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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Wellington Connection - Education

From the Duke of Wellington to Lady Shelley

Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1818

London, August 30, 1825.

"My Dear Lady Shelley,

. . . . . . As for John (1) you must impress upon his mind, first, that he is coming into the world at an age at which he who knows nothing will be nothing. If he does not chuse to study, therefore, he must make up his mind to be a hewer of wood and drawer of water to those who do. Secondly, he must understand that there is nothing learnt but by study and application. I study and apply, more, probably, than any man in England.

Thirdly, if he means to rise in the military profession—I don't mean as high as I am, as that is very rare—he must be master of languages, of the mathematics, of military tactics of course, and of all the duties of an officer in all situations.

He will not be able to converse or write like a gentleman—much less to perform with credit to himself the duties on which he will be employed—unless he understands the classics; and by neglecting them, moreover, he will lose much gratification which the perusal of them will always afford him; and a great deal indeed of professional information and instruction.

He must be master of history and geography, and the laws of his country and of nations; these must be familiar to his mind if he means to perform the higher duties of his profession.

Impress all this upon his mind; and moreover tell him that there is nothing like never having an idle moment. If he has only one quarter of an hour to employ, it is better to employ it in some fixed pursuit of improvement of his mind, than to pass it in idleness or listlessness.

Ever, my dearest lady,
Yours most affectionately,
Wellington.


1 John Shelley, Lady Shelley's eldest son, who subsequently joined the Royal Horseguards (Blue).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Young Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria by Alfred Edward Chalon, 1838,
 National Galleries of Scotland
From the Greville Memoirs:

August 30th. (1837) —All that I hear of the young Queen leads to the conclusion that she will some day play a conspicuous part, and that she has a great deal of character. It is clear enough that she had long been silently preparing herself, and had been prepared by those about her (and very properly) for the situation to which she was destined. The impressions she has made continue to be favourable, and particularly upon Melbourne, who has a thousand times greater opportunities of knowing what her disposition and her capacity are than any other person, and who is not a man to be easily captivated or dazzled by any superficial accomplishments or mere graces of manner, or even by personal favour. Melbourne thinks highly of her sense, discretion, and good feeling; but what seem to distinguish her above everything are caution and prudence, the former to a degree which is almost unnatural in one so young, and unpleasing, because it suppresses the youthful impulses which are so graceful and attractive.


Victoria Regina, June 20, 1837, by Henry Tanworth Wells,  Royal Collection
On the morning of the King's death, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham arrived at Kensington at five o'clock, and immediately desired to see 'the Queen.' They were ushered into an apartment, and in a few minutes the door opened and she came in wrapped in a dressinggown and with slippers on her naked feet. Conyngham in a few words told her their errand, and as soon as he uttered the words 'Your Majesty,' she instantly put out her hand to him, intimating that he was to kiss hands before he proceeded. He dropped on one knee, kissed her hand, and then went on to tell her of the late King's death. She presented her hand to the Archbishop, who likewise kissed it, and when he had done so, addressed to her a sort of pastoral charge, which she received graciously and then retired. She lost no time in giving notice to Conroy of her intentions with regard to him; she saw him, and desired him to name the reward he expected for his services to her parents. He asked for the Red Eiband, an Irish peerage, and a pension of 3,000l. a year. She replied that the two first rested with her Ministers, and she could not engage for them, but that the pension he should have. It is not easy to ascertain the exact cause of her antipathy to him, but it has probably grown with her growth, and results from divers causes. The person in the world she loves best is the Baroness Lehzen, and Lehzen and Conroy were enemies. There was formerly a Baroness Spaeth at Kensington, lady-in-waiting to the Duchess, and Lehzen and Spaeth were intimate friends. Conroy quarrelled with the latter and got her dismissed, and this Lehzen never forgave. She may have instilled into the Princess a dislike and bad opinion of Conroy, and the evidence of these sentiments, which probably escaped neither the Duchess nor him, may have influenced their conduct towards her, for strange as it is, there is good reason to believe that she thinks she has been ill-used by both of them for some years past.1 Her manner to the Duchess is, however, irreproachable, and they appear to be on cordial and affectionate terms. Madame de Lehzen is the only person who is constantly with her. When any of the Ministers come to see her, the Baroness retires at one door as they enter at the other, and the audience over she returns to the Queen. It has been remarked that when applications are made to Her Majesty, she seldom or never gives an immediate answer, but says she will consider of it, and it is supposed that she does this because she consults Melbourne about everything, and waits to have her answer suggested by him. He says, however, that such is her habit even with him, and that when he talks to her upon any subject upon which an opinion is expected from her, she tells him she will think it over, and let him know her sentiments the next day.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Passing of Hilary Evans


