Jul 292020

Canny subscribers to the excellent Jane Austen Regency World magazine will be aware that the new issue (July/August) is now available. It contains an article I wrote about the yo-yo (aka the bandalure, the Prince of Wales’ toy, the jou-jou de Normandie).  It shares the printed page with articles about Jane Austen festivals in Bath; the tragic story of Princess Amelia (youngest daughter of George III); a feature on the Regency rogue Joseph Beeton; the story of a Scottish uprising, along with the usual array of interesting features, quizzes, book reviews etc.

If this sounds interesting do contact  subscriptions@lansdownmedia.co.uk 

Meanwhile, to whet your appetite, here is the article as it appears in the magazine (© Jane Austen Regency World):


Jul 252020


Most of us have to wait until after we die before somebody builds us a monument – and even then, who knows, they may not get around to it. The solution, of course, is to build your own. The pharaohs of Ancient Egypt knew that and so did the slightly eccentric John Knill, who lived between 1733 and 1811. I am indebted to Angela Humby for bringing this oddball to my attention. This is what she has to say about the excellent John Knill:


“For those who delight (as I do) in reading and learning about what the English like to called “eccentrics”, the 18th century is a goldmine of such people. England has always (proudly I feel!) abounded in eccentrics.

One such delightful character was John Knill born in 1733 at Collington in east Cornwall. A portrait of him by Opie painted in 1779 shows a pleasant looking gentleman in a plain suit of blue, with frilled shirt and ruffles. Beneath this “ordinary” gentleman’s attire however resided a less than ordinary man, with a desire to be remembered long after his lifetime.


On a hill near St.Ives in Cornwall stands a granite obelisk, which vessels use as a landmark whilst off the coast. It was Knill who erected this 50 foot obelisk which has a mausoleum below it, in 1782. During this year he had ceased to act as a Collector of Customs in St Ives. Why did he build it? His will of 1809 tells us exactly why:


“During a residence of upwards of 20 years at St.Ives, where I was Collector of the Customs, and served all offices within the borough, from constable to major, it was my unremitting endeavour to render all possible service to the town in general, and to every individual inhabitant, and I was so fortunate to succeed in almost every endeavour I used for that purpose, particularly in respect to the building of their wall or pier, and in some other beneficial undertakings; and it was my wish to have further served the place by effecting other public works, which I propose, and which will, I dare say, in time be carried into execution. It is natural to love those whom you have had opportunities of serving, and I confess I have real affection for St.Ives and its inhabitants, in whose memory I have an ardent desire to continue a little longer than the usual time those do of whom there is no ostensible memorial. To that end, my vanity prompted me to erect a mausoleum, and to institute certain periodical returns of a ceremony which will be found in a deed bearing the date 29th May, 1797”.

Knill hated the idea of a church burial. However, he had to give up the idea of being laid to rest in his preferred place of his mausoleum (now called Knill’s Monument)) due to “difficulties which stood in the way of consecration” of it. Instead he was buried at St Andrew’s, Holborn when he died at his Chambers at Gray’s Inn Square London in 1811 where his work and official appointments had taken him.


This is not the end of the story though and its continuation could involve you gentle reader if you so wish! Knill left monies for the maintenance of his mausoleum – and specific amounts for other purposes including a ceremony:


£25 to be used as follows – at the end of every 5 years :

£10 for a dinner for the trustees (the mayor, the vicar and the customs officer) and six guests, this to take place at the George and Dragon Inn, Market Place, St Ives,

£5 equally amongst 10 maidens, of ten years old at most, children of seamen, fishermen, or tinners, who dance once round the mausoleum,

£1 for the fiddler,

£2 to two widows chosen from the same classes as the children, to accompany them;

£1 for white ribbons for breast knots;

£1 for clerk, and a new account book when needed;

the remaining £5 to the married parents, of the like classes, who have brought up the largest family to the age of ten, without aid from the poor rate or from property”.

The very first ceremony was on the 25th July 1801 and was attended by John Knill himself. It included amongst other jollities, two of the trustees (the vicar and the mayor waltzing around the upper step of the monument hand-in-hand with the ten young girls!) The next ceremony is just a year away on the 25th July 2021! So if the current situation with Covid-19 allows and you want to join the link and ceremony from John Knill to yourself, it may be a good idea to reserve your hotel room or holiday cottage in the St Ives, Cornwall area shortly! Reports from previous recent ceremonies say that it was still held in exactly the way Knill intended.”


