We came across this article, accidentally, as you do, and with our arguably warped sense of humour we found the wedding story somewhat amusing, so after much deliberation (well not much, if we’re being honest), we thought we would share it with you. Trigger warning, it doesn’t have a happy ending though!
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.
We have some exciting news to share with you, our readers, today. As well as writing our bi-weekly blog posts, we have also been working on our fourth book together… and this one is based on our blog! In fact, we’ve reused the name, and the title of our new book is All Things Georgian: Tales From the Long Eighteenth-Century.
It contains 25 tales that you won’t find on our blog already, all a little longer in length but, as ever, lavishly illustrated, predominantly in colour. In fact, we’ve got over 100 gorgeous colour pictures scattered throughout the text. The tales are all in roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830 and set within the framework of the main events of the era.
So, what stories can you expect to find inside? We bill ourselves as historical super-sleuths and we’ve dug into various archives to discover the weird, the wonderful and the downright strange side of long eighteenth-century.
Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Marvel at the Queen’s Ass, gaze at the celestial heavens through the eyes of the past and be amazed by the equestrian feats of the Norwich Nymph. Journey to the debauched French court at Versailles, travel to Covent Garden and take your seat in a box at the theatre and, afterwards, join the mile-high club in a new-fangled hot air balloon. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory.
Out in the UK by the end of April, 2019. Click here to discover more.
We’ve written about Georgian era riding habits in an earlier blog, but this time we’re looking at the practicalities of wearing one. Female equestrians in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries were certainly hampered by their clothes, in comparison to men, and needed assistance just to mount and dismount. Then, once in the saddle, they had to arrange themselves to be perfectly positioned with their skirts all in place.
The young horsewoman’s compendium of the modern art of riding; comprising a progressive course of lessons; designed to give ladies a secure and graceful seat on horseback; at the same time, so effectively to form the hand, that they may, in a short time, acquire perfect command of their horses, (1827) gives the following instructions for a novice horsewoman.
Two persons are necessary to assist in putting a Lady on Horseback; one to hold up the Horse’s head, standing immediately in front, with a hand on each Bridoon Rein, close to the Horse’s mouth; the other to life the Lady up to the Saddle.
The Lady having first adjusted her Habit, is to place her right shoulder against the Saddle, her face turned a little from the Horse. Her right hand, with the Bridoon Rein hanging loosely on the fore-finger, or thumb, to be placed on the upright Horn, and to stand perfectly erect, resting the whole weight of the body on the right foot.
The person lifting our equestrian up, now stoops down and cups his hands together; the lady places her left foot in his hands and keeps her left knee as straight as possible.
If the left knee be much bent, the person lifting the Lady up, has very little command of her weight; she is, therefore, compelled to drag herself up in the most ungraceful manner possible… by attention to the foregoing rules, the most heavy, or inactive person, may be lifted up at the first attempt, if the pressure in the man’s hands is correctly perpendicular, and the Lady stands so close to the Saddle as to touch it with her right shoulder.
Before all this, however, thought needs to be given to the riding habit… specifically keeping it out of the way.
[When being lifted onto the saddle] care must be taken, that no part of the Habit is under the Lady’s foot when placed in the man’s hands; as it acts as a check, and prevents her taking a sufficient spring, which must be proportioned to the height of the Horse the Lady is to be put on.
On arriving in the Saddle, the right knee must be put into the crutch as soon as possible; but, previously to doing so, it will be advisable to take hold of the Habit and under garments with the right hand, close to the right knee, to ease them up, in order to allow sufficient room for the knee to come quite down in the crutch, where it must remain perfectly stationary.
Should the Habit require any regulating behind, the Lady must take hold of the crutch with her right hand, and gently raise herself from the Saddle, and smooth it down with her left hand; but if it is properly adjusted, previously to being lifted up, it will require very little alteration after arriving in the Saddle.
Great care must be observed, that the Habit and under garments are particularly full and easy, in order that the Lady may be at perfect liberty, and not, in the most trifling degree, confined by them.
It is a much safer plan, to put that part of the Habit which hangs near the Horse’s side, round the foot, previously to putting it into the Stirrup, than to fasten it down with a clasp, or a pin; as, in the event of a Lady being thrown from her Horse, the Habit disengages itself with the foot.
The Skirt to the Riding Habit should not be too long, as there is a possibility of its getting between the Horse’s fore-legs, or being blown across them, so as to check his action, and throw him down. It also makes a Lady’s figure appear disproportionate.
There is also advice as to headgear, but not relating to safety as we’d understand it. No hard hats here, and we do wonder what the writer would have made of a lady carrying a parasol while hawking, as in this portrait below.
Long veils are also dangerous on Horseback, as they get entangled with the Reins, confuse the Rider, and cause her to lose the command of her Horse.
Never lift the right hand up, with the Whip in it, to adjust the Hat; it not only looks extremely awkward, but will sometimes cause a Horse to shy. Place the Whip under the thumb of the Bridle Hand; and should there be a Rein in the right hand, it may either be dropped, or placed under the forefinger of the Bridle Hand. This leaves the right hand quite at liberty.
This lady, then, is doing everything wrong!
It was advised that, as with getting into the saddle, at least two men should be present to help our lady dismount from her horse and that:
before springing from the Saddle, [she should] draw the right hand down under the right leg, to feel that the Habit is quite clear of it and the Stirrup.
It wasn’t unheard of for women to ride astride a horse rather than side-saddle. An early nineteenth-century caricature, full of innuendo, jokes about the practice.
It was more commonplace on mainland Europe for ladies to ‘ride astride’ or en cavalier (literally, as a rider or horseman). There are famous portraits of both Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great riding in male clothing in this way. The ill-fated Caroline Matilda, George III’s younger sister, embraced the custom after she married the Danish king.
The [Danish] Queen Consort, young, gay, affable and obliging, gained all hearts by her assiduity to please. It is no wonder that such a person should give occasion for censure to those who were already disposed to find fault… The ladies of Denmark, unlike our countrywomen, when they ride, bestride their horses like men; but to preserve the decorum of the sex, they wear a petticoat over their drawers or breeches. Unhappily her Majesty looked upon the petticoat as an incumbrance, and when she hunted, dressed herself en cavalier. This was immediately taken notice of by her enemies as a great act of indecency.
Nevertheless, riding in this way caused much astonishment and excitement in England.
A German Lady who dresses, and rides en cavalier, has for several days past attracted the attention of the beaux and belles in Hyde-park. She is well mounted, takes her morning rides without any attendant, and leaps over the different bars in the park with all imaginable coolness, and resolution.
And, just slipping in within our timeframe, is this account of the trend-setting Lady Mary Deerhurst, taking full advantage of her freedoms while living and travelling abroad.
The lady alluded to in the Morning Post as astonishing the natives of Rome by riding in the public streets in Turkish trowsers, and en cavalier, with her daughter in a similar costume is Lady Mary Deerhurst, the lively daughter of Aubrey, Duke of St Albans. Her elopement with Viscount Deerhurst was followed in a few years by separation between the parties; since which period, being in possession of a splendid fortune, she has lived an independent life in Italy, somewhat after the fashion of Lady Hester Stanhope. In her exploring parties in the vicinity of Rome, Lady Mary frequently remains on horseback from twelve to sixteen hours, to the no small consternation of her languid Italian attendants.
A few days ago, I was browsing through an 1819 copy of the Morning Advertiser looking for something completely different when this story caught my eye.
Around early July 1819, a pretty young woman, reckoned to be in her early 20s, turned up at a lodging house in George Court off Aylesbury Street in Clerkenwell. She was, she told the owner, a complete stranger in London, having just arrived from the country, and asked if she could take a room for a few weeks while she attended to some proceedings in Chancery.
The woman’s appearance was decent and, as she was happy to pay the rent on her lodgings in advance, she was accommodated in the house with no further ado.
