to Major Boswell’s arrest. Perhaps this inducement worked because, supposedly, Major was eventually arrested and charged with Mary’s abduction, although he protested his innocence. The story as it was told around the campfires of their descendants places Major in a courtroom to answer the charges against him and there Mary took to the witness box, telling the judge loud and clear that it was she who had insisted on the elopement. Because of her testimony Major was acquitted and the spirited and determined Mary chose to remain by his side rather than return home to her parents.
Some say she was a gamekeeper’s daughter, and others that her father was a farm bailiff or steward. No matter, she was, by all accounts, a woman of strong character, as Major, her children and more particularly her daughters-in-law, seem to have discovered when they crossed her will; a great lover of order and cleanliness, of fine clothes, old china, and shining silver; an expert needlewoman, who taught the craft to her daughters and granddaughters with considerable success…
We have yet to turn up any information which confirms that Major Boswell did indeed elope with Mary, or that he was charged in a court of law with her abduction. But Mary had certainly received an education somewhere, so perhaps the story that she trod on poor Major’s toes in the dancing class where they first met is true, and she did indeed run away with him. In 1837 Mary (as Mary Linion and recorded as 55 years of age) was arrested for ‘fraudulently obtaining half-a-dozen silver teaspoons, the property of Mr Thomas Shepherd, of Barrow-upon-Soar, on the 1st April 1835’ along with Major Boswell (aged 60 years), their 16 year old son Alfred and daughter Edingal, 21 years of age. The case was never brought into court but, in the calendar of prisoners for trial, it was recorded that while Major, Alfred and Edingal Boswell could neither read nor write, Mary could do both well.
Mary took to her new way of life with gusto, providing Major with seventeen children, becoming expert at telling fortunes and described as the ‘best Gypsy of the lot of ‘em’. They stayed mainly in the Staffordshire area but travelled into other parts of the country too. A daughter named Tieni (or Teany) was baptized at Beoley in Worcestershire on the 8th March 1801. They were in Lincolnshire during the first two decades of the nineteenth-century for the baptism of Charles Augustus, son of Major and Mary Smith at Stamford St Michael on the 27th June 1803 is likely to be them, with Major described as a tin plate worker. The next year Mary daughter of Major and Mary Boswell was baptized at Ewerby near Sleaford on the 7th October 1804 (a William and Mary Lovil, ‘traveller & gipsy’ baptized a son, William, on the 28th of the same month at Digby, less than ten miles away from Ewerby, and perhaps they were travelling in company with Major Boswell and Mary Linyon). And then on the 7th March 1819, at Rauceby again near to Sleaford, we find the baptism of Alfred, son of Major and Mary Boswell, traveller. The couple also had a daughter whose name is transcribed as ‘Elopeh’ on the baptism records for Quainton in Buckinghamshire (she was baptized on the 22nd October 1802) – does her name refer to her parent’s reputed elopement, and provide some confirmation of it?
A Major Boswell had married in 1798 at Breedon on the Hill in Leicestershire, to Lucy Boswell (a short lived son had been the product of that marriage), and if this was the same man it may explain why Mary continued to use her maiden name (as at her 1837 arrest), and could not legally marry her husband although they lived as man and wife. The couple are to be found at Willenhall near to Wolverhampton in Staffordshire in the 1861 census, living in a caravan parked in a field on the High Street; Major Boswell was aged 87 years, a tinman born at Bloxham in Oxfordshire and Mary, his wife, was 82 years of age and gave her birthplace as Gravesend in Kent.
Major Boswell ended his long life in Longton in Staffordshire, the village where he reputedly met his wife, his age exaggerated by a good few years at his death.
Major Boswell, who for the last seven years has made a tent on the Stone-road, Longton, his principal place of abode, died on Sunday, at the advanced age of 108 years. The body is ‘laid out’ in characteristic gipsy style. He ‘lies in state’ on a bed on the ground, covered with a white sheet, and a tuft of grass on the chest. The part of the tent where the body lies is lined with white, decorated with flowers, a picture of the Saviour, and wax candles on either side. The old man has not a wrinkle on his face, had only lost three teeth, and never consulted a doctor during his long earthly pilgrimage. He was twice married, and had by his second wife seventeen children, amongst whom he numbered fifty-nine grandchildren. His remains will be interred in Dresden churchyard to-day, and will no doubt be followed to the grave by an unusually large number of relatives.
Leicester Chronicle, 11th March 1837
Staffordshire Advertiser, 21st May 1870
Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, Third Series, Vol III, 1924
Potteries Landscape by Henry Lark I Pratt from The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery via Your Paintings
A rural, country lane in Lincolnshire, between the villages of Drinsey Nook and Saxilby and close to the county border with Nottinghamshire, bears the name of a murderer who was gibbeted there for his crime.
Tom Otter was the culprit: hanged on Saxilby Moor close to the scene of his awful crime, his name still resonates over two hundred years later.
He was a twenty-eight-year-old labouring banker (navvy) from Treswell in Nottinghamshire who had travelled across the border into Lincolnshire seeking work, leaving his young wife and infant daughter behind in Southwell. Described as a stout but handsome man, he stood five feet nine inches in height.
