Victorian Monopoly – From ‘The Strand’ to ‘Jail’

Overview
“Go” to “Just Visiting” | “Pall Mall” to “Free Parking” | “Strand” to “Jail” | “Regent St” to “Mayfair”

In this third segment we press on with our journey around the Monopoly Board using only images from the Crace Collection of antiquarian prints and maps held by the British Museum. Our 1850s Londoners are tasked with traversing streets and locations immortalised since the London version of this iconic board game first appeared in 1936. We will begin in The Strand but shall inevitably end up in Jail, before our final turn homewards. But will the places we visit be familiar to Victorian eyes?

The Strand | Fleet St | Trafalgar Sq | Fenchurch St Station
Leicester SqCoventry StWater Works | PiccadillyGo To Jail

The Strand

The Strand (1781) by Thomas Malton

From the Middle Ages the Strand served as the principal route between the twin Cities of London and Westminster, deriving its name from its close proximity to the River Thames – which made it a thoroughfare liable to flooding right up until the construction of Victoria Embankment in 1870. For many centuries one of London’s best-known roads, the Strand might have had a still a greater claim upon the map of modern London: – Not once but twice stations that were called ‘The Strand’ have been subsequently renamed (Aldwych and Charing Cross). ‘Strand Bridge’ too was nearing completion, when the Duke of Wellington’s famous victory over Napoleon in 1815 caused it to be re-titled ‘Waterloo’ Bridge. Bordered to the west by Trafalgar Square, and to the east by Fleet Street., the Strand was a thriving commercial thoroughfare, instantly recognisable to Victorian Londoners

Exeter Change, The Strand

We are going to alight at Exeter Change, or Exchange as it was also known, on the north side of the Strand – where the Strand Palace Hotel now stands. The Change was built in 1676 on the site of the London mansion of the Earls of Exeter. Despite being demolished in 1829, this building retained a very special place in the memories of older generation Victorians. It was designed and built by a Dr Barbon as a kind of bazaar – similar to a modern-day shopping mall –  with various outlets, entertainment, and retail spaces. At the front was an arcade extending forwards right into the Strand. Initially Exeter Change housed a number of fine tailors, milliners, hosier and other fashionable shops – with an auction room (that also occasionally served as a Court room) on the upper floors. These were prime units, for it was recorded that one Thomas Clark, a cutler, accumulated a vast fortune via trade from the Change – enabling him to purchase the upper parts in 1773 as an investment – and thereafter to establish the first of a series of menageries, or private zoos – for which Exeter Change became most truly renowned

The Exeter Change menagerie at various times included lions, tigers, monkeys, and other exotic species, all confined in iron cages in small rooms. The roaring of the big cats could be heard outside, often frightening horses passing in the street below. Gilbert Pidcock bought the menagerie in 1793, and it later subsequently passed into the hands of Stephani Polito. Both Pidcock and Polito operated of travelling circuses, using the Exeter Change as winter quarters for their animals, which was a neat way of earning revenue off-season. The menagerie was extremely popular across all sections of society, and was well-advertised as a tourist attraction.

Pidcock’s Royal Menagerie Brochure

A few years before Exeter Change was swept away as part of a grander scheme to improve The Strand, it was the scene of a tragic and sensational event – revealing the cruelty and barbarity of Georgian society towards animal welfare; namely the death of Chunee in 1826. Chunee was an Indian elephant brought to London around 1809 and put to work at Covent Garden Theatre. His acting career got off to a bad start because ‘the tremendous noise of his reception deprived him of sense’ causing Chunee to refuse to allow ‘the Sultan of Cashmire’ to dismount him during an important scene,. Instead of following the script, Chunee scarpered off-stage into the wings knocking all around him asunder. Fortunately no one was injured in the ensuing melee, and the sensation caused by his impromptu ad-libbing added boosted ticket sales. Chunee soon overcame his stage-fright to complete a 40-day pantomime season in front of packed houses, and then had the honour of appearing alongside Edmund Keane at Drury Lane. By 1812 Chunee was in retirement at Exeter Change, where he was placed in an oak and hammered-iron cage, and rapidly became one of London’s most iconic tourist attractions. This must have been a miserable existence for such a huge beast – as he was almost permanently locked up for human entertainment.

