Mar 132012












When Richard went to see Cox’s Museum in Spring Gardens in the 1770’s he purchased (and kept) the catalogue (priced at half a guines). It describes the sight which greeted visitors. In the first salon he would have seen the imposing vision of two life-sized Zoffany portraits of the King and his Queen, surmounted on a dais of gold. I have no idea which of the many royal portraits by Zoffany were used (this one of George III is courtesy of Wikipedia, the one of Queen Charlotte comes from the Holbourne Museum of Art).

Johann had been born in Germany near Frankfurt am Main in 1733 and was trained by Martin Speer in Regensburg, where his father was employed as a court architect and cabinet maker. Later he spent time learning sculpture, travelling to Italy before  coming to England in 1760 and painting vignettes inside clocks made by the  clock-maker Stephen Rimbault.

This portrait shows him in 1776, then in his late thirties.
He specialized in ‘conversation pieces’, groups of individuals painted separately and then added into a group painting. One such is the portrait of the Sharp family, a musical group who lived on a barge on the Thames and held musical soirees for the rich and famous. (I blogged about Granville Sharp and his family  previously at:  ).


                               Details from the Sharp Family portrait.

As a painter of informal family portraits he quickly became a favourite of royalty. In 1763 he became a Freemason, and was elected to  the Royal Academy in 1769 at the request of King George III. Later he worked in Venice and Florence, returning to England in 1779 to find the former popularity of conversation pieces much diminished. In his place  Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough were supplying portraits to the very people who previously employed Zoffany. He travelled to India, working there for six years before returning to England in 1789.
He had previously painted royalty throughout Europe (this, the Austrian Emperor Leopold II and his family)






He also did loads of theatrical sketches, as in these ones of David Garrick, as the Provok’d Wife (left) and as Jaffier (right).


  He painted Josiah Wedgwood, as in this  portrait
    but more mundane sitters got a look-in occasionally as in this one of the Watercress seller.





Though Zoffany made several visits to Europe and India during his lifetime he remained in Britain, dying at his home at  Strand-on-the-Green on 11 November 1810. His ‘signature-dish’ (the conversation piece) is shown to its best in this portrait from the royal collection entitled  The Tribuna of the Uffizi

Many happy returns Johann !

(P.S. a pair of Zoffany portraits featuring the great actor David Garrick was sold at Sotheby’s in December for £6,761,250/$10,563,777/ €7,893,784.  Entitled  The Garden at Hampton House, with Mr and Mrs David Garrick Taking Tea and The Shakespeare Temple at Hampton House they were acquired by the Garrick Club in London to add to their pre-eminent collection of works featuring the actor.)

Mar 102012

The great thing about travelling to the other side of the world is that it gives you a different perspective on familiar stories. Take the tale of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. I was vaguely aware of the details – how in February 1834 half a dozen farm labourers from a tiny village near Dorchester (in Dorset) decided to retaliate when their wages were cut from nine shillings a week, to eight, then seven, then six (at a time when this was a starvation wage).They banded together to form a “Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers” (a perfectly legal thing to do) and made a vow not to work if the cuts were repeated. This vow brought them into conflict with a law prohibiting the uttering of illegal oaths.

The Act had been passed earlier in the reign of George III to improve discipline in the Royal Navy and was never intended to prevent lawful associations.

On 24th February local landowners in Dorset  put up posters warning that people found guilty of uttering illegal oaths were liable to deportation and on that very same day the six were arrested and charged with felony. The magistrate over-reacted (perhaps because he was being lent on by a government which was terrified that agricultural disquiet could herald a ‘French Revolution’-type response if not squashed immediately. After all, was it not revolting peasants across the Channel who had caused the French King to lose his head?) The wealthy landowners were not going to suffer any nonsense from labourers who so obviously failed to understand the economic realities of the day! They were guilty of no more than trying to protect their families, but were sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay and packed off to the antipodes for seven years.

That would show them who was boss… For some reason one of the six, George Loveless, was separated from his co-conspirators. They went to Australia, while Loveless, a lay Methodist preacher, was packed off to Van Diemans Land (i.e.Tasmania). He was not to see his wife and three children again for three years.

He landed at Hobarton (now Hobart) and spent time on a road gang before being sent to a Government farm in nearby Richmond. Meanwhile his family, and those of the other five “Tolpuddle Martyrs” were being supported by donations from members of the nascent trade union movement. There was growing disquiet at the sentence – a petition signed by 800,000 people was handed in to Parliament, and there were marches and rabble-rousing political speeches. Finally after two years, the government relented and the King (William IV) granted a Royal pardon. It was signed on 10th March 1836, handed in to Parliament four days later, and dispatched to the authorities in Hobart on 24th March. The ship carrying the message took five months to reach its destination – and so it was early in 1837, three years into his sentence, before George Loveless was finally able to leave Tasmania and return to his family in England. A plaque on Plymouth´s Barbican marks his return.