At Eakring in Nottinghamshire on the 22nd November 1804, Tom married Martha Rawlinson; their daughter was born just a month later, baptized at Hockerton near Southwell two days before Christmas.
In Lincolnshire, passing himself off as a widower and using his mother’s maiden name of Temporal, he seduced young Mary Kirkham, a local girl between twenty-one and twenty-four years of age, and got her pregnant. Forced by the parish authorities into marriage, the couple duly obtained a marriage licence and presented themselves, accompanied by the parish constables, at the parish church in South Hykeham to say their vows, Tom Otter naming himself as Thomas Temple [sic], a widower on the marriage licence if not in the marriage register, of St. Mary Wigford in Lincoln. Mary, eight months pregnant at her wedding, was a spinster from North Hykeham.
The marriage took place on Sunday, 3rd November 1805, and that same evening the couple found themselves near to Drinsey Nook, about nine miles distant from South Hykeham, after having stopped at The Sun Inn at Saxilby for a drink and a bite to eat. On the road between Saxilby and Drinsey Nook, Tom brutally murdered his pregnant bride only hours after their wedding, battering her skull with a wooden club and throwing her lifeless body into a ditch close to a bridge passing over the Ox Pasture Drain.
There poor Mary was discovered the next morning, her head almost beaten from her body, with the wooden club and one of her patterns located 40 yards away. She was carried back to The Sun Inn for an inquest to take place, following which she was buried in Saxilby on the 5th November 1805.
The burial register reads:
Nov 5th – Mary Kirkham, alias Temporel, aged 24, found murdered on the Moor. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against her husband, Thomas Temporel, or Otter.
Having been observed walking with a wooden club on the day of the murder, Tom was taken up at The Packhorse Inn in Lincoln as the prime suspect and stood trial at the Lincoln Assizes as Thomas Temporell, otherwise Thomas Otter, in March 1806. After a trial lasting five hours he was sentenced to death and to have his body dissected, but this was changed to rule that his body should be hung in chains on Saxilby Moor, at the scene of his crime. Tom had made no defence to the charge of willful murder, but twenty witnesses appeared against him, all giving circumstantial evidence but it appeared so plain and clear that after the five-hour trial the jury took but a few minutes to consider their verdict.
Tom carried himself with indifference at his trial, but on the day of his execution, 14th March 1806, he was measured for the irons in which his body was to rot, and at this point he faltered and approached the gallows adjacent to Lincoln Castle with his head bowed.
The Reverend George Hall, a friend of the gypsies and known as The Gypsy’s Parson, recounted in his book of the same name how his grandfather attended the gibbetting.
[He] was among the crowd of citizens who, starting from Lincoln Castle one March morning in the year 1806, followed the murderer’s corpse until it was hanged in irons on a post thirty feet high on Saxilby Moor. For several days after the event, the vicinity of the gibbet resembled a country fair with drinking booths, ballad singers, Gypsy fiddlers, and fortune-tellers.
The gypsies used to camp close to the gibbet, near Tom Otter’s mouldering bones; the local folk kept their distance from the place after dark and the gypsies knew they would be left in peace. Although it occurred a decade on from the Georgian era, we must recount the birth of one gypsy boy, as given in The Gypsy’s Parson.
Old Tom, whose patronymic was Petulengro, the Gypsy equivalent of Smith, was known as Tom o’ the Gibbet (he was also known as Sneezing Tommy because of his predilection for a pinch of snuff, but we’ll concentrate on the former nickname). His married sister, Ashena Brown, when an elderly lady, told the story to the Gypsy’s Parson.
The old lady, bowed and with long jet black curls, began her tale:
Wonderful fond o’ the County o’ Nottingham was my people. They know’d every stick and stone along the Trentside and in the Shirewood (Sherwood), and many’s the time we’ve stopped at Five Lane Ends nigh Drinsey Nook . . . Ay, and I minds how my daddy used to make teeny horseshoes, knife handles, and netting needles, outen the bits o’ wood he tshin’d (cut) off the gibbet post, and wery good oak it was. Mebbe you’s heard o’ Tom Otter’s post nigh to the woods? Ah, but p’raps you’s never been tell’d that our Tom was born’d under it? The night my mammy were took bad, our tents was a’most blown to bits. The wind banged the old irons agen the post all night long, as I’ve heard her say. And when they wanted to name the boy, they couldn’t think of no other name but Tom, for sure as they tried to get away from it, the name kept coming back again – Tom, Tom, Tom – till it sort o’ dinned itself into their heads. So at last my daddy says, “Let’s call him Tom and done with it,” and i’ time, folks got a-calling him Tom o’ the Gibbet, and it stuck to him, it did.
Her brother, Thomas Smith, was baptized at St. Botolph’s in Saxilby, the same church where poor Mary Kirkham lay buried, on the 1st November 1840, the baptism register recording that the boy, the son of Moses and Eldred (otherwise Eldri) Smith, gypsies, was born in Otter’s Lane.
Ashena Brown carried on her recollection of the gibbet and Tom Otter’s bones.
