Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

Finally, Emma Thompson reprises her role as Nanny McPhee (yipppeee!) and is joined by Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maggie Smith, and Rhys Ifans. I believe that the US version is to be called Nanny McPhee Returns. In the sequel, Nanny McPhee arrives to help a harried young mother who is trying to run the family farm while her husband is away at war and uses her magic to teach the woman’s children and their two spoiled cousins five new lessons.

On a farm in Britain during World War II, Mrs. Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is driven to her wits end by her hectic life. Between trying to keep the family farm up and her job in the village shop, aided by the elderly and slightly mad Mrs. Doherty (Maggie Smith), she also has three boisterous children to look after, Norman (Asa Butterfield), Megsie (Lil Woods) and Vincent (Oscar Steer). All of this she has to do while her husband is away at war. So when her children’s two spoiled cousins, Cyril (Eros Vlahos) and Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson) are sent to live on their farm and another war is being fought between the two sets of children, she is in need of a little magic.

At first, it takes a big bang of Nanny McPhee’s stick to make the children realise that they cannot go on fighting and they eventually learn to tolerate each other. Meanwhile, Mrs. Green’s brother in law, Uncle Phil (Rhys Ifans), has gambled away the farm and is being chased down by two hit women. He desperately attempts to make Mrs. Green sell her half of the farm, using many mean and spiteful schemes.  One day, Mrs Green takes all the children on a picnic, at the end of which Uncle Phil delivers a telegram saying that Mr. Green has been ‘killed in action’ in the war. Mrs Green believes the telegram, along with everybody else. But Norman says that he can “feel it in his bones” that his father is not dead. Soon, the children, with Nanny at their head, are off to the war office in London to get to the bottom of things.

I won’t tell you any more – that should be enough to whet your appetitie if you’re a Nanny McPhee fan, as am I. The film has already been released in Britain and is scheduled for release here on August 20th. In the meantime, you can visit the film’s official site here. The Telegraph sums up their review of the film by saying “This is a shrewd, heartfelt piece of work.”

Sunday in the Park – Part Two

Victoria here, continuing with a report on our Sunday, June 13, as we tried to get to as many open square gardens as we could.  We made a small detour on our trek from Markham Square to the next garden on our agenda in Belgravia. While we were walking up King’s Road in Chelsea, we came across a Jo Malone shop. Kristine is a devotee of their products and I had my introduction, so we had a brief shopping opportunity sandwiched among our gardens. I was amused by their shades with similar arrangements to their windows.

Properly lotioned and perfumed, we walked on to Eaton Square, that fabled location of Upstairs, Downstairs, exteriors filmed at 65 Eaton Place, appearing as 165 Eaton Place (which does not exist). The houses of Belgravia are beautiful, and almost entirely of this same or similar design of white stucco with balconies outside the principle floor.  The neighborhood was developed on property owned by the Grosvenor family (Dukes of Westminster) in the 1820’s. It remains a posh district, though most of the houses are either embassies, offices and/or apartments.  I could settle for one of the apartments, I think.

Here is the description from the Open Squares Weekend booklet: “Eaton Square is one of London’s premier addresses. Together with Belgrave Square, layout was started in 1826 by Thomas Cubitt (1788–1855) for the Grosvenor Estate. The gardens were named after Eaton Hall in Cheshire, home of the landowners, the Dukes of Westminster.”

One of the six separate squares was welcoming guests and we found it charming and beautifully appointed.

Planters, pools, lawns, many trees and flower borders all add to the comfortable effect.

I love contrasts, such as these plants show. Of course I don’t know their names, but the yellow-green against the orange and dark green is perfect.