Thanks Angela! I think I will try and dig up some more Georgian eccentrics for future blogs – goodness knows there were plenty of them. But it may only be the perspective of time which gives them eccentricity. Angela reminds me of the very apposite quote by John Stuart Mill, born just five years before Knill died: 

“The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time”

How true of our own era…


Post script: I see that there is a short film on YouTube made at the time of the memorial festivities held in 2011, made by Tony Mason. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUFk1Yto5E4

Jul 102020

Back in 1989 the French postal service issued a stamp featuring  the French version of our stage coach, called a diligence – or ‘dilly’ as it was  sometimes referred to. I only know about it because I inserted the words ‘Grand Tour’ into the search page on the Yale Center for British Art site, and it brought up this rather  lovely water colour by my fave artist Thomas Rowlandson, entitled ‘The Paris Diligence’.

Apparently the dilly was  one of the forms of transport used by the less well-off  travellers on their leg of the Grand Tour, heading from Paris to Lyons en route to the Med. and on into Italy. Obviously the wealthier aristos would have their own carriage, and would go from Lyons into Switzerland, through the Alps, and if necessary have the carriage dismantled and carried through the more mountainous terrain before it was re-assembled for the ride down across to Florence, Venice, and on to Rome and Naples. But for those doing Europe on a shoestring you would have no choice but to share your journey with a cart-load of other tourists.

I had not appreciated that this meant sharing your journey with as many as fifteen other people. There appears to have been three separate sections on the velocipede – and half a dozen passengers could sit perched up on the roof. I like the detail shown by Rowlandson – the two beggars  seeking alms from the passengers at the rear of the coach; the startled sow and her piglets; the inn sign for ‘Le Qoque en Pate’; the nuns kneeling before the cross in the background, watched by a group of monks; the motley bunch of passengers which include soldiers and members of the clergy.

The original of the Rowlandson  image  appears to have been reproduced as a hand-coloured print in 1810, when it was published by Thomas Tegg. A pirated copy was then published in Dublin under the title of ‘French Travelling’. The British Museum site has this somewhat garish example:

According to Wikipedia an English passenger on the Le Havre to Paris diligence in 1803 had this to say about the cumbersome conveyance:

“A more uncouth clumsy machine can scarcely be imagined. In the front is a cabriolet fixed to the body of the coach, for the accommodation of three passengers, who are protected from the rain above, by the projecting roof of the coach, and in front by two heavy curtains of leather, well oiled, and smelling somewhat offensively, fastened to the roof. The inside, which is capacious, and lofty, and will hold six people in great comfort is lined with leather padded, and surrounded with little pockets, in which travellers deposit their bread, snuff, night caps, and pocket handkerchiefs, which generally enjoy each others company, in the same delicate depository. From the roof depends a large net work which is generally crouded with hats, swords, and band boxes, the whole is convenient, and when all parties are seated and arranged, the accommodations are by no means unpleasant.
Upon the roof, on the outside, is the imperial, which is generally filled with six or seven persons more, and a heap of luggage, which latter also occupies the basket, and generally presents a pile, half as high again as the coach, which is secured by ropes and chains, tightened by a large iron windlass, which also constitutes another appendage of this moving mass. The body of the carriage rests upon large thongs of leather, fastened to heavy blocks of wood, instead of springs, and the whole is drawn by seven horses.”

The Rowlandson diligence looks as though it was the equivalent of the stretch limo. Diderot’s Encyclopedia has  this picture of  a more truncated version:

Plodding along at an impressive six or even seven miles an hour, drawn by small sturdy Norman horses, the Paris to Lyons leg of the journey must have taken quite a few days – the distance is just over 280 miles. Just imagine the bone-shaking, genuinely shocking, monotonous tedium of spending four days in one of those contraptions, even if the Diderot example shows that the leather straps were eventually replaced by leaf springs.

Some passengers liked the experience. Writing in 1739 the traveller Sacheverell Stevens enjoyed the journey from Paris to Lyons, especially the speed (“300 miles which it performs in four days”) and the cost (“the fare for each passenger is 100 livres and everything found upon the road… but not so expeditious and easy as a post chaise, but infinitely more diverting, occasioned by the odd assemblage of the passengers such as monks, pilgrims, officers, courtezans etc.” On the other hand, unless you fancied experimenting  with your schoolboy French, conversation may have been fairly restricted, even with the courtezans…. The journey would have been noisy, tedious – and lacking in toilet facilities!

