So much news, so much news — but I simply MUST post and share the following “find”!
Thanks to an Ancestry user, the following was posted — the Miss Smith cited can only be AUNT EMMA! (All her other sisters were married.) Emma would have been about 53-years-old. Joshua Smith had died in 1819 and the estate sold to the Watson Taylors, with the four Erle Stoke park daughters dividing the proceeds, by 1822 (if I recollect correctly).
August 20, 1827
Some Selected Reports from The Salisbury and Winchester Journal
Fete Champetre at Erle-Stoke Park.
On Tuesday last Mr.and Mrs.Watson Taylor gave one of the most splendid fetes ever witnessed in this county. The invitations were principally confined to Devizes and its neighbourhood, but many respectable families from different parts of the county attended; and the number of persons present could not altogether be less than seven hundred. The gates of the park were opened at two o’clock and the company began to arrive. The carriages drew up at the front door, and after passing through a spacious entrance-hall (the butler announcing the names as they entered) the company was received in the library in the most polite and affable manner by both Mrs.and Mr.Watson Taylor. They then passed into a beautiful flower-garden, where, after promenading for some time, they proceeded to the pleasure grounds. The excellent arrangement of the walks in these grounds (extending over 600 acres) and the order and care in which they are kept, excited the highest admiration. In different parts were stationed bands of music.
About three quarters of a mile from the house, and on an ample lawn, gently rising above the water which winds its course through the pleasure grounds into the park, was a temporary erection, 70 feet square, and of proportionate altitude. This erection was neatly thatched, and the pillars supporting it tastefully decorated with laurels and evergreens; within, and on the turf, four long tables, at which 500 persons could sit, were laid; and from the variety and fanciful arrangement of the viands, they had a most pleasing appearance. At a short distance, a room between 60 and 70 feet in length, with an excellent flooring , was erected for dancing, supported by columns decorated with wreaths of flowers and evergreens, forming a beautiful arcade, with a piazza on either side. In front of these rooms, on the lawn, was the principal promenade before dinner, and it is impossible to imagine a more imposing and fascinating scene. No one could view, without delight and rapture, the numerous groups of lovely females gracefully parading to and fro upon the lawn; whilst a few parties perambulated the various walks. Soon after 4 o’clock, the company repaired to the dinner-room, where there was an ample supply of the best viands, the choicest wines, and all the delicacies of the season. Confectionery, in great variety, was provided under the direction of Mr. Kemp, of South Audley-street, whose arrangements evinced great taste and judgement. The room for dancing was, in the mean time, lighted with variegated lamps, formed in festoons; and at half-past five o’clock quadrille parties were arranged, and quadrilles danced with grace and softened animation, to the music of an excellent quadrille band from Bath. Other parties separated to a distant part of the lawn, where the more rural country dance was kept up with great spirit; but the greater part of the company indulged in the pleasures of the promenade.
Throughout the evening, ices and refreshments of every description were distributed in abundance. Variegated lamps forming two large stars, and various festoons in different parts, illuminated the walk leading from the ball-room to the gate at the entrance of the village of Stoke, at which place the carriages were brought up : and it was between nine and ten o’clock before the great bulk of the company thought of separating.
The day will never be forgotten by those who were present; the extreme affability and politeness of Mr.and Mrs.Watson Taylor excited an impression that can never be effaced.
Silk hats, ornamented with flowers or feathers, were generally worn by the ladies; amongst the company were observed, the Hon. Captain, Mrs., and Miss Bouverie; the Hon. and Rev. Canon, and Mrs. Bouverie; the Hon. Mrs. Harris; Sir J.D. Astley, bart. M.P. and Miss Astley; Sir Edward and Lady Poore, and 2 Mr. Poores; Mr. and Mrs. Estcourt and family; Mrs. and the 2 Misses Pearse; Mr. and Mrs.Clutterbuck; Mr., Mrs. and the Misses Locke; Mr. Phipps, Mr. E. and Miss Phipps; Mr. and Mrs. L. Phipps, Mr. and Mrs. Scott, with Miss Jephson; Mr. and Mrs. Salmon, Col. Wroughton, Capts. Montague, Capt. and Mrs. Macdonald, Capt. Tayler, Miss Smith (the daughter of the former proprietor of Erle Stoke Park), Mr. and Mrs. T. Moore, the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Bowles, the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Fisher; Mrs. Archdeacon Fisher; Mr. and Mrs. Ernle Warriner, of Conock; Mrs. and Miss Puget (the widow and daughter of the Admiral of that name); the two Misses Penruddocke; Mrs. and Miss Biggs of Stockton; Misses Salisbury, Col. and Mrs. A’Court, Mr. and Miss Ludlow of Heywood-house; Rev. Dr. and two Mr. and Miss Starkeys; two Mr. Awdrys, and Miss Awdry, of Notton; Rev. Jeremiah; Rev. A. and Mrs. Smith, of Old Park; Mr. and Mrs. Collings, of Sandridge; Dr. Headley, the Mayor of Devizes, and his family; and almost every respectable inhabitant of the town, with several families from Warminster, Melksham, Lavington, &c. Mr. Watson Taylor, with his accustomed attention, sent into Devizes on the following morning, to ascertain the safe return of his friends.
Between 40 and 50 pair of horses were ordered from the Bear Inn alone, upon the above occasion; and the excellent arrangement of the carriages, and the personal attention of Mr.E.Parsons, reflects great credit on him.
How must Aunt Emma have felt, revisiting her old home? Or, had she returned time and again in the past decade? Time may tell, as more primary material surfaces – especially about the movements of Aunt Emma.
And what about our Host, Mr Watson Taylor? Ah… That I can more easily answer.
The following comes from Art of England (1930) and has a section on the “Sale at Erlestoke” in 1832:
This [sale], however, was forced upon Watson Taylor, who, after long enjoying a princely income, had failed with liabilities of £450,000 owing to the depreciation of his property in the West Indies. The pictures and furniture of his town-house in Grafton Street came under the hammer in June, and on July 9th Robins commenced a twenty-days’ sale at Erlestoke Park, which is about six miles from Devizes. For the preceding fortnight everything had been on view to the buyers of the ten-shilling catalogues of the four thousand lots. These catalogues were compiled by W.H. Pyne, the artist, and were said to be the bulkiest publications of their kind ever issued. During the days when the house was open to the public special coaches were run by the hotel-keepers from Devizes and Salisbury to Erlestoke and the sale caused as much sensation in Wiltshire as that at Fonthill nine years earlier. Beckford, who came from Bath to see the house and its contents, declared that they exceeded Fonthill in magnificence, and expressed a wish to buy a Paul Potter — one of the finest pictures in the Erlestoke collection…. At Erlestoke, Robins gave his word that everything offered belonged to Mr Watson Taylor and that no reserve price was placed on any of the lost in the sale.
Sir Robert Peel, who was very much interested in Watson Taylor’s pictures, came down with Lady Peel from London to Devizes and stayed a night at the Black Bear (the inn once kept by Sir Thomas Lawrence’s father) in order that they might go over the house early on the following morning, before the admission of the public. A similar privilege was granted to Wilkie…”
Without a reserve, some of the items went for much less than hoped, for instance: “Two thousand guineas were expected for a pair of console tables, inlaid with precious stone and mounted in ormolu, but they were knocked down for five hundred and eighty guineas to Hume, the dealer, who had sold them to Watson Taylor…”
(Some things still change hands: Bonhams has had some Watson Taylor’s furnishing for sale recently.)
Read The Bear Hotel‘s history (“Wiltshire’s historic gem”):