Great George Street, Westminster

July 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, estates, london's landscape, research) (, , , , )

I have been living in the 18th century lately, and in looking for the Smiths at No. 29 Great George Street, Westminster, came across this Newspaper advertisement in 1802, when No. 15 (across and a bit up the street from the Smiths) was for sale:

“No. 15, SOUTH SIDE of GREAT GEORGE-STREET,
WESTMINSTER

To be Sold by Private Contract, by Mr. CHRISTIE,

A Singularly elegant LEASEHOLD HOUSE, with two coach houses, roomy four-stall stable, &c. … with views from the balcony into St. James’s Park and Westminster-bridge, from which a most perfect free circulation of air rendering the premises chearful, airy, healthy, &c.  The premises have, on the parlour floor, a library, dressing room, and elegant dining parlour, spacious entrance hall, with folding doors, paved with marble; first floor, a suit [sic] of three spacious apartments, the two principal ones laid together occasionally by folding doors, the windows of the front room opening down to the floor into balconies; four spacious bedchambers and patent water closet on the second floor; five excellent bedchambers on the attics, principal staircase of easy ascent, and back staircase; basement story, butler’s pantry, housekeeper’s room, store room, and excellent wine cellars, servant’s hall, detached kitchen, wash house, and laundry, capital arched vault for pipes of wine. the premises have been recently put into the most elegant and complete repair, fit for the immediate reception of a large family. The locality of the premises to both Houses of Parliament, St. James’s Park, Westminster Bridge, and within one shilling fare of Court, Places of Amusement, &c renders the premises particularly eligible. — To be viewed with tickets, and further particulars known in Pall Mall.”

george street

No. 29 is prominently marked “XIX”; No. 15 is the first on the right, right below the letter “T” in Street. Reading letters from the 1790s, when three men were living at No. 29 — Joshua Smith and his sons-in-law Charles, Lord Compton (of Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire) and William Chute (of The Vyne in Hampshire) — were ‘bunking together’ you get the impression of it being a NO PLACE FOR LADIES! Too little room? too many additional servants? Hard to tell the exact reason why. All three men were in Parliament; and a ‘bachelor establishment’ was probably just not the most conducive place to be!

In the mid-1790s, “the Ladies” would have included:

  • Sarah Smith – Joshua’s wife
  • Lady Compton – Charles’ wife (Joshua’s eldest daughter)
  • Spencer and Elizabeth – the two Compton children
  • Eliza Chute – William’s wife (Joshua’s second eldest daughter)
  • Augusta Smith (Joshua’s third daughter)
  • Emma Smith (Joshua’s fourth and youngest daughter)

That’s SEVEN more people, never mind maids and nursery staff.

From such a list, how could one possibly pick and choose?

I’ve long looked at the excellent series of BRITISH HISTORY ONLINE, but have also looked at the book SURVEY OF LONDON (from 1926) online at the University of Toronto (Great George Street is in vol. 10), which has many in the series. Must confess, it gives the entry an entirely different “feel” to see the BOOK!

“DEMOLISHED” is such a horrific word to see…

I sure hope the bits & pieces said to be “preserved” in the Victoria and Albert Museum still exist!

* * *

EXTRAS:

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Let’s peek inside Stoke Park, 1798

August 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm (estates, history, people, places, research) (, , , , )

Why does Erle Stoke Park intrigue me? Perhaps because it no longer exists.

Joshua Smith‘s children were already born when his family (in a letter, delightfully referred to as “Mama and her saucy girls“!) moved to this country estate. So to find a description about the interior, c1801, is such a great thrill!

earlstoke_jpneale-1822

Slowly, this building arises from the ashes, especially as the Royal Society of British Architects (RIBA) has several “elevations,” drawn for Joshua Smith. My favorite is the “Perspective View of the Hall“. And with that “view” in mind, we’ll enter the house with the writer of The Beauties of Wiltshire. Let’s run to catch up with the couple walking the path to the front door.

