Jun 292015

As the holiday season is upon us I thought I would look back to the events of 1773, and see what my ancestor was up to. Sure enough, he was just about to set off from London to go down to Salisbury, do a spot of sight-seeing (Wilton House, Stonehenge etc) and then head for his ‘holiday home’ in the Cotswolds. A chance to take tea with loads of friends, attend a few sermons, eat and drink at lots of pubs called the White Hart, the White Swan, the White Almost-anything, and then head for Oxford and back to London via Uxbridge. His coach broke down on the way – ah, those were the days, with no RAC to come to the rescue….

Stonehenge in the 18th Century,image courtesy of the Salisbury Museum

Stonehenge in the 18th Century, image courtesy of the Salisbury Museum

For those with good transcription skills, here are the actual entries:-

one 001

Three 001

Four 001So, on Wednesday 30 June he set off in the coach with his wife, took Breakfast at the White Hart in Cobham, Dinner at the White Hart in Guildford and Supper at the White Hart in Alton. It was a dull day, with some rain, and not very hot.

The next day he managed a Breakfast at The Swan at Alresford and  Dinner at the Dolphin at Southampton (still there, if I remember correctly from my university days) and then took Supper at the White Horse at Romsey. By then it was very fine, not very hot, and as usual he noted that  he was “kindly preserved”. Presumably the coach would have passed what is now Broadlands at Romsey – acquired by Henry Temple, 1st Viscount Palmerston  in 1736, and the subject of a major refurbishment under the auspices of Henry Holland starting in 1767. By the time that Richard rode by, the massive landscaping works proposed by Capability Brown were well under way, part of a de-formalisation process designed to produce the ‘broad-lands’ i.e. the “gentle descent to the river.

Broadlands, Romsey

The house at Broadlands, Romsey, designed in the Palladian style.

The pace continued  the next day (2 July) with Breakfast at Mr James Sharp’s, Dinner at Mrs Futchers before going on to take tea with Richard Sharps. No mention of Supper that day – perhaps he ate all the cake at tea time. Or maybe his appetite was tempered because the day was rather dull, and not hot.

Richard presumably borrowed a horse the next day, because he rode over to Broughton and the Wollops on 3 July, where it was warm in the sun, being pretty fine. He drank tea at Mr Comleys. Mr Comley’s name doesn’t appear elsewhere in Richard’s diaries, but the family were presumably close friends because he stayed the following day with them (Sunday, so attending church for a double whammy of sermons by both Mr Porter and Mr Gregory) with a quick visit to Mr Madgwicks for tea. A spot of Breakfast and Dinner the next day with the Comley’s was followed by a leisurely drive over to Salisbury, arriving just in time to take Supper at the Antelope. No matter that he called it The Antilope, the hotel/restaurant is still going strong, in the Vale of Pewsey, and is a well-known, 300 year-old, coaching inn. They owe me a  pint for the mention….

The Antelope Inn

The Antelope Inn

Whereas the previous day seems to have been marked by “a little mist of rain”  Monday was “part dullish, some rain, not sultry.”

The stunning Wilton House, Double Cube Room.

The stunning Wilton House, Double Cube Room.

On Tuesday he had Breakfast and Dinner at Mr Moon’s at Salisbury, no doubt giving him an opportunity to look round the cathedral. Certainly he jotted down elsewhere the number of windows and doors in the cathedral, so he was presumably impressed…. then he trotted off to see the stunningly magnificent Wilton House ( – often featured in period dramas such as  The Madness of King George, Mrs. Brown, Pride and Prejudice and The Young Victoria)  and then dashed over to see Stonehenge.

twoThat evening saw him in Devizes, where he supped and laid at The Bear, another famous coaching Inn, where the young artist Thomas Lawrence would entertain the guests with his drawings and sketches, and with his poetry recitations. Mind you, I may have got the place wrong, because Richard may well have written The Boar rather than The Bear, and I know nothing whatsoever of The Boar….

The weather seems to have been typically British – fine but with rain, and warm in the sun. The next day saw him break his fast at Chippenham and take Dinner at Tetbury, staying at the Overbury’s place. On July 8th he set off early and got to Bourton in time for Dinner (lunch to you and me). A chance to take Tea with the Widow Collet, but by mid-week it was very hot. I am not quite sure what “I sat down” on Sunday 11 July signified, but it must have been pleasant because  it was very fine, very hot, but “with an air.”

The Mansion House at Bengeworth, now known as the Evesham Hotel

The Mansion House at Bengeworth, now known as the Evesham Hotel

On 16 July he headed off with his wife and brother-in-law William Snooke to go to Bengeworth – no doubt to visit Bengeworth Mansion House  (now known as The Evesham Hotel) which Richard had inherited some twenty years previously on the death of his in-laws the Sewards.  All was well (it was tenanted by the local vicar at £25 p.a.) and through Mercy he was  safely returned.  That week was marked by thunder and lightning, and he appears to have had a narrow escape when his Old Grey nearly threw him on 19 July.  The next day saw him go to Burford Races where he appears to have got a soaking in the rain, although it was fine by the evening. I can just imagine him humming the tune as he rode home after the summer showers….

Burford Races

Some more Tea, and then his brother in law appears to have volunteered to see him off the premises, driving him in his Chaise as far as Witney.  Richard and his wife then got the Stage Coach to Oxford, staying at The Star. No doubt he was grateful that it was  “a fine travelling day, not much sun, moderate in heat.”

Friday 23 saw the last leg of the journey, so he Breakfasted at Tetsworth, and took Dinner at Uxbridge but only after the coach broke down. “Through Mercy, no hurt done”. He got in safe home that evening, recording faithfully his gratitude to the Almighty – “Lord give a deep sense of thy favours – dullish”.

