Secrets from the Royal Archives

February 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm (british royalty, diaries, entertainment, history, news, people) (, , )

The Vaults are OPENING!

For some time I have been reading about the Georgian Papers Programme. I cannot say I am one to read timelines, and hadn’t realized until author and researcher Charlotte Frost sent me a link: The end of January 2017 produced the first glimpses of this five-year project, which unearths documents from the Royal Archives and the Royal Library at Windsor.

FABULOUSLY, the entire project will be free-of-charge and available Worldwide!

According to the recent press release, by the year 2020 350,000 documents from the Georgian period will be available to researchers, scholars and the general public alike – an estimate is that only 15% of the holdings has ever been published.

princess-amelia

It is well worth the effort to find the BBC TV program George III – The Genius of the Mad King, which I found to be a fascinating peep into the early days of this “opening of the archives”. From researchers finding a lock of hair, to a look at Frogmore – the retreat of Queen Charlotte and her daughters, to the cries of Princess Amelia (above) through her letters.

Authorized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, public access is through the cooperation of the Royal Collection Trust, King’s College London, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, William & Mary, as well as other key U.S. institutions such as the Library of Congress, Mount Vernon and the Sons of the American Revolution.

  • Read Smithson Magazine’s article on seeing the American Revolution through the Eyes of George III

The documents NOW online are a treat to someone like me, with an eye for the Queen and the royal princesses: The Queen’s diaries have shown me, written in her own hand, that the Queen saw “Miss Meen the Paintress” on the 27 October 1789. This was a fertile period for Margaret Meen – and for her pupils, the four Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire.

I’ve also read a letter from Queen Charlotte to her husband in which the Walsinghams were mentioned – these are relations of Charlotte Gosling (née the Hon. Charlotte de Grey, a daughter of Lord Walsingham; step-mother to my diarist, Mary Gosling). I’ve recently come across a small group of letters, some of which were written from “Old Windsor”, by Charlotte Gosling’s mother. It’s always exciting to find another side of the same conversation!

The digital items also include documents relating to Lady Charlotte Finch and the children of the royal nursery. I’m sure there are many Jane Austen fans who will LOVE to walk through the Georgian Menu Books. They run to 24 volumes! And include menus from Carlton House, Windsor, St. James, and the Brighton Pavilion. _I_ may even have mention of a few of those parties, in diaries and letters, by those who attended (a thrilling thought).

In short, there is MUCH to explore – and many more items to come!

“With Her Majesty’s full authority, the project is part of Royal Collection Trust’s objective to increase public access to and understanding of primary source material held in the collection.”

 

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Some Things NEVER Change

November 8, 2016 at 12:03 pm (history, people) (, , )

At election time, it’s hard NOT to think of:

Greed
Favored Candidates
Purchased Votes
Tension
Division
Pocket & Rotten Boroughs
Jubilation
Corruption

In “the shadow of the American War of Independence” came so hotly a contested election for the seat of Northampton, it pretty much knocked out the family finances for the Earls of Northampton (ie, the father of Emma’s Uncle Northampton). It has gone down in history as the “Spendthrift Election” (1767/68).

8th-earl-northampton

The “contest of the three earls” (Earl Spencer, Earl Halifax, and the Earl of Northampton [pictured]) has been described as: ‘the most violent contest for aristocratic pre-eminence that has taken place for the last century’. Rumors put Lord Northampton’s spending at the level of £100,000 – a prodigious sum. His daughter-in-law (our Lady Northampton, née Maria Smith of Erle Stoke Park) still cringed a half-century later, at the “expense” of “canvassing”.

Not long after the campaign, the Earl of Northampton left England – for Switzerland – never returning. His son (our Lord Northampton) is said to have been on the lookout for a wealthy heiress… to bolster the sagging family funds, and to upkeep the family seat, Castle Ashby.

Some things NEVER seem to change.

