Glimpse a Household (1839)

January 8, 2019 at 3:25 pm (history, london's landscape, people) (, , )

Sometimes I come across the same item. That happened today when looking at a report of a court case.

When I went to put in JOHN WALKER as servant to the Christie household in 1839, I found the exact same story. But it had certainly been quite a while since reading this recounting of an incident of theft, boldly perpetrated during the day.

George Fountain was brought before the court for stealing – a spoon, valued at 1 pound; and 2 forks, also valued at 1 pound. It is the summation by John Walker that this time caught my eye.

I am servant to Mr. Langham Christie, of Cumberland-street, St. Marylebone.”

The Christies were Elizabeth Gosling (Mary’s elder sister) and her husband Langham Christie. By this time they had been married about ten years. They had a London residence, but also a small country estate at Preston Deanery (Northamptonshire). Langham had been battling for the inheritance of another estate, Glyndebourne (which you can read about here; opera-lovers will realize that his bid for the estate was successful).

But the morning of April 19th, a Friday, must have begun like any other.

The maid had washed the passage way, which left a connecting door open in order “to dry the passage”. Walker had been in the pantry, and, upon exiting, had “heard the street-door bell ring”. The time was “half-past twelve o’clock at noon.” Walker remembers closing the pantry door – which latched; but going up to answer the street door, he did not lock the pantry door.

The ring of the door evidently announced the arrival of the household’s newspaper (sharing was not unknown; so it could have come from a family member or a friend; as well as a true delivery): “There was a person there with a newspaper.” Walker “took it up to the drawing-room — mistress sent me into the dining-room with it.” MISTRESS would have been Elizabeth Christie, who, sitting in the drawing room, probably was finishing up a day’s correspondence, although she might also have been attentive to the arrival of any callers — unless she was NOT AT HOME (the standard phrase of the period, to denote both absence as well as not accepting callers).

Was Langham in the dining-room? Or was it merely placed at his plate? We are not told; Walker merely states the fact, and was quickly back at the pantry, “in less than five minutes.”

The time away is crucial (one almost wonders if the newspaper delivery was a ruse, but presumably not – for no more is mentioned about the paper).

The shock awaiting Walker was the sight of a man INSIDE the pantry (which, of course, stood with its door now open).

Walker called out, asking “what he wanted there”. George Fountain replied, asking if Walker “wanted any black lead.” But no one peddling their wares would be inside the house, at the bottom of stairs that led into the pantry. The game was up. Walker knew the clinking “blue bag” contained pieces of the family plate. Not much, you will say, citing three pieces of silverware – but being caught in the act obviously stopped the robbery in its tracks.

Walker sent for Langham, “my master,” who himself went for the police. No mention is made of whether Elizabeth already knew of the infiltration into the lower regions of her household, just as things were being readied for lunch.

Little further examination took place in court, a few follow-up questions with Walker. Then the policeman, Thomas Gane, gave testimony.

In parentheses comes the statement that “(The prisoner received a good character.)” – surely sworn testimony about the thirty-year-old prisoner. Fountain, found guilty, was “Strongly recommended to mercy.” and received a sentence of six months incarceration. The trial had taken place at the Old Bailey, London, on 13 May 1839. In the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, this is the only instance of George Fountain’s appearance.

Garrows_Law

keep in mind: You can visit the Old Bailey by booking a place

 

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“I am Governess to Mr Gosling’s daughters…”

August 11, 2013 at 10:35 am (carriages & transport, diaries, history, london's landscape, people, research, spotlight on) (, , , , , , )

Been a VERY busy, rewarding week. Have been living in many decades – the 1820s and back again to the 1760s. I never feel that I “get much done”, but little puzzle pieces fitting together to create a larger whole IS one goal of this research, isn’t it?

I’ve mentioned before the need to flesh out the Smith & Gosling households. If you think locating information (official accounts; the letters and diaries are a miracle of survival, and yet who but women carried on such connective interaction?) on women is an uphill battle, try locating those faithful (and also the troublesome…) men, women, children who worked so the town houses and estates ran smoothly.

I’ve long visited the wonder website The Proceedings of the Old Bailey; seen a few cases – but only now think about two things: culling them to fill-in those little moments when one brother or father or uncle appeared in court, the subject, perhaps, of a robbery! And, reading this particular account (see below), it dawned that I could do a little in adding NAMES to the people in the household!

And yet, reading the account with fresh eyes this morning, this poor woman had so much stolen: Perhaps all her personal effects! And with the thought of shedding a little light on a moment of life for MARY ANN HARDCASTLE, I post today.

Mary Ann Hardcastle describes herself in this court document: “I am governess to Mr Gosling’s daughters; the family live in Lincoln-Inns-Fields, and their country house is at Langley.*” These, then, also the addresses associated with this hardworking governess. And when the family packed up to move from town to country, or country to town as in this case, so did she.

[* Robert Gosling was my Mary’s paternal grandfather; the daughters here being Mary’s aunts: Harriet (later, Mrs Alexander Davison of Swarland) and Mary [Maria?] (later, Mrs Henry Gregg, of Lincoln’s Inn).]

At the heart of the case, her DEAL BOX (see a c1800 Welsh “deal box” settle). “I packed up my box on the 27th of November [1783], I never saw the box afterwards, till I saw it in Hall’s lodging…”

Two men were indicted: William Hall (“otherwise Halley”) and John Field; the first for stealing; the second for receiving stolen goods.

Mary Cartwright, the Goslings’ housekeeper, swore to seeing the box set upon the waggon of the Langley Carrier, Thomas Webb. Webb then told a tale of robbery: after delivering “an empty Hamper at Knights Bridge, and a woman at Hyde Park Corner,” he “came to the Running Horse, just below Park Lane….I missed two boxes, the tilt was tore, and the skewers taken out; I had a great many other persons goods; there were two trunks taken out; This is one of the boxes that was lost, the other was much larger and heavier.”

