‘Wicked’ William & Catherine: Society Wedding of the Regency Era

Wicked William takes the hand (and purse) of his bride

On 14th March 1812, ‘Wicked’ William Wellesley-Pole married his fabulously rich bride Catherine Tylney-Long at St James’ Church, Piccadilly. The tragic outcome of their marriage has been thoroughly described in Geraldine Roberts‘ best-selling book The Angel and The Cad (Macmillan, 2015) – including the fascinating account of how such a penniless wastrel could have succeed in winning the heart of Britain’s richest woman.

This blog takes us back to March 1812,  shedding a bit more light on the wedding itself, and how it was reported in the press.

William’s courtship of Catherine Tylney-Long began in the summer of 1810, and it took almost 18 months for him to fend off a plethora of rivals including the Duke of Clarence (future King William IV), before the chase was won. The above satire from January 1812 likens William and Catherine’s courtship to that of Romeo and Juliet – a kind of ‘against the odds’ love affair – which it certainly was. Though at this stage they were already betrothed, the battle was still raging – Not only was Catherine under attack from stalkers, such as John Scott (pictured being chased away above) but there were also hundreds of legal documents to wade through as Catherine’s alarmed and concerned family sought to devise a marriage agreement that would keep as much control as possible away from the Wellesley bridegroom.

William could now be called ‘Long Pole’ and not without reason

Over the next two months a sometimes tense and occasionally hostile negotiation continued – meaning that the wedding arrangements were continually postponed. William did not waste time, however, to cement his destiny. On January 14th 1812 – even before he was married – William changed his name by Royal Licence and added his wife’s ancestral surnames – to become fabulously quadruple-barreled William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley. If you were looking for an omen here – then William certainly gave one by placing ‘Wellesley’ at the end of his newly acquired monicker. It was always traditional for men marrying into money to adopt their wife’s title or surname upon marriage. William instead chose to foreground his politically well-connected Wellesley family name – one which had up to this point been merely a middle name for him – but now, thanks to the endeavours of his famous uncles (including the Duke of Wellington) – William was suddenly making a claim to be Pretender to their legacy. A marvellous piece of self-marketing that really ought to have been pulled up by Catherine and her family. As for the combination of Long and Pole – this gave endless opportunities for punsters to allude to his renowned masculinity – which certainly would have flattered William still further.

St James, Piccadilly – The ultimate fashionable wedding venue

Another knock-on effect of the delay with legalities meant that Catherine’s original intention to ‘get married without ostentation’ was completely over-ridden as William chose THE most fashionable church in London, St James, Piccadilly – in the heart of his stomping grounds amidst the dandies and beau monde of Piccadilly. This beautiful Wren church is still the same, lying just north of St James Square, and its interiors are exactly as they would have been on the day when William and Catherine walked the aisle

Eventually, in early March, Catherine’s legal advisor sent over his final draft of the marriage agreement, but cautioned her as to the amount of property being placed under William’s control

I can only say that if I saw anything improper or that was inconsistent with your honourable character, I should lake the liberty of pressing it to your notice. Nothing of that kind will, I dare say, occur; and as to the general case of the arrangements, they must be entirely governed by your own feelings & judgement as they concern the dispensation of the property which must be entirely subject to your ideas of what is best to be done relatively to all other claims upon it

Once the news was out that the wedding date was finally fixed for Saturday 14th, the Morning Chronicle recorded

The rolls of parchment employed in preparing the marriage articles, conveyances, and other deeds, in preparation for the expected union of Miss Tilney Long and Mr. Wellesley Pole, are sufficiently numerous and bulky to load a cart. The settlement for the separate use of the lady is said to be £11,000, for pin money, with additions of £6000 in case of a separation

Anticipation for the big event was a fever-point by this stage. It was widely reported that huge numbers of ladies queued for hours on end for the change to view Miss Tylney-Longs nuptial garments, which were on display at her robe-makers – ‘it excites much female curiosity to learn why each snow-white chemise should be decorated with the finest Brussels lace all down the back’. Indeed Catherine’s choice of white for her wedding gown is nowadays attributed with establishing that tradition – one that was copied by Queen Victoria at her own wedding, to great acclaim.

The Newspapers describes events of the wedding day – including William’s appalling failure to provide a wedding ring – another omen perhaps, and that led to a lengthy delay whilst a local jeweller was sent for.

The ceremonial of the Wellesley marriage was as private as possible. Marquis Wellesley acted as Master of the Ceremonies, and conducted the bride through Dr. Andrews house to the altar. Miss Diana and Miss Emma Long followed as bridesmaids. During the service, tears were plentifully shed by Lady Catherine, who was present, and all the daughters; it is to be hoped that they may prove the last on this trying occasion! The ceremony over, a new equipage was at the church door in Jermyn Street to receive the happy pair; it was a singularly elegant chariot, painted a bright yellow, and highly emblazoned drawn by four beautiful Arabian grey horses, attended by two postillons in brown jackets, with superbly embroidered jackets in gold, emblematic of the united arms of the Wellesley and Tylney families. The new married pair drove off at great speed for Blackheath, intending to pass the night at the tasteful chateau, belonging to the bridegroom’s father, and thence proceed to Wanstead, in Essex, on the following day to pass the honeymoon.

The dress of the present bride consisted of a robe of real Brussels point lace; the device a sigle sprig; it was placed over white satin. The head was ornamented with a cottage bonnet, of the same material; viz. Brussels lace, with two ostrich feathers. She likewise wore a deep lace veil, and a white satin pelisse, trimmed with Swansdown. The dress cost 700 guineas, the bonnet 150, and the veil 200. Mr Pole wore a plain blue coat, with yellow buttons, a white waistcoat, and buff breeches, and white silk stockings. The Lady looked very pretty and interesting.

It was to elude the eager curiosity of the crowd that they returned from the church at the door opposite to the one at which they entered.

On Sunday the wedding favours were distributed among their numerous friends; the number exceeded eight hundred, composed wholly of silver, and unique in form – those for Ladies having an acorn in the centre, and the Gentleman’s a star; each cost a guinea and a half. The inferior ones, for their domestics and others, were made of white satin ribbon, with silver stars and silver balls and fringe. The Lady’s jewels consisted principally of a brilliant necklace and ear-rings; the former cost twenty five thousand guineas. Every domestic in the family of Lady Catherine Long  has been liberally provided for; they all have had annuities settled upon them for life; and Mrs Pole Tylney Long Wellesley’s own waiting woman, who was nurse to her in her infancy, has been liberally considered. The fortune remaining to Mrs Pole Tylney Long Wellesley (after allowing for considerable sums given as an additional portion to each of the Misses Long, and an annuity to Lady Catherine Long), may be raised to eighty thousand pounds per annum.

A singular circumstance is said to have attended the wedding on the arrival of the happy pair at the Hymeneal altar, the bridegroom was applied to by Dr. Glasse for the ring; but he had forgotten to procure the necessary testimonial. A messenger was in consequence dispatched to Mr. Brown, a jeweller, in Piccadilly, opposite the Church, who immediately attended with an assortment, and then the ceremony proceeded without further interruption.

Not all of the press were enamoured with this incredibly splendid occasion. Several papers intimated that William’s decision to leave the church via the back route owed as much to the need to avoid writs from creditors as the desire to avoid the crowds outside. The Liverpool Mercury acknowledged the ‘admiration and envy excited by the costly bridal dress and jewels’ but questioned the extravagance of spending ‘a sum of money equal to a year’s maintenance of at least 500 poor families’.

So the deed was done and the Long-Wellesleys were off to spend their married life at Wanstead House. Perthaps for this day then, I will wish them well – and hope that, despite the signs, William Long-Wellesley will prove to be a dutiful husband, who will take his Wanstead estate to new heights of brilliance. Fat chance though….

Wanstead House and Gardens, the 'English Versailles,' - England's finest Palladian mansion

Catherine’s marriage was to prove beginning of the end for Wanstead House

The story of William and Catherine’s marriage, and their ups and (mainly) downs at Wanstead House can be fully appreciated by reading The Angel and The Cad – but there is so much more besides to ‘Wicked William’ Long-Wellesley – which has been researched but was not needed for that project. I will return to other episodes from William’s life in future posts

If you want to learn about William’s shambolic military career why not follow him to war, or you might like to see an example of his expensive lifestyle by attending Wicked William’s Hunt. A black sheep indeed, but to appreciate the achievements of his father and brothers, you might like to celebrate 200 years of the splendid shilling, or to see why the Duke of Wellington ought to be celebrated more by the French nation.

My blogs tend to be Londoncentric, and if you are of a similar persuasion why not read the sad tale of a Walthamstow Murderess, the death of a prizefighter, or learn about the days when vagrancy meant prison

Finally, I would like to reiterate that my blog is entirely my own work, but that I do rely heavily upon the fantastic image resources of the British Museum  without which I couldn’t hope to properly illuminate my subjects. I am always happy to answer questions and receive feedback on any of these postings, and would like to thank the 25000+ unique visitors that I have welcomed to my blog site since I first started to post.

Murder in Walthamstow! – Elizabeth Jeffries: Killer or Victim?

Elizabeth Jeffries (1727-1752)

During my rambles around Georgian London I came across the story of Elizabeth Jeffries – said to be one of Walthamstow’s most notorious murderers. Superficially her crime seems to have been driven by a combination of stupidity, greed and ingratitude. But a re-examination of the circumstances reveals that much deeper, darker, concerns – going a long way to explain why a financially secure and well-educated young lady should resort to murder.

In the early hours of Saturday July 3rd 1751 Mr Buckle of Wood Street Walthamstow was awaken from his slumber by the sound of screaming coming from his neighbour’s property, and upon going to his window he saw 21-year-old Elizabeth Jeffries standing outside her house, wearing only a night shift, in some state of distress. Upon going down to investigate Elizabeth told Buckle ‘Oh! They have killed him! They have killed him, I fear!’ and she directed him into her uncle’s house.

