Thursday, 17 April 2014

Mary 'Perdita' Robinson (1757-1800)

Perdita - Mary Robinson from The Poetical Works of   the late Mrs Mary Robinson (1806)
Mary 'Perdita' Robinson
from The Poetical Works of the late Mrs Mary Robinson (1806)
Profile

Mary Robinson (27 November 1757-26 December 1800) was an actress and author, famous for being the first mistress of the young George IV.

Family background

Mary Darby was born in Bristol on 27 November 1757 (1), the daughter of Nicholas Darby, a merchant sailor, and his wife Hester, who was thought to have married beneath her. Mary had two brothers, John and George, who survived into adulthood.

Mary was educated in Bristol, at a school run by Hannah More and her sisters. In 1765, Darby left to try to establish fisheries on the Labrador coast. The enterprise failed and they were forced to sell the family home. Mary’s parents separated and Mary went to live in London with her mother.

Marriage or the stage

Mary was introduced to David Garrick who coached her for the stage. But before Mary’s theatrical career could get started, she was persuaded to marry Thomas Robinson, an articled clerk with good prospects. Robinson and Mary were married on 12 April 1773, but it soon transpired that Robinson had lied and his future prospects had been grossly exaggerated. He proved to be an unreliable and unfaithful husband.

  David Garrick  from Memoirs of the Life of David Garrick by T Davies (1808)
David Garrick
from Memoirs of the Life of David Garrick
 by T Davies (1808)
Motherhood

On 18 October 1774, Mary gave birth to a daughter, Maria Elizabeth, who was Mary’s constant companion for the rest of her life – her “adored and affectionate secondself”. A second daughter, Sophia, was born in May 1777, but died from convulsions as a baby.

Money problems

The Robinsons lived beyond their means and in May 1775, Robinson was arrested for debt. Mary and baby Maria spent 15 months in the Fleet Prison with him.

The Fleet Prison, from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
The Fleet Prison, from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
Desperate for money, Robinson agreed that Mary should go on stage. She was engaged by Richard Brinsley Sheridan at the Drury Lane Theatre and Garrick loyally came out of retirement to coach her for the part of Juliet. On 10 December 1776, she gave her first performance and was an instant success.

Perdita and Florizel

Mary was very attractive with curly, dark auburn hair and soft blue eyes. George, Prince of Wales, became obsessed with her after seeing her in the role of Perdita in Florizel and Perdita, on 3 December 1779. The Prince embarked on a passionate correspondence, styling himself as Florizel to Mary’s Perdita.

George IV from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
George IV from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
George and Mary became lovers after he gave her a bond for £20,000 to be paid on his majority. At the Prince’s urging and to help reduce the bad press they were getting, Mary gave up her career, performing for the last time on 31 May 1780. But by the end of the year, the affair was over. The fickle Prince had transferred his affections to the courtesan, Elizabeth Armistead.

Mary was deeply in debt and accepted £5000 and the promise of an annuity in exchange for the Prince’s love letters.

Fashion leader

Mary’s relationship with the Prince pushed her to the forefront of the fashionable world. She introduced new styles from Paris and English designs were named for her, such as the Perdita – “a chip hat with a bow and pink ribbons puff’d round the crown” (2) in spring 1781. Mary was also famous for her smart carriages.

Whig supporter

Mary was an ardent Whig and supporter of Charles James Fox, both on the streets like the Duchess of Devonshire in the 1784 election campaign, and through her poetry.

Charles James Fox  from Memoirs of George IV   by R Huish (1830)
Charles James Fox
from Memoirs of George IV
 by R Huish (1830)
Mary’s lovers

Mary was continually propositioned by gentlemen including Lord Lyttelton and George Fitzgerald, who Mary claimed tried to abduct her from Vauxhall. As well as the Prince, Mary’s name was linked with several other prominent figures including Viscount Malden, the Duke of Lauzun, Charles James Fox and Colonel Banastre Tarleton.

Colonel Banastre Tarleton

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton  Print by M Rosenthal after C Blackberd (1885)  © British Museum
Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton
Print by M Rosenthal after C Blackberd (1885)
© British Museum
Mary’s most enduring relationship was with Colonel Banastre Tarleton, the love of her life, which lasted, on and off, from 1782 until 1797. Their affair was passionate but stormy. Tarleton was expensive and a gambler and they were always short of money.