Here a bower of clematis vines shade a bench. Perfect for an afternoon settling in with a good book. I would include a couple of pillows in my kit.
Would it be an English garden without roses?  I particularly like these blush-tone beauties — again a perfect contrast to the dark greenery.
They had a Punch and Judy show for the special weekend visitors.
These children were more interested in photographing flowers and insects, though the butterflies seemed preoccupied.
The tree above is usually called a Plane Tree. You find these all over London (and many other European cities) because they seem to thrive on the polluted air in urban areas. In fact, one gardener told me that they had done even better when the air was filled with coal dust in the early 20th C. Plane trees are closely related to the North American Sycamore, aka Buttonwood.
Above, more views of Eaton Square.
Our next stop was Cadogan Place Gardens, again named after a prominent family in 18th C. London. 
Here is the description: At the end of the 18th century this garden was originally known as the London Botanic Garden.
The severe storm in 1987 resulted in the loss of many large trees, which have now been replaced with a variety of ornamental trees, opening up the garden. The 300-year-old mulberry trees on the south lawn are thought to have been grown for the silk trade; an interesting mixed border is planted opposite the mulberries. On the east side, a walk running the length of the garden is being developed for spring interest, along with a fern garden.
Near the tennis courts, a water garden is partially hidden by black bamboo and willows, while the centre south garden displays the Hans Sloane Garden, created for the 2005 Chelsea Flower Show. William Wilberforce (1759-1833), campaigner for the abolition of slavery lived at 44 Cadogan Place.
A few flowers in Cadogan Gardens, above and right.  The Cadogan name is pronounced, according to the official taking our tickets: Kuh-DUG-un. 
Our next stop, and let me tell you, we were dragging by this time, was Belgrave Square, also part of the Grosvenor estate development of the 1820’s. Here is the description:  A 4.5-acre private garden designed by George Basevi, first planted by Thomas Cubitt in 1826 and now restored to its 1867 layout. The latest element in this work has been the re-instatement in 2008 of the original viewing mound in the centre of the garden.
There are many trees, including large plane trees dating from the original plantings, and pergolas covered with wisteria and roses. The square also features a quiet garden, a play area for children and a tennis court.

  

The statuary around the garden reflects the international nature of the square and offers a rare chance to see a collection of modern figurative work. A 1998 statue of Sir Robert Grosvenor by Jonathan Wylder at the corner of Wilton Crescent features the quote from John Ruskin: ‘When we build, let us think we build for ever’.

The Belgrave Square garden committee seeks to balance the maintenance of the garden’s historic character with the needs and expectations of modern users and the preservation of the square for the future. The result is a garden which offers peace and tranquillity in a busy city and also provides a fun play space for local children.
By this time, I was yearning for a bench to rest my weary — well, which were in worse shape? My aching feet? My tired legs? Or my poor back?  And it was almost five o’clock when the gardens would be locked up again.  So we staggered into Wilton Crescent and flopped down on the nearest bench.
Wilton Crescent is surrounded by more of tho
se stately white stucco houses.  If you look closely at the photo, you will see one of the metal sculptures of a tree that decorate the garden.
Here is the description: Wilton Crescent was an addition by Thomas Cundy, the Grosvenor Estate surveyor, to the original 1821 Wyatt plan for Belgravia. The garden was highly commended in the 2009 London Gardens Society Competition.
 Right is another of the sculptured trees which make a dramatic contrast to the green shrubbery and must be quite pretty in winter too.  We liked the neighborhood.  And it was just a very short walk to our next adventure.
Here is the doorway of one of the houses we picked out as our possible pied-a-terre in London. But on second thought, that topiary on the left is a little crooked. Guess I’ll have to keep looking.  But I’ll stay in this neighborhood so my local pub will be….
The Grenadier!  Yes, our long and winding road through London gardens brought us through this little mews to the pub and the comfort of a nice chair and a cool brew. We were a bit early for our meeting with Carrie Bebris and her dad Jerry, so we sat around and talked to other patrons. Kristine got a chance to practice her French accents with a pair of travelers from Switzerland.
The sentry box seems to be only a storage shed, decorative as it is. It was too light to look for the ghosts. As if we had the energy left to find them!  They never did make an appearance that evening, probably realizing we would only ask them for foot massages and back rubs.
Carrie and Vicky shared a hug in one of the two tiny dining rooms.  Carrie and her dad Jerry were finishing up her research trip to Lyme Regis, Bath and environs with a couple of days in London.  Carrie, author of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series,  is working on her next novel in which the Darcys will meet up with Captain and Mrs. Wentworth, of Persuasion fame.
 
Above, Carrie Bebris and her dad Jerry Morris
We were lucky to s
ecure a table since The Grenadier was packed. Not that it takes very many people to fill its two tiny dining rooms and taproom. We all four enjoyed the Sunday Roast dinner — beef with potatoes, bed and Yorkshire pudding. Yum!
Since the Grenadier is located quite close to the barracks where some of the Duke of Wellington’s troops were housed, it used to be filled with redcoats…but nary a one was there Sunday night.  Above is the mounting block used by the Duke of Wellington after his visits to The Grenadier.
After dinner, we searched for the ghosts, but they eluded us.
 There were lots of pretty flowers. But no ghosts.
We said good-by at the tube stop at Hyde Park Corner. Yes, that is Apsley House in the distance at the far right.  Carrie and Jerry had tickets for a play at the Globe theatre the next night.  Kristine and I had a day of shopping planned. 
And lots more walking!