Some items were recovered from Field’s room and accommodations. Among the still-missing: “an apron and some sort of a locket or thing that ladies wear about their neck; he said he had sold them”.

Field claimed to have found the trunk.

While it’s heartbreaking to see the list of simple items stolen from her, to read Mrs Hardcastle’s next statement is a revelation! The statement says much about Field’s actions, but look at what Mrs Hardcastle valued:

“Field immediately took the poker and attempted to open the drawers; he seemed very concerned and very much surprized when my things were found in his possession: I had several letters in my box, some directed at me at Mr. Gosling’s, Lincoln’s-Inn Fields, and some in the country. I had a large parcel of manuscripts, poetry, and bills and receipts, and many things that I valued very much, and Hall had burnt them the night before: the gentleman went down into the kitchen and found several scraps of my papers half burnt; I had likewise a common leather memorandum book which Hall sold for two-pence with the papers that were in it which I valued exceedingly: I had likewise a very large parcel of poetry; Hall afterwards, when I asked him why he burnt them, said, for fear of leading to a discovery, because he meant to sell my clothes”.

I stop here to list the items which appear at the head of the report*:

one deal box, value 6 d.
three linen shirts, value 15 s.
six pair of white stockings, value 6 s.
one dimity gown, trimmed with muslin, value 10 s.
two womens linen riding shirts, value 10 s.
two womens riding waistcoats, value 10 s.
two linen handkerchiefs, value 2 s.
one deal box, value 12 d.
two worked muslin aprons, value 10 s.
one plain lawn apron, value 4 s.
one plain muslin short apron, value 3 s.
two tambour muslin gowns, value 20 s.
one printed muslin gown, value 10 s.
one sattin gown, value 10 s.
one white sarcenet cloak, value 10 s.
two yards of white striped gauze, value 10 s.
a pink silk petticoat, value 10 s.
two muslin neck handkerchiefs, value 4 s.
two muslin night caps, value 2 s.
one silver tissue pocketbook, value 12 d.
one leather pocket-book, value 2 d.
one base metal handkerchief slider, value 6 d.

the property of Mary Hardcastle, spinster.

[*NEARLY FORGOT to include this valuable website: check out the English Costume link, as well as the textiles, to get an impression of the items at the center of this case.]

Other than the boxes and the leather pocket book, there really is NO valuation given to the papers – the letters, poetry (did she write them? did the Gosling girls?) OH TO HAVE THESE ITEMS!!

From a 21st-century perspective, the report ends SO UBRUPTLY! Witnesses for the two prisoners were called; characters given; NOT GUILTY is the verdict passed!

And poor Mary Hardcastle? Some items recovered; others lost. And – seemingly, (given the “caught-red-handed” scenario) – no justice served.

Was the court unimpressed by the simple belongings of a mere governess to follow-through with prosecution? Was Mary Ann Hardcastle literally “robbed” a second time?

A fabulous document, attached to this case, appears online at LONDON LIVES.

hardcastle-cartwright

Beyond her name, I know nothing of Mary Ann Hardcastle; not how old she was in 1783, nor how long she was with the Goslings at this point, nor how long she stayed. The candle that illuminates her life at this moment of such stress, flickers out…

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Old Bailey Makes NYTimes

August 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm (london's landscape, research) (, , , , , , )

The Old Bailey made the New York Times, when Patricia Cohen’s article “As the Gavels Fell: 240 Years at Old Bailey” appeared in the August 17th issue.

Well, tell us something we didn’t already know!

“Scholars have long considered the Old Bailey an invaluable resource.” I’ve even found the Goslings in the online database a few times (as victims of theft…).

If you’ve never visited the Old Bailey website, find it here. And you’ll read first-hand what Garrow’s Law depicts ever-so-superbly.

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Garrow’s Law returning!

June 5, 2011 at 11:47 am (news, people) (, , )

A brief little “news item” in the last issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine let slip the return this fall of the wonderful period drama, Garrow’s Law. Finally a series with great writing, acting and storylines!

Now there’s a Wikipedia page for the show, and I’ve even spotted a WordPress site for it!

Must admit to not being a great fan of some of the British fare coming on PBS lately. Why do they not tout Garrow’s Law instead?

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Check this out

December 14, 2010 at 2:38 pm (books) (, , , , , , , , )

For fans of period drama, courtroom drama, British drama — check out this 2009/2010 series Garrow’s Law (the DVD pictured is series one). Andrew Buchan stars as William Garrow; the always excellent Alun Armstrong is his solicitor, Mr. Soutous.

If, like me, you can’t get enough (the DVD not available in the States until early 2011), try and find it online. You’ll really want to see the entire two series, trust me!

If you’re the history buff who wants more about Garrow’s actual life (was there a Sir Arthur and Lady Sarah Hill, for instance, you might ask), then see Hostettler & Braby’s biography Sir William Garrow: His Life, Times, and Fight for Justice.

Why is it the US gets so-so shows quickly, and programs like Garrow’s Law are kept under wraps? Many thanks to the fans who post such shows! The second series ran in the UK only in the fall; but I know I’m not alone in waiting for the next series. Hope the BBC doesn’t keep us waiting. Those of us hungry for quality writing and acting have few things to look forward to at the best of times.

Find the Old Bailey records online; they have long been a great source to my research. Sir Francis Gosling shows up numerous times (the accused often brought before him); there are many Goslings in the records — some accused of theft, others are the victims; a careful reading finds the Goslings who make up this family. See, for instance, this case about the stolen clothing of Mary Ann Hardcastle.

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