“The old house at Stoke Park, which was built close on the edge of a small stream at the foot of the hill, was taken down, and a new one erected on an eminence. This is built of fine white free-stone, and was completed from the designs of George Stewart, Esq. …. [It] is a monument of praise to the talents of its architect. It was begun in 1786, and finished in five years. The house and offices extend from east to west three hundred and fifty-six feet in front; in the centre of which is a Doric colonnade, which opens into a very handsome hall, forty feet in length by thirty-two feet in breadth. It is ornamented with a screen of six fluted Corinthian columns, and communicates to the drawing-room, dining-room, library, &c.”

I have indeed come across several book (for sale) which — from their bookplates — once graced the library at Erlestoke Park, Wiltshire. Although I can’t find a picture of Joshua’s bookplate, there does exist this description:

“a book-late of Joshua Smith, Stokepark, quartered as follows:–

1. A saltire, &c. as given.
2. A ship at sea, closed-reefed.
3. Azure, a panther (?), sejant.
4. Or, a crescent. Motto: “Marte et ingenio.”

Compare that description to this hatchment:

hatchment_JoshuaSmith-bonhams2012

“The first of these apartments is thirty feet by twenty-four, and is ornamented with several pictures, copied from the most celebrated masters. Two large mirrors in this apartment, being placed directly opposite to each other, present a kind of optical delusion to the spectator who stands in the centre.”

LOVE the idea of an “optical delusion“!

“The dining-room to the east, is thirty-six feet by twenty-four, which communicates with the library facing the north. This elegant and interesting apartment is forty feet in length by twenty-six feet in width, and contains an invaluable assemblage of choice books, the chief part of which are in the most handsome bindings.”

And yes, all the Erle Stoke girls – Maria, Eliza, Augusta, Emma – LOVED books.

“West of this is the breakfast-room, measuring twenty-six feet by twenty-four. This apartment is ornamented with a large landscape by Loutherbourg, whose bold, spirited, and grand compositions, cannot fail to arrest the attention of every admirer of the picturesque, and the sublime in painting.”

loutherbourg_byGainsborough_Dulwich

view Loutherbourg works at BBC “Your Paintings”

“These, and a dressing-room, twenty-four feet by sixteen, constitute the ground suite of apartments, all of which are sixteen feet in height.

The first floor contains several bed-chambers and dressing-rooms, to which the access is through a gallery, remarkable for the singularity and beauty of its architecture; over this are many good rooms in the attic, and the offices are proportionably numerous and well distributed.”

So, while we’re upstairs, among the “bed-chambers,” let’s grab a good book and snuggle for a nice night’s rest. It’s been a long day…

* * *

blog posts on related subjects

Part I: Erle Stoke Park, 1798

Erle Stoke Park: The Well-to-do Party!

Erlestoke – home of the “energetic” Joshua Smith

1795 – ‘I fear much we shall be invaded’

Sarah Smith – wife of Joshua Smith, of Erle Stoke Park, Wilts

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Erle Stoke Park, 1798

August 21, 2013 at 9:49 pm (books, estates, history, places, research) (, , , , )

“I was very sorry not to go to Stoke the first Year of my Marriage.”
Mamma Smith, 1798 diary

The Wiltshire Council’s online copy of The Beauties of Wiltshire, Vol. 2, by John Britton. 1801 (also available at Books.google) includes a fabulous description of the house at Stoke Park, as well as this etching which dates from the period of 1798!

stoke park

“The view accompanying this description, was taken in 1798 from the opposite side of the road, where this sandy broken bank makes a good and bold fore-ground.”

The book puts the estate “about seven miles south-west” of the town Devizes (Joshua Smith’s constituency). “The turnpike road from Devizes to Westbury, passes within a hundred yards of the front of the house; but being hollowed out of the sand to a considerable depth, it is not to be seen from the windows; nor is it in the least incommodious to the appearance or effect of the lawn.”