Married to Mary Evans, who passed away last year, Hilary Evans and his wife created the Mary Evans Picture Library, an invaluable London-based resource known to all historians and researchers. As if that achievment was not monumental in itself, Mr. Evans was also a serious UFO researcher and a collector of arcane beers and their brewing methods. Additionally, Evans wrote three novels and two non-fiction books on the Victorian era. In short, Evans, had he lived during the last centuries, would surely have gone down in the history books as one of those unique and quirky personalities we love so well. You can read his full obituary here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gossip Between Lady Shelley and Mrs. Arbuthnot

Harriette, Mrs. Arbuthnot by Richard Cosway
copyright Artchives.com

Mrs. Arbuthnot to Lady Shelley
Woodford, Wednesday [no date].

"My Dear Lady Shelley,
What an age it is since I have written to you! but my house has been so full; and I have been so full of regret at not being in the north hearing all the speeches and witnessing all the applause with which the Duke was received everywhere. Lady Bathurst and Sir Henry Harding have written me long accounts of it, all which is lucky for the Duke (of Wellington), as I should (very unjustly) be in a fury with him, for he enters into no details. To be sure one could not expect him to plume himself on his success; and, as I have heard it from others, I am satisfied. They are all enchanted with him, and he has done everything quite right, as he always does. I have Lord and Lady Francis Gower here and Mr. Greville and Lady Charlotte. Do you not think Mr. Greville the most agreeable man you know? I do; he has so much gossip, and tells a story so well. He has just been saying, God forgive me! but I wish Canning had lived to undergo the mortification of this visit of the Duke's to the north; it would have been a good lesson to him, and would have killed him.' He is in very good humour, and bears with my small house with the greatest fortitude. I am quite sorry they are going, which they do tomorrow for Chatsworth. Lady Charlotte is grown fearfully old and wrinkled. Lord Westmorland comes here to-morrow and stays till Saturday, on which day we go to Drayton.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Travels with Victoria: The Gardens of Westminster Abbey

On Sunday, June 12, 2011, on a  rainy day, I decided to attend services at the Abbey in advance of my visits to the gardens of the area.  Since it was a sung service, the Abbey was crowded with tourists and worshippers alike. Did you know that the official name for the Abbey is the Collegiate Church of St. Peter, Westminster, and it is classified as a "Royal Peculiar."  Here is the website.


  The beauty of the choral works and the magnificence of the organ were every bit as impressive as they were the previous month at the royal wedding. The morning's sermon was excellent, delivered by The Venerable Jane Hedges, cannon of the Abbey. She was kind enough to explain to me later that the "Venerable" in her title is just a traditional term for her office, not descriptive!    


At the conclusion of the service, the Abbey bells performed a long peal ( I think that is the proper term; for more info click here).  The beautiful bells accompmanied most of my ramble around the Abbey Gardens, all open for the Open Squares Weekend, 2011. 


 The College Garden, according to the Abbey Garden brochure, "Is reputed to be the oldest in England and was originally an isolated piece of land inside the Thames called 'Thorney Island'....


"...After the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1540, it became an area of recration for the clergy. In more recent years, an attempt has been made to acknowledge the Garden's original use by planting vegetables, herbs and fruit trees."


