The Tale of Lady Hertford, Prinny, Audubon and Chinese Wallpaper

In 2010, there was an exhibit at Temple Newsam in Leeds entitled ‘A House of Birds: American Birds in a Chinese Garden,’ which told the amazing story of what happened when the former owner of Temple Newsam House, Isabella Ingram (known as Lady Hertford), decided to get creative with the décor in her sitting room in 1827. Once upon a time, Prinny (the future King George IV) was courting Isabella, and after a visit to the house in 1806, he gifted her mother, Frances, Lady Irwin, with several rolls of blue, handpainted Chinese wallpaper.

This wallpaper was hand-painted in China for the export market. It dates from c.1800 and was intended to form a panoramic view of an Oriental garden. The garden is planted with flowering trees and shrubs in vases, and the viewer looks out over an alabaster balustrade.

These wallpapers were made in panels about four feet square and were shipped in this form to Europe. However, Lady Irwin apparently had no liking, or use, for the paper, which mouldered away in a closet for the next twenty-one years.

Lady Hertford

Finally, Lady Hertford dug out the rolls of wallpaper in 1827 when she was redecorating the house and used them as the basis for the Blue Drawing Room (also known as the Chinese Drawing Room), creating the space in what had been the best dining room. By this time, however, the wallpaper had become a tad dated and its design was much more subdued than current fashion dictated. What’s a Lady to do? Lady Herford eventually hit upon a unique decor scheme and used a bit of decoupage to add some zip to Prinny’s wallpaper, embellishing the design with prints of exotic birds cut from John James Audubon’s famous publication The Birds of America. Audubon had visited England in order to get financial backing for the series and Lady Hertford had subscribed to the first issue. In a letter to his wife, Audubon tells her that Lady Hertford had cut out and used his prints to jazz up the wallpaper so that we know he was aware of the fact. Unfortunately, Audubon did not expand upon the mention, so we will never his views on the matter.

 

It should be noted that in 2000 an original copy of Audubon’s The Birds of America sold for $8.8 million dollars, which is still a world record price for a book.

 

Temple Newsam house itself has a long history and was first mentioned in the Domesday Book. In 1155 it was given to the Knights Templar and Thomas, Lord Darcy built a four-sided courtyard house on the site in the early sixteenth century. In 1537 the property was seized by the Crown following his execution for treason (he was involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace rising). Henry VIII gave the house to Margaret, Countess of Lennox in 1544, and her son, Henry Lord Darnley, was born in the house the following year. In 1565 the estate was again seized by the Crown, this time by Elizabeth I, after Lord Darnley made the mistake of marrying Mary Queen of Scots.

The house fell into disrepair, and upon his accession in 1603, James I of England gave the estate to his cousin Ludovic, Duke of Lennox, and it languished tenantless until Sir Arthur Ingram bought the estate in 1622 for £12,000; he rebuilt the house as the three-sided building which exists today, one wing of the old house being kept as the central wing of the new house. There was a financial crisis when the family lost a fortune in the South Sea Bubble, but that was sorted out by a son marrying an heiress; so more work could be done on the house, and Capability Brown landscaped the park.

Through the nineteenth century there were major works done on the interiors and the grounds, and in 1904 the estate was inherited by a nephew, Edward Wood, first Earl of Halifax; in 1922 he sold some of the parkland to Leeds Corporation for £35,000 and they eventually acquired the house for free.

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

December 25th

My Own Heart – The London coach arrived today, bringing with it your gift of a partridge and a pear tree. You are too clever by half!
Yours For Eternity

December 26th

My Love – Two turtle doves! How simply smashing. I cannot wait to see you again that I might thank you personally. You are too droll.
For Ever and Ever

December 27th

Darling – There we were, my footman and I, dispensing bird seed when what should arrive at Blicking Hall but three French hens. You cannot imagine the look they brought to the footman’s face. Truly, you shouldn’t have.
Always

December 28th

Sweetheart – Four calling birds. How quaint. You should know that my lady’s maid is making noises about leaving the Hall. The footman is none too happy, either, although the local carpenter is quite over the moon to have been hired to construct the aviary. Typically, work is scarce for him at this time of year.
Love

December 29th

Dearest – How could you do this to me? I do not mean to be short with you, but none of us here has gotten much sleep of late, what with all the billing, cooing, chirping and calling the birds are wont to do.
Yours
P.S. Thank you for the five golden rings.

December 30th

Dear – Now you’ve done it. Cook is quite put out by the six geese laying in her kitchen, and no wonder. You must end this. Accomplished cooks are difficult to come by in the country.
As Ever

December 31st

Dear Sir – I am most heartily sick of the sight of feathers. Your seven swans arrived today and are swimming in the ornamental fountain in the conservatory. Oldham has been snorting at me disdainfully all morning. Have you ever been snorted at by your butler? It’s off putting, to say the least.
Happy New Year

January 1st

Sir – Is there a market for spare goose eggs? The eight maids you sent today are a welcome sight, what with all the seeds and feathers we have to sweep up hourly here. Once they have finished with that, the maids intend to walk to the village, where they are determined to help with the milking. Wherever shall they all sleep?
Please Cease and Desist

January 2nd

To Whom It May Concern – This daily gift giving business is no longer amusing. The entire village have followed the nine drummers drumming to our door. The staff are up in arms, save for the footman, who has not been seen since shortly after the eight maids arrived.
Stop it!

January 3rd

You black hearted scoundrel – the magistrate appeared at Blicking Hall today. It transpires that the villagers are being driven to distraction by the ten pipers and their constant piping. Perhaps you should have sent mimes.

January 4th

Could you not have sent the eleven ladies dancing to Almack’s instead of to me? Do these outrageous gifts have anything to do with the betting book at White’s? Is that idiot Brummell somehow involved? Have you a good receipt for fowl fricassee?

January 5th

My entire staff have deserted me, taking with them the maids, pipers, dancing ladies and, blessedly, the drummers. There is the tiniest bit of good news – I have been given to understand that some of them have made successful matches and are currently bound for Gretna Green. I was headed to my rooms with a bottle of port when who should arrive but twelve lords a leaping. And what lords they are – so handsome, so gallant, so utterly divine! How could I have doubted your intentions? Please give my regards to all in London, as I fear I shall be much too occupied here at Blicking Hall to partake of the Season.
Your Most Grateful Friend

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.