Our Georgian Tour this year was a bit of a departure, as it was the first tour on which I opted for a period property as our lodging, rather than a hotel. Though I knew that the townhouse in Great Pulteney Street was well appointed, I was anxious to see how it would be received by my guests. As it happened, it turned out to be the perfect blend of period detail and modern luxury.
Bath is extremely walk-able and this was the route we strolled each day – past Laura Place and over the historic Pulteney Bridge with its period shops and into the centre of the City.
Our first stop was at the Roman Baths Museum –
Afterwards, we visited the Abbey and Abbey Square.
Walking up Milsom Street, we headed for the Fashion Museum, where I was captivated by Princess Margaret’s truly tiny dresses.
Another short stroll brought us to the Royal Crescent and the No. 1 Royal Crescent Museum for some hands-on research regarding 19th century life.
Afterwards, we walked the back lanes . . . .
And arrived at the Jane Austen Centre for a tour.
By this time, we’d worked up an appetite, so we back tracked to the Pump Room for a proper Afternoon Tea.
Later that evening, we relaxed in our drawing room –
and indulged in some wine and cheese –
while I modeled the mask I’d purchased earlier in the day.
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From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)
There is no more eloquent testimony to the orderliness of London than the mere sprinkling of cavalry within its limits. It may seem ridiculous to the foreigner that with 375 mounted police, and two small regiments of Household troops numbering 275 horses each, five millions of people are content to behave themselves; but it is a state of affairs of which Englishmen have no cause to be ashamed. Even adding in the six battalions of Foot Guards and the line battalion at the Tower, and considering that there is Woolwich, and that there are Hounslow and Windsor not far off, and that there are facilities of communication—not, however, greater than exist in other capitals—we shall find that the police, and military ready to be used as police, in and about London, are a mere handful compared to what are necessary for peace-keeping and ceremonial purposes in the cities across the Channel.
“At one time the black horses of the Household cavalry came almost entirely from Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, most of them being expressly bred for the service. But of late we have changed all that. In those days the cavalry colonels had so much money allowed them for remounts, and they had to pick up their horses where they could, with the jobmaster at their elbow—for a consideration—to help them at a pinch; and some of the London jobmasters had a standing order to be on the look-out for likely horses for certain regiments. Nowadays the Dublin dealer has taken the place of the London man, and, instead of the colonel buying horses, the buying is done by the Remount Department, whose happy hunting ground is Ireland.
“When a military horse is ‘cast,’ and all military horses are ‘cast’ at fourteen years old, whether they be good, bad, or indifferent, a requisition for a substitute goes to the Remount Department at Woolwich, and the substitute arrives a day or two afterwards from the Emerald Isle, generally shipped direct by Daly or some other Dublin dealer. That the new horse is as good to look at as the old Yorkshire one, we have not heard any soldier declare, but he is at least thirty per cent. cheaper, and he seems to be strong enough for his work.
“A British army corps, when discoverable, will be found to have 12,000 horses, of which 3,134 will be in the cavalry and 2,987 in the artillery; these 6,121 horses ought to be thoroughly broken and trained, even if the remainder are not. There are said to be only 70,000 horses in the British Isles fit for army work, but this is one of those pleasant fictions of which it is When Napoleon attempted to invade us—an attempt that was defeated at Trafalgar, which to the uninitiated may seem to be a long way off for the defeat of such a scheme, although any future attempt will probably have to be reckoned with still farther at sea—the Government took stock of every horse in the kingdom, with the intention of a general impressment for military service; and nowadays the Government has power in times of national peril to lay hands on every horse within these islands, in preparation for which there are thousands of horses under subsidy with a view to immediate use. And when this seizure does take place, it will certainly not be to the joy of the jobmaster; he above all men shudders at the mere mention of foreign invasion, for invasion to him means the entire loss of his means of livelihood, and this at a sacrifice, for no Government would pay the price at which the jobmaster’s stud has been collected.
“The Life Guardsman’s horse used to cost 601., being the most expensive horse in the army; we shall not put him offensively cheap in these times at 201. less; nor shall we be divulging any secrets of state in estimating that the cost of mounting the two regiments of cavalry in London—barring the officers’ chargers—does not exceed 22,000L. And yet the horses are carefully chosen and seem fit for their work, when either in or out of harness. They, of course, look their best at Knightsbridge, for at Knightsbridge the stabling is distinctly good, better even than is promised in the new barracks in Albany Street; but then a soldier’s horse in stable generally looks better than a civilian’s, owing to his head being where his tail should be. The civilian’s horse always has his head over the manger; the soldier’s horse is turned round as soon as he has finished his feed, and so gets more fresh air; the consequence of which admirable arrangement for preventing a horse ‘ breathing his own breath,’ is that the visitor on entering the stable sees a double line of intelligent heads, .instead of an avenue of hocks and tails.
