Victorian Monopoly – From ‘Go’ to ‘Just Visiting’ Prison

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

In this section we set off from ‘Go’ on our quest to navigate the Monopoly Board using only images held in the Crace Collection of antiquarian prints and maps held by the British Museum. How far can we get before modernity prevents our progress?

Old Kent Road

Here is a view for the Deaf and Dumb Society Asylum which was built around 1807 in Old Kent Road, with the original stone being laid by the Duke of Gloucester – whom was their patron. Originally founded by Reverend John Townsend in 1792, just around the corner in Grange Street Southwark, the Society met half-yearly to raise funds for the assistance of those unable to meet the fees required to attend the asylum.

On July 19th 1808 The Times reported on the Society’s General Meeting at which a list containing 69 child candidates had been voted upon by its members. As the new building in Old Kent Road was not yet ready, it fell upon the committee to report on a ballot involving its membership – which was to decide who they could make room for at that time. William Hayler topped the poll with 2128 votes and everyone down to 8th placed John Nicholls (896) were awarded a place. Just one girl, Elizabeth Campion, made the cut. Selecting children in this kind of incapacity competition was a very difficult operation:

This election… made a distressing impression upon the minds of those who witnessed the sorrowful and effecting disappointment felt by the unsuccessful candidates. The melancholy met these 61 unhappy children, for want of room in the present house, necessarily remained excluded from the benefit of the Institution, impressed more strongly than any language could do, the necessity of endeavouring to procure, with all possible speed, the means of completing the new building

A total of almost £350 was raised that night including 20 Guineas from the Duke of Gloucester, and we now know that their building in Old Kent Road did open in October 1809 – hopefully putting an end to the awfully high rejection rate experienced the previous year. The Deaf and Dumb Society are a very important milestone in the history of deaf education – and they were to remain at this site until the late 1960s. The patients would be taught how to speak, read, write and cipher so that they were capable of finding work after they were discharged from the institution.

There are numerous excellent resources for learning more about the history of London’s Deaf and Dumb Society – of which here are just a few

Community Chest

‘Community Chest’ is a phrase inherited from the original American version of Monopoly and refers to fund-raising organisations which sprang up throughout in the United States and Canada after 1914, who sought to raise money from local businesses and workers in order to donate it to community projects. Charitable organisations have been around London since Medieval times, and the Crace Collection has numerous examples of buildings and organisations dedicated to helping those less well-off in the community – such as that we just passed in Old Kent Road.

Above is a picture of Mrs Hillier’s almshouses which stood between 119 and 120 Curtain Road, in what is now Shoreditch – also listed as Holywell Street (which may have been at the rear). These eight small houses were built in 1812 and sat behind a dwarf wall and railings. Each dwelling housed two poor women and the project was endowed by Elizabeth Hillier, who lived in Pancras Lane. I have been unable to find out what became of this building

Whitechapel Road

Here is a view of Whitechapel Road in 1851, a watercolour by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. We are  looking west towards Aldgate; with a line of carriages visible on the right side of the road; and a coach approaching in the foreground. My favourite detail has to be the man on left carrying what looks like a box of fruit on his head – perhaps he’s been to Spitalfields Market. This mid-century scene of Whitechapel seems a million miles away from the days of Jack the Ripper, which were almost four decades later – and seem to have permanently associated the area with

In a strange way the elegance of Whitechapel then seems much more in tune with how this area is today – a very chic and sought after location just on the cusp of the City.

Income Tax

On your standard Monopoly board death may be avoidable, but sadly taxation is not. However, it was not always so inevitable that your wages were subject to income tax – for it was only introduced in December 1798 by Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. Intended to fund Britain’s war effort, this first iteration of income tax was abolished in 1816 (after a brief sojourn in 1802) as it was considered unnecessary for peace-time Britain. It was only in 1842 that incoming Prime Minister Robert Peel, alarmed by the country’s budget deficit, decided to drop his opposition to income tax – and legislate for its restoration.The above image from 1854 depicts newly the opened Inland Revenue Office, which adjoined Somerset House, in the Strand – more or less permanently establishing this form of tax.