“The house, the pleasure-grounds, with extensive plantations, and an ornamental village, have all sprung into existence, and acquired beauty and utility, under the present proprietor {Joshua Smith}.” To stay in the gardens for a while, we are transported back in time (and place) in order to imagine that “The north front commands a view, not only of its own grounds and plantations, but also a beautiful expanse of country, in which the village of Seend forms a pleasing and conspicuous feature. …The sides and summit of this hill have been thickly planted with wood…”

“The park abounds with many fine large elm trees, and is enriched with a sheet of water. This rises under the ridge of Salisbury Plain… After forming seven different cascades in its progress, it is collected into a lake of considerable dimensions.”

Mrs Norman wrote about “Papa making water” (which, at first, I thought meant something totally different…) in a letter to Mamma Smith the following year (November 1799), as she passed on to Augusta news of everyone in the house:

Mama [Sarah Smith] is charming well & Walking
Emma [sister of Augusta; my Emma not born till 1801] painting sweetly
Papa: making Water
we all send love….

“In visiting the pleasure-ground, we are conducted over the above hollow-way by an arch that admits waggons, carts, &c. to pass under it  This spot of beautifully decorated ground, abounds with a choice collection of botanical plants, and is pleasingly diversified with a variety of indigenous and exotic trees and shrubs. It is situated in a secluded dingle, through the centre of which runs the murmuring stream.”

The writer moves to the “village of Stoke” – so we will stop here, and let him walk around the “humble cottages”. When he returns, we’ll move inside the manor house, to see where Maria, Eliza, Augusta and Emma once roamed.

 

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Sarah Smith – wife of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, Wilts

September 7, 2012 at 9:59 pm (a day in the life, chutes of the vyne, history, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I wish I had a picture of Sarah, Mrs Joshua Smith, to share. Alas, the one citation I have of a miniature of her — by Anne Mee — came with NO illustration!

So, to illustrate this lengthy obituary of Sarah, I include this illustration of Stoke Park, where she died. The write-up comes from The Monthly Magazine and British Register, 1810:

“At Stoke Park, near Devizes, Mrs Smith, the lady of Joshua Smith, esq. one of the representatives in parliament for that borough. She was the daughter, by a second wife, of Nathaniel Gilbert, of the island of Antigua, sequire [sic], a gentleman of large landed property there, and chief legal magistrate of the island, the maternal sister of the late lady Colebrooke, and mother of the present lady Northampton. Through life, this lady was conspicuous not only for great good sense and very amiable manners, but also for the great sincerity of her attachments; a sincerity which was the result of affection, principle, and benevolence, alone. In an age in which the woman of fashion too frequently affects the most extravagant degree of moral sentiment, the purity of her conduct expressed the innate worth and value of her mind; and while her charitable heart was ever ready to mitigate distress, the delicacy of her pecuniary favours never wounded the feelings of those, whom her bounty so liberally relieved. Though handsome in her youth, she was totally free from vanity and affectation; her charity, though exerted on the precepts of the divine word, in secrecy and silence, was not confined merely to alms, but manifested by a liberal and charitable opinion of the conduct of all. So far was she from uttering scandal of any one that she did not even think it; and as to pride, if it resided in her, it was of that decent kind which preserved her within the bounds of virtue and propriety. Thus beloved and revered for three generations, in consequence of a debility of body produced by an arthritic complaint, she expired at the end of her sixty-second year, when threatened with a total loss of sight, leaving her inconsolable husband, children, and other connections, the example of a woman, illustrious in every social department of life. Her remains were conveyed for interment to the family vault at Lambeth.”

*

Sarah Smith of Erle Stoke Park lives on in letters, especially those to her daughter Eliza Chute of The Vyne, now housed at the Hampshire Record Office, Winchester, England. Eliza, in 1793, was newly married, and frequent correspondence passed between the two households.

