Jul 262021

On 26 July 1745 twenty-two ladies gathered in a field on Gosden Common near Guildford. Half of them – the maids of  Hambledon – wore red ribbons around their hats; the other eleven, from Bramley, were bedecked with blue ribbons in their high hats. Both teams of eleven were decked out in floor-length white dresses. There then ensued what has been described as the first all-female cricket match – one in which the Maids of Hambledon triumphed, scoring 127 notches (i.e. runs, recorded with a notch being cut in a wooden tally-stick). The Maids of Bramley managed a disappointing 119 notches, but who cares, the result was probably the subject of many wagers and for all I know the Hambledon Maids were just more expert at sand-papering the ball, or slathering it with face cream to give their (underarm) bowlers an edge. (Oh no, sorry, that sort of thing came later, with the men’s game….).

Hambledon had become the spiritual home of English cricket and it is here that John Sackville, Third Duke of Dorset played. He was a keen patron of cricket, spending, it is said, over a thousand pounds a year on maintaining his team (according to the Whitehall Evening Post of 1783). And that was before taking into account the huge wagers he made on the match results. He too was keen to foster the women’s game, as well as making overtures to host what would have been the first international cricket match, between the English and the French…. but the French Revolution put paid to that absurd idea!

The women’s game remained a novelty, and was not confined to local village girls having a frolic in the long grass. In 1777 (or possibly a couple of years later) Elizabeth, the Countess of Derby, arranged a match in which both teams were drawn from the upper echelons of society. I have no idea who won, but at least we have some idea of the frocks they wore, thanks to the print made in 1779 – in colour, below, and as a monochrome close up, above). Apparently the game prompted the Reverend H R Haweis to remark “Do I object to cricket, for instance? Personally, I do not care to see a graceful girl straddling behind a wicket, with her nose above the bails, her body doubled-up like a frog’s, and her hands clapped on her knees for support; nor do I think that a young lady’s hands and arms were intended to swing a weighty club, and ‘swipe’, as the boys say, at cricket balls”.

Caricaturists loved showing women attempting to take part in ‘manly pursuits’. Below is an etching entitled “Miss Wicket and Miss Trigger” dating from around 1778.  It is based on a painting by John Collett, from which an engraving by Carrington Bowles was made. The inscription tells us ‘Miss Trigger you see is an excellent shot. And Forty-Nine notches Miss Wicket just got.’ The abstract on the Lewis Walpole site, quoting from the British Museum catalogue, reads:

‘Two well-dressed young ladies meet before a farm house. On the left, Miss Wicket leans on her cricket-bat turning towards Miss Trigger who advances with her dogs, holding aloft a pheasant and two partidges, as she tramples a paper marked “Effeminacy”. Miss Wicket wears a chip hat and jacket with waistcoat, her sporting petticoat short enough to reveal her ankles. Miss Trigger wears a large hat of the bergère style, a long coat with buttoned sleeves and boots. Behind the pair a young girl catches a ball.

I am much intrigued at the idea of Miss Wicket belting up and down a 22-yard track while sporting such exotic head-wear. The print is interesting in showing the early form of bat, shaped like a paddle, in use at the time. Also note the wicket, consisting of two ‘stumps’ being  sticks with a ‘V’ at the top to hold a horizontal stick or bail.

In October 1811 a print by Thomas Rowlandson appeared in the Thomas Tegg publication  called “The Caricature Magazine, or, Hudibrastic mirror”. It announced that: ‘on Wednesday October 3rd, 1811, a singular cricket match took place at Balls Pond, Newington. The players on both sides were 22 women, 11 Hampshire against 11 Surrey. …’
The print appears on the Lewis Walpole site , which quotes from the explanation in the British Museum catalogue :

“The scene is a sloping field. The batswomen are running hard, while one of the field leaps to attempt a high catch; the wicket-keeper crouches behind the wicket, hands on knees. The players have petticoats kilted above the knee, bare heads, necks, and arms; they wear flat slippers, mostly ‘en cothurne’. All the fielders look or run towards the ball; one has fallen with great display of leg; another, running headlong, trips over a dog. Eleven are playing, including those batting. Two girls sit together on the ground, one cutting notches on a stick to record the runs. Others stand near, one with a young man’s arm round her waist. Spectators stand round the field. In the middle distance is a marquee with a flag: ‘Jolly Cricketers’. Here, fashionably dressed men are entertaining the players; a very fat woman drains a bowl of punch, another sits on a man’s knee. A girl descends from a donkey. Behind is a fashionable tandem. The scene is rural except for a smoking lime-kiln.”