It is hardly surprising that he chose not to stay in Britain, but instead decided to head for Canada, where he disappeared from view. I rather like to think he would have carved out a living in that wild and beautiful country, either as a farmer or as a trapper or gold miner. I bet he never went to work as a labourer for anyone else, if he could help it.

But the Tasmanian angle of Loveless’s detention is an interesting one. The “agricultural radicals” are commemorated every year at The Tolpuddle Martyr’s Festival and Rally (cue much doleful singing by Billy Bragg et al. and much waving of venerable banners from Unions representing trades from all over Britain). In 2011 the Tasmanian Grassroots Union Choir were invited to come to Tolpuddle to perform a folk opera about the time Loveless spent in exile. I make no comment about this obviously worthy musical piece, which had apparently gone down a storm in Tasmania (where, admittedly, they may be a trifle starved of entertainment). Suffice to say that the choir had to find the money for airfares etc. – they were not sponsored, and duly arrived to be met by Immigration Control. One of their number, Maureen Lunn, was asked for the reason for her visit She replied along the lines “I’m lead singer at the Trades Union Rally” and was promptly informed that as she was an entertainer she could not be admitted to the country on a Tourist Visa and needed to go back to Tassie and request an Entertainers Licence! No amount of protests swayed the Jobsworths at Immigration – no matter that she was an amateur, who had paid her own fare. She was put on the next plane home, leaving the choir stranded and without their main singer. I suspect they must have felt somewhat insulted that they were not considered good enough to be “entertainers” in their own right!

The world has speeded up since 1836: this time the repercussions were swift and furious: High Commissioners, foreign ministers and government departments were quickly on the case, and guess what, true to its historical traditions of changing its mind, the government of the day reversed the decision. No sooner had poor Maureen unpacked at home than she was again boarding a flight to London.

Which is an interesting contrast to the speed of Justice two centuries ago – but a sad reflection on the intransigence of officialdom until pressure is applied.

Mar 092012

It is slightly daunting to have your book reviewed by a history professor when, like me, you are an exponent of ‘history-lite’ but I was nevertheless delighted to  see that the Journal of a Georgian Gentleman has been reviewed by the London Journal and this is to be found in its March 2012 issue. I have set it out in full and entirely accept that I wrote the book from a family slant and that many contemporary social issues were not addressed – largely because if my ancestor Richard Hall did not mention them in his diaries as being of concern to him, I generally did not mention those issues in the book.

My Journal of a Georgian Gentleman has now been out for a little over a year. It is fair to say that in the main it is selling on the back of talks which I give up and down the country. Next week I am in the Cotswolds (interestingly, dining at the premises which Richard Hall once owned. He knew it as The Mansion House at Bengeworth but nowadays it is called the Evesham Hotel). I am then talking about the book in Bourton on the Water (where Richard moved to in 1781). Then it is up to London to address various Livery Companies attending a lunch at Butchers Hall. Needless to say I will bring a stash of books with me. Wish me luck!

Anyway, here in full is the review by Jon Stobart of the University of Nottingham:

Mar 072012

This time I have asked the wondrously talented Adrian Teal to write a guest blog for me:

The Reverend Henry Bate was a newspaper editor with a difference. Known as the ‘Fighting Parson’, owing to his love of duelling and amateur pugilism, he founded the Morning Herald in 1780 after he fell out with the partners at his previous newspaper, the Morning Post, and fought a duel with one of its proprietors. Bate took the world of Georgian print media by storm. His articles dripped with scandal, gossip, coarse humour, and actionable opinions. Samuel Johnson once said of him, “I will not allow this man to have merit; no, Sir, what he has is rather the contrary. I will, indeed, allow him courage, and on this account we so far give him credit.”

Always on the lookout for marketing opportunities, Bate once had forty men in gaudy uniforms distributing handbills in Piccadilly. The dust-up which made his name as a man not to be trifled with was known as The Vauxhall Affray, in which he defended the honour of his future sister-in-law from a gang of fashionable bullies in Vauxhall Gardens, and gave their bodyguard – a professional prize-fighter – a beating so terrible that the fellow left with his face ‘a perfect jelly’.