A plea to anyone coming across letters of the 1790s: This important decade connects the Smiths & Goslings together in the “parent generation” – not only is Sarah Smith writing to Eliza and William Chute, she also writes of the newly-married pair William and Eliza GOSLING. Eliza Chute, as well, writes of her life — at The Vyne, at Roehampton Grove (the Gosling home), at Richmond — to her sisters Emma Smith (at Stoke); Augusta Smith (at Suttons, in Essex); Maria, Lady Compton (later: Lady Northampton = Marchioness of Northampton). Please contact me (see about the author for contact information) if you have letters to share!

  • Just bought a letter from eBay, for instance, and
  • its contents point to the people in this blog??
  • Contact me; I’d LOVE to hear from you!

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On Cloud 9

September 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm (british royalty, chutes of the vyne, entertainment, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last Sunday I was crowing to myself about all the *FINDS*. Just think: THREE different “items” turned up in one week, after some searching and much fortuitous clicking. On the last I have some extra news as of last night. I *LOVE* it when items rise to the surface, clambering to be noticed.

(1) Margaret Clephane / Lady Compton

My first find was stumbling once again upon ARCHIVES HUB. This time with a true piece of my research at the other end!

Archives Hub enables searches at “nearly 200 institutions in England, Scotland and Wales.” At first I could see the “hit” concerned letters written by Margaret, Lady Compton — but the site (or my connection?) was having problems. It took a lot of searching to realize the letters were housed at The John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester. I have fond memories of the name of this library: The French Diaries of Mrs Thrale and Dr Johnson was based on JRUL holdings! It is a favorite book, my used copy in quite decent shape.

So what was found, I hear you ask: 39 letters, penned by Margaret, plus 2 sets of verse. The citation is rather confusing. At first it sounds like the letters were written from October 1828 up to September 1829 — but further into the record I read that all the letters, addressed to Henry Edward Fox (later 4th and last Baron Holland), mainly written from ROME (check: the Comptons resided long in Italy), “are addressed to Fox in France (mostly, February-March 1826), Italy and London. All are dated within a period of nine months (October 1825-June 1826), except for four which are dated July and August 1829”

So: October 1825 to June 1826…. or, October 1828 to September 1829???

Time will tell – for this set of letters must for now remain on the back burner. Like the letters at the National Library of Scotland, penned in that case to Walter Scott. Scott’s own letters to the Clephanes and Comptons have been published. Luckily, my university’s library has the set and I long ago began culling family news.

The description says: “The letters are primarily personal, but have social and literary value“. Yeah!

(2)  Letter from Aunt Emma / Emma Smith

I’ll jump to the last “find”, for it is the least visual. I had come across internet comments by Dr. Kevin Linch (Leeds University) a while ago. I knew he had seen a letter of Aunt Emma’s (ie, Emma Smith, the youngest sister of Maria, Eliza, and Augusta – the four Smith Girls of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire), dating to 1794. Dr Linch was interested in Emma’s description of the exercises of the yeomanry. The picture painted rather makes me think of a war-era drawing by Diana Sperling.

Of course, Dr Linch pushed to one side the very bits I wanted most from this letter I hadn’t yet transcribed (the original is at the Hampshire Record Office): the family chit-chat. So imagine my surprise when I found online Dr. Linch’s full transcription (nice…) AND the ENTIRE “original” letter (far better*).

[*by the bye: I much prefer to do my own transcribing; one transcription was given to me as “Dear Ivy” – who the hell was Ivy??! I wondered. The letter’s content indicated Lady Elizabeth Compton, cousin to the Smiths of Suttons (Maria Smith’s only daughter; sister-in-law to Margaret Clephane / Lady Compton); I had never heard her called “Ivy” though. Another letter soon surfaced and this time I read the salutation – and knew the mistake. The three-letter word ended not in a “Y” but in a “Z” — and the name was Liz! Which made complete sense.
Another source for a letter indicated the writer was someone I did not know at all. Still, I asked that a scan be sent, as the letter was well within my time period. Imagine my surprise when the writer turned from a complete unknown into the MOTHER of Mr Odell, school friend and fellow-traveller with Drummond Smith! Her letter I wanted to read – and thrilling reading it was, too.]