 

Kings Cross

Here is a view of the south front of the Great Northern Station at King’s Cross, as it was in 1852 by artist unknown.

The Smallpox Hospital, which was demolished to to build King’s Cross Station

The station took its name from the King’s Cross area of London, itself named after a monument to King George IV that was demolished in 1845 Construction was on the site of a fever and smallpox hospital and it replaced a temporary terminus at Maiden Lane that had opened on 7 August 1850, but was already considered inadequate. Built to a design by Lewis Cubitt, a lesser-known brother of two other more renowned Cubitt family members, his design was based on two great arched train sheds, with a brick structure at the south end designed to reflect the main arches behind. The loggia beneanth the arches and clocktower was a nod to classical architecture. One of the great advantages of railway transportation was speed of travel and goods, but it also very quickly led to the now common practice of fare evasion. For example, on July 10th 1852 the Morning Post reported

Mark Johnson, aged 18, dressed as a sailor, came before the bar at Clerkenwell charged on the following circumstances: On thursday last, on the arrival of the train from Doncaster into the King’s Cross Station, Mr Garnett, an officer in the company’s service, went to collect tickets… when he found the prisoner concealed in one of the third-class carriages… without a ticket… He said he had run away from his ship, at Newcastle [and] travelled on foot without food or money until his feet were blistered and bleeding… arriving at Doncaster exhausted and got into one of the carriages to come to London… He was given into custody when the judge asked if non-payment was a regular occurrence and was told that [fare evasion] had been a big problem during the Great Exhibition, but not so frequent of late

Despite a plea from Johnson’s mother, who had made the journey to support her lad, the judge decided that it was necessary to deter others from such a practice, especially as it was still a problem for the railways. Therefore he fined Johnson 20 shillings, or 14 days imprisonment – the latter of which was imposed because the family were unable to make the payment.

Before we leave our first Monopoly board station, I’m taking a small detour to look at why this area of London acquired its name, as the station above was actually built in a hamlet called Battle Bridge, which was the site of an ancient crossing of the Fleet river. In Crace’s collection I found the answer. King’s Cross has its origin in a monument to King George IV which stood in the area from 1830 to 1845. Built at the crossroads of Gray’s Inn Road, Pentonville Road and New Road, which later became Euston Road. It was sixty feet high and topped by an eleven-foot-high statue of the king, and was described by Walter Thornbury as “a ridiculous octagonal structure crowned by an absurd statue”. It may have only lasted 15 years but this failed monument was around long enough to ensure its name was adopted for the new railway terminus, thus the hamlet of Battle Bridge was consigned to history – usurped by King’s Cross. An item in the Crace collection records the removal of King’s Cross and is less than complimentary about its existence.

King’s Cross – the real one, graced London from 1830-1845

                                                                                                                                                                                            What strange mutations does the hand of ‘public improvement’ work in our metropolis. Less than a score of years have rolled away since a very anomalous pile was reared at the point where meet the New-road, Maiden Lane, Pentonville-hill, the Gray’s Inn-Road &c.; the spot receiving the somewhat grandiloquent name of ‘King’s Cross’. The building boasted, however, of correspondent pretension; the lower story was classically embellished, as the portion in our engraving shows; the upper stories were less ornate; but, if the expression be allowable, the structure was crowned with a composition statue of the Fourth George – and a very sorry representative of one who was every inch a king…  people [soon realised the above was a very uncomplimentary effigy of majesty; even the very cabmen grew critical; the watermen jeered; and the omnibus drivers ridiculed royalty in so parious a state, at length the statue was removed in toto, or rather by piecemeal. / We cannot tax our memory with the uses to which the building itself has been appropriated; now a placeof exhibition, then a police-station, and last of all (to come to the dregs of the subject) a beer shop. Happily, our artist seized upton the modern antique just in time for rescue from oblivion; and his sketch is far more picturesque than would be’a proper house and home’. The ‘time to pull down’ at length arrived; the strange pile has been cleared away.