And to think that in a mere two hundred and fifty years* it has reached the stage where we meet ‘The Goddess of Cricket’ – the name given to Indian skipper Mithali Raj after she became the first woman to complete 7,000 runs in One Day Internationals. Top notch indeed!


(*I am being ironic)

Jul 212021

I saw this James Gillray etching on the Lewis Walpole site, while sheltering from the scorching sun and idly going through caricatures (as one does).

Referring to the British Museum on-line catalogue, the site explains the picture as follows:

“Two officers on high stools face each other at the counter of a fruit-shop and confectioner’s. One (right), tall, lank, and elderly (identified as Captain Birch), devours a jelly; empty jelly-glasses strew the counter beside him. The other, a mere child, his legs dangling, eats from a large cornet of ‘Sugar-plumbs’. A buxom woman behind the counter brings a tray of jellies in glasses. In the doorway (right) a third officer, extremely fat and grotesquely knock-kneed, stands with his hands clasped behind him watching a coroneted coach driving past with two footmen in feathered hats standing behind. The officers wear large plumed cocked hats, spurred jack-boots, and sabres. Each pane of the large shop window (left) is decoratively filled with fruit, jars, jelly-glasses, &c. A pottle of strawberries and a partly peeled orange lie on the floor.”

This particular Gillray first made an appearance in June 1797 and is entitled ‘Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s, or, Guard-Day at St. James’ – apparently Kelseys was a famous St. James’s Street shop. Syllabubs and sweet frothy concoctions – such as the ones which  the officer appears to have consumed in some quantity, judged by the empty glasses on the counter –  would generally be made by confectioners (usually their premises were marked by either the sign of  a pineapple, or the sign of a golden pheasant).  But it is also described as a fruit shop. The window display suggests  that it wasn’t a fruiterer flogging apples and pears to passers-by, but you can see  the pineapple on display along with various fruit-based confections as well as a small pyramid-shaped display of syllabub glasses balanced one on top of the other.

The lad is eating ‘sugared plumbs’ – in other words, almond nuts, or sometimes caraway or cardamom seeds coated in hard layers of sugar. Sugar plums had nothing to do with plums! They were a sort of  comfit and the comfit-maker was a real specialist. Comfits historically had been made by apothecaries, because of their medicinal qualities and hence the medieval name for an apothecary was sometimes given as a confectionarius but by the eighteenth century comfit making had emerged as a separate branch of  confectionary making. The individual seeds of caraway (or whatever) were first coated in gum arabic and then ‘coated’ in successive layers of liquid syrup made from boiling up three pounds of double refined sugar to one pint of water. Between each coating the seeds had to be re-separated and dried and sometimes starch would be  added to aid the separation process (sticky!). At least ten coatings would be needed. Towards the end of the process the comfit-maker might add coloured coatings. It was a sign of the growth of trade with the Far East that whereas in Elizabethan times the chosen colourant would have been home-grown, by the eighteenth century  confectioners were using  something called gumboge gum resin (think of the colour of the robes of Buddhist monks …) obtained from trees in South East Asia. Red was made by adding mulberry leaves and cochineal, and blue by adding indigo dye, obtained from plants growing in Indonesia. All so that little Johnny could sit in the corner stuffing his face with sweeties!

