English Christmas: Aunt at Stratford Grove

December 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm (estates, history, london's landscape, people, smiths of stratford) (, , , , , , , )

Thanks to John, I’ve been given a glimpse of Aunt at home (Stratford Grove) – and have posted this delightful section of a letter at SoundCloud: new bride Augusta Wilder is sending Christmas greetings to “Aunt” (known to others as Mrs Judith Smith, sister of the late Charles Smith of Suttons).

soundcloud

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen know that one “great unknown” is the whereabouts of Aunt’s former home: Stratford (now known as Newham) is so close to London that the area Aunt knew has undergone tremendous changes. I’m always hoping to hear from readers that somehow Aunt’s “The Grove” still exists. This 1829 letter excerpt nicely describes The Grove’s exterior, with a “forecourt” and a path from door to the gate swept clean of snow.

english toffee

NB: if the recordings don’t work, try cleaning “cookies”; I don’t know why, but this seems a solution whenever I have a problem accessing them.

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New Letters, New Revelations

November 3, 2013 at 9:38 am (diaries, history, news, people, research, smiths of stratford) (, , , , , , , )

Special thanks to Mike who photographed some letters for me at the Hampshire Record Office. Being 3000 miles from this enormous source of Smith&Gosling info is one of the hardest situations to be in. I’m very grateful to Mike, and to anyone who is able to allow me to continue my research from afar (you all know who you are…).

I spent yesterday morning and evening (until 2 am! – though with the time change, I gained an hour) in the 1790s – with Emma Smith (my Emma’s “Aunt Emma”), youngest sister to Augusta (AKA Mamma); also with their Father Joshua Smith and Mother Sarah Smith. There’s even a letter from Judith Smith (née Lefevre), Emma’s great-grandmother, but I’ve not touched that one yet. The Smiths senior (Emma, Joshua, Sarah) write a LOT about aches, pains, accidents. A HARROWING letter from Sarah Smith to daughter Eliza Chute sets out the near-fatal accident of young Emma (“Aunt Emma”)! O-M-G-!

  • click link “near-fatal accident” to LISTEN to this segment of Sarah Smith’s September 1799 letter

The letters of my Emma Smith (AKA Emma Austen Leigh) come from the period 1811 / 1814. Emma was just nine-years-old in August 1811. HUGE handwriting — but cursive handwriting:

DSCF0160

This is page 3 — and LOOK at the treat that was in store for me: an early mention of my Mary Gosling, an 11-year-old! Only eleven and nine, and the girls were already corresponding…

The 1814 letters are poignant, dealing in the time period of Papa Charles Smith’s last illness. The bright spot in one letter? Mentions of “the little ones”. I swear Emma writes, “When we came to Stratford [the home of “Aunt”, Judith Smith – Charles’ only living sister; she was obviously keeping the children away from the scene of sickness] we found the little ones very well & hungry…” Emma goes on to mention little Drummond – a toddler at this point; and Charlotte, about five-years-old – who was outpacing her elder sister Eliza in learning her religion and also in reading.

Knowing what life had in store for all these people – (for example: marriage, children, early death) – it touches me to glimpse these moments of them as innocent, buoyant children. Thankfully, so much material has been preserved – in so many different places. Each letter shades their portraits in such subtle ways. A valuable gift, as we move into the festive season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and on to a New Year.

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NB: IS Mrs Thrale in the recorded letter of Sarah Smith who I think she is?

Hester Thrale Piozzi did know the Cunliffes; letters mention the deaths of Lady Cunliffe’s daughters, Eliza Gosling (1803) and Mary Smith (1804). Trouble is: Dr Johnson’s Mrs Thrale had, by 1799, long ago become Mrs Piozzi. The name could be read as “Thrall”… But it’s possible Sarah Smith had a slip of the pen, or didn’t hear (or didn’t remember hearing) of Mrs Thrale’s remarriage. Must dig a bit further.

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Emma’s “Aunt” is not “Aunt Emma”

January 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, london's landscape, smiths of stratford) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Reading through posts at AustenOnly (check out those concerning livery, and also Lord Nelson!), I spotted a tweet about the Document of the Month, featured on the Hampshire Record Office’s website: Augusta Smith’s poem, To My Aunt on New Year’s Day — written by young Augusta in 1825. It’s one of my favorite pieces! Why? Because it speaks about her having a red Pocketbook; ie, a journal! just like those my young Emma recorded her thoughts and life in. Oh, what has happened to Aunt’s diaries?!?!