The Angel, Islington

The Angel Inn is thought to have existed since around 1614, built on the site of an old monastery and over time associated with Islington, though it was actually in the parish of Clerkenwell. An important stagecoach Inn, the Angel was for many years seen as an outpost for London – beyond which lay dangerous and bandit-ridden country. This scene by C R Matthews is from 1842 when London’s reach had gone far beyond Islington, and looks down the City Road from the Angel Inn; which is shown on the left  By 1831 a topographical guide to Britain recorded

The Angel Inn at Islington presents a busy scene. A road called the New Road, comes up from the ‘west end’ and just where this inn stands, joins the city road. Here between the ‘west end’ and the bank, ply fifty-four omnibuses. Through Islington too, pass a great number of vehicles to Holloway, Highbury, Hornsey &c

In the early 1920s the Angel Inn became a Lyons Tea Room, and the building still stands today as a bank with offices above.

Chance?

In 1806 London started a brief craze for House Lottery ticket sales- this became possible after an Act of Parliament that year gave permission for such raffles. Purchasing a ticket afforded you the chance to own a splendid new London townhouse and contemporary newspaper reports indicate that participants came from throughout the UK. One winner was from Suffolk and the other from Sussex and their prizewas valued at £300 per annum just to rent out, which was a considerable amount when you consider that most families lived on less than £50.

You could win this house in Pickett Street

What a lovely house this lottery offered – hard to think what it would be worth today. The other prize house in Skinner Street, was very close to the East India Company offices – redeveloped in 1803, Skinner Street was demolished in 1860 to make way for the Holborn viaduct.

 

Euston Road

Here is a view of Euston Road c.1825 by Charles T Heath, with the St Pancras New Church on the right. We can see that it was a wide road lined with elegant houses visible in the distance. Built in 1756 as London’s very first by-pass – Euston Road was originally called New Road. It enabled farmers to take their livestock to Smithfield from the west of London without having to drove them into Oxford Street. In 1837 it was chosen as a site for a new railway station.

St Pancras New Church (so-named to distinguish itself from the old one) was built in 1822 to the designs of William and Henry William Inwood. It has a long and fascinating history and is today one of London’s most popular landmarks. The Independent has written a good article upon the politics of St Pancras Church’ construction, which also reveals that its pulpit was carved from the very famous Fairlop Oak, which blew down in 1820 – the loss of Wicked William Long-Wellesley (then Warden of Epping Forest) was blamed

Pentonville Road

I tried hard to avoid putting a picture of the prison when looking for Pentonville in the Crace collection, since we are about to go visiting there in the next picture. Hence I have opted for a picture drawn by Charle H Matthews in 1840, but which recalls a view of Busby’s Folly, in Pentonville, as it appeared in 1731; complete with a rustic wooden fence, a barn to the right.

From the 1660s this area of Pentonville became renowned as a place of entertainment and received many travellers from the City. Busby’s folly was a house of entertainment with an adjacent bowling green, set in the fields. It was names after Christopher Busby who was the landlord of the White Lion in Islington and built his folly to attract day-trippers. From 1664 it became the meeting place of the Society of Bull Feathers Hall, which seems to have been a drinking and revelling club – as it had manners, rites and customs which included a musical parade from Busbys Folly to Highgate. In 1710 one visitor left Busby’s Folly decidedly poorer for his journey

Busbys Folly for a time appeared as a landmark on 18th century maps, but by the 1750s it was renamed Penny’s Folly, eventually demolished to make way for a pub called the Belvedere Tavern, which was built around 1780 and still stands at 96-98 Pentonville Road.

Jail – Just Visiting

Fleet Prison was founded as early as 1197 and was to blight London’s landscape until its demolition in 1846. Largely destroyed during the Gordon Riots if 1781, the prison spent its final decades housing mainly debtors and bankrupts. Whilst some inmates had the luxury of financial support from friends and family, a great many of the inmates were entirely destitute. These desperate captives had to rely on charity which they could receive at this barred window beneath a stone arch. This image from 1840 show an unkempt prisoner accepting money from a well-dressed lady and child. This prison features in my own research project, for Wicked William Long Wellesley spent time here in the early 1830s. For him the experience was less traumatic because his celebrity status afforded him a range ‘of choice viands and wines’ from a local inn-keeper. It;s alright for some then.