In 1783, Mary became pregnant with Tarleton’s child. Fearing that he was deserting her and fleeing the country to escape his debts, Mary pursued him through the night. As a result, she lost her baby and became extremely ill with a rheumatic fever which left her lame for the rest of her life. (3)

This time, she and Tarleton were reunited, but in 1797, he left her permanently and afterwards married Susan Bertie, an heiress of £20,000.

Mary the writer

  Mary Robinson  from an engraving by Smith after Romney  in Memoirs of Mary Robinson (1895)
Mary Robinson
from an engraving by Smith after Romney
in Memoirs of Mary Robinson (1895)
Mary’s illness forced her to adopt a new way of life. Back in 1775, she had published a book of her poems and gained the patronage of the Duchess of Devonshire. Now she dedicated herself to writing.

Mary wrote profusely. She published more volumes of her poetry and wrote for different publications, such as The World, The Oracle and The Morning Post, using pseudonyms, such as Laura, Tabitha Bramble and The Sylphid, as well as her own name. She published several novels with feminist undertones and a feminist essay. She also wrote two plays and an opera, but these were not successful.

Mary also composed her Memoirs (4). Although they were predisposed in her own favour, they nevertheless represent an early instance of an English writer’s autobiography.

Friends

Mary inspired devoted friendships. Amongst her close friends and supporters were Sir Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge  from The Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1840)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
from The Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1840)
Money problems

Despite her diligence, Mary’s income was low and her expenses high. Her lameness necessitated keeping a carriage and payment of the annuities from the Prince and Lord Malden were erratic. In 1800 she was arrested for debt but released soon after.

Illness and death

Mary struggled with poor health for the rest of her life and visited Bath, Brighton and continental health resorts in search of some amelioration for her sufferings. She lived at Englefield Cottage, in Old Windsor, with her daughter, where she still entertained a small group of intimate friends.

Mary died on 26 December 1800 and was buried in Old Windsor churchyard. Only two people attended the funeral: the satirist, John Wolcot, (who used the pseudonym ‘Peter Pindar’) and William Godwin.

Notes
(1) There is some confusion over Mary’s birth year. Her gravestone and the printed version of her Memoirs state her birth date as 27 November 1758. However, there is a baptismal record in the church of St Augustine the Less in Bristol of a Polly Derby on 19 July 1758. If this was indeed Mary’s baptism, then she must have been born the year before, in 1757. In her Memoirs, Mary stated that she was married at the age of 15. This supports a birth year of 1757.
(2) From The Lady’s Magazine (1781).
(3) Martin Levy in his article for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography wrote that Mary had a paralytic stroke at this time and suffered from rheumatism later in life.
(4) Memoirs of the Late Mrs Robinson written by herself were published posthumously by her daughter in 1801.

Sources used include:
Byrne, Paula, Perdita, the life of Mary Robinson (2004)
Davies, Thomas, Memoirs of the Life of David Garrick (1808)
Levy, Martin J, Robinson, Mary (Perdita) (1756/8-1800) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 2 July 2013)
Robinson, Mary, Memoirs of Mary Robinson "Perdita" from the edition edited by her daughter with intro & notes by J Fitzgerald Molloy (1895)
Robinson, Mrs Mary, The Poetical Works of the late Mrs Mary Robinson: including many pieces never before published (1806)

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The First Georgians exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery

Entrance to The First Georgians exhibition inside the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace

The First Georgians – Art & Monarchy 1714-1760 exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, runs from Friday 11 April to Sunday 12 October 2014.

Why I am blogging about The First Georgians

I was privileged to attend the exhibition preview. But I claim to blog about late Georgian and Regency history, so why am I writing about the First Georgians exhibition which stops in the year that George III became King?

There are two reasons why this exhibition is still relevant. Firstly, the reigns of George I and George II were immediately before that of George III and so set the scene for the late Georgians. What took place in those years shaped the nation that George III became ruler of. Secondly, George III was born in 1738, and so his formative years took place during the last 22 years of his grandfather George II’s reign.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the early Georges, here is a very brief introduction:

George I (1714-1727)

George I by Sir Godfrey Kneller c1715
George I by Sir Godfrey Kneller (c1715)
(On display in the portrait room)
The Act of Settlement of 1701 decreed that Great Britain had to be ruled by a Protestant monarch. Accordingly, George I, Elector of Hanover, was proclaimed King on the death of Queen Anne who had no surviving offspring.