And whenever uncle and aunt used to pass by Tom Otter’s gibbet, they’d stop and look up at the poor man hanging there, and they allus wuser’d (threw) him a bit o’ hawben (food). They couldn’t let theirselves go by wi’out doing that. And there was a baker from Harby, and whenever he passed by the place he would put a bread loaf on to the pointed end of a long rod and shove it into that part o’ the irons where poor Tom’s head was, and sure enough the bread allus went. The baker got hisself into trouble for doing that, as I’ve heard our old people say.
The gibbet, with what was left of Tom inside, stood in its lonely spot, with only the occasional gypsy camp for company, until 1850, when a gale brought it crashing down.
Stamford Mercury, 8th November 1805
Stamford Mercury, 14th March 1806
Bury and Norwich Post, 19th March 1806
Northampton Mercury, 22nd March 1806
Northampton Mercury, 29th March 1806
The Gypsy’s Parson by the Reverend George Hall
Murder at the Inn: A Criminal History of Britain’s Pubs and Hotels, James Moore
Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 16th February 1790.
Two of the fair sex last week actually fought a pitched battle at Waddington in Lincolnshire attended by their seconds. When it is considered that the object of their contention was a husband, it will not be wondered that the battle was long and violent, lasting not less than half an hour. Two days after the heroine triumphantly led her happy man to the altar! – So that this may probably not be the last battle on the occasion.
Well, what a wonderful snippet of history! But, remembering the distress we caused to some of our readers when we debunked the tale of the ‘Petticoat Duellists’, we approached our research into this story with caution.
Fortunately it seems that the two Lincolnshire feminine bruisers did exist and that the fight did take place; it was confirmed in several other newspapers which gave more details.
Mary Farmery and Susanna Locker were both servants and it was Mary who challenged her rival to the fight with the prize being the young man they both claimed the affections of. The boxing match was conducted according to form and for some time the outcome seemed uncertain with both women delivering blows which felled their opponent. But Mary Farmery must have been certain of her pugilistic abilities when she suggested the boxing match for she was named the victor.
The object of their affections was a young man who was servant to a farmer in the neighbourhood, and all the newspaper accounts agree that he ‘actually had the temerity to go to church with the victor.’ Sadly, it seems possible that there was no happy ending after all for the victorious Mary Farmery, for no marriage took place in the parish church at Waddington and we have, as yet, found no record of it ever taking place at all.
We don’t want to disappoint you this time so perhaps we’ll just picture Mary sweeping her beau off his feet and disappearing off into the sunset with him?
N.B. A Mary Farmery was baptized in Navenby, just a few miles away from Waddington, in June 1771, and a Susanna Locker married a man by the name of Richard Harmstone in Caythorpe, again not too far away, in June 1795. Perhaps Susanna was luckier than Mary in finally getting up the aisle?
Brumby Wood Hall in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, now a nursing home but once a fine private mansion, is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a former housekeeper.
Sally Smith, born c.1759, was not just the housekeeper, but also the mistress of the owner, Thomas Pindar Esquire, a reserved and slightly eccentric gentleman some twenty-three years Sally’s senior who displayed ‘monkish habits’ fostered by a long residence in a college. He had inherited Brumby Wood Hall from his younger brother, the Reverend Robert Pindar who had died in 1795, and Sally presided at the table and over the house, fully mistress of it. The legend says that Sally expected to inherit Brumby (sometimes called Bromby) Wood Hall when her lover died but was cruelly cut out of his will and, in the 1830s, either threw herself from one of the windows or hung herself from the four-poster bed. Her restless spirit now walks the corridors and grounds of the hall, waiting to hear news of her inheritance.
Thomas Pinder actually died in the May of 1813 aged 77 years and was buried at Owston Ferry in the Isle of Axholme on the fifteenth of that month. His will, written on the 15th October 1811, far from cutting Sally out, left her the use of his mansion for her life together with the household furniture, carriages and several nearby farms together with a small yearly annuity and Sally lived on at Brumby Wood Hall until her death almost twenty years to the day after that of Thomas Pindar’s. Sally too was buried at Owston Ferry, on the 24th May 1833, noted in the burial register as being of Brumby Wood Hall.
Her life as mistress of the Hall was not plain sailing though, and it is the dispute ensuing after the reading of Thomas Pindar’s will which has led to the half-remembered tale and the stories of Sally haunting her former home.
In the May of 1822, a singular case was heard at the Lincoln Assizes, brought by Sir Montague Cholmeley against the Honourable John Lygon, younger brother to Earl Beauchamp of Madresfield Court near Malvern in Worcestershire. Both men had, at times, been the beneficiary of Pindar’s will and Cholmeley contested the final one which had left the life interest in the Hall to Sally Smith.
Thomas Pindar had been a fellow of Magdalen College at Oxford and it was here that he had been introduced to Earl Beauchamp and his younger brother, John Lygon, whose family name had formerly been Pyndar (their father had changed his surname upon inheriting his maternal grandfather’s estate), and a relationship was assumed between them. The two families regularly corresponded and visited from 1804 and in 1805 Thomas Pinder made a will leaving his fortune to John Lygon. In the same year, he had asked Earl Beauchamp for a substantial loan of £5000, and the Earl had complied with this request.
