Downshire House, Roehampton

July 10, 2019 at 1:10 pm (estates, history, jane austen, places, travel) (, , , )

Downshire House 2017

Interesting, if brief, post by Roehampton University on the history of one of their buildings, Downshire House. This was once owned by Arthur Hill, 2nd Marquess of Downshire. It was the widowed Marchioness who engaged James Crump – a man who later went to work as her neighbor’s butler – to accompany two sons on a Continental tour. The Hill family have a Jane Austen connection, one that at the beginning of this year (2019) had news of a surprising eBay find: a photo album now owned by Karen Ievers.

I have so far found no references (prior to the Knight-Hill marriages) to indicate any relationship between the Hills and the Goslings, despite being near neighbors. Perhaps the Marchioness did not “associate” with the family of well-off bankers… Perhaps her residency in Ireland and at Ombersley Court meant she was so rarely in town that the Goslings had few opportunities to entertain her. I am *hopeful* (and yet doubtful) of finding reference to them in the diaries of the Hill daughters – but their tale is kept for a later blog post.

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George Scharf’s National Portrait Gallery (1859)

February 10, 2019 at 8:33 am (history, london's landscape, places, research) (, , )

The drawings of No. 29 Great George Street, Westminster that I remembered seeing when writing about “Jane Austen’s London, 1815” illustrated this article by Catherine Karusseit, “Victorian Respectability and Gendered Domestic Space.”

In looking for them again, I find the originals at the British Museum. Karusseit clearly denotes two drawings as being interiors of No. 29. What caught my eye was this inviting window seat:

No 29 window seat

“29 Great George Street,” December 1869

You will be able to enlarge the BM drawings just enough to decipher the descriptions (one CLEARLY reads  “the meeting room of the Society of Antiquaries at Somerset House”). I am especially loving the staircase view, which is clearly identified ID’ed as original National Portrait Gallery, at 29 Great George Street. These are drawings by George Scharf. On the staircase drawing, he has noted WHEN (day and what hours) he sketched.

These Scharf images are an *absolute THRILL* to see, especially the staircase view, which I hadn’t seen before.

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Life Afloat: Jane Austen & the Royal Navy

February 4, 2019 at 9:55 am (history, people, places, travel) (, , , )

Just reviewed (by Laurie Kaplan) in JASNA News – the newsletter of the Jane Austen Society of North America: Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister: The Life and Letters of Fanny Palmer Austen.

Fanny Palmer Austen

This biography of Bermuda-born Francis FitzWilliams Palmer, Mrs. Charles Austen, relates her short, but adventurous, life (she died at the age of only 24); as well, it discusses Jane Austen’s “naval” novels (ie, Mansfield Park and Persuasion) and the second marriage of Charles Austen.

Six years after Fanny’s death, Charles married Fanny’s sister.

Author Sheila Johnson Kindred has uncovered letters and diaries that supplement the tale. It is harrowing to read Charles’ journal comments, as he continued to pine for his deceased first wife.

Now, Sheila has launched a new book website. Read about Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister on the site that will explore more about “Jane Austen’s Naval World”. Retailers for purchasing also listed.

A highly recommended biography.

I had a novel naval experience little more than a month ago: I visited the Victory, Admiral Nelson’s ship, at the Portsmouth Royal Navy Historic Dockyard. Reading Sheila’s book after that experience, has actually enhanced her discussions of life aboard ship for Fanny Palmer Austen.

HMS Victory

A tour – the next time you just happen to be in Portsmouth, England! – is highly recommended for anyone interested in the Royal Navy in the period of Jane Austen. For a taste, right now, see the “Things to See” section on the HMS Victory website. You can walk the Gun Deck, see “stunning views” from the Poop Deck, and (of course) see the Great Cabin and read the plaque pointing to the spot where Nelson fell in the Battle of Trafalgar. Two extra’s that enhanced the experience of “being there” are the Figureheads Exhibit (keep an eye open for Calliope, my favorite!), as well as related “Victory” exhibits downstairs. And climb the many stairs to see the fascinating history and presentation of the ripped and torn Victory Sail.

EXTRA:

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Fanny Price and Portsmouth

November 13, 2018 at 2:28 pm (history, jane austen, places, travel) (, , , )

Author Charlotte Frost recently sent a link (which I’d like to share) to the HISTORY IN PORTSMOUTH website.

