Aug 312014


Little did I think, when I used some of Richard Hall’s paper cut-outs to illustrate “The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman”, that I would end up not only publishing a separate book, just on his paper-cuts, but also would be lecturing on the subject. It’s a strange old world…

edouartUp until now it has mostly been to W.I.’s and history groups, but recently I received an invitation to give a talk at the Holburne Museum in Bath. It links in with an exhibition they are currently hosting on the works of a Frenchman called Auguste Edouart, who was exiled in Britain after the fall of Napoleon. He started off teaching French, progressed to making mourning pictures out of hair from the recently deceased, and ended up as a most prolific exponent of the art of taking silhouettes. Not for him a mere head and shoulders jobby, bronzed or highlighted with gold. He only did full-length portraits, always in plain, unadorned black, and over the course of 25 years he made tens of thousands of these silhouettes. He stayed in Bath and Cheltenham before going up to Edinburgh, and then spent  six years in the States cutting likenesses of all the great and the good. He obviously liked doing statesmen and politicians, but wasn’t averse to doing wealthy bankers, lawyers, entertainers – anyone as long as they were the movers and shakers of American Society.

Anyway, the  Holburne wanted a talk, combining the life and works of Mr Edoaurt with a look at the paper-cutting traditions in England  during the second half of the eighteenth century, so if you are anywhere near Bath at tea time on 22 September do come along! It is scheduled to start at three p.m. and should take three quarters of an hour and I will bring with me  several dozen of the original paper cuts made by my ancestor for people to see. I will even bring along his original pen-knife and a few of his diaries, as well as  giving people a chance to look at “The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman” and my booklet on the actual paper-cuts.


More details of the talk can be found here   – I hope to see some of my Followers there!

Aug 282014

When I were a lad …well, when I was seven and at boarding school, we were all terribly keen on skipping. Unfortunately, one day the rope got caught on a raised paving slab as I was racing along, and sent me soaring head-long (or rather, tooth-long) against the ground. Having buck-teeth meant that I broke both my front teeth, leading to expensive dentistry over many, many years. And that was the last I thought of skipping until now, when I came across various images of skipping in the Georgian Era. It is obviously high time I ran a themed blog on skipping so that I can then safely forget about the topic for another sixty years…

awawaFirst up, an image of Sophia Western, the wondrously beautiful heroine in ‘Tom Jones – the Foundling’. Up until the 1700’s skipping was mainly a masculine past-time, often associated with sailors who were, of course, used to working with ropes. But by 1800 women joined in – just so long as it wasn’t too energetic and likely to over-excite the poor dears. Or break their front teeth…

Here she is again, by the artist John Hoppner, courtesy of the Government Art Collection.






The lovely Sophia is shown skipping in a flimsy Empire Line dress of the early 1800’s, no doubt relishing the freedom of movement made possible by her costume. It is however something of an anachronism, as Fielding wrote the novel Tom Jones fifty years earlier, and the artist should perhaps have shown her in a hooped skirt, or a heavy mantua – but certainly not in a costume which would have permitted skipping.

Because of course, the trouble with skipping was … ankles. You cannot really skip without showing them, and that was a tad scandalous for the Georgians.

awaewWhich leads onto a caricature shown on the Lewis Walpole site entitled “A skipping Academy.”  It is accredited to Thomas Rowlandson, but George Woodward may also have had a hand in it, and it was published by Rudolph Ackermann in 1800. The lady on the left in the yellow dress, with her back to us, is saying “This skipping is a terrible thing for showing one’s legs to the fellows.”  The man swinging the rope for her cannot take his eyes off her dumpy limbs and announces “Oh Ma’am you mustn’t mind trifles of that kind.”

The instructor applauds the efforts of the central female figure with the words “Bravo Madam – capital – never saw a more graceful attitude….” Her Florid Rotundity replies “Dear Sir, I am afraid you flatter me.”

