Garden Rescue: Westbury Court

July 28, 2017 at 12:57 pm (estates, history, places) (, , )

This morning I was “waxing nostalgic”: I had pulled out some original Smith & Gosling documents. One *find* was “the last letter” Mrs. Eliza Colchester wrote to Aunt (Judith Smith of The Grove, Stratford, Essex). It is a precious letter, written in 1826, filled with Mrs. Colchester’s delight at hearing the marriage of Charles Joshua Smith and Mary Gosling had taken place. Eliza Colchester died, and both Aunt and one of her nieces wrote on the cover of the letter “why” it had to be saved: it was the last letter received from Aunt’s very dear friend.

How I’d LOVE to unearth more letters between the ladies (even though Aunt has execrable handwriting!)

Mrs. Colchester wrote from The Wilderness, an estate near Mitcheldean. It was while looking (once again) for information on the family and/or the estate that I came across this delightful blog post about the rescue and resuscitation of the garden at another Colchester (also called Colchester-Wemyss) estate, Westbury Court (Gloucestershire).

“Typically rectangular in shape, classical Dutch style gardens relied on a strong use of symmetry and geometrical form…. But the Dutch style had a short life in Britain. The gardens were incredibly expensive and labour intensive to maintain.”

Gardening specialist James Todman‘s post then goes on to describe the “history” of Westbury Court garden – and the several times it was almost lost. The lack of finances for the Colchesters may indeed have been, in the long run, its saving grace.

After a sale to developers in the 1960s, in 1967 the National Trust purchased “the ruined garden”. Thanks to some historical records, a “restoration” was not only possible, it took place! And you can see the results, to this day. (Visit the National Trust webpage for Westbury Court.) The National Trust claims Westbury Court gardens the FIRST “garden renovation project of its kind”. The garden now displays “how it would have appeared … in 1720”. Although well before the time of “my” Eliza Colchester, I think she’d be pleased! They all so loved a good garden.

You must read James’ original blog post to appreciate the yews, canals, topiary, flowers (click on the 2nd photo, below).

Westbury garden canalWestbury Court gardens: canal

Westbury garden parterreWestbury Court gardens: parterre

 

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Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister

July 17, 2017 at 11:05 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna) (, , , , )

I just ordered a book I’ve waited several months for its publication (see what it is), and tonight I find another that “I can’t wait to read!”

Fanny Palmer Austen

We all will have to wait until OCTOBER – by which time it will be JASNA AGM time for those going to Huntington Beach, CA.

Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister: The Life and Letters of Fanny Palmer Austen, by Sheila Johnson Kindred is EXACTLY what I love to read – Fanny, the wife of Charles Austen (Jane’s youngest brother), was a “naval wife”. Letters exist which give voice to Fanny’s experiences in Bermuda, Nova Scotia, and (of course) England.

“Fanny’s articulate and informative letters – transcribed in full for the first time and situated in their meticulously researched historical context – disclose her quest for personal identity and autonomy, her maturation as a wife and mother, and the domestic, cultural, and social milieu she inhabited.”

“Enhanced by rarely seen illustrations, Fanny’s life story is a rich new source for Jane Austen scholars and fans of her fiction, as well as for those interested in biography, women’s letters, and history of the family.”

Hazel Jones (Jane Austen & Marriage) calls Fanny Palmer Austen an “unsung heroine” and she finds Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister “the first extensive study to focus on a man’s naval career from a woman’s perspective.”

To whet your appetite, sample some of Fanny’s letters in Deborah Kaplan’s book Jane Austen Among Women.

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James Crump, Butler to Mr. Gosling

July 11, 2017 at 5:22 pm (estates, people, places) (, , )

Yesterday I found a small “treasure” – a letter, written by James Crump, in which he claims the position of BUTLER in the Roehampton Grove household of Mr. William Gosling! The letter is dated August 1820.

roehamptongrove

Roehampton Grove

Thanks to the greater volume of Smith family letters, I have some names of servants within their household. Thanks to Mary’s later diaries, especially those written after the death of her husband Charles, I have some names of servants in the household of Suttons (1830s).

This *find* was truly EXCITING! though I was disappointed in not finding MORE information about the man.

From the small cache of letters (four) found, a little of Mr. Crump’s history can be surmised:

  • he has a daughter-in-law

Therefore, he is older; is married or has been married; has had children – and those children are of an age to have gotten married already.

