The Wellington Connection: The Royal Humane Society

I first became aware of the existence of the Royal Humane Society when I read about the first Duke of Wellington’s being asked to lay the foundation stone of its new building in Hyde Park in 1835. Oh, I thought, how sweet – the Duke of Wellington doing his bit for the poor dogs and cats of England. Boy, was I wrong! Read on to see just what the Royal Humane Society is all about.
The Society was founded in London in 1774 by two doctors, William Hawes (1736-1808) and Thomas Cogan (1736-1818). They were concerned at the number of people wrongly taken for dead due to drowning – and, in some cases, buried alive. Both men wanted to promote the new, but controversial, medical technique of resuscitation and offered money to anyone rescuing someone from the brink of death. Each man invited 15 friends to the first meeting held on 18 April 1774 at the Chapter Coffee House, St Paul’s Churchyard. The founding members of the Society – all of them men – felt sure that the public would support them in their aim of restoring ‘a father to the fatherless, a husband to the widow, and a living child to the bosom of its mournful parents.’ The Royal Humane Society – then called the ‘Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned’ – set out 5 key aims:
To publish information on how to save people from drowning
To pay 2 guineas to anyone attempting a rescue in the Westminster area of London
To pay 4 guineas to anyone successfully bringing someone back to life
To pay 1 guinea to anyone – often a pub-owner – allowing a body to be treated in his house
To provide volunteer medical assistants with some basic life-saving equipment
Note: One guinea = one pound + 5 new pence would be worth about £77 in today’s money.


In the 18th century, few people would have been able to swim. It was not the popular sport it is today and it was not taught to children. In 1773, the year before the Society was founded, 123 people were reported to have drowned in London alone. The founders of the Society believed that “several of them might, in all probability, have been restored by a speedy and judicious treatment.” They went on to ask:

“Suppose but one in ten restored, what man would think the designs of the society unimportant, were himself, his relation, or his friend – that one?”

The reward of 4 guineas paid to the rescuer and 1 guinea to anyone allowing a body to be treated on his premises soon gave rise to widespread scam among the down-and-outs of London: one would pretend to be rescued and the other the rescuer – and they would share the proceeds. So monetary rewards were gradually replaced by medals and certificates, with occasional “pecuniary payments” up to a maximum of one guinea.

A network of ‘receiving houses’ was set up in and around the Westminster area of London where bedraggled bodies, many of them pulled out of London’s waterways, could be taken for treatment by volunteer medical assistants. according to Leigh’s New Picture of London 1819 –

This institution was established in 1774, “for recovery of persons apparently drowned or dead.” In l752, Doctor John Fothergill saw the dubiousness and fallacy of the received riteria of dissolution; and, on the subject of covering a man dead in appearance, by distending the lungs with air, he maintained “the possibility of saving many lives, without risking any thing.” Though coming from such excellent authority, the subject attracted no attention at that time, among our countrymen. M. Reaumur communicated, in 1767, to the Academy of Sciences, at Paris, some instances or resuscitation which had occurred in Switzerland. Holland being intersected by numerous canals, &c., its inhabitants were much exposed to accidents by water; and many persons were drowned from the want of proper assistance. Hence, in the year, 1767, a society was formed at Amsterdam which offered premiums to those who saved the life of a citizen in danger of perishing by water. Instigated by this example, the magistrates of health at Milan and Venice issued orders, in 1768, for the treatment of drowned persons. The city of Hamburgh appointed a similar ordinance to be read in all the churches, extending their succour, not merely to the drowned, but to the strangled, to those suffocated by noxious vapours, and to the frozen. In 1771, the magistrates of the city of Paris founded an institution in favour of, the drowned, &c., and there were repeated instances of success in each country. In 1773, Doctor Cogan, in order to convince the British public of the practicability, in many instances, of recovering persons who were apparently dead from drowning, published memoirs of these transactions. No sooner were they translated, than they engaged the humane mind of Dr. Hawes. He ascertained the practicability of thus saving lives, by advertising to reward persons, who, between Westminster and London bridges, should, within a certain time after the accident, rescue drowned persons from the water, and bring them ashore to places appointed for their reception, where means might be used for their recovery, and give immediate notice to him. Many lives were thus saved by himself and other medical men. For twelve months he paid the rewards in these cases; which amounted to a considerable sum. Dr. Cogan remonstrated with him on the injury which his private fortune would sustain from a perseverance in these expenses; and then Dr. Hawes consented to share them with the public. This led to the formation of the London Humane Society; and amongst its first founders were Doctors Goldsmith, Heberden, Lettsom, &c. This happened in the summer of 1774. The object of this society was then, like that at Amsterdam, confined to the recovery of persons who were apparently dead from drowning; but it has since been extended. For the first six years Doctor Cogan prepared the annual reports of the society; nor was Doctor Hawes less attentive in aiding the designs and promoting the views of this institution. The reports were afterwards prepared by Doctor Hawes up to the year of his decease, which occurred in 1808. From that time till 1813, the late Doctor Lettsom undertook the arduous task; and since that time the present registrar and secretary of the society, T. J. Pettigrew, Esq., surgeon extraordinary to the Dukes of Kent and Sussex, has regularly prepared them.