One gentleman comments: “Tolerable fair exercise in a frosty morning” while his servant (?) remarks: “Warm work my Masters.” But I particularly like the figure crawling along the floor, apparently having been tripped up. He gazes intently at the shapely ankle of the gorgeous girl who has stepped on his rope. He exclaims: “What an exquisite ankle. This compensates for my tumble.”  To which her Divine-ness replies “Oh dear Sir, pray don’t touch the rope. I can get it off myself. Indeed I can”, while her own rope rides up between her thighs, showing an interesting amount of leg. Well, for the Georgians…

Right at the side a merry gentleman, perhaps admiring the rear view of the lady, announces: “I think I begin to get into the way of it…the true graceful…”

awqawqFrom the same source – and the same year – one entitled  ‘The fashionable amusement of skipping.’ It shows three ladies merrily cavorting on the heath with their skipping  ropes. I have included it simply because the title gives credence to the fact that skipping was fashionable.

skipping (2)To end with, a political cartoon shown courtesy of the British Museum. It is called ‘The interview- or- Miss out of her teens’. The scene takes place in a reception room at Brighton Pavilion. In the centre, a bashful Princess Charlotte, bedecked in the diaphanous white muslin gown of the period, and wearing gloves, is holding her skipping rope. To her left her ugly mother the Queen (Caroline of Brunswick, hiss boo!) is pushing her forward, anxious for her to be introduced to Prince Leopold. The Prince announces “Madam I have no money, but I’m of the right breed, true German, and blood Royal.”

The Princess answers: “I had rather you was English! but a German husband is better than none.”

To the extreme left is the gouty figure of the Prince Regent. He uses one of his crutches to poke Prince Leopold up the backside and says: “Courage Man! don’t be bashfull!”

The scene is apocryphal – and somewhat inaccurate since it was the young Princess who implored her father to let her marry Leopold. Princess Charlotte was the only legitimate child of the Prince Regent, by the woman he was forced to marry by his father King George III. The Prince Regent loathed his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, and had nothing to do with her from almost the time of the marriage. The Prince barred his wife from having anything to do with bringing up the child, who was regarded as willful and headstrong. She really must have been like a bird in a richly-gilded cage – caught in the cross-fire of her parent’s bitter feuding, an only child, constantly being told who she could and could not associate with…no wonder she was considered a wild child of her times.

In 1814 the eighteen year old Princess was propelled in the direction of marriage with Prince William of Orange. Initially she agreed to an engagement but then broke it off. Maybe she wasn’t ready, a mere teenager, for a politically motivated union. She wanted love, and romance! Besides, her intended was sufficiently ugly  to have earned the moniker ‘The Young Frog’ which was enough to turn off any rebellious young girl…

The Regent was fed-up with his daughter’s wayward behaviour and had her shut away at Cranbourne Lodge in Windsor Great Park. She entered into correspondence with Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and became totally smitten by him. Her father was far from keen –  Prince Leopold had no money and (despite the speech bubble in the caricature) was not really ‘royal’ enough for the Prince Regent. After all, he was only a minor princeling, a career soldier and diplomat. But the Prince Regent finally granted his daughter’s wish, and the couple were married in the Crimson Room at Carlton House on May 2, 1816 in front of some fifty, mostly royal, guests.

aawwaaThe wedding was extremely well-received by the public – she was ‘The People’s Princess’ of her day. The fashion magazines dutifully reported what her wedding dress was made of  (“silver lamé on net, over a silver tissue slip, embroidered at the bottom with silver lamé in shells and flowers. Body and sleeves to correspond, elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace. The manteau of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid diamond ornament”). Prince Leopold, by now elevated to the rank of Field-marshal of the British Army, looked gorgeous in  “a British General’s embroidered uniform coat, white kerseymere waistcoat and breeches”.

The young couple appeared to have it made – Parliament voted her a dowry of £60,000 and a joint income of £50,000 a year. Leopold was a calming influence on the wayward Princess, and she dutifully became studious, and always mindful of her responsibilities as heir to the throne. But she suffered two miscarriages in the first year of marriage and when she became pregnant again there were understandable fears for her strength. She carried the child full-term but had a ghastly, fifty-hour, labour. The baby was stillborn. Charlotte died of complications a few hours later – of post-partum hemorrhage and shock. She was just 21.

So, the skipping Princess was a tragic figure. To close, here she is in a National Portrait Gallery painting made by George Daw,  in 1817 – the year of her death:

a princess-charlotte_

Funny to think that if she had received proper medical care (the doctors declined to use forceps) the baby might have survived and we would never have had Queen Victoria on the throne…oh, the curious  twists and turns of history! And strange to think I came to the Princess rather unexpectedly, via a skipping rope!

