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Friday, 28 November 2014

What is an equerry?

Statue of George III on horseback, Cockspur Street, London
Statue of George III on horseback,
Cockspur Street, London
While I was reading Fanny Burney’s diaries, I came across frequent references to the post of equerry. But what exactly was an equerry?

What is an equerry?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, an equerry is: “An officer of the British royal household who attends or assists members of the royal family.” (1)

Members of the royal family still have equerries today who help them fulfil their public duties. The role is equivalent to that of an aide-de-camp and an equerry is seconded to the role from the armed forces for a period of three years.

The role of equerry in the Georgian period

Historically, an equerry was an officer in charge of the stables of a member of the royal family. Today, the Crown Equerry is in charge of the Royal Mews, but the Queen’s Equerry personally assists the Queen with her duties.

Royal Mews, London
Royal Mews, London
Thoms made this connection with the control of the stables in his Book of the Court written at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign:
“The Chief Equerry was formerly always styled Gentleman of the Horse, as the first Gentleman of the Bed-chamber was entitled Groom of the Stole.
He is the next officer to the Master of the Horse, and in his absence presided over all affairs relating to the Royal Stables. His salary is now fixed at 1000l per annum. That of the remaining Equerries, of which there are four, at 750l per annum.” (2)
What did an equerry do?

Fanny Burney was second keeper of the robes for Queen Charlotte from 1786 to 1791. In her diaries, she regularly mentioned George III’s equerries and what they did. Their role entailed personal attendance on the King. It was a tiring and physically demanding role.

Fanny Burney from Diary and letters of Madame D'Arblay (1846)
Fanny Burney
from Diary and letters of Madame D'Arblay (1842)
Major Price was the equerry in waiting when Fanny Burney first took up her post. On a visit to Oxford University she noted that it was Major Price’s:
“business to attend and guard the king, but he was determined to take almost equal care of some of his majesty's subjects: he was everybody's equerry during the whole expedition, assisting and looking after every creature, seeing us all out of our carriages and into them, and addressing the people, when they pressed too forward, with a steadiness and authority that made them quicker in retreat than all the staves of all the constables, who were attending by dozens at the entrance of every college”. (3)
She also recorded that:
“Major Price, who, as equerry, always brings up the rear, walks at a distance from the group, and keeps off all crowd from the royal family”. (4)
It was the equerry's role to attend the King whenever he required. Normally the King had an equerry with him whenever he walked out, but at Kew the royal family were very informal: “The king has not even an equerry with him.” (5)

Even after George III had escaped an attack on his life, he insisted on walking on the terrace at Windsor “with no other attendant than his single equerry”. (6)

Close up of statue of George III, Weymouth seafront
Close up of statue of George III, Weymouth seafront
Fanny Burney used the term “equerry in waiting” to refer to the equerry currently in attendance.

Periods of service

The equerries worked on a rotation basis. They were in constant attendance for three months of the year and then had nine months off before another period of service. Fanny Burney wrote:
“One evening, when we were all, as usual, assembled, he [Colonel Manners, one of the King’s equerries] began a discourse upon the conclusion of his waiting, which finishes with the end of June: - ‘Now I don't think,’ cried he, ‘that it's well managed: here we're all in waiting for three months at a time, and then for nine months there's nothing!’
‘Cry your mercy!’ cried Colonel Goldsworthy [another equerry], ‘if three months - three whole months - are not enough for you, pray take a few more from mine to make up your market!’
‘No, no, I don't mean that; - but why can't we have our waitings month by month? - would not that be better?’
‘I think not! - we should then have no time unbroken.’
‘Well, but would not that be better than what it is now? Why, we're here so long, that when one goes away nobody knows one! - one has quite to make a new acquaintance! Why, when I first come out of waiting, I never know where to find anybody.’” (7)
A very demanding role

Being an equerry to George III was hard work! He rose early, seemed to have boundless energy and spent much of his time outdoors, whatever the weather.

The White Horse, Osmington, depicting George III on horseback
The White Horse, Osmington, depicting George III on horseback
Wraxall wrote:
“George the Third never enjoyed his existence so much as when in the open air; at times on foot; but generally on horseback; either following the hounds which he did with great ardour; or at a review, where he was always animated; or inspecting his farms, or visiting his various improvements and embellishments round Windsor. It was his delight to mount his horse before the equerry in waiting could possibly be aware of it; often in severe or unpleasant weather, which rarely deterred him; always at an early hour. One of his equerries has assured me, that when thus surprized, he has been compelled to follow the king down Windsor Hill with scarcely time to pull up his stockings under his boots. No place about his majesty's court or person, so long as he retained his intellect, could indeed be less of a sinecure than the office of an equerry. The appointments were very inadequate to the fatigue and exertions of the post: a fact of which the king himself was so well aware, that he used to say he had fewer applications for the employment of equerry than for any other in his donation.” (8)
Forced to smile