Joseph Jeffries lived in the vicinity of Wood Street, Walthamstow

Buckle was admitted to the crime scene by man-servant John Swann, and found Joseph Jeffries was lying on his side with three gaping wounds in his head. He was not yet dead and was able to grasp Buckle’s hand with some force. A doctor was sent for and Buckle was then informed that a botched robbery had taken place – after which the culprits escaped carrying various items of value. Mr Forbes a surgeon from Woodford attended the scene, observing the congealed blood in the room, finding that Jeffries had been both shot and stabbed, with a very serious wound behind one ear, that would likely prove fatal – Poor Jeffries had to endure another day in great agony before his death, and was unable to shed any light upon the perpetrators. However, other attendees at the house began to sense that all was not as it seemed. It was noted there did not seem to be any evidence of strangers having been in the house, and the dew on the grass around the building did not appear to be disturbed.John Swann appeared to be in a state of agitation, unable to account for his movements during the commotion, and repeatedly stating that he wished he died with his master.

Jeffries’ man-servant John Swann

Despite these misgivings, a few days later Elizabeth was examined by two magistrates, and no evidence could be found to incriminate her. So she was enabled to prove her uncle’s will at the Doctors Commons and take possession of the estate. However, she did make the fatal mistake of implicating a former servant Thomas Matthews, and therefore set in train a line of investigation which was to prove her undoing. The subsequent Coroner’s inquest ruled that Matthews could be a material witness, and committed Elizabeth and Swann to prison in Chelmsford until this could be ascertained. Not surprisingly both sides were anxious to dispose of the matter quickly, but the search for Matthews meant that this case was had to await until Chelmsford Assizes reopened in March 1752.

Chelmsford Assizes (courtesy Essex Record Office)

When events were reported in the London newspapers they came to the attention of a Mr Gall, landlord of the Green Man and Bell public house in Whitechapel, who had cause to remember both Swann and Matthews since they had been extremely drunk at his establishment just a few days previously. Whilst trying to eject them Gall found two pistols in Matthews’ great coat, and had both men arrested. The following morning they were remanded to Bridewell prison. Shortly afterwards Matthews and Swann were bailed by none other than Elizabeth Jeffries, who actually visited Gall’s house with both men afterwards in order to apologise and compensate him for his trouble. She told Gall that the pistols belonged to her uncle and that she had ‘borrowed’ them to put down as security for a debt she owed to a family friend – and implored him to keep the matter private ‘as the disclosure of it to her uncle might lead to her ruin’.

Matthews was more of a reveller than a hit-man

Gall determined to find Matthews, and (in typical East End style) put the word out on the streets to track down his man. Sure enough, Matthews was seen coming out of India House, where it was discovered that he had secured an engagement overseas in the service of the East India Company – and he was soon found in lodgings in Rosemary Lane. This arrest proved pivotal; for Matthews story shed light on the whole murky affair. Matthews was a needy and poverty-stricken Yorkshireman who had met Swann by chance while travelling through Epping Forest on his way to London. Swann took Matthews home with him and engaged him in the gardens of his master’s house – without wages – with only his food and lodgings provided.

According to Matthews, Elizabeth called him into the house after just 4 days service, asking him ‘What will you do if a person would give you £100?’ This was a colossal sum of money – perhaps five times what Matthews could earn annually through hard labour – hence his reply ‘Anything, in an honest way’. Elizabeth then sent him to see Swann, who took him to a garden out-house and declared ‘I will give you £700 if you would knock the old miser, my master, on the head’. Matthews refused to comply, but just two days afterwards found himself on the wrong side of old Jeffries, who dismissed him from his service, with just a shilling to send him on his way. Swan intercepted Matthews on his departure with a guinea – asking him to buy a brace of pistols to murder their master. Matthews was a simple man, but not a bad one, and he soon wasted his booty at the Green Man pub in Leytonstone, before deciding to continue his journey into London. However,  Matthews was soon intercepted by Swann – who took him to Whitechapel, bought the pistols, and proceeded to get them both drunk in front of landlord Mr Gall.

The Green Man, Leytonstone – scene of mischief for centuries

Matthews admitted visiting Gall with Elizabeth and Swan the day after their committal to Bridewell, and testified that he afterwards travelled to the Buck Inn, Epping Forest to partake in the murder plot. On the night of Friday 2nd July Matthews arrived at Jeffries house in Wood Street, let himself in the back door,  and hid in the pantry. At midnight Elizabeth and Swann came to him stating ‘now is the time to knock the old miser on the head’. They had already hidden some plate and other valuables in a sack in the cellar so as to make it look like a robbery. Faced with the enormity his task, Matthews declared ‘I cannot find it in my heart to do it’. Swann threatened to blow his brains out for the refusal, but left him cowering in the pantry, after first forcing Matthews to swear an oath of secrecy. Not long afterwards Matthews heard the sound of pistol shots, and escaped from the house, towards the ferry on the River Lea, crossing over to Enfield Chace.

On 10th March 1752 at 6am Elizabeth and Swann appeared before Justice Wright and a jury at Chelmsford. The Court was packed with spectators eager to see justice done. Swann was charged with ‘Petty Treason’ for the ‘wicked murder of his late master’ and Elizabeth for aiding and abetting the said murder. It was quickly established that Elizabeth and Swann were involved in a relationship, which had caused a breach with her late uncle. Old Jeffries had repeatedly threatened to alter his will ‘if she did not alter her conduct’ – and this threat was put forward as her primary motivation for arranging his death. It was said that Swann and Elizabeth had been together for at least two years, during which time old Jeffries, a previously kind employer, had become increasingly hostile towards Swann – meaning that the lovers must have plotted his downfall for a very long time. Witnesses came forward to complete the picture of events. For example the local barber testified that he had been offered financial inducements to get the old man drunk in a pub on the evening of his murder, and servants revealed the increasingly sour atmosphere within the house. Richard Clarke, a servant at the house, testified that six months previously he had been taken for a walk by Swann into the grounds of nearby Wanstead House where he was asked about his prowess with a gun, to which he replied ‘I’m no sportsman’ – though Swann offered him £50 if he was willing to use a gun. On the night of the murder, however,  it was recorded that no bloodstains were seen on Elizabeth or Swann – and several testified that Elizabeth was very kind and attentive to her uncle.

Inside Chelmsford Court (courtesy Essex Record Office)

The trial lasted 19 hours, including one hour in which the jury deliberated – which is actually quite a long time for that era. Elizabeth fainted repeatedly throughout, at one point delayed proceedings for half an hour. The pair were found guilty, and a few days afterwards a sentence of death was passed upon them both. On the evening of her conviction Elizabeth made a full confession in which she accepted joint-responsibility alongside Swann, and totally exonerated Matthews of any involvement. Swann was furious and refused to corroborate Elizabeth’s version of events until after his death sentence was pronounced.

The Procession to Elizabeth’s Execution

Consequently, in the early hours of 28th March 1752 an execution procession set out from Chelmsford towards the site of execution, which was to be six-mile stone in Epping Forest – somewhere near modern-day Whipps Cross roundabout. Elizabeth was taken by cart, sitting upon her own coffin, but Swann was dragged behind by sledge as a consequence of his conviction for Petty Treason. When they reached the gallows, Swan was forced to stand on the cart while Elizabeth, being only 5’1″, stood on a chair alongside him. Their legs were not tied and they were not blindfolded. A crowd of 7,000 people gathered to watch them hang. Neither Elizabeth nor John acknowledged one another, while the hangman cracked his whip and drove the cart out from under them. John died in less than five minutes. Elizabeth, however, being lighter than Swan, took over fifteen minutes to die, struggling to the end. It must have been a ghastly spectacle. Elizabeth’s body was released to relatives for burial, but Swann’s indignity was to continue – for his body was chained  up and placed in a gibbet and hung up in the forest to serve as a deterrent to any domestic servant thinking of betraying their master.

Elizabeth sat on her own coffin on the way to her execution

Swann’s body was strung up as a warning to others

Despite their confessions this case leaves many unanswered questions, such as, why didn’t old Jeffries simply dismiss Swann if he knew the man-servant was carrying on with his niece? And why indeed did Elizabeth need to kill Jeffries at all? OK, he had been threatening to disinherit her – but this had already been hanging over Elizabeth for at least two years  – so what changed that forced her to take action now? The answers can be partly found via letters Elizabeth exchanged with another lady, also found guilty of murder in March 1752 and incarcerated in prison awaiting execution. Mary Blandy was found guilty of poisoning her father, and – like Elizabeth – was middle-class and well-educated. Her case has been excellently presented on the Capital Punishment UK website – revealing the sensation aroused by these concurrent trials. Not one but two supposedly devious female killers were the hot topic of conversation in 1752.

Mary Blandy was hanged on April 6th 1752

Elizabeth’s letters reveal that her life with old Jeffries was far from idyllic. It appears that she was the victim of sexual assault at the hands of her uncle from a very young age, culminating in her first rape at the age of 15. Given these circumstances it is easy to see why Jeffries continually threatened his niece with disinheritance, for he knew that her refusal to submit to his perversions – would leave her on the streets and destitute. Far from being an ‘instance of the most unnatural barbarity’  Elizabeth’s murder of her uncle may have been a last resort to protect her from ruin. The timing of Jeffries murder was interesting – for Elizabeth had long since come of age, perhaps entitling her to a greater degree of freedom. It was claimed at the trial that Elizabeth was pregnant carrying Swann’s child and knew that once her uncle became aware of this situation, they would both be turned out. But her pregnancy would clearly have been impossible to hide, and there is no mention of Elizabeth’s subsequent childbirth, so we must assume this was untrue.

Contrary to classical art – there is nothing noble about rape

However,  Elizabeth’s motherhood status is less certain. Not only via her letters to Mary Blandy, but also locally it was known that Elizabeth already two children by her abusive uncle – one of whom was described as ‘a fine boy’ in some versions, and in other accounts had not survived childbirth. Many people believed that old Jeffries had caused Elizabeth to abort both children, and so it would seem that incest was the main factor of this tragic case. The colossal power retained by men in Georgian society, meant that Elizabeth was in almost every respect just another one of Jeffries’ goods and chattels. It is therefore difficult to imagine how she could have put an end to years of control and abuse without resorting to killing her uncle.

Elizabeth’s trial transcripts were published less than a week after her death

So the question must remain as to whether Elizabeth Jeffries really belongs in the canon of cold-blooded calculating killers, or if indeed she was really the victim – left with no other avenue to take – willing to forsake her inheritance – to escape the clutches of an evil monster.