From the College Garden, the Abbey is right next door, and the bells were continuing with great beauty.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Funeral Horses


From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)


This funeral business is a strange one in many respects, but, just as the jobmaster is in the background of the every-day working world, so the jobmaster is at the back of the burying world. The 'funeral furnisher' is equal to all emergencies on account of the facilities he possesses for hiring to an almost unlimited extent, so long as the death rate is normal. The wholesale men, the 'black masters,' are always ready to cope with a rate of twenty per thousand —London's normal is seventeen—but when it rises above that, as it did in the influenza time, the pressure is so great that the 'blacks' have to get help from the 'coloured,' and the 'horse of pleasure' becomes familiar with the cemetery roads.


A hundred years ago there was but one black master in London. He owned all the horses; and there are wonderful stories of the funerals in those days when railways were unknown. The burying of a duke or even a country squire, in the family vault, was then a serious matter, for the body had to be taken the whole distance by road, and the horses were sometimes away for a week or more, and were often worked in relays, much on the same plan as the coach-horses, only that rapid progress through the towns and villages was impossible, for the same reason that no living undertaker dare trot with a tradesman within the limits of the district in which the deceased happens to have been known and respected. Even nowadays the black masters of London can be counted on one's fingers, the chief, according to general report, being Dottridge, of East Road.

A wonderful place is Dottridge's. It is the centre of what may be called the wholesale undertaking trade, where the retail undertakers are themselves undertaken and supplied with all they need, from coffin to tombstone. From all parts of the country telegrams and letters are continually coming in and packages continually going out by carrier and fast train, all labelled 'immediately for funeral,' to insure quick delivery. If anyone wants a parcel to go promptly and surely to hand, he has only to label it with these mystic words, and the railway men will pounce upon it and be off with it at a run—that is, if they treat it as we saw them do with the first one that came under our notice, which they handled as if it had arrived red hot, and was required at its destination before it cooled. 'Haste,' `urgent,' ' immediate,' are but poor incentives to speed compared with the red funeral label, such as was once accidentally stuck on a boy's hamper, and sent the matron into hysterics as it was hurriedly bumped on to the school door-mat.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy Birthday William IV


Happy Birthday to King William IV, whose birthday I share. In order to celebrate our birthdays, my husband, Greg, and I went out to dinner with friends to the Capital Grill last night.


Here's a snap Greg took of my girlfriend Mary Ann and I -


And here's another


We ate, drank and laughed lots. A good time was had by all.



However, I must say that in all honesty the real star of the evening was neither King William nor myself, but instead was Greg's four pound lobster.




Saturday, August 20, 2011

Charles Greville on Lord and Lady Holland from 1841

Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville (1794 – 1865)  kept a journal during his many years as an associate of the poltical and social leadership of Great Britain.  He was essentially a well-born gentleman of leisure who knew "everyone" and went "everywhere."  You can access all his work on-line at Project Gutenberg.  Greville characterizes Lady Holland's domineering style as she chides a respected historian, below.

Charles Greville

From The Greville Memoirs (Second Part), "A Journal of the Reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1852"   (Volume 1 of 3)  by Charles C. F. Greville

"December 31st, 1840:
The end of the year is a point from which, as from a sort of eminence, one looks back over the past… That which has made the deepest impression on society is the death of Lord Holland. I doubt, from all I see, whether anybody (except his own family, including Allen) had really a very warm affection for Lord Holland, and the reason probably is that he had none for anybody. He was a man with an inexhaustible good humour, and an ever-flowing nature, but not of strong feelings; and there are men whose society is always enjoyed but who never inspire deep and strong attachment. I remember to have heard good observers say that Lady Holland had more feeling than Lord Holland--would regret with livelier grief the loss of a friend than this equable philosopher was capable of feeling. The truth is social qualities--merely social and intellectual--are not those which inspire affection. A man may be steeped in faults and vices, nay, in odious qualities, and yet be the object of passionate attachment, if he is only what the Italians term '_simpatico_.'…