The receiving-houses of this society in Hyde-Park, are admirably accommodated; and handsome rewards in medals and money, are bestowed on those who assist in the preservation or restoration of life. The Hyde Park receiving-house was erected in 1794, on a plot of ground, on the north bank of the serpentine, granted by his Majesty, the patron of the institution, There are eighteen other receiving-houses in and about the metropolis, all of them being supplied with perfect and excellent apparatus.

A farmhouse in Hyde Park was first used as a receiving house and stood on land donated by King George III, the Society’s patron. In 1835, a Receiving House was built in Hyde Park, close to the Serpentine to the plans of architect: J.B. Bunning. The foundation stone was laid by the first Duke of Wellington and the building stood on that spot until its demolition in 1954. The Illustrated London News tells us that the 1835 building was “a neat structure, of fine brick, fronted and finished with Bath and Portland stone. The front has pilasters at the angles, and a neat entablature, which is surmounted by the royal arms upon a pedestal. Over the entrance is a pediment supported by two fluted Ionic columns rod pilasters; upon the entablature is inscribed `Royal Humane Society’s Receiving-house.’ The doorcase is tastefully enriched; over it is sculptured in stone a facsimile of the Society’s metal, encircled with a wreath; the design being a boy endeavouring to rekindle an almost extinct torch by blowing it, and the motto being `Lateat scintillvla forsans’ – `Perchance a spark may be concealed.'”

The Gentleman’s Magazine ran the following piece about the laying of the foundation stone – “The Duke of Wellington laid the first stone of a New Receivinghouse of the Royal Humane Society, on the north bank of the Serpentine River. The old Receiving-house had become much dilapidated, and it is now intended to provide separate apartments for males and females. The fact that during the summer season not less than 200,000 bathers frequent the Serpentine River, and that in one year not less than 231 persons were rescued from impending death through the exertions of the society, induced the Committee to commence the new building, to be paid for from subscriptions which it is hoped will be subscribed for that purpose. The Duke of Wellington arrived precisely at eight o’clock, and was received by the Committee of Management, headed by Mr. R. Hawes, M.P., Colonel Clitheroe, Mr. Alderman Winchester, Mr. Illidge, Sheriff Elect, Mr. Capel, Mr. Brunel, and about 50 other gentlemen connected with the Society. His Grace proceeded at once to the business of the day—the stone to be laid being suspended in the usual manner. Embedded in a thick circular body of glass were the several coins of the present reign, and one of the Society’s Honorary Medals, and in a bottle hermetically sealed, were placed engravings of the intended receiving-house, and these were deposited in the block of stone. His Grace then placed over the cavity a brass plate bearing the following inscription: —” This stone was laid on re-erecting the Receiving-house of the Royal Humane Society, founded by Dr. Hawes and Dr. Cogan in 1774, by his Grace the Duke of Wellington, K.G., Vice-President of the institution, on the 8th day of August, 1834, upon ground granted to the Society by his Majesty George III., and subsequently extended by his Majesty William IV.” On the plate were also engraved the names of the Patrons, the King and the Queen, of the Vice-Patrons, the President, the Treasurer, Secretary, and Architect. The Duke, with a silver trowel, then laid the mortar on the stone, and it was lowered down to its destined spot and squared, the Rev. Charlton Lane delivering a prayer. His Grace and the company present then sat down to a splendid breakfast, Mr. Hawes, M. P., in the chair. The building will be of the Doric order. The design, by Mr. Bunning, of Guilford, was selected after competition, and was shown in the last Exhibition at Somerset House. Messrs. Webb, of Clerkenwell, are the builders.”

