Rescuing Family History

January 13, 2018 at 11:08 am (estates, history, people, research) (, , )


A most delightful story:

“Three of her daughters married. . . .

The second, Elizabeth, married in May, 1784, John Colchester of Westbury-on-Severn. Family tradition has it that Mr. Colchester was one day sitting in his summer-house at the end of his garden by the road, waiting to see the coach pass. One of the passengers was a beautiful young lady. I am tempted here to apply Wordsworth’s lines, only interchanging the pronouns:

‘She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon his sight.’

He arose in haste, followed up the coach to the Red Lion, where it had stopped, found out who she was, and never rested till he had married her.

The garden where this romantic incident is said to have happened, laid out in the old Dutch style, with long ponds, statues, and summer-house, can still be seen at Westbury…”

[NB to all you readers of Jane Austen novels & letters: I *must* say: This is one reason why YOUNG LADIES did not travel alone! When ‘strange men’ follow your carriage into the coach yard…, you should be happy to have a brother or a servant ready at your elbow to help.]

The mother of the trio of ladies was Elizabeth Dighton (née Hunter), a widow with nine children. The book, The Dightons of Clifford Chambers and Their Descendants (1902), places Mrs. Dighton in the wills of Lister Dighton of Clifford and also George Lucy of Charlecote (the eldest son also carried “Lucy” as part of his name).

It is the daughter, though, Eliza Colchester, who’s come under my radar. In Colchester genealogy she’s described as “the daughter of John Dighton, of Ascot Park, Oxon.”

The Dighton book, published in 1902, claims the “property at Ascot was sold, but I have not been able to trace the date of the sale [see ASIDE, below], after which James Lucy [J.L. Dighton, Elizabeth’s brother] went to India. It is thought he went as private secretary to Warren Hastings, but I have not found any allusion to this in Gleig’s life of the great Governor-General…” Warren Hastings, of course, appears in Jane Austen biographies because of his relationship to her aunt Philadelphia (Austen) Hancock and her daughter Eliza (best known under her married name of Eliza de Feuillide).

The Dighton/Colchesters have a GREAT India connection, and, indeed the one item that brought Eliza Colchester to my attention – an 1826 letter – makes mention of her family members who are living abroad. (In the letter, she also “gave joy” for the summer 1826 marriage of Sir Charles Joshua Smith [Emma’s brother] with Mary Gosling [my diarist].)

One letter, out of so many.

But it’s not in the collection of correspondence, per se, that makes me think along of the line of “rescuing” a family’s history – it’s the AMOUNT of material I’ve been able to pull together. Letters, diaries, drawings, books, portraits, just to name a few.

The REACH of the family is rather mind-boggling.

The Smith and Gosling family had a complex social network, an extensive correspondence network. Their friends network can only be guessed at. Until something like this letter, written by Eliza Colchester from The Wilderness to her dear friend Mrs. Judith Smith at The Grove in Stratford (greater London, not Stratford on Avon), surfaces, relationships remain unknown.

I describe this Colchester letter a little bit in an earlier post, before going on to discuss some Wymess-Colchester garden that had been rescued recently.

Being JANUARY, however, I’ve thought about what I’d like to share with Two Teens in the Time of Austen readers. This year, 2018, is actually the TENTH anniversary of this blog. (how time flies…) And once some of the MAIN “discoveries” were uncovered, there were things I took for granted that readers “knew”. But audiences come and go, and I plan a major push starting NOW to “reintroduce” some people, places, and things.

cover-twoteens

Random Jottings, my Kindle (and also paperback book) is still available. If the paperback interests you, contact me – but the Kindle is easily ordered at Amazon (and its overseas branches). It gathered together blog posts and ordered them in a way that introduces all of the family members and their estate-homes.

So, *upcoming*, will be further information about all the family, radiating outwards from the core duo of EMMA AUSTEN and Mary LADY SMITH. But I’m also HOPING for some additional sources to turn up; items like letters and diaries! Thus, the *need* to talk about people like Eliza Colchester. Not only might descendants exist, but letters (especially) circulate in collections of private individuals. Sometimes, ONE LETTER makes such a difference!

For instance. . . .

ONE letter described “Macklin” in such terms that I’ve now spent a good five years uncovering MORE information on Miss Macklin (also known as Amelia Wybault, her married name). This became SUCH a concentrated topic that I created a presentation around it called “The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma” (a bow to Dickens’s “unfinished” The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

ONE letter describes Augusta Smith’s feelings for the young Northamptonshire doctor her family was against her marrying in the 1820s.

ONE letter from a friend to “Aunt” (the Smith’s aunt Judith Smith, their father’s sister; “Aunt” is all they ever called her) uncovered a tiny SLICE of Aunt’s life – and that is EXCEPTIONALLY valuable to me.

So just one of anything – a letter, an envelope even, a diary, a picture – when gathered among everything else MATTERS greatly. Even finding that description of a youthful Eliza Dighton, when my own picture of her was of an elderly friend. Precious!

Some other aspects readers can look forward to finding out about during 2018:

Family members who exist in photographs. Obviously these are mainly the children of the siblings. And there will come pleas for information about items that surfaced… and then disappeared again. “To Where?” is the constant question.

The geography of the Smith and Gosling world is so extensive. They lived in England; travelled west, to Wales and Ireland; travelled east to places as far as Moscow; and south as far as Italy and Sicily. I’m still waiting for one archive in Rome so I can access thirteen letters from the 1820s. [The Lante delle Rovere papers are kept in the Borromini-designed library biblioteca Alessandrina, Sant’Ivo a la Sapienza, Archivio di Stato di Roma, closed since 2014 for renovations.]

I find the world of the Smiths & Goslings unendingly fascinating, and I hope to interest YOU.

* * *

ASIDE: According to an Oxfordshire “paper” (by John Sykes, Oxfordshire Building Trust, in 2012; link called: “History of Ascott Park”) on the estate of Ascot (or Ascott) Park, the contents of Ascot were dispersed on the death of Alice Dormer (aunt to the heir John Lucy Dighton) in 1780.  Ascot Park had been put up for sale in 1773, after James Lucy Dighton came of age (his father had died in 1761), but it failed to sell. The estate was ultimately sold to the Blackalls, a landed family “in the Great Haseley area” in 1795.

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2 Comments

  1. Donnalee said,

    I have only begun to follow this blog very recently, so any sort of recap as you mention is most timely from my perspective–

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Donnalee – thanks for responding!

      Do take a look around at some of the “supporting” pages – items like the Portraits are a BIG help in remembering who all the many players are! Might I also suggest some of the articles that are online through JASNA; even something like my Boswell article on Academia will give you an idea of the “past histories” of some.

      This project grew from one diary, and therefore one diarist. It now covers diaries by as many as a dozen people, and the letters alone number in the thousands. Covering from approximately 1790 through 1845, I collect information on the family for a period of time that stretches from the 1780s through the 1880s – and am writing about their lives in the 1810s. It’s quite a challenge.

      Thanks for stopping by – and dropping a line!
      k

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