What I find most fascinating is the “Digital 3D Re-Creation of Old Portsmouth in 1860” project.

Working with a map, you can click on various buildings or streets, thereby obtaining details, drawings, photographs even of Old Portsmouth. Especially useful for readers of Mansfield Park are the discussions of what was razed (already or soon-to-be), which informs us about the Old Portsmouth as Jane Austen would have known it – as well, the Old Porstmouth Fanny Priced (re-)visits when visiting her “birth family”.

How about a “for instance” with the Fortifications to the South-West:

The text starts off with THE SQUARE TOWER – dating from 1494, but with “stonework” replaced in 1827 (ie, a decade after Austen’s death) and by 1860 in the “state that we recognize today.”

Discussion then turns to THE SALLY PORT BUILDINGS, “in an area that is today devoid of structures.” Some changes to the area took place as late as the 1970s. In this section, there’s some “Sherlock Holmes” extrapolations of evidence to figure out what had been in the area.

A FABULOUS picture of the KING JAMES GATE c1860 shows a HUGE structure dominated by nothing else. The fortifications were defensive in nature, and the King James Gate, of course, provided access. “The moat remained in existence well into the 19th century and appears more or less complete on the 1861 map. The photo [below] confirms the existence of the moat as it shows on the lower left the top of a set of stairs leading downwards from the northern side of the bridge. This could only lead down to the water.”

king-james-gate6

You can see what remains of this gate in a photo from 2009, where the central arch exists in a truncated form. (click the photo, then scroll down)

When on that page, scroll further and you’ll come to the 3D images. The smaller images above the photo is how you change between the (in this case) seven different views of the south-west Fortifications. A short capture beneath each will explain what you’re looking at.

“Navigation” at the bottom of the page will get you back to the main map, and another section of Old Portsmouth to discover! A highly recommend “tour” and website.

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Grinling Gibbons at Trinity College Chapel, Oxford

November 3, 2018 at 8:42 am (history, places, portraits and paintings, travel) (, , , )

In the summer of 1814, Mary Gosling (one of my Two Teens) visited her two eldest brothers at Oxford University. On her last full day of touring the various buildings and quads, Mary and family visited Trinity College Chapel.

A fabulous online article from 2016, in the periodical OXFORD TODAY, covers the recent restoration of the chapel. Entitled, “Simply Divine: Trinity College Chapel is Restored to its Former Glory,” it showcases the Chapel’s artwork – including the very carvings by Grinling Gibbons which Mary wrote about seeing in her journal!

For me (and you, dear Reader) the thrill of SEEING and hearing about the Chapel is the next best thing to being there. According to the story by Olivia Gordon, the Chapel’s “dynamic integration of architecture, sculpture and painting is unrivalled among England’s surviving ecclesiastical interiors.” Studying the nineteenth century, with its sometimes harsh “upgrades,” it is heartwarming to read that the interior of the Chapel is now  “brought back to glory with a sympathetic restoration“. The “glory” originated in 1694.

Trinity College Oxford Chapel

I also found, in reading this article, that perhaps Mary got it RIGHT when she wrote about the Chapel being “finely finished in CEDAR by Mr Gibbons.” I have long presumed this to have been a misidentification on her part, knowing that Gibbons (and the craftsmen, like Tilman Riemenschneider, whose work is seen on the Continent) worked with LIMEWOOD. However, four pieces, by Gibbons, of the Evangelists, ARE indeed in “Bermudan Cedar, a wood which is no longer available.” Restoration of the Evangelists actually came via old furniture made of the same antique wood!

Another interesting point made refers to the “hands-on” approach taken by the Chapel’s Chaplain, the Rev. Canon Dr. Emma Percy. She even scaled scaffolding, obtaining an up-close view of a ceiling piece, undergoing restoration.

I must admit, reading about the wife/widow of the founder (Sir Thomas Pope) and how she attended service brings to mind how the Salzburg Prince-Archbishops got from the Residenz to the Cathedral (it’s a “secret” you learn about when on a guided tour of the Residenz).