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Capability Brown @ the Royal Horticultural Society, London

October 17, 2016 at 12:59 pm (estates, history, london's landscape, people) (, , )

If you missed the installation “A CAPABLE BUSINESSMAN” at London’s Lindley LibraryRoyal Horticultural Society, you’re in luck: the internet is able to help.

Back in August 2016, the RHS posted this press release, alerting fans of Capability Brown that the Society’s copy of Brown’s Account Book was going on public display.

account-book

Calling Brown “one of the 18th century’s most successful and pioneering businessmen,” the research into this account book has revealed the “astonishing amounts” paid to Brown – and I can say, for Castle Ashby, by one of the Earls of Northampton! (the 9th Earl being uncle to my diarist, Emma Austen)

“Mostly written in his own hand,” Brown’s clientele numbered 125 individuals in this book alone (dating from 1759 until his death in 1783).

The book descended through family, and – though loaned to the Society in the 1950s – has now been donated to the Society.

The display coincided with the (ongoing) 300th Anniversary of the birth of Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

Clicking on the photo above will bring you to the online “copy” of Brown’s Account Book.

The London Parks & Gardens Trust also featured Capability Brown in its newsletter; some articles are found online.

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Boswell and Miss Gregg

August 15, 2016 at 9:40 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history, people, research) (, , , )

On Wednesday the 2nd of March, 1791, James Boswell set down in his diary news of his evening’s entertainment:

Boswell_biographer

“… I dined today at Mr. Gregg’s in the City,… In the evening Miss Gregg played both on the harpsichord and harp and sung admirable well. But I felt none of the fondness for her which made me once rave [fn: This is the sole reference to Boswell’s earlier fondness for Miss Gregg.], and it seemed awkward to me. I stole away in time to be at the Essex Head Club, and not be obliged to act also at supper.”

Miss Gregg – the future Caroline Carr (Mrs. Ralph Carr of Stannington) – was a friend to Miss Augusta Smith (aka “Mamma”) and her sisters, staying at Erle Stoke Park (in Wiltshire), before her marriage.

In the near future, Caroline Carr would become the sister-in-law of Maria Gosling, my diarist Mary’s “Aunt Gregg“. Caroline Gregg and Ralph Carr married in 1793, while Maria Gosling and Henry Gregg married in 1794. Mr. Carr was brother to Harriet Cheney (née Carr), whose watercolor portraits were auctioned at Christie’s in 2005. Harriet painted this little portrait of Lady Compton (née Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane), which was among those sold:

Compton_Margaret and Marianne_Harriet Cheney

The little girl is Lady Marianne Compton, her eldest daughter.

I’ve an interest in the Gregg-Gosling-Smith-Carr connection, for there are several letters that tell about the ladies of this generation, interacting with each other. The Boswell sighting has long been known, but was just a little vignette. A moment, all its own.

After last evening, I can add a little “history” to the young Caroline Gregg. She shows up in the book The History of the Family of Carr of Dunston Hill, Co. Durham (1893), the first volume of three in an exhaustive family history. What a FIND!

The young couple lived at 7 Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury; they moved in 1800 to No. 18 Bloomsbury Street (in a house that remained in family possession until 1871). Vacations were spent with the in-laws at Dunston Hill, “travelling in two post-chaises, servants riding. The great cost of travelling at that time is shewn by the fact that the journey each way cost over £50.” (A not-insignificant sum, when some households lived on 350 pounds – or less – a year.)

 The country estate the Carrs called home, from circa 1806, was Barrow Point Hill, in Pinner.

The book’s author offers this summation of Caroline (Gregg) Carr:

This gentle and talented lady was especially distinguished as a musician, both in singing and as a pianist and harpist. She had had the advantage of the best masters, and her fame as an amateur pianist was such that the great Haydn paid a visit to her father’s house in London to hear her play. She was the composer of several musical pieces, one March being written at the express request of the Marquis of Northampton [ie, Emma Smith’s uncle], for the use of his regiment, and has since been highly approved by more than one military band.” Caroline also had an interest in the works of Handel, possessing in score (over several volumes) “all his works”.