“Time was when every soldier’s horse had a name, the initial of which was that of the troop to which he belonged. ‘A’ troop had all A’s, ‘ B’ had all B’s, and so on; but in these days the squadron is the unit, not the troop, and the name has given place to the number. Every horse, then, has his number placed on a card over his manger, and the horses are separated from each other by a pole doing duty as a bale, and on each upright is the horse’s kit, including the two spare shoes which every trooper carries, but not including the arms, which, of course, are kept elsewhere. This kit, and the arms and the rider, make up a nice little load, which averages out at twenty-three stone per man; not quite so heavy as that of our fat old knights, but still heavy enough for the class of horse which has nothing of the ‘dray’ type about it.
Of course the horse has to be of the regimental colour. In the cavalry generally chestnuts are in and it is not easy to get these horses of uniform type and character. There are many exchanges and rejections, and it often happens that a horse sent in for cavalry work has to go to the draught, to the Artillery, or even the Transport service; so that though the remainder may not be examples of the much-talked-of survival of the fittest, they are at least representative of the not unfit. They are smart, workmanlike horses. It is absolutely necessary that a regiment should be as sound in its horseflesh as in its men. Theoretically no remounts are accepted that are not looked over on level ground, on a road, or in a large yard, for it is easy to pass a bad horse in a field, or on a hillside, or in deep pasture, or when under cover, or in a drove. It is not safe to choose an underbred animal, immediately conspicuous by his coarse head, or thick throat, or short neck, or large, bony joints, or clumsy legs, or short pasterns, or curly in the hair of his mane or tail. The typical cavalry horse must have a small lean head, a flat, broad forehead, fine, full nostrils, a good, clean throat, thin neck, well-shaped legs, long pasterns, and straight hair, with a deep, wide chest, and short, broad back and loin. No long backs will do, for long backs are not in favour, for chestnuts usually have white, and white, except in the Scots Greys, is not desirable; neither chestnuts then, nor mealy bays, are fit for cavalry work, but roans and bays and browns, and for our Guardsmen blacks.
“These are bought when rising four years old, and require about six months’ training by the rough riders before they can be passed out of the riding school as efficient by the colonel. The Knightsbridge riding school is about forty-five yards long by sixteen wide, and in it perhaps fourteen young horses at a time will be at work, though the number of course depends on what the horses have to do. Their training is not as simple as might at first appear. The soldier has only one hand to work his horse with, and what an ordinary rider would do with the other hand he has to do with his leg. How skillfully he manages to guide by leg pressure is known to those who have seen the Musical Ride at the annual Military Tournament, which is little more than the ordinary practice of the riding school. But it should not be forgotten that the horse has to be taught to understand this pressure, and that his training is almost as long a business as that of his rider.
“Very early in the morning, so as not to alarm the passers-by, the young horse is taught to stand fire by having a gun discharged close to him, and being encouraged to smell the powder and the smoking weapon; he thus becomes familiar with the sound and scent, much as a boy does, though there is nothing to show that he ever associates the idea of being shot with the report which he soon treats with indifference. When once he is trained his work becomes lighter, and he cannot be said to have a hard life in London, an occasional outing at Wimbledon being his severest trial. Being condemned at fourteen, his full service is a little over ten years; but it is rare that he reaches the limit, and his average military life is between six and seven. When it is over he goes back to the depot, and thence he often comes again by way of the sale yard into the London crowd.”
The following letters were all addressed to Lady Salisbury –
Walmer, October 11, 1850
“I sent my instruction to my Deputy Ranger yesterday of which I will send you a copy as soon as I can get one! You will see that they settle the affair. I have another likewise at the Office of Woods about the Squatter in Hyde Park, and I hope to shake that Lady off without very much difficulty. But we must proceed with caution and Regularity. . . . . .”
Walmer, October 13, 1850
“I have had nothing very interesting to tell you in the last two days! My time has been principally occupied by the Mad Men and Mad Women by whom I am pestered constantly! It is quite curious with what a number of Insane persons I am in relation. Mad retired Officers, Mad Women, etc.! I found last session that there is a Society established for the protection of those who are insane, or charged with insanity, and the Head of which is a Madman; one of the Percevals.