Fanny Burney recounted the sufferings of Colonel Goldsworthy. He warned Miss Burney of the draughty corridors she would have to face in the winter, but claimed that his life was worse as she would not:
“have the hunting, to be sure, nor amusing yourself with wading a foot and a-half through the dirt, by way of a little pleasant walk, as we poor equerries do! It's a wonder to me we outlive the first month”. (9)
He went on to complain:
"of the chase, all the riding, the trotting, the galloping, the leaping, the—with your favour, ladies, I beg pardon, I was going to say a strange word, but the—the perspiration—and—and all that—after being wet through over head, and soused through under feet, and popped into ditches, and jerked over gates, what lives we do lead! Well, it's all honour! that's my only comfort! Well, after all this, fagging away like mad from eight in the morning to five or six in the afternoon, home we come, looking like so many drowned rats, with not a dry thread about us, nor a morsel within us—sore to the very bone, and forced to smile all the time!” (9)
George III on horseback - on display in Weymouth Museum
George III on horseback - on display in Weymouth Museum
Standing as furniture

When on duty, the equerries had very little freedom or time to call their own. Fanny Burney remarked that:
 “for them to be absent from the Lodge was contrary to all known rules”. (10)
Fanny Burney wrote that after the royal family had walked on the terrace at Windsor, she went:
“down again to the eating-room. There the equerry, whoever he is, comes to tea constantly, and with him any gentleman that the king or queen may have invited for the evening; and when tea is over, he conducts them, and goes himself, to the concert-room. This is commonly about nine o'clock.” (11)
Fanny Burney recorded a conversation with Colonel Goldsworthy about the equerries required attendance in the concert room in the evening. He remarked that they:
“go no farther than the fiddling-room. As to the queen, we don't see her week after week sometimes. The king, indeed, comes there to us, between whiles, though that's all as it happens, now Price is gone. He used to play at backgammon with Price."
"Then what do you do there?"
"Just what I tell you—nothing at all, but stand as furniture. (12)
George III’s equerries included:

• William Chetwynd, 4th Viscount Chetwynd of Bearhaven
• Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Fulke Greville, brother of Charles Greville
• General Thomas Garth - who was rumoured to have fathered a child by Princess Sophia.
• General Charles Fitzroy, 2nd son of 1st Baron Southampton - who was loved by Princess Amelia.

General Charles Fitzroy,  from The Romance of Princess Amelia  by WS Childe-Pemberton (1911)
General Charles Fitzroy,
from The Romance of Princess Amelia
by WS Childe-Pemberton (1911)
• Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Digby
• Major Price
• Major Goldsworthy
• Colonel Manners

George IV’s equerries included:

• Lieutenant-Colonel Lake
• Lieutenant-Colonel Hulse
• Sir John Dyer, Baronet
• Lieutenant-Colonel Stevens
• Sir William Congreve, 2nd Baronet of Walton

Notes
(1) From Oxford Dictionaries online.
(2) From The Book of the Court by WJ Thoms (1838).
(3) From an entry dated 13 August 1786 in Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay by Fanny Burney (1842).
(4) From an entry dated 7 August 1786 in Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay by Fanny Burney (1842).
(5) From an entry dated 28 July 1786 in Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay by Fanny Burney (1842).
(6) From an entry dated 2 August 1786 in Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay by Fanny Burney (1842).
(7) From an entry dated 8 June 1787 in Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay by Fanny Burney (1842).
(8) From Wraxall’s Posthumous Memoirs of his own time Volume III p137 (1836).
(9) From an entry dated 6 October 1786 in Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay by Fanny Burney (1842).
(10) From an entry dated 10 December 1786 in Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay by Fanny Burney (1842).
(11) From an entry dated 24 July 1786 in Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay by Fanny Burney (1842).
(12) From an entry dated 26 December 1786 in Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay by Fanny Burney (1842).

Sources used include:
Burney, Fanny, Diary and letters of Madame D'Arblay, edited by her niece, Charlotte Barrett (1842)
Wraxall, Sir Nathaniel William, Posthumous Memoirs of his own time (1836) Volume III
Thoms, William J, The Book of the Court (1838) (2nd edition 1844)

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

Friday, 21 November 2014

Blue John: Britain's Georgian gemstone

Another post by my husband Andrew Knowles inspired by our visit to Derbyshire.

Blue John - Millers Vein - from Treak Cliff, Castleton  on display in Buxton Museum
Blue John - Millers Vein - from Treak Cliff, Castleton
on display in Buxton Museum
One of the less well known facts about Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire and leader of fashion in the late eighteenth century, was that she collected rocks.

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (painting in the South Sketch Gallery)
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
(painting in the South Sketch Gallery)
Visitors to Chatsworth, home of the Duke of Devonshire, can view her mineral collection, along with vases and bowls made from Britain's rarest semi-precious stone, Blue John. The mineral became hugely popular with craftsmen and their customers in the late Georgian period, and coincidentally its only known source was just a few miles from Chatsworth, in the hills above Castleton.

Display case in South Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
Display case of minerals
in South Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
Blue John is found nowhere else in the world. It is still mined today, but only in tiny quantities as very little remains in the ground. The two remaining mines, which are mainly natural caverns, are now largely tourist attractions.

The beginnings of Blue John mining 

Lead has been mined around Castleton for hundreds of years, possibly even by the Romans, and mining records began in 1280. But there is no reference to the mining and use of Blue John before the 1760s. Trevor Ford, in his book Derbyshire Blue John, explores and debunks stories of Blue John ware being found in Roman Pompeii.