Caroline had been born in 1770, and was therefore about 21 years old when her singing and playing entertained James Boswell. How young she might have been when first attracting his eye can be guessed at from mentions of her brother Francis Gregg in 1788, and more especially time spent at “Mrs. Gregg’s” (either Caroline’s sister-in-law, or mother) in 1790.

She died in 1823, aged only 53. She was buried at Pinner Church.

What the book does not touch upon is the strife Caroline and Ralph endured from their respective families, especially Mr. Gregg. Letters in the Northumberland Archives speak of the “cruel treatment meted out to himself [Ralph Carr] and Caroline by her father”. Ralph Carr seems to have had as variable a temper as Mr. Gregg, for Eliza Gosling (Maria Gregg’s sister-in-law) writes of him keeping his wife away from “her own relations … even her Mother.”

As far as Boswell is concerned, however, Mrs. Carr doesn’t yet exist – only Miss Gregg, at her piano or harp, existed to cause him unease.

From the book comes this “charming” signature – oh! for the letters…

signature_caroline gregg

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Crime and Punishment

July 31, 2016 at 12:50 pm (people) (, , )

In the July “newsletter” of The National Archives came several announcements of the digitization of criminal records, beginning c1770. Off-site availability are typically through FindMyPast.

NB: there’s a Smith & Gosling pedigree (open to public viewing) on FindMyPast!

Crime and Punishment

The Smiths and Goslings actually appear a few times (on the “right” side of the law) in court proceedings. But the deepest “mystery” I’m currently trying to unravel concerns Lady Elizabeth Compton – family letters make one reference, in May 1817: “The result of the proceedings concerning Shaw is entirely satisfactory“. But I’ve no idea who “Shaw” was, nor anything about the extent of his “molestation” that led to incarceration, for the letter mentions the future possibility of Shaw “being let out”. My assumption is that this case took place in Northamptonshire – but of that, even, I am currently unsure. Perhaps these records will help!

Click on the photo to read the e-newsletter in its entirety.

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Desperately Seeking “addressed to Lady Seymour”

May 23, 2016 at 8:56 am (history, news, people, research) (, , )

An internet search brought up the following for a former eBay auction – trouble is I have NO CLUE as to the date of the auction — recent? really old? The date of the letter is less in question, 1861 – though no day or month.

ebay auction

The original description read:

“Addressed to Lady Seymour. Stamp has been cut out leaving part Southampton cancel with Botley & part Berkhamsted CDS’s on back. 4 page partly cross hatched letter.”

Would LOVE images of the letter (so I can transcribe the contents) – in exchange for information on the recipient and/or writer. The “Lady Seymour” in question undoubtedly is Maria Culme Seymour (née Smith), Emma Austen’s youngest sister.

Maria L Seymour

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Celebrating UNDER-RATED Women!

March 6, 2016 at 8:55 pm (books, europe, history, people) (, , , )

March is Women’s History Month – and author Charlotte Frost has given me a boot in the rear by giving me notice of a New Book and a hitherto unseen History Blog.

The Blog is History in the Margins. “A Blog about History, Writing, and Writing about History.” Recent posts have discussed “Confederate Nurses”, new books (including a tie-in with the PBS series Mercy Street), and of course the New Book I mentioned at the top of the page.

marie von clausewitzMarie von Clausewitz:
The Woman Behind the Making of On War

What is MOST striking, is the informative interview with the author Vanya Eftimova Bellinger, on History in the Margins. Some wonderful moments, like seeing she has a connection to Norwich University (a short-ish drive from where I live) to the vicarious *THRILL* of some letters just turning up! She also touches upon the thoughts that resonate with ME about the “why” behind such thing as Women’s History Month.

Women from the past MATTER. And the more women whose lives are dusted off and introduced, the more the realization will grow that WOMEN have voices, and they have IMPORTANT things to say.

Marie von Clausewitz sounds a woman so like the Smiths & Goslings: she SAVED everything. But: a miracle when one realized (200 years later) that these items STILL exist!