Mr. Lee of Hammersmith

England has always been a land of gardens and gardeners and so we thought it appropriate to begin a few posts which deal with the subject. Of course, if you’re going to garden you are going to need plants. One of the most respected and most successful nursery gardens was that of Messrs. Lee, of Hammersmith, one of the oldest in the neighbourhood of London, which survived until the early part of the 20th century.

Mr. James Lee, who established the nursery, was born at Selkirk in 1715. When he first came to London he was employed at Syon, and afterwards at Whitton (pictured above), by the Duke of Argyll. About the year 1760 he entered into partnership with Mr. Lewis Kennedy, gardener to Lord Bolton, at Chiswick, and commenced a nursery, in what was called The Vineyard, at Hammersmith. About the middle of the 18th century, the vineyard was producing a considerable quantity of Burgundy wine each year. A thatched house was built in the grounds; with wine cellars beneath. Mr. James Lee and his partner took it and established a most successful Horticultural Nursery, remarkable for obtaining from distant countries everything rare and  beautiful to be obtained. They maintained collector at the Cape of Good Hope, and another in America and enjoyed world-wide celebrity. Every known, rare, or new plant could be obtained there. They once received a letter addressed, “Lees Nursery, England” which reached them readily. They were the first to obtain a China rose (right) in 1787. These roses changed the cultivation of
roses in many ways, including the fact that they broadened the scents of rosesm new blends becoming apparent as they were hybridized with other roses, such as damasks.

James Lee had an encyclopedic knowledge of plants and the greenhouses were quite extensive and almost as old as the nursery itself, offering a good stock of many species with a very full collection of Fuchsias, the best being F. ignea, a variety raised by Messrs. Veitch of Exeter. The flowers are very large, with the colours (crimson sepals and purple corolla) bright and strong, and the sepals reflexed. Other good varieties on offer were striata (Veitch); Don Giovanni, with a fine open corolla; Grand Master, similarly fine; and Prince of Orange, with pale and large flowers, shown at left.

In fact, so well known were Mr. Lee’s Fuchsia’s that there is a legend surrounding his acquisition of a certain variety. This tale has been told and appears in print numerous times, most floridly perhaps in the Ladies Repository of 1871. Here is the version that appeared in Sharpe’s London Magazine in 1846, entitled The Fuchsia Tree:

MR. SHEPHERD, the respectable and well-informed conservator of the Botanical Gardens at Liverpool, gives the following curious account of the introduction of that elegant little flowering shrub, the Fuchsia, into our English green-houses and parlour windows. Old Mr. Lee, a nurseryman and gardener, near London, well known fifty or sixty years ago, was one day showing his variegated treasures to a friend, who suddenly turned to him, and declared, “Well, you have not in your collection a prettier flower than I saw this morning at Wapping.”—”No! and ‘pray what was this phoenix like?”—”Why, the plant was elegant, and the flower hung in rows like tassels from the pendant branches; their colour the richest crimson; in the centre a fold of deep purple,” and so forth.

Particular directions being demanded and given, Mr. Lee posted off to Wapping, where he at once perceived that the plant was new in this part of the world. He saw and admired. Entering the house, he said, “My good woman, this is a nice plant, I should like to buy it.”—”I could not sell it for no money, for it was brought me from the West Indies by my husband, who has now left again, and I must keep it for his sake.”—”But I must have it.”—”No, Sir!”—” Here,” emptying his pocket, “here are gold, silver, copper;” (his stock was something more than eight guineas.)—”Well-a-day I but this is a power of money, sure and sure.”—”Tis yours, and the plant is mine; and, my good dame, you shall have one of the first young ones I rear, to keep for your husband’s sake.” —”Alack, alack!”—”You shall, I say, by Jove!” A coach was called, in which was safely deposited our florist and his seemingly dear purchase. His first work was to pull off and utterly destroy every vestige of blossom and blossom-bud; it was divided into cuttings, which were forced in bark-beds, and hot-beds; were re-divided, and sub-divided. Every effort was used to multiply the plant. By the commencement of the next flowering season, Mr. Lee was the delighted possessor of 300 Fuchsia plants, all giving promise of blossom. The two which opened first, were removed into his show-house, A lady came;—” Why, Mr. Lee, my dear Mr. Lee, where did you get this charming flower?”—” Hem! ’tis a new thing, my lady—pretty, is it not?”—” Pretty! ’tis lovely. Its price?— ” A guinea—thank your ladyship;” and one of the two plants stood proudly in her ladyship’s boudoir. “My dear Charlotte, where did you get it?” —” Oh! ’tis a new thing; I saw it at old Lee’s; pretty, is it not I”—” Pretty! ’tis beautiful! Its price?” —” A guinea; there was another left” The visitor’s horses smoked off to the suburb; a third flowering plant stood on the spot whence the first had been taken. The second guinea was paid, and the second chosen Fuchsia adorned the drawing-room of her second ladyship. The scene was repeated as new comers saw, and were attracted by the beauty of the plant. New chariots flew to the gates of old Lee’s nursery-ground. Two Fuchsias, young, graceful, and bursting into healthy flower, were constantly seen on the same spot in his repository.