I must acknowledge some great existing resources examining this case, including

  1. Bill Bayliss’ very good summation of events via Walthamstow Memories
  2. Caroline Gonda’s chapter  in Women, Writing and the Public Sphere, 1700-1830, edited by Elizabeth Eger and Charlotte Grant (Cambridge University Press, 2001), Gonda draws an excellent summary of both the Blandy and Jeffries cases, and rightly identifies incest as the primary motive in the Walthamstow case.
  3. Capital Punishment UK website – which has excellent and in-depth analyses on a great many cases including the one referred to in this blog
  4. The image above of six mile stone is taken from the very brilliant Spitalfields Life website, in an article written by Julian Woodford

 

I have strayed beyond the boundaries of Wanstead a little for this blog, but Wanstead House still made a guest appearance in the evidence presented. However, there are some very good internet resources available for Walthamstow including

If you are interested in London’s history and traditions you may like a brief history of the Epping Hunt – or  to find out just how multicultural Georgian Wanstead might have been – via the writings of Thomas Hood. Learn to find your way round Regency London’s departure points, or pay a visit to one mansion with 6 layers of history

My next blog will return to the Victorian Monopoly Board – If you have not yet joined me on this journey, there is still time to catch up!

Wanstead’s Heiress: The Last Days of Catherine Tylney-Long

If you wish to avoid spoiling your enjoyment of Geraldine Roberts‘ excellent book The Angel and the Cad, look away now! Because this post examines the final tragic days of Catherine Tylney-Long, whose life ended on 12th September 1825. As we shall see her death is not just about Wanstead House – it is in fact an important marker on the long road to women’s equality. Less than 15 years after turning down the chance to marry the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) Catherine’s final days were spent in a turmoil of pain and anxiety – thrust upon her by the man she did chose to marry: William Long- Wellesley.

wansteadcolour

Wanstead House lamented, but not its tragic owner

Prior to the publication of The Angel and The Cad, Catherine Tylney-Long has been a barely remembered footnote in the sad story of the loss of Wanstead House, Britain’s first and finest Palladian Mansion. She had long been blamed for getting mixed up with ‘Wicked William’ Long-Wellesley in the first place:- Catherine’s early death has somehow been viewed as a punishment befitting her negligence in marrying ‘Wicked William’ Long-Wellesley, whose reckless extravagance brought her so much pain and sorrow. Years of research have now overturned this viewpoint, and Catherine has finally been liberated from obloquy. Thus we can now mourn her loss because she did not survive to witness the astonishing victory she delivered for womankind in relation to maternal rights, rather than because Wanstead House is no more.

catherine-tylney-long

Catherine

Here are some details of Catherine’s final days as compiled via eyewitness reports and private letters. To set the scene, Catherine has fled to Richmond with her sisters and children, because she knows that her husband William intends to seize her children and regain control of their remaining funds.

August 28th 1825

Catherine makes William aware that he will no longer receive an allowance from her pin-money. As part of her marriage settlement Catherine had sole control over pin-money of £11000 per annum (roughly £900K in today’s terms) – She had been giving half of this to William since their separation, and he had been living a high life in Paris with his mistress in tow. As from 30th October 1825 William’s funds would be cut, thus his reaction was a desperate one. Catherine was informed that ‘if he could not obtain custody of the children by legal measures, he would resort to stratagem.’ For this reason she now went into hiding.

the-paragon-1The Paragon, at Richmond – Catherine’s final home

September 7th 1825

In the words of Catherine’s sister Emma:

On Wednesday the 7th of September we arrived with Mrs Long Wellesley and her children into a house, in the Paragon, Richmond. She had previously been much indisposed with a stomach complaint. On the evening of that day she was seized with spasms, which occasioned so much alarm that she called my sister Dora into another room & told her that, as spasms in the stomach have proved fatal, she considered it her duty to revoke without delay a will she had signed some years before, which had been made under Mr Long Wellesley’s direction, & probably, she added, to the disadvantage of her children. She then wrote a short revocation of that will & signed it in the presence of two witnesses. She then saw the apothecary who provided a medicine & the spasms subsided.

tylney-long-sisters

Emma and Dora Tylney-Long

September 8th 1825

Thursday the 8th, Mrs Long Wellesley received a letter from her uncle Mr H Windsor, containing one from William The instant she saw Mr Long Wellesley’s handwriting, she closed the letter, and sending for my sister Dora & myself, she informed us that she had received a letter written by Mr Long Wellesley, that concluding it contained some distressing threats of removing her children from her care; and feeling too ill to encounter any distressing intelligence, she was resolved not to open it, & directed us to take charge of it, she said, “if it contains, as I have reason to suspect, any threats regarding the children, I authorise you both to communicate with my solicitor, Mr Hutchinson, & in his absence from Town,… to send for Planch, the Police Officer, to resist to the utmost every attempt to remove the children, which you are well aware I should have done had I been in good health. – Only avoid mentioning this distressing subject to me at present, as I feel persuaded that, if I were to attempt reading that letter, my spasms would return, and I might be dead in a few hours.” My sister Dora and myself then assured her that we would faithfully respect her wishes and we never mentioned the subject to her again.

September 9th 1825

Having been treated by Dr Julius, Catherine was well enough to walk out. However, word had been sent to relatives regarding her precarious state, and the Duke of Wellington dispatched Sir Henry Halford a top physician to attend her.

September 10th 1825

Cousin and long-time guardian Bartholemew Bouverie wrote to Dora Tylney Long from London on hearing of Catherine’s illness

I am very much concerned indeed to learn that your sister Mrs Long Wellesley is so alarmingly ill… I fear your sister’s illness must be increased by reflecting into what wretched hands her poor children must fall, should it please providence to remove her from hence; but I will not even for a moment anticipate an event so calamitous to them & to yourself & Miss Emma, but trust that ere long I shall have the satisfaction of hearing that she can be pronounced convalescent.

September 11th 1825

Catherine suffered a relapse and despite the attention of three doctors experienced ‘agonies of the heart’ and screamed hysterically. She was, however, able to have final words with her children – and to relate instructions to her sisters as to their future care.

September 12th 1825

Catherine passed away quite suddenly at 11am in the presence of her sisters and doctors. She was just 36 years old. Halford wrote directly to the Duke of Wellington, ascribing her death to a fever. The day was spent trying to work out into whose charge the children should be placed. William was in Paris and legally entitled to take them, but those present at Catherine’s deathbed knew that she wanted anything but that to occur. So Dr Gladstone placed the children with their aunts as next-of-kin present to take charge of their welfare. This act was to enrage William, who saw it as an act of treachery denying him his legal rights as a father – leading to the famous custody case fought on Catherine’s behalf to protect her children.

September 13th 1825

News breaks about Catherine’s death, and her sufferings are blamed upon William. Batholemew Bouverie angrily writes

I had a fearful foreboding of the melancholy event, which your letter I received this morning has announced to me. The symptoms you had mentioned were of too alarming a character to afford us any sanguine hopes of your poor sister’s recovery. Oh! What remorse must that wretch feel, or rather ought to feel when he learns about what his perfidy & cruelty have effected! Alas! I fear, his heart is so hardened, & his mind so completely depraved as to be alive only to a very different impression… I hope the proceedings in Chancery were so far advanced that [the oldest boy] is now actually a Ward in Chancery, & therefore all that property will be kept completely out of that monster’s hands. If the boy is not already a Ward in Chancery, you and Miss Emma, as the next heirs, can make all the three children so.

Amidst the outrage though, there is genuine sorrow as expressed by Catherine’s close friend Sir George Dallas

Is it possible, that one so loved, so honoured, so deservedly mourned, is snatched thus suddenly from her weeping children… in the flower of her days, to that Heaven she had early earned by her virtues? O, God, it is impossible that a Soul so pure, so acceptable in thy sight, could be summoned to thy presence but to receive that Crown of righteousness which her spotless life, and admirable qualities, had fitted her to wear, and to experience an appropriate shelter from that earthly storm which had already wrecked her happiness, and threatened her future days, (had she been spared to see them), with increasing misery… A finer heart never bowed to earthly sufferings, and great we know her sufferings to have been, how she bore them we equally know; and these, while they embalm her memory in the hearts of her friends, will also enshrine it in the memory of a husband who now, that she is lost to him for ever, cannot forget how tenderly she loved him, and whose heart, touched by her sad, and unmerited fate, may, when brooding over the recollection of her virtues, and the remembrance of her misfortunes, awaken, perhaps, to penitence, and seek to atone for the misery he heaped upon her by a life of future devotion, and kindness to her children. So may he soothe her Shade, by a renewed, and tender, discharge of that parental duty to them it was the pride of her life, and the dearest object of her own heart to perform… What a blank she will create in our affections, and how she deserves to be mourned! Her sensible mind, her sprightly disposition, her graceful elegant manners, her generous heart, her happy temper, her devotion to her family, a breast wherein all the virtues dwelled, these were the adoring qualities of her character; and it is over these you must both muse when seeking for consolation under your affliction, for it is in the consciousness of these that you must reach the consolatory assurance that she is finally and imperishably happy.

Over the coming days there were a great many eulogies to Catherine in the newspapers. Out of a sense of decorum her loss was mourned without any blame being attached to William. However, the Evening Herald, was unable to resist using her story as a metaphor for contemporary life

It is seldom that we allude to domestic circumstances, under a strong conviction of the privacy of domestic life is what the Press can, generally speaking, have nothing to do with. But premature death of an amiable and accomplished lady, born to large possessions, and against who the voice of calumny never so much breathed a whisper, calls, we think, for one passing comment, in illustrating, and furnishing, we trust, a lasting and a useful lesson to the heartlessness of too many of the men of the present age. With a fortune that made her an object and a prize to Princes, this amiable woman gave her hand and heart to a man of her choice, and with them all that unbounded faith could bestow. What her fate has been, all the world knows: what it ought to have been the world is equally aware. To her, riches have been worse than poverty; and her life seems to have been sacrificed, and her heart ultimately broken, through the very means that should have cherished and maintained her in the happiness and splendour which her name and disposition were alike qualified to produce. Let her fate be a warning to all of her sex, who, blessed with affluence, think the buzzing throng which surround them have hearts, when, in fact, they have none: and if there be such a feeling as remorse, accessible in the quarter where it is most called for, let the world witness, by a future life of contrition, something like atonement for the past.