It didn’t take the other women who lived there long, however, to notice that the lady was in the advanced stages of pregnancy, however well she might have tried to hide it. A nearby apothecary was called in to attend to her and, in the first week of August, this unnamed woman gave birth to a fine and healthy child (if the evidence we have is correct, on 2nd August 1819).
The next day, against all advice to the contrary, the new mother got up and dressed herself.
She was remonstrated with on the danger to which she exposed herself, but she made light of it. This and other circumstances drew the attention of the people in the house more particularly towards her…
Four days after the birth of her child, and under close observation from the family and other lodgers, the young woman was seen to leave George Court, carrying a small box under her arm. Two women who were fellow lodgers followed her, one of whom was a Mrs Baker, a printer’s wife. The mysterious young woman and her two spies wended their way some distance across the fields of rural Clerkenwell towards the New River (really a form of canal dating from 1613, created to supply London with fresh drinking water from a series of Hertfordshire springs). When near Sadler’s Wells, where the New River terminated in a reservoir known as the New River Head, it looked as if she was going to throw the box she carried into the water, but then changed her mind and instead veered away over the adjoining fields.
With Mrs Baker and her friend still in hot pursuit, our mystery lady headed across the fields towards Islington and made for a secluded area where she sat down, opened the box, took something out and tied it in her shawl. Then she closed the box, picked up both it and the bundle tied in her shawl, and walked on until she came to a gentleman’s house. There she put both the box and bundle down and was about to walk away when Mrs Baker and her accomplice caught up: they darted forward and grabbed hold of her. Once the box was opened, as they’d suspected, they found the baby, naked and gasping for breath. The infant’s clothes were wrapped in the shawl.
Mrs Baker called for a watchman and ‘the inhuman mother’ (as a newspaper report termed her) was apprehended and marched to the watch house.
It was now that a sensational twist to the tale was revealed, if we believe the reports which surfaced. During a search of the woman, ‘upwards of 1000l. in good Country and Bank of England notes were found in her possession’. To put that into perspective, it’s the equivalent of over £50,000 in today’s money, a small fortune then, as now. Certainly enough for her to have disappeared and set up in a house with her child, rather than abandon the babe at the doorway of a gentleman’s house.
Taken overnight to the workhouse, before she could be hauled before the Hatton Garden magistrates the woman fell into a fever. A reluctant inmate, she slowly recovered but stubbornly refused to answer any questions about her identity.
This snippet of factual evidence sounds like a great start to a work of historical fiction. We already have many different theories buzzing around our heads as to how the young woman had found herself in this position.
We’ve searched for more information on her, hoping to find out her name. That still, unfortunately, eludes us, but we did find one more newspaper report. The lady’s husband turned up to claim her! We’ll relate the report from the newspapers but, attempting to read between the lines, we are still left wondering as to the truth of the matter. Incidentally, no further mention was made of the huge sum of money that she was supposedly carrying: was this myth or just a further strand of the whole mystery? She had, remember, paid for her rent at George Court in advance. Money worries don’t seem to have been an issue for her.
The couple were from Yorkshire, and the husband was of ‘respectable appearance’ and seemed dutifully affected by his wife’s distress. He claimed that she was suffering from the ‘consequence of a severe hurt she had formerly received in her head, was at times deranged, and he could no otherwise account for her leaving a comfortable home, and acting in the extraordinary manner she had done, than by supposing she was under the influence of the disorder to which she was subject’.
The magistrate agreed to bail the woman as long as her husband entered into a recognizance for £50 and found two other householders who would each join him in promising £25 each, to secure her future appearance at the court. The Yorkshire husband pleaded against this: could he not provide the full £100 himself, for he didn’t know anybody in London who would be prepared to stand as the additional surety? He went further, urging as a reason:
the deplorable state of his family, one child having died since his wife left her home, and two lying at present in a state of imminent danger.
The magistrate commiserated with the man, but rules were rules. If he couldn’t meet the required bail conditions, then his wife must remain in custody.
And there, sadly, we must also leave her until such time as further information comes to light. In the meantime, we reckon there’s a novel in this story for anyone disposed to write it and rescue our mystery woman. Which way would you take it: was she fleeing from her husband or was his story of woe true? How did she come by the injury to her head in that case? Why did she want to give up her child? And, all that money! Where did that come from?
We are delighted to welcome The Early Dance Circle to the blog. On Friday 1st March they have their Annual Lecture, with this year’s guest speaker our good friend and fellow Pen and Sword author, Georgian Gentleman, Mike Rendell. So, to find out more about the event we hand over to Sharon, from the centre, to tell you more:
Join us on the dance floor of history – Learn how to dance Britain’s heritage or come to enjoy watching and help to pass it on.
If you love dance and want to safeguard and pass on its earliest forms in the UK and Europe, join us now. You can help us to secure a thriving future for early dance.
The Early Dance Circle (EDC) is a UK charity that aims to promote the enjoyment, performance and study of historical dance in the UK and beyond. Formed in 1984, it counts individuals and groups, both amateur and professional, among its members. We believe that a knowledge of earlier forms of dance helps enrich the cultural life of the UK, by accessing a heritage of international importance that belongs to us all, but has been until recently largely forgotten.
Our website, Early Dance Circle, offers information about classes & teachers, all our many events (including an Annual Early Dance Festival) our publications and lots of free resources about the 500 years of dance history in the UK and the rest of Europe. We have sponsored a free annual lecture since 1988.
Our Annual Lecture for 2019 will take place on
Friday 1st March 2019 at 7.15pm
Best foot forward – Georgian Style: Waltzing through History
Mike will look at dance in the Georgian era from a social history point of view – its importance, what it was like to go to Bath, to the Pantheon, to Almacks, what people wore, how they travelled, the role of the Master of Ceremonies, the growth of Masquerades – and finally some press reaction to the introduction of that grossly immoral and shocking dance, the waltz.
Mike is the custodian of a vast array of family papers dating back to the early 1700s. After he retired, he published The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman: The Life and Times of Richard Hall 1729-1801 (2011) about his Georgian ancestor. Currently working on no fewer than three books, Mike is known to 18th Century enthusiasts through his highly varied blogs on life in the Georgian period. He speaks regularly in the UK and abroad.
To reserve your free place, please book on Eventbrite (click here).
We are thrilled to welcome back the author of Regency Cheshire, Sue Wilkes who explores the county during the age of Jane Austen and Walter Scott; Regency Cheshire is now available on Kindle. Here’s a brief look at one of Cheshire’s most famous Regency-era architects.
Thomas Harrison (1744–1829), a Yorkshireman of humble origin, learnt his craft in Italy during the early 1770s.
Harrison’s works brought a restrained classicism to the city. His first major project was the Castle site, home to the civil and crown courts, county gaol, and an army garrison. Prison reformer John Howard, who visited in 1788, likened conditions in the cells (which housed debtors and felons) to the Black Hole of Calcutta.
In the summer of 1784, Cheshire magistrates, following a country-wide typhus epidemic the previous year, held a design competition for a new gaol within the castle. Thomas Harrison, now in his early forties, won the 50-guinea prize for his plans. Preliminary work began on site in 1788.
Harrison’s new gaol was laid out in the shape of a half-octagon fanning out from the Shire Hall. When the building was finally completed in 1801, conditions had greatly improved. The gaoler’s house looked out over an exercise yard; the cells, nine ft. by seven ft., were built in two-storey blocks along the inside of the perimeter wall. Robert Southey commented on how comfortably the jailor was housed:
The new jail is considered as a perfect model of prison architecture… The main objects attended to are, that the prisoners be kept apart from each other, and that the cells should always be open to inspection, and well ventilated so as to prevent infectious disorders… The structure of this particular prison is singularly curious, the cells being so constructed that the jailor from his dwelling-house can look into every one…The apartment from whence we were shown the interior of the prison was well, and even elegantly furnished; there were geraniums flowering upon stands, – a pianoforte, and music-books lying open – , and when we looked from the window we saw criminals with irons upon their legs, in solitary dungeons: – one of them, who was intently reading some devotional book, was, we were told, certainly to be executed at the next assizes…
Although Harrison’s design was very beautiful, it wasn’t necessarily secure; five prisoners escaped in the spring of 1802, and another five absconded in November 1807.