Here, looking at it myself, was Aunt Emma’s comments in Aunt Emma’s own loopy writing.

Emma even anticipates the arrival of Miss Meen. Margaret Meen, who surfaces in the diaries and letters, was an artist who gave lessons (I discount The Vyne’s theory that she was governess to the Erle Stoke girls), not only to the four Smiths sisters, but also to Queen Charlotte and her princesses. Little did I know, when I read this letter by Emma, that I had already put my finger on many of Margaret Meen’s watercolors!

(3) Royal Horticultural Society: Miss Meen and the four daughters of Joshua Smith

Smack in the middle of all these letter discoveries came the Botanical “watercolours on vellum” housed at the Royal Horticultural Society. Trouble is, depending on which website used, you find less or more drawings, less or more images. FRUSTRATING! and yet last night I uncovered at 48 images (one you REALLY have to search for) by this quintet!!! May rival the holdings at The Vyne – none of which are currently pictured online.

You have the choice of the following:

I naturally began with the CATALOGUE. I mean when you want to know the extent of holdings where else would you go?

Looking up keywords margaret and meen I found four hits – and one image, which belonged to the citation for her 1790 book Exotic Plants from the Royal Garden at Kew. Searching for smith and elizabeth — which I knew should bring up drawings, for those were what I had found for purchase — drew a blank. smith and augusta brought up two citations for drawings from 1787, but their artist was described as Augusta Smith (17–) => Was this Mamma?!?

Maria was nowhere to be seen – and those of Emma, which like Eliza, had been found “for purchase” were best found at another site too. What’s a girl to do? She sends an email.

And keeps on searching…

Why all the hullaballoo? Because I had found a watercolor of Eliza (Chute) Smith’s for sale through Amazon (of all places…) and the description said: “Smith was one of four daughters of Joshua Smith the MP for Devizes in Wiltshire. The Smith sisters were instructed in painting by the botanical artist Margaret Meen (fl.-). The RHS Lindley Library collection holds works on vellum by Meen and all of the Smith Sisters.” My stunned reaction: REALLY??!?!

I had to find out how many, by which artist.

Facebook had another image. Mediastorehouse.com had more – and only $15.99 for an 8×10 print. Reasonable… I now realize, though, that Mediastorehouse is NOT RHS – and searching their print “store” you can find TWELVE Miss Meen botanicals. Be advised, THIS set is the only image and info for Solandra grandiflora (LIB0036980), c1780s.

[NB: again frustration: two works are dated 1789 in the “images” but 1785 in the “prints / shop”]

In the “images” one unearths ALL when searching for Margaret Meen (she turns up in their descriptions): without knowing (until I hear back from RHS) whether ALL their Smith/Meen holdings are digitized, and barring the “can’t find this drawing here, but it is listed somewhere else”, I now see:

  • numbers: LIB0002763 – LIB0002770 –> eight Botanicals by Emma Smith
  • numbers: LIB0002761 – LIB0002762 –> two Botanicals by the elusive Maria Smith
  • numbers: LIB0002749 – LIB0002755 –> seven Botanicals by Augusta Smith (here rather described as marrying her father-in-law; Charles Smith of Suttons, not Stratford Langthorne…)
  • numbers: LIB0002737 – LIB0002748 –> twelve Botanicals by Eliza Smith
  • numbers: LIB0036963 – LIB0036981 –> eighteen (out of 19) Botanicals by Margaret Meen

And on the “images” site you are treated to a GALLERY by Miss Emma Smith:

I could hardly believe my eyes — and they will be a treat for your eyes.

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Need Help: Susannah Smith, nee Mackworth Praed

May 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm (diaries, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have been thinking of letters and diaries these last couple of weeks. Some diaries are in the 1810s; others propel me forward to the 1840s; and the letters have been as early as the 1790s!

Today I want to make a special appeal to anyone who might have knowledge of letters written by or to Susannah Smith, the wife of Thomas Smith of Bersted Lodge.