I hope that the above has given a flavour of Catherine’s final days, and shone some light into how much her loss was felt by family, friends and the wider general public. Just a week later thousands of mourners lined the roads to Draycot Church to witness Catherine’s burial and to pay their respects to a woman of virtue, who had been the victim of a morally corrupt husband. Thankfully, during the remainder of William Long-Wellesley’s lifetime, he was vilified for this act of cruelty above all others.

children

Thanks to Catherine – Children were hereafter protected from bad fathers

Whilst there can be no doubt that Catherine Tylney-Long lost her life due to William’s shameful behaviour – she was equally a high-profile victim of an antiquated legal system, which denied women even the most basic rights in terms of property, and no say in the control of their own children. Such were Catherine’s sufferings that Lord Chancellor Eldon was unwilling to uphold the status quo, and instead ruled that William Long-Wellesely should be the first man ever to be denied custody of his children on the grounds of moral conduct. This Cruickshank satire depicts Catherine’s children safely in the control of legal guardians, whilst their errant father takes yet another fall from grace.

I am glad to say that ‘Wicked’ William’s attempts to silence his wife and place her in permanent ignominy have failed – Despite the destruction of her private papers, and Long-Wellesley’s assertion that she was an uneducated dullard, Catherine left enough scraps of information to allow a fresh examination of her life, and to overturn the conventional viewpoint. Geraldine Roberts’ book The Angel and the Cad reveals Catherine’s real nature – and liberates her from almost two centuries of misrepresentation. Her ‘guilt’, if you can even call it that, only extends to following her heart and falling in love with the wrong person – and then standing by him through thin and thinner. Ultimately, she was a brave woman risking all in the defence of her children, by instigating legal action that is nowadays acknowledged as a landmark in British legal history. Therefore, all that remains to be said is

catherines-tomb

R. I. P. Catherine Tylney Long (1789-1825)

If you want to learn more about the Long-Wellesley family please bookmark this site. Wicked William’s long and notorious life contains many interesting chapters as yet unwritten. You can learn more about Wanstead House on Geraldine Roberts Website and the best resource for Wanstead Park is here.

You may also enjoy Wicked William and The Epping Hunt or see what a completely useless soldier he was when Wicked William went to War. Finally, to prove that bonkers behaviour can and does run in families, read the interesting tale of Wellesley-Pole’s Anger Management

 

 

Thomas Hood, Tylney Hall & Multicultural Wanstead

Overview of Thomas Hood & Wanstead

Review of Tylney Hall | Finding Wanstead in Tylney Hall  | Black representation in Tylney Hall

 thomas-hood-5

Thomas Hood (1799-1845) is a shamefully overlooked 19th century literary great – for whom a renaissance must surely beckon. His obscurity is all the more surprising when we consider how immensely popular he was throughout the Victorian era. Try Googling him and you will find scant reward. During his own short lifetime Hood overcame debilitating illness and grinding poverty to become a national treasure. He contributed humorous articles to popular magazines such as Athenaeum and Punch & also single-handedly ran his own magazine The Comic Annual (1830-42). He wrote just one novel – Tylney Hall (1834) – which I will be discussing in this blog, but poetry was his real forte.

sonnet to vauxhall

Hood’s Sonnet to Vauxhall – illustrated by Rowlandson

Hood’s output was created at great cost to his health. In his early days he was a talented engraver working alongside artists such as Thomas Rowlandson (a man with whom he later often collaborated), but was compelled to abandon this profession and seek an outdoor life to recover his strength. It was a tough existence for by 1841 when Hood became an invalid he was only saved from financial ruin thanks to the intervention of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, who was a great fan of his works. When Hood eventually died his family were granted a state pension – and the public continued to adore him. A memorial was later built by public subscription in Kensal Green cemetery. As the century progressed Hood’s poetry and witticisms remained familiar enough to be often quoted in ordinary conversation. As late as 1903 William Rossetti (of Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood fame) described Hood as ‘the finest English poet between the generations of Shelley and Tennyson’. However, since these heady heights of appreciation Hood has quietly slipped into obscurity, and has long-since vanished from the modern-day English literature curriculum.

 lakehouse

Hood wrote Tylney Hall whilst living in Wanstead Park

Yet one bastion of recognition for Thomas Hood still remains intact, and it can be located in the environs of Epping Forest, and most particularly Wanstead. After his marriage in 1824 Hood lived in Islington but made frequent visits to the countryside beyond London,  especially to Epping Forest, and he formed a deep affinity with the area. I have already described how Hood encapsulated the rough and tumble tradition of the Epping Hunt (1829), recording for posterity the rituals of that annual cockney jamboree. He was also fully cognisant of the scandalous loss of Wanstead House, ironically benefitting from its destruction by renting the Lake House in Wanstead Park from ‘Wicked’ William Long-Wellesley.

wickedwilliam

 

Wicked William – Hood’s shady landlord (1832-35)

Hood’s arrival in Wanstead in 1832 coincided with Wicked William’s enforced exile – so it is unlikely that landlord and tenant spent much time together. Though he was always a feckless waster, William was notoriously generous and probably offered Hood terms well below the market rate. Perhaps Long-Wellesley’s vanity was sated by Hood’s eulogy to the Epping Hunt – because the men were already acquainted. This unlikely friendship endured, for it is recorded that William regularly visited Hood’s sickbed in 1837, when both men were living in Belgium.

eppinghunt-1

This scene from The Epping Hunt  shows Hood preferred whimsy to satire

Hood was active during a time of great social and technological change – as the long 18th century drew to a close and young Queen Victoria assumed the throne. From the outset of his career Hood purposefully rejected the brutality of late Georgian satire which sought to undermine its subject, preferring to adopt a kinder and more affectionate style. His whimsical humour presaged the rising sense of decency and respectability throughout society, foreshadowing the sentimentality and mawkishness which defined popular Victorian literature. Hood’s style is very like Thackeray’s early writing, light-hearted and amusing – never over-analytical.

Despite his comic reputation, Hood was capable of portraying the biting hardship of contemporary poverty. For example, Song of the Shirt (1843) highlighted appalling working conditions of the era – where Hood showed remarkable foresight in writing from a female perspective – describing a needleworker’s daily struggle for existence and the cruelty of her employer

song of the shirt

Despite being penned by a man, Song of the Shirt ought to be considered one of the most important proto-feminist works of literature ever written. It was based on a contemporary court case involving a woman who was forced to sell her employer’s equipment simply to put food upon the table – a decision that led to prosecution. The case is long forgotten but this poem became a standard-bearer for highlighting the effect of inequality upon humanity, inspiring a generation of mid-Victorian artists

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Opening stanzas of Bridge of Sighs 

Another poem Bridge of Sighs (1844) again draws on real life by recounting the tale of a homeless young woman who committed suicide by throwing herself from Waterloo Bridge in London – At a time when suicide was frowned upon Hood declares that whatever sins she may have committed are cleansed by the sadness of her death

 found drowned

Hood’s poem inspired Found Drowned by Frederick Watts (1852)

Were it not for Hood’s own untimely demise he may have further developed his talent for social commentary. But in death as in life Hood has been unlucky, for the gentle observational humour of his earlier years has become his posthumous trademark.

grave

I will be turning to Hood’s only novel Tylney Hall in the second part of this blog. Written in 1834, whilst he was living in Wanstead, the title is a very thinly veiled reference to Long-Wellesley’s once great mansion, Wanstead House. But attempting to cash in on Wicked William’s story was an unwise move because it raised expectations that Tylney Hall would reveal the truth about Wanstead House, and satisfy public curiosity as to why it was demolished. – This led to criticism and affected sales, forcing Hood to add a note in the preface explaining that ‘Tylney Hall’ alluded to the topography of Wanstead Park, but not its disreputable owner.

wansteadcolour

Tylney Hall – not about Wanstead House

It is easy to see why a desperately poor artist with young mouths to feed would use any means possible to promote his work. But by choosing ‘Tylney Hall’ for a title Hood inadvertently and fatally undermined his novel – by unnecessarily calling into question the accuracy of its content.

Easter Monday 1817 by Henry Thomas Aitken

Tylney Hall does show Wanstead as it was to Thomas Hood

Because Hood’s works were always inspired by his own life experiences I believe that the world created in the pages of Tylney Hall should not be rejected, as we are offered a tantalising and surprising viewpoint of life in multicultural Wanstead 200 years ago. Additionally we find perhaps the first English novel to centrally feature strong and noble black characters, to whom we can sympathise and relate. The second part of this study will examine this more closely, proving that that Hood really was ahead of his time thus worthy of a new and more fitting appraisal.

To read more of Thomas Hood’s poems click here – or try a tasty selection of his best quotes

Gerald Massey has an excellent website devoted to Thomas Hood

You may also like to read about more Epping Hunt related buffoonery courtesy of Wicked William or to know about his short-lived military career.

Lady Anne Rushout – Wanstead’s Forgotten Artist

Anne Rushout | Rushout’s Wanstead | Rushout on Tour

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Lady Anne Rushout (1768-1849)

Modern day Wanstead likes to give a nod and a wink to former local citizens who have played a role in shaping its history. We know all about statesmen Winston Churchill and Sir William Penn, of Sheridan the playwright and of course ‘Wicked’ William Wellesley. But curiously, Wanstead seems distinctly reluctant to celebrate its feminine connections – For example Wikipedia’s ‘notable residents’ of Wanstead list rather embarrassingly contains just one woman, soap-star Jesse Wallace, listed on the basis that she once lived the area!

The most undeservingly neglected lady in Wanstead’s history must be Lady Anne Rushout, who lived at Wanstead Grove from 1817-49.

Plimer 3 graces - Anne on Right 1809

Anne (left), with Harriet (centre) & Elizabeth (right)

Anne was the eldest daughter of John Rushout, Baron Northwick of Northwick Park (1738-1800) and spent a happy childhood with sisters Harriet (c.1770) and Elizabeth (1774). She was well educated: a keen artist, botanist, diarist and poet, celebrated for her grace and beauty. Yet she was not a conventional young woman, & refused to comply with the male-dominated society in which she lived.

ladies of llangollen

The Ladies of Llangollen – a bluestocking shrine

From a very early age Anne was interested in bluestocking literature, making several trips to Wales to visit the famous Ladies of Llangollen, and keeping a commonplace book filled with feminist prose. It is not known if Anne was lesbian, as her family attributed her strong aversion to marriage to the unfortunate death of her fiancé days before their wedding. I have searched the archives without success to corroborate this claim. But it seems likely that Anne came from a very liberal-minded and supportive family, who propagated this story to protect her reputation.