Harrison’s beautiful Propylaea Gateway, inspired by the Acropolis in Athens, was the crowning glory of the Castle complex. The gateway, with its Doric porticos and massy columns, is a high point of Greek Revival architecture in England.
Harrison’s new Shire Hall, with a grand façade of a Doric portico in fine ashlar stone, formed a harmonious whole with the prison buildings. Work continued on the Castle site for the rest of the decade; a new Armoury and Barracks (the present day Regimental Museum) for the garrison was added.
Harrison was also asked to revamp the city’s last surviving medieval gate, the Northgate. It housed the city gaol and had a dire reputation. This mouldering pile had a dreadful dungeon thirty feet below street level.
The Northgate was demolished and replaced by Harrison with a ’light, elegant structure of white stone.’ He also designed a new city gaol and House of Correction, built between 1806 and 1808, close to the medieval walls, but these buildings no longer survive.
Harrison was a very busy man in Chester during the Regency era. Thomas repaired the crumbling fabric of Chester Cathedral and refurbished the Exchange. His elegant Commercial News Room on Northgate St was a quiet haven for gentlemen wishing to peruse the daily newspapers. At Chester’s famous racecourse, the Roodee, he designed the first permanent grandstand to give genteel race-goers some protection from the weather. His skills were also greatly in demand for private homes.
Harrison’s works form a wonderful legacy for Cheshire architecture. His obituary in the Chester Chronicle (3 April 1829) called him a ‘highly distinguished artist,’ who ‘in his professional character, had few equals.’
14th July 1817 saw the demise of the Swiss author, woman of letters and political thinker, aged 51, Madame Germaine de Staël. She was regarded as a witty socialite and always wore the most fashionable if daring clothing. Living through the French Revolution and opposed to Napoleon, she spent much of the time in exile.
In late June 1813, she arrived in London, with her daughter and was seen at all the fashionable places and social events, proving herself to be exceptionally popular and invited to all the best society parties. The newspapers were full of details of her attendance at events – everyone wanted to meet her.
Little known fact – she had ugly feet!
The presence of Madame de Staël in London has set all the journalists and magazine writers at work, to collect anecdotes of her conversational powers, her age, her appearance, her fine arm and her ugly feet. With respect to the latter, the following story is told. The French are famous for their neat quibbles – Madame de Staël was once at a place in Paris, where there was a pedestal, which, vain of her arm, she mounted, and put herself in an attitude to display it; but unluckily, which in this situation, she exhibited one of her feet. A French wit approached, and pretending to look more immediately at the pedestal, without noticing her feet, exclaimed ‘O le villain Pie-De-Stal!’
Windsor and Eton Express 01 August 1813
During her stay in London, she took great interest in the British education system and the newspapers reported her visits to various schools in London; she also managed a visit to Oxford University in December 1813.
In 1814 Paris had surrendered to the Allied troops and Napoléon, when he saw there was no option left, had abdicated his position of Emperor, surrendered to his opponents on 11th April and was exiled to the island of Elba.
This was regarded as a cause for celebration and we came across a report of her attendance as one of the honoured guests, at a ‘Fete’ in honour of The Peace. The account gave such a detailed description of the venue we simply had to share it with you.
On Friday night Breadalbane House in Park Lane was opened, for the first time two years, with a Fete, given expressly in honour of the late glorious change in the political hemisphere. To this entertainment were invited all the illustrious branches of the House of Bourbon. The most distinguished personages, the most fashionable youth of both sexes were present and exhibited an emulous display of the most superb dresses, enchanting beauty, and refined wit.
On entering, the company were introduced into a hall, decorated with natural and artificial flowers, curiously interwoven, among which the white rose and laurel leaves were conspicuously blended.
Ascending the grand geometrical staircase (a fine piece of architecture), a very pleasing object presented itself to view; it was festoons, garlands and wreaths of white roses and laurel leaves. In the principal room appeared objects of singular splendour, superb mirrors, ottomans, chairs, sofas, fauteuils, and jardinières of burnished gold, exquisite paintings with all the warmth and colouring of the Italian school; bronzes, porcelain and ormolu; inestimable specimens of rare bijoutry and other articles of vertu.
Here the floor was painted in watercolours, in which the artist inimitably described the fall of despotism by allegorical figures, with the rising sun of the Capets, personified by a bust of Louis XVIII. ‘Vivent Les Bourbons’ and the lily appeared on every side.
It is impossible to give a just idea of the charming coup d’oeil presented by the former capacious room lighted by superb chandeliers and filled with elegant dancers. The music commenced at half-past eleven o’clock, with ‘The White Cockade’ led off by the Earl of Kinnoull and Lady Elizabeth Campbell. Next followed the Prince Regent. A double set was increased by four. The spirit and animation displayed were uncommonly gratifying and without prejudice, we may stage, that Lady Elizabeth Campbell excelled.
The waltzing commenced at one o’clock. Here was an admirable display of refinement in that mode of exhibiting ‘the light fantastic toe’. The Duke of Devonshire and Miss Mercer Elphinstone; Lord Maitland and Lady Susan Ryder; Earl of Fife and Lady Westmorland; Countess of Jersey and the Hon. Mrs Fitzroy. At two o’clock supper was announced. The company promenaded down the stairs into the library. On the staircase were the colours of the different Allies – Russia. Austria, Prussia and England.
Here another object of powerful influence rivetted the attention of every individual; it was a display of gold plate, antique and exquisitely wrought. These glittering objects, dazzling the senses into confusion – candelabras, tripods, urns, cups and salvers. A horseshoe table in this room and several long ones in the two adjoining apartments supped two hundred and fifty persons.
The most exquisite wines, the costliest preserves, the finest pineapples, grapes and produce of hot and succession houses, were in abundance. In short, everything that could recommend an entertainment was remembered.
Adding not a little to the effect may be enumerated the lighting of upwards of 200 wax candles, were used. Although the crowded rooms produced heat, the effect was not disagreeable, owing no doubt, to the use of wax instead of oil. The latter is a most pernicious custom, and we are happy to hear, will be nearly exploded this season, the Marchioness of Salisbury having likewise set the example.
The dancing recommenced with reels, at three o’clock and the whole concluded at six in the morning. An elegant dejeune was then served up, and the visitants soon after retired.
By September 1814, Madame de Staël had returned to Paris and was apparently
no longer in vogue. Her literary vagaries found no countenance from the French Court, and as for the middling classes, these persons do not understand, or even attempt to read her works.
We can share with you an interesting comment made by our Georgian Heroine, Mrs (Rachel) Charlotte Williams Biggs, written to a close friend in early April 1814, which conjured up quite an amusing image.
Clearly, Charlotte’s perception of Madame de Staël was somewhat different from views elsewhere expressed about her relationship with Napoleon. Could she see that Madame de Staël would fall out of favour?
Madame de Staël & her disciples will now be out of fashion & I doubt not but that she feels disappointed and mortified – she liked the principle of Buonaparte’s power, and only objected to that portion of it which was exercised against herself – I recommend the sending all these people to Elba, they would be like confined spiders & soon destroy each other.
There were a number of establishments known as Almack’s over the years; today we are focusing on the famous Assembly Rooms on King Street, St James.
Opened in 1765 by a Yorkshireman named William Almack (often mistakenly claimed to be a Scot named William MacCall) the assembly rooms consisted of a ballroom (balls were held on a Wednesday evening during the season), supper room (where a rather meager repast was to be found) and game room. From the outset, Almack allowed his rooms to be goverened by a clique of titled and influential Lady Patronesses; entry to the hallowed inner rooms was strictly policed and good breeding rather than wealth was the key to a ticket. Inside was to be found dancing, gossiping and match-making; according to Captain Gronow, an officer in the guards and a friend to many of the elite including the famed Beau Brummell, Almack’s was ‘the seventh heaven of the fashionable world’.