Aug 212014

I recently came across a marvelous web-page  for Amherst Antiques, who specialize in Tunbridge Ware.  It is run by Dianne Brick and her husband Ivor, and I immediately realized that there was no point in me trying to write a blog about Tunbridge Ware in the Georgian era  – so I asked Diane to do it for me! She kindly agreed to explain a bit about it, and to let me have some images  by way of illustration. This is what she has written:

“The wooden souvenir ware from Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells in Kent, known as Tunbridge Ware, reached the height of its production in the mid 19th century. This followed the introduction of a method of manufacture known as tessellated mosaic, which proved to be the perfect technique for adapting popular Berlin woolwork designs for marquetry.

Today Tunbridge Ware is mostly associated with tessellated mosaic work and many people regard Berlin woolwork designs as its main characteristic. But this is only part of the story. Tunbridge Ware existed throughout the whole of the Georgian period but around one hundred years of its history is sadly lost to us, largely because we simply do not know what it looked like.

The first known mention of Tunbridge Ware was in 1697, when Celia Fiennes visited Tunbridge Wells and wrote about “all sorts of curious woodwork” for sale, referring to it as “delicate, neate and thin ware of wood both white and lignum vitae”. This description was likely to have referred to turned items such as bowls and goblets, pepper and spice mills, which were probably made out of holly, sycamore or lignum vitae. (Lignum was first imported to England from the West Indies and mainland tropical America in the early 16th century).

Throughout most of the 18th century we only have tantalizing glimpses of Tunbridge Ware through surviving correspondence or through its mention in literature. Letter writers and diarists such as Mary Granville, Elizabeth Montague and Fanny Burney all wrote about presents they had bought at Tunbridge Wells.

In literature the most well known mentions of Tunbridge Ware occur in Fanny Burney’s Camilla in 1796 and in Jane Austen’s early 19th century novel, Emma, published in 1816.

We know too that Jane Austen herself owned some Tunbridge Ware, described by her niece, Anna Lefroy. Anna talked about a dressing room at Steventon Rectory, the Austen home up to May 1801, in wa 1 tunbridge ware poem copyhich there were “Tunbridge Ware work boxes of oval shape, fitted up with ivory bands containing reels for silk, yard measures etc.” (*) But this and other scanty descriptions from the 18th century do not really tell us what we should be looking for to identify Tunbridge Ware from that period.

Even this delightful advertising material taken from a song produced in The Lady’s Magazine & Musical Repository of 1802 does not give any clue to the nature of the woodenware on offer. It is only during the first twenty years of the 19th century that we can begin to identify Tunbridge Ware with any confidence, when, in many instances the items produced reflected the fashions of the day.












Whitewood was a popular choice at this period. It was often used for small souvenir items such as this simply painted combined tape measure and pincushion with an applied paper label – A Tunbridge Wells’ Gift. Many different labels with mottos were used during this period in imitation of inscriptions found on enamel boxes. These labels often originated from the Tunbridge Wells’ printer, Jasper Sprange (1745-1823).

a 2 Painted tape etc 1 copy














More elaborately decorated whitewood items were also made and were intended for wealthy customers. This needlework basket is finely painted with fruit and seashells, a popular motif in Georgian designs.


a3 Painted_Basket_fruit_L copya4 Painted basket foliage scroll 1 copyFollowing the interest in the theory of the Picturesque in the 18th century, Tunbridge Ware makers also used designs for rustic cottages with overhanging eaves. These perhaps were inspired by John Plaw’s pattern book for picturesque dwellings, which appeared in 1800.


Below, a rare spool box in the form of a cottage with documentary evidence detailing its journey to America in 1818.a5 Cottage for NEC copy


Another fashionable interest from the 18th century was the use of prints, which were also adopted by Tunbridge Ware makers to decorate their wares. Prevailing neo-classical ideals influenced the choice of prints used, as did an interest in topographical subjects.a6 Saturn_box_L copy













Needlework box with a print of Saturn. Circa 1820


a7 Brighton_basket_L copyFrom the same period, this whitewood basket has applied prints of Brighton, a location much favoured by King George IV.

a8 painted church box copyThe small spool box has an applied print of Bath Abbey Church and is attributed to George Wise Senior of Tonbridge, who was known for producing Tunbridge Ware with applied prints in the early years of the 19th century.