Wanstead Grove 1825

Wanstead Grove – designed and built by Anne Rushout

In 1817 Anne’s uncle George Bowles died, and she inherited Wanstead Grove. Originally purchased in 1759 by Humphry Bowles, it came with approximately 60 acres named the Grove Estate. It was rare for assets to pass to a female relative at this time, and more unusual still that Anne decided to demolished the house, sell off its ‘out-dated’ works of art, and construct a new magnificent mansion in its place.

Wanstead Grove was built between 1818 and 1824. As its completion coincided with the demolition of Wanstead House, it is likely that various fixtures and fittings sold to satisfy Wicked William’s creditors were snapped up by Anne to augment her new home. In fact Anne bought the very first item offered at the Wanstead House auction in 1822, attending most days afterwards – to pick and choose art and furnishings according to her taste.

In effect therefore, when Wanstead lost a behemoth of a mansion, it gained a successor at Wanstead Grove – which became the single most dominant property in the area. More importantly, Wanstead Grove and its beautifully laid out grounds were completely Anne’s creation – thus demonstrating that women were perfectly capable of operating in the hitherto exclusively male sphere of architecture and design.

Anne spent a great deal of her life at Wanstead Grove and was very much part of local society. Far from being reclusive she was always very charitable, leaving significant bequest to the poor of Wanstead after her death in 1849.

Wanstead Grove is long gone now, having been demolished in 1889 to make way for the Counties Estate. Some remnants of the formal gardens remain, such as the Temple (which once stood at the edge of a picturesque lake) and can be seen annually on Open House Day

But the real legacy Anne Rushout has left Wanstead can be seen in three volumes of drawings she made between 1824-1832, which can be found in the British Art collection at Yale University. She records a splendidly rural and naturally beautiful Wanstead at the end of the Regency era. All of these images are freely searchable over the internet, but I have decided to collate them together in two sections covering Wanstead, and further afield.

Disappointingly, Yale University describes Lady Anne as an ‘amateur artist’. This can only be because she was a woman, for it seems to me that her output and quality of work merits far more than label of a ‘hobby’. I hope that Yale and the people of Wanstead will reassess Lady Anne Rushout as an important proto-feminist, writer, and artist – worthy of full recognition and respect.

Further Information

Frustratingly for historians, Anne Rushout’s diaries covering 1791-1827 have been missing since the 1950s. As a frequent visitor to Wanstead House during Wicked William’s era of extravagance, she could have provided some valuable insight into what went on behind closed doors.

However, Anne’s journals 1828-1849 are in the possession of Senate House Library in London & her ‘commonplace book’ for the period 1776-1832, which is an extensive scrapbook of ephemera and jottings about fashionable life, can also be found at Yale University.

An excellent on-line history of Wanstead Grove complete with images of the Temple can be found here.

The Counties Resident Association has produced a great history of the Grove Estate

Kelly McDonald has written about Anne Rushout’s connection with Bersted Lodge

‘Uncle Arthur Wellesley? He’s not all that!’ – Wicked William goes to War

 

 wickedwilliamyoung         wellington

‘Wicked’ William and the Duke of Wellington were remarkably alike in appearance

 

Little has been written about ‘Wicked’ William Long-Wellesley beyond his role in the destruction of Wanstead House. My research (and this blog) will show that William’s long and turbulent life encompassed far more than the mere dozen years it took him to plunder Wanstead’s treasures and lay waste to its estates.

Today we go back to 1808; the place is Portugal and it is mid-summer. General Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) has just landed at Mondego Bay leading a British expeditionary force numbering 14000 men – this being the very start of his 6-year fight to liberate the Iberian Peninsula from Napoleon’s occupying forces. Amongst Arthur’s considerable retinue we find one William Pole, a 20-year-old aide-de-camp on his first tour of duty. Considering Arthur’s already legendary reputation for precision, this seems an odd appointment. Yet closer scrutiny shows that even the greatest military strategists are often bound by family obligation – thus lumbered with errant relatives, in the hope some good may come of the exercise.

 mondego bay

 He’s out there somewhere – ‘Wicked’ William lands in Portugal, 1808

 

William Pole was one such stray – foisted upon Arthur by older brother William Wellesley-Pole. It was a kind of trade-off in favours because Wellesley-Pole was Arthur’s most reliable and trusted confidante, protecting his interests at home – therefore Arthur could hardly refuse taking this wild but spirited boy under his wing. So it came to pass that ‘Wicked’ William and Arthur Wellesley went off to war together, offering a possibly unique opportunity to see our greatest General on the battle front, through the eyes of his own family.

 

rolica

At Roliça & Vimeiro William’s role involved delivering messages between regiments

 

Without delving too deeply into events in the field, it was a very exciting beginning for William. He first saw action at the Battle of Roliça on 17th August, where Arthur’s men defeated an outnumbered French army under General Delaborde. The next day William wrote to his mother

 I seize this, the earliest opportunity; to send you such most pleasing intelligence. I have escaped unhurt; the action was most severe and cost many brave lives… We found ourselves led into a labyrinth of narrow passes and impassable mountains. Sir Arthur, cool and collected, ordered the artillery to advance; and shots for shots were frequently exchanged between us and the enemy… The volley of the shots became less frequent; our foes were cleared for the heights… at length abated and left us master of the field of battle.

Four days later the French returned in greater numbers hoping for the element of surprise– But they were again defeated at the Battle of Vimeiro – putting an end to the French invasion of Portugal.

cintra

Arthur Wellesley was lambasted for his role in the Convention of Cintra

Yet this result would have been much more decisive but for the fact that two more senior British Generals arrived on the scene in the heat of battle, relieving Arthur Wellesley of his command. They prevented Arthur’s pursuit of the vanquished French armies and subsequently agreed an overly generous truce. The Convention of Cintra signed on August 30th allowed the entire French army free passage out of Portugal, and more importantly fit to fight another day. To add insult to injury the Royal Navy laid on ships to carry other French troops and munitions back home. This news was received with outrage in England, and Arthur blamed despite the fact he had not been a party to the agreement other than to sign it when ordered to do so by his superiors. Being demoted when in the throes of routing the opposition must have been a shattering blow for Arthur. He wrote to Wellesley-Pole on 26th August regarding his senior officers:

These people are really more stupid and incapable than any I have met with; & if things go on in this disgraceful manner I must quit them.

Naturally in the depths of such despair, Arthur was not to be trifled with. Into the firing line came William, whose bravery in the field had been reported in despatches, and whom Arthur had just a few days earlier remarked upon favourably. But with Arthur’s patience exhausted and his heckles up William was to become the fall-guy. This letter from the Raglan MS (dated Sept 6th) holds nothing back – as Arthur tells Wellesley-Pole exactly what he thinks of young William.

He is the most extraordinary person altogether I have ever seen. There is a mixture of steadiness and extreme levity, of sense & folly in his composition such as I have never met with… the nature of our relative situations, & the constant crowd with which I am surrounded prevents all intercourse between us… He is lamentably ignorant and idle… he talks incessantly and I hear of his topics from the others which sometimes do not appear to have been judiciously chosen… I have an opportunity of talking to him seriously of his situation; for he is gone off without Leave, which I must notice… In short I don’t know what to say about him. To educate him would be a desideratum… he will never be on a upon a par with the rest of society till he shall have educated himself

Historians regularly cite the above as a testament to Arthur’s black mood during this period. It is certainly true that Arthur’s anger made him excessively harsh towards his nephew. But given what we know about William’s subsequent behaviour at Wanstead – it is hard to disagree with this assessment.

maryborough

Wellesley-Pole received the news that William was ignorant without comment

What Wellesley-Pole must have made of Arthur’s character assassination of William we shall never know because the subject is not mentioned in subsequent correspondence. But, thanks to surviving archives, we do have the benefit of a right of reply from ‘Wicked’ William himself. We learn that William also wrote a letter home (on 27th August) in which he castigates uncle Arthur’s behaviour. The original has not survived – all we have is the reply from older sister Mary Bagot, which reveals that William actually expected more favourable treatment. To him being a relative transcended rules of rank and order within the army hierarchy. William’s vanity meant he could not grasp how such demands threatened to undermine Arthur’s authority.

My Dearest William – depend upon it, if it gets wind that you have differences with Arthur, you are ruined and undone… You must I seriously think have been drunk when you wrote to me. But I will answer every part of your complaints simply__

In the first place, you say Arthur “treats you distantly and never speaks to you”. I know, and have always heard, that when upon Service, he is notoriously distant with all his officers. Besides this, would a man of common sense be particularly free with his own nephew to disquiet every other person, make you hated, & an object of jealousy, & himself abused for favouring his nephew.

 You next say “he never employs you” – The general opinion here is that you were the person most employed & sent about with most messages in the actions. You say “you gain no credit” – To this I answer: The Times, The Oracle, & Courier have all had various eulogisms in them of you, for your activity and gallant behaviour… Everyone speaks the same language & all write in asking me, & hoping you intend following up the profession, as it is one you appear to shine in. So this is gaining no credit!

My dear William, you must recollect you are just 20. For many of those you are with, not only have a right to take the piss out of you & not only from superiority of years, but from rank, length of service & a thousand other things & can you expect to be employed & a preference given to you above them all. I cannot conceive how the idea of being employed conspicuously ever came into your head… Many work hard for years without gaining the credit you have gained in one month.

My love, your complaints are ungrateful to providence, & to Arthur… Give yourself common pains to gain an insight into the art of the profession you are now in. You began your career with one whose name & character stands unrivalled, & on with whom if you quarrel God help you is all I can say.

Above all this letter shows that William was by now a fully-fledged attention seeker. The mere fortnight that the British army rested following Vimeiro was clearly too dull– for William craved constant excitement and attention. He was obviously unprepared for the many months of inactivity and hardship facing most soldiers over the course of a campaign.