My Sunday today began with remembering a Clephane relative of Margaret (Lady Compton, Emma’s cousin-in-law) was fighting on the British side during the American Revolutionary War. Today ends with anticipating a good read about a German woman, a patron of the arts, a writer whose best known work has only her husband’s name on the cover.

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Augusta: a Pen Pal sorta Gal

February 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm (diaries, entertainment, europe, history, people, research) (, , , , )

Although I’ve had photographs of this letter for almost TWO YEARS (lots of other letters came my way in that time…) I *finally* got around to transcribing a letter by Mary-Anne Perozzi, dated 24 April 1824.

It was one out of more than a hundred letters in a private collection. The name, wholly unfamiliar. The date intriguing, and yet I didn’t pay it a LOT of attention. The handwriting is exquisite, so it wasn’t the legibility that caused the delay. Just a lack of “interest” and “other things to do”.

But, last night, in an effort to have at least all letters from this collection transcribed (the two I’ve left: nearly ALL crossed and a couple of really scribbling hands), I finally did this one.

And got a surprise!

Although addressed to Lady Elizabeth Compton, the Smith siblings’ cousin, it contained a particularly “painful” section for me to read.

Mary-Anne (as she signed herself, though her direction — included at the end of the letter, as a reminder to Lady Elizabeth to write in return — reads Marianne) has an extensive “thank you” to Lady Elizabeth for the part she played in Mary-Anne obtaining “two fine drawings, or likenesses“. Now, deciphering these words I was, of course, thinking Lady Elizabeth had sent her something she had drawn. I’ve seen her work. She’s very talented! And, being in Rome, she could have taken her sketch book around the city.

But the word “likenesses” – they tend to use that word to indicate portraits.

THEN: I read on…

likenesses, which AUGUSTA had the kindness to make me a present of.

There’s only ONE Augusta who would have been referred to by her first name alone – and that would be Emma’s eldest sister, the extremely artistic Augusta Smith, renowed in the family for her ability at taking “likenesses”.

I was in Seventh Heaven (and in a bit of pain: Could they still exist? but where??).

THEN: I read on…

and which I have found VERY MUCH ALIKE to HER

So a portrait of Augusta herself (I had presumed it had been of Mary-Anne, perhaps)!

THEN: I read the rest of the sentence:

“very much alike to her, and to her MOTHER

ARGH! Two portraits of the Two Augustas, in 1824! a precious gift indeed. And Mary-Anne then had the manners to say “and very well performed“. So, Mary-Anne not only thought the portraits “very like” (a huge compliment, indeed) but also well drawn.

Oh… the… pain… of not being able to see them. And of thinking that they could be long gone – or “unknown” in some collection or archive.

As it happens there IS a further mention, in the Smith & Gosling letters, of Mary-Anne Perozzi. An 1824 letter that pre-dates one that I own. Written by Augusta, she makes a very brief comment of writing a letter to Mary-Anne!

I opened the transcriptions of Emma’s diaries, 1823 and 1824 – hoping for some “address” of Mary-Anne. Nothing. Perhaps she was a friend of Augusta more than any of the other girls.

Mary-Anne obviously kept up a correspondence. Her address was simply “Ancona”, and, although her English was quite good, it points to a woman as Italian-sounding as her last name. (And can be said to account for the slightly odd phrase, “very much alike to her”.) I had hoped to find a bit of a footprint left behind, but so far nothing. And, although I KNOW it’s too much to hope for: some of her letters (to or from Augusta or Lady Elizabeth) would be the frosting on the cake.

Mary-Anne wrote of obtaining the portraits from Lord and Lady Compton, who were visiting Ancona. I simply had to look it up. On the map, it’s south of Ravenna-Rimini-San Marino; on the opposite coast from Rome:

ancona map

The blown-up map shows an exquisite “hook” of land. And in photographs… it looks divine:

ancona from air

I can see what would have enticed the Comptons here, in 1824. And how Augusta (the Smiths BIG trip was from summer 1822 to summer 1823; and they wintered in Rome) might have met Mademoiselle Perozzi.