On the 2nd April 1810, a second will was made; Pindar had wanted Mr Foulkes, an eminent London solicitor, to draw up the will but Foulkes was unwell and instead a Mr Hutton of York was employed. This will gave the estate of Brumby Wood Hall to John Lygdon in tail male, with ultimate limitation of Lady Cholmeley, Pindar’s niece. Elizabeth Harrison, the daughter of John Harrison and Catherine Pindar of Norton Place, Lincoln, had married Sir Montague Cholmeley, 1st Baronet, on the 14th September 1801 (Catherine Pindar was the daughter of the Reverend Robert Pindar).
A month later Hutton was back at Brumby Wood Hall to draw up another will, this one however in favour of Sir Montague Cholmeley’s family and placing Cholmeley’s youngest son in the place formerly occupied by John Lygon. Hutton added two codicils to this third will, one in August 1810 and one in December to the benefit of Sally Smith.
Sir Montague Cholmeley, who had never visited Pindar at his home, now told friends that he would be benefitted by Pindar’s death, describing Brumby Wood Hall as “a charming little hunting-box here intended for my second son!” But this came to the ears of Pindar and he decided that Lygon should be the beneficiary after all.
Mr Foulkes was now once again summoned and this time complied with the request. He found Thomas Pindar frail in body, almost bedridden and with little control over his bowels (they were described as being very relaxed), virtually deaf and going blind, but, Foulke’s asserted, still in full control of his mind. On the 15th October 1811, a fourth and final will was drawn up, this one leaving the Hall to Sally for her lifetime and after her death to John Lygon. Mr Hutton was asked to hand over the will made the year previously but refused to do so.
And so the stage was set for a protracted legal battle after Thomas Pindar died in 1813. Cholmeley alleged that Pindar did not know his own mind when the 1811 will was made and accused Sally of being the person who had instigated it to her own benefit. Lygon, in turn, accused Hutton of acting in the interests of Cholmeley rather than his client.
Cholmeley had wisely waited until the two men who, along with Foulkes, had witnessed the 1811 will had died before bringing this case to court and he drew on several former servants to Pindar who testified to the old man’s feebleness and mental incapacity. Mr Foulkes dismissed this, claiming that after Sally, whose voice Pindar was familiar with, loudly repeated his words to Pindar the old man was full well able to understand and to ask genuine and rational questions about the execution of the will. Of course, all this provided enough fuel for the local gossips to keep going for many years from the death of Pindar to the case being brought to court nine years later, with Sally made out to be a gold-digging termagant who had had the feeble and kindly old gentleman, and his household, under her control. Enough to give rise to the legend about her ghost and a missing inheritance which still continues more than 180 years after her death.
The case lasted from nine o’clock on the morning of Wednesday 13th March to half-past five the next day, but at last the jury came to a verdict, finding in favour of John Lygon, who had already added the surname of Pindar (although he chose to spell it Pyndar) on to his own in anticipation of his inheritance.
John Lygon Pyndar, who also succeeded to the title and estate of Earl Beauchamp after the death of his brother in 1823, possibly then tried to recover the £5000 loan given to Thomas Pindar by his brother from the life interest and annuities granted to Sally for, in 1823, Pindar vs Smith was heard in the High Court of Chancery, after which the creditors of the late Thomas Pindar were asked to send in proof of their debts. Pindar’s earlier wills had provided for repayment of this substantial debt; the last one in 1811 ignored it to Sally’s detriment.
After Sally’s death, a sale of all the household furniture, carriages and livestock at Brumby Wood Hall (detailed below) was made, pursuant to her own will, and John Lygon Pyndar took possession of Brumby Wood Hall and its surrounding estate. We have found no record of the manner of Sally’s death, but this in itself tends to suggest that her end, at the age of 74, was a peaceful one and not suicide.
At BROMBY WOOD HALL (by order of the Executor of the late Mrs Smith,) on TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, July 9th and 10th instant, at Ten o’Clock in the Forenoon of each day.
THE Genteel HOUSEHOLD FUNITURE, comprising Mahogany Sideboards; Card, Pembroke, and Round Tables, Rosewood Chiffonier; two Sofas, sets of Mahogany Hair-seated Chairs; Barrel Organ, with fours stops, Piano-Forte; two Cellarets; several Pier and Swing Glasses; Bracket-Clock; Clock in Mahogany Case; Timepiece; Chimney Ornaments; Barometer; Bookcase, and several volumes of Books; Brussels and other Carpets; Hearth Rugs; Four Post and Camp Bedsteads; Mattresses; several Lots of excellent Blankets and Counterpanes; Mahogany and Walnut Chests of Drawers; Dressing Tables; Bed-side and Stair Carpets; Brass Rods; with a large assortment of Kitchen Furniture and Culinary Utensils; a few sides of BACON, 100 Bottles of good RASPBERRY and other English-made WINES; and several other Articles too numerous to insert.
The FARMING STOCK consists of three good Milch Cows; one Calf; two Pigs; twenty-six Ewes and thirty-one Lambs; eight fat Ewes; ten Hogs; one Waggon; two Carts and Gearing; one Stack of Hay; two pieces of Stacks of Hay; Garden Rollers; and sundry lots of Old Wood.
Also, a good TRAVELLING CARRIAGE, with Harness for two Horses, two useful Carriage HORSES; a Brown Hackney PONY; Saddle, Bridle, Side Saddle, &c. &c.