He neglected not to gladden the faithful sailor’s wife by the promised gill; but ere the flower-season closed, 300 golden guineas chinked in his purse, the produce of the single shrub of the widow of Wapping; the reward of the taste, decision, skill, and perseverance of old Mr. Lee.

Along with Carl Von Linne, Mr. Lee wrote An Introduction to Botany, published in 1760, which went through five editions, and for many years was in the highest repute. James Lee died in the year 1795, at the age of eighty years, his partner,
Mr. Kennedy, having died previously.

The nursery was carried on by the sons of the two founders till 1817, when they dissolved partnership. It then became the sole property of James Lee, the second, who died in 1824, leaving it to his family. In 1827 John Lee was joined in the conduct of this important business by his brother Charles, who was born at the Royal Vineyard Nursery on February 8, 1808, and died on September 2, 1881. The firm was conducted under the title of John &; Charles Lee till 1877, when Mr. John Lee retired, and William Lee, the Son of Charles, joined his father in the management of the business. In 1881, however, upon the death of Charles Lee, the veteran John again, for a time, accepted harness, coming to the assistance of his nephew, who was very deeply affected by the loss of his father. The firm limped along until the early part of the 20th century and is, alas, no more.

Empress Josephine’s Connection to Mr. John Lee coming soon!

On The Wellington Trail – Part Two

Lord only knows how, but Vicky, Brooke and I also found time to visit Gray’s Antiques Market in London. It’s a warren of little shops selling all manner of stuff. We found a military specialist who had a samll, framed, woven silk Waterloo commemorative picture that he wanted L650 for (!?!?!) and assorted other incidentally Wellington stuff that was likewise priced outrageously. As Vicky and I were walking out, Brooke came to tell us that she’d found another shop nearby where Artie-facts were going for a reasonable sum. Off we raced and Vicky found a smaller version of the Wellington portrait I’d gotten at Storey’s, while I found a framed color cartoon of the Duke done in 1831 for McLean’s Magazine. In fact, Brooke got so good at sussing out Artie-facts this trip, Vicky and I nicknamed her “Scout.” (You’ll be seeing photos of Vicky’s Wellington portrait in future posts).

