Garden Tour – Christ Church College, Oxford

April 16, 2018 at 10:09 am (history, places, travel, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Poking around the Christ Church College, Oxford website, I came upon an announcement of their Seasonal Gardens Tour!

This is so evocative a thing to contemplate, even though I am 3000 miles away. The Goslings visited Oxford in the summer of 1814. Two of my diarist Mary Gosling‘s brothers were in college. Robert Gosling (the second-youngest brother) was actually attending Christ Church College, and the Goslings tramped all over the college grounds and into its quads and buildings. (Actually, they tramped about several of the colleges….)

My one time in Oxford, which had to be far quicker than I would have liked, my view of the gardens came through the college gates. So I wish I could transport myself over for the day and join those being shown around by the College’s head gardener.

It wasn’t until I really looked at the DATES that I realized the “Seasonal” wasn’t several dates over the blooms of spring or summer, but the Four Seasons of the year!

And the “Spring” date is coming up: on Thursday, April 26th (at 2 PM).

Other dates occur in July, October and January.

CC Oxford

From their website:

“Take a seasonal tour of Christ Church’s beautiful private gardens and Meadow with our Head Gardener, John James. Learn about their history, conservation, current and future planting schemes and enjoy a few hours of peace and quiet away from the bustling city.

The tour lasts 1.5 hours and will take place in English. Entry to Christ Church is included in the ticket price [£15] so that you may visit the college and cathedral before or after your tour.”

The tours are booked online; see the Christ Church College website (link above, or click the photo). You would be walking in the historical footsteps of the very people who populate this research project.

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Robert Gosling: 200 Years ago TODAY

January 27, 2014 at 6:09 am (a day in the life, diaries, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , )

Reading through the first chapter of my book (those purchasing Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings, 2008-2013 get a slightly-stale taste of that opening chapter) I was submerged into Mary’s world via her 1814 trip to Oxford when I read aloud the following:

“Two of Mr. Gosling’s four sons resided in college in 1814: William Ellis, the eldest of the seven Gosling children, only weeks beyond his twentieth birthday; and Robert, one year younger. William had entered Brasenose College on 10 July 1812, and seems to have taken no degree. Robert was fairly new to college, having matriculated on 27 January 1814. He stayed through 1822, leaving with a Master’s degree.”

January 27th?! I long have had Monday in mind as “Mozart’s birthday” (you can always tell when the anniversary of that day approaches: the local radio station plays a LOT of Mozart!). But reading my little history, I found myself whispering to myself: two hundred years ago to the day…

I have been lucky enough (thank you Mark & Emma!!) to see a portrait of all three Gosling boys – William, Robert and Bennett – painted some few years later. What a handsome trio! Though, in some ways, the most “pleasing” countenance can be said to belong to Robert. As a toddler he was compared to Falstaff for his roundness; as an old man in a long-exposed photograph he reminded this American of Abraham Lincoln: long, lean, and wearing a stove-pipe hat!

But two-hundred years ago TODAY, on 27 January 1814, Robert Gosling, a young man, had matriculated at Christ Church College, Oxford — and that summer his sister Mary wrote down the trip her family (“Mama, Papa, my Sister and myself”) took in order to visit the boys. That wasn’t the first diary of hers that I read, but ultimately it has so-far become the earliest of her writings that I have found.

christ church college

    • Did the “Great Hall” of Christ Church College really serve as inspiration for HOGWARTS HALL? Mary was there… and left her thoughts: “The Hall is one of the most magnificent in Oxford.” (and I remember that scene in the first film, vividly)

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New Images: Richings & Erle Stoke

August 4, 2013 at 12:24 am (books, entertainment, estates, research) (, , , , , , , , )

Have been doing some internet searching, and came across this BEAUTIFUL image of Richings Lodge, the home of the Rt. Hon. John Sullivan, papa to my dear Georgina Vere Sullivan, AKA Mrs Robert Gosling. I invite you to see the full image at Richings Park’s website, but here’s a small teaser (which has a permanent home on the ESTATES page):


Also new on the ESTATES page, an “updated” (larger!) image for Erle Stoke Park, the Wiltshire home of Joshua Smith.

I’ve found a new La Belle Assemblée — which just happens to be for 1826, and includes the marriage announcement for Georgina! I was looking to find if there were any other new additions of this journal, but got tired of finding only those I had already unearthed. But a project I will get back to…, I promise.

