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Tuesday, 15 October 2019

The Bachelor Duke - William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858)

William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of   Devonshire - on Oak Stairs at Chatsworth  Photo © A Knowles (2014)
William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of
Devonshire - on Oak Stairs at Chatsworth
Photo © A Knowles (2014)
Profile

William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (21 May 1790 - 18 January 1858), was known as the Bachelor Duke, because he never married. He was a patron of the Whigs, but his absorbing passions were more cultural than political with deep interests in horticulture, literature, science and sculpture.

Birth and family

William Spencer Cavendish was born in Paris on 21 May 1790, the long-awaited son and heir of William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, and his first wife, Lady Georgiana Spencer. He had two older sisters, Georgiana (1783-1858) and Harriet (1785-1862). His family called him Hart (as I have throughout this post), an abbreviation of his title, the Marquess of Hartington, which he used from birth until he became Duke. Hart was baptised at St George’s Hanover Square on 21 May 1791.

Bust of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire   in Sculpture Gallery, Chatsworth  © A Knowles (2014)
Bust of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire
 in Sculpture Gallery, Chatsworth
© A Knowles (2014)
Two years without a mother

The relationship between Hart’s parents was very strained. They lived in a strange ménage à trois with Georgiana’s intimate friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster, who was also the Duke’s mistress. Indeed, rumours circulated from time to time that Lady Elizabeth was really Hart’s mother.

Georgiana’s huge gambling debts threatened her marriage, but it was her affair with Charles Grey, later 2nd Earl Grey, which brought things to a head. Georgiana became pregnant with Grey’s child and the Duke sent her abroad in disgrace. She gave birth to her daughter Eliza in February 1792, but she was not allowed to return home until the following autumn.

For two years, Hart and his sisters were left under the care of their governess, Selina Trimmer. When Georgiana returned, the three-and-a-half-year-old Hart did not recognise his mother and screamed when she tried to touch him. It later transpired that he was profoundly deaf – the result of an infection he had contracted whilst she was abroad. Georgiana felt so guilty for being away that she was inclined to spoil her son.  

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and child  after the painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds  from The Two Duchesses (1898)
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and child
after the painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds
from The Two Duchesses (1898)
Education and character

As a boy, Hart was temperamental and isolated, and his mother deplored the fact that he seemed to prefer the company of servants. He was educated at Harrow School before going up to Trinity College, Cambridge. He continued to shy away from physical contact and was inclined to hysterics if his sisters teased him.

Lady Caro

Hart was very attached to his cousin, Lady Caroline Ponsonby, and was distraught when she married William Lamb, the future Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, in 1805. It was, however, the act of allowing his mother to comfort him that established a friendship between them that had been lacking.

Lady Caroline Lamb from Wives of the Prime Ministers (1844-1906)
Lady Caroline Lamb
from Wives of the Prime Ministers (1844-1906)
Lady Elizabeth Foster

After Georgiana’s death in March 1806, Hart and his sisters deeply resented Lady Elizabeth Foster taking their mother’s place and her eventual marriage with their father in October 1809. In later years, however, the new Duchess seemed to regain the influence which she had possessed over Hart as a child.

Lady Elizabeth Foster, later Duchess of Devonshire, in South Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
Lady Elizabeth Foster, later Duchess of Devonshire,
in South Sketch Gallery, Chatsworth
The 6th Duke

Hart became the 6th Duke of Devonshire on the death of his father on 29 July 1811, at the age of 21. He inherited eight houses, including Chatsworth, Devonshire House, Hardwick Hall and Chiswick, and around 200,000 acres of land. He took his family responsibilities very seriously and continued to pay off his mother’s debts.

The Oak Stairs, Chatsworth © A Knowles (2014)
The Oak Stairs, Chatsworth © A Knowles (2014)
Politics

Hart was a Whig and a reformist, but more through patronage than from an active political career in the House of Lords as he was impeded by his deafness.

He was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to the Russian Empire and visited St Petersburg in 1826 for the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I and was decorated with the orders of St Andrew and St Alexander Nevsky in recognition of the £26,000 of his own money he spent on the occasion.

Hart was sworn in as a member of the Privy Council in April 1827 and was Lord Chamberlain to George IV (1827-8) and William IV (1830-4). He took over from his father as Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire in 1811, a position he held until his death.

Hart was a friend of the Prince Regent, later George IV, and carried the orb at his coronation in 1821.

George IV in his coronation robes from An authentic history of the coronation of His Majesty, King George the Fourth   by Robert Huish (1821)
George IV in his coronation robes
from An authentic history of the coronation
of His Majesty, King George the Fourth

  by Robert Huish (1821)
The Bachelor Duke

After his disappointment over Lady Caro Ponsonby, Hart did not embark upon any serious courtship – at least not one that is mentioned in any of my chief sources. He did, however, appear to have had at least one mistress. He had a secret, ten-year relationship with Eliza Warwick from 1827, but little is known about her. It has been suggested that Hart abandoned Eliza after his conversion to Evangelical Christianity.