Today, from one of Captain Gronow’s reminscences, we are going to take a closer look at an account of a Regency ball held at Almack’s during 1815. By this date, the assembly rooms were owned by Almack’s daughter, Elizabeth Pitcairn (her husband, David Pitcairn, physician extraordinary to the Prince of Wales, was first cousin to our ‘infamous mistress’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott).
The image above accompanied Gronow’s reminiscence, although the outfits worn are clearly later than 1815. Nevertheless, it depicts the dandy, Beau Brummell deep in conversation with the Duchess of Rutland. In the centre, the Comte de Saint Antonio, later the Duke of Cannizarro, is leading the Princess Esterhazy, who was the youngest Lady Patroness of Almack’s during the Regency, into a waltz. The princess, whose husband was the Austrian Ambassador to England, was described as being, ‘black, animated, and somewhat spiteful’ by Dorothea, Princess Lieven, wife of the Russian ambassador and an influential figure amongst the corps diplomatique, who nevertheless cheerfully admitted that she got on well with her. Sir George Warrender and the Comte de Sainte-Alegonde stand together on the right. The former was once a great friend of both Beau Brummell and the Prince Regent; a generous host, he gained the nickname, Sir George Provender.
Almack’s in 1815. — The personages delineated on the cover are well worthy of notice, both from the position they held in the fashionable world, and from their being represented with great truth and accuracy. The great George Brummell, the admirable Crichton of the age, stands in a dégagé attitude, with his fingers in his waistcoat pocket. His neckcloth is inimitable, and must have cost him much time and trouble to arrive at such perfection; as the following anecdote shows. A friend calling on the beau saw the valet with an armful of flowing white cravats, and asked him if his master wanted so many at once. “These, sir, are our failures,” was the reply. “Clean linen, and plenty of it,” was Brummell’s maxim. He is talking earnestly to the charming Duchess of Rutland, who was a Howard, and mother to the present Duke.
The tall man, in a black coat, who is preparing to waltz with Princess Esterhazy, so long ambassadress of Austria in London, is the Comte de St Antonio, afterwards Duke of Canizzaro. He resided many years in England, was a very handsome man, and a great lady-killer; he married an English heiress, Miss Johnson.
The original sketch from which these figures are taken, included also portraits of Charles, Marquis of Queensberry, Baron Neumann, at that time secretary of the Austrian Embassy; the late Sir George Warrender (who was styled by his friends Sir George Provender, being famed for his good dinners); and the handsome Comte St Aldegonde, afterwards a general, and at this period aide-de-camp to Louis Philippe, then Duke of Orleans.
The sketch was made in water-colours, from a group of these celebrities at a ball at Almack’s, and was given to Brummell by the artist who executed it; it was highly prized by the king of the dandies, and was purchased at the sale of his effects in Chapel Street by the person who gave it to me.
NB: Gronow talks about an ‘original sketch’ which included other Regency personalities and which had been owned by Brummell and later given to Gronow. For some reason, it would appear that Gronow had the sketch redrawn and possibly from memory? If so, it would be wonderful to rediscover the one which presumably shows those at the ball attired in full Regency fashion.
Museum of Painting and Sculpture, Or, Collection of the Principal Pictures, Statues and Bas-reliefs in the Public and Private Galleries of Europe, Volume 6 by Etienne Achille Réveil, 1829.
Letters of Dorothea, Princess Lieven, during her residence in London, 1812-1834. Edited by Lionel G. Robinson, 1902.
Anecdotes of celebrities of London and Paris: to which are added the last recollections of Captain Gronow, formerly of the First Foot Guards, volume 2, 1870.
Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, formerly of the Grenadier Guards: and M.P. for Stafford: being Anecdotes of the Camp, the Court and the Clubs at the close of the last war with France, Pickle Partners Publishing, 2011
Around midnight, or just shortly thereafter, Miss Mary Burton crept out of her father’s house at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, into the waiting arms of her lover, William Fields, a draper from Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
William must have had a carriage waiting for his lady, but the Stamford Mercury newspaper described their escape much more poetically.
WE FLY BY NIGHT… on “the wings of love”
It is possibly a slight disappointment, after knowing that they flew through the midnight hours on the wings of love, to find that their destination was not more glamorous than William’s home town, Hull. Mary’s father, Mr Burton, a miller and baker (Mary was his only daughter), certainly knew where his errant daughter had gone to and, as soon as he discovered that she was missing, he set off for Hull in hot pursuit.
But he was too late, the couple had already exchanged their vows to one another at the altar of Holy Trinity church and had married, by licence, on the same day that they had entered Hull, the 25th November 1812 in front of two witnesses, William Sotheran and Esther Fox.
Mary, it would appear, was just over 21 years of age; there is a baptism at All Saints in Gainsborough for Mary, daughter of William and Ann Burton (William’s trade is given as a baker) on the 29th October 1791.
William Fields was likely the same man who traded with a partner, George Benjamin Everington as Everington and Fields, linen drapers of Kingston-upon-Hull. Their partnership was dissolved shortly after William’s hasty marriage, on the 18th December 1812, with William alone carrying on the business and promising to pay all debts owing. He traded from no. 9, Whitefriargate. It is also likely that it was the same William Fields who, in February 1814, announced that he had taken the grocery shop formerly occupied by a Mr Smith at no. 3 North Bridge, Witham, where tea, coffee, spices and sugars could be purchased and if so, he was declared bankrupt before the end of 1815. Perhaps his irate father-in-law was right in his initial judgment of his son-in-law?
William and Mary Fields baptised a son, named William Burton Fields, in Hull on the 11th January 1814. He was to die young, aged only 11 years, and was buried in the churchyard at All Saints in Gainsborough on the 29th December 1825. We have so far been unable to trace the Fields further but, as William Burton Fields was living back in Gainsborough with his grandfather, we suspect that Mary had either sadly died or that she had returned, with her son, to her father’s home.
At Gainsboro, on Tuesday the 27th ult, aged 11, Henry Burton Fields, grandson to Mr Burton, baker.
(Stamford Mercury, 6 January 1826)
Stamford Mercury, 4th December 1812
Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, 5th December 1812 and 2nd January 1813
Hull Packet, 17th August 1813, 1st February 1814 and 5th December 1815
The social meetings of the fashionable world consist of balls, musical parties, and routs. The latter appear to be formed on the model of the Italian conversaziones; except that they are in general so crowded, as entirely to preclude conversation. Cards, upon these occasions, are usually provided for the senior part of the company.
General Expense of these Entertainments
The expense attendant on these entertainments depends entirely on the species of amusement which is provided. If balls are given, the expense is very considerable, as it is usual to give a supper to the company; and if in the early part of the season, April and May, the fruit is necessarily very scarce, and of high price. It is said, that a ball given by the Marquess of Anglesea [sic] cost 1,500l. These repasts are generally provided by some confectioner of repute, at a stipulated sum, (from 400l. to 1,000l.) who also provides chairs, glasses, and plates. The most celebrated of these are Gunter and Grange.
General Time of Assembling
The time for assembling is generally from ten to twelve o’clock, or even later, as many persons visit several of these places in one evening. The hours of departure are various and uncertain; but from balls, the latest being sometimes seven or eight o’clock in the morning before the whole have separated. In this case, it is usual to cause coffee, tea, &c. to be handed to the company.
The dress for these entertainments is that of the most reigning fashion. The persons who provide most fashionable for ladies on these occasions, are Mrs Gill, Cork Street; Mrs Griffiths, Little Ryder Street; Mrs Lacon, Albermarle Street; Miss Steward, &c. &c. The principal hairdressers and perfumers are, Woodman, in Piccadilly; Marshall, Wynne, Smyth, Rigge, &c.