Chunee ate his keeper’s clothing in 1819

As Chunee grew older the sheer tedium and loneliness of his existence made him angry and hostile. By the mid-1820s there were entire seasons when he was considered ungovernable. Eventually on March 1st 1826, Chunee became extremely agitated and began violently striking his den.  His exasperated owner and keeper, Mr Cross took the heartless decision to poison him. But this failed, so he sent for his gun, ignoring the pleas of his staff, declaring ‘no pecuniary loss could induce me to endanger the lives of other humans’ by keeping Chunee alive. Thirty bullets were fired from close range but the Chunee continued to struggle and actually succeeded in smashing the front section of his cage open. As the case was now desperate, soldiers bearing muskets were called upon from Somerset House and a further hundred musket balls were fired.  When Chunee eventually sunk to his knees – the firing continued. In fact it took another 90 minutes for this poor elephant to die. A grotesque crowd of onlookers witnessed the appalling spectacle of Cross finishing his off his prize exhibit with a sabre. Afterwards the newspapers commiserated with Cross over the loss of such a valuable asset (said to be in the region of £1000) – but there was barely a mention of the horrific ordeal suffered by Chunee.

The barbaric slaughter of Chunee the elephant (1826)

Yet Chunee’s demise may be seen as a parable for changes underway in British society as the Georgian era reached its end. Most people relished the cruelty of blood sports – indeed hundreds of people paid a shilling to watch Chunee’s dissection at the Royal College of Surgeons (where his bullet-ridden hide was sold off for £50). But there were also some green shoots of Victorian respectability arriving, and the emergence of sense of feeling towards animals. -This can be seen via a letter sent to The Times a few days afterwards

To place an elephant, or any beast, without a mate, and in a box bearing no greater proportion to his bulk than a coffin does to a corpse, is inhuman; and there can be no doubt that confinement and the want of a mate caused the frenzy… If a very small part of the money voted for the Royal Palace were applied to the purchase of a few acres of ground, we might [be able to exhibit] Nature’s wonderful works in the style worthy of a great city…

This correspondent’s wishes would not be realised for another three decades (with the opening of Regent’s Park Zoo). As for the menagerie – when Exeter Change was finally demolished, it was re-opened further down the Strand, in a building near Charing Cross. Exeter Change may have been no more for Victorians, but legend says that Chunee can still be found in the Strand – inspiring this 1829 poem by Thomas Hood

Lines from Chunee’s Ghost (1829)

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Fleet Street

Fleet Street has for centuries been a major street in the City of London, extremely well-known to Victorians, especially because it was the site of Temple Bar, an ancient landmark serving as the principle ceremonial entrance on the royal route between the St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower of London on one side, and the Palace of Westminster on the other. Temple Bar was intended as a barrier regulating trade passing into the City, but it became a symbol of the rule of law because it was situated close to the Inns of Chancery. After 1800 the Royal Courts Of Justice, transferred to Fleet Street from Westminster Hall, adding to Fleet Street’s status as a legal quarter. So, while Fleet Street’s historic connection with newspapers and the press has come and gone, it remains today very much associated with the law.

Temple Bar c.1700

The baroque version of Temple Bar erected c.1680 was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and as can be seen above was still used as a place for displaying the severed heads of executed prisoners, as a warning to others. Temple Bar spanned Fleet Street right up until 1878, when it was removed because it caused too much of a bottleneck for passing traffic. After many years away from London, Wren’s arch can nowadays be found in Paternoster Square, adjacent to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Fleet Ditch (1841) – a true Dickensian slum

Fleet Street gained its name from the River Fleet which crossed the roadway at Fleet Bridge – nowadays known as Ludgate Circus, and for many years whilst there was an open ditch north of Fleet Street, surrounded by ramshackle housing, prone to flooding and cholera. Not surprisingly crime proliferated – and by the 1826 it was so bad that a drastic reform of policing was necessary.

The nuisance, by the assemblage of groups of dissolute girls and men of notorious character, in the vicinity of Temple Bar, Fleet Street, and the Strand, is now likely to be abolished, as it is in contemplation to establish an effective street police… [ensuring] ‘free passage’ and ‘safe walking’ to the public in these great thoroughfares… to break the almost impassable file of pickpockets and women of the lowest description, who plant themselves in this most crowded… and most convenient thoroughfare for their plunder.