The diligence could keep pace with the canal boats, but was no match for the trains once they started to criss-cross Europe. And of course the trains altered the whole idea of the Grand Tour – it was no longer the preserve of the nobility. Mass transit brought culture to the middle classes and before long, tourism was a major industry which ended up destroying the charm and allure of the cities being visited. Before that, you might have dallied in your dilly, but at least you didn’t harm the environment…

Jul 032020

I must admit I know very little about Richard Tickell – and what little I did know was linked to his appearance in the Tête-à-Tête  section of the Town & Country Magazine. This scurrilous feature specialized in gossip, and suggested that he was having an affair with a woman known as Mrs Barnes – described as “the Barn-door Fowl”

So I was delighted when I heard from a reader of this blog called Angela Humby, who introduces herself with the words: “I’ve been interested in all things from the 18th century for about 4 years now, with a keen interest in the Georgian Theatre. Also reading about 18th century aristocrats/ gentlemen and the crazy things some of them got up to. I love to visit historic places in the UK to see country mansions, gardens and follies/grottoes.  I am a member of the Folly Fellowship. I am (trying!) to learn Latin in order to read 18th century inscriptions and monuments. Based near Portsmouth and married”.

Angela has researched Richard Tickell and has kindly agreed to do a guest blog for me – so, over to you Angela!

Richard Tickell by Thomas Gainsborough, c 1778

“I first came face to face with Richard ‘Anticipation’ Tickell in January 2019 in Bath, England.  That is to say with the original handsome portrait of him on loan to The Holburne Museum in Bath as part of the ‘Gainsborough & the Theatre’ temporary exhibition being held there at the time.

As the exhibition only ran from the end of 2018 to 20 January 2019, I nearly missed the chance to see this fine portrait, finding out about its inclusion in the exhibition only on 6th January 2019!

Richard Tickell was born in 1751, it is said in Bath. He was originally married to Mary Linley whose famous father Thomas Linley was an English bass and musician and taught his children music – including Mary and her sister, Elizabeth Linley.

Sisters Mary and Elizabeth Linley – the future Mrs Tickell and Mrs Sheridan –  by Thomas Gainsborough, shown courtesy of Dulwich Art Gallery

Elizabeth married the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan – thus Tickell and Sheridan became brothers in law. Both Tickell and Sheridan were very competitive with each other as Richard Tickell was also a playwright. This competitiveness also showed itself in their family life with both Richards being fond of practical jokes. Sheridan got the better of Tickell once when he took every plate in the house and stacked them up in a room which allowed only a small narrow way through. Sheridan showed Tickell the way through and got past the plates with no problems. However, when Tickell tried to follow him all the plates started to topple on him causing him to receive some severe cuts and bruises. Tickell was naturally very angry at this and vowed to get even with Sheridan (which no doubt he did!)  but was said to have commented to Lord John Townshend “but how amazingly well done it was!”

Richard Tickell was clever, and wrote a pamphlet called “Anticipation” which came  out several days before the opening day of Parliament in 1778. He wrote it anonymously but when it became a great success and was attributed to Tickell it earned him the name of ‘Anticipation Tickell’. One of the presentation copies sent out was to the actor David Garrick whom Tickell was known to. Accompanying the pamphlet, Tickell wrote: “Dear Sir, Pray like Anticipation – I shall not regret any literary effort, if it happens to please those whose taste and good opinion I most wish to cultivate”.

1781 was the pinnacle of his success as Lord North awarded him a place in the Stamp Office and a set of rooms in Hampton Court. Very sadly, his first wife Mary died in 1787 leaving him inconsolable. However, two years later he had re-married  to Sarah Ley, a beautiful girl of 18! Richard was 38 at the time….

Sarah Ley by George Romney, c 1789. Both images shown courtesy of the National Trust.

Sarah (after Richard Cosway) by Jean Condé. (The NT attributes it as being a portrait of first wife Mary).













It was during this second marriage that a bond which Tickell had given was called in,
leaving him in serious financial difficulties. He wrote to his friend Warren Hastings asking for a loan of £500 which was granted to him as shown by a second letter he wrote back to Hastings saying:

“Dear Sir, I feel it impossible to express by any words how deeply I am impressed with every sentiment of respect and gratitude for your spirited and noble manner of acceding to my request. It will ever be the pride and pleasure of my life to remember your goodness to me with the most perfect attachment and request. Believe me, Dear Sir, Your most obliged and faithful, Richard Tickell”.

Tragically, five months later Tickell met with his death on the 4th November 1793, by falling from the parapet by his window at Hampton Court Palace. Here he had been in the habit of sitting and reading. It has been suggested this was in fact not an accident but suicide, however this remains unproven. His brother-in-law Sheridan convinced the authorities it was an accident, allowing Richard to be buried in the crypt in St.Mary’s Church in Hampton.

Richard Tickell’ s memorial plaque

Richard Tickell’s portrait is now back in private ownership so I feel very lucky to have seen it as it has inspired me to find out more about the man and his works.”

Thanks, Angela, for filling me in about an interesting satirist and playwright – one of those peripheral figures whose name crops up in connection with the greats such as Garrick and Sheridan.