The Sale of the Farming Stock, Carriage, and Horses, will take place on TUESDAY, and the Furniture on WEDNESDAY.
Hull, June 21, 1833.
Lincolnshire Pedigrees, edited by the Rev. Canon A.R. Maddison, M.A., F.S.A., 1904, volume 3
Lincolnshire Pedigrees, edited by the Rev. Canon A.R. Maddison, M.A., F.S.A., 1906, volume 4
When you picture gypsies of the past, do you picture them travelling in their gaudily painted horse-drawn caravans or vardos? In truth, this form of transport is a relatively modern invention, and the gypsy people generally sheltered in ‘bender’ tents, using donkeys and carts to transport and carry their tents and their belongings from place to place. A bender tent is formed from a covering of tarpaulin placed over flexible branches, usually willow or hazel, which are staked into the ground, a crude but very effective form of shelter.
For this reason, it was common for these people to ‘overwinter’ in lodgings in towns and cities rather than camp in the very coldest months. Sometimes though, they did find themselves living in their tents during the freezing temperatures. On the evening of the 17th February 1820, in the Lincolnshire countryside, a boy was born in such a tent in sub-zero temperatures.
The Stamford Mercury newspaper, dated the 25th February 1820, reported on the birth.
LINCOLN, FEBRUARY 24
At eleven o’clock on the night of the 17th inst. a poor woman of the gipsy tribe was safely delivered of a fine boy in a lane a mile distant from the village of Wellingore, in this county, under scarcely any other covering than the canopy of heaven. The thermometer that night was ten degrees below freezing point: but notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather then and since (the ground being covered with frost and snow), the mother and child are both doing extremely well in their humble camp.
The infant was baptised at the parish church in Wellingore three days later, on the 20th February, and given the name of Nathaniel. His parents were named as Joshua and Ann Smith, with Joshua’s trade in the baptism register listed as ‘beggar.’
On the 25th October 1809 the jubilee of King George III was celebrated across the nation. Opinion was divided as to whether the jubilee had been celebrated a year too early; 25th October 1809 was the first day of the 50th year of George III’s reign, he had not actually reigned yet for a full fifty years.
In honour of the completion of the fiftieth year of his reign Robert Hobart, the 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire decided to place a statue of the King, made out of Coade Stone (artificial stone manufactured by Eleanor Coade in Lambeth) on the top of Dunston Pillar in Lincolnshire, an old ‘land lighthouse.’
The Dunston Pillar, originally known as Dashwood’s Lighthouse, stands six miles to the south of the City of Lincoln, actually much closer to the village of Harmston than to Dunstan itself, and the pillar, with a spiral staircase inside and originally with a lantern on top reached by a surrounding balustraded gallery, was erected in 1751 by Sir Francis Dashwood (of Hellfire Club fame) to guide travellers across the dark and desolate heathland and to attempt to deter highwaymen and, so it is said, to please his wife.
It is reputed that Sir Francis, 15th Baron le Despencer, later landscaped the area around the pillar, even adding a two story dining hall and it became a popular place for picnics, known as the ‘Vauxhall’ of Lincolnshire. Around the pillar Dashwood built ‘a square walled garden, less than an acre in extent, within a larger enclosure of heathland. There was an opening or gateway in each side of the wall, and a little stone pavilion at each corner. There were plantations outside the walls, and a bowling green just beyond the opening on the north side’. It was recorded in 1836 that an inhabitant of Lincoln remembered seeing as many as sixteen or eighteen carriages there at one time about fifty years previously.
William Wroughton, the Vicar of nearby Welbourn, described the pillar in a letter to Lord le Despencer in 1776 thus:
. . . the Vauxhall of this part of the world. The Bowling Green is the best and kept in the best order I have ever seen and the plantations are all in a very thriving state and will in a few years be the Paradise of Lincolnshire. It was used for the accommodation of parties resorting thither.
From the gallery at the top of the Pillar the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral could be seen to the north and, weather permitting, the Boston Stump to the south.
A decade earlier than the construction of the pillar a local landowner named Charles Chaplin had remodelled the Green Man Inn, part of the Blankney estate and situated very close to the Pillar, where the ‘Lincoln Club’ which included Dashwood and Chaplin, met in the 1740s, although the purpose or aims of the Club have been lost to time. Indeed, as it is not even known how long the Lincoln Club continued to meet then the story that Dashwood built the ‘land lighthouse’ to please his wife may perhaps more realistically be retold to say that he built it to light his and his friends journey to the ‘Lincoln Club’.
Standing over 90ft high the lantern was lighted every night until 1788 and it was last used in 1808. A year later a storm brought the lantern tumbling to the ground.
On the 9th September, 1810, a Lambeth stonemason named John Wilson, no doubt employed by the Coade works, whilst engaged in fixing the statue of George III to the Pillar fell from the top to his death. He was buried in the nearby Harmston churchyard, his epitaph reading:
He who erected the Noble King,
Is here now dead by deaths sharp sting.