On Wednesday evening, Brooke and I were walking towards Leicester Square in order to visit Chinatown for a Peking duck dinner and happened to be passing when I glanced up and saw the street sign that read “Cecil Court.” I pulled Brooke aside and glanced at the shops. This time, the only one that was open was Mark Sullivan Antiques, where I’d seen the Wellington figurine in the window (at left). In we went and were greeted by Dave and Mark. The inside of the shop is an absolute treasure trove and Dave proved to be knowledgeable about both antiques and the Duke of Wellington. He pulled out all the items he had on hand related to the Duke. It seems the present Duke of Wellington had just been in on the Saturday. You don’t say!? And what, pray tell, does the Duke of Wellington collect? Items related to the first Duke of Wellington, of course. Really. I thought this a bit rich. I mean to say, hasn’t the man already got enough first hand Artie-facts scattered about Strathfield Saye and Apsely House – not to mention in the cellars and attics? What about the statue in the window, I asked Dave, why hadn’t the Duke bought that on Saturday? Because, Dave explained, he’d only gotten it in on Sunday and put it in the window on the following Monday. We then chatted a bit more before Dave tried to stump me by throwing out Artie one-liners. “Sparrow hawks, ma’am,” Dave offered. “Said to Queen Victoria, Great Exhibition of 1851,” I responded, unruffled. “Publish and be damned,” said Dave. “Harriet Wilson,” I replied on a yawn. “By God, man, so you have!” said Dave. “Please,” I sneered, “Too easy. Artie’s response upon Paget’s telling him he’d just lost his leg.” 
At this point Brooke stepped into the breach and advised Dave, “You might as well give up. You’re never going to stump my mother on the Duke of Wellington.”  “She certainly knows her stuff,” agreed Dave before we set about the buisness of hammering out prices for the various Artie-facts he’d brought out. This is when Mark asked Brooke and I if we’d like a brandy. I accepted, Brooke declined. Mark asked if we’d like to smoke. We both accepted. So we all stood around the shop drinking brandy and smoking and went back to chit chatting about the Duke of Wellington. The first Duke. All very civilized and I must say, it’s a good thing I don’t live in London or I’d be dropping in on Dave and Mark on a regular basis. Great chaps. Fabulous shop. Rather good brandy. But back to the nitty gritty. We finally talked turkey and, yes, I bought the figurine. As well as an 1852 Wellington commemorative medal, a brass profile plaque of the Duke and the pot and lid below, which depicts Wellington out riding at Stratfield Saye. What the heck – in for a penny, in for a pound. Or in this case, many pounds. I knew, however, that if I didn’t invest in the figurine I’d live to regret it.
By the way, when the Artie-facts I bought arrived this past week, I was in alt. They’d survived the transatlantic shipping unscathed. I breathlessly unwrapped the figurine – the piece de resistance, the jewel in the crown  –  and held it up for my husband to see, awaiting his enthusiastic hand clapping, squeals of delight and many exclaimations of joy.
“We need a bigger house,” was all he said before turning his attention back to the t.v.
(And he doesn’t know the half of it)

One day Brooke and I headed south of the River to Southwark to have lunch at a pub called “The Wellington at Waterloo” – it’s just outside Waterloo tube station.
Inside, there’s a fabulous mural of the Battle of Waterloo on the curved, barrel ceiling.

It seems that in the 21st century, the Duke lends his name to as many pubs as eateries, as evidenced by the Wellington Cafe, below, at the real Waterloo. One can only imagine what the Duke would make of eating his dinner to the accompaniment of a French marching band.
During our Waterloo tour we made many stops at the site of the iconic battlefields involved in the  engagement. At one site, our tour coach parked and our guide shuffled everyone off the bus to see Napoleon’s view point. It was freezing, the wind was blowing and, really, I thought I’d pass on another look at another empty field. However, as he was exiting the bus, our guide threw out the fact that across the street stood La Belle Alliance. What!? I watched as the group walked away in the opposite direction. Wait! Where are you going? Are ya kidding me? La Belle Alliance – Napoleon’s headquarters but, infinitely more important, the site where Wellington and Blucher met after the Battle of Waterloo to acknowledge their victory. Cold and wind aside, I was off the bus like a shot and across the street. Honestly, the place looks just as it must have in 1815. I’d show you, but I was too shocked to even think of taking a picture. The wide, wooden gates were thrown open, the Inn and the courtyard were there for anyone to see – and I was the only one in sight.
I spent several minutes walking the cobbles, gazing at the wooden door to the inn and the stone horse troughs, imagining what it must have been like for those present in 1815 when Wellington and Blucher met on that spot. Incredible.
Note from Victoria: Kristine dragged me over and I got two shots of the farmyard below. Not very impressive, but meaningful!!!

Next day, we attended the re-enactment of the Battle and, afterwards, headed to our last stop – the Wellington Museum. Oh, how I was looking forward to this. Those sites we’d already visited that had gift shops only had items for sale related to Napoleon. Nothing, and I mean nothing, related to the Duke of Wellington. Really, Wellington might just as well have stayed in bed and not been at the Battle of Waterloo at all if the souveniers were anything to go by. Hello? He’s the man who defeated Napoleon. At Waterloo? Jeez, you’d think they’d at least have a postcard . . . . So it was with eagerness that I anticipated the Wellington Museum gift shop because, really, a girl can never have too much Artie memorablia.
The museum is housed in the building Wellington used as his headquarters. Where Alexander Gordon died. Where Paget’s leg was buried. My first glimpse of the building was promising.

(Yes, that is my finger in front of the lens)

Well, the first room you enter is the gift shop. And it was absolutely chock full of . . . . Napoleon stuff. No, I’m not kidding. Believe me, I searched every item in the joint for something Artie related. Nada. Nil. Nuttin’ Honey. And all of the display signs are in French. As far as I could tell, there was no indication as to which room Gordon had died in. Upstairs, there’s a room where there’s a desk and seated behind the desk is a wax figure that looks like Wellington if Wellington had been a crackhead who had been on a four day bender. I’m assuming this was the room Wellington used as an office, but who knows?