Blue John is a form of fluorspar, a common mineral that occurs in many colours. What makes it unique to Derbyshire is the particular colouring, with bands of purple and blue, yellow and off-white. Formed in the cracks within limestone, no two sections of Blue John are alike.

Blue John spar, Buxton Museum
Blue John spar, Buxton Museum
Where the bands of Blue John reached the surface, they would have been visible. Seventeenth century travellers refer to azure or sapphire spar being found in the Peak District but say nothing about it being mined or used in any way.

All that changed in the 1760s, when the name 'Blue John' appeared in guidebooks and the mineral was used in ornaments. Robert Adam inlaid Blue John into fireplaces at Kedleston Hall and manufacturer Matthew Boulton used it extensively.

In his Sketch of a Tour, dated 1777, William Bray wrote of a mine near Castleton: "They get out of it some blue-john, used by the polishers for making vases etc." (1)

Blue John urn, Buxton Museum
Blue John urn, Buxton Museum
How Blue John was mined

The lead miners of Castleton must have observed Blue John as they went about their business underground. In naturally formed caverns, loose pieces of both lead and Blue John would be mixed in with the silt that filled the caves, and which the miners dug out and searched through for minerals.

Entrance to the Blue John Cavern
Entrance to the Blue John Cavern
Digging Blue John out of the cave walls demanded some skill, as it is relatively fragile. The limestone around the mineral would have been chipped away to release it, with miners using various techniques to break into the rock walls.

One of these ways was to push wooden pegs into cracks, then soak the wood with water, causing it to swell and break the crack open further. Another approach was to light a fire against a wall, leave it to burn overnight, then throw water against the wall. The sudden change in temperature would cause it to crack.

Blue John vein in the rock, Blue John Cavern
Blue John vein in the rock, Blue John Cavern
Having been extracted, Blue John had to be dried for a year or two before it could be worked without damaging it structure. Because it is relatively soft, Blue John is easily damaged. Many objects are coated in resin to protect them and the process of applying this resin was often regarded as a trade secret.

While they are tourist caverns today, the mines held little to interest Georgian visitors. William Bray seems to be have been persuaded to go down during his tour and records: "The descent, however, is dirty and difficult, and there is not any thing at the bottom worth seeing." (1)

The popularity of Blue John

"I have found a new use for Blew John," wrote Matthew Boulton in 1768, which was to turn it into vases. His intent was expressed in a letter, in which he asked someone to enquire about the possibility of leasing a Blue John mine. He also asked that his contact not reveal the name of Boulton as part of the enquiry: "I beg you will be quite secret as to my intentions." (2)

Blue John milk pail, Buxton Museum
Blue John milk pail, Buxton Museum
A year later, Boulton bought 14 tons of best quality Blue John, from which he made vases, candelabra and other ornaments. Some survive in Britain's great houses, including Buckingham Palace.

A tourist trade developed around the Blue John mines in the early 1800s, although going underground remained difficult. It wasn't until 1836 that a new, easier path was cut through the rock into the Blue John Cavern mines, and concrete steps were not laid until the early twentieth century.

Inside the Blue John Cavern today
Inside the Blue John Cavern today
William Adam had plenty to say about Blue John in his book The Gem of the Peak, or Matlock Bath and its vicinity, first published in 1838. He noted that a tour of the mine cost  one shilling per person, and that "the descent is very rapid and over very rough but safe steps, down which a rail is carried for the passage of the mining wagon". (3)

But by the time Adam was exploring the Blue John mines, the mineral was already starting to fall from favour and the latter half of the nineteenth century saw the small industry decline sharply. The stone is still being mined today, although in very small quantities. The supply of this rare mineral, highly prized by Georgian gentry, could be exhausted within the next decade.

Georgian examples of Blue John

Here are some of the places where you can see Blue John being used in Georgian decorative objects:

Chatsworth House

Unsurprisingly, given its proximity to the source of Blue John, the house contains several vases and other ornaments and even a window made of Blue John. The collection includes the Chatsworth Tazza, the largest single-piece ornament, made in 1842, and currently on display in the dining room. The house also contains the Shore vase, made in 1815, although it's not clear whether this is on public display.

The Chatsworth Tazza, Chatsworth
The Chatsworth Tazza, Chatsworth
Natural History Museum

Here you can see several Blue John vases. According to Ford, the collection includes what is probably the largest Blue John vase ever made, created by John Vallance around 1840.

Lauriston Castle, Edinburgh

This museum houses a collection of over 80 Blue John ornaments from the late eighteenth century.

Fireplaces containing Blue John can be found at Kedleston Hall and the Georgian House Museum in Bristol. Others exist, but are less accessible to the public.

Notes
(1) From Sketch of a Tour into Derbyshire and Yorkshire by William Bray (1777).
(2) Quoted in Derbyshire Blue John by Trevor Ford (2005) p64.
(3) From The Gem of the Peak by William Adam (1838).

Sources used include:
Adam, William, The Gem of the Peak or Matlock Bath and its vicinity (1838, this 6th edition 1857)
Bray, William, Sketch of a Tour into Derbyshire and Yorkshire (1777, this 2nd edition 1783)
Ford, Trevor D, Derbyshire Blue John (Landmark Publishing, 2005) Castleton Historical Society
Harrison, Peter C, Some Castleton History and Things Remembered (2010) PDF

BBC Derbyshire
Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society, Vol 11, No 5, (1992)
Edinburgh Museums
Natural History Museum

Photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Philae obelisk at Kingston Lacy

Philae, a robotic probe, landed on a distant comet today. The European Space Agency hopes that the information that it gathers will help scientists understand the early development of the Solar System.