Parties on Sundays are not very common. The Marchioness of Salisbury, however, has always a conversazione during the season on that day. It is usually attended by great numbers of persons of rank and distinction, and frequently some eminent musical professors are attendant on the occasion. The Countess St Antonio also sometimes gives musical parties on Sundays.
Many grand dinners are constantly given on this day.
Leigh’s New Picture of London: or, a view of the political, religious, medical, literary, municipal, commercial, and moral state of the British Metropolis: presenting a brief and luminous guide to the stranger, on all subjects connected with general information, business, or amusement. 1818
The December 1815 issue of Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics featured a design for an evening dress and a walking dress, both the creation of Mrs Bean, a milliner and dressmaker of Albemarle Street, Piccadilly.
FASHIONS FOR DECEMBER, 1815
A crimson satin slip, underneath a frock of three-quarters length made of the silver-striped French gauze; the slip ornamented at the feet with clusters of flowers, and a narrow border of white satin edged with crimson ribbon: the frock has a border of white satin, edged to correspond, and is drawn up in the Eastern style, confined by a cluster of flowers. The body of the dress has open fronts, with a stomacher, which are severally trimmed en suite: short open sleeve, to correspond with a quilling of tull around the arm. Head-dress à la Chinoise, composed of pearl; the hair braided, and ornamented with a wreath of flowers. Ear-rings and drops, pearl; necklace, the French negligé. Gloves, French kid, worn below the elbow, and trimmed with a quilling of tull. Sandals, white kid.
Pelisse of walking length, composed of blue twilled sarsnet, fastened down the front with large bows of white satin ribbon, and ornamented at the feet with a border of leaves formed of the same sarsnet, edged with white satin: the bottom of the pelisse, trimmed with white satin, is drawn into small festoons; sleeve ornamented at the shoulder and the hand to correspond; a French embroidered ruff. A French hat composed of the blue twilled sarsnet, trimmed with white satin edged with blue, and decorated with a large plume of ostrich feathers. An Indian shawl of crimson silk, richly embroidered in shaded silks. The pocket-handkerchief French cambric, embroidered at the corners. Shoes, blue morocco, tied with bows high upon the instep. Stockings with embroidered clocks. Gloves, York tan.
The silver-striped French gauze is a novel and elegant article, which, fashioned by the ever varying and approved taste of Mrs. Bean, requires to be viewed, before a just idea can be received of its fascinating effect: it is allowed to be the lightest and most splendid costume ever yet presented by the amateur to the votaries of fashion.
Mrs Charlotte Bean, the wife of Thomas Bean, was a milliner and dressmaker located at 32 Albemarle Street just off Piccadilly. Her designs were frequently featured in Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics, and she was a court dressmaker to ‘Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Kent and also the Princess Charlotte of Saxe Coburg by special appointment’.
Indeed, Mrs Bean made twenty-six dresses and pelisses for Princess Charlotte’s wedding trousseau in 1816. We list a few of them here.
A Prussian blue and white striped satin dress, with a beautiful garniture; above which is a rich broad blond lace, tastefully looped up in the form of shells.
A full dress over a rich white satin, ornamented with silver, the garniture silver leaves intermixed with full puffings of tulle; this forms at the bottom a tasteful scallop, above which are large bunches of silver double lilacs, the sleeves striped with silver, and finished at the top with a narrow wreath of corresponding flowers.
A train dress of net, richly embroidered with a beautiful border of roses and buds a quarter and a half deep round the train, the embroidery coming up to meet the waist; body and sleeves richly worked to correspond; the whole dress lined with rich white satin.
A beautiful primrose silk high morning dress, trimmed and worked in a most unique style of elegance.
An elegant violet and white striped satin pelisse, lined with white satin, trimmed with leaves of violet, and white blond cuffs and collar; bonnet to match, with a beautiful plume of white feather.
Very beautiful clear India muslin dress, most elegantly worked in lace work and satin stitch, forming bunches of wheat ears and corn flowers; at the bottom a waved border of the same, finished with very full rows of elegant English lace; short sleeves, composed of rows of satin, and lace body to correspond, made low to meet the waist, with a satin slip, which forms a very elegant dress.
A very rich evening primrose satin dress, with a deep flounce of blond lace, of a very beautiful tulip pattern, above which is a broad embroidery of pearls, in grapes and vine leaves; the top and sleeves ornamented with pearls to correspond.
Possibly Anne, the wife of Sir William Abdy, Baronet, had been one of Mrs Bean’s best customers? Abdy was reputed to be the richest commoner in the land and his beautiful wife would have ensured that she was dressed in the latest fashions. However, if Anne perused the December 1815 issue of Ackermann’s Repository, she would have known that the gowns pictured were now beyond her means. She had eloped from her home on Hill Street, Berkeley Square just months earlier, stepping into a gig with her (somewhat impoverished) lover, Lord Charles Bentinck, and into a new life. By the end of the year she was living with him, pregnant with his child, and awaiting the outcome of the Criminal Conversation case which had been brought by her husband and which had commenced on the 1st December 1815.
Her fateful decision to elope was to have far reaching consequences, as we detail in our latest book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, affecting people as far away on the social scale as the daughter of a Romany gypsy and the British royal family themselves.
Hone’s authentic account of the Royal Marriage, 1816
If you have already read An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, then A Right Royal Scandal forms a sequel to Grace’s story, continuing the life of her granddaughter through to the publication of Grace’s memoirs (set during the French Revolution), and beyond and the second family of Grace’s son-in-law, Lord Charles Bentinck. But A Right Royal Scandal can also be read as a stand-alone book. It is available now in the UK (and to pre-order in the US and elsewhere) from our publisher Pen and Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.
(Readers outside the UK might find Book Depository useful, as they ship free worldwide and have competitive prices.)
What was the Georgian equivalent to today’s disposable lighter? Well, back today with us is the lovely Laurie Benson, host of the fascinating blog The Cozy Drawing Room which you may wish to check out. Laurie is also a recently published author which you can find out more about at the end of this post. So, in the meantime we’ll hand you over to Laurie to find out the answer to the question above.
There are times when you’re writing historical fiction that it becomes obvious your characters will need to do things differently than you do in the twenty-first century. I had one of those moments recently when I was writing An Unexpected Countess, which is set in London during the Regency era.
In the story my hero, the Earl of Hartwick, is out in the middle of the night searching for a clue that will lead him to the location of a piece of the missing French Crown Jewels. It’s dark in the building he is in. If this was a contemporary story, Hart would pull out his flashlight (or torch as the British call it) and he would have sufficient enough light to thoroughly search the building. But Hart lives in 1819, so instead of a flashlight he would have used something like this small folding pocket candle lantern.
It’s really handy, right? Here is the part where the author in me rubs my head in frustration. How would he have lit it? There were no lighters. Did they even have matches back then? I’d heard of matchstick girls, but were they around in the early 19th century and did they sell the same kind of matches we use today?
It’s times like this I’m especially grateful for my friends who own antique shops because they can often help point me in the right direction and this time one of them did by telling me about tinderboxes.
Tinderboxes were used in the Georgian era to create fire. They could be small enough to fit inside a pocket and were made of wood or metal and contained flint, steel, tinder, and sulfur-tipped matches. The tinder that was used would generally have been char cloth, which is a small piece of cloth made from linen, jute, or cotton that would ignite easily from a spark.
To start a fire you would strike the piece of steel against the flint close to the char cloth that was nestled in the bottom of the tinderbox. The spark from that action would ignite the char cloth. You then could light your sulfur-tipped match off the burning tinder to light a candle or your pipe. To extinguish the char cloth, you would simply close the box. This would preserve the remaining tinder for future use.
Tinderboxes were used throughout the Georgian era but gradually were replaced by friction matches, which were invented around 1827.
Laurie Benson is an award-winning author of historical romances published by Harper Collins. Her current series, The Secret Lives of the Ton, takes place in London during the Regency era and are available from Amazon and all good book sellers. When she’s not at her laptop avoiding laundry, she can often be found browsing museums or heading for the summit on a ridiculously long hike. You can also catch up with Laurie on Twitter and Facebook.
