The Wellington Connection: Lord Nelson

Horatio, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington met but once in their lives and, thanks to diarist John Wilson Croker (The Croker Papers), we have an account of that meeting, in Wellington’s own words. The following account was told to Croker whilst he was visiting the Duke at Walmer Castle on October 1, 1834. The Duke’s telling of the story was prompted by a question put to him by Croker concerning Nelson’s reputation for egotism and vanity –

“Why,” said the Duke, “I am not surprised at such instances, for Lord Nelson was, in different circumstances, two quite different men, as I myself can vouch, though I only saw him once in my life, and for, perhaps, an hour.

“It was soon after I returned from India. I went to the Colonial Office in Downing Street, and there I was shown into a little waiting-room on the right hand, where I found, also waiting to see the Secretary of State, a gentleman whom, from his likeness to his pictures and the loss of an arm, I immediately recognized as Lord Nelson.

“He could not know who I was, but he entered at once into conversation with me, if I can call it conversation, for it was almost all on his side, and all about himself, and in really a style so vain and so silly as to surprise and almost disgust me. I suppose something that I happened to say may have made him guess that I was somebody, and he went out of the room for a moment, I have no doubt to ask the office-keeper who I was, for when he came back he was altogether a different man, both in manner and matter. All that I had thought a charlatan style had vanished, and he talked of the state of this country and of the aspect and probabilities of affiars on the Continent with a good sense, and a knowledge of subjects both at home and abroad that surprised me equally and more agreeably than the first part of our interview had done; in fact, he talked like an officer and a stateman.

“The Secretary of State kept us long waiting, and certainly for the last half or three quarters of an hour I don’t know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more. Now, if the Secretary of State had been punctual, and admitted Lord Nelson in the first quarter of an hour, I should have had the same impression of a light and trivial character that other people have had, but luckily I saw enough to be satisfied that he was really a very superior man; but certainly a more sudden and complete metamorphosis I never saw.”

Secret Southwark

Sometimes, the most interesting bits of history are right in front of us, but remain hidden from view because we’re just too busy to take proper notice of them. Below, we point out a few of the hidden historical gems to be found in Southwark.

Originally, street bollards were adapted from the French cannons captured at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. They were placed on street corners to stop the iron wagon wheels of carts from mounting the kerbs and doing damage and became so useful that bollards were installed throughout the City. Once the stock of authentic French cannons had been exhausted,  copies were made and can still be seen on the streets of London today. The bollard pictured at left is an original French cannon which stands on the Southbank near to Shakespeare’s Globe. For more information and photos, visit Bollards of London.

Hardly a secret since it’s now a cheesey tourist attraction, the Clink Prison (1 Clink Street, Bankside) is still of note. The Clink Prison Museum is built upon the original site of the Clink Prison, which dates back to 1144 making it one of England’s oldest, if not the oldest Prison.
Owned by the Bishop of Winchester, the Clink Prison was used to control the Southbank of London known as “The Liberty of The Clink.” This area housed much of London’s entertainment establishments including four theatres, bull-baiting, bear-baiting, inns and many other darker entertainments, including prostitution, smuggling and murder – a fact that meant that the Clink was never short of inmates. In fact, it’s still housing prisoners – in August 2006 an employee accidentally locked two tourists in the basement museum when locking up for the night and going home. They were released later that night after pressing the fire alarm. And they thought “You’ll be thrown in the Clink” was just an old saying.

The Ferryman’s Seat, Bear Gardens, Bankside is close by where Shakespeare’s Globe now stands. Long ago when London’s only river crossing was the London bridge, ferrymen waited to take people from one side of the shore to the other. On the South Bank stood many “Stews” the old name for brothels that were lined along this side of the river on the South Bank, as well as actors and troubadours who preformed at the Rose and the Globe theatres and the large crowds who came for the nearby bear baiting ring. Now set into the side of a modern building, the ferryman’s seat stands in exactly the same spot where the ferrymen rested between fares.