Modernisation of Chatsworth

Hart employed the architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville to modernise and extend Chatsworth. He built a magnificent oak staircase leading to the new north wing which included a Dining Room, Orangery, private Theatre and Sculpture Gallery. He also turned the Long Gallery into the Library and added ground floor windows to the Painted Gallery.

The Library, Chatsworth © A Knowles (2014)
The Library, Chatsworth © A Knowles (2014)
Redecorating Chiswick

In the 1840s, Hart lavishly redecorated the interiors of Chiswick House, using the firm of Crace & Son. His sister Harriet exclaimed:
Oh! Chiswick! Dearest brother, Chiswick! What shall I say? Chatsworth, be jealous.1
Sadly, the decorations were left to decay and the east and west wings were demolished in the 1950s. You can read a description of the decorations on the Chiswick House website.

Horticulturalist

Hart made Joseph Paxton Head Gardener at Chatsworth and with his help, he redeveloped the gardens. Hart was very fond of travelling and in 1838, Paxton accompanied him on a Grand Tour of Europe. He built the Rockery at Chatsworth to imitate the alpine scenery. He also built the Emperor Fountain, which can rise to the height of 90 metres, and the Grand Conservatory – the forerunner of Paxton’s Crystal Palace, built for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Hart was President of the Royal Horticultural Society (1838-58) and the Cavendish banana is named for him.

The Emperor Fountain, Chatsworth © A Knowles (2014)
The Emperor Fountain, Chatsworth © A Knowles (2014)
Hart the collector

The Sculpture Gallery, Chatsworth © A Knowles (2014)
The Sculpture Gallery, Chatsworth © A Knowles (2014)
Hart was a great collector – of minerals, coins, medals, sculpture and books. He bought several complete libraries, including those of Thomas Dampier, Bishop of Ely, the Duke of Roxburghe, and John Kemble. His papers include correspondence with several authors including Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and William Makepeace Thackeray.

He was passionate about marble and formed a great friendship with the sculptor Antonio Canova. The Sculpture Gallery was created to display his collection of contemporary sculpture and is presided over by busts of Canova and Hart.

Bust of Canova in Sculpture Gallery, Chatsworth © A Knowles (2014)
Bust of Canova in Sculpture Gallery, Chatsworth
© A Knowles (2014)
Hart the historian

Hart was also very interested in the history of his family and of their estates at Chatsworth and Hardwick. In 1844, he privately published the first volume of a book called Handbook to Chatsworth and Hardwick, written in the first person to his sister, Harriet, Countess Granville.

He was instrumental in the formation of the Derby Museum and Art Gallery in 1836.

Debts

Hart’s expensive habits of building, collecting and travelling came with a cost. He ran up extensive debts and was obliged to sell some of his estates to settle them.

Illness and death

Hart suffered a paralytic seizure in 1854 and died at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire on 18 January 1858. He was buried at Edensor, Derbyshire.

He was succeeded by his first cousin, once removed, another William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Burlington (1808-1891).2

Notes
1. From the Chiswick House website (see link below).
2. The 7th Duke's father, yet another William Cavendish (1783-1812), was Hart's first cousin, and he would have inherited if he had not already died.

Sources used include:
Cavendish, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and others, The Two Duchesses, Family Correspondence, ed by Vere Foster (Blackie & Son, 1898, London)
Foreman, Amanda, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (HarperCollins, 1998, London)
Fowler, Claire, Your guide to Chatsworth (Chatsworth House Trust, 2010)
Huish, Robert, An authentic history of the coronation of His Majesty, King George the Fourth (1821)
Reynolds, KD, Cavendish, William George Spencer, 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 30 Oct 2014)

Monday, 30 September 2019

Turnpikes and toll houses

Toll house, Blists Hill, Ironbridge © A Knowles (2018)
Toll house, Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge © A Knowles (2018)
What was a turnpike road?

A turnpike road was a toll road operated under a trust set up by an Act of Parliament. A Turnpike Act authorised a group of trustees to levy tolls on a stretch of road in order to finance its maintenance and improvement. The toll rates were set by the Act which also empowered the trustees to borrow money secured on future tolls in order to invest in road improvements. Money could be borrowed by bonds and loans secured on the toll income or by mortgaging the tolls.

The term of a turnpike trust was 21 years, but tolls were to cease earlier if the money borrowed had been repaid. Extensions were regularly granted to trusts for ongoing improvement and maintenance.

Why was it called a turnpike?

Turnpike roads got their name from the turnpikes or toll gates which barred the way until the road users had paid the required toll. The turnpikes were placed at strategic points along the road where it was difficult for travellers to evade paying, such as at bridges or where the lie of the land constricted the road. 
 