George I had two children, George and Sophia, but was no longer married to their mother, Sophia Dorothea. George had divorced and incarcerated his wife for abandoning him when she had eloped with her lover, whose death it was generally believed that he had arranged.

He did not marry again, but had two main mistresses, Ehrengard Melusina von Schulenburg, Duchess of Kendal, and Charlotte Sophia Kielmannsegge, Countess of Darlington.

In 1717, he fell out with his son George so badly that he banished him from the Court. He often visited Hanover and died there unexpectedly in 1727.

George II (1727-1760)

George II by Sir Godfrey Kneller 1716
George II by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1716) - note his wonderful red heels!
(On display in Georgian royals, giltware and the Garricks)

George II was the last British monarch not to be born on British soil. His wife was Caroline of Ansbach, a beautiful and intelligent woman, who was very popular at Court. She embraced the philosophy of the enlightenment, respecting reason above tradition, and was a keen collector of art.

Queen Caroline by J Highmore (c1735)
Queen Caroline by J Highmore (c1735)
(On display in the Portraits room)

They had four children in Hanover: Frederick, Anne, Amelia and Caroline, and another four in England: George who died in infancy, William, Mary and Louisa.

George II was the last British monarch to lead his troops into battle, which he did at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743.

Like his father, George II quarrelled with his eldest son. He banished Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his wife Augusta from Court in 1737 after a row over the birth of their first child. Frederick had whisked Augusta away from Hampton Court whilst she was in labour to make sure his parents would not be there at the birth. The breach between Frederick and his mother was never healed.

Frederick died in 1751 leaving his eldest son, George, to become King George III in 1760.

The exhibition

The exhibition composes entirely of items from the Royal Collection. It presents us with a snapshot into the lives of the first Georgian Kings: their families and where they lived; the battles they fought and the works of art with which they surrounded themselves.

Portraits

The first room introduces us to the early Georgians with some lovely portraits, including that of Caroline of Ansbach (above) and a pastel of George III by Jean-Étienne Liotard.

George III by Jean-Étienne Liotard (1754)
George III by Jean-Étienne Liotard (1754)
The next three rooms are themed: royal residences, maps and the prints of Hogarth:

Royal residences

This display includes prints of some of the internal rooms of the royal residences, such as the King’s Gallery at Kensington and the Queen’s State Bedchamber at Hampton Court.

The King's Gallery, Kensington Palace by Charles Wild (c1816)
The King's Gallery, Kensington Palace by Charles Wild (c1816)
Maps 

The maps were largely collected by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, a younger son of George II. He was nicknamed ‘Butcher Cumberland’ because of his ruthless policy against the Jacobite rebels after the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Medley drawing by JFC Schilling (1767)
Medley drawing by JFC Schilling (1767)
It may have been a gift to George III.
The Hogarth room

This room includes a selection of prints by Hogarth including The Harlot’s Progress which acted as a comment on the society of the time. This series of prints tells the story of the fall of the harlot, Moll Hackabout, and they were hugely popular in the 1730s.

The South Sea Scheme by William Hogarth (c1721)
The South Sea Scheme by William Hogarth (c1721)
Old Masters

From the monochrome prints of Hogarth, you pass into the first of the large display rooms, where you are dazzled by colour. The walls are covered with paintings, including several huge pieces by Rubens, collected by the early Georgians and exhibited symmetrically as they would have displayed them.

Room displaying Old Masters
Room displaying Old Masters
There are two tables, beautifully gilded and supported on either side by gilt pedestals which would have held candelabra. The candlelight would have been reflected in the mirrors which would originally have been behind each table to dazzling effect.

One item that particularly caught my interest is a clock. It was bought by Frederick, Prince of Wales, but you have to search to find the clock which is very small compared to the overall size of the piece. In the bottom, there is an organ which plays tunes by Handel.

Miniatures and botanical drawings

Two small chambers off the Old Masters room show displays of royal miniatures and beautifully illustrated books of botany. A further anteroom has a collection of pistols, snuff boxes and other decorative items.

Botanical drawings by GD Ehret described by CJ Trew (1750-73)
Georgian royals, giltware and the Garricks

The second of the two large display rooms is my favourite and contains portraits of all the early Georgians. There is an enormous painting of six of Frederick Prince of Wales’ children, including the eight year old, George III, wielding a bow.