The Metropolitan Police Act 1829 rescued Fleet Street from becoming a no-go area but Victorian Monopoly player’s would have looked for Fleet Street at the cheapest section of section of their game, rather than the upper-middling red area it was allotted by 1936.

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Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square c.1852

By choosing Trafalgar Square to complete their red section, the original creators of the London Monopoly board displayed a sensible and logical understanding of this City’s topography; for Trafalgar Square stands at the western end of the Strand, which in turn leads on to Fleet Street. Trafalgar Square owes its existence to an Act of Parliament (1826) enabling the redevelopment of Charing Cross. This area had been an important meeting place for Londoners since the 13th Century, so it was very suitable for renewal on a grand scale, and perfect to receive a name synonymous with Britain’s new sense of her own power and patriotism. Began by John Nash, Trafalgar Square was finally completed in 1844, though it’s new name, recalling Horatio Nelson’s famous victory over the French (1805), was routinely in use as early as 1833.

When its iconic fountains were added in 1841 at a cost of £11,000, the earth removed was used to level off Green Park. The centrepiece – Nelson’s Column was erected in 1843.

 

Queen Victoria’s Coronation

As we know it today, Trafalgar Square is closely associated with public gatherings, protests, and pageantry. For the Victorian monopoly player this tradition would have reminded them of a very important day – the coronation of their Queen on June 28th 1838. The Standard reported that the mob were ‘never so well behaved’ as they lined the streets to witness the Queen’s ceremonial procession

From the earliest dawn… Charing Cross was presented with a scene of unusual bustle and interest. Many persons, it is understood, passed the night in the open space in Trafalgar Square in order to  be in good time for a good view of the procession. Others took up their positions in the taverns and public-houses in the neighbouring streets, from which they sallied forth as early as 5 o’clock, who joined their counterparts in front of the National Gallery. By 6 o’clock the space between the statue of Charles I, and the front of the National Gallery, was filled as far as it could be and by nine it was crowded to such a degree as to make ingress or egress impossible… The appearance of the whole area was one of the most imposing kind. At the west side of Trafalgar Square the Union Club had erected two galleries, which were filled with an elegant assemblage of beauty and fashion. In the distance on weither side were other galleries as attractively occupied. Every  front storey of every house in the whole line teemed with well-dressed spectators, chiefly ladies. Even the house-tops to the chimney-pots were crowded at every place which could command a view… At seven o’clock there was a sharp shower… but after a short time the weather became fair, and for the remainder of the day was as favourable as could be desired… cloudy, without rain. Precisely at ten o’clock the firing of the guns in the Park announced the procession had commenced its movement from the Palace. At this moment the crowd in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square was immense… we do not exaggerate when we say… there were not less than 200,000 persons assembled. Considering the immense assemblage, the order and decorum observed were on the whole highly creditable to the people, to the solemn occasion… and to the civil and military authorities.

What a spectacle it must have been to stand in Trafalgar Square watching young Princess Victoria pass by on her way to become the monarch that gave her name to a golden age in British history – but it’s time to move on to our next destination…

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Fenchurch Street Station

Fenchurch Street Station (1854)

Fenchurch Street Station was opened in 1841 by the London & Blackwall Railway Company, and then rebuilt as per Thomas Hosmer Shepherd‘s painting above. Let us go back to the 5th of July 1840, where we shall learn that Fenchurch Street began its life as a massive pulley-operated terminus running ‘trains’ down and back from the river Thames at Blackwall. The Times recorded its opening day

At an early hour in the morning carriages began to draw up at the terminus, filled with Members of Parliament, merchants, and private gentlemen, accompanied by their ladies… by 12 noon being the hour at which it was arranged the first train should start, there must have been 1500 elegantly-dressed persons in the waiting room

This was to be an exclusive event, and only those with special invitations were admitted into the new station. This did not stop the gathering of an immense but good-natured crowd outside, hoping for a glimpse of Royalty and yelling ‘Where’s the Queen!’ In this they were to be disappointed as Victoria was not present. The distinguished guests were ushered onto the platform, and entertained by an orchestra as they boarded the train. For the passengers there was plenty of incredible engineering to behold

