An Elopement, a Stately Home and a Royal Visit

From The Letter-bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope
March 1st. (1805)
"Your father is very well. He was sorry for the fate of the Slave Trade Bill last night. The Elopement and distress in the House of Petre has been the chief subject of conversation for the last few days. Miss Petre  made her escape from her father's house in Norfolk with her Brothers' tutor on Monday last. It is said they are at Worcester and married only by a Catholic Priest. However, Lord and Lady P. are gone there and it is expected she will be brought back to-night. They can do nothing but get her married to the man at Church. She is 18, he 30, and no Gentleman. She was advertised and 20 guineas reward offered to anyone who could give an account of the stray sheep. It is a sad History. What misery this idle girl has caused her parents, and probably ensured her own for life."

Lady Petre by Gainesborogh copyright The Huntington Library
Marianne Stanhope to John Spencer Stanhope.
March 3rd. (1805)
"You have doubtless read in the papers the account of Miss Petre's elopement with her brother's tutor, Mr Philips. He is a very low man, quite another class, always dined with the children, never associated the least with the family, a sort of upper servant. Lady Petre thought him rather forward, he was to have left them at Easter. She had seen her daughter at twelve the night before, and only missed her at breakfast . Her clothes were all gone. A friend of his, a brandy merchant, accompanied her in the chaise, the tutor rode first. A clergyman refused to marry them some time ago at Lambeth, but they have since been married at Oxford by a Mr. Leslie, a Catholic priest, which is not enough. They are not yet discovered."
The Miss Petre referred to above was Maria Juliana, daughter of Robert Edward, 10th Baron Petre. She was born 22 January 1787, married on 30th April 1805, to Stephen Philips, Esq., and died 27th January 1824. I have been unable to find much else concerning her life, but here is her obituary, as it appeared in The Catholic Spectator: "The Hon. Mrs. Philips, wife of Stephen Philips, Esq. of H. M. Customs, and eldest daughter of the late Rt. Hon. Edw. Lord Petre, and Lady Mary, surviving,  of a decline, aged 37. To the ardent and unremitting zeal of this Lady, in her personal and most charitahle attentions to the Female Catholir Charity School, at Stratford. Essex, may principally he attrihuted her lamented and premature decease, She has left five children and a hushand to deplore the loss of a model for the Christian wife aud mother."

Ingatestone Hall

Miss Petre's, or rather Mrs. Philips's, ancestral home was Ingatestone Hall, about which we read in Chambers's Journal (1883) - "Again, an important instance of these secret chambers is that existing at Ingatestone Hall, in Essex, which, it may be remembered, was in years gone by a summer residence belonging to the abbey of Barking. It came with the estate into possession of the family of Petre in the reign of Henry VIII., and continued to be occupied as their family seat until the latter half of the last century. The hiding-place, which is fourteen feet long, two feet broad, and ten feet high, was discovered in the south-east corner of a small room attached to what was probably the host's bedroom. Underneath the floor-boards, a hole or trap-door about two feet square was found, with a twelvestep ladder to descend into the room below, the floor of which was composed of nine inches of dry sand. This, on being examined, brought to light a few bones, which, it has been suggested, are the remains of food supplied to some unfortunate occupant during confinement. The existence of this retreat, it is said, must have been familiar to the heads of the family for several generations; evidence of this circumstance being afforded by a packing-case which was found in the secret chamber, and upon which was the following direction: 'For the Right Honble the Lady Petre, at Ingatestone Hall, in Essex.' The wood, also, was in a decayed state, and the writing in an antiquated style . . "

Ingateson Hall has long been rumoured to have been the setting for Mary Elizabeth Braddon's novel, Lady Audley's Secret. The estate was virtually self-supporting with its own millhouse, bakehouse, dairy, dovecote and granaries among other features. The Petre family also owns Thorndon Hall, complete with deer park. Formerly called "Thorndon Old Hall," it burned down in the early 1880s and was rebuilt. Tommorrow, we'll learn about King George III and Queen Charlotte's visit to Thorndon Hall and the expense Miss Petre's father, the 10th Baron, lavished upon the royal visit.

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