The Southwark War Memorial in Borough High Street was sculpted by Philip Lindsey Clark (1889-1977), a Captain during WWI who won the DSO before going back to study at the Royal Academy. This work of 1924 shows a soldier tramping through mud, while reliefs on each side show a biplane dogfight and a naval battle. A weeping wife and mother decorate the reverse.

Again not exactly a secret, since it’s still a popular pub and meeting place, The George Inn on Borough High Street is the last of London’s galleried coaching inns. For centuries, Borough High Street was the terminus for coaches travelling to London from the south when the old London Bridge was too narrow for them to cross into the City. Passengers used to eat and sleep here while they waited to board the horse-drawn coaches which handled long distance travel in the days before the railways. Rooms occupied the galleries that encircled the courtyard where the coaches stopped while the horses were changed and the passengers got on and off. The George dates from 1676, when it replaced an earlier inn destroyed by fire. While the northern and central wings were demolished for the railway in 1889, the southern wing remains intact. In 1937, it was taken over by the National Trust, which oversaw its repair and restoration.

London Bridge Station has the honour of being the oldest railway station in London. It opened on 14 December 1836 as the terminus of the London and Greenwich Railway, the first steam-powered railway in London and the first in the world designed specifically to carry passengers. It ran along a viaduct consisting of 878 arches originally intended to be rented out for housing. Since 1839, when the London and Croydon Railway began operation, the station has consisted of two parts, each of which has been altered and expanded many times. Having suffered bomb damage during the Second World War, the station was rebuilt and reopened in 1978.

Brooke and I actually came across Hopton’s Almshouses in June, when the gardens were alive with gorgeous roses. The Almshouses were founded by fishmonger Charles Hopton, who died in 1730. The 26 almshouses for ‘poor decayed men’ of the parish were erected in 1746-9 and opened in 1752. The residents, who included gardeners, watermen and fishermen were also granted £6 per year and 32 bushels of coal. In 1825 two extra houses were added. The complex includes two garden squares with centre lawns and roses, edged with shrubs. Outside the gates is a drinking fountain and cattle trough. The almshouses were rebuilt and modernised in 1988 and are used for housing, administered by The Anchor Trust.

The Continuing Story of "Mad Jack" Mytton

From Famous Racing Men by Willmott-Dixon Thormanby (1882):

The incidents of Mytton’s romantic and eventful life have been narrated with tolerable fidelity but questionable taste by his friend, C. J. Apperley (the famous “Nimrod”) . . . . John Mytton was born on the 30th of September, 1796, at the family seat of Halston, in Shropshire, three miles from Oswestry, and was left fatherless at two years of age. His mother spoiled him, and by the time he was ten years of age the young heir was what is called a regular pickle. He was expelled from Westminster and Harrow in succession. At the former school he spent £800 a-year, exactly double his allowance, and wrote, when he was only fourteen years of age, to Lord Eldon, the then Lord Chancellor, requesting an increase of income, as he was going to be married. The Lord Chancellor replied—” Sir, if you cannot live on your income you may starve, and if you marry I will commit you to prison.” At the age of nineteen he entered, as a cornet, the 7th Hussars, and joined that regiment in France with the army of occupation. But as there was no more fighting, Cornet Mytton was at leisure to enter into all kinds of youthful mischief. One of his feats was borrowing £3,000 of a banker at St. Omer one day and losing half of it at an E. 0. table in Calais the next.

John Scott, 1st Lord Eldon
He also lost 16,000 napoleons to a certain captain at billiards, which sum he was unable to pay at the moment. But this score was wiped off in a more agreeable manner. The colonel of Mytton’s regiment, the then Earl of Uxbridge, forbade his paying the money, and the captain in question was afterwards implicated in a transaction which went far to prove that Lord Uxbridge was morally right. When Mytton came of age he found himself possessed of an estate of about £10,000 a-year and £60,000 of accumulated cash, but a large portion of the latter had to go towards liquidating his already numerous debts. Quitting the army, he married, at the age of twenty-three, Harriet, the eldest daughter of the then lately deceased Sir Tyrrwhitt Jones, Bart., of Stanley Hall, Shropshire. The bridegroom was attended by the Earl of Uxbridge and the Earl of Denbigh, K.G., and the wedding was one of the events of the season. The issue of their union was only one daughter. Mrs. Mytton died a few years after her marriage, and there can be no doubt that her death was accelerated, if not actually caused, by her husband’s insane conduct and cruel neglect.
                                                            Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge

John Mytton was physically a fine animal: in height about 5ft. 9in., in weight 12st., with magnificent shoulders, a splendid chest, and an arm the biceps muscle of which was larger than that of Jackson’s, the celebrated pugilist, who was believed to be the most powerful man of his time in England. He was fond of displaying his strength, but it was perhaps fortunate that he steadily refused to learn boxing.

In dress Mytton was peculiar, not to say eccentric. He never wore any but the thinnest and finest silk stockings, with very thin boots or shoes, so that in winter he very rarely had dry feet. To flannel he was a stranger from the time he left off petticoats. Even his hunting-breeches were without lining; he wore one small waistcoat, always open in the front from the second of the lower buttons, and about home he was as often without a hat as with one. His winter shooting gear was a light jacket, white linen trousers without lining or drawers; and in frost and snow he waded through all water that came in his way. These, however, are not exceptional marks of hardihood, we know men of the present day who go as lightly clad through all the seasons. But Mytton went further than this. He would sometimes strip to his shirt to follow wildfowl in hard weather, and once actually laid himself down in the snow with absolutely not a stitch on him but his shirt to await the arrival of the ducks at dusk.
Curiously enough, extravagant though he was in other respects, Mr. Mytton made no great show in his establishment at Halston. There was every comfort but no display, and had he conducted all his affairs with the same regularity and simplicity as his menage at his ancestral seat he would never have run through upwards of half-amillion of money in less than fifteen years as he did. But it was not difficult to find where the screw was loose in his expenditure. His foxhounds were kept by himself and upon a very extensive scale, with the additional expenses of hunting two countries. His racing establishment was on a still larger scale, for he often had from fifteen to twenty horses in training at the same time, and seldom less than eight. His average number, indeed, of thoroughbred stock at home and from home, including brood mares and yearlings, was about thirty-six, which probably cost him something like £6,000 a-year. His game preserves, too, were a severe drain upon his income; for besides such items as £1,500 in one bill to a London dealer for pheasants and foxes alone, there was the formation of miles of plantations which this game went in part to stock, and which he employed a staff of fifty labourers to keep in order. He was a great friend, too, to the tailors, having frequently in his wardrobes as many as a hundred and fifty pairs of breeches and trousers, with a proportionate number of coats and waistcoats. In his cellars there were “hogsheads of ale, standing like soldiers in close column, and wine enough in wood and bottle for a Roman emperor.” He made his own malt, and “John Mytton, Licensed Maltster,” was painted in large letters over the malt house door. How much he spent on post horses it is impossible to guess; but almost every post boy in England knew “Squire Mytton” and lamented his fall. He never stayed at an inn without giving the waiter a guinea, and he would never pay a tradesman’s bill until he had received a writ. A strange unaccountable creature he was, who though always making a great pretence of
“enjoying life,” seems really never to have derived enjoyment from anything.
A summary of Mr. Mytton’s actual racing career may be comprised in a few words. He had too many horses in the first place, and too many of them not good enough to pay their way. It isevident he was anxious to have good ones from the prices he paid; but he bought several of that sort after their day had gone by; for example, Comte d’Artois, Banker, Longwaist, &c. He had, however, several good winners, old Euphrates at their head, and Whittington, Oswestry and Halston were esteemed very “smart” horses in the racing world. Indeed, it is believed that in some hands they would have proved trump cards. As for himself as a racing man he was too severe upon his horses: they rarely came out fresh after Chester and one or two other places. He seldom backed his horses to any serious amount, generally not at all. His stables were upon Delamere Forest, in Cheshire; his home-stud groom, Tinkler, was a careful nurser of young racing stock, but do what he would, Mr. Mytton was never able to breed a good racehorse.
It would be out of place to discuss here Mr. Mytton’s conduct towards his wives, of whom the second fared no better than the first. His brutality was inexcusable, and the most charitable supposition is that it was the result of a morbid insanity. For the last twelve years of his life it may safely be stated that he was never sober. His daily quantum of port wine was from four to six bottles; but even in spite of this excess he would probably have lived far longer than he did had he not in an evil hour discarded port for brandy. Even his adamantine constitution, “perhaps the hardiest ever bestowed upon man,” as ” Nimrod” says, was not proof against that. He went from bad to worse, till in the year 1830 the world heard without surprise that “it was all up with Jack Mytton.” Everything that could be sold was sold, and he retired to Calais with just a small pittance sufficient to keep body and soul together. There he completed the wreck of his magnificent physique by drinking brandy till he really was a raving lunatic. On partially recovering his senses, he came over to England, when he was arrested and thrown into the King’s Bench Prison, beyond the gates of which he was destined never to pass alive. For there he died in misery and squalor in the thirtyeighth year of his age. And so ended the mournfullest, the maddest, the most utterly wasted career of which the annals of the turf contain any record.
The (very sad) End