The trains are propelled to Blackwall by means of two stationary engines of 120 horse power each, which are worked in shafts sunk into the earth on each side of the railway lines. To these engines fly-wheels are attached, each of which weighs 43 tons, and is 22 feet in diameter. A tail rope is fasted to the fly-wheels which is wound and unwound at each end by the stationary engines… as the train proceeds to Blackwall the fly-wheels at Fenchurch unwind the rope… and to prevent the rope becoming entangled… a break is placed on the edge of the platform… at which a man is employed to regulate the unwinding of the rope. The ropes (one for each direction) cost upwards of £1200 and the fly-wheel drums take 30 turns to every mile of rope, each of which are three and a half miles long…

Perhaps the greatest source of wonderment was the electric telegraph, invented by Cook and Wheatstone enabling ‘parties at each end of the railway to hold conversation with each other in the most perfect facility’ – with telegraphs placed at each station on the line – meaning that staff and engineers could communicate with one another instantaneously. Given that the telephone was not patented until 1876 – this is truly a remarkable feat that Fenchurch Street had a near-perfect phone system at its disposal in 1840!

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Leicester Square

The Monster Globe at Leicester Square

Leicester Square was laid out in 1670 and was named after nearby mansion Leicester House. Originally intended to be residential, the Square soon became popular with eighteenth century trendy types – and home to perhaps the two most celebrated painters of the eighteenth century – William Hogarth and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Reynolds was a prolific portrait painter, founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Arts (1768) – and he exploited his fame by using his house in Leicester Square as a kind of gallery – and was rewarded by many sophisticated visitors who subsequently became clients. The artistic connection has never left Leicester Square, for it has remained a popular site for public entertainment. Nowadays Leicester Square is THE place for film premieres, but in the Victorian age its star attraction was theatre. Then (as now) the central garden area served as an arena for singers musicians and performers to entertain the many visitors. No Victorian monopoly player could fail to recognise this place. especially in 1851 because Leicester Square acquired a new kind of attraction, namely the Monster Globe – seen above (1854) in a print by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.

A cross-section of Wyld’s Monster Globe

The Monster Globe was the brain-child of James Wyld, an MP, and map-maker from Charing Cross. Early in 1851 he took out a ten-year lease on the Leicester Square Gardens to construct a visitor attraction showcasing his cartographic talents. The full story of Wyld’s Monster Globe is succinctly described by the Guildhall Library – suffice to say it didn’t end well, and his huge and costly structure was unceremoniously demolished in 1861. However, let us go back and see what the fuss was about, courtesy of The Standard, May 30th 1851

Yesterday a private view of this most interesting work of art was given to the press previous to the opening to the public. A globe having a surface of 10,000 feet is a novelty in geographical science… only after many failures has Mr Wyld succeeded and the Great Model Globe will probably take its place in the public estimation as one of our greatest national works of art…Within the structure are 4 galleries… modelled on a colossal scale are Europe, North America, and North Asia, with the expanse of the oceans…

Though Wyld tried hard to keep his attraction fresh, by organising exhibitions and inviting distinguished lecturers – he could not sustain the project long-term – and perhaps it was too much of a vanity project to succeed. Victorians shed no tears because they knew that Leicester Square would soon regenerate as a visitor attraction

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Coventry Street

View from Coventry Street

Coventry Street is one of the more obscure addresses to be found on the Monopoly Board, given that it is merely a side-road off Haymarket. Built in 1681 and named after a Henry Coventry secretary of Charles II and one-time ambassador to Sweden, whose house once stood on the north side of Panton Street, adjacent to what is now Leicester Square. Although Coventry Street has always stood in a location filled with bars, restaurants, theatres and entertainment – in the Victorian era it was better known as an industrial area, housing a number of tradesmen and factories. Amongst the various workshops stood some very good coffee houses and dining rooms, making Coventry Street a capable supporting act to its better-known rivals.

However, one type of entertainment did thrive in Coventry Street, and that was prostitution. On March 24th 1841 The Times reported

We some months ago called the attention of the police to the shameful scenes exhibited every night in the Haymarket and Coventry Street by the prostitutes who infest that neighbourhood… and are herded during the day time in the infamous brothels in Coventry-court…

This campaign had for a time been successful, until a local police magistrate, inundated by cases of fallen women brought before him for sentence, declared ‘prostitutes must walk somewhere’. To celebrate their victory the local prostitutes then took to ringing doorbells of local houses at all hours of the night and shouting obscenities at their owners. This new development caused The Times to request