However, it must be said that William has identified traits in Arthur’s character which became the subject of debate and conjecture throughout his military career. This is perhaps best summed up by Arthur’s famous description of his troops as ‘scum of the earth’, which many observers then and since have considered insulting and unfeeling towards the many men who loyally served him & whose bravery was beyond reproach. As historian Christopher Duffy succinctly puts it

Wellington I think had this fundamental coldness in his heart. He would weep when he met casualties, but basically he was a cold-hearted bastard.

To sum up then, we can see that William’s immaturity was the root cause of his spat with Arthur. For all this though – he was unlucky to incur Arthur’s wrath at the very time when Arthur was considering his own future in the army. Had Arthur not been beset with such heavy troubles, this matter may have been resolved.

But such is the story of ‘Wicked’ William that another golden opportunity came to be wasted. Thus by the time Mary’s sensible advice reached William it was too late – he was already dismissed and heading home. To cap it all off  – ‘Wicked’ William’s chance to be mentored by Britain’s greatest general was taken by another rookie aide-de-camp named Fitzroy Somerset (later Lord Raglan) who not only went on to become Wellington’s closest military aide, but also to marry ‘Wicked’ William’s sister Emily.

emily        raglan

William’s Loss? Emily Wellesley-Pole & Wellington’s ‘chosen one’ –  Fitzroy Somerset

 

For more information on the Peninsular War (1808-1814), I would recommend http://peninsularwar200.org/

Rory Muir has recently written a very good biography of Wellington, which I would recommend not least because my own work is footnoted therein

For all things Wellington, and to partake in a tour why not visit Number One London

Finally, if you have enjoyed reading about ‘Wicked’ William acting the fool – please check out this earlier post entitled ‘Wicked’ William’s Hunt

 

 

 

Tally Ho! – A Brief History of The Epping Hunt Part 5 – A Fond Farewell

Tally Ho! A Brief History of the Epping Hunt

Introduction | Origins | The Cockney Hunt | Wicked William’s Hunt | A Fond Farewell

A Fond Farewell – (Courtesy of Thomas Hood)

 eppinghunt-4

Epping, for butter justly famed, And Pork in sausage popp’d;

Where winter time, or summer time, A Pig’s flesh is always chopp’d

 But famous more, as annals tell, Because of Easter Chase,

There ev’ry year ‘twixt dog and deer, There is a gallant race

Extract from ‘The Epping Hunt’ (1829)

 

As we have seen the Epping Hunt had long-since lost its reputation by the turn of the nineteenth century. By that time it was a regular victim of satire, described as a farce, worthy of scorn and derision. Whilst a lot of what was written about the Easter Monday Common Hunt was true, it should be noted that a sizeable element of snobbery motivated these attacks. It became de rigeur to pigeon-hole hard-working Londoners enjoying a day out as uncouth ‘cockney clowns’ unaware of their own ineptness and stupidity. This could be linked with a wider censorship of popular sports such as football and boxing, which were prevented from developing alongside acceptable aristocratic pastimes like horseracing and cricket. Organisations such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice openly advocated banning of working-class sports on Sundays, which was the only day available to most working-class people. Hence mass-participation events naturally suffered on the altar of religious zeal. Because of this the rules of football were not formally written down until the 1860s – a half century after cricket and horseracing.

returning from the epping hunt 1822

Returning from the Epping Hunt (1822) – Yet more ‘cockney’ stereotyping

 

The so-called ‘march of morality’ began to kick in as the 1820s progressed , with even the middle and lower orders beginning to shift away from the frolicsome bawdiness of public sports, such as described in Pierce Egan’s popular classic Life In London (1820). In this thrust for greater decorum and respectability, Epping Hunt’s occasional reappearance was increasingly considered an embarrassing throwback. It lingered on sporadically until 1853 after which the landlord of the Roebuck – said to have become so ashamed of the company turning up at his establishment – put an end to the Epping Hunt forever.

Why then, does the Epping Hunt merit a fond farewell? And how has it passed into Essex folklore cleansed of the ill-will and disgust that followed it to the grave? Quite simply, I believe it has recovered in reputation thanks to the brilliance of poet Thomas Hood (1799-1845).

thomas hood

The Epping Hunt’s Facesaver? – Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

In his poem The Epping Hunt published in 1829 (and reproduced in full here) Hood makes no attempt to deny the charges brought against the Hunt. Like generations of critics before him, Hood lays bare the ridiculousness of town-dwellers coming into the countryside in pursuit of the stag. But Hood has changed the emphasis from hostility to whimsy, and his descriptions are not only gentle but also affectionate. With the help of 6 sketches from Thomas Rowlandson, The Epping Hunt was a national sensation, cementing Hood’s reputation as a comic poet, and repositioning the Epping Hunt as a tradition to be cherished. Hood’s style of writing represented a movement away from the savageness of Georgian satirical caricature, whereupon kinder representations of life such as nostalgia began to enter the nation’s conscience. So, thanks to Hood, the Epping Hunt achieved a decent eulogy for future generations.

eppinghunt-2

Hood’s comic verse is perfectly represented here by Rowlandson, as we see the hapless John Huggins being hunted by the deer

 

But how did Thomas Hood come to write about Epping Forest? We can only surmise that he was a visitor in the late 1820s following his marriage to Jane Reynolds. The newlyweds lived in Islington between 1826 and 1832, so it would not have been difficult for Hood to have made the annual pilgrimage to Buckhurst Hill to see what the fuss was about. In fact the 1826 Hunt was quite widely reported – though not in a positive way. The Everyday Book recorded that the event failed to start until 2-30pm because the stag was sent on a tour of all the local pubs, where it was shown to 3000 or so hunt-followers at 3 pence a view, presumably so they could get first-hand knowledge of what a stag looked like. It didn’t do much good for the stag was lost almost immediately after being set loose. The report summed up by saying if you are looking for a hunt…

For want of a better, this must do

Perhaps Thomas Hood’s love for Wanstead began with his poem about the Epping Hunt. For in 1832 Hood took up residence at Lake House in Wanstead Park – where he lived for three years. Hood rented the property from none other than ‘Wicked’ William Long-Wellesley – and despite regularly defaulting on his rent managed to enjoy cordial relations with his notorious landlord. Hood’s only novel Tylney Hall (1834) is a thinly veiled homage to Wanstead House and Park. But attempting to cash in on Wicked William’s story was an unwise move because it raised expectations that Tylney Hall would reveal the truth about Wanstead House, and satisfy public curiosity as to why it was demolished. – This lead to criticism and affected sales, forcing Hood to add a note in the preface explaining that ‘Tylney Hall’  alluded to the topography of Wanstead Park, but not its disreputable owner.

Incidentally Tylney Hall is a very important early Victorian novel, well worth reading not least for its descriptions of Wanstead Park. Rather surprisingly several characters in the book are West Indian, their presence revealing that this part of London was already multicultural in the 1830s. I will cover this in a separate blog.

lakehouse wanstead hood

Thomas Hood lived at Lake House in Wanstead Park (1832-35)

 

As we draw a close to this brief history of the Epping Hunt, it is important to remember the role played by the ‘Common Hunt’ in the lives of Londoners and the people of Essex for over 600 years. Though it lingered on for far too long as a spectacle, Epping’s Hunt must be remembered as one of the earliest and enduring events available to the people on perhaps their most important public holiday. Therefore the festive spirit generated by celebrating the Epping Hunt can be seen to have moved on to other leisure activities, such as cycling and day-trips to Epping Forest, which became increasingly popular as the Victorian age of steam took hold.

deerhunt-1899

As this 1899 print shows, deer hunting in Epping Forest carried on regardless – for the privileged few.
Tally Ho!

I recommend the Gerald Massey website for an excellent biography of Thomas Hood.

For information about the history of Wanstead Park there is a very good ongoing series of articles written by Richard Arnopp available via Wanstead Village Directory

Thank you for joining me on this brief excursion into Epping Forest’s past. You can find out a lot more about this ancient forest by visiting the following sites:

The City of London’s informative guide to what’s on in Epping Forest : cityoflondon.gov.uk/epping

Essex Record Office is a tremendous resource for researching all aspects of Essex history: essex.gov.uk/ero

The Friends of Wanstead Park – wansteadpark.org.uk

Finally, the best place for Wanstead related news is Wansteadium

 

Tally Ho! – A Brief History of The Epping Hunt Part 4 – Wicked William’s Hunt

Tally Ho! A Brief History of the Epping Hunt

Introduction | Origins | The Cockney Hunt | Wicked William’s Hunt | A Fond Farewell

Chav-Man Cometh – Wicked William’s Hunt, 1813

wansteadcolour

Wanstead House – Catherine Tylney-Long’s pièce de résistance

Wanstead House first came under ‘Wicked’ William Long-Wellesley’s control upon his marriage to Catherine Tylney-Long in March 1812. Miss Tylney-Long, of Draycot House in Wiltshire, was universally recognised as richest heiress in the realm. Wanstead House – a magnificent Palladian Mansion on the edge of Epping Forest, just 10 miles from London – was the crown jewel of her vast landed estate. Catherine’s intention to reside at Wanstead was clear from the outset, for she served notice on her French Royal tenants within weeks of coming of age. Thereafter Catherine presided over a programme of refurbishment to revitalise the mansion, and she used it extensively throughout 1811 – hosting a series of showpiece events attended by a myriad of suitors eager to win her hand, (and more importantly her purse).

wickedwilliam

1st prize went to ‘Wicked’ William Wellesley-Pole (1788-1857) Booo!!!

After a chase worthy of the Epping Hunt, William emerged victorious from the pack when Catherine accepted his proposal in the autumn of 1811. Shortly before their marriage William added his wife’s name to his own and some – to form the ludicrously quadruple-barrelled new surname ‘Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley’. Not surprisingly this was soon abbreviated to Long-Wellesley by his friends, but rather pointedly to ‘Long’ by his Wanstead neighbours who rightly emphasised the surname he ought to have adopted when marrying into Catherine’s estate. An extract this contemporary ditty shows that William’s accession to Wanstead House was less than enthusiastically received.

LONG a tyrant, his neighbours presumed to annoy,

Their vexation and grief were his comfort and joy,

His greatest delight was to do others wrong

Till the people at length cried, “We won’t stand this LONG!”