The True Story of Regnecy Eccentric "Mad Jack" Mytton

John `Mad Jack’ Mytton was born in 1796, the son of a Shropshire squire. Though he had a rather typical upbringing, John Mytton seems to have gone out of his way in order to earn the name “Mad Jack.” He drank several bottle of port each morning to “forestall the bad effect of the night air” and was also known to drink eau de cologne when nothing else was to hand. He drove his four horse gig recklessly, often stripped bare whilst fox hunting and arrived at one dinner party on a bear and dressed as a highwayman to hold up his guests as they left his house on their ways home. He is reputed to have kept 2,000 dogs and more than 60 finely-costumed cats, but Jack’s specialty seems to have been horses – A favourite horse ‘Baronet’ had full and free range inside Halston Hall, and would lie in front of the fire with Jack. And, he is said to have ridden his horse into the Bedford Hotel, up the grand staircase and onto the balcony, from which he jumped, still seated on his horse, over the diners in the restaurant below, and out through the window onto the Parade.

Once, he set fire to himself once in order to cure his hiccups. He survived, inherited Hallston Hall estate and a fortune worth about £500,000 a year by today’s standards, but ended his life at the age of thirty-seven in the King’s Bench debtor’s prison in Southwark.

                                                                         Copyright@Hallston Hall Estate

From the Halston Hall Estate website:

John ‘Mad Jack’ Mytton ‘invested’ £10,000 to become MP for Shrewsbury, handing out ten pound notes in order to buy votes, but spent less that half an hour in the House of Commons. Madcap pranks made Mytton a legend in his own lifetime. A drunken friend was put to bed with two bulldogs and a bear. Mytton went duck shooting by moonlight on Halston’s frozen lake, dressed in only his nightshirt. Disguised as a highwayman, complete with his blazing pistols, he ambushed departing guests on the Oswestry road. One biographer relates further details regarding the bear incident, adding that Mytton  rode the bear into his drawing room in full hunting costume. “The bear carried him very quietly for a time; but on being pricked by the spur he bit his rider through the calf of his leg.” ‘Mad Jack’ lost his money, but not his friends. Three thousand people attended his funeral. He is buried in the Chapel at Halston.”

Buried at Halston he may be, but the Mytton & Mermaid Hotel at Atcham is not only named for Mad Jack, but claims to be home to his ghost, which is reputed to appear each year on September 30, Mad Jack’s birthday. His funeral procession stopped at the Mytton, then a coaching inn, on the way to Halston Chapel. Fittingly, the Jack Mytton Way was opened in 1993 and covers 100 miles of spectacular Shropshire countryside. It is one of the longest bridleways in the country and is used by horse riders, cyclists and walkers, none of whom, we presume, have a penchant for leaping from balconies.

More anecdotes of Mad Jack’s life from Famous Racing Men by Willmott-Dixon Thormanby coming soon.