It shares its name with the Philae obelisk which stands at Kingston Lacy. The inscriptions on this obelisk helped Georgian scholars to understand Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Philae obelisk, Kingston Lacy
Philae obelisk, Kingston Lacy
Discovery of the Philae obelisk

The Philae obelisk was discovered by William John Bankes on his first journey into Egypt in 1815. The pink granite needle was one of a pair in front of the Temple of Isis on Philae, an island in the Nile. The island has since been flooded as a result of the building of the Aswan Dam. Giovanni Finati acted as Bankes' guide and his travel journals give details of some of Bankes’ excavations.

William John Bankes Portrait at Kingston Lacy
William John Bankes
Portrait at Kingston Lacy
Finati wrote that Bankes
“by the light of his candles at night found an inscription in it that had never been observed up to that time. It was also during this short stay that he first brought to light the granite pedestal of the obelisk, which has more than twenty lines upon it in the Greek character; this was buried altogether below the surface; but the probable position of it was conjectured from the obelisk lying near the spot, and search was made there accordingly. Some steps were taken, even then, towards the removal of this monument; but, for want of proper tackle, it was abandoned for that time.” (1)
On his second journey into Egypt in 1818-19, Bankes’ party included Henry Beechey, son of Sir William Beechey, the famous portrait painter; Dr Alessandro Ricci; Louis Linant de Bellefonds, a French midshipman; and Giovanni Belzoni. After starting out as a performing strong man at Sadler’s Wells, Belzoni had become a hydraulic engineer specialising in the excavation of Egyptian antiquities.

A disastrous attempt

Bankes employed Belzoni to take the Philae obelisk back to his family home of Kingston Lacy in Dorset, England.

Kingston Lacy, Dorset
Kingston Lacy, Dorset
The operation was fraught with difficulties and the first attempt to remove the obelisk ended in disaster. Finati wrote:
“Meanwhile the obelisk had been brought on rollers to the water's edge, and a boat below to receive it; all hands were at work, and five minutes more would have sufficed to set it afloat; when all at once the temporary pier built for it gave way under the pressure, and the monument plunged end long into the river almost out of sight.” (1)
A striking descent

Belzoni tried again with more success. Finati wrote:
“Mr Bankes said little, but was evidently disgusted by the accident, and set sail within a day or two afterwards, leaving me to witness Mr Belzoni's further operations respecting it. These were certainly conducted with great skill, though not quite without injury, and the scene of its actual descent down the cataract (2) (the passage being at that time narrower, and the fall more considerable, from the decrease of the Nile) was very striking, the great boat wheeling and swinging round, and half filling with water, while naked figures were crowding upon all the rocks, or wading or swimming between them, some shouting, and some pulling at the guide ropes, and the boat-owner throwing himself on the ground, scattering dust upon his head, and hiding his face. The danger, if any, was but for a few seconds, the equilibrium was recovered, and the mass glided smoothly and majestically onwards with the stream.” (1)
The obelisk arrived in England in 1821 and the Duke of Wellington offered to send a gun carriage to transport it to Kingston Lacy.

Duke of Wellington by William Salter (c1839) in the NPG
Duke of Wellington
by William Salter (c1839) in the NPG
The pedestal

The excavation of the obelisk’s pedestal was equally difficult. Finati wrote:
“The only commission left with me, was to see to the removal of the Greek pedestal belonging to the obelisk, from the spot where it had been left by Belzoni” but “the inundation (3) had already put the stone quite under water and out of sight, which rendered useless both the tackle and the boat that I had brought with me on purpose. For unfortunately, Mr Belzoni, fearing fresh disputes as to Mr Bankes's property in this pedestal, (though the original and uncontested finder of it,) had, in default of means for sending it at once down the cataract, carried it across from Philae to a low sand bank opposite, and there laid it on its so little judgment, that the smallest rise of the river must inevitably cover it, and make the transport impossible, during all those months of the year when the passage by water is the easiest, and it was owing to this, that, at length, after more than two years, it was found to be the best expedient to drag it by land, till it could be shipped below the rapids.” (1)
The Philae obelisk in the garden of Kingston Lacy
The Philae obelisk in the garden of Kingston Lacy
The platform

Finati noted that:
“This platform consists of four blocks only of red granite, and had served, without doubt, as the base to some obelisk now destroyed.” (1)
It was not until 1829 that Linant de Bellefonds, who had accompanied Bankes on his second trip to Egypt, sent what was left of the matching obelisk and the three huge steps of granite from Maharraga which were used to make the platform.(4)
 
Finati wrote:
“The heaviest block weighs nearly eleven tons, and was not removed till 1822, nor brought to England till 1829, when nineteen horses were required to drag it to its position at Kingston Hall.” (1)
It was damaged in transit and had to be repaired using some granite from the ruins of Leptis Magna – a prominent city in the Roman Empire situated in what is now Libya – given to Bankes for the purpose by George IV.

