New Letters, New Revelations

November 3, 2013 at 9:38 am (diaries, history, news, people, research, smiths of stratford) (, , , , , , , )

Special thanks to Mike who photographed some letters for me at the Hampshire Record Office. Being 3000 miles from this enormous source of Smith&Gosling info is one of the hardest situations to be in. I’m very grateful to Mike, and to anyone who is able to allow me to continue my research from afar (you all know who you are…).

I spent yesterday morning and evening (until 2 am! – though with the time change, I gained an hour) in the 1790s – with Emma Smith (my Emma’s “Aunt Emma”), youngest sister to Augusta (AKA Mamma); also with their Father Joshua Smith and Mother Sarah Smith. There’s even a letter from Judith Smith (née Lefevre), Emma’s great-grandmother, but I’ve not touched that one yet. The Smiths senior (Emma, Joshua, Sarah) write a LOT about aches, pains, accidents. A HARROWING letter from Sarah Smith to daughter Eliza Chute sets out the near-fatal accident of young Emma (“Aunt Emma”)! O-M-G-!

  • click link “near-fatal accident” to LISTEN to this segment of Sarah Smith’s September 1799 letter

The letters of my Emma Smith (AKA Emma Austen Leigh) come from the period 1811 / 1814. Emma was just nine-years-old in August 1811. HUGE handwriting — but cursive handwriting:

DSCF0160

This is page 3 — and LOOK at the treat that was in store for me: an early mention of my Mary Gosling, an 11-year-old! Only eleven and nine, and the girls were already corresponding…

The 1814 letters are poignant, dealing in the time period of Papa Charles Smith’s last illness. The bright spot in one letter? Mentions of “the little ones”. I swear Emma writes, “When we came to Stratford [the home of “Aunt”, Judith Smith – Charles’ only living sister; she was obviously keeping the children away from the scene of sickness] we found the little ones very well & hungry…” Emma goes on to mention little Drummond – a toddler at this point; and Charlotte, about five-years-old – who was outpacing her elder sister Eliza in learning her religion and also in reading.

Knowing what life had in store for all these people – (for example: marriage, children, early death) – it touches me to glimpse these moments of them as innocent, buoyant children. Thankfully, so much material has been preserved – in so many different places. Each letter shades their portraits in such subtle ways. A valuable gift, as we move into the festive season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and on to a New Year.

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NB: IS Mrs Thrale in the recorded letter of Sarah Smith who I think she is?

Hester Thrale Piozzi did know the Cunliffes; letters mention the deaths of Lady Cunliffe’s daughters, Eliza Gosling (1803) and Mary Smith (1804). Trouble is: Dr Johnson’s Mrs Thrale had, by 1799, long ago become Mrs Piozzi. The name could be read as “Thrall”… But it’s possible Sarah Smith had a slip of the pen, or didn’t hear (or didn’t remember hearing) of Mrs Thrale’s remarriage. Must dig a bit further.

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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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Breaking News: Scenes from life at Suttons

June 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm (a day in the life, books, estates, news, people, places, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

**My “solution” to the Mr Darcy-Mystery Man will appear at the end of the week**

The breaking news concerns a slim little volume I’ve searched a couple YEARS for: Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827 — a Wiltshire seller had a copy on eBay, the auction ending about three weeks ago. Yet who but me would want this little book?! Evidently, no one: when I emailed about it the book was still available. This little prize arrived in my mailbox this past Monday — the 13th of June! YIPPEE.

So what does this little treasure offer?

There are 28 pages of text, which are short plays, in verse, written by DRUMMOND and ELIZA SMITH. The scenes take place in 1825 and 1827, as the title indicates. They are comical and charming little pieces, especially heartwarming to me because I can see and hear them, I know the “characters” so well! The first is entitled BREAKFAST AT SUTTONS, JULY 1825. The first pages includes this exchange:

Fanny: Whoever chuses coffee — speak.
Charlotte: I should like some — but very weak.
Augusta: Coffee too — if you please, for me;
                     But no — I think I’ll have some Tea.

Readers get a sense of the house, the manners and characters, as well as the staff members: we have “appearances” by Tanner (Mr Tanner he is later called); John who evidently answered the door to a ‘poor woman’ arriving to talk to Mamma; the ever-loyal Tidman, who shows up in letters. Interestingly, these people do not appear as “characters” listed at the beginning of each “play”!

The next scene, AN HOUR’S READING AT SUTTONS, 1825, features Aunt and Aunt Emma. Aunt Emma is, of course, Mamma Smith’s youngest sister (she never married); Aunt, on the other hand is erroneously ID’ed as Maria, the Marchioness of Northampton (ie, Mamma’s eldest sister).

‘Aunt’ was in fact Charles Smith’s only sister, Judith Smith of Stratford! I recall a charming little drawing of Aunt (by Augusta, the daughter) in the collection of the Hampshire Record Office (HRO). I have long meant to ask for a copy; this makes me want it even more, because, although there is no Aunt Emma, Scenes from Life at Suttons has portraits of Mamma and her sister Maria, Lady Northampton!

The last little play, EVENING AT SUTTONS, 1827, has a few lines spoken by my beloved MARY! This takes place in The Library.

The end of the book includes ELEVEN portraits, all (except her own) by Augusta Smith Wilder. So came my first look at Mary (Gosling) Smith, and even her sister Elizabeth. Most of the Smith siblings are present: Augusta, Charles, Emma, Spencer, Charlotte and Drummond. Alas! No Fanny, Eliza or Maria!! Which is QUITE the loss, though as far as Fanny goes I believe the portrait at HRO is of this set. This I have a copy of! (Sorry, you won’t find it online…). Mary’s portrait easily translates into a silhouette, so I’ll shortly post her picture, as companion to her “sister of the heart”, Emma Austen Leigh. Stay tuned for more about this unique booklet!

One thing I can NOW say: This title does indeed exist! I was beginning to think May Lamberton Becker’s imagination had conjured it up. The description, its only depiction, appeared in her book Presenting Miss Jane Austen (1952).

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Dearest Aunt…

January 11, 2011 at 11:26 am (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Emma, writing to Aunt (Mrs Judith Smith, sister to Emma’s deceased father Charles), 10 Oct 1831:

“Our party here is very tiny only four; five I ought to say for Miss Corbaux is still with us – She has made a most charming water colored drawing of Mamma for me which is (Aunt Northampton says) amazingly like. She is seated on a Sofa in a black velvet gown with her hands crossed and her head rather on one side in a reflecting mood & so much like the attitude of the head in yr picture that it must be characteristic of her – The maids think it so much like [Missis?] sitting at Prayers. Then Miss Corbaux has taken a drawing of Miss Ashley for Charlotte which is very nearly as like as Mamma’s – I am going to indulge myself with having a likeness of Edward taken as the one by Mrs. Carpenter is not satisfactory – The children we do not mean to have taken considering it too great an extravagance…”

Can’t you just SEE Mamma: her dress, her demeanor, her attitude and look: oh, what’s happened to this drawing?!

I will post later some information on the artist.

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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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