Let’s play Monopoly, early Victorian Style

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

My current fascination with the Frederick Crace collection of antiquarian prints and maps of London has led me to consider an important and hitherto unanswered historical conundrum:

Could Victorians have played Monopoly?

This question has loomed large since I discovered the extent of Crace’s portfolio kept at the British Museum – and it has me wondering if it would be possible for 1850s Londoners to traverse a traditional Monopoly Board  – without scratching their heads at the areas, streets and locations as set down by Waddington’s when they first sold this game under licence in 1936.

Trafalgar Square (1852) – that’s an easy one

So I have set myself the challenge of seeing how far we can travel around the Monopoly Board – but ONLY using images found within the Crace Collection. This gives us scenes covering the period up to 1860 – Now, now I already hear you baulk at the chances of getting past stations and waterworks, or beyond impossibly modern enclaves. Do not despair – you may be surprised how far we can go, and where we end up!

I intend to divide our journey into 4 parts – each will represent one side of a Monopoly Board. But as we all know, you can’t begin any game without having the requisite pieces and cards – so this post deals with the essentials: namely the bank and 6 playing pieces. Luckily for me the racing car was not an original playing piece in Monopoly, however the remainder have been pretty tough considering I am using a topographical archive, containing very few objects – hence on this part of my mission I will have to resort to a touch of artistic licence

Hat

Hat – for this I have opted for a very dapper image of Charles I as painted by Anthony Van Dyke in 1649 – showing our soon-to-be beheaded monarch wearing a broad rimmed black, and St James’s Palace in the background.

We have to shop for the thimble

Thimble – this was a tough one but I’m sure you’ll agree that we can pay a visit to Fadie & Co, Leather Dressers and Haberdashery in which can be found in Queen Street, an extract of a watercolour from 1852 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. This shop stood right next door to the business premises of Frederick Crace and Co, Decorators to the Queen, so would have been more than familiar to the man who commissioned its painting.

Where better to get an Iron than an ironworks?

Iron – This may seem is a little tenuous – but an all irons start their lives at an iron works such as Fowler’s Ironworks which stood on the Thames in Lambeth just close to Waterloo Bridge. I have not been able to ascertain exactly when the iron works was closed, but assume it would have been before the turn of the nineteenth century when heavy industry such is this moved downstream as London became increasingly urbanised.

A suitable boot – high above the crowd

Boot – I had to trek back to 1770 to find a satirical print depicting an ideal boot for Monopoly purposes. The scene is a fair outside the gate of St. James’s Palace, in which King George III’s friends are satirized as showmen; the principal booth displays the sign of a boot, which is said to represent  the 3rd Lord Bute (1713-1792) – a Scottish nobleman and former Prime Minister thought to hold too much sway over the King’s opinions.

Battleship at anchor in Greenwich

Battleship – We travel downstream to Greenwich to find this particular playing piece – and from the banks of the Isle of Dogs (William Parrott, 1842) we have an excellent view of the hospital and the Observatory. But the real action is in the water, where we find a steamship at anchor and the huge hulk of an un-named Dreadnaught battleship being prepared for return to sea.

 

The Cadiz Memorial – still found in Horse Guards Parade

Cannon – This is an image of a statue built to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s military victory over the French near Salamanca in 1812. Now known as the Cádiz Memorial, it was originally nicknamed ‘the Prince Regent’s Bomb’  because the word ‘bomb’ used to be pronounced ‘bum’ and the cannon’s considerable size was therefore likened to George’s own huge posterior. Now a grade II listed building worth a look if you are visiting Whitehall.

Now we have our pieces, all we need is…

A 1785 view of the Bank of England

Bank – For a serious game of Monopoly I can look no further than the Bank of England, founded in the 1690s and situated in Threadneedle Street since 1734. The above structure was built by Sir Robert Taylor around 1764, but Taylor’s real legacy was in expanding the site to enable legendary architect Sir John Soane room to rebuild upon classical lines in 1788. The Crace collection has a number of alternative views of the Bank, most of which include the Royal Exchange opposite – and these old images are strikingly similar to how that area looks today.

Looks like we’re all set to go then. So why not join me in subsequent posts on our trek round the Victorian Monopoly board?