To the memory of John Wilson who departed this life Sept. 9th 1810
The Stamford Mercury newspaper dated 9th November 1810 reported the following once the statue of the King had been firmly fixed atop the pillar:
Among the numerous testimonies of loyalty offered by a grateful people to their Sovereign, none perhaps has been more appropriate than what the Earl of Buckinghamshire has recently completed upon his estate at Dunston, in this county. In the year 1751, Sir Francis Dashwood erected the Pillar on Dunston Heath, about five miles south of this city. It was a plain quadrangular building, 92 feet in height, with an octagonal lantern on the top, 15½ feet high, surrounded at its base with a gallery. – It was then of considerable utility to the public, the heath at that time being an uncultivated and extensive waste; but since that period the lands have been inclosed, which has rendered it entirely useless. – Upon the west side of it is the following inscription:-
The lantern and gallery having been removed, the Earl of Buckinghamshire has erected upon the Pillar a magnificent colossal Statue of our venerable Sovereign. It was executed by Code in artificial stone, and measures 14 feet in height, standing upon a pedestal 9 feet high. His Majesty is represented in his coronation robes, with a crown upon his head and a sceptre in his right hand. – Though its elevation from the ground is 115 feet, yet the features are perfectly distinct, and altogether it makes a grand and magnificent appearance. – Two feet above the old inscription is affixed a tablet, with the following record of his Lordship’s loyalty:-
“The Statue upon this Pillar
was erected A.D. 1810,
by Robert Earl of Buckinghamshire,
to commemorate the 50th anniversary
of the reign of his Majesty
King George the Third.”
During WWII the statue was taken down (and damaged in doing so) and the Pillar shortened to prevent any collision with low-flying aircraft as it was near to two airbases. The bust of King George III, all that remains of the statue, can still be seen in the grounds of Lincoln Castle.
Our forthcoming book, A Georgian Heroine: the intriguing life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, sheds more light on George III’s jubilee, as Mrs Biggs, amongst her many other achievements, single-handedly planned the event from her modest home near Chepstow in the Welsh Borders. Discover more here.
In January 1786, in a small rural Lincolnshire village, an elderly gypsy died. Cornelius Blewitt was no ordinary gypsy though, he was a King of the Gypsies, and he was still remembered at the dawn of the 19th century. We think it is fitting that he is remembered once again now.
Cornelius was possibly born in Rochdale in Lancashire, baptized shortly afterwards at Davenham in Cheshire on the 26th February 1721, the son of Eliza Bluet, ‘a travailer‘ although at a baptism of one of his children he and his wife Phillis Boswell were described as being of Woolstone near Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire. Wherever he started his days he ended them at Thurlby-by-Bourne in southern Lincolnshire, where he was buried on the 7th January 1786, the burial register stating his age as 66 years.
Another gypsy also lies in the churchyard at Thurlby-by-Bourne, a girl named Lucia, daughter of Parcenos and Mary Bluet from Kentford in Suffolk who was buried there in 1754.
On December 19th, 1799, the Oracle and Daily Advertiser newspaper published the following article.
THE COUNTRY CHURCH YARD
“Ha! ha! My Friend!” said EUGENIO, interrupting me, “the wings of thy fancy have borne thee again into the Regions of Delusion – as far from the point as Morality from a canting Face. CORNELIUS BLEWITT was a Gypsy.
“And yet, perhaps, you have rather undervalued, than exalted, his importance; for with the alteration of no single circumstance, except the change of scene, from fertile England to the Desert of Arabia, the dust we now despise might, during Life, have been entitled to its seraglio of Beauties, and its guard of Eunuchs; and have ordered the Heads of a hundred Captives to be struck off, to appease his capricious spleen, whenever a tempestuous wind prevented an excursion of Plunder, or a cruel Fair one had neglected the mandate of his love.
Take Physic, Pomp! Ambition check thy rashness. PULTOWA’S loss sunk SWEDEN’S Madman nearly to this level, though BENDER trembled at his shattered greatness; and an unfortunate day on the Banks of the Ganges might have rendered the mighty Son of PHILIP (like him whose mouldering bones we are moralizing upon) the Monarch only of a wandering Tribe of Robbers, as much despised, though I fear, not so little detested, as CORNELIUS BLEWITT.
In short, CORNELIUS, was King of the Gypsies: and was used, every year, attended by his Royal Family, and Officers of State, to visit this Village. He kept his Court at the House of that same honest, grey-headed Farmer, or Publican, where we have left our Horses; and in that very parlour where we enjoyed our tankard of excellent Home brewed, was erected his rustic Throne.
I met the Wanderers there in one of my former excursions: nor ever beheld I a set of merrier, or, apparently, more harmless Beings. And, believe me, the venerable Majesty of CORNELIUS, the despotic Ruler of the mysterious Counsellors of Fate, was regarded with no little reverence by the Country Maidens. Nay, and what will surprise you, his arrival was hailed with no small degree of pleasure by the whole Village; for CORNELIUS and his Subjects spent their money liberally, and paid with punctuality, and it is an invariable rule with these people never to rob in the neighbourhood of their settled Haunts.
But the Majestic Nod and Imperial Frown Death values not. KING CORNELIUS sleeps in the humble Grave, and the Five Bells at Thurlby is no longer a Royal Residence. The Palace and the Empire have shared one common Revolution; though the latter, it seems, has been considerably the greater loser by the change, for not only the Family, but the Nation of our Hero is reported considerably to have declined from its splendour since it has been deprived of his wise Administration.