Susannah and Thomas married in 1800; Thomas was a brother of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, so he was Augusta (Mamma) Smith’s Uncle and therefore a great-uncle to my Emma.

This close-up is from a miniature that recently sold at auction. How can you resist this face?!?

Susannah had a twin-sister: Arabella, Countess of Mayo. She became a lady-in-waiting.

Knowing well that LETTERS were the bread-and-butter of life then, I suspect Susannah’s letters, at the very least to and from her sister, but probably also to others in the Smith’s extended family, must exist. Mrs Thomas Smith was of the generation who visited Tring Park to stay with Mr and Mrs Drummond Smith – and also visit Roehampton, where resided Eliza Gosling (Mrs William Gosling), sister to Mary, Mrs Drummond Smith. How wonderful it would be to read comments – even slightly negative ones! – about my Smiths & Goslings.

Even hints to possible whereabouts of some correspondence would be welcome! Published sources as much as manuscript sources.

* * *

UPDATE: it was stupid of me not to include more information on Susannah’s sister and brother-in-law. The Earl of Mayo had the familial name of BOURKE. Some places associated with the family include Naas and Palmerstown. The Praed family were also related to the Shore family, which produced the delightful publication The Journal of Emily Shore.

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The face of Joshua Smith!!

September 28, 2011 at 7:44 am (people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Thanks to a reader giving me a heads up on a bookplate, I literally stumbled upon this image — and the connotation is that this portrait is JOSHUA SMITH of ERLE STOKE PARK.

Really???

I’ve emailed the seller to find out whatEVER info might have led eBay seller Prexiepost or Photobucket’s RobertsonBruce to think — or know — this is a portrait of my Joshua. But if this little “pitch” here helps to answer that question also, I pitch away!

On the hunt for the library of Erle Stoke’s bookplate, I came across these “finds,” the first about a book belonging to Joshua — now, thanks to Mike H. at Tring Park School, I have Joshua’s will and can see how he divided his property (once I decipher the extremely terrible hand of the probate copywriter!):

  • Maggs Rare Books is selling a copy (£800) of Boswell’s An Account of Corsica (who knew Joshua read any of Boswell’s writings?!? fascinating!!). The listing says “Contemporary bookplate of Joshua Smith of Stoke Park, Wiltshire.”
  • Neale’s Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen (1823) which includes Earl Stoke Park

* * *

BREAKING UPDATE even before the post is published: It IS Joshua!!!!!

 

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Erlestoke – home of the “energetic” Joshua Smith

July 20, 2011 at 7:25 pm (books, estates, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The following is from an 1853 volume of Burke’s A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain, vol 2:

“ERLESTOKE PARK, Wiltshire, about seven miles south-west of Devizes, the property of Mrs. Watson Taylor, by whom it is let on a yearly lease to Lord Broughton de Gyfford. This estate, together with that of Eddington [sic], where formerly stood an old family mansion of the Dukes of Bolton, belonged at one time to Peter Delmé, Esq., and of him it was purchased about the year 1780, by Joshua Smith, Esq., M.P. for Devizes, who so completely altered the whole domain, as scarcely to leave it a single trait of its original character. The fine old trees in the park may be said to be almost the only remains of the bygone period. The pleasure grounds, the plantations, all sprang up under the hand of the energetic proprietor; even a new village started into life, like a second Aladdin’s palace. The old house at Stoke Park, which was built close on the edge of a small stream at the foot of the hill, was pulled down, and a new mansion erected on the brow of a steep knoll, or eminence, partly embosomed in noble forest trees, and partly open to distant prospects. The building, composed of a fine white free-stone, was begun in 1786, and finished in five years. Together with the offices, it extends from east to west three hundred and fifty-six feet in front, in the centre of which is a Doric colonnade, opening into a very handsome hall, forty feet in length, and two-and-thirty feet in breadth. It is ornamented with a screen of six fluted Corinthian columns, and communicates with the drawing-room, dining-room, library, and other apartments. The first of these is thirty feet by twenty-four, its length being apparently enlarged, from the effect produced by two mirrors, placed at the opposite ends of the apartment.