Henry Vassall Fox, 3rd Baron Holland, c. 1795

"January 21st, 1841: I dined with Lady Holland yesterday. Everything there is exactly the same as it used to be, excepting only the person of Lord Holland, who seems to be pretty well forgotten. The same talk went merrily round, the laugh rang loudly and frequently, and, but for the black and the mob-cap of the lady, one might have fancied he had never lived or had died half a century ago. Such are, however, affections and friendships, and such is the world.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Travels With Victoria: Holland Park

On all my trips to London, I have meant to visit Holland Park, and I finally made it.  Today Holland Park is in the center of town. When it was in its heyday as the gathering place  for the grand Whigs in the late 18th and early 19th centuries it was a country house, beyond the boundaries of London and Westminster.

Holland House, today

Very little of the original house remains after most of it was destroyed in 1940 by German bombs. The remainder, above, was turned into a youth hostel. Elsewhere in the park the Opera Holland Park performances are held outside.

As part of the Open Squares Weekend, June 11-12, 2011, I wanted to visit the garden, a very attractive design for its placement in the midst of a shady park.




Above is the Jacobean House as it appeared in a drawing of 1812 when it was already 200 years old. First built in 1605 for Sir Walter Cope, it was known as Cope Castle, and occupied 600 acres of land in Kensington about two miles west of London. The house was inherited by Cope's son-in-law, Henry Rich, first Earl Holland, who lost his head to the forces of Parliament in the Civil War. His family regained the estate, now known as Holland House, at the Restoration.



 Several generations later, it became the property of Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland (1705-1774), who lived there with his wife Caroline Lennox (1723-1774), daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond.  They had eloped due to the political emnity of the father and prospective son-in-law, as well as considerations of difference the in ages of the couple. Nevertheless, it was a happy marriage, though marred by the tendency of their sons toward dissolute lives.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Jobmaster's Horse



From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

The best horses are, of course, those used for fashionable carriage work. The high-class harness horse comes to London when he is about four years old. He is untrained, undrilled, with all bis troubles to be faced. The young cart-horse is gradually introduced to work on the farm; not so the carriage horse, who is too much of the possibility of a valuable animal to run any risks with. He may fetch 80L; but if he is a handsome, well-built, upstanding state-coach horse, of the kind now so much sought after, he will be cheap at 120L He has to be educated to behave himself like a gentleman; he must learn to stand well—not an easy thing to do—he must know how to back and turn gracefully, how to draw up stylishly at a front door, how to look nice when under window criticism, how to carry his head and lift his feet, and how to work with a companion and be as like him in action as one pea is like another; in short, he has to go through a complete course of deportment, though not of dancing, and he will be a promising pupil if he gets through it in eight months. If he does well and shows a willing mind, it is well with him and he has an easy time of it for years; but if he is tricky or perverse in any way he may have to go to hard labour and spend a twelvemonth in a 'bus. Sometimes that breaks him thoroughly of his bad habits and he returns to carriage work; sometimes, like an habitual criminal, he refuses to amend, and he remains a 'bus horse for life. And herein is the advantage of a miscellaneous business, for if a horse will not do in one branch he may in another.

The new horse is not branded or numbered, but a note is made of his marks, and he is named from a book of names, taking, perhaps, an old name which has been vacant for at least a year; the names being chosen as fitting the particular horse, and not as aiding the memory with regard to the date or circumstance of his purchase, naming from pedigree, as in the case of a racer, being, of course, out of the question. There are many systems of naming; some firms, like Truman & Hanbury, and Spiers & Pond, give the horses names which begin with the same initial all through the year, so that the A's may show the horses bought in 1890, the B's those bought in 1891, the C's those bought in 1892, &c.; others have other plans, but nothing of this systematic sort seems to exist in the livery trade, owing, perhaps, to the possibility of awkward developments in the event of the customer learning the key.