If you are a fan of London and sporting history you may be interested in the tale of Royal Ascot, the rise and fall of the Epping Hunt, or to box a few rounds with The Navigator Tom Shelton

But for a some purely financial insight, and to commemorate 200 years since the Great Re-Coinage – you may enjoy learning how we got silver sixpences, shillings and crowns

Finally, if Regency London is not your scene – find your way home via a coaching inn

 

 

Frederick Crace – London’s Forgotten Benefactor

frederick_crace_oil_on_canvas_on_diplay_at_the_royal_pavilion_large

This is Frederick Crace (1779-1859) – a man who deserves to be remembered for his cultural contribution to the history of London. Between 1820 and 1860 Crace collected and collated a visual record of London every bit as vital as that which has been described by Charles Dickens in the pages of his iconic novels – i.e an aura of ‘Olde’ London at a time when it was quickly (and quietly) vanishing beneath the relentless march of Victorian ‘modernisation’. The era when Crace operated saw stagecoach transportation gave way to steam locomotion, clearance of slums and construction of elegant new town squares – extending London’s boundaries far beyond their traditional limits. Ports, churches, thoroughfares and dockyards were rebuilt as industrialisation changed the face and spread of London almost beyond recognition even for those who witnessed it.

bedford-sq-c1850

Bedford Square c.1850 (Crace Collection)

For all his efforts, it is particularly sad that Frederick Crace doesn’t seem to have a permanent London memorial. He doesn’t have a blue plaque, and even his graveyard memorial in West Norwood Cemetery has long since been destroyed. For a man who did so much to record London in the era before photography, we really ought to celebrate and commemorate him better. So I am going to begin here by giving a brief outline of Crace’s professional career, and then follow up with a series of posts examining the the many London scenes he commissioned for his unique collection. If you want a taster why not start with my recent blog about London’s coaching inns – which uses images entirely drawn from Crace’s collection.

Crace’s appointment as Commissioner of Sewers in 1818 may have literally been ‘a crap job’, but it did stimulate his interest in the history of the streets of London because he began to collect maps and views of the city from that point right up until his death in 1859. What Crace was unable to procure from collectors, he commissioned via renowned artists, in particular Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. A very large collection of maps and pictures was assembled under his care. Crace had some of Shepherd’s paintings collated and published as ‘Views of London’. But many of the scenes recorded were ordered by Crace upon a whim, or at the drop of a hat, whenever he saw anything important to record for posterity.

http://www.chrisbeetles.com/gallery/early-english-18th-early-19th-century/st-marys-aldermanbury.html

Courtesy www.chrisbeetles.com

St Mary’s Aldermanbury by T.H. Shepherd c.1850

Thanks to Crace we have a significant record of early Victorian transformation of the old Georgian landscape – because his vast collection now resides to the British Museum, having been purchased from Crace’s son in 1879. More joyously still, we now have access to hundreds of beautiful London street scenes (such as the one above) via their excellent online search engine. The true beauty of Crace’s collection is that the traditional tourist panoramas, such as St Paul’s Cathedral or the Tower of London, play a very minor role in the whole ensemble – because Crace concentrated on what was leaving the landscape, rather then what endured. We therefore have a wonderful myriad of London back-streets, shops, inns, churches and housing – perhaps too idyllically depicted – nonetheless vital to grasping an essence of life in London almost two centuries ago.

fishing-templeThe Fishing Temple at Virginia Water, by Frederick Crace c.1825

Frederick Crace, was one of a dynasty of interior designers that graced British homes and palaces between 1750 and 1899. Originally founded as a decorating company by Edward Crace (1725-99), 4 subsequent generations of Craces, in various partnerships and guises,  transformed the business into what the Victoria and Albert Museum have described as ‘the most important family of interior decorations in 19th Century Britain’.

Courtesy Smithsonian Museum

A lot has been written about the Crace family, not least Frederick who is chiefly remembered for the chinoiserie interiors of the Brighton Pavilion. Just recently London Street Views have written a very informative blog about their business base at 14 Wigmore Street. The family firm was created around 1750 by Edward Crace (1725-99) and quickly established themselves as favoured contractors to George III. Edward was not just a paint-splosher, and his services were more akin to interior design, earning him extensive commissions both at Buckingham House and Windsor. Edward’s talents were far-reaching, for in 1770 he authored an influential book upon designs for coach panels (his own father had been a coach-maker), and not long afterwards he became Keeper of the Royal Collection of Paintings, which involved both cataloguing and maintaining the King’s art collection. This was a job Edward kept right up until his death.