On the other hand I found a copy (very late indeed for my time period) of THE LADIES CABINET OF FASHION MUSIC AND ROMANCE. Must admit I really haven’t looked at this beyond its date (1847). Its opening “story” is entitled “Confessions of a Felon“! That makes me rather wonder at the type of journal this purported to be. I assume this “story” falls under the “romance” banner? Funny to find an image of a work rather familiar: the portrait of “Ruben’s Wife” in this issue. A little poem accompanies it.

ladies cabinet

I’d love readers to tell me whether this journal was froth or is something worth seeking out. I also find a couple of (earlier) titles for a journal called The Ladies Literary Cabinet.

Here’s a book that should be of interest: Victorian Women’s Magazines: An Anthology (2001), by Margaret Beetham and Kay Boardman. In looking for this book in my university’s library (not in their collection, unfortunately), I see that Margaret Beetham, who died in 1996, had published a book A magazine of her own? : domesticity and desire in the woman’s magazine, 1800-1914 — which they DO have on their library shelves. The time period is nice, for Smith & Gosling research, though the writer seems to quickly move on to the later era (a lot of ground to cover in the years of 1800 to 1914…); you can view the book online at Amazon.

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Tales of Noses & Ears: Portrait Mysteries

January 5, 2012 at 8:44 am (portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In the midst of all the changing thought on Paula Byrne‘s “Austin” portrait, I thought I would write a few words on my own little mysteries. It is because of these “thoughts” that I can commiserate with Paula! and why also I found the show, Jane Austen: the Unseen Portrait? a great viewing experience. Let me explain, from “a beginning”.

When I first began working with these diaries and letters, I was — of course! — presented with really NO images of anyone. I came across a photograph taken of Emma Austen Leigh in older age (6os), then began to find early drawings and silhouettes of her. All were identified — so problem solved! Or so you might think. At least once (an oil painting, seen in a photo), I found an image that looked unlike the others. Just a bad artist? Just more like her than the others? How to answer that question??

While watching the Amanda Vickery show about The Many Lovers of Jane Austen (which I also enjoyed; quite returned me to Fort Worth! But am I alone in thinking the show deserved a bit less-titillating title??), there flashed up on the screen a COMPLETELY new image of James Edward Austen Leigh; I can’t say (having seen a photo, again taken when he was in his 60s) it looks like some of the drawings I have, although it quite seems an off-shoot of another drawing.

Here is the Vickery special’s picture:

There’s just something about it, between the “wind-blown hair” and the “glum” look that makes him look less-than-sober! (Sorry, Edward.) Anyway, except for its identification as “Jane Austen’s nephew, James Edward” I’d not quite recognize him. No clue who has this image. The more I stare at it, while typing… perhaps it’s meant to look “Byronic” or “Romantic”. Will have to look through the letters and diaries. There was ONE image Emma mentioned (by Mrs Carpenter, I belive) that she criticised as “not very like”. But I thought that one covered by an image in Life in the Country! (ie, the book of James Edward Austen Leigh silhouettes, with Jane Austen quotes.)

Today, I was delighted to get a photograph, thought to have been taken in the 1860s, of a Seymour brother. The archive and the person who sent me the photo are unwavering that it represents Sir John Culme Seymour. For several reasons (which I won’t go into here), I believe that — yet wonder: Could it be a different Seymour brother?

So tonight I was looking at the EAR. I’ve a later photo (definitely 1867) of John Seymour, though he is facing the OPPOSITE direction. Oh my! While the lips seem a bit downturned in the ’67 photo, and upturned (a smile?) in the ’60s photo; I’ve long looked at the noses; and now also the ears. The ears do seem to match — rather smooth, as opposed to one brother who has a bit of a pendulous lower lobe.

The reason I bring these things up?? To outline, if briefly, that one DOES compare noses — and other bits and pieces!

Of the Seymour family, I’ve four photographs: three brothers and one sister. Do they look alike?? I can’t say they do!

I once was in church with a family of 8 or 9 siblings. There were short ones and tall ones; thin ones and fat ones; and facially, they really didn’t resemble each other either! Yikes! (I have no brothers and sisters; but I’ve cousins who rather resemble, in small ways, each other.)

When I first found the image of Emma — a photograph, remember — one of my first thoughts was: How much did she and Charles, her brother who died in 1831, look alike?? Did he have her nose? Yes, I found myself asking that Paula Byrne question!

When I first saw an 1860s photo of Mary’s brother Robert Gosling, again my thought was: How much did Mary look like him? — hard to say, looking at a very “Victorian” Gent in a stove-pipe hat! (Frankly, all I could think of was Abe Lincoln.)