Detail from painting of Prince Frederick of Wales' children
 showing the future George III and his brother Edward
 by Barthélemy du Pan (1746)
This room also boasts two paintings by Canaletto depicting the River Thames and a table laden with gilt tableware.

Detail from London: The Thames from Somerset House terrace
by Canaletto (c1750)
One of my favourite works of art on display is the picture of David and Eva Garrick which has been used as the definitive image of the exhibition. I was surprised to discover that this very colourful and cheerful picture was in fact painted by William Hogarth, whom I have always associated with the rather sobering black and white prints displayed in the earlier room.

David Garrick and his wife, Eva-Maria Veigel  by William Hogarth (1757-64)
David Garrick and his wife, Eva-Maria Veigel
by William Hogarth (1757-64)
The Georgian coffee shop

The Millar Learning Room set up as a Georgian coffee shop
The Millar Learning Room set up as a Georgian coffee shop
The final room to explore is to the left of the portrait room at the start of the exhibition. This is the Millar Learning Room which has been set up as a Georgian coffee shop. This is an interactive space, particularly good for those with children. There are background noises and ‘windows’ displaying Georgian street scenes. There are bags full of family activities available, short videos playing on a screen set within a picture frame and period hats with headphones, so that you can take in the atmosphere.

Rachel Knowles in the Georgian coffee shop
Me in the Georgian coffee shop
I really enjoyed visiting the exhibition which runs until 12 October 2014.

There are three videos which you can watch online:
Warrior Kings
A King’s Ransom
The Enlightened Queen
and lots more information about the different items on display on the Royal Collection website.

Watch out for Dr Lucy Worsley’s television series, The First Georgians: The German Kings who Made Britain, to be broadcast on BBC4 in late April. There are also various events going on to support the exhibition and television series.

Sources used include:
Plumb, JH, The First Four Georges (1956)
Royal Collection website

All photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Leamington Spa - a Regency History guide to the Georgian watering place

Royal Pump Room and Baths, Leamington Spa
Royal Pump Room and Baths, Leamington Spa
Royal Leamington Spa is a town in Warwickshire that is famous for its mineral springs. It became a fashionable watering place in late Georgian England.

Leamington Priors

Leamington Spa was originally called Leamington Priors, named after the River Leam and Kenilworth Priory, who owned it in medieval times.

During the 18th century, when spa towns were becoming fashionable, the only known mineral spring in Leamington was situated on the Earl of Aylesford’s land. The Earl wanted the water to remain freely accessible and refused to build commercial baths on the site. A well was later built over the spring but people were still allowed to take small quantities of water for free.

The Jug & Jester pub, Bath Street
The Jug & Jester pub, Bath Street,
part of which used to house the theatre.
The blue 'Spring' artwork marks the spot of Aylesford's Well.
Abbotts’ Baths

Two entrepreneurs, William Abbotts and Benjamin Satchwell, eagerly searched for a second spring. In 1784, they discovered a new saline spring on Abbotts’ land, and in 1788, Abbotts opened Leamington’s first baths. They were rebuilt by James Gould in 1826 and renamed Gould’s Original Baths and Pump Rooms.

More baths

As the town became more popular, the demand for mineral water grew and the search for new springs intensified. In the years that followed, four more springs were discovered. Leamington was overrun with a choice of baths. Feltham listed five different sets of baths in his 1815 guide:

• Abbotts' or Mrs Smith's Baths, Bath Street (1788)
• Wise’s Baths, Bath Street (1790)
• Read's Baths, Warwick Row, High Street (1806)
• Robbins’ Baths, Bath Street Bridge (1806)
• The New Pump Room Baths (1814)

The price of bathing at the old baths was:
A Hot Bath 2s 6d
A Child's Bath 1s 6d
A Marble Bath 3s 0d
A Cold Bath 1s 0d

The New Pump Room Baths

The Pump Room and New Baths at Leamington Prior  from A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-bathing Places by John Feltham (1815)
The Pump Room and New Baths at Leamington Prior
from A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-bathing Places
by John Feltham (1815)
The New Pump Room Baths, also known as the Royal Pump Rooms, opened in 1814. They were the only baths situated on the north side of the River Leam where the New Town of Leamington had sprung up to accommodate and entertain visitors to the spa. They boasted 20 baths – 17 hot and 3 cold – together with spacious dressing rooms, a pump room and exclusive gardens for patrons to walk in.