Hyde Park was chosen because while tens of thousands of people swam in the Serpentine in the summer, many also used it to ice-skate in the winter. To try to keep the number of drownings to a minimum, the Society employed Icemen to be on hand to rescue anyone going through the ice. Gradually, branches of the Royal Humane Society were set up in other parts of the country, mainly in ports and coastal towns where the risk of drowning was high.

At left is a medal awarded in 1798 to a to Mr Penn, Medical Assistant, for having taken W. Duncan, who is described as having been ‘insensible’, out of the river.

Today the aim of the Society is to recognise the bravery of men, women and children who have saved, or tried to save, someone else’s life. The Society operates solely from its headquarters in London but gives awards to people from all over the country, and sometimes from overseas. Financial rewards are no longer given, but rather medals and certificates. Through the years, the successive Dukes of Wellington have continued to serve on the board of the Society in various capacities.

I have no doubt that each and every Duke of Wellington has also been excessively kind to any stray dogs and cats they may have encountered, as well.

The Wellington Connection: The Charge of the Light Brigade

The Duke of Wellington is connected to the Charge of the Light Brigade through his association with Lord  Fitzroy Somerset (at left), who was both his military secretary and his nephew by marriage.

Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788 – 1855), was a British soldier who distinguished himself particularly in the Spanish parts of the Napoleonic campaign. He was badly wounded by five stab wounds to the shoulder at the Battle of Buçaco, after Fuentes de Onoro became brevet-major, as a volunteer helped storm Ciudad Rodrigo, and subsequently led the storming of Badajoz, and personally secured and quickly held one of the gates before the French could respond.

He was the eighth and youngest son of Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, by Elizabeth, daughter of Admiral the Hon. Edward Boscawen. His elder brother, General Lord Edward Somerset (1776–1842), distinguished himself as the leader of the Household Cavalry brigade at the Battle of Waterloo. Fitzroy Somerset was commissioned onto the 4th Light Dragoons on 9 June 1804, being promoted to Lieutenant on 30 May 1805. In 1807 he was attached to the Hon. Sir Arthur Paget’s (later Marquess of Angelsey) embassy to Turkey, and the same year he was selected to serve on the staff of Sir Arthur Wellesley in the expedition to Copenhagen. In the following year he accompanied Wellesley to Portugal, and during the whole of the Peninsular War was at his right hand, first as aide-de-camp and then as military secretary. Lord Hardinge later remarked that he had first become acquainted with Lord FitzRoy Somerset at the battle of Vimiera, “when we of the same age were astonished at the admirable manner in which he then performed the duties of aide-de-camp, and at the great respect with which he was treated by Sir Arthur Wellesley. It was remarked on all occasions that if there was a word of advice to which that great man would listen with unusual patience, it was that which proceeded from Lord FitzRoy Somerset. During the whole period that the Duke of Wellington was in the Peninsula—with the exception, I believe, of a short time when he was in England for the benefit of his health—Lord FitzRoy Somerset was at his right hand. He was present at every one of those actions which illustrate the career of our great commander; on every occasion he was foremost in the field, and he displayed the same valour and courage which have so conspicuously marked his conduct in the Crimea.”