When the horse has passed his drills and been pronounced efficient, he takes his place with eight or nine others in a stable which has its roof thatched inside, so as to keep the temperature equable in summer and winter; and in every one of these stables the horses are as much as possible of the same colour and size, so as to look their best amid their comfortable surroundings. There are fixed travises and no bales for this class of horse, and no peat, but the usual straw, both for the sake of appearance and to save his coat from roughening. He is as well cared for as the plate at a silversmith's, and, like it, is not often so well treated when out on hire. But horses of all grades are nowadays better treated than they used to be, even though there may be deterioration in their quality, which, to say the least of it, is doubtful.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Charlotte Gunning Portrait at Chawton House by Guest Blogger Hester Davenport



The Portrait of Charlotte Gunning (1759-94)
copyright Chawton House Library

On 15 May 1784 it was the turn of Charlotte Margaret Gunning, Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte, to have use of the Royal Coach. Her friend Mary Hamilton called at St James’s Palace, and went with Charlotte to ‘Romney’s, the Painter’s’ where Miss Gunning was ‘to sit for her picture’. That half-length portrait now hangs in Chawton House Great Hall.

Mary Hamilton had also been employed in the royal household, to help with the education of the young princesses; she found her duties arduous, thankfully withdrawing from court after five years. Perhaps the two young women talked over the difficulties of royal service, which included their reputations as ‘learned ladies’. Both had had ‘masculine’ educations in the classical languages: according to Fanny Burney Miss Gunning was derogatively nicknamed ‘Lady Charlotte Hebrew’ for her learning.

Charlotte was the daughter of Sir Robert Gunning (1731-1816), a diplomat who was so successful in conducting the King’s business with the Empress of Russia that in 1773 he was made  Knight of the Bath. His daughter’s appointment as Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte in 1779 was no doubt a further sign of royal favour. He had two other children, his son George who would inherit the baronetcy, and another daughter Barbara. His wife had died when Charlotte was eleven-years-old, but in the 1780s he ordered portraits of himself and his three children from the society portraitist, George Romney (1734-1802).

The painting of the 25-year-old Charlotte is interesting in its apparent contradictions. The colours are muted, with the head veiled in white and the black dress severely plain, yet it is very low-cut, and the sitter looks out self-assured and even challenging. A warm glow in the sky behind suggests there is feeling and passion beneath that cool exterior. Charlotte’s hair is dressed high on her head and fashionably powdered. A hat might have been expected, but scarves, called ‘fascinators’, sometimes replaced large hats, especially for evening wear.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Earthquake! (Again)

From the Letters of Frances, Lady Shelley

August 12. (Devon 1852) — "We felt a tremendous earthquake shock at Beer Ferrers at 7:30 this morning. It was not felt at Plymouth, but, so far as we can ascertain, it was first felt at Beer Town, where all the crockery ware on the shelves rattled for some seconds. We heard a great noise, like the blowing up of a powder magazine, which we thought must have occurred at Plymouth. The house rocked to its foundations. I happened to be writing at the time, and the pen was dashed out of my hand. At Beer Alston, due north from here, the shock was greater. Tiles were thrown from the roof, people rushed into the street, and in the new mine close to the Tamar, those who were working in the upper gallery rushed below, believing that the earth had fallen in upon the men working there. At Tavistock a chemist told me that all his bottles rattled and shook so much that he expected them to fall to the floor. On the Moor many of the great stones were detached from the Tor, and at Two Bridges the landlord told us that while he was in his stable the noise and shaking was so great that he ran out thinking that the building would fall about his ears. On the first floor of his house the children screamed, and his wife expected the floor to give way. A wall had been thrown down at Widdicombe, on the Exeter road. We have traced the shock in a direction from east to west, increasing in intensity as it proceeded.