The dining-room, to the east, communicates with the library, which faces the north, the former being thirty-six feet by twenty-four, while the latter is forty feet long, and twenty-six feet wide. West of this is the breakfast-room, which, with a large dressing-room, constitutes the ground suite of apartments.

In this noble mansion lived the family of the Smiths, in a manner worthy of its splendour; but they have now all descended to the grave, or are scattered and dispersed. In 1820, the executors of the late Simon Taylor, Esq., bought the manor and estate of Erle Stoke, with those of Edington and Coulston, for two hundred and fifty thousand pounds. They were settled upon Mrs. Watson Taylor, as sole heiress of her uncle, on the death of her only brother, Sir Simon B. Taylor (who died unmarried in the year 1815), the whole, with other landed property, being entailed on the heirs male and female in succession, of George Watson Taylor, Esq., M.P., and his wife, the above lady. Many large additions have been made to these extensive domains.

The present park and pleasure grounds consist of about six hundred acres, distinguished by a great variety of surface, with bold eminences, narrow, winding valleys, and wood and water in abundance. About a mile to the south of the House is the northern boundary of Salisbury Plain, presenting a lofty ridge, that extends in an undulating and irregular line, from west to east, for the distance of several miles. Towards the north this plain slopes rapidly, abounding in deep romantic dells, that are mostly covered with a thin turf; but on the Erle Stoke estate, it is clothed with thick and extensive plantations of firs, beech, larch, and other indigenous timber. From one of these hollows rises an abundant spring of fine water, that meanders through a secluded pleasure ground, and in places expands into small lakes, having in its passage over the ridges of rock formed several beautiful cascades. Upon reaching the park, the accumulated waters swell into a broad and noble sheet, that from the north and west sides of the House presents a most pleasing feature in the landscape.

The approach and entrance to the mansion were formerly on the south; but on that side, a few years ago, a flower garden was laid out, and enclosed from the park by a light, high, wire fence; a new road was also made, and an entrance portico erected, on the north side of the House. Other improvements have been effected, the only change for the worse being the dispersion of the excellent collection of pictures made by Mr. Watson Taylor, some of which present very choice specimens of ancient and modern art.”

What a fascinating find! It’s so easy to imagine young Augusta, when she lived here, getting her letter from Charles Smith which caused such “agitation” in early diary entries in 1798. Sadly, Erle Stoke/Erlestoke burned — as little now exists of Joshua’s house as he left when building his home.

Would LOVE to hear from anyone with further information — or illustrations — of Erle Stoke Park!

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Born on this day

January 4, 2011 at 9:55 am (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Frenchie (Photobucket)

January 4, 1772 – Miss Augusta Smith, third daughter of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park (Wiltshire) and his wife Sarah Gilbert, daughter of Nathaniel Gilbert of Antigua.

Miss Smith married, in 1798, Mr Charles Smith (no relation) of Suttons in Essex.

The couple had nine children – including (2nd daughter, 3rd child) Emma — who, in 1828, married the only son of the Rev. James Austen of Deane and Steventon and his wife Martha Lloyd.

Thanks to Mark Woodford, of Networked Robotics, Miss Smith’s 1798 diary has surfaced! In this blog, she is often referred to as Mamma Smith — there are just so many ‘Augustas’, and it’s confusing that she was a Smith before marriage and remained a Smith after marriage… 

So, Happy Birthday Mamma Smith!

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Happy Father’s Day

June 20, 2010 at 11:10 am (news, people, places) (, , , , , , , , )

Mark Woodford’s father, Charles, owned Augusta Smith’s 1798 diary; he died in February, 2009.

My own father is exceptionally supportive of my writing, this research project, and all I have accomplished and hope to accomplish with it.