“I have heard no more of the Squatter! If you remember there is on the right hand side of what is called the Rotten Row, that is the Riding Road up the Park to Kensington Gardens and Kensington, a Mound or Bank which retains the water in what is called the Serpentine River! This house is placed on this mound, or rather in a Space scooped out of its thickness! for I have never seen the house!
“I rather suspect that the Woman had been allowed to establish a sort of stall on this Spot for selling oranges, cakes, etc. It is situated near a fountain, and that she has contrived to build Houses on the spot on which she had been permitted to have a stall for the sale of her oranges and Cakes. However she became established, I entertain no doubt that it will be a troublesome job to remove her! and I have determined that I will go to work regularly.”
Walmer, October 15, 1850
“You will be surprised to learn that I am going to London. I am going there on the principle that the only animal who is never allowed to have any rest is the Duke of Wellington . . . I propose to avail myself of the opportunity of getting upon my horse and taking a look at the position of the Squatter in Hyde Park.
“When Sir Harry Smith was in England a year or two ago, he reminded me of my old Practice with the Army.
“When there was any difficulty and they came to me to report it, and to ask what they should do, my answer was, `I will get upon my Horse and take a look; and then tell you!’ Accordingly, as soon as I shall reach my own House to-morrow, I will get upon my horse and take a look at the position of this Squatter! and I think that I shall have no difficulty in pointing out the mode as settling that one! . . . . ”
London, October 17, 1850
“. . . . I arrived in town prosperously yesterday afternoon; and in conformity with my intention mounted my horse and went to take a look at the position of the Squatter! She is not exactly at the Fountain, very little further on; and higher up the Bank! I entertain no doubt that it will not be difficult to remove her if necessary! But I hope that we shall prevail upon her to move off without the necessity of compulsion . . . . As long as the Duke of Cambridge was Ranger, and since his Death, nobody ever thought of wanting Police in the Parks; but now that I am Ranger, everybody has discovered that they cannot walk or take the air in security. . . . ”
Walmer, October 18, 1850
” . . . . . I went to take a look at the Squatter’s Premises in Hyde Park! They are quite distinct from the Fountain with which you are acquainted in which there is a spring of pure water! This last is lower down the Bank and nearer Rotten Row . . . . . ”
London, November 15, 1850
“. . . . Before I went to Bed at night, I received the usual summonses to attend Christenings, Dinners, Concerts, etc., this day and to-morrow. In short, there is no end of the demands upon my time . . . I have the pleasure of informing you we have got rid of the Squatter in the Park. She has quitted her Residence, which has been pulled down and the ground on which it stood or rather fell has been levelled.”
This was not the end of the matter. The Squatter, namely a Mrs. Ann Hicks, was subsequently arrested in August of 1851 for selling refreshments outside the Crystal Palace. She claimed that her grandfather had rescued King George II from drowning in the Serpentine and that her family had subsequently been granted life tenancy in the Park. Her case was heard and dismissed by the House of Commons and a public appeal raised enough funds to purchase Mrs. Hicks passage to join her family in Australia.
This time over to England, I was determined to visit Hatfield House, as it has many connections to the Duke of Wellington via the Cecil family, second cousins to the Duke on his mother’s side, via Emily (nee Mary Amelia), Lady Salisbury, the first Marchioness.
The Duke and Emily were more than cousins, they were good friends. Wellington went often to Hatfield House to dine, to stay, to see the children and to take part in the annual Hatfield Hunt. In fact, it was the light blue Hatfield Hunt coat, gifted to him by Emily herself, that Wellington took to wearing on his various campaigns.
Emily was a fine horsewoman in her own right, the only female regularly welcomed to join hunts at Hatfield and beyond, due in equal part to her riding skills as to her no-nonsense attitude. She rode daily, right up until the day she died. The Duke’s great good friends, Charles and Harriet Arbuthnot, were also frequent guests at Hatfield. In January, 1827, Mrs. Arbuthnot wrote, “We had a large & very pleasant party at Hatfield. Old Lady Salisbury, who is the most wonderful woman that ever was, 78 years old, but riding out on horse back & having apparently none of the infirmaries of age; she tumbled down the stairs the other day, cut herself in various places, but particularly on her leg, which swelled as big as two but to which she wd only apply a lotion used for horses, & went about as if nothing had happened.” Still later, Lady Salisbury’s eyesight began to fail and a groom would accompany her on her daily rides and, it is said, would warn her when approaching a fence by shouting, “Jump, dammit, My Lady, jump!”