Royal Pavilion by Frederick Crace

The Music Room, Brighton Pavilion – Frederick Crace c.1820

Edward’s eldest son John was equally proficient and renowned for his decorating skills, though he set up in practice separately from his father due to a dispute about his choice of bride. John Crace (1754 – 1819) set up on his own in 1776 and by the end of the century was employing his very highly-rated son Frederick. Their clients included leading architects such as Henry Holland and many of the late Georgian housebuilders. John was as favoured in Royal circles as his estranged father – and he was used extensively by the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent) – working at Carlton House and the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. When in 1788 John was commissioned to source and supply a collection of Chinese art to the Royal Pavilion, he could not have known that this was to lay the groundwork for his own son’s most famous and enduring project.

brighton-pavilion

Brighton Pavilion – the Prince Regent’s playground

It is said that young Frederick first came to the attention of the Prince of Wales whilst he was at work gilding a staircase at Windsor Castle. The Prince was so enamoured with the artistry on show that he asked Frederick to decorate the Royal Pavilion in a style to match the Chinese art housed therein – hence Frederick designed and installed the exotic Chinese-inspired décor of the Music Room and later, when the Prince Regent became George IV, he decorated the King’s private apartments at Windsor Castle. Other significant projects attributable to Frederick included designing the St James’s Theatre (1835)

st-james-theatre-exterior

St James’ Theatre (1835) designed by Frederick Crace & Son

Frederick died peacefully at his home in Hammersmith on 18th September 1859. The Morning Post eulogised upon his professional talents and achievements but went on to add

Mr Crace has always taken a great interest in the history and topography of London, but for the last 30 years of his life he has devoted himself with untiring energy and industry in perfecting a very valuable and extensive collection of maps, plans, and views of every part of the metropolis from a very early period to the present time

Frederick’s collection was left to his son John, who further added to it, catalogued it and eventually put it in a free exhibition at South Kensington Museum in December 1878. The Morning Post enthused called ‘a most honourable monument’ to Frederick’s patriarchal and archaeological skills:

To historians and antiquarians it will prove of great value as describing the marvellous changes enacted by the lapse of time, not alone in the architecture of London, but also in the manners, fashions, and social usages of its inhabitants.

Within two years (around 1880) John Crace sold the entire collection to the British Museum, where it remains today every bit as important as the Morning Post described it 140 years ago. I am not sure what the Museum paid for the privilege of owning this collection, but I hope and suspect that the Crace family would have been more anxious to preserve the collection than to maximise profit by this transaction.

craces-home-by-shepherd

In my next post I will introduce Thomas Hosmer Shepherd and talk about his life, and in subsequent posts will collate some of Shepherd’s images into themed headings and try to provide more background upon each London scene. I hope you will be able to join me as I try to add historical notes to the images selected, to help breath life back into Crace’s London.

In conclusion, I am irresistibly drawn to make a comparison between Frederick Crace and the modern-day work of Mr Paul Talling, who I believe is undertaking an equally commendable and worthy task of recording derelict and forgotten London before it too disappears from our consciousness. Whereas Frederick relied upon artists such as Shepherd, Paul is able to utilise his own camera to capture equally historic scenes which are already being acknowledged as culturally vital – Its good to know that the feelings which motivated Frederick Crace remain alive today with modern historians of London life.

For further information on the Crace family, may I recommend and cite as sources of reference

  1. London Street Views – page on the Crace business premises
  2. Victoria and Albert Museum Archive of Art and Design catalogue of items relating to Frederick Crace
  3. Carlton Hobbs’ excellent images and details about the Crace family
  4. Cooper Hewitt’s list of Crace items at the Smithsonian Museum
  5. A visit to the Brighton Pavilion to see Frederick’s Crace’s masterpiece of the Music Room as well as his portrait

If you are interested in the lost history and traditions of London, you make like my series of blogs on the Epping Hunt, or the history of Royal Ascot. Or for another forgotten and under-appreciated genius why not check out William Wellesley-Pole – the man who gave us the splendid shilling – which is fast approaching its bicentenary of creation.