On 6 August 1814 he married Lady Emily Harriet Wellesley-Pole, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Mornington,  the Duke of Wellington’s niece. As Lady Shelley tells us, “On August 5, 1814, the Duke dined with his regiment at Windsor, and on the following morning returned to town to be present at Emily Pole’s marriage with Lord Fitzroy Somerset. While passing through Brentford the wheel of his carriage came off twice. The Duke immediately sprang into a market cart, in full costume as he was, and arrived at the church only a few minutes after the time fixed for the wedding. He gave the bride away, and then dressed for the opera. I met him there, and he took care of me to the carriage.”

Between the Napoleonic campaigns, Lord Somerset was secretary to the British embassy at Paris and when Napoleon returned to France he once more became aide-de-camp and military secretary to the Duke of Wellington. At Waterloo his arm was injured and amputated. At the end of the surgery he told orderly not to take away his arm until he had removed a ring that his wife had given him. He quickly learned to write with his left hand, and on the conclusion of the war resumed his duties in Paris.Wellington recommended him as the aide-de-camp to the Prince Regent, a post that was given on 28 August 1815 together with the rank of Colonel. Raglan returned to the British embassy at Paris and remained there as secretary until the end of 1818 when the allied armies were withdrawn from France.  For two short periods in the 1820s he was MP for Truro. In 1819 he was appointed secretary to the Duke of Wellington when Wellington became Commander-in-Chief of the army after the Duke of York died on 22 January 1827 and from 1827 till the death of the duke in 1852, Somerset served as his Military Secretary at the Horse Guards. Wellington described him as ‘a man who wouldn’t tell a lie to save his life’.

Somerset’s political career culminated in his being appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1852, when he was created Baron Raglan.

 

At the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853, Raglan was chosen to command the British troops, despite the fact that he was sixty-five years old and had never led troops in the field. He left London on 10 April and reached Constantinople at the end of the month. In 1854, Raglan (at left) was made full General and joint commander of the Crimean campaign in co-operation with a strong French army under Marshal St. Arnaud and afterwards, up to May 1855, under Marshal Canrobert. Here his diplomatic experience stood him in good stead in dealing with the generals and admirals, British, French and Turkish, who were associated with him; however, the trying winter campaign of the Crimean War showed that becoming a General was a step too far for Raglan. His failure to give coherent or timely commands on the field of battle led to numerous mistakes, and his blind ignorance of the growing rivalry between the Earl of Lucan and the Earl of Cardigan would have tragic consequences in the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a disastrous charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces on 25 October, 1854 during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. Subsequently Raglan was pilloried by the press, rightly or wrongly, for the conditions which led to so many troops being unfit to serve, falling seriously ill or dying, and being responsible for the incompetent chain of command and poor tactics which led to Inkerman and then the Charge of the Light Brigade. To be fair, much of the responsibility must fall on authorities in the UK, and appalling logistics from there.

Today, the incident is best remembered as the subject of a famous poem entitled The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose lines have made the charge a symbol of warfare at both its most courageous and its most tragic.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Oddly enough, despite Raglan’s military unpopularity, he was put in charge of the general assault on Sebastapol on 18 June 1855 – the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. It was to be preceded by a two-hour cannonade but the French commander decided at the last moment to attack at daybreak, a decision that Raglan reluctantly accepted. The result was disastrous. The French columns were driven back with heavy loss. Raglan ordered the British forward against the Redan where the two leading British columns met a murderous fire of grapeshot and musket fire. Raglan felt responsible for the failure. He was already suffering from dysentery and on the evening of 28 June he died. His body was taken to a ship called the Caradoc with the full military honours and the seven miles of road from his headquarters to Kazatch Bay were lined with troops. The ship reached Bristol on 24 July; Raglan was buried privately at Badminton on the 26 July.

William Huskisson – England’s First Railroad Fatality

William Huskisson PC (11 March 1770 – 15 September 1830) was a British statesman, financier, and Member of Parliament for several constituencies, including Liverpool. He is best known today, however, as the world’s first widely reported railway casualty –  he was run over by George Stephenson’s locomotive engine Rocket.