Then there’s the REAL puzzle of the Beechey portrait — discussed in the post I’ve Found My Girl!?! — Oh, that one is difficult. The West Virginia museum that has it obtained it BEFORE the portrait at Suttons was sold at auction. That is the hard hurdle to get past. I can believe the costumes were perhaps “old” (c1803) to emulate their mother, who died in 1803. But this tale supposes there once was TWO portraits… And that’s hard to get around.

And yet…

And yet…

The Gosling girls are said to be 3/4-length, seated at a piano, with music in the hand of the elder and a frill painted (for modesty, it was painted years later by that same elder sister!) along the neckline of the younger sister. All those elements are there. You can view the Early Music magazine cover here. (It’s a PDF).

The hunt is on — but while Paula Byrne has one portrait to authenticate — and Sir Roy Strong may be correct in his prognostication that her chances are “Nil” — I’ve, let’s see… Two sets of parents, nine Smith siblings, seven Gosling siblings, four grandparents, a “Smith of Stratford” aunt, three “Smith of Erle Stoke” aunts, three uncles on the Smith side, and an uncle-in-law on the Gosling side, two Smith cousins, a handful of Gosling cousins, numerous in-laws, some children…

Ah! Exhausting just writing about them all. I do hope you’re not exhausted reading about them all.

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Botleys – inside & out

February 26, 2010 at 12:36 pm (estates) (, , , )

Mike in Surrey sent me notice of the new ‘function’ of the Gosling estate Botleys: it has become a wedding venue! Mike, who has visited Botleys, was nice enough to remember me when it came to viewing some INTERIOR images of the house. I am most grateful…

Botleys was evidently purchased in 1822 by Robert Gosling, Mary’s brother then at the beginning of his banking career (the History of Barclays mentions him being made partner in 1818). Mike kindly supplied me with a photo of Robert and his wife Georgina — fairly late in life — seated amid a family group below the grand, sweeping staircase. So if is definitely easy for me to see the ghosts of them traipsing through Botleys! I invite all interested in a wedding venue, or in seeing Botleys inside and out to check out their website, and watch the exquisite slideshow. My favorite: the golden room with the two giant bookcases.  Readers of this blog will know my ‘one weakness’  (to quote from Miss Lane in the TV production of Lark Rise to Candleford) is books… How comfy might that red seat be??

Botleys was home to Herbert Gosling at the early part of the 20th century. And it’s thanks to Mike that I have a photo of this poor man, bent and in the need of two canes, near the end of his life. Through photos of people and places, through letters, diaries, descriptions, this project takes on “life”.

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Robert Gosling’s Legacy

February 14, 2009 at 11:01 am (people) (, , )

Robert Gosling, Mary’s brother, studied to be a lawyer; he entered the family banking business, Gosling and Sharpe, some unspecified time before the death of his eldest brother (in 1834), according to the obituary of their father William. 

Robert died in August 1869, and I happened upon an article in The Law Times (though based on an article in The London Illustatrated News), which gives the contents of his will:

The will of Mr. Robert Gosling, banker, Fleet-street, and of Portland-place, and Botleys-park, Chertsey, Middlesex, has been proved in the London Court, under 700,000l. personally, the executors being Georgina Vere Gosling, his relict, and Robert Gosling and William Cunliffe Gosling, his sons. The will bears date April 13, 1864, and two codicils 1866 and 1868; and testator died at Botleys-park on the 12th ult., aged 74. He leaves to his wife the jewels and pearls,– the latter, after her decease, are to go to his eldest son; he also leaves her an immediate legacy of 1000l., an annuity of 1500l., and the interest of 100,000l. for her life, the principal, at her decease, to be divided among his four sons, William, Herbert, George, and Frederick; and to them he has left the sum of 240,000l., also 10,000l. bank stock, and 20,000l. stock in the South-Western Railway. His mansion and estate, Botleys-park, he leaves to his wife for her life; and it is his wish that his unmarried daughters should reside with their mother. The mansion, after her decease, he gives to his second son, William. Each of his married daughters having received 16,666l. as a marriage portion, he bequeaths the like sum to each of his two unmarried daughters. He has bequeathed to each of his four married daughters a further sum of 10,000l. There is a legacy to his sister, and to each of his godchildren who may be related to him a legacy of 50 guineas. To his partners Richard and Francis Gosling each 300l.; to Mr. Richard Gosling, jun., and Charles J. Sharpe, his partner, each 200l.; to each of his clerks in the banking-house, 50l. free of duty; to the porters, each 10l.; and legacies to his servants. He bequeaths to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and to St. George’s Hospital, each 100l. He leaves 500l. to the school, Farnham, Essex, to be added to the sum of 1500l. left for the same object by his brother, William Ellis Gosling. He appoints his son Robert residuary legatee, who, he states, is otherwise amply provided for under the will of testator’s late father.– Illustrated London News.