The Pump Rooms were designed by a local architect, CS Smith, and built at a cost of more than £20,000. According to Feltham, the mineral water was in such abundance and the pump that filled the baths so efficient that “the beautiful engine which supplies them, could force up as many tons of Mineral Fluid in a few hours, as would float a Man of War”. (1)

Dr Henry Jephson began treating patients here in 1823, prescribing a diet of plain meat, stale bread, plain puddings, sherry, black tea and butter to complement taking the waters!

Royal Pump Room and Baths, Leamington Spa
Royal Pump Room and Baths, Leamington Spa
The Apollo Rooms

A seventh spring was found in 1817 and a new set of baths called Smart’s Marble Baths, the Apollo Rooms or Imperial Sulphuric appeared on Clemens Street. The New Marble Baths included an assembly room and a library and offered three types of mineral water: saline, chalybeate (containing iron) and sulphurous.

The Apollo Rooms, Clemens Street
The Apollo Rooms, Clemens Street
Libraries

Feltham’s 1815 guide mentioned two libraries: Mrs Rackstrow’s and Mr Olorenshaw’s, which also included a trinket shop and toy warehouse.

Assembly Rooms

The Assembly Rooms were situated in Cross Street in the New Town and in 1815 were superintended by Mr Rackstrow. The building included a refectory, a reading room and a billiard room as well as the “great room” where there was “a ball every week from April to November, also card assemblies almost every other evening”. (1)

The Old Town opened its own Assembly Rooms – at the Apollo Rooms on Clemens Street in 1817 and at the Parthenon on Bath Street in 1821.

The Parthenon, Bath Street
The Parthenon, Bath Street
Theatre

The theatre, described by Feltham as “very compact”, was in Bath Street, opposite to the New Inn, in part of what is now the Jug & Jester pub.

The Jug & Jester pub, Bath Street
The Jug & Jester pub, Bath Street
Bowling green

There was a bowling green which was next to the Bowling Green Inn on the High Street.

Bisset’s Picture Gallery and Museum

James Bisset was a Birmingham businessman who “removed entirely to Leamington, leaving the Toy-shop of Europe”. (1) In 1812, he opened a picture gallery, public reading room and museum. Subscriptions cost three shillings per week, five shillings per month or 21 shillings for the whole season. Entry to each exhibition cost one shilling.

Bisset was an astute businessman. He wrote a guidebook and poetry to promote the town and enticed people to visit his gallery by maintaining a free list of visitors:

“A free Register of arrivals is kept at the Gallery, in which ladies and gentlemen are respectfully requested to enter their names and place of residence.” (1)

Rules for Drinking the Waters
by Mr Bisset

"At early dawn prepare to rise,
And if your health you really prize,
To drink the Waters quick repair,
Then take a walk to breathe fresh air,
Hie thro' the fields— or promenade
Round Pump Room grand, or Colonnade.

A second glass now take — what then?
Why! take a pleasant walk again,
The Waters, exercise, and air,
Will brace your nerves, your health repair.

Then to your breakfast haste away,
With what keen appetite you may." (1)

The site of Robbins' Well, Bath Street Bridge
The site of Robbins' Well, Bath Street Bridge
Local attractions

Visitors to Leamington could walk around Mr Mackie’s Ranelagh Gardens or explore the Priory Gardens or Holly Walk.

Places of interest further afield included:
• The Leasowes, the beautiful gardens developed by the poet William Shenstone
• Hagley, with the neo-Palladian mansion created by George Lyttelton, first Lord Lyttelton
• Guy’s Cliff
• Offchurch
• Stoneleigh Abbey
• Warwick Castle
• Kenilworth
• Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare

Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle
Important visitors

Many people of fashion visited the resort including the Prince Regent and his sister Princess Augusta, Queen Adelaide, John Nash and the Duke of Wellington.

The future Queen Victoria visited the spa in 1830, and in 1838, after becoming Queen, she agreed to the town’s application to become known as Royal Leamington Spa.

Regent Hotel, Leamington
Regent Hotel, Leamington
Note
(1) From John Feltham’s A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-bathing Places (1815)

Sources used include:
Feltham, John, A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-bathing Places (1815)
Watkin, Jeff (edited and revised from the exhibition in the Local History Gallery curated by David Howells), The Royal Pump Rooms and the growth of Leamington Spa (2002)

All photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Nostell Priory – a Regency History guide

Nostell Priory
Nostell Priory
Where is it?