As many of our readers are no doubt aware we’ve been busy bunnies finishing our second book A Right Royal Scandal and are now working on our third and so today, rather than hosting our own blog, we thought we’d let you know that we have, in the past few, days been guests on the blogs of Naomi Clifford and the ‘Georgian Gentleman’ which is hosted by Mike Rendell. We thought you might like to check our guest posts on their blogs – Elopement in High Life and Publish and be damned.
Both Naomi and Mike are Pen and Sword authors, Naomi already has her first book out, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn and Mike’s book, In Bed With the Georgians is due to be published on 30th of this month.
So, with that we would like to direct you over to our articles on both sites by following the links below and we really hope you enjoy them:
Naomi Clifford: In Elopement in High Life: Anne Wellesley and Lord Charles Bentinck we give a little taster on the details of their scandalous elopement in 1815, which is recounted in full in A Right Royal Scandal. Anne was the married niece of the Duke of Wellington, and she ran away with her lover just weeks after the Battle of Waterloo.
Georgian Gentleman: In Publish and be damned we take a look at the Regency courtesan Harriette Wilson and the dandy Beau Brummell, and their links with the people we have written about in A Right Royal Scandal.
Please do also take the time to have a look at the other wonderful articles to be found on Naomi and Mike’s sites while you’re there.
We’re now just a few weeks away from the publication in the UK of our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: two marriages that changed history (in the US it will be out on the 14th April 2017). Obviously we are very excited to share our work with you and thought we’d go into a little more detail today about what the reader can expect.
A Right Royal Scandal starts in 1815, just a matter of weeks after the Battle of Waterloo, with a Regency scandal in London when the widowed Lord Charles Bentinck (brother to the Duke of Portland; his first wife had been Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s daughter by George IV) eloped with Wellington’s niece, the haughty but beautiful Anne Abdy née Wellesley, wife of Sir William Abdy, Baronet. As you might imagine, tongues were set wagging the length and breadth of the ton and, with the ensuing Criminal Conversation case and divorce, the gossip continued into the next year before the first of the two marriages that ‘changed history’. Anne Abdy became the second Lady Charles Bentinck.
In time, Lord and Lady Charles Bentinck’s eldest son, Charles Cavendish Bentinck (Charley) fell in love with a girl deemed unsuitable by his family. Sinnetta Lambourne was of humble working class stock and had gypsy blood running through her veins courtesy of her Romany mother. They married, despite the opposition to their union.
Charley’s granddaughter and great-granddaughter were to sit upon the throne of Great Britain, but it was the tragic life and death of a young gypsy girl which lay behind the greatness.
Although A Right Royal Scandal is something of a family saga stretching from the Regency into the Victorian era and beyond – we also document the life of Lord Charles Bentinck’s daughter by his first marriage (Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s granddaughter) – it is also a thoroughly well-researched biography of two generations of this family, and a chapter in the history of the British royal family which has never been examined closely until now. We also delve a little into the background of Anne Wellesley and her parents, Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess, and his wife (and former mistress), Hyacinthe Gabrielle Rolland. We are pleased to have been able to add a little new information to the Marquess’ story in the addition of some biographical detail on his illegitimate son (by another mistress), Edward John Johnston. The monarchy as we know it now would have looked very different but for Sinnetta Lambourne’s death, and we end our book by looking at the royal family today, Charley Cavendish Bentinck’s descendants.
If you have already read our first book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, then A Right Royal Scandal forms a sequel to Grace’s story, continuing the life of her granddaughter through to the publication of Grace’s memoirs (set during the French Revolution), and beyond and the second family of Grace’s son-in-law, Lord Charles Bentinck. But A Right Royal Scandal can also be read as a stand-alone book. It is available now to pre-order (both here, in the US and elsewhere) from our publisher Pen and Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.
(Readers outside the UK might find Book Depository useful, as they ship free worldwide and have competitive prices.)
Reviews for An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott:
Courtesan. Spy. Survivor. A gripping and meticulously researched account of the swashbuckling life of one of history’s most overlooked heroines. – Hallie Rubenhold, author of The Scandalous Lady W
An Infamous Mistress is a fascinating read, yet it’s more than that. If anything, it’s a shining example of research done well, presented coherently on the perfect subject: a powerful courtesan that time forgot. – History of Royals magazine
This major new biography explores the life, loves and family of this celebrated personality who ended up as a prisoner of war during the French Revolution. Set for the first time in the context of Grace’s wider family, this is a compelling tale of scandal and intrigue. – Scots Heritage magazine
This tale of scandal and intrigue will not only appeal to history buffs, but to those who enjoy a ripping yarn. As well as being an in-depth social and family history, An Infamous Mistress is simply a great story. – Scottish Field
Our blog today is a little different as we have some news that we would like you, our readers, to be the first to hear about. We’re not going back in time as far as we usually do, in fact today we are going back only around a decade to the time when we first met via an online genealogy forum.
From discussing folk we had a common interest in online, we swapped email addresses and then phone numbers and lengthy conversations became the norm during which we delved deeper into the past. As our regular readers will no doubt be well aware, we’ve always been prone to getting a little side-tracked when something piques our interest (you only have to look at the different subjects we’ve covered on here!), and so it was that we became more than a little obsessed not with our own ancestors, but with a particular line of the British royal family’s tree.
These were the people we originally planned to write about. Then we discovered a connection to Grace Dalrymple Elliott and turned our attention briefly, or so we thought, towards her. Grace had other ideas. She barrelled into our lives like a steam-roller and she, and her family, took over, resulting in An Infamous Mistress,but we always planned to return to our original research which now forms a sequel to our first, although it can very much be read as a stand-alone book.
And so, we are delighted to announce that our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: two marriages that changed history, will be available from November in hardback and is now available to pre-order.
Almost two books in one, A Right Royal Scandal recounts the fascinating history of the irregular love matches contracted by two successive generations of the Cavendish-Bentinck family, ancestors of the British Royal Family. The first part of this intriguing book looks at the scandal that erupted in Regency London, just months after the battle of Waterloo, when the widowed Lord Charles Bentinck eloped with the Duke of Wellington’s married niece. A messy divorce and a swift marriage followed, complicated by an unseemly tug-of-war over Lord Charles’ infant daughter from his first union.
Over two decades later and while at Oxford University, Lord Charles’ eldest son, known to his family as Charley, fell in love with a beautiful gypsy girl, and secretly married her. He kept this union hidden from his family, in particular his uncle, William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland, upon whose patronage he relied. When his alliance was discovered, Charley was cast adrift by his family, with devastating consequences.
The book ends by showing how, if not for a young gypsy and her tragic life, the British monarchy would look very different today.
It’s been a very busy few months with the launch of An Infamous Mistress and finalizing A Right Royal Scandal, so we’re taking a ‘blog break’ now until the beginning of September when we will return with lots more blogs from the Georgian Era for you, so please join us again from the 1st September and have a wonderful summer.
We will now hand you over to Naomi to introduce you to an intriguing character, George Lowman Tuckett.
In the middle of a September night in 1817 Maria Glenn, aged 16, vanished from her uncle’s house in Taunton, Somerset. She had been taken by the Bowditches, a local yeoman farming family who wanted to marry her off to the second son. George Lowman Tuckett, Maria’s uncle, immediately suspected that the Bowditches knew that she was the probable future heiress of her grandfather’s valuable sugar plantations in St Vincent.
Maria had spent the summer at their farm just outside Taunton where she and two of her young cousins had been sent to recover from whooping cough. There was ample opportunity for the family to find out what she was worth. Of course, in 1817, once a girl was married, all her possessions, now and in the future, would belong to her husband.
When I was writing the book, I had to build a picture of Tuckett from the bare bones of his biography and from glimpses of him in the lives of other people. Apart from two publications about his niece’s case and one letter in the county archives at Dorchester, he left a surprisingly small footprint. There are no surviving images of him, which is surprising given that he went on to be, if only for a short time, a Lord Chief Justice of Jamaica (but we’ll come to that later).