 

 

Stagecoach Travel: Information on Porters, Goods & Luggage (1819)

Rules of the Road | Wanstead | UK Destinations | Porters, Goods & Luggage

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

The coaching era is generally thought to have begun around 1660 and lasted until the late 1840s when the last passenger-carrying mail coaches and stage services were discontinued, as the age of steam travel was now upon us. Though several key routes were established from London across Britain during the reign of Charles II, the state of roads meant that coach travel was only ever undertaken if absolutely necessary. However this was all to change after the creation of various statutory bodies empowered to raise tolls for the maintenance and improvement of important stretches of road. By the reign of George III there were over 1000 of these ‘Turnpike Trusts‘ administering about 2500 miles of roadway.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Turnpike at Kings Road, in rural Chelsea c.1819

Turnpike tolls ranged from a penny per person or horse to sixpence for carts, waggons and coaches. But the mail coaches, the army, and local labourers on foot were allowed to use such roads free of charge. At first the Trusts were little more than local tax-raising fiefdoms, as very little of the money raised was invested in road improvements. However, two technological breakthroughs changed all this, leading to an era of fast and efficient stage coach travel – perhaps reaching its apogee in the 1820s. Firstly, the appointment of engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834) signalled a policy of easing gradients on existing roads, and finding short cuts which avoided uneven terrain. Telford also implemented new systems of drainage meaning that the roads were passable more often and over a greater period of the year. Secondly the introduction of a new road material, ‘tarmacadam’, named after its inventor John Macadam (1756-1836) was vital for modernising Britain’s roadways, ushering in an era of mass stagecoach travel both for  business and pleasure. These advances meant that a stagecoach journey from London to Manchester (which would have taken 4 and a half days in 1750) could be done in 26 hours by 1821.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Expect to be fleeced at provincial coaching inns

When undertaking a long journey from London, the cost of your fare and luggage was far from the only expense to be considered. Provincial inns has a reputation pretty much like today’s motorway service stations and were only to ready to fleece passengers for all manner of additional charges as they stopped for rest and refreshment. For example it was widely established that stops should only last 20 minutes. Passengers were expected to pay for their meal in advance but rarely had time to eat it before going on their way. So coaching inns commonly re-sold ‘left-overs’ to the next coach party. If you were unfortunate enough to stay overnight, it was usual to tip the coachman and any accompanying staff, waiters, coaching inn porters, and even charges for candles in your room (which could be as much as 5 shillings extra per night!). There were even ‘local’ taxes levied for support of the poor. Hence lengthy journeys often led to hefty bills, so the best option for any departee from London was to find a regular service from an established carrier, using good roads with minimal stops.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Fully laden stagecoach at Highgate c.1835

The cost of travel was also affected by tax charged upon each and every coach using the roads. After 1776 there was a £5 Stamp Duty on all coaches, plus from 1783 half a penny per mile travelled was levied – applying whether the coach was fully loaded or not. Hence it became economic to load up coaches as much as possible to spread the cost, but also resulted in less frequent winter services due to reduced passenger numbers making it uneconomical. Over time these taxes increased by degree, reaching 2 and a half pence per mile by 1838. The Government perhaps inadvertently hastened the decline of stage coach travel by being very slow to release stage coach operators from the burden of excise duty, at a time when railways were taking away much of their trade.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Porters – vital  cogs in the wheels of industry right back to Roman times

In Roman times carriages and chariots were prevented from driving into the forum by barriers across approaching roadways. All merchandise had to be handed over to porters, whose job it was to unload and distribute deliveries to and from the forum. The above image can be found on a wall behind the forum at Pompeii, signifying the important role carried out by porters. Fast forward to 1819 and we find that the most important job at any London coaching inn is carried out by the head porter. It was a well paid, responsible, and powerful job – The porter was the main point of contact with passengers, and organised staff at the inn and on the coaches – collecting tips and other benefits on their behalf during the loading and unloading process. Anyone staying overnight could rely on the head-porter to act as a concierge procuring goods and services or arranging entertainment for clients satisfaction. However, my guide to Stage Coaches for 1819 sets down some very important standards of behaviour expected from head-porters in the performance of their duties

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Beware the unscrupulous porter

A porter must ensure that parcels conveyed from coaching inns will not exceed the following rates:

  1. Anything up to a quarter of a mile – 3 pence
  2. Between 1 and up to two miles – 6 pence
  3. Two miles and above – 10 pence with an additional 3 pence for every half mile thereafter

