Visitors to Bamburgh Castle, c1800-1820

February 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, jane austen, places, research, travel) (, , , , , )


While searching for information on the Northumberland Archives (nice online catalogue), I found an image – of a visitors’ book to Bamburgh Castle {where?}, and had to investigate WHY it turned up in a search for CARR GREGG.

A fantastic “slice of several lives” was revealed!

A “visitors’ book” is a litany of signatures, from those visiting a site (or hotel even); most will not contain more information that just a scrawled name. Yet in that name lies the “I was Here!” trace that is of use to me, 200 years later.

bamburgh castle_book

See images (4) and what seems a complete listing by clicking on the photo.

What rather thrills are the “oddly transcribed” names of a family which cannot be mistaken: the ladies of the family Maclean Clephane!

First, however, if you (like me) aren’t sure what Bamburgh Castle was/is – take a look at their website:

bamburgh castle_site

Lindisfarne Castle, a place I’ve longed to visit, is in the neighborhood of Bamburgh Castle – and looking into the history of this place I have to ask why was this never on my radar. Lindisfarne, however, is a National Trust property, and I’ve got at least one “Trust” publication. Bamburgh Castle continues as the “private home of the Armstrong family to this day.”

But what of my 19th-century visitors? Who did I find?

One family should come as no surprise: the Davisons of Swarland, Northumberland. Their visit is one of the earliest, taking place in 1801: “Mr and Mrs and 2 Masters Davison from Swarland, Northumberland“, e.g., Alexander Davison, Harriet Davison née Gosling (William’s sister; Mary’s aunt), and their two sons, the twins William and Hugh Percy (born in 1788). Even without further information – no thoughts about what they viewed – just knowing they toured the place puts the Davisons a little closer to “reality”. Perhaps Harriet once wrote Eliza Gosling, to tell them of their day out…

Another pair of visitors that same year are designated as “Mr Carr and Miss Carr from Newcastle upon Tyne“; the Carrs marry into the Gregg family – as did Maria Gosling, the remaining sister of William and Harriet (Davison) Gosling. Letters from the Carrs are often dated “Newcastle”; certainly those visitors from 1809 are them: “Mr. and Mrs Carr from Dunston Hill Co. Durham“; several Carrs turn up in the Bamburgh Castle visitors’ book.

An interesting name crops up in 1814: “Colonel and Mrs. Austen“. That spelling of the Austen name had my heart in palpitations for a moment; but surely NOT Henry Austen, as my first thought had flown to. A little digging, and I may have uncovered the correct man: Col. THOMAS Austen (1775-1859) “the second but eldest surviving son of Francis Motley Austen (d. 1815) and his wife Elizabeth, nee Wilson.” He inherited Kippington in 1817.

An 1819 party was of more immediate interest: “Colonel and Mrs. Davison from Swarland Hall. Mr. Henry Gregg and family.” Here was one of the twins, all grown up and perhaps married (Mrs D. could be his mother Harriet), in company (surely not separate visits) with Maria and Henry Gregg, and some (all?) of their children! Oh, for some letters from 1819!! Mary mentions her Davison cousins several times in her late diaries; Aunt Davison is only mentioned (in Charles’ diaries) following the news of her death.

And finally to the puzzling transcription, back in 1815: “Mrs. D. Maclean and Miss Maclean from Cliphane. Miss Wilmisson Maclean from Cliphane“. This can be none other than Mrs Douglas Maclean Clephane and her daughters, Anna Jane and Wilmina. After seeing letters of Margaret Maclean Clephane (after her marriage, Lady Compton; later, Lady Northampton), with a difficult hand where words often run together, I cannot be surprised at transcriptions like Wilmisson and Cliphane.

Several very small pieces of an extremely large puzzle, but welcome nonetheless.

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4 Comments

  1. Ron Dunning said,

    Fascinating! And a good example of detective work, as always.

  2. Janeite Kelly said,

    Hi, Ron – good to hear from you. Less ‘detection’ in this instance, than luck: looking for something else, there it was. The “Austen” spelling, however, makes one always take a looking, wondering “if”.

    k

  3. Charlotte Frost (@CharlotteFrost1) said,

    I clicked through to the catalogue and was taken aback to see that some visitors also allowed their weight to be recorded. Can’t see that happening nowadays!

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      ha-ha-ha!

      I don’t know Bamburgh Castle well enough – is there a reason people are being weighed? Some “ancient machine” for weights and measures?
      k

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