Modern-day tabloid editors are being censured for their questionable practices, and rightly so, but Bate knocks them all into a cocked hat. The 1700s saw a huge explosion of newspapers and topical caricatures, and the bon ton relished gossip, intrigue, and scurrilous comment as much as we do today, if not more. Men like Bate and the caricaturist James Gillray both created and fed this appetite. The parallels with today’s celebrity-obsessed media are startlingly and pleasingly obvious, and this is where I come in.

I am a national press cartoonist and caricaturist, and I am writing and illustrating a book about this period of our history. It is called The GIN LANE GAZETTE, and will be an exuberant, bawdy, journalistic romp through the second-half of the 1700s. The Gazette is a compendium of highlights from a fictional 18th-century newspaper dealing with entirely true stories from this age of scandal and bad behaviour: a kind of Georgian Heat magazine, if you like. Gossip columns, sports reports, book reviews, advertisements, and a ‘courtesan of the month’ slot will all feature within its pages, and my own Gillray-esque and Hogarthian caricatures will dance through the text.

In another pleasing parallel, the book will be published via the eighteenth-century method of subscription, which it pleases us to call ‘crowd-funding’ in the 21st century. The publishing venture Unbound was established last year, and allows authors make their pitches about the books they wish to write to potential readers. If the book garners enough support, it is published, and readers receive a beautiful hardback copy, and – depending on the levels at which they pledge – lots of fabulous perks. In my book’s case, you can have yourself caricatured as a Georgian lady or gentleman, join us for a Georgian pub crawl or a walking tour of Georgian London, or even appear in caricature within the pages of the book, if you wish.

Curious readers wishing to know more can watch my video, read my pitch, and pledge towards its publication by going to…


(Thanks for that Ade! I just echo how appropriate it is that your splendid effort is being launched by public subscription. I recall that Hogarth often pre-paid for his works to be engraved (an expensive process) by raising subscriptions. Subscribers would get a receipt which was in itself  a Hogarth print and I am delighted that you offer your own version of incentives and inducements to your supporters! ).  

His Teal-ship can be followed on Twitter at: :
and his work and C.V. can be seen at:

Mar 052012

If Richard Hall liked writing about the weather, his brother-in-law William Snooke liked writing about his food – and in particular what he ate for Sunday Dinner (the main meal of the week). This was a repast shared with company most weeks, and it shows a delightful picture of life at the Manor House in Bourton nearly 250 years ago.

For instance, Sunday 6 August 1775 “Mr Kimber (junior) dined with us: beans and bacon, followed by Fillet of Veal (very fine) and then warmed Codlin Pie*. Richard Farmer and son in the kitchen.” In other words Mr Kimber ate with William and his wife, but his servant and the servant’s son ate with the household staff in the Kitchen.

The following week it was the turn of Mr and Mrs Raymond, accompanied by their two sons, to dine. This time it was on a Tongue (“not very good”) another Fillet of Veal and a rice pudding. The Sunday after that it was once more the Fillet of Veal but this time accompanied by “Pidgeon Pie; Mr Coles and Mrs Wood dined with us.”

On 27 August it was the turn of Mr Dawson to share a meal with William, this time on a loin of veal as well as “bacon (disapproved of beans); Apple Dumplings”. Two more visitors showed up the week after to dine upon “knuckle of veal and bacon, a leg of lamb (cold) and a fine leveret” (being a present from his guests) “finished off with cold apple pie”.

Occasionally there was a larger party dining and hence in September that year William records “Sir James Hetherington, Mr Vernon, and a farmer out of Lincolnshire dined. Mrs Mills and Miss Paxford also dined and drank tea with us. A fine cod, Greens (a present from brother Richard) Potatoes, a leg of mutton boiled after pigs fry; apple pie, puffs and a couple of ducks with sauces; then Aunts Pudding.”

A male gathering was recorded later in September when Mr Reynolds, Mr Boswell, Mr Beddams and Mr Palmer turned up – “the females all being engaged” and the men polished off salmon with Greens and Potatoes, followed up by “a calf’s head, a brace of partridges and then finished off with a plumb pudding (boiled)”

The two partridges cost a shilling (“paid to Mr Whitmore’s man”) but there is no record to show when he polished off the fifty crayfish, bought that week for two shillings off Thomas Reynolds. He also bought eight penn’orth of walnuts, paid four shillings for a cask of porter (beer) and paid for “one and a half dozen pidgeons at two shillings and sixpence per dozen” (that is, just under two pence a bird).


Richard recorded a pastoral scene with the birds pecking away alongside the pigeon loft. Unfortunately part of the cut-out figure has been folded back on itself – the advancing man is in fact pointing a gun but it looks more like he is holding a walking stick!


