Mar 062014

NPG D12429; 'Les trois magots' by James Gillray, published by  Hannah Humphrey“Les Trois Magots”  by James Gilray, published in 1791 and shown courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery: a Hellgate Blackguard, a Newgate Scrub, and a Cripplegate Monster – it is a sort of variation on the three monkeys, but instead of “Hear no Evil, See no Evil and Speak no Evil” it is more a case of “Feel Evil, Think Evil and Be Evil”

Two centuries before “Watergate” the Barry family were having a monopoly of  “-gates”. Four poor little rich kids – daughter Caroline, born 1768; Richard born in 1769; Henry born in 1770; and Augustus 1773; and all of them offspring of the Earl of Barrymore and his wife, Emily (otherwise Amelia). But Father, the sixth earl, died when Richard was three, passing him the title, and Mother (the daughter of the Earl of Harrington) died eight years later. So these four wealthy and well-connected orphans were left in the occasional care of Granny. Granny, aka the Countess Harrington, packed Richard off to Eton, reputedly with the sum of one thousand pounds in his pocket for spending money, but then, somewhat inconveniently, she too died. Caroline and her feral brothers seemed to have been left to grow through adolescence and into maturity without close adult guidance – well, apart from the poor Reverend Tickell of the Berkshire village of Wargrave. He was nominally in charge of the Barry brood, but he appears to have had an uphill struggle to keep in control…

Richard, the Seventh Earl, went on to become a close friend of the Prince of Wales, earning himself the name of “Hellgate”. His younger brother Henry was born with a club-foot and, in the days before political correctness, was known by all as “Cripplegate”. That left Augustus, who somehow or other grew up to become a Reverend, but was the most profligate gambler of them all, and he was given the moniker “Newgate” because, supposedly, that was the only one of the debtors prisons he had not been sent to. NPG D12513; 'Billingsgate eloquence' by James Gillray, published by  Hannah HumphreyAnd Caroline? Well she was wont to swear like a trooper and the Prince of Wales gave her the nick name of “Billingsgate” – because she swore like a fishwife!

It has to be said, she was no beauty, if the caricature by James Gillray was anything to go by. In time she went on to marry Louis Pierre Francis Malcolm Drummond, Comte de Melfort, but her marriage was annulled, and plain “Mrs Drummond” opted to call herself  Baroness de Barry  when the last of her three brothers died in 1823.

So, what of Hellgate? Well, by the age of 16 he had already won a wager of £1000 at Newmarket. He loved racing, frequently riding his own horses to victory, and he developed a passion for boxing – both practising it and betting on it. He is shown on the left in the Gillray etching  which heads this post.  When he returned to Wargrave in the holidays he and his mates would terrify the villagers by taking over the reins from the postilions and racing their carriages through the village, smashing windows with their whips. By the age of  18 he was developing his own racing stud, keeping a hunting pack in his own  kennels, and building a reputation as a hell-raiser. Rumour has it that he spent or lost three hundred thousand pounds by the time he hit 21. But he just stayed on the right side of being a pain in the neck to the Wargrave residents by  entertaining them all lavishly, providing food and drink at numerous sporting activities in the village. He loved dramatic performances and built a theatre in Wargrave, at a cost of some £60,000, so that plays could be put on. The Seventh Earl and his friends were naturally given key parts to play…

As a prankster he had no equal, setting up a blistering pace by forming clubs for every occasion: there was the Two o’clock Club, which met at that hour of the early morning to hold court and impose ludicrous punishments on any member committing a perceived misdemeanour. There was the Bothering Club, the Je ne sais quoi Club, the Warble Club and so on. The latter had the very sensible rule “that  if any member has more sense than another, he be kicked out of the club.”

By now he was gambling heavily – sometimes winning as much as £25,000 on a single boxing match, sometimes losing a fortune on horse races. He liked odd challenges – such as a man-against-horse over thirty yards, with a turn round a tree at the midway point, but he consumed his assets with relentless impetuosity and was in danger of being adjudged bankrupt. Rather to everyone’s amazement he married – but not for money. In 1792 he eloped with the 17 year old Charlotte  Goulding, the daughter of a sedan-chair man. Like her husband, she too was a bare-knuckle boxer…

He stood for Parliament – probably as a way of thwarting his creditors – and joined the army, being appointed Captain in the Royal Berkshire Militia.  War with France and the threat of invasion meant that he was required to keep his musket loaded at all times – and when he was in his carriage escorting three French prisoners-of-war into custody the musket went off accidentally. The ball lodged in his eye, and at the age of 23 Hellfire drew his last breath. The date: 6th March 1794

His title was taken over by Cripplegate – another person who saw it as his duty to ensure that the Prince of Wales maintained his life of debauchery, scandal and intrigue. The Eighth Earl reportedly had a fine singing voice, but became better known for his pranks – kidnapping young women, then leaving a coffin standing upright outside their front door before knocking loudly – just to see the horror in the face of the servant coming to answer the call.

He was forever quarrelling and challenging others to duels – and then enlivened proceedings by always conducting the duel while totally starkers! In 1795 her decided to get married, but like his elder brother chose as his bride  a girl without means, called Anne Coghlan – she was in fact the beautiful daughter of a local tavern-keeper. His debts continued to mount and he died in France at the age of 56 in 1823 – probably of a stroke. He was penniless as well as childless, so the Earls of Barrymore died out (younger brother Newgate had already perished). That just left “Billingsgate”, the self-styled Baroness de Barry,

As a trio of debauchers, rakes, profligates gamblers and foul-mouthed ill-tempered brattish aristos they really took the biscuit!


To end with, a satirical print by Isaac Cruikshank dating from 1791, shown courtesy of the British Museum, in which all three brothers appear.  According to the accompanying text:

“Two young men fight, stripped to the waist. One (left) on the ground, cries ‘foul – foul’, the other, Lord Barrymore (‘Scrub’ or ‘Newgate’) stands over him in profile to the left, with clenched fists, and kicks him. The Prince of Wales stands behind the fallen man, and holds out his arms as if to protect him, saying, “Dam it Newgate fight like a Man no Kicking”. The Duke of York stands on the extreme left, his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, saying, “fie donc – If he had hit my head instead of my Curl, I would have fought fair”. Barrymore’s brothers stand behind him (right): Augustus kicks the victim, saying, “Bl–st me I’ll lay 3 to I We lick him”; the other, whose inturned feet indicate ‘Cripplegate’ (Henry), says, “Bloody Newgate to me if I dont take his fathers Licence”.

A charming family, but  at least none of them contributed to the gene pool by having any children! (Mind you, I do wonder whether Justin Bieber has a genetic link to the Barry boys….).

  2 Responses to “Hellgate, Cripplegate, Newgate and Billingsgate – one VERY larger-than-life family!”


    Great post, Mike! I thoroughly enjoyed it. What a family. I suppose they didn’t have the best start in life, but still…


    I seem to recall reading about them in the Reminiscences of my ancestor. Viz. Captain Rees Howell Gronow (1794-1865). Gronow was on balance an unattractive character, but his anecdotes are compelling!

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