St. Pancras Church, Widecombe

"The last recorded convulsion of this kind was in October 1752, just a hundred years ago. During the evening service in Widdicombe church, a ball of fire burst through one of the windows, and passed down the nave. Large stones, which were detached from the tower of the church, broke through the roof. The clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Lynn, and his clerk remained in their places, and a huge beam from the roof actually fell between them. The clergyman continued to pray aloud, in the presence only of the dead and the wounded. Four persons were killed, and sixty-two persons seriously injured. The most harrowing tales respecting this shock are still told by the peasantry of Dartmoor. A hundred years ago the shock was heralded by a violent storm of thunder and lightning. On the present occasion there was no storm. The sky was overcast, the air was heavily charged, and had been so for some days."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Travels With Victoria: Marlborough House

Saturday, June 11, 2011, was not only the Trooping of the Colour (see my post of 7/30/11).  It was the first day of the Open Squares weekend.  Being an unabashed Nosey Parker, I love this time when many of the private squares and parks in London are opened to the public.
Garden at Carlton House Terrace
While the Queen was reviewing her troops on the parade ground at Horse Guards, I wandered to a few of the gardens in the vicinity of St. James.

Marlborough House, St. James


You can take an excellent virtual tour of the interior and exterior of the house here. Marlborough House is now the home of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth  Foundation.

In learning more about Marlborough House, I found it was associated with a large number of remarkable people, particularly women. The house was built on land leased from the crown adjoining St. James Palace for Sarah Churchill, 1st Duchess of Marlborough, who was a close friend of and adviser to Queen Anne.

Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744)  National Portrait Gallery

Sarah chose as architect Sir Christopher Wren. She disliked Sir John Vanbrugh who was building Blenheim, the magnificent baroque country house in Oxfordshire which was to be a gift of a grateful nation to the 1st Duke of Marlborough for his victory in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.

The Original Marlborough House

 Sarah wanted a plain and convenient house, without florid embellishments; in her own words, "...unlike anything at Blenheim." She laid the foundation cornerstone in 1709, but she quarreled with and later dismissed Wren. The feisty duchess took over the supervision of Marlborough House's completion.  Like her disputes with the Blenheim builders, the economical and thrifty Sarah refused to give in to excessive costs and overcharging.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Snorkeling the Atlantis Ruins

During our recent trip to the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Brooke and I spent some time snorkeling the underwater ruins.


The two million gallon tank holds sharks, manta rays, eels, grouper and a variety of other sea life and can be seen through windows in the underwater walkway that meanders through the resort.



Man-made ruins recreate the Lost City of Atlantis.


We donned our snorkel kit and dove in - along with several others in our group, including a teenaged girl who screamed out loud whenever she saw anything that moved. Believe me, there was alot of moving sea life. Thus, a lot of screaming. Where were the sharks when we needed them?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The History of Greys Court by Jo Manning - Part Two

The early 18th century wing of the house has splendid, detailed plasterwork dated from 1760; the kitchen, modernized to the mid-20th century, is spacious and cheerful. One can imagine the last owner, Lady Brunner, whipping up trifle and Yorkshire puds. There is nothing at all pretentious about it.

The house is situated in the western part of the de Greys' medieval courtyard, facing the Great Tower -- built and crenellated so long ago by John de Grey upon his return from war in France.  The 12th-century, the 14th, Tudor, Elizabethan, and Jacobean times, sit side by side, an abundant and unique richness for the eye.


copyright Peter Goodearl

I like this photo because it shows the 14th century Great Tower, the 16th century (Jacobean) house, and the bits of old stone (the lighter colored ones) from the medieval walls used in the construction of the newer house
In 1937, Sir Felix and the afore-mentioned Lady Brunner brought Greys Court, creating the many contemporary fine gardens and walks and bringing a very different kind of lifestyle to the Medieval/Jacobean history of Greys Court and its environs.  For a very brief period, the property had been held by Lady Evelyn Fleming, mother of the travel writer Peter Fleming and his perhaps more famous brother Ian, author of the James Bond spy novels. Lady Fleming’s tenure was marked by “improvements” to the property that were quickly reversed by the new owners, the Brunners, whose taste – thank goodness! -- was quite different.  The family that was to make Greys Court its home for over 65 years was not from an ancient and titled background, but rather a newer Victorian-created title…and the theatrical world. Thus began a whole new chapter in the fabulous history of Greys Court.
Elizabeth, Lady Brunner (see her obituary, January 28th, 2003, in The Telegraph  was born Dorothea Elizabeth Irving, the daughter of H.B. Irving and Dorothea Baird, both of whom were actors.  (Her mother created the parts of Trilby in George du Maurier’s play of that name, and Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan.) Her grandfather was the famous actor-manager Sir Henry Irving, whose original family name was Brodribb. It was no surprise when she, too, trod the boards, making her stage debut at the age of 12.  Her credits as an adult were to include Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in Trilby, like her mother, and a role in a silent film version of Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Shirley.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The History of Greys Court by Jo Manning