It is the duty of the police to see that [prostitutes] walk in such a manner so as not to annoy and insult peacable persons and modest women, and that their ‘walking’ does not extend to the knockers and bell-handles of the householders

If you had the time, Coventry Street was the place

The catalyst for change in Coventry Street came in 1850, as it so usually does in London, when an act of God swept away many of the factories and workshops allowing the area to be rebuilt. On January 3rd at 11pm a very serious fire broke out in the premises of Creese & Co, boot and shoe-makers. Within a very few minutes the whole factory was ablaze and the fire spread to adjacent properties. Despite the efforts of St Ann’s parish fire brigade, who were able to use brand new mains water provided by the New River Company, the fire raged for 13 hours. The following businesses were affected

  • 3 Coventry Street – Mrs Mary Taylor, stationer, burned down
  • 4 Coventry Street – Creese & Company, bootmakers, burned down
  • 5 Coventry Street – Samuel Walters, a tailor, back of building destroyed
  • 6 Coventry Street – Mr Reid, hosier, back of building destroyed

Properties in Rupert Street and Princes Street were also both fire and water damaged – including three bootmakers, a gunsmith, poulterer and a carpet-maker. Coventry Street was redeveloped to become an asset rather than a liability to London’s amenities. Attractive new buildings replaced the old shops and tenements, and London’s oldest trade was forced to find refuge elsewhere in Soho, but still remained close enough to maintain this area’s modern-day seedy backdrop. In 1907 the first Lyons Corner House was built in Coventry Street, hence its reputation would have improved enough to justify inclusion in the 1936 monopoly board line-up

After 1850 Coventry Street became gentrified

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Water Works

York Buildings Water Works

The spectre of death and disease was never far from the streets of Georgian London, and though it was not then known to be the cause of cholera outbreaks, Londoners were fully aware of the importance of clean drinking water.  As early as 1671 the Thames Water Company was established at York Buildings, at the end of Villiers Street, near Charing Cross. It utilised early steam technology to distill water and provide it at a cost to local residents. But the process was slow, and its machinery soon rendered obsolete by rivals such as Chelsea Water Company to the extent that by the 1730s it was no longer a viable concern. Despite this lack of business success, York Waterworks became a significant London landmark – principally on account of its 70 feet tall wooden tower, which was erected around 1698. A heavy weight was pushed to the top of the tower by steam power in order to create sufficient pressure to pump clean water into nearby houses. With its distinctive shape and curious windows, York Water Tower went on to become a very familiar sight, not least for the many artists who have included it in their Thames landscapes.

Canaletto’s view of York Water Tower c.1750

Thomas Malton’s York Water Tower c.1792

The Shard Building, London Bridge (2009)

It is not known exactly when York Tower was removed, but it must have been gone by the time the Victoria Embankment was constructed the early 1860s. York Water Gate (seen in Thomas Malton’s image above) still stands in the park. York Water Tower may be lost but its one-time dominance of the Thames panorama is thought to have influenced architect Renzo Piano’s design for the Shard building at London Bridge. Piano has credited Canaletto’s painting seen above for formulating his idea. Not only can we see that the Water Works was a familiar landmark during the Victorian era, but we still have a super-sized reminder of its existence.

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Piccadilly

Devonshire House, Piccadilly (1844)

Piccadilly spent the early years of its life deciding whether or not it ought to be called Portugal Street, an issue that was finally resolved in its favour around 1750. It came to prominence after the old road between Charing Cross and Hyde Park Corner was closed to enable the creation of Green Park in 1668. Continual development meant that by 1800 there were many elegant mansion houses, such as Devonshire House , coaching inns, clubs, hotels, and shops all the way to Hyde Park Corner, and within a few decades the fabulous Nash facades were added to its junction with Regent Street. By Victorian times Piccadilly certainly was a very exclusive neighbourhood.

St James’ Church came into existence primarily because of the rapid expansion of Piccadilly. In the 1660s local residents put forward a Bill to create a new parish separate from St Martin in the Fields, and eventually obtained permission to construct. Built by Sir Christopher Wren for a cost of £5000, it was first consecrated in 1684 – and lent its name to the area which became known as St James’ Parish (or St James’ as it is today).

