Botleys – inside & out

February 26, 2010 at 12:36 pm (estates) (, , , )

Mike in Surrey sent me notice of the new ‘function’ of the Gosling estate Botleys: it has become a wedding venue! Mike, who has visited Botleys, was nice enough to remember me when it came to viewing some INTERIOR images of the house. I am most grateful…

Botleys was evidently purchased in 1822 by Robert Gosling, Mary’s brother then at the beginning of his banking career (the History of Barclays mentions him being made partner in 1818). Mike kindly supplied me with a photo of Robert and his wife Georgina — fairly late in life — seated amid a family group below the grand, sweeping staircase. So if is definitely easy for me to see the ghosts of them traipsing through Botleys! I invite all interested in a wedding venue, or in seeing Botleys inside and out to check out their website, and watch the exquisite slideshow. My favorite: the golden room with the two giant bookcases.  Readers of this blog will know my ‘one weakness’  (to quote from Miss Lane in the TV production of Lark Rise to Candleford) is books… How comfy might that red seat be??

Botleys was home to Herbert Gosling at the early part of the 20th century. And it’s thanks to Mike that I have a photo of this poor man, bent and in the need of two canes, near the end of his life. Through photos of people and places, through letters, diaries, descriptions, this project takes on “life”.

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Seeking Miss Knight

February 11, 2010 at 6:14 pm (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , )

After a bit of time away from research, I have been pushing myself to get restarted on this very exceptional project. And where better to start than (more or less) at the beginning. If we count only Mary and Emma (rather than their parents or grandparents – who, let’s face it, must come into the equation), then the beginning is the early eighteen-teens, specifically 1814 for Mary’s earliest diary and 1815 for Emma’s.

Mary’s earliest diary, if I haven’t mentioned it before, concerns a trip to visit her elder brother at Oxford. All of her diaries at this early date (ie, when she was unmarried) are trips taken with her family. Emma’s earliest diary is an actual day-to-day journal. She is breathless in describing not so much what she feels but what ALL family members do — this is eight siblings plus Mamma Smith (plus various aunts and uncles, and two cousins). So it was with her diaries that I began — rereading them, correcting obvious typos, commenting on what I now recognize for visitors. The secret key to the diary — to this entire project — is the identification of people. And there are so many of them!

Of keen interest, of course, are those artists, musicians, actors that Emma mentions. They “did” the season in London, every year moving from Suttons (in Essex county) to Portland Place. Emma, being the second eldest girl, mentions all the social calls and events elder sister Augusta encountered. So between all family members, and the Goslings (who, living next door, are also in town for the season) Emma’s social calendars are quite full of everyone’s activities.

She also mentions when the “unordinary” happens — like her mother have her portrait done. The year is 1816. A Miss Knight comes, but of course there is little information; until you go and search for it. Turns out Mary Ann Knight was fairly well-known (not a surprise, as the Smiths and Goslings both patronized the ‘well’-known everything). She has not much of an internet presence, but I did find a short (very short) bio and two drawings done by her. One of her sitters is none other than Joanna Baillie — and guess who, at this period, was consulting Joanna’s brother Dr. Baillie? Mrs Smith, as well as Augusta Smith! Small world… One could wonder if Joanna recommended Miss Knight to the Smiths — but Miss Baillie’s portrait post-dates this period. Find her portrait, and that of Robert Owen, both by Miss Knight at The National Galleries of Scotland. By clicking on the photos you will bring up information on the sitter(s) as well as the artist (scanty as it is).

One interesting side note (especially as the Baillie portrait seems the most ‘famous’ one of her – it’s on all the book covers): This style of a well-drawn face, with color added, but a (slightly) less-sketched-in-torso very much recalls to mind the one portrait I have of Fanny (Smith) Seymour: could sister Augusta, who is thought to have done the picture, have done it in Miss Knight’s style, or was this “all the attention on the face” something in vogue at the time???

The burning question, however, is: What ever happened to Mrs Augusta Smith’s portrait??

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Happy Birthday, Mary!

February 2, 2010 at 3:03 pm (a day in the life, news, people) (, , , , , , , , , )

by Frenchie (Photobucket)

Today is Mary’s 210th birthday… My! that seems a great number. Funny, 1800 doesn’t seem so ‘long ago’, but when you think that it was two hundred and ten years ago—

I have been thinking a lot lately about “diaries”, for it was Mary’s 1821 diary that first led me to begin to research all of these people. Her earliest diary, written in the summer of 1814, records a trip to Oxford, to visit her elder brothers. The interesting thing about that excerpt is that the city was en fête due to the presence of the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia. And why were they in England? Because Napoleon had been defeated… or so everyone thought: this is the period of the false peace. And my Mary was right in the thick of it; she even tells us: “the Chairs in which {sat} the emperor and king of Prussia, they were of velvet and very handsomely mounted in gold, and I had the honour to sit in both of them.”

Norfolk Kate brought to my attention Susan Hill’s book Howards End is on the Landing – which charts the author’s navigation of her library as she rediscovers or re-reads what she already owns. My! definitely something I should do… but there is so much out there… hard not to buy (or at least want) more!

But our discussion of the book, which has led Kate to some new volumes, lead me back to the likes of Kilvert’s diaries. I bought my omnibus edition (all three 1940-era volumes in one, reduced, volume) while I was in Winchester researching for this project in 2007! Happy days, indeed…

(I confess I returned home with an exceptionally heavy suitcase; bought something like 15 or 20 titles; my downfall was an Oxfam bookstore that had reopened — and been freshly restocked — during my stay.)

Kilvert’s love of Dorothy Wordsworth also made me dig out her Grassmere Journal (I have an illustrated copy). Well, you see where it all gets me = surrounded by books that I’d love to just spend weeks with, never mind a few hours once home from work. Give me sunshine, my comfy white chair beside the window, good music (classical, please) on the radio and a great book and I am happy.

As happy as Mary and Emma and Eliza Chute were all to be, according to their diaries and letters, when books came under discussion.

I must mention, in closing, a fabulous website I came across while researching about those 19th century ‘pocket books’: Whose Diary? A Genealogical Detective Story concerns the deduction of a young man who kept a pocket book account of his daily doings back in 1846. Of use is the author’s detailing of the printed material to be found at the front and rear of the ‘pocket book’, as well as a deciphering of the hand-written comments. Fascinating is how the owner was discovered! The photographs really bring home for those who have never handled such little diaries (it fits comfortably in the hand and measures — roughly — 4-inches by 7-inches, when closed). Emma’s and Mary’s (those that I’ve looked through in person) were red in color. Their diary of choice was not “Marshall’s Gentleman’s Pocket Book” but “The Daily Journal or, Gentleman’s, Merchant’s, and Tradesman’s Complete Annual Accompt Book, for the pocket or desk” – to give its more or less full title. This series is described as “One hundred and twelve ruled pages, on fine writing paper, for memorandums, observations, and cash, every day in the year”. Price? “Two Shillings and Sixpence, bound in red leather; and Four Shillings in extra roan.”

I won’t spoil the tale of the diarist discovered, but will let you go to the link yourself. Must say, however: I know that “gut” feeling when you find something and just know “this is it”!

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