A strange sum for the marriage settlements of the girls – £16,666! Interesting to note, as Robert’s daughters married in the 1850s, that Mary Gosling, in 1826 had £20,000 at her marriage (and we must presume sister Elizabeth brought the same sum to her marriage with Langham Christie). Tougher times? More daughters?

There is a photograph of Robert in old age (four years prior to his death); he seems a frail man, his thinness making him appear on the taller side. He is seated and his coat-tails, ready to brush the ground of Botleys, give the aura of a proper mid-Victorian English gentleman of means, while the stove pipe hat makes this American think “Abraham Lincoln”! Georgina sits beside him, a look of patience upon her care-worn face. She, especially, comes across in Mary’s diaries as a caring woman whom it is easy to admire. Their children and grandchildren flank around them, as everyone poses upon the great sweeping staircase one would use to enter Botleys. Reading the contents of Robert’s will while looking at the photo just brings them all to life.

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Giving Thanks

November 27, 2008 at 11:42 am (books, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , )

This year there is much to give thanks for: the ability to pay mounting bills, and successful stays in hospital chief among them. And – as always – for this project, which continues to unfold.

Just yesterday evening I found a useful series of books (alas two volumes are missing; both of them waited for with baited breath! for they would contain ‘Cunliffe’ and ‘Smith’) = page scans at of the Graves & Cronin 1899-1901 texts of A HISTORY OF THE WORKS OF SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS, the originals in the collection of the terrific New York Public Library.

In the authoritative text Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings (Yale: 2000), author David Mannings relies on Graves and Cronin as well as The Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds, by Leslie and Taylor (vol I here). THIS book had a handful of references to GOSLINGS, but the most intriguing was notice of a portrait of a generic “Mrs Gosling” (see page 388).

So the thrill of finding Graves and Cronin’s books are that there seem to be two portraits, one less fully known to them, of Mrs Goslings. Alas it is the less-fully-known (wouldn’t you know…) which concerns us here – for the portrait is said to have been of William Gosling’s mother!

Here is the description (Graves & Cronin: bottom, p. 373):

Elizabeth, daughter of William Houghton; married, November 3, 1763, Robert Gosling, of Hassobury, Essex, son [sic] of Sir Francis Gosling, the banker; died June 6, 1811.
Sat in February, 1761, March, 1762, and August, 1764.

(Robert Gosling was of course the brother of Sir Francis.)

VERY intriguing to wonder whether Sir Joshua – who painted Sir Ellis and Lady Cunliffe (Margaret Elizabeth’s parents, William’s future in-laws) – could have brought the Goslings and Cunliffes into the same social sphere. Although Sir Ellis, of course, died the year Eliza Gosling was born, Lady Cunliffe lived on and off with her children and grandchildren; and she had a documented friendship with Sir Joshua (see his pocket books). That could mean that William and Eliza meet from childhood onwards!

Anyway, the volumes so far found online are A-CD-GH-L; and M-R. Once again I ask: Where is this portrait???? [update Nov 2017:] It’s in the volume IV that includes Addenda! see below.


The Royal Academy has an interesting introduction to Sir Joshua’s pocket books — ridiculous to read that they paid (in 1873) a mere £29 10s for them! (I assume the meaning of £29.10 – or has the original cost been translated into today’s currency of pounds and pence??)

For more on Sir Joshua and Lady Cunliffe see my post.

[Photo of a page from Sir Joshua’s pocket book; from Graves and Cronin, vol D-G.]

November 2017 – I’m sure I’ve come across this volume before, but only now do I update this post. Interesting to read, now that I’ve studied so many family photos, of the letter from Mrs. Robert Gosling (née Eleanor Spencer Smith).

Eleanor wrote, on 5 July 1900, concerning the portrait mentioned on page 373: “I have ascertained that the picture of Mrs. Gosling, who sat in 1761-1764, is that of Elizabeth (née Midwinter), wife of Francis Gosling, banker, and afterwards [page 1323] knighted. It is in the possession of R.H. Gosling, Esq.” (identified as Richard Henry Gosling, at The Manor House, Waltham)

So there goes all of my presumptions!

I need to remind myself what Mannings wrote of this piece.

The illustration of Mrs. Gosling, who’s been ID’ed as the wife of Francis Gosling, the son of Sir Francis, is far in the back, facing page 1568. This volume features not only addenda, but also exhibition catalogues and even Sir Joshua’s diary. Its title page claims it to be volume IV in A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

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