GREYS COURT, AN UNUSUALLY BEAUTIFUL NATIONAL TRUST SITE NEAR HENLEY-UPON-THAMES



On my latest visit to London this past spring, my daughter suggested that we go to Greys Court, a National Trust house she’d been curious about but had never visited.  The original buildings on the site dated from before the 12th-century and there was a famous garden; it was in the foothills of the Chilterns, outside of Henley-on-Thames (where I’d never been) and we could explore that town as well.  We’d picnic on the extensive grassy grounds overlooking the house and have tea later in the Tea Room located in the Cromwellian Stables.

(Yes, I know, looking at the photo above – that is certainly not a medieval building! – but the rest of the surrounding buildings – erected over at least 600 years -- are decidedly from the early medieval period and these very well evoke for the visitor those days of yore.)

This site is mentioned in the 11th century Domesday Book as Redrefield (Rotherfield). The owners were the de Grey family, barons who fought with their kings at Crecy, Bosworth, in the Scottish wars, and in the Hundred Years War with France.  The most famous of the de Greys was John de Grey, a professional soldier who became one of the original Knights of the Garter. After the Battle of Crecy 1346 he was given a license to crenellate Rotherfield, i.e., fortifying it by providing the walls with battlements.

Upon the death of his grand-daughter, Alice, in 1455, the lands passed to the crown. Henry VII awarded it first to his uncle, Jasper Tudor, then, in 1514, Robert Knollys received the property “for the annual rent of a Red Rose at Midsummer”.  Robert Knollys’ son, Francis Knollys, a good friend of King Henry VIII, became the next owner of these lands. (His wife was first cousin to Queen Elizabeth I through her mother’s family, the Boleyns.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Carriage Horse - Part Two


From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

Thousands of horses are imported and exported annually. So great is the Continental trade, that at Harwich, for instance, the Great Eastern Railway Company have provided stabling for eighty horses, which is frequently full. As many as 120 have been sent across the sea in one boat, most of them being Irish; indeed, the whole Belgian army used to be horsed from Ireland, the shipments, of course, going direct. We import mostly for the cheaper kinds of work, and we export for hard work, breeding, and waste, and in a whisper be it mentioned, for various food preparations, though not largely for these last. Sometimes the exports exceed the imports; sometimes, and oftener, the balance is the other way; though it is always on the right side as far as cash is concerned, for the imported horses average 111. as their value, while the exported horse is worth 54L.
In 1890, 19,400 horses came into this country and 12,900 went out; in 1889, 13,800 came in and 14,200 went out; and in three years the exports realised 2,532,000L, while the imports were declared at only 804,000L In 1876, when our horse-world was in a bad way, as many as 40,700 came in, but the imports have ever since shown a tendency downwards. Of these foreigners London has always taken the largest share. They are of all classes. On one occasion Tattersall's sold a batch of carriage horses from the States—good upstanding animals of sixteen hands or more, with good teeth and the uncut tail so much valued by jobmasters for their fashionable hirers, and these fetched in some cases 80 and 120 guineas. But the bulk of our imports are not of this quality, and come from nearer home. The draught horses come in from Denmark, Holland, Belgium, and Prance; the ponies from Norway and Sweden, and East Russia and Poland and Finland; the riding and driving horses from Hanover and Hungary. Some, as we have seen, come from the United States, some from Canada—the Canadian horse having many admirers—and even the South American mustang and the South Russian tarpan have figured in the carriages with less than four wheels licensed by the Board of Inland Revenue.