Tyburn Turnpike (1820) from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Tyburn Turnpike (1820)
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
 Why were turnpike roads needed?

The state of the roads around large conurbations like London were in a bad state of repair due to overuse. The preamble to a Turnpike Act for Surrey passed in 1718 stated that certain roads
...by reason of the many heavy loads and carriages of meal, timber, stone, hops, and other goods, and great number of stage and hackney coaches, passengers and droves of cattle daily passing through the same, are become so very ruinous and almost impassable, for the space of five months in the year, so that it is dangerous to all persons, horses, and other cattle to pass through the said roads.1
Road maintenance was the responsibility of the parishes through which the roads passed, but they did not have the resources to keep the roads in good repair.

Turnpike Acts provided the means for raising money to build and maintain better roads and allow the fast transport of people, mail and goods from place to place.

Toll house at the Weald and Downland  Living Museum © A Knowles (2014)
Toll house at the Weald and Downland
Living Museum © A Knowles (2014)
When was the turnpike system in operation?

The turnpike system was not a unified road network but rather a large number of individual turnpike roads, operated by different trusts, that provided better road conditions across Britain and Scotland. Generally, the trusts coordinated their improvements to provide continuous stretches of good road, but if they were offering alternative routes to the same place, they sometimes competed with each other, trying to attract traffic and therefore tolls to travel their route. 

The first Turnpike Acts were passed in the late 17th century and by the mid-1830s, about 22,000 miles of road in England and Wales – about one fifth of the road network – were managed by turnpike trusts.2 The turnpikes were wound up in the 1870s and the responsibility for road maintenance passed to the Highways Board.

Who collected the tolls?

Trusts could either appoint collectors, who would have to sign an oath to confirm they had handed all the tolls over, or they could let the tolls. 

An advert in The Times for April 1810 stated the date and place when the trustees of the New Cross Turnpike Roads intended to auction the tolls, giving the sum collected in a previous period as guide price to bidders.3

Toll house, Athelhampton House © A Knowles (2015)
Toll house, Athelhampton House © A Knowles (2015)
Toll houses

Toll houses were built next to the turnpikes as someone needed to be collecting the tolls 24 hours a day. These represented a significant investment from the trusts. The standard toll house design adopted in the 1820s was of a small, single-story cottage with a polygonal bay front. 

Some toll houses on major roads were built on a rather grander design, with castellated rooves, designed to impress rich travellers and tempt them to use their route over an alternative.

Turnpikes were generally placed outside the town so that local businesses did not have to pay the toll. However, the remoteness of their locations meant that the toll houses were vulnerable to theft and as a precaution, they tended to be fitted with bars and a safe.

Many toll houses were demolished when the turnpike trusts were abolished particularly if their position restricted the width of the road. Others were sold into private ownership. 

Spaniards gate toll house, Hampstead © R Knowles (2019)
Spaniards Gate toll house, Hampstead © R Knowles (2019)
Plaque on side of Spaniards Gate toll house,  Hampstead © R Knowles (2019)
Plaque on side of Spaniards Gate toll house,
Hampstead © R Knowles (2019)
How much were the tolls?

The toll rates for each turnpike were set according to the Turnpike Act that established it and differed according to the type of user.

The Mail did not have to pay tolls. An outrider blew a horn as the coach approached so that the toll keeper could get the gate open ready without the Mail having to slow down.

Table of tolls from Weald and Downland  Living Museum © A Knowles (2014)
Table of tolls from Weald and Downland
Living Museum © A Knowles (2014)
The Surrey Turnpike Act of 1718 set the rates as follows:
For every horse, mule, or ass, laden or unladen, and for every chaise, cart, dray, or other carriage drawn by one horse, one penny
For every coach, chariot, or calash drawn by two or more horses, sixpence
For every waggon not laden with hay or straw, sixpence
For every waggon laden with hay or straw, threepence
For every cart, dray, or carriage laden with hay, straw, or other goods, twopence
For every drove of oxen or neat cattle, twopence per score
For every drove of calves, hogs, sheep, or lambs one penny per score
A ticket for the toll road lasted all day.
Soldiers, all persons riding post, and all carts and waggons travelling with vagrants, were permitted to pass free of toll.4
The Sussex Turnpike Act of 1749 set the rates as follows:
For every coach, berlin, landau, chariot, chaise, calash, chair, caravan, or hearse, drawn by six horses or mules, the sum of one shilling
If drawn by four horses, &c., ninepence
If drawn by two horses, &c., sixpence
If drawn by one horse, threepence
For every waggon, wain, cart, or carriage drawn by six horses or oxen, one shilling and sixpence
If drawn by four horses or oxen, ninepence
If drawn by two horses or oxen, sixpence
If by one horse, threepence
For every waggon or cart, laden only with hay or straw, threepence
For every horse, mule, or ass, laden or unladen, and not drawing, one penny
For every drove of oxen, tenpence per score
For every drove of calves, sheep, &c., fivepence per score.
The Act specifically prohibited the repair of pavements in the streets of any town.
Those travelling to county elections were exempt.5
Milestones

Most turnpike trusts put up milestones, marking the distance to significant places.