In 1834, Harriet Arbuthnot died suddenly of cholera at a farmhouse near the Arbuthnots’ seat, Woodford House, in Northamptonshire. Immediately after her death, her husband, Charles, sent an express message to the Duke at Apsley House. The messenger, however, had to divert to Hatfield House where Wellington was dining with the Dowager Emily and the 2nd Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury. The following year, Emily died tragically at the age of eighty-five in a fire at Hatfield House. It was thought that feathers in her hat caught alight when she was at her writing-desk and caused the blaze. Her loyal servants frantically attempted to open the door to her room when the fire became evident, but to no avail. The fire destroyed the west wing of the house and only a few bones were found in the rubble.
Emily’s death did nothing to deter the Duke from visiting Hatfield; he remained close to the 2nd Marquess and both of his wives, becoming godfather to several of their children. In addition, Wellington championed the 2nd Marquess’s sister, Emily, Lady Westmeath, during her contentious and much publicized divorce.
So, you see why I wanted to visit Hatfield House. Upon mentioning this to Jacqueline Reiter, she offered to accompany me and Sandra Mettler to Hatfield and to bring her family along. Joy! It turns out that Jacqueline had visited Hatfield House several years ago and informed me that there was a “Wellington Cabinet” in the House, filled with family momentos connected to the Duke. More joy!
On the day, Sandra and I took the train out to Hatfield House from London and met Jacqueline, her husband Miklos and their children, Felix and Julia, at the front gates.
Walking up the drive, we were brought up short by the sight of this contemporary sculpture by Henry Moore in front of the house. Inside, we entered into the Marble Hall.
The embroidered banners hanging from the Gallery feature bees and imperial eagles, symbols of Napoleon. They have recently been copied from originals which were made just before the Battle of Waterloo and meant for Napoleon’s various Departments. After Waterloo, they were instead given to the 2nd Marquess by the Duke of Wellington.
The ceiling’s woodwork and plasterwork are original but colour was added by the 3rd Marquess in 1878, when Jacobean reliefs of the Caesars were replaced with panels featuring classical themes painted by the Italian artist, Giulio Taldini.
The Grand Staircase
The ceiling was decorated for Queen Victoria’s visit to Hatfield in 1846 and has recently been restored so that visitors will be now able to see it in all its glory. At the top, a carving on a newel post shows the figure of a gardener holding a rake. This is said to be John Tradescant, who was sent abroad by Robert Cecil to collect rare and exotic plants for his new garden at Hatfield.
The ceiling of the Long Gallery, originally white, was covered with gold leaf by the 2nd Marquess who had been impressed by a gold ceiling he had seen in Venice.
Nearly at the end of our route through the house, we finally came upon the cabinet containing items related to the Duke of Wellington. I’ve been to several other houses that have Wellington items passed down through the family, including Levens Hall in the Lake District, home to Wellington’s niece, Mary Wellesley, who married Sir Charles Bagot. Impressive. In fact, Levens Hall has a dedicated Wellington Trail, directing visitors to all the items associated with the Duke throughout the house. I’ve seen large Wellington collections and I’ve seen small Wellington collections, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a collection more charming than that at Hatfield House. One can assume that the Cecil family would have some “wow factor” Wellington items, as evidenced by the Napoleonic flags in the Marble Hall, but what they chose to save and display in this cabinet are items of a far more personal nature.
At the end of our house tour, we stopped for a lunch break and my spirits soared upon seeing this –
and they were dashed when we learned that it was a dog grooming salon.
After lunch, we took Felix and Julia to the farm yard, which they seemed to enjoy. In truth, no one enjoyed it more than me. Baby animals!
Bidding a reluctant goodbye to the Reiters, Sandra and I headed to the rail station, where we discovered that we had enough time for a pint before the next train. The perfect ending to a perfect day.
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There are many factors that determine a city’s longevity, anyone who enjoys the works of Edward Rutherford or Ken Follett knows that – having an attraction that draws people in, a cathedral, a market, a fair, being located on a trade route or a river, being a capital or a terminus. Perhaps most important of all, the city that lasts is the city that morphs with the times, it continues to grow and change to meet the needs of the populous, and to take advantage of improving technologies. London has proved time and again that it is such a city.