Any person or porter demanding more than the above rates, for any parcel not exceeding 56lb*, will be compelled to forfeit 20 shillings

Any inn or warehouse keeper neglecting to send a Ticket with every parcel, containing the Name or Description of the Inn or Warehouse from whence the same is sent, with the Christian and Surname of the Porter who is to deliver the same, and Carriage and Porterage marked thereon, forfeits 40 shillings, and the Porter not leaving the Ticket with the Parcel, or, altering, or wilfully obliterating, anything written thereon, forfeits 40 shillings. and if he demands more than written on such ticket, 20 shillings

Every parcel arriving by Coach to be delivered within 6 hours after such Arrival; (if not after 4pm, or before 7am, then within 6 hrs after 7am;) or by Waggon, within 24 hours after such arrival; or Inn-keeper to forfeit 20 shillings 

Parcels directed ‘to be left till called for’ to be delivered on Payment of Carriage and 2d Warehouse-room for the first, and 1d for each week after, or forfeit 20 shillings

Every porter misbehaving, forfeits 20 shillings

These offences are cognizable before any Justice of the District.

*56lb was 4 stone in imperial weight, which is about 25 kilos. This is not a bad baggage allowance when thinking about airlines today.

waggon

If moving a load, then waggons or carts are for you

As well as the above rules of conduct for porters, it was important to be aware of charges payable for larger items being transported. My guide book sets it out thus:

  1. A ‘load’  = 25 hundredweight (1.25 tons)
  2. A ‘half load’ = 15-19 hundredweight (from 0.75 up to one ton)
  3. A ‘small load’ anything under 15cwt (0.75 tons)

Some items which might constitute a load: Two hogsheads of sugar, 50 baskets of raisins, 20 barrels of figs, 5 barrels of rice, 3 bales of aniseed, 6 barrels of almonds or 10 barrels of fish oil

hogshead of sugar

A hogshead of sugar – very popular with children

A half load tended to be scaled down quantities of full load items, such as one hogshead of sugar

A small load might be made up of: 50 jars of raisins, one butt of currents, or 3 puncheons of prunes

The orange wharf at London bridge

The Orange Wharf at London Bridge

If you direct a coach or waggon to collect goods on your behalf from any of London’s many wharves – there are a sliding scale of costs applicable. For example quays around London Bridge incur a surcharge per load of 3 shillings and four pence, but wharves around the Tower of London charge as much as 4 shillings and a penny. In all wharves goods such as wine, olive oil, rum, and brandy are liable to additional charges – which can vary by individual wharf – often dependent on how the goods are packaged and distributed from the ships or barges.

Goods collected from wharves and leaving the City of London by more than a mile radius are charged 5 shillings and two pence, rising on a sliding scale thereafter according to distance travelled to point of delivery

stagecoach 1

I hope you have enjoyed this little dip into Regency transport for London, and that reproduction of any part of this blog will be fully acknowledged or credited. Any comment or feedback is always welcome.

For the modern-day equivalent of Regency stage coach service why not consider a London & UK Taxi Tour – or for a broader brush look at all things Georgian try Rachel Knowles’ Regency History website. To learn about Britain’s very first celebrity couple – who caused a Regency scandal extraordinaire visit author Geraldine Roberts

For more about horsemanship in Georgian Britain why not check out the Epping Hunt – or follow Wicked William off to war

 

Wellesley-Pole’s Finest Hour: The Great Re-coinage, 1817

 The Mint with a Pole – Part 4

or

When Wellesley-Pole made money quicker than his son spent it

Intro | Waterloo Medal | Pole & Pistrucci | The Great Re-coinage | Exit & Legacy

cornlaws

Bread Riots outside the House of Commons, 1815

In 1816 the euphoria of victory at the Battle of Waterloo wore off and Britain entered a period of unrest. Corn prices were set at an artificially high level by the Importation Act (1815) – or Corn Laws as they became known – benefitting wealthy landowners at the expense of the poor. A bad harvest, the return of thousands of soldiers from Europe, and demonstrations against working conditions combined to increase tension, leading to repressive counter-measures from the Government. Against this backdrop, the Coinage Bill was passed on 22 June 1816, and Wellesley-Pole was ordered to draw up a plan to replace the silver coinage.