The inscription around the bottom of the Philae obelisk, Kingston Lacy
The inscription around the bottom of the Philae obelisk, Kingston Lacy
A monument to tax exemption!

The Duke of Wellington chose the spot in the garden, south of the house, for the site of the obelisk. He laid the foundation stone in 1827, but it was not until 1839 that the obelisk was finally erected.

The inscription written around the bottom of the obelisk reads as follows:

THIS SPOT WAS CHOSEN
AND THE FIRST STONE OF THE FOUNDATION LAID BY
ARTHUR DUKE OF WELLINGTON
AUGUST 17 1827.

WILLIAM JOHN BANKES ESQ MP ELDEST SON OF HENRY BANKES ESQ MP (5)
CAUSED THIS OBELISK AND THIS PEDESTAL FROM WHICH IT HAD FALLEN
TO BE REMOVED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF G BELZONI IN 1818
FROM THE ISLAND OF PHILAE BEYOND THE FIRST CATARACT
AND BROUGHT THIS PLATFORM FROM THE RUINS OF HIERASYCAMINON
IN NUBIA.

THE GRANITE USED IN THE REPARATION OF THIS MONUMENT
WAS BROUGHT FROM THE REMAINS OF LEPTIS MAGNA IN AFRICA
AND WAS GIVEN FOR THAT PURPOSE BY HIS MAJESTY
KING GEORGE IV.

THE INSCRIPTIONS ON THIS OBELISK AND PEDESTAL RECORD
THEIR DEDICATION TO KING PTOLEMY EUERGETES II
AND TWO CLEOPATRAS HIS QUEENS
WHO AUTHORIZED THE PRIESTS OF ISIS IN THE ISLE OF PHILAE
TO ERECT THEM ABOUT 150 YEARS BC
AS A PERPETUAL MEMORIAL OF EXEMPTION FROM TAXATION. 

The significance of the Philae obelisk

Bankes studied the obelisk carefully, and found he could make out the names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. He made lithographs of the bilingual inscriptions – both Greek and hieroglyphic - and this helped scholars in their understanding of hieroglyphics.

Recently, a new study has been conducted on the obelisk. Current researchers have been able to confirm that Bankes’ lithograph, particularly of the hieroglyphs, was very accurate. Modern imaging methods have made it possible to read the whole of the Greek inscription for the first time. Much of this had been worn away by the time the obelisk arrived at Kingston Lacy.

Notes
(1) From Finat's Life and Adventures (1830).
(2) A cataract is a large waterfall.
(3) An inundation is a flooding.
(4) Finati mentioned four blocks of granite, but only three were used in the platform for the obelisk. It is not clear whether only three were transported or whether Finati remembered incorrectly.
(5) William John Bankes was the second, but eldest surviving son of Henry Bankes. His elder brother Henry died in 1806.

Sources used include:
Finati, Giovanni, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Giovanni Finati, edited by William John Bankes, Esq (1830)
The National Trust, Kingston Lacy (guidebook) (1994)
The National Trust website

Photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Princess Charlotte, Percy Shelley and High Treason in Derbyshire

A post by my husband Andrew Knowles inspired by our recent travels into Derbyshire.

Sometimes Regency history takes us by surprise. Only this week, I learned about a significant historical event that occurred during the Regency and my introduction was via a very modern road sign.

Road sign on entering Pentrich, Derbyshire
Road sign on entering Pentrich, Derbyshire
Driving through the small village of Pentrich, Derbyshire, I noticed that the village sign was topped with the phrase: "Revolution 1817." Perhaps you already know about the Pentrich Revolution. I didn't, and here is what I have since discovered.

"The mischiefs flowing from oppression"

Discontent was rife in England during the early nineteenth century. The Industrial Revolution brought unsettling change, the Corn Laws pushed up food prices, and what many considered to be unfair taxes put a huge burden on the working population. Many ordinary people, particularly in the Midlands, considered themselves to be oppressed. 

Political agitation for change took various forms. The Luddite movement attacked industrial machines between 1811 and 1813. Debating groups, known as Hampden clubs, sprang up across the country. There was a growing appetite for reform, particularly of the way the nation was governed.

Many wanted to bring about change without violence, but the government was fearful of the large crowds the agitators could muster. The Seditious Meetings Act of March 1817 banned assemblies of more than 50 people.

On a wall opposite the church in Pentrich
On a wall opposite the church in Pentrich
The plaque reads: "The revolution was plotted at
the White Horse Inn which stood near here."
"Their infernal agents"

In their enthusiasm to detect trouble, the government dispatched several spies. One of these, William Oliver, became involved with political meetings taking place at Pentrich (then often spelled Pentridge). It seems likely that Oliver went beyond his role as observer and actively encouraged the frustrated group to take direct action.

St Matthew's Church, Pentrich
St Matthew's Church, Pentrich
The plaque reads: "The curate hid rebels here
from the government troops."
On the evening of 9 June 1817, a group of several hundred men from around Pentrich gathered in a barn in nearby South Wingfield. Under the leadership of Jeremiah Brandreth, a 27 year old stockinger, they began marching towards Nottingham. It seems they believed a larger uprising would happen across the country, leading to political change.