Augusta DID have a wider-ranging correspondence – I’ve found letters to the Lante delle Rovere family, for one instance of her Pen Pals abroad. Must confess, trying to read her tiny hand in English isn’t super hard, but these are described as “In lingua francese e italiana“. AND, to make matters worse, the letters from 1823 are described as “scrittura di base righe di testo in verticale“. So she, as USUAL, has crossed her writing. To have them, though, is something I MUST Do.

Fnding Mary-Anne Perozzi of Ancona makes me even MORE intent on obtaining images of the Lante Letters (one also by Lady Compton in the same collection).

heyer_cover

This Georgette Heyer reprint features the Raeburn portrait of Lord Compton, done only a short time before he once again saw Mademoiselle Perozzi.

As I always ask, IF anyone has any information – about the Perozzis, Ancona, the location of (more) letters or those likenesses, do contact me!

 

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Intrepid Aunt Emma

December 26, 2015 at 1:40 pm (carriages & transport, diaries, entertainment, europe, history, people) (, , , )

First, let me take the opportunity to wish readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen a (belated) “Happy Holidays!”

I’ve been at work transcribing a diary, written by Emma’s “Aunt Emma” (Mamma’s youngest sister, Emma Smith) in 1819. Maddeningly, this diary volume begins already in the midst of this “tour,” and seems to end on a point prior to her return home, too. I hate to say it, but: For every piece that falls my way, there often are indicators of even MORE that is (currently?) MISSING.

However: I have to take whatever I get.

stoke parkErle Stoke Park, Wiltshire

Aunt Emma and an unnamed companion have obviously left from Erle Stoke Park (the estate of the now-deceased [spring 1819] Joshua Smith, MP, Aunt Emma’s father) at some point in the recent past, and arrived at Plymouth Dock in the county of Devon. She opens with a complaint about the proceedings of the morning, but bypasses further elucidation with the comment that it would take “too long” to recount. A bitter loss of information!

Emma and her companion tour the “lions” of Dock (as she writes the place-name); they are shown over several ships – one which, because it is set to soon sail, has its full complement of men (which causes GREAT excitement!!), and also necessitates the ladies being hoisted aboard! They tour from stem to stern and from bowels to poop deck. Amazing that a pair of English citizens could simply ask, and, being treated with “great civility”, be shown around by some one or two of the naval men.

I could go further – but really want to talk today about on specific tiny side-tour taken after they’ve left Dock and come to Tavistock.

Emma, who would have liked to have descended in the Plymouth Diving Bell that EVERY tourist to the area in this era commented upon, desired to descend into one of the Copper Mines. She applied to a Mr. Paul, who was attached to Wheal Friendship. Permission was granted, and Emma writes of “descending” via the SLOPE.

I must admit that the “image” I had in mind when transcribing this section was not at ALL correct. Having read more about Salt Mines in Austria, my idea of a “slope” was more akin to a “slide”. Thank goodness I found a drawing of the tunnel opening at Wheal Friendship:

wheal friendship

Please visit the website (click picture) to learn more about the mine; they offer a fascinating historical overview, culled from such sources as newspapers. I have a feeling the 1816 “report from Mr. Burge signed by Captain’s Bassett, Paul, Sarah and Brenton” points to Aunt Emma’s escort “Mr. Paul”.

Just finding this photo crystallized WHAT Emma was trying to tell me about her experience in entering the tunnel; why the men had to stop working in order for them to descend into the mine; and why “ladies” did not go beyond a particular point (which was approximately beyond 600 yards “instead of nearly half a Mile to where the Miners were at work”). Emma described it as a “wet and rough” descent.