Huskisson entered the cabinet in April 1822 when Lord Liverpool appointed him as President of the Board of Trade. The following year Huskisson became MP for Liverpool. Huskisson worked closely with the merchants from the city and soon developed a reputation as the leading representative of mercantile interests in Parliament. This was reflected in the drafting and passing of several new bills that related to trade, including the Merchant Vessels’ Apprenticeship Act and the Registration of Ships Act. Huskisson also took measures towards a policy of free trade. He reduced duties on cotton, sugar, glass, paper, bottles, copper, zinc and lead.

Although Huskisson admitted in debate that he was having doubts about duties on corn, he advocated a delay in their repeal. He finally introduced new measures to reform the Corn Laws in 1826 but the bill was abandoned after the opposition of the Duke of Wellington and other leading Tories in the House of Lords.

When the Duke of Wellington became Prime Minister in 1828, Huskisson refused to serve under him and resigned from office. Huskisson became unpopular with some members of the Tory Party when he made a speech in the House of Commons claiming that Wellington had forced him to leave the government.

 

Two years later, both the Duke of Wellington and Huskisson were among the celebrities invited to the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. At 10.40 a.m. on September 15, 1830, eight locomotives drawing carriages designed after the fashion of stage coaches, and containing 732 people, left the mouth of the Great Tunnel at Liverpool to go to Manchester, the thirty mile route being lined with fully half a million people. On the north line was a gorgeous, circus-like carriage whose principal occupant was the Duke of Wellington. In front of it was a carriage containing a band. The other seven trains were on the south line. At Eccles, seventeen miles from Liverpool, it was planned that the procession should stop for the engines to take in water, and the printed programme specially requested that guests should not leave their carriages.

However, several members of the Duke’s party stepped onto the trackside and Huskisson went forward to greet the Duke. As Huskisson was exiting his car, the locomotive Rocket approached on the parallel track. It appeared afterwards that the driver shut off steam when he saw people on the line. Prince Esterhazy and others managed to jump into the Duke’s carriage. Mr. Huskisson dashed forward in order to go in front of the carriages on the south line, only to find his way barred by a steep bank. “Get in, get in,” shouted the Duke. Huskisson opened a carriage door just as the Rocket came along and struck it, forcing Huskisson off balance and under its wheels. His leg was horrifically mangled. Unfortunately, Mrs. Huskisson was a witness to the accident, as was the Duke’s intimate friend, Mrs. Arbuthnot, who was with him on the journey.

The wounded Huskisson was taken by a train (driven by George Stephenson himself) with Dr. Brandreth, who had been fetched from the rear of the procession, his wife, and others to Eccles, where he died at 9 p.m. Understandably, the Duke was devastated and it was only through vigorous persuasion by many people that he continued on to Manchester as planned, lest he disappoint the crowds there awaiting his arrival. The Duke was not to travel by train again until 1843, when he accompanied Queen Victoria on the London and South Western.

Thomas Creevey wrote to Miss Ord:

Bangor, 19 September 1830

Jack Calcraft has been at the opening of the Liverpool rail road, and was an eye witness of Huskisson’s horrible death. About nine or ten of the passengers in the Duke’s car had got out to look about them, whilst the car stopt [sic]. Calcraft was one, Huskisson another, Esterhazy, Bill Holmes, Birch and others. When the other locomotive was seen coming up to pass them, there was a general shout from those within the Duke’s car to those without it, to get in. Both Holmes and Birch were unable to get up in time, but they stuck fast to its sides, and the other engine did not touch them. Esterhazy being light, was pulled in by force. Huskisson was feeble in his legs, and appears to have lost his head, as he did his life. Calcraft tells me that Huskisson’s long confinement in St George’s Chapel at the king’s funeral brought on a complaint that Taylor is so afraid of, and that made some severe surgical operation necessary, the effect of which had been, according to what he told Calcraft, to paralyse, as it were one leg and thigh. This, no doubt, must have increased, if it did not create, his danger and [caused him to] lose his life. He had written to say his health would not let him come, and his arrival was unexpected. Calcraft saw the meeting between him and the Duke, and saw them shake hands a very short time before Huskisson’s death. The latter event must be followed by important political consequences. The Canning faction has lost its corner stone and the Duke’s government one of its most formidable opponents. Huskisson, too, once out of the way, Palmerston, Melbourne, the Grants and Co. may make it up with the Beau [Wellington].