As they marched, they sought to recruit others and in one encounter, Brandreth killed someone. But as the night wore on and rain soaked his band, their numbers decreased until by dawn, only a small group crossed into Nottinghamshire to face a detachment of the King's Hussars. Some were arrested, while others fled.

Pentrich plaque
The plaque states: "Near here was Widow Hepworth's
Farm where a servant was shot dead."
"That dreadful penalty"

Brandreth, along with Isaac Ludlam and William Turner, was found guilty of High Treason and were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. This is apparently the last time this sentence was given but the Prince Regent showed 'clemency' by reducing the punishment to hanging followed by beheading.

Another 14 men were sentenced to transportation, from which none ever returned. A further six were imprisoned for up to two years.

"We pity the plumage, but forget the dying bird"

But what about Princess Charlotte and Percy Shelley, as referred to in the title of this post? How are they mixed up in the Pentrich Revolution of 1817?

Princess Charlotte, the only legitimate child of the Prince Regent (later George IV), died on 6 November 1817. Adored by the public, her death in childbirth provoked a huge outpouring of grief across the country.

Princess Charlotte by William Dawe (c1817)  at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Princess Charlotte by George Dawe (1817)
at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Brandreth, Ludlam and Turner were executed outside Derby Gaol on 7 November 1817, the day after Charlotte died. Their trial and execution for High Treason also attracted national attention.

The poet Percy Shelley made an emphatic connection between these two major events, articulated in his pamphlet "We pity the plumage, but forget the dying bird - an address to the people on the death of Princess Charlotte". (1)

"LIBERTY is dead"

"Mourn then People of England. Clothe yourselves in solemn black. Let the bells be tolled." A beautiful princess is dead, wrote Shelley, referring at once to both Princess Charlotte and to the notion of liberty.

Charlotte was "young, innocent and beautiful", and "the last and best of her race". Yet, said Shelley, "the accident of her birth neither made her life more virtuous nor her death more worthy of grief". He had no criticism to make of her, but sought to remind people that the deaths of Brandreth, Ludlam and Turner also provoked grief in those that knew them.

The funeral procession of Princess Charlotte at Windsor  from Memoirs of Her Late Royal Highness   Charlotte Augusta by Robert Huish (1818)
The funeral procession of Princess Charlotte at Windsor
from Memoirs of Her Late Royal Highness
 Charlotte Augusta by Robert Huish (1818)
"They had sons, and brothers, and sisters, and fathers, who loved them." Shelley was clearly upset by their execution: "Nothing is more horrible than that man should for any cause shed the life of man."

He goes on to explain how the government created an oppressive system, with the effect that "the day labourer gains no more now by working sixteen hours a day than he gained before by working eight." It is no surprise to Shelley that people want parliamentary reform and he attacks both the spies who provoked 'rebellion' and the government that dispatched them.

Percy Bysshe Shelley  by Amelia Curran (1819)  at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Percy Bysshe Shelley
by Amelia Curran (1819)
at the National Portrait Gallery, London
"It is a national calamity, that we endure men to rule over us, who sanction for whatever ends a conspiracy which is to arrive at its purpose through such a frightful pouring forth of human blood and agony."

"Our alternatives," he wrote, "are a despotism, a revolution, or reform." In that one sentence Shelley sums up the fears or hopes of so many ordinary people in 1817. It was these hopes that drove the men of Pentrich to commit what would become, in the eyes of the law, High Treason.

All this I have discovered, just because I spotted a word and a date on a road sign.

Notes
(1) The pamphlet is popularly referred to by this title, but the phrase "We pity the plumage, but forget the dying bird" was a motto and was probably never intended to be a part of the title of this pamphlet.
(2) All quotes are from "An Address to the People on The Death of the Princess Charlotte" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1817).

Sources:
Huish, Robert, Memoirs of her late royal highness Charlotte Augusta (1818)
Shelley, Percy Bysshe, The Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley in Verse and Prose, edited by H. Buxton Forman (1880).
The Pentrich Revolution Trail
The Pentrich Rebellion website
The Percy Bysshe Shelley Resource Page

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

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Chatsworth - a photo tour of the home of the Dukes of Devonshire

Chatsworth from across the river
Chatsworth from across the River Derwent
In 1760 Horace Walpole wrote: "It is a glorious situation; the vale rich in corn and verdure, vast woods hang down the hills, which are green to the top, and the immense rocks only serve to dignify the prospect. The river runs before the door, and serpentises more than you can conceive in the vale. The Duke is widening it, and will make it the middle of his park." (1)

Chatsworth from the gardens
Chatsworth from the gardens
Horace Walpole wrote: "The principal front of the house is beautiful, and executed with the neatness of wrought plate." (1)

Chatsworth from across the river with Paine's bridge
Chatsworth and Paine's bridge from across the River Derwent
The bridge was designed by James Paine for the 4th Duke of Devonshire (1720-1764) in the 1760s.

The Stables

The Stables, Chatsworth
The Stables, Chatsworth
Horace Walpole wrote: “A heavy quadrangle of stables is part of the plan, is very cumbrous, and standing higher than the house, is ready to overwhelm it.” (1)

The North Entrance Hall

The North Entrance Hall, Chatsworth
The North Entrance Hall, Chatsworth
This room was originally the kitchen, but the 4th Duke turned it into an entrance hall in the 1760s.

The North Sub Corridor

The North Sub Corridor, Chatsworth
The North Sub Corridor, Chatsworth
This was originally an open colonnade offering some protection from the weather to visitors as they crossed the Courtyard.

The Painted Hall

The Painted Hall, Chatsworth
The Painted Hall, Chatsworth
The 5th Duke (1748-1811) laid the first black and white marbled floor in 1779.

The Courtyard, Chatsworth
The Courtyard, Chatsworth
When it was built by the 1st Duke (1640-1707), the Painted Hall was entered through the Courtyard.

The Painted Hall, Chatsworth, from the balcony
The Painted Hall, Chatsworth, from the balcony
The Painted Hall originally had no ground floor windows; these were added by the 6th Duke in the 1820s.

The Grotto

The Grotto, Chatsworth House
The Grotto, Chatsworth House
The Grotto was at the heart of the 1st Duke's very modern plumbing system which provided both hot and cold running water.

The Chapel Corridor

The Chapel Corridor, Chatsworth
The Chapel Corridor, Chatsworth
A gigantic foot from a 1st century Greek statue on display in the Chapel Corridor, Chatsworth
A gigantic foot, in the Chapel Corridor, Chatsworth
It used to be thought that the colossal foot on display in the Chapel Corridor was a fake from the 19th century, but it is now believed to be part of a genuine 1st century Greek statue.

The Oak Room
 
The Oak Room with a model of Chatsworth House in the centre
The Oak Room, displaying a model of
Chatsworth House in the centre
The Oak Room, Chatsworth
The Oak Room, Chatsworth
The 6th Duke bought the oak panelling in this room at auction without knowing what he was going to do with it!

The Chapel

The Chapel, Chatsworth
The Chapel, Chatsworth
Horace Walpole declared that: "The chapel is charming." (1)
 
The Chapel has four Ashford black marble columns which were carved from a single block quarried on Sheldon Moor, near Ashford-in-the-Water, just a few miles away from Chatsworth.

The Chapel, Chatsworth
The Chapel, Chatsworth
An account from 1824 said: "On entering the chapel we felt the delightful fragrance of the cedar wood, of which it is almost entirely composed: it is a richly ornamented place, and carving, painting, and sculpture, have all contributed to its decoration: the ceiling, and every part of it which is not otherwise appropriated, have been embellished by the pencils of Verrio and Laguerre." (2)

The Great Stairs

The Great Stairs, Chatsworth
The Great Stairs, Chatsworth
The gilded iron banister was made by William III's ironworker, Jean Tijou.

The State Apartment: The Great Chamber

The Great Chamber, Chatsworth
The Great Chamber, Chatsworth
Delftware vases  in the Great Chamber, Chatsworth
Delftware vases
in the Great Chamber, Chatsworth
The 1st Duke supported William III and Mary's accession to the throne and was rewarded by his dukedom. He built the State Apartment for their use, but alas, they never visited!

The State Apartment: The State Music Room

The State Music Room, Chatsworth
The State Music Room, Chatsworth
The violin door  in the State Music Room, Chatsworth
The violin door
in the State Music Room, Chatsworth
The violin door was brought here by the 6th Duke from Devonshire House, his London home. Despite appearances, the violin is not real but painted.

State Apartment: the State Bedroom

The State Bedroom, Chatsworth
The State Bedroom, Chatsworth
Silver gilt toilet set in State Bedroom, Chatsworth
Silver-gilt toilet set in State Bedroom, Chatsworth
This French silver-gilt toilet set dates from the late 17th century and is engraved with the arms and monogram of William III and Mary.

The State Apartment: The State Closet

The State Closet, Chatsworth
The State Closet, Chatsworth
The State Closet was where the King and Queen would have conducted their most important business, should they ever have visited. The collection of porcelain displayed on the walls was designed to impress.

The Old Master Drawings Cabinet

The Old Master Drawings Cabinet, Chatsworth
The Old Master Drawings Cabinet, Chatsworth
On display is a small selection from the current Duke's collection which consists of over 3000 drawings, mostly collected by the 2nd Duke (1673-1729) and his son, the 3rd Duke (1698-1755).

South Sketch Gallery

The South Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
The South Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
Portraits of the 5th Duke and his two wives, on the right, Lady Georgiana Spencer, and on the left, Lady Elizabeth Foster in the South Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
Portraits of the 5th Duke and his two wives:
on the right, Lady Georgiana Spencer, and on the left,
Lady Elizabeth Foster, in the South Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
The South Sketch Gallery is devoted to the 5th Duke and his wife, Georgiana. The Duke's portrait is displayed between those of Georgiana and his mistress, Lady Elizabeth Foster, who became his second wife after Georgiana's death.

Part of the mineral collection on display  in the South Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
Part of the mineral collection on display
in the South Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
A visitor in 1824 complained that: "The cabinet of fossils and minerals which was collected and formed by the late Duchess of Devonshire... has been lately removed from a public to a private apartment, and it is now not shewn to strangers. That any consideration should induce the Duke of Devonshire to exclude the casual visitors to Chatsworth, from beholding this collection, may be regretted, and particularly so as it contains many choice and beautiful specimens." (2)

West Sketch Gallery

Lord Burlington in West Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
Lord Burlington in West Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
The West Sketch Gallery is devoted to the collections of the 3rd Earl of Burlington, whose daughter, Lady Charlotte Boyle, married the 4th Duke.

North Sketch Gallery

North Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
North Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
The ceramic panels on the right show an artistic representation of the Devonshire family based on DNA strands.

Guest bedrooms

Guest bedroom, Chatsworth
Guest bedroom, Chatsworth
Guest bedroom, Chatsworth
Guest bedroom, Chatsworth
Guest bedroom, Chatsworth
Guest bedroom, Chatsworth
These rooms were converted into bedrooms by the 6th Duke. The Chinese wallpaper is hand-painted and was very fashionable during the Regency period.

The Oak Stairs

The Oak Stairs, Chatsworth
The Oak Stairs, Chatsworth
 The 6th Duke built the Oak Stairs to lead to his new north wing.

The Library

The Library, Chatsworth
The Library, Chatsworth
The 6th Duke turned the 1st Duke's Long Gallery into a sumptuous new library.

The Ante-Library

The Ante-Library, Chatsworth
The Ante-Library, Chatsworth
The Dome Room

The Dome Room, Chatsworth
The Dome Room, Chatsworth
The Dome Room, Chatsworth
The Dome Room, Chatsworth
The Veiled Vestal Virgin (above) was carved in marble by Raffaelle Monti for the 6th Duke in 1846.

The Great Dining Room

The Great Dining Room Chatsworth
The Great Dining Room Chatsworth
The young Queen Victoria had her first adult dinner here when she was 13.

Sculpture Gallery

The Sculpture Gallery, Chatsworth
The Sculpture Gallery, Chatsworth
The sculptures in the 6th Duke's collection were created by contemporary artists in the classical style. His most prized pieces were by the sculptor Antonio Canova who became his close friend.

The Cascade

The Cascade, Chatsworth
The Cascade, Chatsworth
A foreigner visiting in 1810-11 described the Cascade:

"Exactly behind the house, and looking up towards the top of the hill, you see, between two lines of lofty wood, a flight of colossal stone steps, straight like Jacob's ladder, terminated at the top by a temple with a metal cupola. The gardener made a sign, and water flowed over this cupola and down the sides of the temple, and burst from the ground before it, then began to fall from step to step, sweeping off and carrying along the accumulated dirt of the winter, covering the whole in due time with a sheet of foam, and sparkling in the sun."(3)


Horace Walpole bemoaned the "absurdity of a cascade tumbling down marble steps, which reduces the steps to be of no use at all." (1)

Dragon at the top of the Cascade, Chatsworth
Dragon at the top of the Cascade, Chatsworth
Another visitor wrote in 1811:

"The famous Cascade, one of those grand water works, which half a century ago, rendered Chatsworth the greatest wonder of Derbyshire, and gave it a celebrity which it has not yet lost, lies to the south-east of the house. It consists of a series or flight of steps, extending nearly two hundred yards from one end to the other, down a steep hill, crowned at the top with a Temple.

This fane, (observes Mr. Warner) should certainly be dedicated to Mercury, the god of fraud and deceit, as a piece of roguery is practiced upon the incautious stranger within its very sanctuary; from the floor of which, a multitude of little fountains suddenly spout up, whilst he is admiring the prospect through the portal, and quickly wet him to the skin.

After this practical joke, the cascade is put in motion by another screw, and certainly is grand in its kind; the water rushes in a vast quantity, and with great force and noise, from the domed roof of the temple, and from a great variety of dolphins, dragons, and a number of other figures that ornament it ; and falling into a basin in front of the building, (which also throws up several fountains) is thence discharged, and rolls down the long stages of steps before-described; and having reached the bottom, disappears by sinking into the earth." (4)

The Cascade, Chatsworth
The Cascade, Chatsworth
The 1st Duke’s Greenhouse

The 1st Duke's Greenhouse, Chatsworth
The 1st Duke's Greenhouse, Chatsworth
The Emperor Fountain

The Emperor Fountain with Chatsworth House in the background
The Emperor Fountain with Chatsworth House in the background
The Grotto Pond

The Grotto Pond, Chatsworth
The Grotto Pond, Chatsworth
The Maze

The Maze, Chatsworth
The Maze, Chatsworth
Sadly, not as old as the one at Hampton Court - this maze was planted in the 1960s!

For more about the history of Chatsworth and the Georgians who lived there, see my Regency History guide to Chatsworth.
Notes
(1) From a letter from Horace Walpole to George Montagu dated 1 September 1760.
(2) From Peak Scenery or The Derbyshire Tourist by E Rhodes (1824).
(3) From Louis Simond's Journal of his tour in 1810-11.
(4) From David Davies' A new historical and descriptive view of Derbyshire (1811).

Sources used include:
Chatsworth House Trust, Chatsworth, Home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, guidebook (2005)
Chatsworth House Trust, Your guide to Chatsworth (2014)
Davies, David Peter, A new historical and descriptive view of Derbyshire: from the remotest period to the present time, Volume 1 (1811)
Rhodes, E, Peak Scenery or The Derbyshire Tourist (1824)
Simond, Louis, Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain, during the years 1810 and 1811 vol 2 (1815)
Walpole, Horace, Letters of Horace Walpole, selected and edited by Charles Duke Yonge Vol I 1736-1764 (1890)

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