the new coinage pole

Wellesley-Pole seen hard at work for ‘John Bull’ whilst the poor suffer on

Wellesley-Pole’s schedule detailed how he proposed to design, manufacture, and distribute the new coinage. It also outlined a system for recovering the old money for the Bank of England. He started entirely from scratch after realising there was ‘no collection of British coins in His Majesty’s Mint…not a single Proof.’ To ensure this would never happen again, he founded a Museum to house ‘every coin and medal which, from this time forth, shall be struck’. In July 1816 Banks supplied Wellesley-Pole with old coins as a basis from which the new currency could be created.This collection now forms the backbone of the Royal Mint Museum.

banks

Joseph Banks donated coins to enable Wellesley-Pole to set up Mint Museum

The key problem was how to undertake an operation of this magnitude without alerting the nation as to what was afoot – and once the coinage was manufactured – how to distribute it to the four corners of Britain so that it might appear simultaneously on ‘Great Re-coinage Day’. Wellesley-Pole had to do this at a time of immense social unrest, using the most rudimentary of transport and communication systems. Some boxes of coin were shipped to northern ports but the vast majority went by carriage up and down Britain’s roadways – with accompanying detailed instructions to be acted upon at each and every destination. Getting the new coinage to these outlets was one thing, but Wellesley-Pole was also tasked with rounding up all the old silver currency in exchange for new crowns, shillings and sixpences. This redundant money had to return to the Mint by the same arduous process after the two-week exchange period expired.

bank of england

The Bank of England – Pivotal to Wellesley-Pole’s plans

The National Archive reveals that Wellesley-Pole submitted his plan on 16th September. He confirmed an agreement with Governor of the Bank of England that banks throughout Britain would assist in the transfer ‘without looking for any remuneration… Considerable expense must be saved from the many applications that have been made in favour of persons wishing to be employed in the issue and exchange of the new money’. He further curtailed costs by creating accounts with every participating bank for the money distributed to and collected from them. Sir Joseph Banks described his plan as

excellently arranged…I have seen a multitude of public men, but no one whose conduct has been as energetic and so perfectly successful’.

A week later Wellesley-Pole received approval from the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool, subject to proceeding in complete secrecy until the money was ready to be circulated.

bull head

Pistrucci was unable to draw mad King George III from life – This ‘bull head’ image was heavily criticised

Each coin was approved by the Prince Regent prior to manufacture. Wellesley-Pole enthused the coins were ‘absolutely divine’. Every last detail was meticulously planned. Coins were labelled and bagged in sums of £100. Bags were then packed into a sturdy box containing £600 comprised of one bag of half crowns, four bags of shillings and one of sixpences. The destination of each box was labelled and arrangements were made for them to be re-used for the return of old coinage after the exchange was completed. 57 million coins were ready for distribution by January 17th 1817. A few days later Wellesley-Pole called a meeting of the bankers of London proposing:

  1. That all 72 London banks be ‘furnished with money to exchange the silver coin…by opening all their shops to the public at large. Inspectors from the Mint to be established in each shop for selecting…the old coin to be recovered…by which means Bankers would be exonerated from any responsibility.

  2. Every Banker in England, Scotland and Wales to employed in likewise manner but ‘the Country Bankers’ to recommend such persons for inspectors as they conceive to be trustworthy.

Wellesley-Pole earmarked the operation for 3rd February, but the London Bankers, worried about civil unrest, feared that by opening to the general public ‘their property would be endangered’. So the Master of the Mint was compelled to hastily arrange alternative locations for public distribution. He ensured that a comprehensive network of outlets were created in every principle town in England and Wales, which received almost £1.8M by February 3rd.

announcement

Cat out of bag 18th Jan 1817 – Wellesley-Pole announces Great Re-Coinage

The exchange for Scotland was undertaken by the Bank of Scotland who acted under a letter of instruction from the Master of the Mint, so the entire operation hinged on Wellesley-Pole’s meticulous planning.

The Cabinet eventually deferred the exchange until February 13th. But it was completed in 14 days as planned and the old currency ceased to be legal tender on March 1st. These remarkable statistics bear testimony to the success of this operation

Of £2,6000,000 delivered not one bag or box of new coin was mislaid and there does not remain a single complaint of deficiency of money for exchange in every part of Great Britain.  In carrying the measure through, the Mint dealt with over 14000 letters and employed 1000 inspectors. 469 accounts with individual banks were reconciled ‘to the penny’ when the old currency was returned.