Here’s here a not-so-short, and perhaps convoluted, tribute to some fathers:

I mention Mark because, reading through a diary in which the writer (Augusta Smith) marries (Charles Smith, of Suttons), he has been digging to find information on so much more than I have had a mind to do. For instance, he has uncovered a very useful set of books on Parliament, MPs and their voting records — thereby fleshing out both Joshua Smith (Augusta’s father) and Charles Smith (Augusta’s husband).

[I will remind readers here that Augusta was a ‘Smith’ and married a ‘Smith’ = but they were not related.]

This set, in four volumes, is The House of Commons, 1790-1820, a History of Parliament by R.G. Thorne. Middlebury College’s library has it; but wouldn’t you know: ONE volume is OUT! I’ll keep an eye on the online catalogue and take a ride down when all four are back on the shelf…

Why, you may ask, wouldn’t I be totally interested and have unearthed this set of books myself? A couple reasons; first I love history — but not politics. True, the two are inexplicably linked in oh so many ways. Yet, it can often be entirely overlooked: Austen set her novels in a slightly apolitical world, didn’t she?

But, more importantly, my earliest diary — belonging to Mary Gosling — dates from 1814. She is en route to Oxford. Sure she visits her brothers, who are in residence there, but Oxford is also en fête: the “false peace” of 1814 has been declared and guess who seats herself on the thrones not long before occupied by the likes of the Emperor of Prussia and the Tsar of Russia: Mary!

So I’ve always seen 1814 as the kick-off — summer, 1814 even. Poor Charles Smith, Emma’s father, has already died, though just a few months before. Emma’s own earliest diary begins New Year’s Day 1815. Thus, my two girls really are “teenagers” by the time I begin to write (and think) about them. Actually, another point in Jane Austen’s favor: they are sentient beings with wills and characters all their own, and ready to get on with life.

This line of thinking has never meant, however, that research into the parent, even grandparent generation hasn’t taken place, or needs to take place. It just means it rather lives simmering, always on the back-burner.

Which is where the enthusiasm of someone like Mark comes in handy. For him, the girls are not the focus: AUGUSTA is a  focus point, her father, her grandfather.

Joshua long has been Emma‘s grandfather, the older man, still in good health, a widower who entertains his children and grandchildren when they stay with him at Erle Stoke over New Year’s 1816/1817. Emma’s 1817 diary opens with, “Grandpapa was in good health at the age of 84. Stoke.” written across the top of the page, between a note about “Winter” and a “pair of galashes” and her first entry describing the people who had come to Stoke: Lord and Lady Northampton (aunt and uncle), their daughter Lady Elizabeth, Mr and Mrs Chute and Caroline (aunt and uncle and their “adopted” daughter), and a certain Mrs Langham — who just has to be a relation of Langham Christie (the future husband to Mary’s sister Elizabeth).

I think I’ve mentioned this entry before, because it is so evocative of a time past, as well as the “monied crowd” of England during this period:

“The new year was ushered in by a band of music playing round the house… band of music came in the evening & we danced a little”.

Mark Woodford, having an early interest in the Antiguan roots of the paternal family of Sarah (Gilbert) Smith, has found some invaluable information on Nathaniel Gilbert; and, as mentioned, the political careers of Charles Smith and Joshua Smith. Prior to this, Nathaniel was a bit of a name — great-grandfather, only; now he takes on a bit more flesh.

Charles was always Papa, but he dies so early in Emma’s life that being required to think of him as LIVING and LOVING the mind begins to think of him as he once was, before illness took him from Augusta.

And Joshua Smith, still so vibrant — I treasure letters from the early years when he misses his Eliza (Mrs Chute) so terribly; but my overriding image has long been of the loving grandfather whose end is also too well known from the letters — for Augusta writes passionately of rushing to his bedside, although he is often incoherent and doesn’t even recognize her.

We all have fathers, grandfathers, great-great-great-great grandfathers, etc. etc. If only we all had the mementoes the Smiths (especially) and Goslings left behind.

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