 

Oddly, Huskisson had been accident-prone his whole life and had in the past broken his arm three separate times – by falling from his horse, from his carriage and
from his bed.

 

This statue to Huskisson stands in Pimlico Gardens, London. The artist is John Gibson, a descendant of William’s half-brother, Thomas Huskisson.

The Death of Wellington – Long Live the Duke

An image of the arms of the Dukes of Wellington, shamelessly stolen from author Lesley-Anne McLeod‘s blog.
Thanks, Lesley-Anne!

On 14 September 1852 Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, KP, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS died both quite suddenly and peacefully at his rooms at Walmer Castle, Kent. It is hardly necessary for me to take up further room on this blog in extolling the myriad virtues, accomplishments and glories attached to the first Duke. There are a wealth of stories about his funeral, the largest ever held in London until that held for Princess Diana, in books, on the web, etc. Rather, I thought it might be interesting instead to turn our attention on this day to the man who became the second Duke upon his father’s death.

Lt.-General Arthur Richard Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington KG PC (3 February 1807 – 13 August 1884), was the eldest son of the 1st Duke of Wellington and Kitty Pakenham. In 1853 he was made a Privy Councillor and a Knight of the Garter in 1858 and in 1863 he inherited the Irish title of Earl of Mornington from his cousin. In 1839 he had married Lady Elizabeth Hay, but they had no children, so at his death he was succeeded in his titles by his nephew, Henry.

Arthur was 45 years of age when his father died and while the Duke had been proud of both Arthur and his younger son, Charles, they never enjoyed what might be remotely called a warm family bond. The 2nd Duke was known to have said that his father often treated himself and his younger brother as “duffers.” There are many anecdotes that back up this fact, but I’ll use the following as being illustrative of the coolness between father and son(s).  When the 2nd Duke was still Lord Douro, he was in the Rifle Brigade and stationed at Dover, in which neighborhood his father also resided, at Walmer Castle, as Lord of the Cinque Ports. It was the Duke’s habit to invite all the officers quartered in the town to dinner at the Castle. On one particular occassion, the Duke invited every officer on the spot, with the exception of his son, prompting him to send his father the following note: “The Marquis of Douro presents his compliments to F.M. the Duke of Wellington, K.G., and would be glad to know why, alone among the officers of his regiment, he has not been invited to dinner at Walmer Castle.” The Duke replied by return of post: “F.M. the Duke of Wellington, K.G., presents his compliments to the Marquis of Douro, and begs to inform him that the reason why he was never invited to dine at Walmer Castle is that he never called there.”


Elizabeth, 2nd Duchess of Wellington (1820-1904) was born Lady Elizabeth Hay, a daughter of the eighth  Marquess of Tweeddale. One of her brothers was the ornithologist Viscount Walden, and another the Admiral of the Fleet Lord John Hay. She married Lord Douro in 1839 and was appointed Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria in 1861 by the Liberal Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, and continued in that rôle until 1868, serving through the governments of Lord Russell, Lord Derby and Benjamin Disraeli. She was again Mistress of the Robes in Disraeli’s second government, 1874 to 1880. Her husband died on 13 August 1884, and the Dowager Duchess survived him for exactly twenty years to the day, dying at Bearhill Park, Walton-on-Thames on 13 August 1904.