 

From the outset the newlyweds craved acceptance from London’s fashionable elite. William believed Wanstead House could ignite his political career, enabling him to join his renowned Wellesley family relatives, whose power and influence was widely recognised. [See footnote below]

A few weeks after his marriage, and quite by chance, William discovered his hereditary entitlement to the role of Lord Warden of Epping Forest. This was an unlucky day for Essex because William’s assertion of the long-dormant Wardenship had a profound long-term affect on Epping Forest, for it shrank in size by over 5000 acres under his watch. But those years of destruction and land-grab came much later in William’s wreckless saga.

Because William believed he could never possibly spend the vast pile of cash he now possessed, his initially used the Wardenship for egotistical purposes. When he closed Wanstead Park to the public in the summer of 1812 there was a huge public outcry. Instead of negotiating with his neighbours, William reminded them that Lord Wardenship gave him powers to ‘appoint or sack forest officials’ thus sending an intimidating message to farmers and tradesmen alike – and anyone else dependent on his patronage. Despite this tangible threat to their livelihoods the people of Wanstead refused to be cowed, winning a landmark case in March 1813 – whereby the ancient rights of way were restored and William forced to reopen Wanstead Park. William lost the case because he did not appreciate the long-standing ties between Wanstead House, Epping Forest and its people, instead resorting to a crude attempt to bulldoze tradition purely for his own gain.

Easter Monday 1817 by Henry Thomas Aitken

 The Epping Hunt in ‘Wicked’ William’s day

The Lord Wardenship provided William with a second opportunity to flex his muscles, this time via spectacular gesture– a publicity stunt to convince rich and poor alike that he was worthy of admiration and respect. Yes, he decided to revive the Epping Hunt!  After all, what better way could there be to promote his equestrian prowess, style and up-to-the-minute fashion sense? This was a golden chance to be admired and envied, winning over his doubters in one fell swoop.

The problem was that William once again failed to do his homework, not realising the extent which the Epping Hunt had declined as a spectacle. William may have known the City of London abandoned the Common Hunt in 1807. In fact the Lord Mayor’s appearance at Buckhurst Hill had long-since been superseded by a new Easter Monday ‘tradition’ whereby the Lord Mayor and his retinue proceeded from Mansion House to Christchurch (Newgate) & heard the Spital sermon. But aldermen and stuffy City dignitaries held no interest for William. He wanted members of the beau monde, dandies, playboys and gadabouts – and intended to spend lavishly to ensure their attendance.

dandy club

William’s target audience was the fashionable London elite

Realising that a pack of hounds was an essential requisite of the Epping Hunt, William ordered the construction of new kennels on his land near the Eagle in Snaresbrook (then known as the Spread Eagle, now as the Toby Carvery). Instead of relying on foxhounds, William purchased a pack of stag-hounds especially bred for deer-hunting. At that time only the Prince Regent kept stag-hounds, and he only had a couple because of the enormous expense in acquiring them. William’s investment in a whole pack of hounds necessitated his appointment of Tommy Rounding, a widely respected local man fondly described as ‘father of the Hunt’. As far as adherence to tradition and quality of event, this was a promising start.

snaresbrook house

Modern-day Snaresbrook House stands on the site of William’s kennels

For the day in question William’s men were decked out in coats of Lincoln green with high-top boots. As for William, he was described in Bailey’s Magazine as

faultless alike in dress and symmetry, and style…With his spotless white waistcoat… and the ample tie of dark silk, perfectly adjusted and in true keeping with his dark coat.. [William] was the embodied perfection of a man of fashion, and carried his dress with that easy determination of style which is peculiar to high birth and high breeding.

One newspaper reported the sequence of events:

An uncommonly numerous assemblage of genteel company attended the Epping Easter Hunt this year. Those in carriages were chiefly of the first classes of Nobility and Gentry, and the horsemen in general capitally mounted. Mr. Pole Wellesley, of Wanstead House, having his stag-hunting establishment in this district, he is become patron of the Easter Hunt, and sent a deer to be turned out before the company. He was present on his famous chestnut horse. His Lady, Mrs. Long- Wellesley, was there also –she came in an open carriage, drawn by four greys, and two postillions with out-riders &c.; and with her company, took her station in an apartment for her at the Rein Deer, before the stag was turned out. It ran for about two hours, and was afterwards lost.

 

Elsewhere it was reported that while out with the hounds William scattered money freely among the village folk. He was said to have flung dozens of gold sovereigns into the throngs of spectators waiting outside the kennels upon his return. He then footed the bill for an enormous feast for participating huntsmen at the Eagle, and brought his more select guests back to Wanstead House for further hospitality and entertainment.

sovereigns

Sovereigns were thrown to bystanders at the kennels and the surrounding fields

 

As an event William Long-Wellesley’s Epping Hunt lived long in the memory and did a great deal to restore his reputation locally. But such wild and reckless flinging of sovereigns around the distressed community was more the act of a show-off than of somebody genuinely concerned for his tenants or the attending peasantry. Also his decision to begin the Hunt from the Rein Deer in complement to Mrs Long-Wellesley was reported to have caused ‘great mortification amongst numerous ladies and others in carriages arranged on the brow of the hill near the Roebuck, the customary place of turning out.’ This may have been a faux pas too far for William as it showed that spending prodigiously does not guarantee guest satisfaction.

the eagle

The Eagle at Snaresbrook – where being treated to a meal once really meant something

 

Perhaps the most telling thing about the whole event is that within a few weeks after the Epping Hunt it was announced that William Long-Wellesley intended ‘to give up his hunting establishment entirely’ and place the hunters, stag-hounds &c up for sale. This more than anything proves that Wicked William had no long-term intentions regarding the Epping Hunt. He just wanted to make a gesture, & boy did he waste a colossal sum in doing so.

I’d like to say that lessons were learnt, but I’m afraid we all know that the spending continued and that this crazy hedonistic occasion was merely the first warning that Wanstead House’s days were numbered. It is important to clarify that William continued to hunt regularly in Epping Forest during his tenure of Wanstead House, but this was by invitation only and nothing to do with the ‘Common Hunt’ which he turned his back on..

Wicked William was powerless to stop a few feeble re-runs of the Epping Hunt in the years to 1820, though perhaps his only permanent contribution to Hunt tradition was to make the Eagle pub at Snaresbrook the primary meeting place for a strange new breed of cockney visitors on Easter Monday for many years to come

hobbies in an uproar

 

It is hard to believe that the famous cycle meet at the Eagle, which was still going strong in the 1940s, could be traced back to ‘Wicked’ William’s days at Wanstead House, and that it evolved to replace the Epping Hunt as a regular feature of the annual calendar. As London became more urbanised, the ‘cockney’ desire to master horsemanship declined, and the age of machines accelerated their separation from country-dwellers

So by the 1820s with Wicked William in exile, Wanstead house torn down and the onset of the steam age – the Epping Hunt was not only dead, but there were no mourners in attendance. Or were there? Enter one Thomas Hood…

 

Footnotes:

[1]

At the time of his marriage, Marquess Wellesley (an uncle) had just resigned as Foreign Secretary in order to challenge Spencer Perceval’s for Prime Minister, Wellesley-Pole (his father) was Secretary of State for Ireland, and Lord Wellington (an uncle) was in the Peninsular leading the British forces against Napoleon.

Tally Ho! – A Brief History of the The Epping Hunt Part 3 – The Cockney Hunt

Introduction | Origins | The ‘Cockney Hunt’ | Wicked William’s Hunt | A Fond Farewell

Cockneys in Essex? Well I never!

1741 - cockneys ridiculing countryfolk

Rivalry between town and country folk is a long-established tradition

 

The origins of ‘cockney’ can be traced back as far as C14, when it had a middle-English meaning of ‘cocks-egg’. It was not until around 1600, when Samuel Rowland coined the phrase ‘Bowe-bell Cockney,’ that the word adopted specific geographical connotations. However, long before this time ‘cockney’ had already been adopted by country people as a derogatory reference to London-dwellers, whom they considered bereft of the manly attributes of horsemanship, hunting and civility. By the 1700s, as London rapidly increased in size and population, divisions between town and country folk widened. The above print from 1741 shows that Londoners (or cockneys) considered country folk to be slow, badly dressed, and backward. This particular yokel is waiting for ‘Mr Stuart’ to get off his horse before addressing him, unaware he is referring to a well-known statue. Rustic gullibility and simple-mindedness was a common theme throughout the Georgian era, used by satirists such as Hogarth and Rowlandson and perpetuated by urban domination of the press.

What a godsend it must have been therefore when the Epping Hunt began to attract large numbers of Londoners, providing a much-needed opportunity to redress the balance between town and country lifestyles. Notwithstanding its association with Bow bells, as the century wore on the phrase ‘cockney’ increasingly became linked with ‘townies’ attempting to partake in country pastimes. This is demonstrated by searching print media after the 1750s, & especially satirical prints, where there are numerous instances of clownish ‘cockney’ sportsmen. The Epping Hunt was perhaps the most high-profile event at which ‘cockney’ behaviour was lampooned.

cockney sportsman

Rowlandson portrayed the perceived stupidity of Cockneys in rural settings

As stated in part 2 the Epping Hunt reached its apogee in terms of ceremonial importance in 1749.  As late as 1753 the London Daily Advertiser recorded that the Lord Mayor ‘set out at 5am from Mansion House for Chigwell Row’ to attend the Epping Hunt, but thereafter London’s dignitaries increasingly shied away. Also when the Lord Warden of Epping Forest, (Lord Tylney of Wanstead House), went abroad to Italy, the Hunt lost its chief patron and became less of an attraction for London’s elite. Given that the Epping Hunt was by tradition a ‘Common Hunt’ it began to fall upon ordinary Londoners to fill the void. In order to do this they relied on the assistance of Essex landowners and tradesmen who were loath to see this lucrative tradition die out.