So – we have managed to get to the first corner of our Victorian Monopoly board without too much trouble. But tune in for my next post to see how much further we can go on our journey, which relies entirely on prints in the Crace Collection.

I hope you are enyoying this odyssey and will join me again for the next leg from Pall Mall to Free Parking


If you are a lover of London History you may like to read about Stagecoach Inns or perhaps to see how multlcultural late Georgian society really was via the work of Thomas Hood. Also I have written about the amazing history of one London mansion

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

 

 

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

Tally Ho! A Brief History of the Epping Hunt

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

A Fond Farewell – (Courtesy of Thomas Hood)

 eppinghunt-4

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

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

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

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

Extract from ‘The Epping Hunt’ (1829)

 

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

returning from the epping hunt 1822

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

 

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

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

thomas hood

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

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

eppinghunt-2

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

 

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

For want of a better, this must do

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

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

lakehouse wanstead hood

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

 

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

deerhunt-1899

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Friends of Wanstead Park – wansteadpark.org.uk

Finally, the best place for Wanstead related news is Wansteadium

 

Wicked William – The Last Word

“This is not an epitaph”

wickedwilliam

 

‘Wicked’ William Long-Wellesley (1788-1857) was one of the best-known characters of the Regency period. His rollercoaster life played out like a primordial soap opera through a multitude of satirical images, newspaper reports, books, pamphlets, and journals. His antics were commented upon throughout the world. When he was at his most arrogant, the mob cornered him in the street baying for blood. Yet when he was beaten down they rallied to his defence. Eventually debts and a failed political career forced him into exile. He remained in the news but the public tired of him. He had come to epitomise the worst excesses of a corrupt and unloved era, whose values were an anathema to early Victorian society. From the 1840s Long-Wellesley was consciously marginalised, his removal from contemporary memoirs the equivalent of a literary ‘social cut’.

My blog will show that Long-Wellesley directly contributed to his own notoriety in his pursuit of celebrity. For three decades he adeptly harnessed the power of the press to his own advantage, feeding newspapers tantalising details that kept the public enthralled.

But, as we all know, public opinion and press sympathy can easily change. Therefore with no little irony these last words about ‘Wicked William’ appeared in the Morning Chronicle the day after his death (4th July 1857):

The mockery of heraldry was never more displayed than in the case of this most unworthy representative of the honour of the elder house of Wellesley. A spendthrift, a profligate, and gambler in his youth, he became a debauchee in his manhood [and] his children, whose early tastes and morals he wickedly endeavoured to corrupt, from a malicious desire to add to the agonies of their desolate and broken-hearted mother. Redeemed by no single virtue – adorned by no single grace – his life has gone out, without even a flicker of repentance – his “retirement” was that of one who was deservedly avoided by all men. We have no wish, further, to illustrate such a theme by writing what should be his epitaph.

Luckily for me, so many outrageous events from the scandalous life and times of ‘Wicked William’ were recorded for posterity, that I will have ample opportunity of detailing them over time via this forum.

‘Wicked William’ Long-Wellesley

wickedwilliam

My Ph.D research encapsulates the life and times of William Long-Wellesley (1788-1857), whose epitaph declared him ‘redeemed by no single grace, adorned by no single virtue’. The purpose of this blog is to provide updates regarding William’s scandalous life and anything relating to Wanstead House, the magnificent Palladian mansion his actions destroyed. I will also be posting on other subjects relevant to the period, with a dedicated section on Lady Mary Bagot, who was ‘Wicked William’s older sister. You can find me on Twitter at @D_Profundis for Wicked William/Wanstead House and @Mary_Bagot for Lady Bagot.

You might also like Geraldine Roberts’ @_GerryRoberts – Geraldine has knocked all this Wanstead House research into a thoroughly readable format in her critically acclaimed book ‘The Angel and the Cad’ – which is a rattling good story which never loses sight of the facts, regarding the final years of Wanstead House.