Re-dedication occurred at Easter-time, 23 April 2016; the embedded video (less than 4 minutes) will give you a taste of the gigantic task behind the year-long (April to April 2015-2016) project. It also pinpoints several of the different types of artwork that required refurbishment. More videos and further information about the renovation process and practices are found on the Chapel website. This page, commemorating the Conservation Awards, includes a link to a fabulous 20-page booklet (PDF) on the fully-restored Chapel. (Also accessed via their Renovation page).

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Regency Town House

July 18, 2018 at 2:02 pm (entertainment, history, places, travel) (, , , )

I first mentioned The Regency Town House in 2017, when telling readers about a free PDF download of Profiles of the Past. The link still works! So visit the University of Brighton if “silhouettes, fashion, and image” from 1760 to 1960 interests you.

profiles-of-the-past

I first found The Regency Town House website when I stumbled up the Bevan and Dewar Family letters. These were provided to The Regency Town House by a descendant, Patrick Baty – an historical paint consultant.

Two groups of letters are presented – one dating from the 1820s to 1840s; a later group, which covers the Crimean War, date from 1856 to 1870. Interestingly, The mother of Silvanus Bevan III was Elizabeth Barclay; yes, the Barclays Bank family. It was with Barclays that the banking firm of Goslings and Sharpe (the family firm of my diarist, Mary Gosling (sister-in-law to my second diarist, Emma Austen) amalgamated. Small world at times.

The website features short family biographies and also family trees.

You can click on individual letters to read the transcription – as well as explore the images of each original handwritten letter!

bright star_letter5

But back to The Regency Town House itself.

“The Regency Town House is a grade I listed terraced house in the heart of Brunswick Town, a Georgian estate in the City of Brighton & Hove on the Sussex coast. It was built in the mid-1820s.”

The volunteers working – in the restoration of this period property, as well as(obviously) the running of the museum, are to be applauded! Dedicated. Enthusiastic. These are only a few of the words one takes away from a visit to The Regency Town House website – so imagine an actual visit to No. 13 Brunswick Square!

NB: My Smiths & Goslings have connections to Brunswick Terrace, which fronts the sea and runs across the “end” of Brunswick “Square”.

An interesting, and useful, part of the website is called The Regency Town House Characters. This includes links to (more) letters and diaries.

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Eastwick Park, Surrey

June 5, 2018 at 11:36 am (chutes of the vyne, estates, places, research) (, , )

This is in answer to the comments of “Chaz” on the post “Putting a Face to a Name“; the tidbits seemed just too long for inclusion in a “comment.”

Eastwick Park cropped up a several times in the family letters. What caught Chaz’s eye was their comment about the estate when owned by “Mr. Basilgate” (sic) (whom Chaz writes about, see Prinny’s Taylor).

It wasn’t until I translated a French letter that I realized the part Eastwick played in the young lives of the four Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (which I really need to begin spelling Earl Stoke Park – for that was Joshua Smith’s consistent spelling of his estate). Since that time, I’ve found further letters, all of which wax nostalgic. I have not pinned down when the Smiths lived there, but it would have pre-dated the re-development of Earl Stoke, which began in the later 1780s. The girls were born between the years 1767 to 1774, yet even Emma (the youngest) wrote fond memories about Eastwick.

To see photos of Eastwick, c1904, see the Francis Firth website: Photo 1; Photo 2.
No 2 rather reminds me of Tring Park, Uncle Drummond’s place, before the Rothschilds enlarged it.

new matrimonial ladder_possession

And now for the whisperings of the Earl Stoke sisters and their mother:

1 Nov 1796 (Lady Northampton)
“I am obliged to Miss Black [an artist] for her remembrance . . . ; should you write to her remember me to her. I cannot forget the many pleasant days I have spent with her at Eastwick, & the many chearful mornings in George St [their London home]  She certainly endeavoured to please her pupils.”

18 June 1801 (Mrs Sarah Smith)
“we spent most part of the Mornings in visiting all the neighbourhood & Eastwick rides”

3 July 1801 (Emma Smith)
“As for seeing Eastwick, my Father went & walked all over it, but we did not; having been over it two or three y:rs ago . . . ; I think I told you Mr. Lawrell has bought it — –. The Country is so pretty on every side of it, that I even now almost regret Surrey.”