  • his correspondent is the Earl of Sheffield

In discussing a loan of £20, obtained from the earl in 1814, he must have been part of the earl’s household at the time of the loan. Without a census, which would have answered questions of Crump’s age and position within the household, this question cannot be easily answered. He enclosed two pounds, interest on the loan.

  • one letter was sent from abroad – Brussels

A LONG list of places seen, and one can guess why (in a later letter) he is hankering to get abroad again. As the old song says, “How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm (after they’ve seen Paree)”.

  • same 1819 letter places him in service to the Marchioness of Downshire

It was the Marchioness’ two sons – Lord George Hill and Lord Augustus Hill – with whom Mr. Crump travelled. He describes himself as being employed a year by the Marchioness; he act as courier or travelling servant for her sons. The Marchioness had been widowed in 1801; her sons were a little younger than the Gosling boys. So, at the time of their lengthy trip abroad, they were in their late teens – George, born in December 1801, was the younger of the two (Augustus being born in August 1800). They were children of the late Arthur Hill, the 2nd Marquess of Downshire, and his wife Mary Sandys.

  • by August 1820, Crump was Butler at Roehampton, but looking to go abroad

Two letters written in the summer of 1820 bring us up to date with Mr. Crump. In the earlier letter, he has repaid the £20 loan; in this letter of August, he thanks the earl for the return of his promissory note, and actually refers to having “lived so long in your Lordship’s service”.

It was therefore, between the Brussels letter of September 1819 and the first letter written from Roehampton Grove (July 1820) that Crump was hired as Butler.

One would think, by hinting to the earl that he would LIKE to be a travelling servant again, that Crump didn’t stay LONG in the Gosling household.

But I wonder…

Granted, an unknown name could be misread OR clumsy fingers create a typo, but I searched through letters and found young Maria Smith ending one letter with some curious news.

Maria Smith

Maria mentions the recent move of Charlotte Gosling, the youngest Gosling sister. The very next sentence,  I think, continues Gosling household news. Surely the Mr. Crump or Crumpe (difficult to tell) that Maria then mentions is tied in some manner to the Goslings. The man was soon off, to become steward to Lord Glenlyon, with a battalion of foresters and grooms to supervise. Maria added that the position would be a great change for him! Indeed, _IF_ he had been “butlering” for the past twenty years. The letter is dated 1840.

Like the surmising of James Crump’s early life with the Earl of Sheffield, we can only surmise his years (perhaps) with Lord Glenlyon. AND his years (perhaps) with the Goslings. If anyone knows further information of James Crump, please do get in touch.

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Victoria & Thomas Sully

July 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm (books, british royalty, diaries, entertainment, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Yesterday I watched two episodes of the recent series VICTORIA, with Jenna Coleman in the title role. Episode 2 had a session of the Queen sitting to the portraitist Sir James Hayter (Guy Oliver-Watts) and ends with Victoria “needing help” at the unveiling of his resultant portrait.

Coleman as Victoria

This had me running to fetch my copy of Queen Victoria and Thomas Sully, Carrie Rebora Barratt‘s book that includes Sully’s 1837-38 diary of his stay in London with his daughter Blanche. I remember picking up this book in a newly-reopened Oxfam bookshop in Winchester in 2007. Ooh, they had some good titles then!

Not only does it tell about the MANY portraits the poor Queen sat for – be it miniatures; destined for postage stamps and coins; official portraits; commissions (like Sully’s – destined for the U.S.) – the book also has something to say about Hayter as well as his rival Wilkie — whose portrait the Queen did not think “very like”.

_I_ had to chuckle over her comments (culled from Victoria’s diary) about William Charles Ross – who painted at least TWO of the Smith sisters; Fanny Seymour (which I believe I have found, as a photograph of the original) and Maria Seymour – which was sold at auction, and about which Mamma (Mrs Charles Smith) has left us a letter.

Victoria_Sully

Amazon has a “new” copy – but many “near new” can be found in secondhand book markets. Definitely find a copy with its dust jacket.

Notice, too, of a tiny buried citation in the end credits of “Victoria”: that the series is based on the book by A.N. Wilson. The New York Times said of the book in 2014, “One more foray into a well-thumbed archive inevitably risks diminishing returns. In the absence of some new trove of documents, Wilson’s narrative holds few factual surprises. Rather, its novelty lies in psychological analysis, making his a Victoria for the age of reality TV. A celebrity who craves a private life but also courts popularity through new media technologies.”