The second Duke of Wellington used to say to his old schoolfellow, the publisher Mr. John Murray : “I cannot write my father’s life, but I can at least see that the material is there for a biographer some day.” Accordingly, with praiseworthy diligence, he set to work and edited fourteen volumes of supplementary military despatches, and eight volumes of civil correspondence, bringing it down to the year 1832. Here, then, are thirty-four volumes, each containing, on an average, about six hundred and fifty closely printed pages—truly he were a bold man who should claim to have extracted all that is of moment from such a vast storehouse.

ln October 1882 the Duke was having trouble with his eyesight and wrote: “l avail myself of another hand kindly placed at my disposal, as l am not yet permitted to read or write. l dare say,  you will remember my sight was very indifferent when you were at Stratfield Saye. lt went on from bad to worse, until at last it became absolutely necessary that l should undergo an operation which I did a few days ago with perfect success.” The operation involved the removal of one eye, but the Duke retained his sense of humour throughout. Afterwards, the surgeon who performed the operation mentioned to the Duke that the eye would be preserved and kept for study. The Duke suggested that this might present a good opportunity for the doctor to make some extra money – by betting people that they couldn’t guess the distance between the Duke of Wellington’s eyes.

After Wellington’s death, the 2nd Duke of Wellington allowed the public to visit the principle apartments of Apsely House from 1853 onwards on written application. He made some alterations but the main rooms remained substantially intact until the 7th Duke of Wellington presented the house to the nation in 1947.

The 2nd Duke of Wellington uttered what are amongst the most poignant words in history when, upon realizing that he would soon be succeeding his illustrious father to the title, he was said to have remarked, “Imagine what it will be when the Duke of Wellington is announced, and only I walk in the room.”