By any standard this operation was an astounding success. Because it went without a hitch it was soon forgotten, perhaps the biggest single reason why Wellesley-Pole is  mired in obscurity. It was only when the House of Commons debated currency in 1842, that the enormity of his achievements were highlighted against shortcomings in current procedures.

As we have seen in Pole and Pistrucci the Great Re-Coinage failed to ignite public excitement, and the press preferred to continue their campaign of back-biting and ridicule against both men.

The only reply either man can give in answer to their critics is to emphasise that the silver coinage remained in circulation until 1971 – Yes that’s 154 years!

In my final part I will look at Wellesley- Pole’s departure from the Mint and round up his legacy…..

 IVORYCOACHPASS1- WWP

 So you have seen how, at least for a few years, Wellesley-Pole made money faster than his feckless son Wicked William of Wanstead House was able to spend it. Follow Wicked William to the Epping Hunt, or off to War with Wellington or find out what happened when Wellesley-Pole’s rage got the better of him.

Finally, I have written the remarkable history of Wellesley-Pole’s house

I hope you enjoy this post and would be most grateful to hear any feedback.

Sources Used

  1. Royal Mint Website
  2. The National Archives (Kew) Mint 1/56
  3. Bagot J., George Canning and Friends (London: Murray, 1909)
  4. Senate House Library, Mint Book MS499
  5. Greg Roberts unpublished dissertation The Forgotten Brother (2009)
  6. Image of Sir Joseph Banks by William Wyon courtesy of the Royal Mint Museum

 

3 Savile Row – Its role in British history

 

Within These Walls: 6 Layers of History

savilerow

No 3 Savile Row, Mayfair

Let me introduce you to a Grade II listed mansion house in London’s Mayfair that has recently been in the news due to an unsuccessful campaign to prevent its conversion into an Abercromby & Fitch childrenswear store. Knowing the history of this grand old building it is somewhat ironic to find that an American transformation has materialised. For the truth is that this building has some very interesting and important connections.  Since its construction in 1733 this house has been occupied by people who have helped shape the course of British military and cultural history. Let’s go inside…

1. Admiral John Forbes (1714-1796)

forbes

John Forbes was Wellesley-Pole’s father in law

John Forbes began his naval career at the age of 13 and progressed up through the ranks until he became Admiral of the Fleet from 1781 until his death. This was an era when a great many servicemen returned from war incapacitated, and disability was not considered a barrier to high office. Even though Forbes was unable to walk and rarely seen in society he still managed to exercise overall control of the British Navy – and he did so by holding meeting as his house at 3 Savile Row, where he had lived from around 1760.

byng

Execution of Admiral Byng (1757)

Forbes most important contribution to British history came when he was involved in the trial of Admiral Byng, who was blamed for the loss of Minorca in 1756. He was tried and found guilty of failing to “do his utmost” to prevent the defeat. When Byng was sentenced to death an appeals for clemency was angrily refused by King George III. Forbes was the only Admiral to refuse to sign Byng’s death warrant though his action failed to prevent Byng’s execution by firing squad on 14 March 1757. Such was the effect upon the public mind that this was the last time a serving naval officer was executed on this charge. Forbes fearless refusal to bow to enormous pressure singled him out as a compassionate man of principle and made him a role model for fairer treatment of naval personnel.

In 1784 Forbes twin daughter Katherine married 3rd Lieutenant William Wellesley-Pole in a ceremony at 3 Savile Row with guests including Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington. Wellesley-Pole inherited the house in 1797 but decided to rent it out

2. General Robert Ross (1766-1814)

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Perhaps Wellesley-Pole’s most famous tenant was Robert Ross a famous British general who is best known across the water in the United States. Irish-born Ross lived at Savile Row until 1805 after returning from action at the Battle of Alexandria (1801). He was subsequently present at the Battle of Corruna (1809) before serving under Arthur Wellesley during the Peninsular War. Despite being seriously wounded at the Battle of Orthes on 27th February 1814, Ross agreed to lead command a British expeditionary force to attack the United States

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Hard to believe even today – Britain burning down the White House (1814)

Having routed the Americans at Bladensburg (27th August 1814) Ross advanced into Washington DC where he destroyed all the public buildings including the White House. For this act Ross is perhaps the best remembered of all British soldiers ever to set foot on American soil.