Milestone in Blandford, Dorset © A Knowles (2016)
Milestone in Blandford, Dorset © A Knowles (2016)
Notes
1. Parliamentary papers, House of Commons vol 44 (1852)(Turnpike Roads)
3. The Times online archive, April 1810.
4. Parliamentary papers op cit.
5. Ibid.

Sources used include:
Parliamentary papers, House of Commons vol 44 (1852)(Turnpike Roads)

Thursday, 12 September 2019

The Gordon Riots of 1780

The Gordon Riots  from The Chronicles of Crime or The Newgate   Calendar by C Pelham illustrated by Phiz (1841)
The Gordon Riots
from The Chronicles of Crime or The Newgate 
Calendar by C Pelham illustrated by Phiz (1841)
For a week in June 1780, London experienced some of the worst riots that the city has ever seen. Thousands of anti-Catholic protestors gathered to petition Parliament, but what began as a peaceable religious protest turned into a destructive riot, causing havoc across the city.

The Gordon Riots play a small but important part in A Perfect Match. The hero, Christopher Merry, has never really got over the trauma of what he witnessed during that fateful week. In his pursuit of love, he is forced to confront the truth.
Front cover of A Perfect Match by Rachel Knowles

What caused the Gordon Riots?

The Gordon Riots were an extreme Protestant reaction to the Catholic Relief Act of 1778. The Act relieved some of the discrimination against Catholics including allowing them to join the army. Lord George Gordon, President of the Protestant Society, declared that such a move put British forces in danger should the Catholics turn on their kinsmen and side with Britain’s Catholic enemies instead. He spearheaded a petition for the repeal of the Act.

On Friday 2 June, Lord George, together with some 60,000 protestors, arrived at Parliament to present
… a huge roll of parchment, almost as much as a man could carry, containing the names of those who had signed the petition.1
Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)   which was based on the Gordon Riots
Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)
which was based on the Gordon Riots
The rabble gets rowdy

Thus far, the protest was peaceable, but it did not remain so. The protestors started attacking the carriages of those arriving at Parliament, who they held responsible for passing the Act.
The protestors
… obliged almost all the members to put blue cockades in their hats, and call out, ‘No Popery!’ Some they compelled to take oath to vote for the repeal of the act. They took possession of all the avenues from the outer door to the door of the House of Commons, which they twice attempted to force open.2
Lord Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield, had the glasses of his carriage broken and the panels beaten in; the Bishop of Litchfield had his gown torn; and the Duke of Northumberland had his watch stolen. Lord Mansfield’s nephew, Lord Stormont, fared even worse:
They stopped Lord Stormont’s carriage, and great numbers of them got upon the wheels, box, &c taking the most impudent liberties with his Lordship, who was as it were in their possession for near half an hour, and would perhaps not have so soon got away had not a Gentleman jumped into his Lordship’s carriage, and by haranguing the mob persuaded them to desist.3
Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)   which was based on the Gordon Riots
Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)
which was based on the Gordon Riots
Lord George entered the House and presented his petition for ‘A repeal of the Act passed in the last session in favour of the Roman Catholics’, signed by nearly one hundred and twenty thousand people, demanding that it be considered immediately.

The House voted against the immediate consideration of the petition but scheduled it for the following Tuesday, and with the arrival of troops, the crowd was peaceably dispersed.

The riots

Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)   which was based on the Gordon Riots
Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)
which was based on the Gordon Riots
But that was not the end of it. That night, huge numbers of people reassembled and started on a destructive rampage. They destroyed two Catholic chapels, one belonging to the Sardinian ambassador in Duke Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and the other, to the Bavarian ambassador in Warwick Street, near Golden Square.

Thirteen of the perpetrators were arrested and three of the most notorious were incarcerated in Newgate Prison.

The violence continued as the rioters targeted both prominent Catholics and those responsible for making and upholding the law. One of the first homes to be destroyed was that of Sir George Savile who had been responsible for instigating the hated Catholic Relief Bill. The iron railings of his house became the mob’s chief weapons.

The Bow Street offices and home of Sir John Fielding were likewise attacked, as were the shops of Mr Rainsforth, the king’s tallow chandler, and Mr Maberly for bringing evidence against the rioters.