Ah well, holidays were over, and it was back to the grindstone of life as a haberdasher at One London Bridge, where he had left his 18 year old son William in charge of the shop…..

Jun 242015

I must be getting lazy in my old age – rather than do a full blog, I think I will sometimes put up a picture I like, without much explanation.

Basically,  that means that whenever I come across a pen and ink by Rowlandson – I will share it!

Today therefore, I give you the those lovely sisters, Georgiana and Harriet. The title is ‘The Duchess of Devonshire and the Countess of Bessborough’

Georgiana we all know about – as in The Duchess. Forget Keira – this was how she looked in 1790 when Rowlandson drew her. Her sister Harriet was the Viscountess Duncannon (later, the Countess of Bessborough). A very nice pair. Of sisters that is… !   Rather nice study of the musician too.


It is on the Yale Center for British Art site here . Hope you like it!

Jun 182015

I tend to come across Wright’s ‘industrial’ images so it is good to be reminded of how good a portrait artist he was. Here is one on the Metropolitan Museum site. It dates from around 1770.


The site has this description: “Joseph Wright of Derby was the first major British painter to work almost entirely outside London. Most of his patrons were merchants or industrialists from the Midlands or members of the local gentry. This portrait of an unknown lady was probably painted about 1770, the high point of Wright’s early career as a portraitist, and is a fine example of the direct, descriptive style he employed—far removed from the artificial conventions favored in London society.”

I like it.

Jun 122015

The Last Shift RowlandsonI came across this Rowlandson recently, entitled The Last Shift, showing a woman in a pawn shop, presumably about to pawn her under-garment, while the pawnbroker holds the garment up to assess its condition. It dates from 1809 and appears courtesy of the British Museum.

There are some interesting details – the boy who seems to have been “collecting” old irons and a fire-stand; he can barely see over the counter but presumably uses the shop as a place where he can gain a few pennies. The shelves suggest that clothing is mostly taken in by the pawn-broker – certainly no jewellery, ornaments or fancy goods are on display. The older woman clutches a bottle – you can be fairly sure she will know what to spend an extra few pence on – while a slack-jawed old man inside the doorway looks shocked at the mere display of the tattered shift.

a lastIn 1784 (the year when balloon mania swept the country) Rowlandson had drawn another “last shift” or, to give it its full title: “Madame Blubber’s Last Shift, or the ærostatic Dilly”. It appears courtesy of the Royal Collection and their site describes it as:

“A hand-coloured print depicting a scene in Covent Garden with the Duchess of Buckinghamshire floating up into the sky after a ‘little accident’ has inflated her skirts. Suspended beneath her are two voters. On the ground, Sir Cecil Wray, who is on bended knee and Admiral Hood, both look up and comment in support of the Duchess. On the left stands a crowd listening to an orator during the hustings for the Westminster Election at Covent Garden”.

The verse includes the couplet:

“Hawks and eagles make way as I pass.

All express their surprise

by their shrieks and their cries

At my voters  who hang from my A–se”

I am not sure what the decidedly overweight, and presumably flatulent, Duchess had done to deserve being  over-inflated in this way – presumably a reflection on her ego. But it is a nice indication of just how coarse Rowlandson could be if he set his mind to it.

a whoreAnd to end with the rather better-known ‘last shift’ – “The Whore’s Last Shift” by James Gillray. It shows the whore in her garret, naked, washing her shift in the chamberpot . The pun on ‘shift’ is that she has just serviced her last customer for the night. Her stockings are torn – the place is seedy, and the elaborately coiffed head-dress fools nobody. The cat, as usual with Gillray, signifies female lust.

As the British Museum site adds: “there is a broken basin on the floor; her hat and outer-garments also lie on the floor. Beside them are two pill-boxes and a paper inscribed “Leakes famous Pills”. Her hair is elaborately dressed in a pyramid, decorated with feathers, flowers, and ribbons. The low bed has tattered coverings. A casement window (left) is open, showing the roof of a neighbouring house; on the sill a cat miaows. A broadside ballad is pinned to the window recess: “The comforts of Single Life. An Old Song.”  On the wall is a torn print, “Ariadne Forsaken.” The plaster has peeled off the wall in patches, showing bricks.”

It dates from 1779. Not the most glamorous picture of femininity to end with ….!

Jun 072015

My ancestor Richard Hall was a meticulous list maker. He kept lists of what he spent each month on household expenses such as meat, bread, butter and coal. He then tallied it up at the end of  the year, and compared it with the figures from the previous year.

He must have been horrified when inflation started to bite in the second half of the last decade of the 18th Century. War with France, coupled with poor harvests, caused havoc with bread prices. Richard kept tabs on the price rises, cutting out the records from the newspapers showing the approved rates for each type of loaf of bread, fixed at the local Assize.

He also jotted down the increase in his annual household expenditure attributable to the increase in food costs. So we have:

1794-5 comparison household expenses 001So, bread shot up by over one third between 1794 and 1795. His butchers bill went up, by just under 20% – enough to ring alarm bells in the Hall household. On the right hand side of the page he totals the annual figures, rising from a figure of £42 in 1789 to £50 in 1794 and up to £61 in the following year.

t must have been a worrying time for the old pensioner…. but better figures were round the corner. By 1797 his housekeeping records show:

002In other words the baker was down £2 and the meat and butter bills were almost identical to the figures for 1795. Either prices were falling or the Hall’s were cutting back on fancy cakes and haunches of venison…

Since starting this post I have come across a later summary, which takes us up to 1800:

1798-9 summary 001

In 1800 the cost of bread shot up to double the average of the previous years – and the butcher was charging nearly half as much again as he did a few years before. And of course in that year (1800) Richard had the dreaded Income Tax to pay, so there was £35 less in his pocket before he even went down to the shops. A worrying time…