St James Piccadilly

St James Piccadilly played a very important role in the life of ‘Wicked William’ Long-Wellesley, for it was the scene of his marriage to Wanstead House heiress Catherine Tylney-Long in March 1812. But it has other more noble claims to fame such as the poet William Blake‘s (baptised there 1757) or the burial place of legendary Georgian caricaturist James Gillray.

White Bear Yard, Piccadilly c.1850

The White Bear situated in Piccadilly was one of London’s foremost coaching inns. Despite the decline in coach travel by the 1840s it was still a thriving inn – though this report from The Times shows that you had to chose the right time to enter its yard, without incurring the wrath of Ann Bond

A foreign person, Mr Paul Decone, was passing through White Bear Yard a few evenings ago, about half past seven o’clock, when he was suddenly deluged by the contents of a pail thrown from the first floor window… a very short time afterwards he discovered that his clothes were turning red, and parets of his hat were burnt off. The defendant Ann Bond admitted throwing the water out of her window into the drain below, but denied that it was contaminated… [but] the defendant had for a length of time been in the habit of throwing water over people passing through the yard at dusk… and the police had been called several times before. It being a public thoroughfare tests were carried out on the water, which was found to contain vitriol. [The Judge] was willing to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt, but in order to put a stop to a most unjustifiable proceeding, that of throwing water out of a window, by accident or design, so as to cause an assault, he should inflict a fine of 50 shillings and costs. The money was duly paid…

Its appropriate to leave Piccadilly on a criminal note as we are now off to prison

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Go To Jail!!

Fleet Prison 1840 – relying on charity to survive

Prisons were very familiar buildings in Victorian London, the spectre of which hung wide sections of the population. Alongside the traditional prisons such as Newgate, were a plethora of debtors prisons and asylums which were to all intents and purposes also places of permanent incarceration, plus some decaying hulk ships housing alien prisoners and those awaiting transportation. My own research subject ‘Wicked William’ spent time in Fleet Prison for contempt of court, and in the Tower of London for abduction. His ordeal would have been nothing compared to the vast number of desperate and destitute souls finding themselves behind bars in Victorian London, and hoping for the kindness of strangers

Millbank Prison  c1829

Millbank was a new type of prison built on marshland west of Westminster between 1813 and 1823. The works were beset with problems not least because Millbank was traditionally a bit of a swamp liable to flooding from the Thames, hence its construction became a very challenging task. The idea was to create a prison purely for those whom it was considered capable of reform – and sentences between 5 and 10 years were given as an alternative to transportation.

Almost as soon as Millbank Penitentiary was opened the Morning Chronicle commented 

It is seated in a marsh, beneath the bed of a river, through which the vapours of stagnant water are constantly exhaling. The effluvia from the mass of human beings confined within its walls cannot dissipate from deficient ventilation… lingering confinement cannot fail to produce all the diseases which take place…  One would be almost tempted to think that the mind of the person who contrived this prison had been influenced by the diabolical idea of saving the expense of conveying convicts to distant settlements, by a commutation that would end all their earthly troubles… There is but one remedy – to place as much gun-powder under the foundation as may suffice to blow the whole fabric into the air.

This savage indictment did not prevent Millbank from continuing to operate until a new prison was opened at Pentonville in 1842; and thereafter it became a holding prison for transportees.

The Governors Report for 1842 makes grim reading:

For the year 1842 there were 707 prisoners, of which 408 were males, 157 females, and 142 soldiers… twenty prisoners died [including] 11 from dysentery, 5 from consumption… 18 were released on medical grounds including 5 to a lunatic asylum… the Committee stated that the distressing increase in the number of insane prisoners had been arrested by a new regime imposed in July 1841… limiting inrercourse between prisoners for the first three months after their admission, and then to be placed on a modified system of intercourse, consisting of permission to converse, during the hours of exercise, with tow or more fellow-prisoners. This privilege is liable to be suspended for misconduct… this new system has cut cases of insanity by a third…

What a horrific place Millbank must have been. To think that only those most likely to reform and be rehabilitated into society were sent to this hell-hole. There was absolutely nothing to encourage improvement, just daily exposure to disease, and Governors imposing a minimum of three months isolation as the means to control mental health. Thankfully the sheer cost of this brutal regime prevented it carrying on any longer, and the prison was downgraded shortly afterwards. Millbank Prison closed in the 1880s, and was fully demolished by the end of the Victorian era.

