Just Launched: Ladies of Llangollen

August 5, 2011 at 9:06 pm (research) (, , , , , )

A quick post to alert readers that I’ve begun to ‘repost’ some fascinating research that actually introduced me to Mary Gosling. It was a visit to Llangollen, and a purchase of a small ‘history’ about the lives of its Ladies, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler, that caused me to find my first diary: Mary’s travel diary, now owned by Duke University. There’s not much there at present, but please visit: I’ve a ton of information to share.

Check it out at ladiesofllangollen.wordpress.com

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Bloomin’ Rhododendrons

May 28, 2011 at 11:17 am (a day in the life, estates, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

One *amazing* discovery, made reading these 200-year-old (more or less) letters and diaries, is the passion for FLOWERS everyone, young and old, exhibited. There are those who loved to draw and sketch flowers:

Miss Meen came & I began to learn painting flowers” – Emma Smith, 6 February 1815

That same year, in late Summer, Castle Ashby, home of the Marquess of Northampton, when Emma’s cousin Spencer Lord Compton married Margaret Maclean Clephane, the rooms were bedecked with “flowerpots, to the number of 32”. These were placed “in most of the rooms“, although the Great Hall received special floral treatment.

In her 1798 diary, Augusta Smith (Mrs Charles Smith of Suttons) kept a listing of flowers, probably those she found at Suttons following her March wedding, or else those she had cause to see planted. Among them, “White Lilics & Day Lilies. Lillies of the Valley Bigonia…Magnolias  Seeds of Anemonie, sown directly

In the summer she exults about eating “The first dish of Strawberries from our garden.”

In August 1832, when her younger daughter “little Augusta shews a great taste for flowers” Mary (Lady Smith) makes sure to note it in her diary.

These are just a few that popped to mind, which I could find and quote. As my own garden turns to blooms, they join recollections of springs and summers abroad, in England and Wales. The rhododendrons that grew wild along the roadside my father and I trekked along in search of a castle estate in North Wales always comes to mind when I see my own blooms (left).

And there is nothing more humble than the little purple violets which grow wild hereabouts; weed to some, it is a valued little flower to me, as much as Augusta’s Lilies of the Valley must have been to her:

Truthfully, I have very little love of gardening. But to have such color and scent to hand is something I too watch and note every year. The crocuses that bloom on the “first” warm day — only to decimated by the ensuing cold… The rhodos that grew larger and larger — and attract too many bees to safely cut them for an indoors look… The Day Lilies which, despite being orange and therefore not really a favorite color, I watch to see their daily progression from open blooms to dying relics.

So it is any wonder everyone writes of the passage of their gardens, whether working in them or simply admiring them?

I am reminded to note two new books added to my collection, bought for $2.99 each at the local Goodwill: The Glory of the English Garden, by Mary Keen; and Royal Gardens, by Roy Strong. Will have more to say about them when I’ve looked through them more thoroughly. Having a keen interest in the Royal Gardens, I was ready to purchase that one straightaway; the other I was less sure about — yet, I have a feeling that one will prove the more valuable in the end. Such wonderful chapters, and glorious pictures (by Clay Perry).

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Erin go bragh

March 17, 2011 at 8:26 am (a day in the life, people, places, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

…Éirinn go brách… Ireland forever!

The following words are those of Margaret Fountaine (published in Love Among the Butterflies):

“…then we were off, speeding across Holyhead Harbour out into the open sea…. We amused ourselves… by rampaging all over the boat, A strong breeze was blowing so we left our hats in the cabin for safety. The sky was almost cloudless, blue in the sky above, blue in the rolling water below. Close to the side of the boat, with my hair in long shreds streaming in the wind, I leaned forward straining my eyes to catch the first glimpse of the Irish coast.”

Margaret, in 1890, was 28 years old. When I first travelled to Ireland, along that same route — Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire, arriving as dawn (and an autumn mist) rose over the intensely-blue waters — I was about 23 years old.

Mary Gosling travelled to Ireland in 1821, when she was 21 years old; it was the culminating landing of a trip that brought the Gosling family (“Papa, Mamma, my Sister and myself”) from Roehampton, through Shrewsbury, to Chirk and North Wales, then a boat ride across to Ireland. On September 9th, they “arrived at Howth eight miles from Dublin at three o’clock, after rather a rough passage of seven hours. We went to Dublin in the Mail coach and arrived at Morrison’s hotel in Dawson Street at five o’clock.” Mary reports “we were all very ill” during the sea journey. Emma, who received a letter from her dear friend, passed similar news on to Aunt [Mrs Judith Smith, of Stratford] in a letter dated 28 September: “We have heard again from the Goslings they have been in Ireland, but suffered so much from sea sickness both in coming & going that it has in a great degree spoilt their enjoyment, they say that those who cross the water as they did in steam boats suffer more from sickness than in any other way.”

This Irish part of the trip was most curious when I first read it. (This 1821 diary was the very first piece of this research! and I had NO idea who Mary was, never mind what her ‘Papa’ did for a living). Mary accompanies Papa “to see the Bank, the exterior of which is very handsome forming a very fine object almost in the centre of the City with Trinity College…. We saw the whole process of making bank notes, which is all done by steam engines and is very curious.” She then goes on to describe the process: what is done with and to the paper; the printing of notes; the finishing and “signing” — “which must be done by hand”. Knowing the identity of William Gosling — a banker, with his own ‘family’ firm — it all makes such perfect sense; for who, but a banker, could gain such immediate access to the making of currency!

They toured a little of the island, then headed back to Dublin — where they again see the process of “making money” on September 17th. They prepared for a return to England the following day, going to Holyhead: “We got up at half past four…we had a very favorable passage of seven hours and a half though very ill all the time”. Their return was leisurely: they arrived at Roehampton on October 6th, “well pleased with our six weeks Tour. We travelled all together 845 miles.”

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