Recent Net Finds

July 30, 2008 at 2:24 pm (estates, smiths of stratford) (, , , , , , , , , )

Seeing photographs – of people, of places – merely makes you yearn for more of the same. Depressing when you find nothing; elating when you unearth something. I was up til five a.m. last night with what got uncovered…

More real estate.  Hassobury has two ‘units’ up for sale. This poor building has not been all that long converted into housing units, yet parts are up for sale again (with ever-increasing price tags, of course!). There is one interesting article on the former owner (or has it been on the market all these years?) of the unit known as The Gosling. The really interesting thing to read is the size of the house: 30 rooms on the ground floor alone! I wish there were photos of the “heads of otters, squirrels, foxes, birds and lizards carved in stone over the doors and windows”. I will ‘steal’ a picture off the website to give an inkling of the interior of this mansion, as it appears today, with its 16-foot ceilings (ground-floor rooms) and ‘fine plastering and panelling’:

hassobury living room

The Seymour and The Gosling are the units up for sale, with asking prices in excess of one million pounds.

* * *

Also found last night was the eternal resting place of some of Emma’s relations. I had searched high and low for information on her paternal grandmother, Judith Lefevre; she was the only one of the four grandparents for whom I had absolutely no idea of birth or death dates. As it turns out, Judith’s father Isaac purchased a vault in Christ Church Spitalfields. Many of the family are buried there – including Aunt Judith Smith. That came as a great surprise. Emma had noted a monument inscription for her taken from the church in West Ham (formerly Stratford, now called Newham) and I assumed she had been buried there. Not so, according to the plaque at Christ Church…

A descendant, Peter Currie has a short article about Isaac Lefevre (scroll to the end of the page; under ‘Personal Column’), which makes for informative reading.

* * *

I will take this opportunity to post a little something about last Saturday’s Vermont Mozart Festival concert at Shelburne Farms (Shelburne, VT). My cousin, who had been gifted with two tickets, had never been out to Shelburne Farms. She was mightily impressed. A gorgeous place, overlooking Lake Champlain, it was built in the 1880s by Lila and William Seward Webb. (Lila, btw, was the daughter of William H. Vanderbilt, son of Cornelius Vanderbuilt; her brother George created the Biltmore estate; her son James Watson Webb married Electra Havemeyer, Shelburne Museum’s founder.) Oh! it was difficult not to think of Botleys (renovated a little before that time by ‘Robin’ Gosling, Robert Gosling’s eldest son), with its sprawling edifice and multitude of chimneys — Or, indeed, Hassobury. Some people have all the luck, huh??

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Putting faces to names

July 29, 2008 at 4:31 pm (portraits and paintings) (, )

Emma Austen-Leigh lived until 1876; at least one photograph of her (c1870) exists. Mary, Lady Smith, died in 1842 – at the dawn of the age of photography. So it is wonderful when something unexpected turns up, like a photograph, or in this case two photographs. One is of Mary’s nephew (son of Robert and Georgina); the other of the son-in-law she would have had had she lived twenty years longer.

Mary had two daughters: Mary Charlotte, nicknamed ‘Mimi’ in the diaries; and Augusta Elizabeth. Her son Charles Cunliffe Smith married a neighbor’s daughter, Agnes Capel Cure in 1855; Augusta married the Rev. Lawrence Capel Cure in 1857; and in 1861 Mimi married – at her Uncle Richard’s church in Kinwarton (Warks.) – Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper.

The interesting thing about Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper, in addition to this photograph (well explained on the website), is finding his name turning up in the Bahamas – as an artist of some latter-day note! His work has even been in a couple exhibitions held on the island.

Mary’s nephew, George Gosling, a member of the Scots Guards, was photographed in Montreal and this photograph is online at the Musée McCord! [A BIG surprise, as Montreal is only a 90-mile drive away. The photographer was William Notman, who had a studio on rue Bleury. (Read their article on Notman.)] George was born in November 1842, which means that Georgina was expecting while she worried about and nursed the sickening and dying Lady Smith.

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Know thyself…

July 26, 2008 at 12:21 pm (books)

Along with biography, history and those types of books, a favorite read is – surprise! – diaries.

Last year I remember seeing the BAFTA awards that went to Housewife, 49. Costume dramas and period-pieces are two types of movies/TV I continue to adore, and a few months ago I rented Housewife, 49 from Netflix. It was excellent. But, believe it or not, the original diary of Nella Last (who described herself in the beginning of the journal she sent to the Mass Observation Archive as a ‘housewife’ and aged ’49’, hence the title) is even better! Nella writes in one entry that her dearest wish would have been to write; what a pity she never took up the pen, for she has a gift with words that few have. But what a delight that four editors and two publishers have given us the words she did leave behind. In the coming months, Profile Books will release the second volume of Nella’s diaries: Nella Last’s Peace.