A solemn deputation is, however, annually, sent to visit the venerated Tomb, to pay it, as is supposed, some mysterious honours, and to keep it in constant repair, a practice which would do honour to more regular Societies; and the neglect of which is a disgrace to the surviving relatives of departed Grandeur; for what can be more ridiculous or irreverent, than, after immense sums have been expended on Sepulchral Monuments to let them moulder away in neglect, and mingle with that dust they were designed to immortalize!
Gipsy Camp; George Morland; The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds
In the mid 1780s Lincolnshire society established an annual ball, known as the ‘Stuff Ball’, to encourage and promote the local manufactory and industry of the fabric known as ‘Lincolnshire Stuff.’ The first ball was held in 1785 at The Windmill Inn, Alford.
‘Stuff’ could refer to any woven fabric and the rules for these balls stipulated that only ‘Lincolnshire Stuff‘ made from Lincolnshire wool and both manufactured and dyed in the county could be worn, the only exception being for gentlemen to be allowed silk stockings. Each year the titled patroness of the ball chose the colour theme for the year ensuring that all the guests had to order new clothes rather than wear those from the previous year.
Due to the success of the ball, the venue had to be changed to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend and it was held at the Assembly rooms on Lincoln’s Bailgate from 1789 when the first patroness there was Lady Banks, wife of Sir Joseph Banks.
In 1790 Lady Monson was patroness when the colour scheme chosen was brown. One wonders how the ladies present dressed that one up!
Click to enlarge
A contemporary report described it thus:
The Lady’s magazine: or, Entertaining companion for the fair sex, 1791
At a time when the amusements of the wealthy are more calculated for their private gratification than for the good of the public, the following information relative to the Lincolnshire ball, cannot be unacceptable.
The annual ball for the benefit of the stuff manufactory of Lincolnshire, was begun about six or eight years ago at Alford, with an intention to encourage the spinning of worsted among the poor, and in the houses of industry in this country; and removed to Lincoln in 1789 when Lady Banks was patroness.
The following are the rules by which the ball is conducted.
Ladies are admitted gratis, appearing in a stuff gown and petticoat of the colour appointed by the patroness, spun, woven, and finished within the county, and producing a ticket signed by the weaver, and countersigned by the dyer; one of which tickets is to be delivered with every twelve yards of stuff.
Tickets to gentlemen are 10s. 6d. who are to appear without any silk or cotton in their dress, stockings excepted.
The first year, the assembly-room was so very much crowded, that the stewards erected a temporary booth for the cold collation the year following; when the ball was honoured with most of the nobility and gentry of the county; 466 being present, viz. 252 ladies, and 214 gentlemen. Lady Monson was patroness, and the ball colour a dark brown or carmelite.
The Morning Post, on the 1st December 1796, and amidst the backdrop of the French Revolution, reported that:
Lady BERTIE is the patroness of a Ball at Lincoln for the encouragement of Lincolnshire Stuffs, and at which those stuffs are, of course, alone worn. If our Nobility followed the example of Lady BERTIE, and Lord EGREMONT, the Duke of BEDFORD, &c., the great Patrons of improvement in agriculture, the discontented would have less ground of complaint against the Aristocracy.
In 1809 the annual Stuff Ball was combined with the Royal Jubilee celebrations for King George III on October 25th and ‘perhaps, never before exhibited such an universal scene of elegant and decorous festivity.’
By the end of the 19th century, although the balls continued in the same tradition, with the patroness picking the colour, the rules regarding the wearing of Lincolnshire Stuff had been waylaid and much lighter fabrics, such as muslin were the norm, more suited to the ballroom. The balls were also moved from their usual date of October or November to January. The ball scheduled for January 1900 was cancelled; it was felt that a time when so many families were anxious for relatives serving in the Boer War it was not suitable to be enjoying the festivities of a ball, and the tradition gradually lapsed.
History often tends to record a primarily male perspective. The letters of great men have survived, where those of their womenfolk have not. That these are of prime importance is not disputed, but where the letters documenting the military, political and business dealings of the male world can easily be found in various record offices and repositories around the globe, the gossipy letters of their wives, sisters and daughters, more often than not, have been lost to us. And those gossipy letters are what interests me most.
And so it was that, with idle curiosity my only motive, I sat down at the County Archives Office in Lincoln to view the diary of Miss Jane Reeve.
The diarist was the daughter of William Reeve Esquire, of Leadenham Hall and, in 1808 when she was writing her diary, was a young unmarried woman of 22 years. I have debated, in writing this, whether to share with you the additional knowledge I had of Jane before reading her diary; is it wise to reveal an unhappy ending at the beginning of a tale? However, to understand the poignancy with which I read this diary, it is necessary to know that poor Jane died in the year she commenced writing this diary, before even the spring flowers were fully in bloom.
It was a slightly discomforting experience to read the diary, a personal and private journal belonging to someone else, even with a distance of more than two hundred years between Jane and myself. Added to this, to read at the beginning of the diary, the hopes Jane had for that coming year was almost heartbreaking.