Jul 192021

George IV in his coronation robes, by Sir Thomas Lawrence

When George III died in 1820 his son the Prince Regent was keen to get his name on to the roll-call of British monarchs as quickly as possible. The plan was to hold  the coronation on 1st August 1820 but at that stage the ceremony had to be postponed: the new king was embroiled in parliamentary proceedings aimed (unsuccessfully) at ending his marriage to Caroline of Brunswick. The last thing that the new king wanted was for the proceedings to be upstaged by a much-despised wife. He had in mind an extravagant and spectacular ceremony, introducing many ideas into the coronation that still apply today.

My understanding is that invitations had already been sent out and that these invites included ones to the Worshipful Masters of most of the Livery Companies in the City of London. That included the Haberdashers Company, headed by William Hall (the elder son of my 4xgreat grandfather Richard Hall).

As it was, the ceremony was postponed until 19 July 1821. The still-un-divorced king simply banned the Queen Consort from attending. He himself turned up half an hour late for the ceremony, which was to last for a staggering five hours. There must have been a large army presence at Westminster Abbey, because whichever door his wife tried to use to gain access to the Abbey, she found her way barred.

Whether this extra security was to blame, I don’t know, but when my ancestor turned up, accompanied by nine other Masters of different London Guilds, including the Goldsmiths, they were refused entry.  No matter that they held invitations – they were for the previous year’s ceremony and were deemed to be non-transferable. So  ten of the most eminent men of business in the City of London had to sit outside the Abbey, sporting their gold chains and full fancy costumes, unable to get inside and take their seats.

William was apparently humiliated by such treatment, and subsequently sent off a broadside to the organiser of the whole shebang – presumably the incumbent  Earl Marshall. Queen Caroline fared even worse – she tried unsuccessfully to get into the Abbey via either the East or West Cloisters. She then tried to sneak in via Westminster Hall. Drawn bayonets forced her away and she tried again at an entrance near Poet’s Corner. There she encountered Sir Robert Inglis, who held the office of ‘Gold Staff’ and he persuaded her to  go back to her carriage. She and her entourage departed in high dudgeon but later that night she fell ill, and within a matter of weeks was dead.

For George, you have to say, it was the best possible coronation present he could have wished for!  For my ancestor William Hall, it must have been a galling waste of time getting up in all his finery and then having to slope back home without even a stale sarnie…. such is life.

George IV in his coronation robes showing his train carried by an army of supporters. Shown courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Jul 162021

I thought it would be interesting to do a few blogs on clergymen and how they were shown in 18th century caricatures. First up, a couple of drawings under the title of Fast Day, the first by Thomas Rowlandson:

It shows four members of the clergy enjoying their food hugely, at a feast at a small dinner table at Brasenose College – one carves the roast while another enthusiastically ladles food onto his plate. The connection with Brasenose is shown by two pictures, one over the door  which is entitled ‘A Portrait of a Fellow Commoner of Brase’ and another entitled ‘View of Brasen Nose College’. A third picture, shown top left, shows a bench of ten clergymen  carousing and raising their wine glasses.

Three servants bring in replenishments, including more drink and a suckling pig. The wine cooler has at least four bottles waiting to be opened and three further bottles (marked Burgundy, Hock and Claret) stand on the floor, alongside the bottle opener in the centre and three more unmarked bottles on the far left. A punch-bowl marked ‘Bowl for a Bishop’ sits alongside the bottles.

A paper lies on the floor containing ‘a new form of prayer’ – a eulogy about food. It lists  such delights as Mock Turtle, Haunch of Venison, Cod’s Head and Turbot.The print was published by Rowlandson on 20 March 1799, from an address shown as Number 1, James Street, Adelphi, London. It appears on the Metropolitan Museum site   and a differently coloured version can also be seen on the Royal Collections Trust site.

An earlier Fast Day from  the pen of the precocious Richard Newton  had appeared six years earlier, on April 19, 1793. At that stage Newton was  one month short of his sixteenth birthday. He was such a talent, and was to die only five years later.

The description of it on the British Museum site  reads: “Four very fat and grotesquely ugly parsons greedily surround a circular table laden with food and drink. The two in the foreground face each other in profile: one (left) holds knife and fork vertically, about to eat; his wig hangs on the wall behind him; the other, stooping near-sightedly, carves a large turkey. The other two stand behind the table, clinking glasses; one (left) says: “Here’s our old Friend”; the other answers with a grin: “You mean the Church, I suppose.”