I must confess, however, to some head-scratching over the accompanying informational text…

As noted in the text’s beginning, my Emma (Augusta’s sister) was born in 1801; she did marry James Edward Austen; and she did keep diaries, most of them extant at the Hampshire Record Office.

But the poem’s nothing to do with young Emma; it’s not her pockets that bulge, nor her red pocketbook that lays among all the Mary-Poppins-items of that vast pocket! Young Emma was no “aunt” in 1825!

{NB: the first nephew was little Charles, born in 1827; Mary and Charles Joshua’s son}

Yes, there was an “Aunt Emma” — this person was the youngest sister of the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park, the daughters of Joshua and Sarah Smith; namely, Maria (the Marchioness of Northampton); Eliza (Mrs William Chute of The Vyne); Augusta (Mrs Charles Smith of Suttons); and … Emma.

But “Aunt Emma” and “Aunt” are not the same person!

So to whom belonged “these ponderous pockets” that “would jumble my hips almost out of their sockets”??

The “most perfect” Aunt, who resided at Stratford (note the place/date at the bottom of the page), was Miss Judith Smith — only surviving sister of the Smith siblings’ father, Charles Smith. Judith and Charles were children of Charles Smith and Judith Lefevre. Poor Aunt! Even in Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827 she is misidentified; there, as Lady Northampton.

Thanks to Charlotte Frost, I’ve seen a drawing, done by Fanny Smith, of Stratford (Stratford Le Bow) — a “suburb” of London, and soon to be the site of the hustle-bustle of the 2012 Summer Olympics. This was once home to Aunt, and a great stop-off whenever the Smiths of Suttons travelled to and from London.

Now that you know a little about “Aunt” – take a moment to read this delicious poem, by the sparkling eldest Smith sibling, Augusta. I’m going to check my transcription against HRO’s!

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Recent Net Finds

July 30, 2008 at 2:24 pm (estates, smiths of stratford) (, , , , , , , , , )

Seeing photographs – of people, of places – merely makes you yearn for more of the same. Depressing when you find nothing; elating when you unearth something. I was up til five a.m. last night with what got uncovered…

More real estate.  Hassobury has two ‘units’ up for sale. This poor building has not been all that long converted into housing units, yet parts are up for sale again (with ever-increasing price tags, of course!). There is one interesting article on the former owner (or has it been on the market all these years?) of the unit known as The Gosling. The really interesting thing to read is the size of the house: 30 rooms on the ground floor alone! I wish there were photos of the “heads of otters, squirrels, foxes, birds and lizards carved in stone over the doors and windows”. I will ‘steal’ a picture off the website to give an inkling of the interior of this mansion, as it appears today, with its 16-foot ceilings (ground-floor rooms) and ‘fine plastering and panelling’:

hassobury living room

The Seymour and The Gosling are the units up for sale, with asking prices in excess of one million pounds.

* * *

Also found last night was the eternal resting place of some of Emma’s relations. I had searched high and low for information on her paternal grandmother, Judith Lefevre; she was the only one of the four grandparents for whom I had absolutely no idea of birth or death dates. As it turns out, Judith’s father Isaac purchased a vault in Christ Church Spitalfields. Many of the family are buried there – including Aunt Judith Smith. That came as a great surprise. Emma had noted a monument inscription for her taken from the church in West Ham (formerly Stratford, now called Newham) and I assumed she had been buried there. Not so, according to the plaque at Christ Church…

A descendant, Peter Currie has a short article about Isaac Lefevre (scroll to the end of the page; under ‘Personal Column’), which makes for informative reading.

* * *

I will take this opportunity to post a little something about last Saturday’s Vermont Mozart Festival concert at Shelburne Farms (Shelburne, VT). My cousin, who had been gifted with two tickets, had never been out to Shelburne Farms. She was mightily impressed. A gorgeous place, overlooking Lake Champlain, it was built in the 1880s by Lila and William Seward Webb. (Lila, btw, was the daughter of William H. Vanderbilt, son of Cornelius Vanderbuilt; her brother George created the Biltmore estate; her son James Watson Webb married Electra Havemeyer, Shelburne Museum’s founder.) Oh! it was difficult not to think of Botleys (renovated a little before that time by ‘Robin’ Gosling, Robert Gosling’s eldest son), with its sprawling edifice and multitude of chimneys — Or, indeed, Hassobury. Some people have all the luck, huh??

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