Lord Mansfield’s house destroyed

Lord Mansfield from a miniature at Kenwood House  © Photo A Knowles
Lord Mansfield from a miniature at Kenwood House
© Photo A Knowles (2019)
Perhaps the worst of the protestors’ anger was directed at Lord Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield. They ransacked his home in Bloomsbury Square.
The furniture, his fine library of books, invaluable manuscripts, containing his lordship's notes on every important law case for near forty years past … were by the hands of these Goths committed to the flames; Lord and Lady Mansfield with difficulty eluded their rage, by making their escape through a back door, some minutes before the savages broke into, and took possession of his house. So great was the vengeance with which they menaced him, that, if report may be credited, they had brought a rope with them to have executed him: and his preservation may be properly termed providential.4
A group of rioters went out to Hampstead to similarly destroy Kenwood House, Lord Mansfield’s country residence. They were not successful. A guard was there before them and the rioters were diverted by being plied with free ale at nearby Spaniards Inn.

Spaniards Inn, Hampstead © A Knowles (2019)
Spaniards Inn, Hampstead © A Knowles (2019)
Prisons and property under attack

Spurred on by alcohol, the rioters continue to cause havoc for several days. They attacked the property of wealthy Catholics, destroying houses, chapels and businesses including Irish merchant James Malo’s house and Mr Langdale’s Holborn distillery.

The mob attacked Newgate Prison and released the prisoners before burning it to the ground. The Clink Prison and the Fleet Prison suffered similar fates whilst other prisons were severely damaged.

Attempts were made on Prime Minster Lord North’s house in Downing Street and the Bank of England, but these were unsuccessful.

Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)   which was based on the Gordon Riots
Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)
which was based on the Gordon Riots
Why did it take so long to stop the riots?

Lord Shelburne was not alone in thinking that Parliament had failed to take preventative measures against the possibility of mob violence. He complained that though
… notice was given to the ministry, that a large body was to assemble in St George's-fields, no measure, no precaution was made use of to stem the torrent of outrage, which might be expected to join those who had too much religion, tho' they themselves had none.5
There seemed to be a remarkable reluctance to call in the militia and give them the authority to forcibly disperse the mob. When troops arrived, there was often no magistrate at the scene of the riot prepared to give them the order to shoot. This arose because of a widely held belief that soldiers had no legal right to open fire on a lawless mob unless specifically instructed to do so.

Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)   which was based on the Gordon Riots
Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)
which was based on the Gordon Riots

The end of the riots

By Wednesday 7 June, the number of troops in the city had swelled:
The guards being found to be insufficient to defend the various parts of the metropolis, all the troops and militia within thirty miles were, the preceding day, sent for. A strong guard was placed at Buckingham-house, now called the Queen's Palace, their majesties town residence. A camp was formed in St. James's-Park, and a detachment of the marching regiments of militia formed another in Hyde-Park.6
According to Walpole, 12-14,000 soldiers were involved in quelling the tumults. These included those normally stationed in the city, such as the Horse Guards and the Foot Guards, as well as the militia from neighbouring counties.

The troops were ordered to fire on those who would not disband peaceably. Estimates vary as to how many people lost their lives in the riots. Hibbert estimated as many as 850; Pelham reckoned about 500. Some were killed by gunfire. Others died in fires or through alcohol abuse.

Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)   which was based on the Gordon Riots
Illustration from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)
which was based on the Gordon Riots
Horace Walpole wrote to his friend, the Reverend Mr Cole, on 15 June:
You may like to know one is alive, dear Sir, after a massacre, and the conflagration of a capital. I was in it, both on the Friday and on the Black Wednesday; the most horrible sight I ever beheld, and which, for six hours together, I expected to end in half the town being reduced to ashes. I can give you little account of the original of this shocking affair; negligence was certainly its nurse, and religion only its god mother.7
In a letter to the Earl of Strafford, Walpole wrote:
Religion has often been the cloak of injustice, outrage, and villany: in our late tumults, it scarce kept on its mask a moment; its persecution was downright robbery; and it was so drunk, that it killed its banditti faster than they could plunder.8
What happened to Lord George Gordon?

Around 450 rioters were arrested, though only a handful were tried and convicted. Lord George Gordon was arrested and taken to the Tower of London where he was tried for treason. In Walpole’s opinion:
The Tower is much too dignified a prison for him — but he had left no other.9
Lord George was found not guilty and released. However, the eccentric lord continued his extremist political activity and was later charged with publishing a pamphlet criticising the administration of justice and for libelling Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France. He was convicted on both charges and imprisoned in the rebuilt Newgate Prison where he died in 1793.

The front of Newgate Prison from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The front of Newgate Prison
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Notes
1. Lady’s Magazine (1780).
2. Ibid.
3. Whitehall Evening Post, June 1780 from British Library Collection.
4. Lady’s Magazine (1780).
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Letter from Horace Walpole to the Reverend Mr Cole dated 15 June 1780 in The Letters of Horace Walpole.
8. Letter from Horace Walpole to the Earl of Stafford dated 12 June 1780 in The Letters of Horace Walpole.
9. Ibid.