Below the title appear the words   ‘Fasting and Prayer, attending the Church Bell,
That, that’s the way, good Christians, to live well!’

Taken together, the two prints echo the prevailing charge against the Anglican clergy – that they were over-fond of eating and drinking, more interested in the pleasures of the flesh than in carrying out their ecclesiastical duties.

Jul 122021

One of the perks about writing is that one occasionally gets an interesting invite to preview days – such as the Press Day at Buckingham Palace last Thursday to link in with the fact that the palace gardens are now open to the public, throughout the summer. We’ve all seen the crowds queuing to meet the royal family at the formal tea parties – but this was different, a chance to explore the gardens, walk round the lake, and marvel at this quiet oasis surrounded by bedlam beyond the walls.

OK., there were dozens of other Press-related people there as well, but not that many, and sitting on the lawn in front of the palace, eating sarnies (crusts removed, of course) was quite delightful.Two things particularly interested this Georgian Gent – the Waterloo Vase and the Buckingham Palace gin, made with botanicals grown in the garden. First: the Vase. It is enormous – some eighteen feet tall, carved from a gigantic block of finest Carrara marble. Viewing it from a distance, from a slightly raised path and surrounded by blocks of colour created by the Queen’s rose garden, you don’t fully appreciate how big  the thing is. Our guide hardly came up to the top of the plinth on which it stands. Except that it isn’t called a mere plinth – the Royal Collection website describes it as  being “supported by a gadrooned torus and a spreading socle foot mounted on circular and square plinths and a large square stone stand”. The images are shown courtesy of the Royal Collections Trust (because private photography was not allowed at this point on the tour).

Interestingly, the vase was commissioned by Napoleon as his commemorative urn. Apparently, when he passed through Tuscany in 1812 on his way to the Russian Front he saw this enormous block of uncarved marble and asked for it to be set aside  so that it could be adorned, at a later date, with  symbols of his great victories-to-come. When he met his Waterloo the chunk of marble was gifted to the Prince Regent in 1815 by Ferdinand, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who presumably didn’t want it cluttering up his driveway. The Prince Regent thought it would look good as part of his collection of art and commemorative statuary in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle, and so the sculptor Richard Westmacott was commissioned to carve decorative panels around the outside of the urn. No-one thought to hollow out the inside, so it remains as a thirty-something-ton block of somewhat weathered marble, serving no particularly useful purpose and adorning the rose garden which Harry Wheatcroft designed for the monarch.


Too heavy to sit on any of the  palace floors, the vase was gifted to the National Gallery in 1836. The gallery was custodian of the unwelcome gift until 1906, when it was gleefully handed back to the royal family. And so it remains, adorned (apparently) with bas reliefs of King George III siting on his throne, and of the un-horsed Emperor Napoleon, viewed, until now, only by Her Majesty, the gardeners, and others permitted to walk round the rose garden. Until now, that is. Because the Palace Gardens are now open to the public, and a guided tour includes the rose gardens, leaving every hour on the hour. The guide is extremely helpful, and escorts you round in parties of 20 to 30 people, which makes the experience much more interesting. And so even hoi polloi, like me, can view this absurd, gigantic, but utterly pointless vase – and reflect on the way that the Prince Regent was so desperate to bask in the glory of the Battle of Waterloo that he claimed the victory for himself. That is why, in the words of the Royal Collections Trust: “The handles of the vase are personifications of winged Victory and Defeat, the latter cowering behind a shield. Above Victory is a third and smaller panel illustrating an allegory of Peace presenting the Prince Regent with a palm and Europe emerging from a refuge beneath a throne.”  And there was I thinking that the Battle of Waterloo had very little to do with the Prince Regent, when all along, he was the one who saved Europe single-handedly….