*Codlin Pie:

Put some small codlins into a clean pan with spring water, lay vine-leaves onthem, and cover them with a cloth wrapped round the cover of the pan to keep in the steam. As soon as they grow soft, peel them, and put them in the same water with the vine-leaves. Hang them a great height over the fire to green, and when of a fine colour, take them out of the water, and put them into a deep dish, with as much powder and loaf sugar as will sweeten them. Make the lid of rich puff paste, and bake it. When it comes from the oven, take off the lid, and cut it in little pieces like sippets, and stick them round the inside of the pie with the points upwards. Then add a liaison”

Extract from The London Art Of Cookery and Domestic Housekeepers’ Complete Assistant“, by John Farley. With thanks to

Mar 022012

It is interesting that when Richard was writing in 1781 it was the old frame which got thrown away – the mirror or glass was kept. Why? Because mirrors were extremely costly.

Mirrors had of course been around for several thousand years, originally using polished bronze or similar materials. But in the sixteenth century Venetian glassmakers on Murano found a way of coating the back of a sheet of glass with silver mercury. Rivals stole the method of production and brought it to France, Germany, and particularly England, so that by the 1700s London had a thriving mirror-making industry.
 A spectacular mirror in the style of Thomas Chippendale


Cheap it was not – and it was also highly dangerous, since mercury is an extremely unstable and dangerous chemical to work with. The process was quite complicated. First you needed a stone table which was completely level (so that mercury would not run off when poured) but the table had to be capable of being tilted gently. Then you needed a completely flat sheet of tin, moulded to give a gulley running all round its four sides( to catch the mercury as it drained).The tin was tied securely to the table. A small amount of mercury would then be spread across the surface and rubbed gently into the surface of the tin (traditionally using a hare’s foot). The next stage was to pour mercury over this prepared surface to a depth of between three and six millimetres. It needed to be as evenly spread as possible. Then came the difficult part – lowering the glass sheet onto the mercury so that it floated. The weight of the glass would force the mercury out to the gulley running round the tin sheet where it could be collected and used again. A blanket would be placed over the glass and weights used to press down the glass. The stone table would then be tilted, and the whole shebang left to dry for three weeks.The critical moment would come when the glass was lifted from the table – apparently even a loud noise could cause the mercury to run off from the back of the glass, with potentially fatal consequences. Death by inhalation of mercury fumes was not uncommon in factories where mirrors were made.

An Italian ‘Grotto’ mirror from the 18th Century, courtesy of

Small wonder therefore that a mirror or looking glass was an expensive item, certainly one which it was worthwhile for Richard to spend one pound eleven shillings and sixpence to re-frame (perhaps nearer a hundred pounds in modern terms). The chemical process of coating a glass surface with metallic silver was not discovered until thirty years after Richard’s death. The actual inventor is a matter of dispute but one candidate is the German Justus von Liebig who published an article in 1835 remarking that “…when aldehyde is mixed with a silver nitrate solution and heated, a reduction is formed, as a result of which the silver settles itself on the wall of the vessel, forming a superb mirror.”

In Richard’s time, mercury-backed mirrors came in all shapes and sizes. The woodcarver Grinling Gibbons made intricately carved frames to go with his mirrors, but in the eighteenth century the adornment to the frames was often painted rather than carved. They became part and parcel of the design of the fireplace. Designers such as Robert Adams would produce schemes for fireplaces with a matching mirror and frame above it, sometimes reaching to the ceiling.

Fireplace with overmantel mirror, c. 1750 courtesy of the V&A


Mirrors designed to go above a fire-place were known as chimney glasses, while those intended to go between two sets of windows were called pier glasses. It became fashionable in the Eighteenth Century to have mirrored sconces – wall fittings to hold a candle but with a mirror at the back to reflect light back into the room. Later in the century cheval glasses came into fashion. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica ( “The cheval glass was first made toward the end of the 18th century. The glass could be tilted at any angle by means of the swivel screws supporting it, and its height could be adjusted by means of lead counterweights and a horse, or pulley, from which the name was taken. Thomas Sheraton in the 1803 edition of The Cabinet Dictionary, included a design with a nest of drawers at one side and another with a writing surface. When wardrobes were fitted with mirrored doors, the cheval glass became unnecessary in bedrooms”.

Meanwhile Richard Hall would have sat at his dressing table in his bedroom, attending to his toilet (or perhaps, as he would have said, his ‘twaylit’) using this tilting adjustable mirror.