I’m still in the midst of my transcription – and Emma in the midst of her travels! – so will leave it here, but invite readers to take a look at the travels of Mrs. Trollope in Austria (and vol II), published in a memoir from the 1830s. It never ceases to amaze me how intrepid women travelers could be – going where few living today have gone: Climbing hills in long skirts in order to traipse over ancient ruins, descending into the sea in leaky diving bells, walking on to chaotic industrial production floors, peering into hissing steam engines. For them, it was all in a day’s work at pleasuring their inquisitive minds.

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“poor John H, B. Gosling’s friend”

November 21, 2015 at 4:42 pm (estates, history, news, people, research) (, , , )

It was a cryptic sentence, written by Emma’s brother Spencer Smith:

“… the latter have been in town all the Autumn on account of poor John H, B. Gosling’s friend, who is I believe in almost a hopeless state from repeated epileptic fits.”

Trouble was, with Spencer’s scrawling, sprawling handwriting I wasn’t sure what the “H” stood for.

b gosling

 

Initially, I guessed Heraby? – fairly certain of the capital “H” (since it appeared also after the word John) and the ending “-by”. The lumps of the letters in between were rather up for grabs.

b gosling2

BECAUSE there is so little information on Bennett Gosling, the third (and youngest) of Mary’s elder brothers, his friend John H. grabbed out at me: IDENTIFY ME, and maybe find some letters – at the very least some momentary companions. Though Spencer’s letter was dated January 2, 1841. This, therefore, could indicate a LIFE LONG friend.

I toyed with various letters of the alphabet.

Heraby?  Heneby?

Hanby? Hornby?

Either of the last two seemed more probable for a last name – yet some British names can be complicated – like the one directly preceding this one: Cholmedeley. Don’t know about you, but not a name _I_ run across every day…

The man, if really so ill, probably died in 1841. And that was how I FOUND him: looking for a will among probate records. Working on the theory that the man could have been a Gosling neighbor, a London postal directory lead me to think that John HORNBY was more probable than John HANBY; but I tried both. When John Hunter Hornby, of Portland Place, Middlesex came up – and he had died in September 1841 – the tripartite name gave up more clues.

John Hunter Hornby was the second son of John Hornby of The Hook, Hampshire. Spencer’s letter, written from Brooklands (an estate new to him and Frances; read more about Brooklands here), discussed neighbors who were resident at the New Year. The Hook and Brooklands DID neighbor each other!

Knowing the family seat helped secure several siblings, for instance John Hunter Hornby’s sisters Elizabeth, Caroline, and Jane. This last was especially interesting: her married name (mentioned in the father’s will) was JANE PERCEVAL. An unmistakable spelling… Surely, somehow related to the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, who was assassinated in the House of Commons in May 1812.

I already had TWO Jane Percevals – the widow of the P.M. and her eldest daughter had both been named ‘Jane’; though the mother had remarried within a few years. Lady Elizabeth Compton (aka, Lady Elizabeth Dickins), Emma’s cousin, had both women as correspondents.

Jane Hornby, Mrs. Perceval, turned out to be the daughter-in-law of Spencer Perceval’s brother, Lord Arden; her husband, George James Perceval, becoming the 6th Earl of Egmont.

George Perceval and Jane Hornby married in 1819. And it was during that period (if not even earlier) that Bennett Gosling can be connected to John Hunter Hornby. Both were graduates of Christ Church, Oxford. Both were admitted to Lincoln’s Inn – Bennett in October 1817; John in February 1818. Bennett was the elder by two years.

On the hunt for “The Hook”, images turned up – including this hand-colored lithograph currently (November 2015) going for £115:

the hook_hornby

Ah, isn’t it a lovely looking place? Alas, it was a victim to FIRE in 1913. The grounds are still talked about, though the Hampshire Gardens Trust research skips over the Hornbys from this period. Sense of Place South East has a photograph (circa 1900) and news about the fire, calling it Hook House.

warsash ferry

Another missed opportunity, when I was last in Warsash at the behest of my host & hostess and we crossed the Hamble on the ferry. How near I was, not only to Spencer and Frances – but now also to John H. and B. Gosling!

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