George Lowman Tuckett was born in 1771 at Bridgwater in Somerset, the second of his father William’s sons by his first wife Martha Lowman. William was appointed Stamp Act distributor on St Kitts in the West Indies but by 1770 he was back in England, living in Bridgwater, where he was at various times a solicitor, Recorder of the Corporation, Stamp Duty Distributor for Somerset and mayor of Bridgwater.
In 1789, after boarding at Exeter School George went up to St John’s College, Cambridge. He followed his father into the law, taking his pupillage with the brilliant but notoriously grumpy Vicary Gibbs, who specialised in the laws of evidence.
It is not known how Tuckett made the acquaintance of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived at Ottery St Mary in Devon, but the two young men were close enough for Tuckett to take action when Coleridge, impoverished and suffering from depression, disappeared from Cambridge University in late 1793. While Coleridge’s family anxiously tried to track him down, it was Tuckett who guessed that he would have told his old Christ’s Hospital school friends where he was. He persuaded them to break their confidence, after which Coleridge, who had joined the Royal Dragoons under the name Silas Tomkyn Comberbache, wrote Tuckett an angry letter criticising his love for truth-telling. It is not known whether they communicated again. Truth-telling was important to Tuckett.
Tuckett was admitted to the Middle Temple in London in 1796, after which he completed two years’ practice in England. Two years after that, he sailed to Grenada in the West Indies. On 11 July 1800, aged 30, he married his 17-year-old first cousin, Martha Lowman, daughter of his mother’s brother George Lowman, on St Vincent. The following year he was appointed Solicitor-General of Grenada but his career was seriously affected when Martha became ill and they were forced to come to England. With the exception of a couple of years in Jamaica, where Tuckett practised at the bar, they stayed in England for the next two decades, settling initially in Taunton.
While they were living in Taunton, 11-year-old Maria Glenn, Tuckett’s wife’s sister’s daughter (and his own his second cousin – they intermarried quite a lot) joined them. By now George and Martha had five children (they went on to have another), a remarkable achievement given that Martha had an unknown but debilitating illness. Tuckett and Martha adored Maria – she was everything a genteel Regency girl was meant to be. Shy, bashful, obedient and, above all, innocent about men.
After Maria’s disappearance, in order to build evidence against the family he believed abducted her, Tuckett became a detective. There was no police force to do this work, of course, and although he could have hired an investigator, the work required sensitivity and attention to detail. Also, Tuckett has time on his hands: from what I can tell, his career as a jobbing barrister on the Western circuit was not very taxing.
He travelled extensively around Dorset and to London to interview witnesses and sometimes to conduct an impromptu identity parade. It was his practice to ask someone to describe the person they had seen at a particular time. Then he would present Maria and ask if this was who they meant. When they failed to recognise her, he concluded that Maria had been deliberately impersonated by her enemies. Of course, it’s not a technique that would be acceptable in a court of law now. What happened when the case came to court, and subsequently when the Bowditches sought revenge, is detailed in my book.
He was thorough and determined. He sometimes presented as severe and cold-hearted but underneath he was loving, generous and loyal, with a fundamental commitment to Maria and an acute sense that it was his Christian duty to tell the truth.
Many years later, when Tuckett had managed to resume his West Indian career, he showed the same compassion and adherence to the truth. By 1827, he was appointed Judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court of Jamaica and then in October 1831, with the death of William Anglin Scarlett, the acting Lord Chief Justice of Jamaica. Earl Belmore, the Governor of Jamaica, told Tuckett that it was his intention to appoint him to the post, but after the Christmas rebellion of 1831 (the Baptist War) he was ejected from office and forced to return to London. Although his actions had been approved by the Jamaican Privy Council, Sir Joshua Rowe was given the post of Lord Chief Justice. Tuckett’s brief period of service has all been but forgotten. The Jamaican historical archives have no portrait of him and no information about his role.
It was the end of Tuckett’s legal career and afterwards, he lived in retirement, supporting his four surviving children, none of whom married. Martha died in 1837. On 4 November 1851, he died from heart disease, aged 80, at his home in Ilfracombe, Devon.
If you want to read more, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn: A True Life Regency Mystery is available now from Pen and Sword Books and all good bookshops.
You can also visit Naomi’s excellent website by clicking here.
Once again we are delighted to welcome back our lovely guest Sue Wilkes who has written another fascinating article for us, this time about the social reformer – Sir Francis Burdett. Her latest book, Regency Spies will be available at the end of this month (further information about how to purchase this book is given at the end of the article).
The leading members of the parliamentary reform movement of the Regency era, like Major Cartwright and Sir Francis Burdett, had no truck with regime change by physical force; they wanted constitutional reform. However, their names were used by the more revolutionary-minded reformers to lend an aura of respectability, and help gain recruits to their cause.
Sir Francis Burdett’s name often appears in spy reports on the reformers’ doings as a possible leader if an uprising took place. The government kept close watch on his activities. However, unlike fellow reformers such as Henry Hunt, who wanted universal male suffrage, the baronet wanted male suffrage for householders (so only those owning property would have the vote).
A hot-headed young politician, Burdett (1770–1844) was educated at Westminster School and Oxford. He married Sophia Coutts (of the famous banking family), and first entered parliament in 1796, when he was elected MP for Boroughbridge. A handsome, popular speaker, he was a determined opponent of the government’s suspension of Habeas Corpus during its crackdown on parliamentary reformers.
Although Burdett steered clear of any public involvement with political extremists, it’s hardly surprising that many Radicals and reformers popped in to see him when visiting the capital. Sir Francis met and corresponded with Irish republicans like Arthur O’Connor.
Burdett was a member of the London Corresponding Society (LCS). Most of this society’s members were devoted to constitutional reform. However, the government, and many contemporaries, believed this was just a front for plotting rebellion. In 1798, several members of the LCS were arrested under suspicion of treasonable practices; one was Colonel Despard, who had served with Lord Nelson overseas. Burdett visited Despard in Coldbath-Fields prison, and was shocked by the poor living conditions there. Burdett put pressure on the prison authorities, and succeeded in getting the colonel moved to a better cell.
But despite his efforts on behalf of Despard and other prisoners held without trial, Burdett was unable to get Habeas Corpus lifted. In 1801, Despard and several other political prisoners were freed. The colonel was hanged in 1803 two years later for his part in an alleged plot to attack London – or was he set up by government spies and informers?
Sir Francis Burdett was immensely popular with the London masses. In 1806 Burdett and Lord Cochrane, a Whig, were elected MP’s of the City of Westminster by its fiercely independent-minded voters.
In 1810, Burdett published a polemic in Cobbett’s Weekly Register in which he argued that the House of Commons had exceeded its powers after John Gale Jones, a Radical speaker, was jailed in Newgate for writing a handbill. Burdett argued that if MPs became ‘destroyers of the liberties of the people’, then their ‘oppression’ was ‘combined with treachery; they destroy where they are bound to protect’.
A furious House of Commons decided that Burdett’s article was a breach of its privileges. On 7 April, the Serjeant-at-Arms was sent to arrest Sir Francis and take him to the Tower of London. But Burdett barricaded his house, and refused to go. A mob gathered around his town house, and the windows of several leading MPs were broken.
After many arguments about the legality of the arrest warrant (and even whether the Serjeant was entitled to break down the door to arrest the baronet), Burdett was eventually taken forcibly to the Tower of London by twenty to thirty police-officers, and a detachment of cavalry. A riot broke out, and a number of people were killed and injured. Petitions flooded into parliament for Burdett’s release, but he was not freed until the end of that parliamentary session.
Burdett got into hot water again in 1819, following the Peterloo massacre, in which several people died when the Manchester magistrates sent sabre-wielding troops into the midst of a peaceful reform meeting. Sir Francis wrote an angry attack on the magistrates’ actions, and was fined and jailed again.