The redeeming portion of the visit was what lay out back – Paget’s leg. Okay, okay, it’s really only the spot where Paget’s leg once lay. It seems that when he died, his family had the leg disinterred, sent to England and buried with the rest of Paget – or Lord Uxbridge, who became the Marquess of Anglesey. But still . . . Paget’s leg. I mean everyone who was anyone who travelled to Waterloo after the Battle made a pilgrimage to see the grave. And now I was there, too.

So here ends the Wellington Trail. I didn’t pursue Artie-sites in Paris, as I figured the British Embassy had probably undergone many changes between now and then. And I found nothing Wellington related at the printsellers in Paris. Although they did have much Napoleon stuff. Sigh. Talk about revisionist history. All in all, I can’t complain, because you have to admit that Vicky and I pretty much fulfil
led our intentions of doing all things Artie this trip over. We’re already thinking about our next visit, which will take place sometime between now and 2015, when I/we attend the next Wellington Conference held in Southampton, England (will also be doing Walmer Castle and Stratfield Saye). And 2012 is obviously out, as we don’t want to have to contend with Olympic Fever in London. In the meantime, watch this space for many more posts related to our Tour.

Give `Em The Wellie – An Introduction to Bootmaker George Hoby

George Hoby was not only the greatest and most fashionable bootmaker in London, but, in spite of the old adage, “ne sutor ultra crepidam,” he employed his spare time with considerable success as a Methodist preacher at Islington. He was said to have in his employment three hundred workmen; and he was so great a man in his own estimation that he was apt to take rather an insolent tone with his customers. He was, however, tolerated as a sort of privileged person, and his impertinence was not only overlooked, but was considered as rather a good joke. He was a pompous fellow, with a considerable vein of sarcastic humour, as evidenced in the following anecdotes handed down to us by Captain Gronow.
I remember Horace Churchill, (afterwards killed in India with the rank of major-general,) who was then an ensign in the Guards, entering Hoby’s shop in a great passion, saying that his boots were so ill made that he should never employ Hoby for the future. Hoby, putting on a pathetic cast of countenance, called to his shopman,
“John, close the shutters. It is all over with us. I must shut up shop; Ensign Churchill withdraws his custom from me.” Churchill’s fury can be better imagined than described. On another occasion the late Sir John Shelley came into Hoby’s shop to complain that his topboots had split in several places. Hoby quietly said, “How did that happen, Sir John?” “Why, in walking to my stable.” “Walking to your stable!” said Hoby, with a sneer. ” I made the boots for riding, not walking.”

Hoby was bootmaker to George III, the Prince of Wales, the royal dukes, Beau Brummell, most of the aristocracy and many officers in the army and navy. His shop was situated at the top of St James’s Street, at the corner of Piccadilly, next to the old Guards Club. Hoby was the first man who drove about London in a tilbury. It was painted black, and drawn by a beautiful black cob. This vehicle was built by the inventor, Mr Tilbury, whose manufactory was in a street leading from South Audley Street into Park Street.

No doubt Mr. Hoby had patterns for all manner of desirable boots, evidenced not in the least by his impressive client list. However, he will forever be linked to a boot design not of his making. Of course I refer to the Wellington boot, a pair of the Duke’s own boots of this design are pictured at left. Hoby had been bootmaker to the Duke of Wellington from his boyhood, and received innumerable orders in the Duke’s handwriting, both from the Peninsula and France, which he always religiously preserved. The Duke asked Hoby to modify the 18th-century Hessian boot to a height below the knee, in order to make them more practical for walking and riding. The resulting  boot was made of softer calfskin leather, had no trim, boasted heels one inch high and fit more closely around the leg, making it more practical and hard-wearing for battle, yet comfortable for the evening. The boot was dubbed the Wellington and was quickly adopted by Hoby’s other customers.

Hoby was also bootmaker to the Duke of Kent; and as he was calling on H.R.H. to try on some boots, the news arrived that Lord Wellington had gained a great victory over the French army at Vittoria. The duke was kind enough to mention the glorious news to Hoby, who coolly said, “If Lord Wellington had had any other bootmaker than myself, he never would have had his great and constant successes; for my boots and prayers bring his lordship out of all his difficulties.”

Hoby may have had a penchant for sarcasm and a high opinion of himself (and his own influence upon British military history) but he knew how to run a business – Hoby died worth a hundred and twenty thousand pounds.