January started quietly enough for Jane, at home in Leadenham, with her Mama and younger sister Millicent Mary for company, but then the excitement of the local elections provided a diversion from her usual routine. On the 6th of January she ‘arrived at Lincoln at one o’clock, the town all in a bustle about ye election, went to the Ball introduced by Uncle King to Col. Harcourt wished most sincerely for him & danced with his friend Mr. Howard.’ I have a feeling that Miss Jane Reeve would be horrified by my suggesting it, but there is a hint that she was more than a little attracted by Colonel Harcourt, as he warrants a few more entries in her diary. Indeed, she bumped into him the very next day, after walking in Lincoln Minster with her sister Millicent (referred to as Mili in the diary).
7th Jan. Mili and I walked in ye Minster, returned home were delighted at seeing Col. Harcourt’s party who stood some time before the House, the Col. with Uncle K. came in……..
8th Jan. After breakfast six favors sent us by the Col., was happy in sporting one & flourished out of town with true blue, sorry to leave the interesting scene.
After all the fun home seemed a little dull on Jane’s return the next day. Colonel George William Richard Harcourt, a godson of King George III and a handsome military hero, was aged 32 at the time of the Lincoln election in 1808. He stood as a friend of government, at the time nominally Tory. Jane might have wished Harcourt to be the victor, but he lost the election to Lord Mexborough by 348 votes to 639. The total costs of the election for both Mexborough and Harcourt were estimated at the time as being not less than 25,000 to 30,000l., and it is recorded that Harcourt left many bills unpaid and went abroad soon after.
Though living in genteel obscurity in the country Jane was on visiting terms with some of the best families in Lincolnshire. On the 12th January she visited General and Mrs Manners at Bloxholm, relations of the Duke of Rutland and on the following day Mrs and Miss Chaplin called to fetch Jane and Mili to Blankney Hall for a short stay where there was a party of people their age. January 14th was spent working and gossiping during the day, and then gossiping again after dinner whilst the gentlemen played whist. Jane mentions that, despite the fun, she felt ‘rather flat, did not to my sorrow spot Col. Harcourt.’ Jane and Mili’s Mama arrived the next day to escort them back home whilst the rest of the Blankney party set out for a Ball at Newark.
And so life returned to a quiet round of visiting local families, needlework and reading, until the excitement of a visit to London. Setting out on Friday 22nd January, with her Papa, they visited both Fineshade [Abbey] in Northamptonshire to stay for a few days, home of Colonel the Hon. John Monckton, also Great Stukeley Hall in Huntingdonshire to stay overnight with Mr James Torkington and his family. Jane played chess with Mr Torkington after dinner. The next day, accompanied by Mr Torkington, Jane and her Papa completed their journey and arrived in London. Whilst the menfolk stayed elsewhere, Jane took a room with her Aunt King.
Jane and Aunt King spent the time shopping and sight-seeing, taking in St. Paul’s, the Tower of London, the British Museum and Kensington Gardens. Papa visited, sometimes taking breakfast or dinner with Jane and her aunt, as did Jane’s elder brother, John. Jane no doubt enjoyed the bright lights of the big city; she mentions going to the opera, which she enjoyed and dines out several times.
Sadly though, on February 5th she mentions visiting a play at Covent Garden with a large party, only to record that she is ‘perfectly happy except no real pleasure.’ Her last full day in London, February 6th, was spent being rushed around with a Miss Manners, taking in Westminster Abbey, the House of Lords and Commons and the Court of the King’s Bench, and the next day she left the metropolis in company with her Papa and brother. Taking a detour, they stayed in Cambridge for three days, looking around the colleges, before starting on the journey home to Leadenham.
John travelled with them as far as Wansford before bidding his sister goodbye, not knowing that it would be for the last time. Jane and her Papa once more stayed at Fineshade where they had a quiet family dinner. Jane records that the weather was terribly cold; they had only planned to stay for two nights but were delayed by a day from returning home as a heavy snowstorm fell. The journey was continued despite the snow and in company with Colonel Monckton, getting as far as Stamford on the first day before finally arriving home again on February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day. Jane is no doubt relieved, recording in her diary her happiness in being home.
After having faithfully recorded the events of every day of the year so far, there is a gap until the 22nd February when Jane writes that the weather was terribly cold and that she has spent the day in writing, etc. She gives no reason for neglecting her diary for the previous week. And, with that short entry on February 22nd, Jane’s entries into her diary cease altogether.
A different hand writes an entry on the 3rd of March:
Dear Jane departed this life at half past six in the evening aged 22 the 2nd of January March last.
January is struck through, and March pencilled in; the writer was too distressed to notice her mistake at the time and corrected it later. A further entry, in the same hand, records Jane’s funeral which took place at 2 o’clock on the afternoon of the 9th of March.
The Leadenham parish burial registers confirm her burial on that day, ‘Jane, eldest daughter of William Reeve Esq.’
The author of the last two entries was Jane’s sister, Mili. Her identity is revealed by three subsequent entries in Jane’s diary in the same hand and signed as Millicent Mary Reeve. Still distraught two years later, in an entry dated 2nd March 1810 Mili wrote a further entry, observing that two years had passed since she said farewell to her sister. She writes again on 9th March 1810, the two dates having a painful significance for her, again imploring that she may be as good as her sister was.
Her final entry, and the last in the diary is a further lamentation for her loss of both a sister and a friend, dated 19th July 1814.