Other types of decoration such as chinoiserie designs and simulated finishes to represent tortoiseshell or japanned wares can also be found on Tunbridge Ware from the early 19th century along with popular veneered designs. Perspective cubes, starbursts and vandykes often featured on furniture, table cabinets and boxes. But perhaps the most intriguing example of veneered work is this inlaid tea caddy by John Robinson of London and Tunbridge Wells. It dates from 1795 and can only be identified from an applied paper label, without which, there would be no way of knowing it as a piece of Tunbridge Ware.

a9 robinson_caddy_L copy  a10









Its design does not distinguish it from any other caddy of the same period. Perhaps this is a clue to 18th century Tunbridge Ware as a whole. It may just not have been different from any other woodenware of the period and perhaps was only classified as Tunbridge Ware because of the geographical location from which it was sold.”

(*) Quoted by Margaret Wilson in Jane Austen and Tunbridge Ware with information from the Collected Reports of the Jane Austen Society 1966-75.


Thanks Dianne! For anyone interested, I do recommend her site ( )  here.  Amherst Antiques specialize in Tunbridge Ware, operating from the Edenbridge Gallery in Kent, and exhibit at many of the major antiques fairs such as Olympia and the NEC. Dianne is holding a major exhibition of Tunbridge Ware at Edenbridge Galleries – called “Flights of Fancy” – between 4th and 11th October.

Aug 152014

It is fascinating to read of some of the experiments which took place in the Eighteenth Century linked to the carriage – in  particular the idea of a horseless machine. When preparing a talk for the Stamford Georgian Weekend, back in September, I came across this newspaper extract for a self-moving phaeton.


It claims to precede “Mr Moore’s machine” but all I have been able to find out about Francis Moore is that he died in 1787 and a picture of his horseless machine appears on the Lewis Walpole Library site. It dates from 1771.2Only, perhaps I am missing something, but that looks very much like a horse pulling the carriage and isn’t the whole point of a horseless carriage that it well, doesn’t have a horse? Nice big wheels though and it made me think of other design changes.

From the same Lewis Walpole site we get this 1776 “Phaetona, or modern female taste.” I had always understood that the lady in question was Lady Archer, but quite why she has such a ridiculously small pair of horses – perhaps to contrast with her ridiculously high hat and an enormous coiffure – I do not know.3


a High-gig


What I find interesting is the way the carriage has been elevated on high springs, a feature echoed in a print from 1767  entitled “The present age 1767 : address’d to the professors of driving, dressing, ogling, writing, playing, gambling, racing, dancing, duelling, boxing, swearing, humming, building, &c., &c., &c.”


It was by L.P. Boitard, and has far too much going on for me to deal with here – save to mention the wonderful phaeton silhouetted against the rising sun. 5

Now that is what I call pimping your carriage! You would be able to peer into the  first floor windows of all the houses you pass in that, and my, how people would notice you!

In his diaries Richard Hall mentions that the most prevalent colours for carriages in the 1770’s was bright yellow, trimmed with black  and with bear-skin rugs. I suspect that our gentleman in his high chair would be in need of a few rugs if he went out in the winter like that…

And finally, a reminder that even two and a half centuries ago you still needed to pay a licence fee if you were keeping your carriage on the public highway in London: a copy of the receipt for TWO POUNDS paid by Francis Hall (Richard’s father) in 1748.6

Post script: When preparing this post I was trying to remember where I had seen a lovely print showing a fictitious phaeton with a concertina-sprung mechanism. I should have known – it is on the Lewis Walpole Library site here, and appeared in 1776. I love the idea that the fine lady, clad in an ostrich-feathered head-dress, should not be expected to have to clamber down the stairs and instead would be able to glide out through the open window in order to take her seat in the carriage. Nice one!The new fashioned phaeton - sic itur ad astra  1776The new fashioned Phaeton – Sic Itur ad Astra –  “thus the path to the stars.” It reminds me somewhat of the Ambu-lift that airports use to convey wheelchairs up to the aircraft door, so perhaps this particular pimped vehicle isn’t quite as far-fetched as first appears!