As to the gardens, the website tells me that it is ‘a walled oasis in the middle of London’and that it is the largest private garden in the capital and boasts 325 wild-plant species, 30 species of breeding birds, and over 1,000 trees, including 98 plane trees and 85 different species of oak. Who would have thought that it provides a habitat for native birds rarely seen in London, including the common sandpiper, sedge warbler and lesser whitethroat? Well, you know now.

It also contains the National Collection of mulberry trees – harking back to the days when King James I planted a small forest of mulberries, hoping to stimulate a silk industry in this country. Unfortunately he planted the wrong sort of mulberry – the silk worms like the black variety, not the white one. But today the collection features some forty different types of mulberry bush. In the past I have eaten the fruit – looking slightly like an elongated raspberry. Odd taste. But I was interested because mulberry is one of the botanicals used in a new Palace Gin launched this year. I wasn’t too sure when the press release stated that it uses the mulberry leaves – I had assumed that it would be the berries which imparted the flavour. There are also  berries from the hawthorn bushes growing in the gardens, along with lemon verbena and bay leaves. As my next-book-but-one will be all about the History of Gin, and how craft gins have flourished using different methods of production and with different ingredients, I was interested  to try the palace gin – because I cannot imagine many other producers have access to mulberries. So I bought a bottle, and very nice it is too. (Actually this isn’t my pic, it’s from the Royal Collections Trust).


And now for the plug: The Garden at Buckingham Palace will open from Friday, July 9, to Sunday, September 19, 2021. £16.50 for adults. Garden Highlights Guided Tours should be booked with the main ticket and are priced at £6.50 for adults. Tours will run 12 times a day. www.rct.uk, +44 (0)303 123 7300. Pre-booking is essential. 

That is enough product endorsement! All in all, a lovely day out.

Jul 102021
A rather nice George Cruikshank print from 1819, published by Thomas Tegg and appearing at the Lewis Walpole Library site. It has the full title of ‘Royal embarkation, or bearing Brittania’s hope from a bathing machine to the royal barge’.
It also appears on the British Museum site and as their description shows, it reveals the Regent, in tight and dandified admiral’s full-dress uniform, wearing a cocked hat, being carried by two bathing women from a bathing-machine  to the barge ‘Royal George’, for transit to the royal yacht. The Regent’s left hand is clearly keeping abreast of the situation….
The picture is somewhat scurrilous in that it shows two naked girls looking towards the departing prince, from their vantage point in the bathing machine, inscribed ‘The Best Machines in Brighton’. It reflects the rumour that the Prince availed himself of the services of a naked dipper when bathing…
According to the British Museum site: ‘A sailor standing in the barge, which flies the Royal Standard, seizes the Regent’s ankles; one foot is gouty and swollen; he says to the man standing behind him : “My eyes jack this here craft will never carry him—we should bring the sheers and reeve a tackle for him in the long boat—!!” A naval officer stands beside the sailor, and shouts an order to the man behind: “shove the Barge further a stern & be d—d to you—what you about a head there.” The Regent says: “Do my dear Girls put me on board safe, I shall Tell Paget to give you some Grog—I have been almost suffocated in that infernal Bathing Machine—mind my foot.”
One bathing-woman says: “Faith he’s no joke Judy the devil a heavier Burthen in all the country”; her comelier companion answers: “By my own soul I’d rather carry such a nice neat beautiful young Gentleman, than the best basket of mackerel that ever was at Billingsgate.” The sailor on the left uses a pole to manipulate the barge, the bow of which is cut off by the left margin. He wears a tight blue jacket to the (pinched) waist, with red collar and cuffs, white trousers, and top-hat with a badge: ‘Royal George’. With a grimace he says: “D—n these soldiers jackets I can’t move in em—I suppose we shall all be lobsters by & bye!!” Behind (right) are the chalk cliffs of Brighton, with tiny figures waving their hats; one woman is seated on a donkey holding up a parasol.
All in all, a nice reminder of how the Prince Regent was seen as a ludicrous figure, hated for his extravagance and loathed for his louche behaviour. And with very little sympathy for a man who was constantly in pain, be it from gout or dropsy, and was grossly overweight.