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The death of General Ross

It was not to end well for Ross as he was killed by American snipers near North Point on 12th September 1814. He is buried in the Old Burying Ground at Nova Scotia but has a monument inscribed to him in St Paul’s Cathedral.

3. The Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)

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When Arthur Wellesley returned from 8-years service in India the first place he stayed was with the Wellesley-Pole family in Blackheath, for he was at that time unmarried and had no London home. However, he was to repeat the exercise in 1814 when he triumphantly returned from the Peninsular War following Napoleon’s surrender and exile. It’s very telling that the newly ennobled Duke of Wellington chose Savile Row rather than his own marital home. Imagine if you can the thousands of people who gathered outside, mounting a daily vigil to catch a glimpse of their conquering hero. Wellington remained at Savile Row for a month before returning to Paris.

4. William Wellesley-Pole (1763-1845)

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Wellesley-Pole owned 3 Savile Row between 1797 and 1842. In his role as Master of the Mint Wellesley-Pole presided over the introduction of new silver currency that was to remain in circulation from 1817 right through until decimalisation in 1971.

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The humble shilling must surely be on of the greatest symbols of Britishness. Wellesley-Pole he also helped to create the instantly recognisable St George & Dragon motif designed by Benedetto Pistrucci which is still in use today.

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5. The Bowler Hat (1849)

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Quintessentially British – The bowler hat

Perhaps the greatest stereotypical representation of the English gentleman must be the wearing of a bowler hat. No 3 Savile Row can claim the distinction of being recognised as the place where the bowler hat originated. William and Thomas Bowler are credited with creating the first prototype for the bowler hat in 1850, but it is generally acknowledged that the hat was after a design by British soldier and politician Edward Coke, who was fed up with seeing his gamekeeper’s hats continually knocked off by low-hanging branches when out riding. When he was in Town, Coke lived at 3 Savile Row.

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Bowler hats have travelled up the social spectrum

Initially very popular with the Victorian working classes, the bowler hat went on to become standard uniform for middle-class businessmen, and by the 1960s it had elevated to the aristocratic realm.

6. The Beatles (1969)

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On January 30th 1969 the Beatles played their last ever public performance on the roof of Apple Records HQ at No 3 Savile Row. Just a year earlier the Beatles paid £500,000 to purchase the mansion and they are said to have spent the best part of 18 months living there leading up to that famous rooftop escapade.

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Not surprisingly, to this day 3 Savile Row is still considered a tourist attraction for Beatles fans and there has been a steady clamour for a blue plaque to recognise their use of this building.

Conclusion

Whilst researching this post I came across a reference to Lady Hamilton, Admiral Nelson’s lover, stating that she too once lived at 3 Savile Row. But I have not included her in this blog as I can’t see where she would fit in this timeline, unless she rented the property before General Ross. However, I think there is sufficient here to demonstrate that we should hold Savile Row dear not just because of the Beatles, or to keep American tailoring out of this important British fashion location, but because of its connections to everything British: from the stiff upper lip (Forbes), to military escapades (Ross & Wellington), the British currency (Wellesley-Pole), Quintessentially British headwear (Bowler hat), not to mention The Beatles.

In fact No 3 Savile Row has given us a wealth of characters and symbols that mean a lot to our notion of Britishness.

Kier Holdings paid £20 million for the mansion in 2009 but its fate today remains undecided. Who knows what the future holds…

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If they knew their history, these chaps would be wearing bowler hats!

Links

A marvellous set of 1950s photographs showing some amazing interiors of No 3 Savile Row

For more info on General Ross I recommend War of 1812 website

The Daily Telegraph has written a splendid history of the bowler hat

Until such time as Geraldine Roberts Angel and the Cad is published by MacMillan, my main focus on this blog will be Wicked William’s father Wellesley-Pole. There is much to write about Wicked William so stay tuned on that score!

However, you might like to know about Wicked William and the Epping Hunt, or why the Duke of Wellington considered him lamentably idle – alternatively you could always read about the death of a Regency Prizefighter

I hope you have enjoyed this post and would be most grateful for any feedback for any additional information you may be able to provide to fill in the gaps.