Pentonville Prison c.1850

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In conclusion we can see that your average Victorian would have felt well at home making his way across the top part of a modern Monopoly board. Though he would have wondered how places like Fleet Street and the Strand could ever be considered so appealing given their proximity to slum housing, disease and crime. Given this fact our trip to prison at the end of this journey would hardly have been unexpected. Please join me for the final segment as we get released from our cell to examine London’s elite areas from Regent Street to Mayfair.  What were these exclusive areas like for Victorian-age Londoners? Find out next time!

For a blog post of this scope, I have struggled for brevity. Despite its ridiculous length, I hope you will have enjoyed the stopping points we have made on our Victorian Monopoly odyssey, learning a little about each place on the way. There are a myriad of internet resources available for those interested in the history of London’s streets and enclaves. You may like the following further reading resources:

The Strand – British History On Line, Rachel Knowles visits Exeter Change, Know Your London: Exeter Change, Mike Rendell’s Sad Story of Chunee the elephant, or Jane Austen’s London

Fleet Street – A history of Temple Bar, British History of Fleet River and Ditch, The Londonist looks at Fleet Ditch today, or Charles Dickens and Fleet Street

Trafalgar Square – Trafalgar Square Website, The Londonist asks: How much do you really know about Trafalgar Square?, Londontopia has some great random facts, or click here for a fuller description of Queen Victoria’s coronation day

Fenchurch Street Station – Black Cab London looks at its history, and Isle of Dogs Life looks at the London & Blackwall Railway

Leicester Square –  Hidden London’s brief history, The Guildhall Library looks at Wyld’s Monster Globe, and David Morrell has used the Monster Globe as a setting for his novel Ruler of the Night

Coventry Street – British History Online, or the strange tale of the Coventry Street Vampire & the role of Lyon’s Corner House in Gay History

Waterworks – For an excellent history of the York Watergate click here, Leslie Tomory has written a book about London’s water companies 1580-1820, and IanVisits has unearthed some great info on York Water Tower

Piccadilly – St James Piccadilly Website has an excellent history section, or read about the early history of Piccadilly

Victorian Prisons – London for Free has a great guide to Historic Prisons, Old Police Cells Museum looks at life in a Victorian Prison, and London Lives looks at the rebuilding of Georgian prisons

If you are interested in London’s history you might also like to read about Walthamstow Murderess Elizabeth Jefferies, or know the sad story of Regency Prizefighter Tom Shelton. If buildings interest you then read the multi-layered history of 3 Savile Row, or follow Regency artist Anne Rushout on Tour

Thanks for reading my blogs, and for all your feedback. I have written around 80 original posts in the past three years, and hope to continue adding to this on a more regular basis, as time permits.

All comments and feedback are welcome!

 

‘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.

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

 

 

Photographs from my Year: 2014

I have never been particularly astute in the art of photography, so it is very pleasing that the advent of smart phones has provided me with ample opportunities to record various events and scenes I have enjoyed in 2014. I hope you wont think me too indulgent for sharing a few with you here

January - Draycot HouseJanuary 2014 – St James, Draycot burial place of Catherine Tylney-Long of Wanstead House renown
February - Laid UpFebruary 2014 – Laid up at home convalescing
March -TuscanyMarch – On the trail of Wicked William in Tuscany, Italy

April-Kent

April – sneaky pic of Wanstead House chairs at William Kent Exhibition
May-bluebellsMay – Bluebell Wood at Wanstead Park

 

June-Kilcooley HouseJune- The very wonderful Kilcooley House in Tipperary, Ireland
July-TourdefranceJuly – The Tour de France comes to South Woodford… for 28 seconds
August - SwansAugust – Swans in Wanstead Park
September - WindsorSeptember – A trip to Windsor Castle
 October - Crossness Engine TrustOctober – Victorian wrought iron design – Crossness Pumping Station

 November - Poppies

 November – Well-intentioned but futile attempt to see the Tower of London poppies

December - Angel

December – MacMillan cover for Geraldine’s book on Wanstead House

Its been a great year and I hope you enjoy these pictures. Thanks for all the feedback and responses regarding my blog, it really has been a great source of encouragement and inspiration.

If you’ve got a year in pictures, why not share it too?

 

Lady Anne Rushout – Wanstead’s Forgotten Artist

Anne Rushout | Rushout’s Wanstead | Rushout on Tour

Rushoutpic1

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