29 Sept 1802 (Eliza Chute) [translated from French]
“I made an attempt to see Eastwick again, the scene of my childhood, which seemed to me to be the happiest time of my life, but which I did not consider so then, as the view was spread far and wide over the future, which the imagination was pleased to embellish, and to adorn with its most amusing colors: I would have found much pleasure in traversing the rooms which I remember so well, and which at every step I would have recalled different circumstances, but Mrs. Lawrell was not at home, and I was afraid to ask to see the house, fearing that it might seem impertinent: the outside, however, very much interested me, and it was with regret that I went away; Augusta, who was bolder, entered the house. I met Mrs. Lawrel [sic] at Mr. Sumner’s, she told me that she was very angry that I had not done the same; that there were not many changes, but that they had a good deal of reason, and were quite important, and very judicious, as it seems to me. The park must also be enlarged & the manner of entry totally different; on the other hand, it was quite ugly, nothing but a short avenue leading to the house.”

 

 

 

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Garden Tour – Christ Church College, Oxford

April 16, 2018 at 10:09 am (history, places, travel, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Poking around the Christ Church College, Oxford website, I came upon an announcement of their Seasonal Gardens Tour!

This is so evocative a thing to contemplate, even though I am 3000 miles away. The Goslings visited Oxford in the summer of 1814. Two of my diarist Mary Gosling‘s brothers were in college. Robert Gosling (the second-youngest brother) was actually attending Christ Church College, and the Goslings tramped all over the college grounds and into its quads and buildings. (Actually, they tramped about several of the colleges….)

My one time in Oxford, which had to be far quicker than I would have liked, my view of the gardens came through the college gates. So I wish I could transport myself over for the day and join those being shown around by the College’s head gardener.

It wasn’t until I really looked at the DATES that I realized the “Seasonal” wasn’t several dates over the blooms of spring or summer, but the Four Seasons of the year!

And the “Spring” date is coming up: on Thursday, April 26th (at 2 PM).

Other dates occur in July, October and January.

CC Oxford

From their website:

“Take a seasonal tour of Christ Church’s beautiful private gardens and Meadow with our Head Gardener, John James. Learn about their history, conservation, current and future planting schemes and enjoy a few hours of peace and quiet away from the bustling city.

The tour lasts 1.5 hours and will take place in English. Entry to Christ Church is included in the ticket price [£15] so that you may visit the college and cathedral before or after your tour.”

The tours are booked online; see the Christ Church College website (link above, or click the photo). You would be walking in the historical footsteps of the very people who populate this research project.

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Criminal Broadsides

March 29, 2018 at 11:30 am (history, london's landscape, places) (, , , )

It’s not often that I write of the dark underside of life in 19th Century Britain… but when I came across this “deposit” at Kent State University, I had to share.

Kent’s archival holdings contains BROADSIDES – those oh-so-ephemeral handouts that we all toss away. But these have miraculously been saved from the dust bin!

Wm Shaw

Imagine: one of the London printers of broadsides in the early 19th century had the intriguing name (nom de plume?) of Jimmy Catnach.

Among their criminal broadsides are some broadcasting the “unusual”, such as THE WILD AND HAIRY MAN, or THE WANDERING LADY. Although the veracity of the execution broadsides are called into question, the details are fascinating – and the website provides many instances of the contents of those. You can get your fill of Murderers, Horse Thieves, and Confessions (from the guilty or the wrongly-convicted) by reading through the 139 “cases” presented for your perusal. Dates covered 1800s, 1810s, 1820s, 1830s up to the 1870s.

Some EXTRAS:

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The Vyne (Hampshire) Appeal

January 19, 2018 at 12:06 pm (chutes of the vyne, estates, places) (, , )

The Vyne in Hampshire – former home of William and Eliza Chute, Emma Smith’s uncle and aunt – is looking a bit ‘denuded’ lately:

Vyne Tapestry Room under sheets

Seems the “water is running in” because the Tudor roof is in desperate need of repair.

You know the general story: VAST mansion in need of restoration, with exorbitant costs associated with BIG re-construction works. The Vyne is a National Trust property; thus, their appeal to help fund the £5.4 million project.

  • The roof is leaking
  • Structural instability due to winds and rain
  • Leaning chimneys
  • Interior water damage (thus, the tapestry room picture above, without tapestries)

Click on the photo to get to “The Vyne Appeal” website.

 

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