The Darker Side of London History

From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

Very few horses are allowed to end their days in peace, after long and faithful service, like the Duke of Wellington’s old charger Copenhagen, in the paddocks at Strathfieldsaye. London horses, in particular, rarely die natural deaths. Many of them are sent back into the country in a vain hope that they will ‘come round’; many of them are poleaxed for very shame at their miserable appearance; some of them slip and injure themselves beyond recovery in the streets.
A curious trade is that of the horse-slaughterer, who must not only have a licence, but carry on his operations in accordance with the 26th of George III. and other Acts of Parliament. No horse that enters his yard must come out again alive, or as a horse. The moment it enters those gates it must be disfigured by having its mane cut off so close to the skin as to spoil its value, and though it may be put in a ‘pound’ on the premises, which might better be called a condemned cell or a moribundary, it must not remain there for more than three days.
In Garratt Lane, Wandsworth, is the largest horseslaughtering yard in London. It has existed for about a hundred years. There it stands, practically odourless, by the banks of the winding Wandle, with a wide meadow in front of it and a firework factory next door, the magazine of which is within measurable distance of its boiler-house. One fine morning—it was really a beautiful morning—we found our way down the lane, along the field, armed with Mr. Boss’s permit, to be initiated by Mr. Milestone into the mysteries of a horse’s departure from the London world.
The last scene does not take long. In two seconds a horse is killed; in a little over half an hour his hide is in a heap of dozens, his feet are in another heap, his bones are boiling for oil, his flesh is cooking for cat’s meat. Maneless he stands; a shade is put over his eyes; a swing of the axe, and, with just one tremor, he falls heavy and dead on the flags of a spacious kitchen, which has a line of coppers and boilers steaming against two of its walls.
In a few minutes his feet are hooked up to crossbeams above, and two men pounce upon him to flay him; for the sooner he is ready the quicker he cooks. Slash, slash, go the knives, and the hide is peeled off about as easily as a tablecloth; and so clean and uninjured is the body that it looks like the muscle model we see in the books and in the plaster casts at the corn-chandler’s. Then, with full knowledge gained by almost life-long practice, for the trade is hereditary, the meat is slit off with razor-like knives, and the bones are left white and clean and yet unscraped, even the neck vertebrae being cleared in a few strokes—one of the quickest things in carving imaginable.
If there is any malformation the sweep of the knife is stayed for a moment; that is all. The same sort of thing has always been seen before, and there is no hesitation about the way to deal with it. No matter of what breed or age or condition the horse may be, his ‘boning’ is not delayed by peculiarities. And horses of all sorts, some of them sound and in the prime of life, here meet their doom—the favourite horse killed at his master’s death, to save him from falling into cruel hands: the runaway horse that has injured a daughter; the brute that has begun to kick and bite; the mildest mannered mare that has, perhaps, merely taken a wrong turn and made her mistress angry—all come here to die with the hundreds of the injured and the old. Taking them all round, the old and young and sound and ailing, they average out in the men’s opinion at rather over eleven years when they here meet their doom.
Soon the bare skeleton remains to be broken up and in baskets go aloft to be shot into a huge digester, where it is made to yield about a quarter hundredweight of oil. Following the oil, we see it cleared of its stearin, pressed out between huge sheets of paper, and remaining in white cakes like gauffres ready for the candle-makers; and we see the oil flowing limpid and clear into the tank above, from which it is barrelled off to be used eventually for lubricating and leather-dressing purposes.
Returning to the bones, we find them out on the flags, clean and free from grease, ready to be thrown into a mill, from which they emerge like granite from a stonebreaker, along a sloping cylindrical screen, which sorts the fragments into sizes varying up to half an inch. And stretching away from us are sacks, full to the brim with bones, all in rows like flour-sacks at a miller’s, all ready to go off to the manure merchants. And still further following the bones, we find some of them ground to powder and mixed with sulphuric acid to leave the premises as another form of fertiliser.
Having seen the bones off the premises, we follow the feet, of which we find a huge pile, not a trace of which will be left before the day is out. The skin and hoofs will go to the glue-makers and blue-makers; the bones will go to the button-makers; the old shoes will go to the farrier’s and be used over and over again, welded in the fire and hammered on the streets, so that all that is lost of a horseshoe is what rusts or is rubbed off in powder..-.
With a glance at the tails and manes, which will soon be lost in sofas, chairs, or fishing-lines, we reach the heap of hides, which will probably find its way to Germany to be made into the leather guards on cavalry trousers, or, maybe, stay in this country for carriage roofs and whip-lashes. This distribution of the dead horse may seem to be an odoriferous business, but the odours are reduced to a minimum by an elaborate ventilating system which draws off all the fumes and emanations into a line of pipes, and passes them over a wide furnace to be burnt, so that none of them reach the outer air.
But now for the ‘meat,’ which, cut into such joints as the trade require, has been boiling in the coppers and is now done to a turn, with just the central tint of redness and rawness that suits the harmless, necessary cat, while the ‘tripe ‘ is doing white in another copper to suit the palate of the less fastidious dog.
Harrison Barber, Limited, the successors of the once great Jack Atcheler, dead some thirty years since, kill 26,000 London horses a year. All night and all day the work goes on, this slaying and flaying, and boning and boiling down, and this cooking for feline food. Go to any of their depots between five and six o’clock in the morning, and you will find a long string of the pony traps and hand-carts, barrows and perambulators, used in the wholesale and retail cat’s-meat trade. The horse on an average yields 2 cwt. 3 qrs. of meat; 26,000 horses a year means 500 a week, which in its turn means 70 tons
of meat per week to feed the dogs and cats of London.
This is not all the ‘meat’ that is sold, nor all the London horses that are killed, for the horseflesh trade is large enough to employ thirty wholesale salesmen; but taking even this ten tons a day, we shall find it means 134,400 meals, inasmuch as a pound of meat cuts up into half a dozen ha’porths—the skewers being given in, though it takes half a ton of them to fix up a day’s consumption. Here is another item for the forest conservation people! 182 tons of deal used a year in skewering up the horses made into meat by Harrison Barber!
Sometimes there is a glut of the aged and the maimed, and the supply of meat exceeds the demand. To cope with this difficulty a complete refrigerating plant is at work at Wandsworth, cooling the larders, in which two hundred and fifty horses can be stored; which larders are not only a revelation, but a welcome surprise.
A door is opened and shut, and we stand in the darkness between two doors in an air lock; the inner door is opened and a shiver of cold runs through us as a match is struck and a candle lighted; and there in front is what looks like a deep cave in an arctic drift. Around us are piles of meat, all hard as stone and glittering with ice crystals; overhead, and at the back of all, the beams and walls are thick with pure clinging snow; and from above a few flakes fall as the door closes on the silvery cloak that wraps the last to leave the Horse World of London.