Sources used include:
Dickens, Charles, Master Humphrey's Clock - Volume III - Barnaby Rudge (1841)
Gentleman’s Magazine (1780)
Hibbert, Christopher, George III (1998)
Lady’s Magazine (1780)
Pelham, Camden, The Chronicles of Crime or The New Newgate Calendar embellished with fifty-two engravings from original drawings by 'Phiz' (1841)
Walpole, Horace, The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, volume 6 (1840)
Gordon Riots on Wikipedia – a comprehensive and well sourced article that checks out with other sources.

Monday, 12 August 2019

How to find Ackermann's Repository of Arts online

Front cover of Ackermann's Repository  Volume 5 (1811)
Front cover of Ackermann's Repository
Volume 5 (1811)
Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics was a monthly periodical that was published from 1809 to 1828. You can read more about Ackermann’s Repository of Arts here.

There are copies of Ackermann's Repository available online, but it is not always easy to find them. Here is my list of links:

Jan - Jun 1809 - Series 1 Volume 1
Jul - Dec 1809 - Series 1 Volume 2
Jan - Jun 1810 - Series 1 Volume 3
Jul - Dec 1810 - Series 1 Volume 4
Jan - Jun 1811 - Series 1 Volume 5
Jul - Dec 1811 - Series 1 Volume 6
Jan - Jun 1812 - Series 1 Volume 7
Jul - Dec 1812 - Series 1 Volume 8
Jan - Jun 1813 - Series 1 Volume 9
Jul - Dec 1813 - Series 1 Volume 10 or Jul - Dec 1813 - Series 1 Volume 10
Jan - Jun 1814 - Series 1 Volume 11 or Jan - Jun 1814 - Series 1 Volume 11
Jul - Dec 1814 - Series 1 Volume 12
Jan - Jun 1815 - Series 1 Volume 13 or Jan - Jun 1815 - Series 1 Volume 13
Jul - Dec 1815 - Series 1 Volume 14
Jan - Jun 1816 - Series 2 Volume 1
Jul - Dec 1816 - Series 2 Volume 2 or Jul - Dec 1816 - Series 2 Volume 2
Jan - Jun 1817 - Series 2 Volume 3
Jul - Dec 1817 - Series 2 Volume 4
Jan - Jun 1818 - Series 2 Volume 5
Jul - Dec 1818 - Series 2 Volume 6
Jan - Jun 1819 - Series 2 Volume 7
Jul - Dec 1819 - Series 2 Volume 8
Jan - Jun 1820 - Series 2 Volume 9
Jul - Dec 1820 - Series 2 Volume 10
Jan - Jun 1821 - Series 2 Volume 11
Jul - Dec 1821- Series 2 Volume 12
Jan - Jun 1822 - Series 2 Volume 13
Jul - Dec 1822 - Series 2 Volume 14
Jan - Jun 1823 - Series 3 Volume 1
Jul - Dec 1823 - Series 3 Volume 2
Jan - Jun 1824 - Series 3 Volume 3
Jul - Dec 1824- Series 3 Volume 4
Jan - Jun 1825 - Series 3 Volume 5
Jul - Dec 1825 - Series 3 Volume 6
Jan - Jun 1826 - Series 3 Volume 7
Jul - Dec 1826 - Series 3 Volume 8
Jan - Jun 1827 - Series 3 Volume 9
Jul - Dec 1827 - Series 3 Volume 10
Jan - Jun 1828 - Series 3 Volume 11
Jul - Dec 1828- Series 3 Volume 12

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds - a Regency playhouse

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
On our way back from holiday in Norfolk, my husband Andrew and I managed to squeeze in a tour of the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds – the only surviving Regency theatre in England. I was interested to see inside this restored Grade I listed playhouse to get an idea of what a provincial theatre in late Georgian England, like the one that once existed on Weymouth seafront, would have looked like.

William Wilkins (1778-1839)

Bust of William Wilkins in the saloon  of the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Bust of William Wilkins in the saloon
of the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The theatre was built in 1819 by William Wilkins, an architect who, like Robert Adam, drew his inspiration from classical architecture. His most famous works are the National Gallery, London; Downing College, Cambridge; and University College, London. Wilkins had bid for the contract to rebuild the Drury Lane Theatre in 1811 but had been unsuccessful.

The Wilkins family were shareholders in the Norwich circuit of theatres and Bury St Edmunds was the most profitable stop. The previous playhouse was in the centre of town, on the upper floor of the market hall. Although the Market Cross building had been remodelled by Robert Adam in 1774, Wilkins felt it was inadequate.