A few years after the 1832 Reform Act (somewhat) broadened the electoral franchise, Burdett left the Whigs and joined the Tories. He had no appetite for further reform. Burdett died on 23 January 1844; he was buried at Ramsbury, in Wiltshire.
Despite the seeming inconsistency of his later political leanings with those of his early days, Burdett will always be remembered for his fearless, outspoken criticism of government repression during a very dark period for the nation’s liberties.
We are delighted to announce a ‘sister’ site to All Things Georgian, and would like to introduce to you ‘The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman’ which can be accessed by clicking here.
Some time ago we were approached by George and Amanda Rosenberg who had enjoyed our blog posts on this site, and thought we might like to host the diaries that they had painstakingly transcribed which were written by Fanny during the Regency, late Georgian and Victorian eras (George descends from Fanny Chapman’s family).
We were both thrilled and somewhat overwhelmed when he sent us the diaries and associated information, and quickly decided that they deserved a site of their own, for they are quite wonderful to read, and we hope that others will find them as fascinating as we have done. They are still a ‘work in progress’ as George and Amanda have far more information than we have managed to pull together as yet, so please keep checking back for further developments.
Christiana Fanny Chapman was born in 1775 to Henry Chapman and his wife Christiana (Kitty) nee Neate. Her diaries were kept in the form of notebooks and a number of loose pages and cover the years 1807 to 1812 when she lived in and around Bath and in Somerset with her aunts Jemima Powell and Mary Neate (Mary was also Fanny’s godmother), very much dependent upon them. The diaries describe their everyday life, their circle of friends and the social routine of the minor gentry of the time.
A constant presence in the diaries is Fanny’s uncle by marriage, Colonel John Hutton Cooper. He had been the second husband of Fanny’s aunt Phillis, who had been left a wealthy widow upon the death of her first husband, Charles Meniconi. When Phillis died she left everything to Cooper, including the villa in which they all lived, probably upon the understanding that he would continue to provide for her sisters and nieces (Fanny had a sister, Emma). Cooper reneged on that agreement, but George believes, and (after reading the diaries) we agree, that Fanny was more than a little in love with her widowed uncle, at least initially. Emma later described Cooper as a ‘reprobate and a fortune hunter’.
Fanny’s diary ends in 1812, and then recommences in 1837, just weeks after the young Queen Victoria had ascended the throne. With her two aunts dead, Fanny is living in Bath with her sister, finally her own mistress. Her aunts both left Fanny the main beneficiary of their wills.
Whilst the diaries which cover the years 1807 to 1812 are all fully available, the ones covering the Victorian years will be added to the site shortly.
The diaries end in 1841, but Fanny lived many more years, not dying until 1871 at the grand old age of ninety-five years.
Please feel free to share this with anyone whom you may feel will be interested in these diaries. You may also wish to follow @ChapmanDiary on twitter.
We are delighted to introduce the lovely Sue Wilkes as our latest Guest writer. Sue’s latest book ‘A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England’ in which she takes an intimate look at daily life in Austen’s day for the middle and upper classes has just been released by Pen and Sword Books. To find out more about her book you should gallop post-haste to her blog Austen blog but in the meantime she has penned an article for us on fashionable hours to dine in the Georgian period.
We now hand over to Sue.
While I was researching my book A Visitor’s Guide To Jane Austen’s England I was struck by the way that social customs can change within a person’s lifetime. The time of day when Georgian ladies and gentlemen dined was dictated by class, by how fashionable they were, and whether they lived in the town or country. But dinnertime became later and later in Jane Austen’s day.
For example, when Mary Hamilton (later Mrs John Dickenson) stayed at Bulstrode Hall, the Duchess of Portland’s Buckinghamshire residence, in 1783 her hostess breakfasted at 9.30 in the morning. Dinner was served at 4.30 in the afternoon, and supper about 10.30 in the evening. At the more humble Austen family home of Steventon Rectory in Hampshire, Jane dined at 3.30 p.m. in the 1790’s.
Although the haut ton did not dine until at least 5 or 6 o’clock, some hostesses still kept very unfashionable hours. When Lady Newdigate stayed at Stansted Park in 1795, she commented that: ‘The hours of ye family are what ye polite world w’d not conform to viz. Breakfast at 8½, dine at 3½, supper at 9 and go to bed at 10, but Everybody is at Liberty to order their own Breakfast, Dinner or Supper into their own Rooms and no questions ask’d’.
It’s clear from Jane Austen’s letters that as the years passed her dinner hour gradually changed. While staying with the Bridges family at Goodnestone Farm in 1805, Jane mentions dining at 4 p.m. so that they could go walking afterwards. Three years later, when the Austen ladies were living in Southampton, Jane noted in a letter: ‘we never dine now till five’.
During a visit to her brother Henry’s new residence in Henrietta St, London, Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra (15 September 1813) that after five o’clock, shortly after her arrival, the family enjoyed ‘a most comfortable dinner of soup, fish, bouilée, partridges, and an apple tart’.
By the year of Austen’s death (1817) Sir Richard Phillips lamented the change in manners in his Morning’s Walk from London to Kew: ‘the dinner hour of four and five among the great, or would-be great, having shifted to the unhealthy hours of eight or nine, the promenade after dinner [in the parks] in the dinner full-dress, is consequently lost’.
Earl Soham is a traditional village lying in the heart of the Suffolk countryside on the Roman road that leads from the Suffolk coast to Stowmarket and as usual whilst stumbling around searching for something completely different we came across the Earl Soham village website and within it was a link to a collection of diary entries written by the Georgian surgeon, William Goodwin.
They have been carefully transcribed for the period 1785 – 1810 and make fascinating reading so we couldn’t resist adding the link to our blog so that you could peruse them at your leisure. Apart from treating his patients, which entailed travelling long distances virtually every day Goodwin managed to find the time to keep a diary of daily life, national and international events:-
March 28th 1785 Wind W. very Cold; Frost sharp within doors, Therm’tr in Parlour 3 deg. Below Freesing –
The ground cover’d with Snow
For the Rheumatism Take a Teaspoonfull of Aether in a glass of water 3 or 4 times a Day – sometimes add a few Drops of Laudanum – The above is thought infallible
May 1785 On an Average the Amount of our Taxes is 30-000£s a Day… (1/2 page)
86-000£ was produc’d by the Duty on Muslins in the last quarter, wh. was equal to a whole year’s income on that Article previous to Mr. Pitts Smugling Bill –
There were 240£ in Drury Lane at Mrs Siddon’s benefit and twice that amount eager for admission and could not get in – ?What a Symptom of our Poverty!
A recipe for yeast, we have absolutely no idea whether it works or not!
Take a teacupful of split peas, boiling water one pint, infuse them all night, in a warm place, or in winter longer; the froth that arises will answer as Yeast
Also amongst his entries were records of all the carts passing through the village and recorded any possible contraband for example in 1785 he recorded that
‘2500 Gallons of Smugled Spirits were carried thro’ this village in 20 carts within the last six Days
16thFive Smugling Carts past through this Village at 8 this Morning loaded with 150 Tubs of Spirits containing 600 Gallons’
There are some mildly amusing entries and for a ‘Top Tip’ if you’re bitten by a mad dog you should:-
‘Wash the part immediately with warm water – continuing the operation for an hour at least, by which. the poison will be prevented entering the Circulation’
Another extract from his diary, that we would recommend that those with a sensitive constitution avoid was regarding the death of his mother Sarah; presumably, William would have assumed that his diary was private and that no-one would ever read his scribblings:-
‘Friday ye 20th of Sept’r 1793 Died Mrs Sarah Goodwin, my dear mother, aged 81 years and 9 months – She vomited many gallons of bile in the Course of the 8 days she laid ill – suffer’d little or no pain, and went off without a groan’
The Oxford Journal of 18th March 1815 confirms the demise of William, described as ‘an eminent and skillful physician‘. William was buried on the 3rd March at St Mary’s, Earl Soham aged 69.