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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London Olympics 2012: Stratford, Newham and Emma’s “Aunt”

July 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm (carriages & transport, diaries, estates, history, london's landscape, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Few will guess how CLOSE the London Olympics are to elements of the Smith&Gosling story. Take a look at this map of the site:

click on image for Exploring East London’s website

The GREY area is the “Olympic Site” — or as Exploring has it, the “area taken over for the Olympic Games”. The “loop” of streets near the top, to the left of SEE INLAY, contains the street running north-south (to MARYLAND) which is called THE GROVE. The Olympics and The Grove are about a half-mile apart.

Transcribed letters to Aunt — as the Smith siblings called Judith Smith, their father’s only living sister — begin in 1816 and end, with her death, in early 1832. The letters are consistently addressed {later calling her Mrs Smith}:

Miss Smith / The Grove / Stratford / Essex

But WHERE on EARTH did Aunt live?? That has been the burning question for some time.

Now, I don’t suppose for a minute that Aunt’s place survived, but to be able to place it back in time would be a great help.

Thanks to Mike in Surrey, I may be able to do just that.

Richard, at the Archives and Local Studies Library, located at 3 The Grove, believes Aunt lived in GROVE HOUSE. He claims the “Smith family together with Judith Smith” appear in Katharine Fry’s History of the Parishes of East and West Ham. (Good luck, Kelly, in finding a copy of that book…)

No doubt you begin to see my geographical problem: London E15 <– Newham <– Stratford <– West Ham. So many names over the decades and centuries, and all seemingly covering the SAME ground. Plus, I’ve long thought Stratford-le-Bow was Stratford; this map shows them both.

Mike has put his hands on an 1860s Map. Only the most detailed would show a single house, but he was the one who unearthed the very-detailed map of Nos 5 & 6 Portland Place!

This nice map of Stratford et al in 1800 http://www.newhamstory.com/node/726?size=_original shows just how difficult placing one house in this dense area has been.

Mike says that the abode to the left of the T and H in THE Grove can be ID’ed as Grove House. I’ve circled it, if for no other reason than to make my own eyes see its faint outline:

So what do I think I see?? A large house, free-standing, set back from the road; land that seems to be populated with trees (belonging to Grove House, or were they public??). The place has a rural feel that no one has ever mentioned in the letters. Emma talks of “walking in the shrubbery,” but only at the various country homes: Suttons, Tring, Mapledurham.

Searching through newspapers of the period, I came across this ad:

“AN ELEGANT FREEHOLD VILLA, called Stratford House, situated opposite the Grove at Stratford, four miles from London, in the County of Essex, the property and residence of the Right Hon. Lord Henniker, consisting of a substantial Mansion, with an uniform front, containing numerous airy cheerful bedchambers and dressing rooms, spacious drawing room and eating room, breakfast parlour, library, and all requisite offices, pleasure ground and kitchen garden, surrounded by lofty walls, orchard, paddock, plantations, fishpond, and four inclosures of rich meadow land, containing altogether upwards of twenty-five acres, with sundry cottages, and the Cart and Horses Public-house.”

Did it not sell? Subsequent ads exist for the same establishment, as well as for the Cart & Horses alone. Did either Stratford House or Grove look anything like this building that was St. Angela’s Preparatory School in Forest Gate?

In the newspapers I also discovered this fine obituary: “at her house, Stratford Grove, in this county, in the 78th year of her age, Mrs. Judith Smith, sister of the late Charles Smith, Esq., of Suttons, most deservedly regretted by her family and friends, and by the poor, to whom she was through life a constant and generous benefactress.”

Indeed, The Morning Post in their 31 January 1829 list of benefactors to the Spitalfields Soup Society (serving 7,000 quarts of soup daily) has among the generous, Mrs Judith Smith of Stratford — giving the same amount as her nephew Sir Charles Smith: £5.0.0. Over £1800 pounds were raised in this campaign.

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Should any reader be able to shed light on The Grove, Stratford, or Aunt Judith Smith, please leave a comment or send an email (see The Author at right for contact information).

Many thanks to Mike, Anne, Richard for their interest and assistance.

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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.

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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.

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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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