Aug 102014

Let’s be honest, you don’t expect to find too many caricatures featuring canines, felines and porcines all at the same time! So I was delighted to come across a mezzotint which not only has all three creatures, but also a sleeping clergyman and a young house-maid.  It was published in 1775 and. as usual, is to be found at the Lewis Walpole site. I will continue to search for any other caricatures combining all these features but for the time being this is what I have come up with:

aaa5The Lewis Walpole site has this explanation:

“A sleeping clergyman sits in an armchair, oblivious to a maid tickling his nose with the tail of a sucking pig, just delivered by a man standing in the open doorway. On a table is an inkstand and quill, a wine bottle, glass and candle with a book entitled “Tythe laws fully consider’d”. A cat pulls from the table a paper labelled “Bans of marriage”, while on the floor near a small dog a large book lies open to “Poem on good living”. The clergyman’s portrait and that of a woman hang on the wall behind him beside a map entitled “A Plan of the doctor’s parish.”

Personally, I find the idea of waking a sleeping Doctor of Divinity with the tail of a suckling pig inserted up a nostril particularly pleasing. I am most grateful to the un-named artist for drawing this idea to my attention. I may well try it on the new Archbishop of Canterbury next time I  encounter him in his slumbers…

Aug 062014

I was intrigued by this advertisement in the Stamford Mercury, which appeared at the end of October 1777. I had not come across “English Coffee” before but I love the way that ‘unsolicited testimonials – genuine or otherwise – have long been used to promote different products.

zzz - Copy

Good on you, Mr Stephens, be you ever so humble a servant!

The only “English Coffee” I know is a sort of liqueur coffee made with Gin, Kahlua, and Cointreau mixed into a cup of hot coffee and then topped with whipped cream (and some more Cointreau to taste).

This clearly, was something altogether different for the advertisement continues with a description of its ingredients – “a balsamic extracted from a variety of the choicest aromatic plants and herbs, and also certain barks.”

It apparently gave relief “for every species of consumptive and nervous complaints viz. recent colds, coughs of long-standing, asthmas, tremors, vertigos, palpitations and spasmatic twitches, in all which cases it operates with amazing success.”


a coinanother  coinWell I don’t know about you, but if it cures those dreadful spasmatic twitches I get most mornings, then I want some of that English Coffee. And as it states, it is clearly intended for a decayed constitution like mine and better than either sago (yuk, you have got to be kidding!) or jelly (now you are talking!). I am sure that I would greatly enjoy anything which was “salubrious to my body.” In fact at only two shillings and sixpence a canister, bring it on!


Aug 022014

As today marks the anniversary of an attempt to kill Good King George, I thought I would repeat an earlier post about the incident:


The date: 2nd August 1786

The scene: King George alighting from his carriage

The weapon: a dessert knife

The Assailant: Margaret Nicholson.

Margaret, with dessert knife on the table!








Margaret Nicholson had been born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1750 and had come to London as a maid in various well-to-do establishements.  Around 1782, she was dismissed from her employment after a love affair with a fellow servant, and she seemed to fall on hard times. Her lover left her, and she supported herself through needlework, lodging in a house in Wigmore Street.

She was described as “below the middle size, and of a very swarthy complexion”. For some reason she got it into her head that she was the rightful heir to the British throne. When the King got out of his carriage she rushed forward holding out a petition to the King (it was in fact a blank sheet of paper) and as he took it from her she lunged forward and tried to stab him twice with the ivory-handled dessert knife. The lady was disarmed (King George reputedly said “The poor creature is mad; do not hurt her, she has not hurt me”).


As will be seen from the Gazette  two doctors examined Margaret and concluded that she was insane. She was sent to Bethlem Royal Hospital  (Bedlam) where she spent the rest of her miserable life.

Her treatment would have been harsh, as in the 1800’s  inmates were shackled hand neck and foot, as in this print. It was fashionable for gentry to come and gawp at the poor unfortunates as they languished in Bedlam, a part of the tourist scene of London.

Meanwhile the original attempt on the King’s life is shown here in a print by Carington Bowles:



She died in 1828 after being incarcerated for 42 years…..