In 1818, Wilkins purchased a piece of land on Westgate Street for £200. He clearly did not choose this spot for the convenience of his audience. Westgate Street was on the southern edge of the town, which was rapidly expanding on the opposite, northern side. An 1827 book about Bury St Edmunds noted:
The present Theatre is neat and convenient, situate in West-gate-street, it was erected in 1819, but the situation, being so distant from the centre of the town is a source of regret and loss to the proprietors.1
It seems that Wilkins chose this location because of its natural slope. This enabled the pit to be made low enough so as not to obscure the view from the boxes without requiring an excessive amount of excavation.

The theatre was erected in 1819, opening in October. There seems to be some variance as to exactly how much the building cost. According to Miller’s theatre history, By Particular Desire, Wilkins estimated the cost at £4,000, but ended up spending £5,000 and paid the difference himself.

In his History, Gazetteer and Directory of Suffolk (1855), William White wrote:
The Theatre in Westgate street is a commodious structure, which was erected in 1819, in lieu of the old theatre at the Town Hall, at the cost of £3000, raised in £100 shares. 2
The entrance to the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The entrance to the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The Norwich Company

The new theatre opened on Monday 11 October 1819 with performances of George Colman the younger’s successful comedy John Bull and a new farce, A Roland for an Oliver. Both were performed by the Norwich Company of touring actors who served Bury St Edmunds. They were reckoned to be one of the best of the provincial touring companies.

The Norwich Company consisted of about 14 people who travelled around such places as Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, Norwich, Stourbridge and Colchester, accompanied by their scenery and costumes. During the period 1814 to 1839, the troupe was managed by James Smith.

The company had their own scenic artist, George Thorne, who was the best paid member of the troupe. He helped decorate Wilkins’s theatres, including Bury St Edmunds.

In his 1821 guide to Bury St Edmunds, Deck wrote:
The Bury theatre is occupied by the Norwich company, under the management of Messrs Smith and Bellamy. The season is during the great fair.3
In his 1855 directory of Suffolk, White wrote that the theatre
... is supplied by the Norwich Company, and is usually open for five or six weeks in October and November.4
Tymms wrote in his Bury St Edmunds handbook of the same year:
It was generally supplied by the Norwich company for several weeks in October and November, but now is opened more or less all the year round.5
The auditorium

The ceiling of the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The ceiling of the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The ceiling of the auditorium was painted like the sky and the theatre was decorated in a classical style by George Thorne. A few pieces of the original frieze of sphinxes and genii have survived.

The stage was large, coming out into the auditorium, so that the front was well lit and allowed interaction between the players and the audience. The stage boxes were level with the stage and enabled the occupants of these boxes, who tended to be the most important people, to both see the play and be seen by the rest of the audience.

Dress circle boxes from the stage  Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Dress circle boxes from the stage
Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The theatre could accommodate 780 people in three very distinct seating areas: the boxes, the pit and the gallery. The best seats were in the boxes, which accommodated 360 people in two tiers. The boxes were accessed through the main entrance to the theatre via a spacious, classically decorated saloon. The saloon led directly to the lower tier of boxes.

The entrance saloon, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The Entrance Saloon, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The entrance saloon, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds  The doors lead directly to the dress circle boxes
The Entrance Saloon, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The doors lead directly to the dress circle boxes
Doors to boxes, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Doors to boxes, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
View across the theatre showing lower tier of boxes  Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
View across the theatre showing lower tier of boxes
Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
View from one of the upper boxes  of the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
View from one of the upper boxes
of the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Another 300 people could be accommodated in the pit. This was accessed through a side door to the theatre and up a stairway which came out just below the stage.

View from the pit showing the entrance to the right  Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
View from the pit showing the entrance to the right
Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
A further 120 people could be squeezed into the gallery, right at the top of the theatre.

  View of auditorium showing gallery area just below the ceiling  Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
View of auditorium showing gallery area just below the ceiling
Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
View from the gallery  Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
View from the gallery
Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
As you would expect, the better the seat, the higher the price of a ticket. As was common at the time, most of the seats had two prices and people could come in for the second half of the entertainment for a reduced price. According to a playbill for 1828, the prices were as follows:
  • Boxes 4s - Second Price 2s
  • Pit 2s 6d - Second Price 1s 6d
  • Gallery 1s - No half-price
A playbill from 1839 showed that the prices had changed – some of them had gone down! This was after Wilkins’s death and one can only assume that the theatre was struggling to fill its seats by this time. The theatre now differentiated between lower and upper boxes, with the lower boxes – what we would call the dress circle – charged at the 1828 rate, but the upper boxes now available at 3s (1s 6d second price). The pit charge was also reduced by 6d to 2s (1s second price) and the gallery now had a second price of 6d.

Another view from the gallery  Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Another view from the gallery
Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
A surviving playbill from 14 October 1824 indicated that seats could be booked of Mr Hunt in the Box Office between the hours of eleven and two.

The theatre must have had a problem with patrons complaining of the cold because on the same playbill, the theatre advertised that fires had been kept going in the theatre constantly, presumably to raise the temperature.

