“I am Governess to Mr Gosling’s daughters…”

August 11, 2013 at 10:35 am (carriages & transport, diaries, history, london's landscape, people, research, spotlight on) (, , , , , , )


Been a VERY busy, rewarding week. Have been living in many decades – the 1820s and back again to the 1760s. I never feel that I “get much done”, but little puzzle pieces fitting together to create a larger whole IS one goal of this research, isn’t it?

I’ve mentioned before the need to flesh out the Smith & Gosling households. If you think locating information (official accounts; the letters and diaries are a miracle of survival, and yet who but women carried on such connective interaction?) on women is an uphill battle, try locating those faithful (and also the troublesome…) men, women, children who worked so the town houses and estates ran smoothly.

I’ve long visited the wonder website The Proceedings of the Old Bailey; seen a few cases – but only now think about two things: culling them to fill-in those little moments when one brother or father or uncle appeared in court, the subject, perhaps, of a robbery! And, reading this particular account (see below), it dawned that I could do a little in adding NAMES to the people in the household!

And yet, reading the account with fresh eyes this morning, this poor woman had so much stolen: Perhaps all her personal effects! And with the thought of shedding a little light on a moment of life for MARY ANN HARDCASTLE, I post today.

Mary Ann Hardcastle describes herself in this court document: “I am governess to Mr Gosling’s daughters; the family live in Lincoln-Inns-Fields, and their country house is at Langley.*” These, then, also the addresses associated with this hardworking governess. And when the family packed up to move from town to country, or country to town as in this case, so did she.

[* Robert Gosling was my Mary’s paternal grandfather; the daughters here being Mary’s aunts: Harriet (later, Mrs Alexander Davison of Swarland) and Mary [Maria?] (later, Mrs Henry Gregg, of Lincoln’s Inn).]

At the heart of the case, her DEAL BOX (see a c1800 Welsh “deal box” settle). “I packed up my box on the 27th of November [1783], I never saw the box afterwards, till I saw it in Hall’s lodging…”

Two men were indicted: William Hall (“otherwise Halley”) and John Field; the first for stealing; the second for receiving stolen goods.

Mary Cartwright, the Goslings’ housekeeper, swore to seeing the box set upon the waggon of the Langley Carrier, Thomas Webb. Webb then told a tale of robbery: after delivering “an empty Hamper at Knights Bridge, and a woman at Hyde Park Corner,” he “came to the Running Horse, just below Park Lane….I missed two boxes, the tilt was tore, and the skewers taken out; I had a great many other persons goods; there were two trunks taken out; This is one of the boxes that was lost, the other was much larger and heavier.”

Some items were recovered from Field’s room and accommodations. Among the still-missing: “an apron and some sort of a locket or thing that ladies wear about their neck; he said he had sold them”.

Field claimed to have found the trunk.

While it’s heartbreaking to see the list of simple items stolen from her, to read Mrs Hardcastle’s next statement is a revelation! The statement says much about Field’s actions, but look at what Mrs Hardcastle valued:

“Field immediately took the poker and attempted to open the drawers; he seemed very concerned and very much surprized when my things were found in his possession: I had several letters in my box, some directed at me at Mr. Gosling’s, Lincoln’s-Inn Fields, and some in the country. I had a large parcel of manuscripts, poetry, and bills and receipts, and many things that I valued very much, and Hall had burnt them the night before: the gentleman went down into the kitchen and found several scraps of my papers half burnt; I had likewise a common leather memorandum book which Hall sold for two-pence with the papers that were in it which I valued exceedingly: I had likewise a very large parcel of poetry; Hall afterwards, when I asked him why he burnt them, said, for fear of leading to a discovery, because he meant to sell my clothes”.

I stop here to list the items which appear at the head of the report*:

one deal box, value 6 d.
three linen shirts, value 15 s.
six pair of white stockings, value 6 s.
one dimity gown, trimmed with muslin, value 10 s.
two womens linen riding shirts, value 10 s.
two womens riding waistcoats, value 10 s.
two linen handkerchiefs, value 2 s.
one deal box, value 12 d.
two worked muslin aprons, value 10 s.
one plain lawn apron, value 4 s.
one plain muslin short apron, value 3 s.
two tambour muslin gowns, value 20 s.
one printed muslin gown, value 10 s.
one sattin gown, value 10 s.
one white sarcenet cloak, value 10 s.
two yards of white striped gauze, value 10 s.
a pink silk petticoat, value 10 s.
two muslin neck handkerchiefs, value 4 s.
two muslin night caps, value 2 s.
one silver tissue pocketbook, value 12 d.
one leather pocket-book, value 2 d.
one base metal handkerchief slider, value 6 d.

the property of Mary Hardcastle, spinster.

[*NEARLY FORGOT to include this valuable website: check out the English Costume link, as well as the textiles, to get an impression of the items at the center of this case.]

Other than the boxes and the leather pocket book, there really is NO valuation given to the papers – the letters, poetry (did she write them? did the Gosling girls?) OH TO HAVE THESE ITEMS!!

From a 21st-century perspective, the report ends SO UBRUPTLY! Witnesses for the two prisoners were called; characters given; NOT GUILTY is the verdict passed!

And poor Mary Hardcastle? Some items recovered; others lost. And – seemingly, (given the “caught-red-handed” scenario) – no justice served.

Was the court unimpressed by the simple belongings of a mere governess to follow-through with prosecution? Was Mary Ann Hardcastle literally “robbed” a second time?

A fabulous document, attached to this case, appears online at LONDON LIVES.

hardcastle-cartwright

Beyond her name, I know nothing of Mary Ann Hardcastle; not how old she was in 1783, nor how long she was with the Goslings at this point, nor how long she stayed. The candle that illuminates her life at this moment of such stress, flickers out…

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