Nostell Priory is a Palladian mansion with Neo-classical interiors designed by Robert Adam. It is situated near Wakefield in Yorkshire.

History

When Sir Rowland Winn, 4th Baronet, returned from his Grand Tour in 1727, he was inspired to build a new house on his land in the Palladian style. Colonel James Moyser, a local gentleman architect, drew up plans and in 1736, the young James Paine was employed to work them out. Paine was still working on the house in 1765 when the 4th Baronet died.

Sir Rowland’s son employed Robert Adam to continue work on the house. Adam designed the interiors of the house in the Neo-classical style and added the curving stairways at the front of the house leading to the first floor entrance hall. He also planned four new wings, but only one – the family wing - was ever built. The 5th Baronet died in 1785 before Adam’s work was completed, leaving the asymmetrical façade that we see today.

  Robert Adam's sweeping stairway leading  to the first floor entrance hall of Nostell Priory
Robert Adam's sweeping stairway leading
to the first floor entrance hall of Nostell Priory
Nostell Priory was given to the National Trust in 1954.

Georgian connections

Sir Rowland Winn, 4th Baronet

Sir Rowland Winn, 4th Baronet, inherited Nostell at the age of 16. He started to build the Palladian house after returning from his Grand Tour in 1727. He married Susanna Henshaw, an heiress, in 1729, and they had three children, Rowland, Edward and Anne. Sir Rowland was made High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1731.

James Paine was employed to work on Nostell Priory on and off for thirty years. Nostell was one of his first commissions after finishing his studies at St Martin’s Lane Academy in London and it was significant in the development of his architectural career.

An exquisite doll’s house was made for the Winns in about 1735 which is on display in the house. The doll’s house is architecturally accurate and beautifully crafted, which has led to the family tradition that it was made by Thomas Chippendale when he was a boy. Sadly there is no evidence to support this. The model was probably made for adults to enjoy rather than as a children’s toy.

Georgian doll's house, Nostell Priory
Georgian doll's house, Nostell Priory
Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet

The 5th Baronet was born in 1739 and finished his education in Switzerland. He spent a lot of money on horses and later built a riding school at Nostell. Whilst in Switzerland, he met Sabine d’Hervart, daughter of the Governor of Vevey, whom he married in 1761. The couple were devoted to each other and had two children, Rowland and Esther. After inheriting in 1765, Rowland replaced Paine with Robert Adam to finish work on the house.

Robert Adam was the most successful architect of the late 18th century. He was good at cultivating important contacts and had a much closer relationship with his employers than his predecessors had done. Adam designed Neo-classical interiors for the house and employed a trio of master craftsmen to help him: Antonio Zucchi for decorative painting, Joseph Rose the Younger for plastering and Thomas Chippendale for cabinet making.

As a result, Nostell Priory has a huge collection of Chippendale furniture, complete with bills of sale to verify its authenticity and date his work, as well as stunning interior decorations.

The State Dressing Room, Nostell Priory,  with green and gilt japanned chinoiserie furniture by Chippendale
The State Dressing Room, Nostell Priory,
with green and gilt japanned chinoiserie furniture by Chippendale
Adam’s work was brought to an abrupt end when Sir Rowland was killed in a carriage accident in 1785 .

Sir Rowland Winn, 6th Baronet

Sir Rowland’s wife Sabine was devastated at her husband’s death. She continued to live at Nostell with her two children, Esther and Sir Rowland, 6th Baronet, who was only ten when his father died. The new Sir Rowland became an avid sportsman and kept several racehorses in the stables at Nostell. He was made High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1799 but died unmarried in 1805.

John and Charles Winn

The title died with the 6th Baronet, but Sir Rowland provided for his sister’s children, John, Charles and Louisa Williamson, whose father was a Manchester baker. They assumed the name Winn and became heirs to the estate. John died in Rome in 1817 whilst on the Grand Tour.

Charles married his cousin Priscilla Strickland in 1819 and employed Thomas Ward to redecorate Nostell. Charles bought lots of furniture from Gillows and became an avid collector. He brought back his brother John’s collection of Etruscan vases from Rome and acquired vast numbers of paintings, books and antiquities.