An 1828 playbill stated that the doors would be opened at six and the performance would commence promptly at seven o’clock.

The performances

The Norwich Company usually performed two, or even three, pieces every night. The theatre has a collection of old playbills which give a flavour of what was performed.

1821 Playbill advertising Lovers' Vows
on display at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
The play advertised for Saturday 3 November 1821 was Lovers’ Vows, followed by Timour the Tartar, a romantic melodrama. Lovers’ Vows is, of course, famous amongst fans of Jane Austen because it is the play that the young people of Mansfield Park were going to perform before they were interrupted by the sudden return of Sir Thomas Bertram. Lovers’ Vows was well-received, having been written by local girl, actress and playwright Elizabeth Inchbald, who was born not far from Bury St Edmunds.

On Monday 5 November 1821, the performances comprised a comedy, The Will, and a farce, The Prize, with Miss Kelly. Frances Maria Kelly was a London actress who was sufficiently well known to be featured in The Ladies’ Monthly Museum in 1819.

Frances Maria Kelly  from The Ladies' Monthly Museum (1819)
Frances Maria Kelly
from The Ladies' Monthly Museum (1819)
The performance on Friday 31 October 1828 comprised the melodrama, Jocko, the Brazilian Ape, followed by A Gambler’s Life, a new serious burletta. Jocko was played by Monsieur Gouffe and his performance included a dramatic descent from the gallery to the stage suspended by only three fingers and holding two flags. Also advertised was a second descent where Monsieur Gouffe would be suspended by his neck, supporting a boy and waving two flags.

A playbill for Friday 7 November 1828 advertised another play by Mrs Inchbald – a farce called Animal Magnetism together with George Barnwell, a tragedy, and The Bandit of the Blind Mine, a melodrama in three acts.

William Charles Macready  from The Diaries of William Charles Macready 1833-1851 (1912)
William Charles Macready
from The Diaries of William Charles
Macready 1833-1851
(1912)
The most famous actor to perform at the theatre during the Georgian period was William Charles Macready, one of the stars of the London stage. He appeared at Bury St Edmunds for four nights in November 1828. Macready starred in Virginius on Monday 10th, William Tell on Wednesday 12th, Macbeth on Thursday 13th and Othello and Rob Roy on Friday 14th, the last night of the season, which was also his benefit night. This meant that Macready received a share of the night’s takings in addition to his salary.

1828 Playbill advertising Othello and Rob Roy  on display at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
1828 Playbill advertising Othello and Rob Roy
on display at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
William Charles Macready as Othello  from The Diaries of William Charles Macready 1833-1851 (1912)
William Charles Macready as Othello
from The Diaries of William Charles
Macready 1833-1851
(1912)
The audience

The theatre was patronised by Lord and Lady Bristol of nearby Ickworth House. Another prominent theatre goer was James Oakes, a wealthy merchant and banker, who was a shareholder. The shareholders received silver tokens which gave them free access to the performances at the theatre. There were ongoing arguments as to whether these rights were transferable.

Important patrons and shareholders could bespeak performances, such as the production of Lovers’ Vows in 1821 mentioned above, which was ‘by desire of the subscribers to the theatre.’6

Refreshments included oranges and sweets and it would seem, our theatre guide told us, oysters, as a great number of oyster shells were found during the renovations of the theatre. Clay pipes were also found, indicating that people smoked in the theatre.

Under the stage at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Under the stage at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Later history

After Wilkins died in 1839, the theatre was briefly taken over by James Abington who renamed it the Theatre Royal. In the decades that followed, the theatre’s success dwindled, and in 1920, the Greene King brewery bought the building to use as a barrel store.

Although this meant that, sadly, many of the original, internal fittings were stripped out, the fact that the building was repurposed secured its survival.

In 1965, the restored building reopened as a theatre. In 2005, further restoration work began which has returned the theatre to its Regency splendour.

The Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, is well worth a visit. The National Trust operates informative tours which I would highly recommend. You can book through the theatre website.

Our fantastic tour guide, outside the   Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Our fantastic tour guide, outside the 
Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Notes
1. Longman (pub), A concise description of Bury Saint Edmund's and its environs (1827)
2. White, William, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Suffolk (1855)
3. Deck, J, A guide to the town, abbey and antiquities of Bury St Edmunds (1821)
4. White, William, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Suffolk (1855)
5. Tymms, Samuel, A handbook of Bury St Edmund's with additions by JR Thompson (1855)
6. From an original playbill displayed at the theatre.

Sources used include:
Deck, J, A guide to the town, abbey and antiquities of Bury St Edmunds (1821)
Longman (pub), A concise description of Bury Saint Edmund's and its environs (1827)
Tymms, Samuel, A handbook of Bury St Edmund's with additions by JR Thompson (1855)
White, William, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Suffolk (1855)

National Gallery website
National Trust website