One of the exciting aspects to building the world inhabited by the 4 exiled princes of Kuban in my series The Royals of Kuban, was using the changing structure of London in the 1820s as a backdrop for their adventures. One neighborhood featured in the series is the neighborhood of Soho, located west of St. Giles. It has an interesting history that runs parallel to the history of St. James which was being constructed at the same time. For us, looking back through history, St. James is perhaps the better known, historically. Today, I want to share a little about the perhaps lesser known historical neighborhood of Soho, not the trendy bohemian capital of west-end London that we are familiar with today, but how it evolved in the years since it’s inception in the 1670s and the intervening centuries.
So, let’s get started with the ominous words, “In the beginning.”
In the beginning, (that being the 1670s), Soho was developed with the vision of making an upscale neighborhood peopled by the aristocracy. The area was divided into three squares, Golden (which was originally referred to as Gelding Close), Leicester and Soho. Leicester Square is featured in the painting to the left as it appeared in 1800. And yes, the aristocrats came. Some of those who lived in Soho included The Earl of Fauconberg who resided there from 1683-1700, the Countess of Carlisle, and the Duke of Monmouth among others. Let’s mention the ‘among others’ piece. It wasn’t only nobility who came. Golden Square, for instance, not only saw peers living there but also army officers and foreign ambassadors.
Historians agree that an elite patronage of the neighborhood barely survives fifty years, and in fact, it is easy to argue the neighborhood never had a chance of sustaining a ‘Mayfair-esque’ longevity as a gathering place for the wealthy.
Three factors played a role in preventing Soho from becoming a wealthy watering hole. First, what any realtor has known for ages: location, location, location. Remember that other area being developed? St. James? by the 1720s, map drawings of London highlight the West End as a focal point of the city with close attention being paid to the St. James Court. An example of this is shown below in the reproduction of cartographer, John Kip’s panorama of London. Sure, Soho is in the West End, but it’s St. James that gets the attention on the map. Why? That’s where the royal family was and where royal business was conducted until the reign of Queen Victoria. Many peers began to feel Soho was simply too far from the palace.
Second, a mish-mash of landlords. Soho was, in some aspects, a wild, wild west. There was no single landlord overseeing the land grants and the quality of development as there was, for example, in Mayfair where the Grosvenor family held control over who and what built in the area. As a result, there were varying degrees of quality and purpose to the homes and businesses that sprung up in Soho. That’s, right, businesses. Residences were built next door to medical clinics, and people like to live close to their work. It’s not a leap of logic to understand who moves in next—doctors for instance who want to be close to their practices. But they can’t afford the housing styles of the wealthy. You see where this is going, right?
Third, there’s not only a wide variety of landlords developing the area, there’s a wide variety of tenants. Not only a middle class physicians and tradesmen, but also immigrants. In the 1670s, Greek immigrants congregated in Soho after being chased out of Turkey by the Ottoman invasion. They are followed in the 1680s by French Hugenots escaping persecution. One historian notes that by 1711 over a quarter of the population of St. Anne’s Parish (the parish serving Soho) was French. To give you a sense of that, the parish records attests to serving a population of 8,000 people. This is not an isolated occurrence. The trend continues throughout the 1800s as nationalist revolutions rise and fall throughout Europe in the wake of Napoleon’s defeat. For instance, Germans, Italians and Hungarians flock to Soho in the aftermath of failed revolts in 1848. It is by no mistake that the blog, Hidden London, refers to the Soho of the twenty-first century as a “longtime centre of alternative culture.”
By the time the Kuban princes arrive in London, English peers had long since decamped from Soho. The Soho of the 1820s had become a melting pot of immigrants who worked as artisans, clerks, musicians and assistants to the wealthy, and aristocrats fleeing homelands and attempting to live in genteel poverty while clinging to their aristocratic pride. To keep the flavors of their various homelands alive, many opened up bistros and small eateries where the working man and woman could grab a bite to eat on the go that reminded them of home. Eventually, the idea of such bistros gained wide appeal in London as the concept of ‘eating out’ caught on and the West End came to Soho for a taste of Europe.
The other Soho legacy left to the people of the 1820s were the homes built on big lots for the wealthy who had moved on. This is what appeals to hero, Prince Nikolay Baklanov, formerly of his majesty’s cavalry in Kuban in “Compromised by the Prince’s Touch.” He walks the neighborhood of Soho looking for a house and a lot big enough to him to establish his own riding school. By the 1820s, big lots with their own mews and riding houses were at a premium in London. But Soho has some remaining from its glory days. Leicester Square is where Nikolay finds his perfect property.