Today’s reading unearthed the following quote, which really speaks volumes; the last line seems especially a propos for someone fleshing out lives lived 200 years ago:

“What would I really be like if all my nonsense and pretense was taken from me? I have a sneaking feeling I’d be a very scared, ageing woman, with pitifully little. It’s an odd thing to reflect: no one knows anyone else, we don’t even know ourselves very well.”
                                             — Nella Last (10 Sept 1942)
                                                  (from Nella Last’s War, p. 209)

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Fit for a Queen

July 20, 2008 at 6:42 pm (estates)

There are so many town-houses and country estates associated with the Goslings & Smiths… sometimes it is overwhelming. (Thankfully, many still exist.)

So, over the weekend, looking up information about the SMITH-BURGES branch of the family (Joshua Smith’s brother John married Margaret Burges and adopted her name), imagine my surprised to learn the following about their Piccadilly residence: as a child, and before her father became king, Queen Elizabeth II lived at 145 Piccadilly, the former residence of the Smith-Burgeses!

Unfortunately, the building was bombed during World War II; the site now houses the Intercontinental Hotel.

Here is the only photo I was able to find:

it shows Elizabeth (c1930) in a landau parked in front of No.145 Piccadilly (from BBC website).

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Buying a Slice of Suttons

July 9, 2008 at 11:07 am (estates) (, , , )

Even spending time behind the wheel (how I hate those roundabouts!), I could not locate Suttons, the Smith estate which papa Charles Smith purchased (reportedly, for £15,725) in 1787. It was sold out of the family in the 1950s.

A healthcare facility at the time of its closure in early 2002, the building and its seven acres was put up for auction. The auction guide estimated a selling price in excess of £1.6 million and described the property as:

‘a substantial detached Grade II listed former care home… Second floor: 8 rooms (all with bathroom/shower facilities), Mezzanine floor: 3 rooms… First floor: 11 rooms… Ground floor: 14 rooms, kitchen…, Basement: Boiler room, games room, sauna, kitchen, lockers, shower/WC. … for refurbishment and conversion back to residential use – 10 flats’.

Five of those ten flats are now [July 2008] up for sale, through Savills in Chelmsford (Essex); asking prices begin at £375,000. If only the exchange rate was two pounds to one dollar (instead of the other way ’round)…

For those of you with a heavy purse, here’s an exterior shot (which can be found at

As a side note of interest, in the 1851 census, Mary’s brother Robert Gosling has listed the following household staff at his country estate Botleys (near Chertsey, Surrey):

two footmen
two grooms
one ‘helper’
a Swiss governess
two lady’s maids
two nurses [they did have many, many children]
two laundrymaids
three housemaids
a dairymaid
three kitchenmaids
a nursemaid

Twenty-four staff; and some must have lived out or not been home that night (for instance: there’s an underbutler, but no butler? kitchen maids but no scullery maid, and – especially – no cook? no gardener and his staff?). Ten years later and the family are resident at No. 5 Portland Place; the head count that night: “only” 17. Hmmm… gotta watch some old episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs, I think.


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Ah, yes, I Remember It Well…

July 4, 2008 at 9:26 am (introduction) (, )

On Tuesday, with our JASNA chapter’s radio engagement in mind (Vermont Edition, on Vermont Public Radio; see ‘the author’ for a link to the online broadcast), thoughts came tumbling about my first inklings that Mary Gosling had some connection to Jane Austen. The connection induced me to join JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America, in September 2006.

* * *

The place: Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia.
The time: June, 2006

I was seated at a microfilm reader, looking at the earliest diary – 1829 – written by Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney (the title her diaries were given by the series WOMEN’S LANGUAGE AND EXPERIENCE). From second one, on seeing the handwriting and spying a couple family names, I knew my hunch had been right: Mary Gosling and Lady Smith were indeed the same person. Not only was Mary now identified by more than just a name, I instantly had seven more of her diaries.

Mary Gosling’s earliest recorded diary entry dates from 1814; the last trip she kept in this same travel journal took place in 1824. Two years later, in 1826, she married Emma’s brother Charles. On cementing the two Marys together, Mary Gosling suddenly went from an anonymous early 19th-century traveller to a woman with an entire life.

So, while sitting at that reader, the roll of film slowly rotating through that first year, I plucked out pieces of her life. Took a note here; printed a page there…. Then I came across this little passage. Keep in mind I had only just established the connection between married and unmarried Mary; I knew nothing of Charles’ family, never mind that he was one of nine children:

Emma’s baby was christened at Tring church by Mr Austen, “Cholmeley”  Mr Knight, Charles, and Mrs Leigh Perrot were the Godfathers & Godmother [6 Nov 1829]

There was something very familiar about these names… Austen…Cholmeley…Mr Knight…Mrs Leigh Perrot. So imagine my complete surprise when I pieced together Charles’ family, locating sibling after sibling (all those sisters…) only to find that he had a sister, Emma, who had married Jane Austen’s nephew! It was later still that I located Emma’s diaries (and those of Edward as well) at the Hampshire Record Office. I spent two months in Winchester last summer (mid-May to mid-July) with these diaries, and the family letters.

The Smiths were early readers of Austen’s novels; for several letters mention their thoughts on the likes of Mr Collins. Now, if only I could prove the girls met Jane Austen…

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