The Tapestry Room with 1820s giltwood furniture  and a white marble chimneypiece by Adam
The Tapestry Room with 1820s giltwood furniture
and a white marble chimneypiece by Adam
What can you see today?

There is so much to see at Nostell Priory that it would be impossible to list everything worthy of note, but some of my favourites are:

• The Palladian exterior of Nostell Priory designed by James Paine


• Robert Adam’s majestic steps leading to the first floor entrance (shown above)

• The decorated alcove in the Top Hall designed by Robert Adam and carried out by Joseph Rose the Younger


• The Chippendale chairs in the Top Hall

The Chippendale chairs in the Top Hall

• The lady’s writing table with retractable fire-screen by Chippendale in the Saloon

The lady’s writing table with retractable fire-screen by Chippendale in the Saloon

• Chippendale’s Palladian-style desk in the Library

Chippendale’s Palladian-style desk in the Library

• The portrait of Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet, and his wife Sabine displayed in the library in which it was painted

The portrait of Sir Rowland Winn 5th Baronet and his wife Sabine displayed in the library in which it was painted

• Angelica Kauffman’s self-portrait in the Drawing Room

"Angelica hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting"  by Angelica Kauffman (1791) in the Drawing Room, Nostell Priory
"Angelica hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting"
by Angelica Kauffman (1791) in the Drawing Room, Nostell Priory
• The doll’s house (shown above)

Last visited: March 2014

Sources used include:
Raikes, Sophie and Knox, Tim, Nostell Priory and Parkland (2001)
The National Trust website

All photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Royal Academy of Arts

Drawing from life at the Royal Academy
from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
The foundation of the Royal Academy

The Royal Academy of Arts was founded on 10 December 1768 when George III gave his personal approval to a document proposing its creation. The Instrument of Foundation listed the names of the 34 founder members including Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin West, Thomas Gainsborough, Angelica Kauffman, Mary Moser and William Chambers. William Hoare and Johann Zoffany were added to the list by the King and known as nominated members rather than founder members.

Joshua Reynolds was appointed the first President of the Royal Academy and gave his inaugural speech on 2 January 1769.

Sir Joshua Reynolds from The Literary Works of
Sir Joshua Reynolds by HW Beechey (1852)
Purpose

The purpose of the Royal Academy was to establish the professionalism of British art through education and exhibition. Membership was initially limited to a maximum of forty, with new members being elected by current members. Associate membership was introduced in 1769, providing a means of preselecting artists suitable for election to Academy membership when a vacancy should arise.

Royal Academy Schools

The Royal Academy was the first body to provide professional art training in Britain, where artists could come and learn from the best in their profession. In its first year, over 70 students were enrolled. Its famous pupils included J. M. W. Turner, John Soane, Thomas Rowlandson, William Blake, Thomas Lawrence, John Constable, George Hayter and David Wilkie.

Royal Academy professors gave lectures to students. During his presidency, Sir Joshua Reynolds gave 15 lectures on art known as Discourses.

The annual exhibition

The first Royal Academy exhibition ran from 25 April to 27 May 1769 with a display of over 130 works of art. George III visited the exhibition on 25 May. There has been a summer exhibition of the Royal Academy every year since.

The exhibition at the Royal Academy, Somerset House
from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
The annual dinner

The annual dinner of the Royal Academy was introduced by Sir Joshua Reynolds on 23 April 1771.

Where did they meet?

The Royal Academy initially met in Pall Mall, but moved to part of Old Somerset House in 1771 and then to New Somerset House in 1780, a building which had been designed by William Chambers, one of the founding members and the Academy’s first treasurer.

Somerset House from London in the 19th century by TH Shepherd (1829)
In 1838, the Academy moved into part of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square where it remained for thirty years before moving into its current home in Burlington House, Piccadilly, in 1868.

Burlington House, Piccadilly
Georgian Presidents of the Royal Academy

1768-1792 Sir Joshua Reynolds
1792-1805 Benjamin West
1805-1806 James Wyatt
1806-1820 Benjamin West
1820-1830 Sir Thomas Lawrence
1830-1850 Sir Martin Archer Shee

Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph, and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 1 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Leslie, Charles Robert, RA, and Taylor, Tom, MA, Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1865)
Postle, Martin, Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723-1792) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Oct 2009, accessed 2 Jul 2013)
Shepherd, Thomas H, London in the Nineteenth Century, illustrated by a series of views (1829)

Royal Academy website

All photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato