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Thursday 21 August 2014

Mount Edgcumbe – a Regency History guide

Mount Edgcumbe
Mount Edgcumbe (2014)
Where is it?

Mount Edgcumbe is a Tudor mansion in South East Cornwall.


In 1515, Henry VIII granted permission to Sir Piers Edgcumbe to enclose a deer park on his land on a peninsula in South East Cornwall. His son, Sir Richard Edgcumbe, built Mount Edgcumbe House on this land between 1547 and 1553 and moved there from his previous home, Cotehele.

The courtyard at Cotehele
The courtyard at Cotehele
Mount Edgcumbe was built according to a forward-thinking design for the time with the rooms constructed around a central hall rather than a courtyard and focused on looking outwards rather than inwards.

During the Second World War, Mount Edgcumbe was bombed; the west wing was destroyed and most of the contents were ravaged by fire. Between 1958 and 1964, it was rebuilt in 18th century style by the 6th Earl, but in 1971, the house and surrounding area was sold for use as a country park. The property was bought by Cornwall and Plymouth City Councils and operates today under their joint management.

View from Mount Edgcumbe
View from Mount Edgcumbe
The Georgian connection

Richard Edgcumbe, 1st Baron Edgcumbe (1680-1758)

Richard Edgcumbe was educated at Trinity College Cambridge and was a close friend of Robert Walpole. He was an active MP and held various offices, including Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall. He was made Baron Edgcumbe on 20 April 1742.

Richard was an early patron of Sir Joshua Reynolds and arranged for him to travel to Italy in 1749 to study art. Sir Joshua painted many portraits for the Edgcumbe family, but the majority of these were destroyed when Mount Edgcumbe was bombed.

Sir Joshua Reynolds from The Literary Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds by HW Beechey (1852)
Sir Joshua Reynolds
from The Literary Works of Sir Joshua
Reynolds by HW Beechey (1852)
Richard has two sons, Richard and George:

Richard Edgcumbe, 2nd Baron Edgcumbe (1716-1761)

Richard, known as Dick, was a close friend of Horace Walpole and the black sheep of the family. He was witty and charming but an inveterate gambler. He kept a succession of mistresses rather than settling down with a wife and had four children with one of them, Mrs Ann Franks Day. It was perhaps his unsavoury reputation that led to his portrait not being on the wall when Mount Edgcumbe was bombed and so it survived.

Dick went on the Grand Tour for around seven years and reputedly brought back the first orange trees to Mount Edgcumbe.

Italian garden with mermaid fountain and the Orangery
Italian garden with mermaid fountain and the Orangery
George Edgcumbe, 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe (1721-95)

George was among the first pupils to graduate from the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth and saw action at the Siege of Louisbourg (1758) and the Battle of Quiberon Bay (1759).

He succeeded his brother as Baron Edgcumbe in 1761 and married Emma Gilbert, the somewhat eccentric daughter of the Archbishop of York by whom he had one son, Richard. Emma was notorious for her card playing and for keeping a pet pig called Cupid who ate at her table. She was a popular target for caricaturists, most famously James Gillray in A witch, upon a mount’s edge (1791).

A witch, upon a mount's edge. - Vide: Fuzelli  by James Gillray Pub Hannah Humphrey (1791)  © British Museum
A witch, upon a mount's edge. - Vide: Fuzelli
by James Gillray Pub Hannah Humphrey (1791)
© British Museum
George was interested in antiquities and science and a patron of artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds and John Opie. Many well-known people visited him at Mount Edgcumbe including Horace Walpole, Dr Johnson, Captain Cook, Sir Joshua Reynolds and David Garrick.

George III and Queen Charlotte visited Mount Edgcumbe in August 1789, during their stay at Saltram in Plymouth.

In 1780, George allowed more than a hundred trees to be felled to make room for a battery. He was rewarded by being made Viscount Mount Edgcumbe on 5 March 1781. After the King's visit, he was made Earl of Mount Edgcumbe on 31 August 1789.

Richard Edgcumbe, 2nd Earl of Edgcumbe (1764-1839)

Richard was an active MP, supporting the government of William Pitt. In 1789, he gained the courtesy title of Viscount Valletort when his father was made Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. He entered the House of Lords in 1795 after inheriting the earldom and became a member of the Privy Council in 1808.

In 1789, Richard married Lady Sophia Hobart of Bickling Hall, Norfolk, and they had five (1) children. Sophia was known as one of Pharaoh’s daughters because she kept a faro table.

Memorial to Sophia in the French garden
Memorial to Sophia in the French garden
Richard was a keen amateur actor and musician and wrote a prologue for a performance at Strawberry Hill in 1800. He wrote Musical Reminiscences of the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe (1823) about Italian operas in England and an opera, Zenobia (1801).

Richard and Sophia had a keen interest in gardening and they developed the Italian (1785) and French (1803) gardens at Mount Edgcumbe. The mermaid fountain in the Italian garden was a gift from Richard’s godfather, Lord Bessborough, in 1809. They also developed drives around the estate.

Italian garden, Mount Edgcumbe
Italian garden, Mount Edgcumbe
What can you see today?

The grounds are extensive - make sure you take a map with you if you go walking as we found the footpaths inadequately signposted and walked much farther than we had intended! When we visited in 2014, it was possible to explore some of the area on a Segway adventure.

• Externally, the main part of the original Tudor building, but not as it would have been seen in Georgian times – it used to be rendered white.

Mount Edgcumbe
Mount Edgcumbe
• Internally, the house as it was rebuilt in the 1950s/60s. (The only photography allowed in the house was of visitors dressed up in the Tudor and Georgian clothes, so, of course, I dressed up in a Georgian outfit.) The current building allows you to get a feel for the original design, with rooms off a central hall, but it was not rebuilt to replicate the original and I looked in vain for the pillars in the hall which were depicted in a painting from 1749.

Rachel in Georgian costume  inside Mount Edgcumbe House
Rachel in Georgian costume
inside Mount Edgcumbe House (2014)
• The portrait of Richard Edgcumbe, 2nd Baron, by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

• Acres of beautiful parkland, with stunning views of the sea and a number of Georgian buildings such as the Picklecombe Seat (c1788).

Picklecombe Seat
Picklecombe Seat
• The formal gardens including the Italian garden with the mermaid fountain (shown above).

• The Tudor Blockhouse in the lower park.

Tudor blockhouse
Tudor blockhouse
• Last visited: July 2014.

(1) Wikipedia lists five children but the family tree in the Cotehele guidebook only shows four.

Sources used include:
Brown, Cynthia Gaskell Brown, editing and additional text by Marshall, David, Cairns, Jo and Berry, Ian, Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park Guidebook (Purchased 2014)
Hunt, Rachel, ed by Anna Groves, Cotehele, National Trust Guide (2013)

Saturday 16 August 2014

Georgian architecture - a Regency History guide

Nostell Priory
Nostell Priory
An introduction to Georgian architecture

The reigns of George I through to George IV are characterised by a distinctive form of building design and decoration. The symmetry and simplicity of Georgian architecture has become a symbol of British restrained good taste, and indeed of 'Britishness' itself.

This short guide is an introduction to what is a huge subject.

Early Georgian architecture

Importing a new monarchy from Hanover to Britain in 1714 represented a major break with the past. The optimistic, forward-looking spirit of the age was reflected in the adoption of a new architecture for the nation's buildings.

This change meant putting aside the Baroque, which peaked in St Paul’s Cathedral, Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace. It was replaced by the Palladian style, based heavily on Roman antiquity and inspired by the works of Andrea Palladio (1508-1580).
Andrea Palladio
Andrea Palladio
from The gallery of portraits with memoirs
by AT Malkin (1836)
Two leading proponents of Palladian architecture in England were Lord Burlington (1694-1753) and William Kent (1685-1748). Burlington travelled to Italy to study Palladio’s work for himself. Here he met Kent, who became his assistant and spent much of his time designing sumptuous interior decoration.

Palladio's Villa Capra or Villa Rotunda from The gallery of portraits with memoirs by AT Malkin (1836)
Palladio's Villa Capra or Villa Rotunda
from The gallery of portraits with memoirs
by AT Malkin (1836)
The heyday of Palladianism was 1715 to 1760. Buildings of this style constructed in this period are often referred to as Neo-Palladian, to distinguish them from earlier uses of Palladian principles. Inigo Jones (1573-1652), who built the Banqueting House in Whitehall, was the first to apply the Palladian approach to British buildings, but the style fell from favour after the English Civil War.

The Pantheon
The Pantheon,
- the inspiration for Palladio's Villa Capra
Features of Palladian architecture

Strict adherence to the rules of proportion. Palladio was heavily influenced by the writing of Roman architect Vitruvius, who believed there was a perfect symmetry and proportion in nature, which could be replicated in buildings. By studying the work of Vitruvius, and ruins of ancient buildings, Palladio created a set of architectural rules.
Symmetry - one half of the building, or at least the façade, is a mirror image of the other.
Columns topped with capitals carved into the shape of acanthus leaves, often referred to as Corinthian columns.
Scallop shell motifs.
Pediments over doors and windows - these are triangular, often containing some form of decoration.

The entrance hall, Clandon Park
The entrance hall, Clandon Park
True Palladian designs come over as heavy when compared to their Neoclassical successors.

Examples of Palladian architecture

Chiswick House, West London, is usually regarded as the best example, being built by the leader in Palladian fashion, Lord Burlington, with interiors designed by William Kent.

Clandon Park, Surrey, was designed by a Venetian architect and built in 1720 for Lord Onslow. Sadly, this house was severely damaged by fire in April 2015. You can read more about Clandon Park here.

Clandon Park - from the back
Clandon Park - rear view
Houghton Hall, Norfolk, built by Sir William Walpole, the first British Prime Minister, in the 1720s. The interiors were designed by William Kent.

Rebellion against the rules

Not everyone wants to be constrained, including architects. Robert Adam (1728-92), from Kirkcaldy, Scotland, had no time for the restrictions imposed by the Palladian style and became an advocate of its successor, the Neoclassical.

While also rooted in the ancient world, Neoclassical design looked beyond Rome to include ideas from Greece. Archaeological curiosity and the advent of the Grand Tour provided a wider perspective on classical cultures. Adam himself went on the Tour in 1754 and spent several years in Rome, studying architecture.

Features of Neoclassical architecture

Many of the features popular in Palladian architecture, such as symmetry, columns and pediments, also feature in the Neoclassical.

In general, Neoclassical style incorporates many more aspects of Ancient Greek art, such as cameos. Josiah Wedgwood, the famous Staffordshire potter, designed in the Neoclassical style.

Examples of Neoclassical architecture

Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, which Robert Adam worked on for around 20 years.

Kedleston Hall
Kedleston Hall
Osterley Park, designed by Robert Adam and built by 1780.

Saltram House, again designed by Adam, who worked on it 1768-69.

Saltram House
Saltram House
What is the difference between Palladian and Neoclassical architecture?

At first glance, the building constructed in the Palladian style is very similar to a Neoclassical design. Both have pillars; both have symmetry; both have strong classical lines.

The date of construction might be a clue, with Palladian preceding Neoclassical, but there was a considerable period of overlap.

The biggest difference, which might be hard to spot, is that Palladian architecture adhered to the rules of proportion. Neoclassical architects, such as Robert Adam, made a conscious decision to break free of the restrictions these rules imposed. The results were lighter, more elegant constructions which, for many, represent the pinnacle of Georgian architectural achievement.

The Marble Hall, Kedleston Hall,
The Marble Hall, Kedleston Hall,
designed by Robert Adam
An explosion of styles

The Georgians were not afraid to experiment and explore architectural alternatives to the classical form. The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw the emergence of Gothic revival and the Regency style, while the incorporation of exotic ideas reached its zenith in the Brighton Pavilion.

Brighton Pavilion
Brighton Pavilion
Gothic revival

The Gothic style, firmly rooted in the medieval period, is celebrated in numerous churches and cathedrals across Britain. It made a resurgence in the late eighteenth century, most famously at Strawberry Hill, built by writer Horace Walpole (1717-1797).

Here, in Twickenham, he built his “little Gothic castle”. Its battlements and towers rapidly became a tourist attraction, although he restricted entry to just four people per day, and no children. The popularity of the house, and the revived Gothic style, opened the way for the more significant Gothic revivals of the mid-nineteenth century.

Gothic cottage, Stourhead
Gothic cottage, Stourhead
The Regency style

The Georgian architectural legacy stretches far beyond grand houses and public buildings. Numerous towns and cities enjoy elegant rows of terraced houses built in what is now called the Regency Style.

Part of Weymouth Esplanade
Part of Weymouth Esplanade
Much of Bath, large swathes of London including Regent Street, the Esplanade in Weymouth - all these are surviving examples of the Regency Style. It began in Bath, where John Wood the Elder (1704-1754) combined the Palladian style with his own ideas on town planning.

The world-renowned Royal Crescent, probably the most photographed example of Georgian architecture, was built in 1767-1775 by John Wood the Younger, who continued the architectural vision of his father.

Royal Crescent, Bath
Royal Crescent, Bath
John Nash (1752-1835) took Wood’s ideas and applied them in his work for the Prince Regent, which began in earnest in 1810. His major project was the route linking Regent’s Park to Carlton House, a major exercise in town planning.

Brighton Pavilion

While the Georgian architecture of the eighteenth century was heavily influenced by classical Greek and Roman forms, the early nineteenth century began to absorb more exotic ideas.

Brighton Pavilion
Brighton Pavilion
These influences are exemplified in the extravagant display constructed by the Prince Regent in Brighton. The Royal Pavilion, initially a farmhouse, then the Neoclassical Marine Pavilion, became a curious mixture of Indian, Chinese, Tudor and Gothic styles. The domes and towers of the creation we see today are another example of the work of John Nash.

Georgian architecture in Britain reflected both the growing wealth of the nation and its increasing global reach. It also created a set of styles that are still popular with many today. Prince Charles famously holds strong views on building design and is constructing his own vision of a modern town at Poundbury in Dorset. The architecture is distinctly Neoclassical, literally building on the tradition established during the reign of his ancestor George III.

Poundbury, Dorset
Poundbury, Dorset

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes faith-based Regency romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew, who wrote this blog.

Find out more about Rachel's books and sign up for her newsletter here.

If you have enjoyed this blog and want to encourage me and help me to keep making my research freely available, please buy me a virtual cup of coffee by clicking the button below.


Sources used include:
Architectural Trust website
BBC website
Country Life website
Guardian website
Houghton Hall website 
John Wood the Elder website
Strawberry Hill website
Suppes, Patrick, Rules of Proportion in Architecture (Stanford edu articles)
Telegraph website
V&A website: Gothic revival
V&A website: Neoclassicism
V&A website: Palladianism

All photographs by Andrew Knowles ©

Wednesday 6 August 2014

John Parker of Saltram, 1st Earl of Morley (1772-1840)

John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley  by Frederick Richard Say (1830)
John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley
by Frederick Richard Say (1830)

John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley, (3 May 1772 – 14 March 1840) was the owner of the Saltram estate in Devon and an active member of the House of Lords in favour of parliamentary reform. His first wife, Augusta Fane, notoriously eloped with Sir Arthur Paget. 

Family background

Theresa Parker and Little Jack by Sir Joshua Reynolds (c1775)
Theresa Parker and Little Jack by Sir Joshua Reynolds (c1775)
John Parker, known as Jack, was born on 3 May 17721, the only son of John Parker, 1st Baron Boringdon, of Saltram in Devon, and his wife Theresa Robinson, a younger daughter of the 1st Lord Grantham. His parents were advocates of inoculation and when he was two years old, he was inoculated against the smallpox at a cost of £42. 
His mother died in 1775, shortly after the birth of his sister, Theresa, and his aunt, Anne “Nanny” Robinson, came to Saltram to look after them.

Anne "Nanny" Robinson  by John Downman (1780)
Anne "Nanny" Robinson
by John Downman (1780)

Jack was educated at Plympton School and then at Dr Whyte’s boarding school in Hammersmith where the schoolmaster inspired him with a passion for hot air ballooning and he developed an enduring friendship with Granville Leveson-Gower.2 The year before going up to university, he lived in Yorkshire with Frederick “Fritz” Robinson, his mother’s younger brother, accompanied by Dr Andrews, later Dean of Canterbury, as tutor.

Jack went up to Christ Church, Oxford, on 7 April 1789 where he was reunited with his schoolfriend, Granville Leveson-Gower.3 He joined the Literati and became friends with George Canning and Lord Henry Spencer.

Lord Granville Leveson-Gower     from Lord Granville's Private Correspondence (1916)
Lord Granville Leveson-Gower
    from Lord Granville's Private
A royal visit

In August 1789, George III and Queen Charlotte visited Plymouth and stayed at Saltram for 12 days.

George III   from Memoirs of Queen Charlotte  by WC Oulton (1819)
George III
 from Memoirs of Queen Charlotte
by WC Oulton (1819)
The Grand Tour

In 1793, Jack embarked on a Grand Tour with a party which included Lord Amherst, Granville Leveson Gower and George Canning. They visited Paris, Geneva, Genoa, Florence, Rome and Venice as well as parts of Germany and the Low Countries and St Petersburg in Russia.

Lady Elizabeth Monck

In Naples, Jack became involved with the enchanting Lady Elizabeth Monck whilst Granville Leveson-Gower pursued Harriet, Lady Bessborough. Lady Elizabeth was the second daughter of Arthur Saunders, 2nd Earl of Arran, and was married with two daughters, but her husband was complaisant and neglected her for drinking and gambling. 
Jack started a long-lasting affair with Lady Elizabeth which resulted in the birth of three illegitimate sons who took the name Stapleton: John (1797), George (1799) and Augustus (1800).

A noble title

Jack inherited his father’s estate and title in 1788, becoming 2nd Baron Boringdon when he was only 16 years old. He was gazetted lieutenant-colonel of the North Devon militia in 1794 and colonel in 1799. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1795.

On 29 November 1815, Jack was made Viscount Boringdon of North Molton, Devon, and Earl of Morley.

The family arms above the entrance to Saltram
The family arms above the entrance to Saltram
A scandalous elopement

Lady Elizabeth Monck divided her time between Jack and her husband, but her relationship with Jack broke down when she refused to get a divorce so she could marry him.

On 20 June 1804, Jack married Augusta Fane, second daughter of the 10th Earl of Westmorland and sister to Sarah Sophia, later Countess of Jersey. They had one son, Henry Villiers (1806), but the marriage was not a success. Jack was pompous and egotistical and Augusta despised her unfaithful husband and resented his ongoing relationship with Lady Elizabeth Monck.

To Jack’s annoyance, one of his university friends, Sir Arthur Paget, a politician and diplomat and son of Henry, 1st Earl of Uxbridge, began to show an interest in Augusta. The feelings were reciprocated and on 18 May 1808, Augusta caused a scandal by eloping with Sir Arthur Paget. They were married immediately after Jack divorced her by Act of Parliament on 14 February 1809.

A second marriage

On 21 August 1809, Jack married Frances Talbot.4 Frances had no fortune or title to recommend her, but she was a very charming lady who readily embraced not only her stepson, but also Jack’s illegitimate children. Jack and Frances had two children of their own, Edmund and Caroline. Sadly, Jack’s son by his first marriage died suddenly in 1817 and Caroline died a year later.

Frances Parker (née Talbot)  by Frederick Richard Say (1830)
Frances Parker (née Talbot)
by Frederick Richard Say (1830)
Political reformer

Jack took his seat in the House of Lords at an early age and was active in the debates. He supported the Tory government of William Pitt the Younger until his death and then backed George Canning, with whom he regularly corresponded. On two occasions, he tried to introduce a bill to promote vaccination as a means of controlling smallpox, but was forced to withdraw it, the second time because the Lord Chancellor said that spreading infection was punishable under common law! After Canning’s death in 1827, Jack allied himself with the Whigs and became a firm supporter of parliamentary reform.

Expensive developments

Jack commissioned the architect John Foulston to create a new entrance to Saltram House in the Greek Revival style and expand the library.

The entrance to Saltram House
The entrance to Saltram House

On his estates, Jack reclaimed areas of marshland at a cost of £15,000 in order to build a racecourse. He built a cast-iron toll bridge across the Laira and a shipbuilding yard at Cattedown for naval and commercial ships.

Jack owned the Cann slate quarries and built a canal and tramway which linked to the Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway. These engineering projects were not always financially successful, and on his death, he left behind debts of £258,000.


John died at Saltram on 14 March 1840. He was succeeded by his only surviving legitimate child, Edmund. Frances outlived her husband by 17 years and died at Saltram in 1857 after a short illness.

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes faith-based Regency romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

Find out more about Rachel's books and sign up for her newsletter here.

If you have enjoyed this blog and want to encourage us and help us to keep making our research freely available, please buy us a virtual cup of coffee by clicking the button below.

(1) Debrett’s gives date as 5 May 1772.
(2) From The early life of John Parker III - 1st Earl of Morley by AS Rayfield (2014). Rayfield refers to the schoolmaster by the name of Kyte rather than Whyte.
(3) Rayfield gives date as 1791.
(4) Rayfield says 22nd.

Sources used include:
Courthope, William, editor, Debrett's Complete Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1838)
Evans, Sian, Saltram (National Trust 2012)
Fletcher, Ronald, The Parkers at Saltram 1769-1789 (BBC 1970)
Norgate, G Le G, rev Matthew, HCG, Parker, John, first earl of Morley (1772-1840) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn May 2009, accessed 21 July 2014)
Rayfield, AS, The early life of John Parker III - 1st Earl of Morley (Blog, 2014)
Viveash, Chris, Lady Morley and the ‘Baron so Bold’, from the Journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America – Persuasions #14 (1992)

All photographs © Andrew Knowles -