A TV series is about as close to “reality TV” as one can get – so perhaps as fitting a source as any of the many biographies of Queen Victoria.

For those interested in “tie-ins”, Daisy Goodwin (series creator) has authored a “Victoria” novel, and Helen Rappaport has PBS’s “official companion book” to the TV series.

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Eton Schoolboy writes home

July 4, 2017 at 11:40 am (goslings and sharpe, history, people, research) (, , , )

Today may be the 4th of July, 2017 – but I have spent time at ETON in the early 1800s, reading letters home to Mamma. The writer is young RICHARD GOSLING, a cousin to my diarist Mary Gosling (aka Lady Smith). He was the younger son of Francis Gosling, the son of Sir Francis Gosling, knight.

One of the most puzzling things about this group of letters is a postscript written by Richard’s mother, Barbara Gosling née Baker.

Truthfully, I thought the archive must have mis-identified the writer. The hand is so “unformed”, so “elderly”. I thought for sure it must be Grandmamma!

BUT: Mary’s grandmother, who lived until 1809, wasn’t Richard’s grandmother…. And Richard’s granmother died in 1806.

Why “puzzling”, you might ask.

Because other ladies of this generation had the loveliest penmanship! Mary’s mother, for instance, had a flowing, easily-read hand. In comparison, Barbara’s hand looks “unschooled”. Reminded me a LOT of the penmanship of Sarah Smith, Emma Austen’s maternal grandmother.

And therein lies the puzzle. To know more of Barbara’s background and education, to assess how she and Francis came to know one another and marry may be something I never learn. Gosling items are thinner on the ground than Smith items.

Francis and Barbara Gosling married MUCH earlier than William and Eliza Gosling (my Mary’s parents). Francis and Barbara in 1777; William and Eliza nearly twenty years later in 1793.

baker-gosling marriage 1777 GM3 March 1777, Gentleman’s Magazine

So Barbara has a London address; Francis’ lists not his abode so much as the banking firm’s address – Fleet Street. But the family is often identified as “of Fleet Street” bcause of the family firm.

I sometimes refer to Richard’s father Francis (though being a ‘knight’ Sir Francis’ title did not devolve to his son) as Francis II. Richard’s brother therefore becomes Francis III. Thank Goodness for a name like Richard – instead of the trail of Francises and Roberts in this portion of the Gosling family tree. No guesswork required, in deciphering who was the letter recipient.

Richard was far enough down the chain of children to be of an age with the Gosling sons:

Gosling, Richard, s. Francis, of Twickenham, Middlesex, arm. Christ Church, matric. 27 Oct., 1814, aged 19; B.A. 1818, M.A. 1822, of Ashford Place, Middlesex, and of London, banker. See Etott School Lists. [10]

Mary’s brother William Ellis Gosling arrived, aged 17, at Brasenose College, Oxford in 1812. Her brother Robert, aged 18, arrived at Christ Church in January 1814. Richard, aged 19, arrived in November 1814. Bennett, aged 18, followed in March 1815. These last two were also at Christ Church, like Robert. The family visited William and Robert in college in the summer of 1814. Mary left a diary of this trip.

To get back to Barbara for a moment, with several “Mrs Goslings” listed among the output of certain painters, I long ago hunted down a photograph of a Mrs Gosling that is believed to be Barbara; the portrait is by Reynolds:

Gosling_Mrs by Reynolds

I thinkI went on the hunt for this portrait in order to clear up how a sitter’s ARMS are described – to an onlooker, Barbara’s arm could be described as the left arm; but a portrait would be discussed as if the viewer WERE the sitter: “right arm across the body“. Most do not give a first name, or ID the woman as “wife of …. Gosling”.

As you might guess, there are multiple “Mrs Goslings” done by the regarded portraitists of the day.

* * *

A bit of housekeeping: WordPress has obviously had an upgrade, which interrupted the “facebook” connection – and it won’t reconnect. After the run-around I went thru with AirBnB over the weekend – I am in NO MOOD. Will just say: why don’t websites TEST before they launch. And it’s not just websites – have had problems with Windows 10 AND with Office 365 for the iPad. Am utterly TIRED of being told they’re “ironing out bugs”. Do it BEFORE it impacts your customers!
(Rant over.)

 

 

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