It is the general opinion that our carriage horses are not as good as they used to be, and we are told of the wonderful work that was accomplished by them before the railway monopolised the long-distance passenger traffic. A carriage horse that travels a hundred miles a week is now thought to be a treasure, but many horses in the past did fifty miles a day. The travelling carriage with its two horses would then do about ten miles at the rate of six or seven miles an hour, and halt for a quarter of an hour, during which the horses would wash out their mouths and eat a wisp of hay; the next stage would be about six miles, when there would be a halt for half an hour, during which the horses would be unharnessed and rubbed well down and fed with half a peck of corn; at the end of another ten miles there would be a halt of a quarter of an hour and a bait as before; at the end of six miles further there would be a halt of two hours, during which the horses would have both hay and corn; then would come another ten-mile stage, ending with a quarter of an hour's bait; and then would come the remaining eight miles, at the end of which the horses would have a mash before their night meal. This was the way people travelled when George the Fourth was King, or perhaps it would be more correct to say, 'the way some people travelled,' for it is clear enough that this sort of horse was the exception and not the rule. Of course, a large number went by post-horses; and then there was the coach traffic, so curiously limited in its capacity.
There are coaches now; even during the winter there are half-a-dozen working on the roads to and from London; but these coaches can hardly be taken seriously as representing the coach of those 'glorious old days,' the recollection of which has lasted so much longer than their existence.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Royal Wedding - Another View


Check out the Boy Meets Fashion blog to see "on the ground" photos of the Royal Wedding Day - up close and personal views of how Londoner's celebrated the day.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Carriage Horse



From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)


A Four-horse coach weighs a ton; a single brougham, the lightest close carriage built, weighs about seven hundredweight: the carriage horse has thus not much of a weight to pull, but he has to pull it at a good pace, and it is the pace that kills. In quick work nowadays it is as much as an average carriage horse can do to travel fourteen miles a day for five days only of the week.

Eighty per cent. of the magnificent animals that draw the family coaches to the Queen's drawing-rooms are on hire from the jobmaster. If you keep them and shoe them yourself at your own stables, you can get them for a hundred guineas a year; if you want them only from April to July, you will be lucky to get them for six guineas a week, taking them by the month; or if you want them in the off season, you can, perhaps, have them cheap at sixteen guineas a month. If the jobmaster keeps them and shoes them at his stables, his charge is nearly double. This is for what is known as 'state coach horses,' but good carriage horses cost as much. Some jobmasters will provide you with brougham and horse, and everything but the coachman's livery, for 200L a year, but only on the condition that you never go outside the seven-miles radius from Charing Cross. In fact, the first-class carriage horse is a somewhat unsatisfactory investment ; it is safer to hire than to buy him; and hence the importance of the jobmaster in the horse-world of London.
There are some of the London jobmasters with 500 pairs out among the carriage folk, and several with over a hundred pairs. These horses are nearly all geldings, and they almost all begin their carriage work when they are four and a half years old; if they are bought before, they have to be kept till fit, which is another way of saying that there is little monetary advantage in buying them young, as the cost of their keep increases their price. Out of each thousand, three hundred are cleared out of the stables in a year to the auction mart, and about twenty-five die from accident or disease.

How many carriage horses are there in London? By the courtesy of the Board of Inland Revenue we are enabled to speak precisely with regard to the number of carriages. During the year ending March 31, 1891, the number of carriage licences issued within the Administrative County of London was 22,204. Of these, 7,955 were for carriages with four or more wheels drawn by two or more horses; 7,535 for carriages with four or more wheels but fitted to be drawn by one horse only, and 6,714 for carriages with less than four wheels. Of course, this is independent altogether of the hackney carriages which are given in the Metropolitan Police report, and of all vehicles, carts, vans and otherwise, used in trade. These carriages have probably about forty thousand horses, varying in value from the twenty-guinea pony up to the four-hundred-guinea state-coach horse; to average them is almost impossible, although the lot would certainly represent more than 2,500,000L at present prices.