Just off The Highway in Wapping (or Ratcliffe’s Highway as it was once known) is a small lane adjacent to Tobacco Dock named ‘Chicwell Street’.This is named so  according to legend, because it was the the site from where cockney sportsmen annually congregated on early on Easter Monday to make their pilgrimage to Chigwell in Essex. Located close to East India House and the heart of mercantile London, this became a more proletarian departure point for the Epping Hunt when the Lord Mayor lost interest in attending. By the 1770s organisation of the Epping Hunt fell upon William Mellish, MP for Essex, ably assisted by his brother Joseph, who was responsible for providing the pack of hounds on the day. They had an inauspicious start in 1774 when two horses died in a direct collision, though their riders escaped unscathed. The following year in a bid to attract back the fairer sex and lessen the perception of a cockney monopoly, the event was promoted as a ‘Lady’s Hunt’. This backfired because a young gentleman was thrown from his horse and killed on the spot prior to the stag being turned out. Then the stag headed down Bucket’s Hill towards Smitham Bottom ‘to the great disappointment of the cocknies who wanted him driven towards London’- thus no sport was had that day.

Rowlandsons Cockney Hunt 1811

In an attempt to upgrade its image Epping became a ‘Lady’s Hunt’

However the attempted feminisation of the Epping Hunt continued right up to 1800. In 1785 The London Chronicler reported

Soon as gloomy night had withdrawn her veil from the smiling face of morn, the keen sportsman quitted his warm bed, and was mounted on his high-mettled steed before the sun spread his beams into the neighbouring vale: not a horse was to be seen East of Temple-bar, whose head was not turned towards Epping, not a citizen, who could procure a palfrey for love or money, who was not mounted and posting away to the Ladies Hunt. It is well for those who live on the road, that this important day comes but once a year, as it would be impossible for them to exist, were they to be frequent spectators of such a grotesque assemblage. [Huge numbers] arrived at the spot from whence the poor stag was to be liberated, however, there were many mishaps between that and town… The place was very much crowded with post-chaises and glass-coaches for the day, filled with sober cits and their loving dames; and notwithstanding the accidents which happened, the attendants of the chase were very numerous, both male and female, all, seemingly determined to be in at the death, but so elate they were with the idea of distancing their neighbour, they forgot they were to manage their horses, and so became distanced themselves. The stag had been turned out but a few moments before the plain was covered with the riders, ladies rolling over the beaux, and the beaux over ladies, and the horses left at full liberty.

The above-described hunt ended tragically for a Mr Humphries, a taylor from Tower Hill, who broke his neck when riding under a tree.

By 1788 Epping Hunt was openly described as ‘The Cocknies Hunt’ and its participants included ‘mercers, taylors, barbers, bakers and even bruisers – for Mendoza (a famous wrestler) and several of his tribe were there.’ The Literary Chronicle published the following insight into the excitement roused in London by the Epping Hunt

For weeks before Easter in every year, all the riding schools are filled with cockney Nimrods; every nag is employed on the Sundays; the visits to Hyde Park, in order to see the deer, and thus be able to identify the Epping stag, when they catch a glimpse of him, become frequent; and nothing is read at the London Institution but Daniel’s ‘Rural Sports’ or Beckford on ‘Hunting’… When the important day arrives early in the morning all the livery stables were so cleared… and every kind of vehicle was in requisition. There were horses of all colours and sizes… not were their riders less various, they included all orders and degrees of men; some went to share in the diversion of the hunting, others to laugh at the hunters. A friend from Epping invited me down and [when] the stag was let out, within five minutes I could have had my choice of fifty horses, who have just thrown their riders… while the forest was strewn with hats, and various contents from the pockets of hunters.

easterhunt1807

By 1795 the Epping Hunt was almost universally derided as a parody of what an organised hunt should be. Despite this condemnation The Times reported ‘tens of thousands of spectators and participants from the metropolis.’ Yet just when it seemed that nothing could diminish public enchantment with the Hunt, a piece of lawlessness jeopardised its future. Early in 1798 hunt-organiser Joseph Mellish was killed by highwaymen on the road near Woodford, thus with no pack of hounds available (and possibly as a mark of respect) the hunt was cancelled. Then two years of extremely wet weather led to a Hunt washout, meaning that a hiatus unwittingly set in during which cockney hegemony was wrested by the resumption of interest from Wanstead House.

In 1802 Wanstead House was leased to the Duc de Conde, who was a member of the exiled French Royal Family. In tribute to these French guests, 1802’s Epping Hunt was switched to the Bush at Wanstead, and over the next 3 years held at the Bald Faced Stag in Bucket’s Hill. For security reasons ‘cockney’ participation very much curtailed. When the City of London abolished the Common Hunt in 1807 it was thought that the Epping Hunt would end. But the ordinary citizens of London were not quite ready to give up this tradition, and attempted to keep it alive. Tommy Rounding, a publican from the Horse and Wells in Woodford was nominated to provide stag, venue and hounds for all-comers once more. But he could not emulate the golden years and by 1810 the Morning Post reported an event lying on its deathbed

To drive the deer with hound and horn, The Cocknies took their way

Yesterday, previous to the buck being enlarged, there was an immense concourse of sportsmen appeared on the ground, the majority of whom were mounted on animals not capable of keeping up with a lame goat. Then buck’s horns were adorned with ribands; and as the scent did not lie in consequence of the warm and dry weather, the hounds were once or twice at fault, to the great delight of the lazy hunters and bad horsemen. The hounds did not run a mile before several of the Cockney sportsmen were thrown out, while they were mortified by the gibes and jeers of those who followed on foot. Such a scrambling up hedges, and falling into ditches, was never before witnessed, and the old buck soon gave the hounds and the hunters the go by. There were some of the company exceedingly well mounted and well understood the chase: but, on the whole, the equestrian display was highly ludicrous and laughable.

Rowlandsons the city hunt 1810

Rowlandson’s The City Hunt – 1810

 

Given the farcical level at which the Epping Hunt languished, and its association with lower-class ‘cockney’ yobs, it would have taken a complete fool to consider reviving it as a high-calibre event. Step forward ‘Wicked William’ Long-Wellesley….

 

 

 

 

 

Tally Ho! – A Brief History of the The Epping Hunt Part 2 – Origins & Tradition

Introduction | Origins | The ‘Cockney Hunt’ | Wicked William’s Hunt | A Fond Farewell

Origins & Establishment of Tradition

henryvii at royal hunt epping forest

Henry VII hunting in Epping Forest

 

From the time of William the Conqueror, forest law was imposed by royal prerogative. Its principal aim was to protect game for hunting. Forest laws applied to any type of land private or common, cultivated or forested within a designated area, which was set by officials who carried out a ‘perambulation’ to establish and fix forest boundaries. Anything inside the area was considered to be ‘afforested’ – therefore liable to forest law. Within afforested areas deer could freely roam. Commoners could forage for wood, berries and other edible plants, but only the King was allowed to hunt there. Around the year 1130 Epping Forest came under forest law and it was noit until 1226, under the reign of Henry III that citizens of London were first granted free warren or liberty to hunt one day annually in what became known as ‘the common hunt’. Epping Forest came under the jurisdiction of a Lord Warden, and quite often this role was held by the ruling monarch.

From ancient times the Manor of Wanstead acted as an important venue for royal use of Epping Forest. Wanested Hall, as it was then known, was an established hunting lodge by 1499, and was a much-loved retreat for Henry VII. This love of Wanstead was shared by the King’s son Henry, who became Henry VIII, and it was he who first enclosed Wanstead Park around 1512. As can be seen above, Epping Forest became a royal playground and this continued under Queen Elizabeth’s reign & well into the 17th century. Whilst royal hunting could go on at any time, the ‘common hunt’ quickly became associated with Easter Monday. It is assumed that this date was set partly because it was traditionally a holiday and also because Easter marked the first time of year when the forest was deemed dry enough to stage a decent stag hunt.

 

Up until the 1680s the Epping Hunt as treated as a solemn almost ceremonial occasion. The Lord Mayor of London presided over the hunt, which was attended by aldermen, landed gentry and aristocrats. A deer was taken to an area of flat land at either the Bald Faced Stag or The Roebuck and let out of its cart. Participating riders usually formed a circle around the cart allowing the stag just one exit route, which was often set towards the city to avoid getting lost deep into Essex countryside. Royal patronage over the event came to an end in the 1680s when Josiah Child (1630-1699) purchased Wanstead House. As Governor of the East India Company Child used his enormous wealth and influence to bribe Charles II into allowing him to seize and enclose a large portion of Epping Forest surrounding his new estate. One of the ‘gifts’ Child received in return for payments of up to £10,000 per annum into Charles’ back pocket, was the hereditary title of Lord Warden of Epping Forest. Thus for the first time a commoner was now charged with responsibility for the forest, and though he used this privilege to his own advantage – he also made steps to influence and improve traditions such as the Epping Hunt.

josiah child

Child’s backhanders ensured Wanstead House controlled Epping’s forest and its Hunt

Josiah Child’s son Richard (1680-1750) became Lord Tylney in 1732, and is credited with formalising the Epping Hunt and making it into the occasion it became. As early as 1740 Lord Tylney took charge of events and thereafter the Lord Mayor of London became more of an honorary guest than organiser of the hunt. By this time the dignitaries set off from Whitechapel early in the morning in what evolved into the pre-hunt procession to ‘Buckets Hill’ (Buckhurst Hill as it is today).

The poet Tom D’Ursey, writing in 1719, encapsulated how Epping Hunt had become an established fixture in the sporting calendar

Once a year into Essex go, to see them pass along, O! tis a pretty show!

 

Old England newspaper reported in 1749:

At Wanstead in Essex yesterday Lord Tylney opened the hunt upon Epping Forest, where at least 70 coaches, most of them of six, assembled at the chace. The tents were pitched as usual by his Lordship’s direction, &c An elegant dinner was prepared for the ladies & in two of the largest tents, and a band of musick attended. The whole was concluded with a Ball Alfresco. The tees were decorated with flowers and illuminated in a circle round the area they danced in. The brilliancy of the ladies, who were very numerous, was the greatest ornament.

 

1749 proved to be a high watermark in the history of the Epping Hunt, because Lord Tylney died the following year. His son John, 2nd Lord Tylney, was a passionate advocate of Epping Forest, but not keen on hunting and seldom exercised his rights to organise the event. Tylney’s idea of sport was far more dangerous. Indeed his discovery in bed with a couple of manservants in the 1750s meant that Lord Tylney had to escape into exile to avoid criminal prosecution, and remained there until his death iun 1784

 

But so long as commoners enjoyed the right to hunt on Easter Monday, there were always going to be demand for the Epping Hunt to continue. Thus beckoned an era typified by ‘Cockney Nimrods’…