Sunday in the Park….London Style, Part One

Victoria here, with an account of our busy Sunday, June 13. London Open Squares Weekend was a surprise to us, discovered only a couple of days before we left for London, but it was a great opportunity to supplement our Artie Trail.

Kristine and I started our Sunday at the Queen’s Gallery, attached to Buckingham Palace where we visited the “Victoria and Albert in Love” exhibition that will take several blogs to describe in detail, but of course, no pictures allowed inside.

After we had our fill of the wonderful exhibit, we walked around Buckingham Palace just for the fun of it.  Changing of the Guard was long over and the crowds small.
We passed the Diplomatic Entrance where one enters for the tour of the Palace later in the summer while the Royal Family are in Balmoral.  I was lucky enough to go through the palace a few years ago. Amazing decoration, furniture and enough paintings to fill several huge museums. Truly masterpieces collected throughout the centuries.

You know what this is!
And this.
A lonely sentinel stands guard at the empty palace. The Royal Family were in Windsor for the Ascot Races.

Just in case someone wonders to whom this place belongs, this coat of arms should tell the story.
And this is a very bad picture of the memorial to Queen Victoria that stands in front of the Palace.

Here’s a better picture I found on a tourist site. It’s a different side.
A view of St. James Park from the Palace frontage as we walked to find a taxi to the next item on our agenda.
  The National Army Museum stands just south of the Chelsea Hospital in Royal Hospital Road. This museum is devoted to the history of the Army.  The larger Imperial War Museum in Lambeth Road (housed in the former Bedlam) has even more displays covering all the military.

To get us in the mood for the rest of the day in the Open Squares gardens, I just had to photograph some of the lovely geraniums outside the museum.

At right  is the model of the Waterloo Battlefield constructed by Captain William Siborne which now sits in the Army Museum. It’s huge and has severa
l accompanying narratives to explain the sequence of action. Siborne worked on it for many years and his story is a fascinating one. But he made the mistake of crossing the Duke of Wellington by trying to reconstruct the battle logically when, the Duke said, it was not possible. Wellington is quoted as saying there was “no hope of ever seeing an account of all its details which shall be true.” 
Many of the displays at the Army Museum show uniforms, medals, weapons, surgical instruments and camp equipment actually used at Waterloo.  Kristine has already described the saw used to amputate Lord Uxbridge’s leg (he was later named Marquess of Anglesey) and the bloody glove the surgeon wore. On exhibit is the Duke of Wellington’s barometer that survived the Peninsular Wars and Waterloo.  There’s more of the same…
One painting showed the army followers, sutlers selling provisions, the cattle driven along in its wake, and the many camp-followers. The label read, “Soldiers of both armies concentrated on trying to keep warm, dry, healthy and fed.” 
When we had spent sufficient time in the gift/book shop and cafe at the museum, we set out to spend a few hours overcoming the horrors of war by looking at some gardens. One was just a few blocks from the museum in Chelsea.
Here is the descripton of Markham Square, usually open only to residents, from the Open Squares booklet: “The building of the original square was begun in 1836 on the site of the old orchard of Box Farm, owned by the Markham family who had had common rights since the ‘29th year of Elizabeth’. In 1935 the garden was laid out as a cherry orchard in celebration of the Silver Jubilee of George V.

After WW2, the square was redesigned in the style of a private country garden by the head gardener at the Royal Hospital. The garden is notable for its light, open aspects and unusual trees, none of which has been allowed to obscure the colourful borders.”

All above photographed at Markham Square.
Almost across King’s Road was Wellington Square, where Kristine is currently house-hunting.
On this note of “Pretty in Pink” we moved on to Belgravia and our dinner with Carrie Bebris.  See Part Two.  But just so you don’t think we were worn out yet, here’s a little picture of Victoria and Kristine exactly as we looked that day.

Too bad the artist* was unable to complete the garden vista on the right as he painted us consulting the local maps. And we didn’t even get our hems dusty!

*Sir Thomas Lawrence, who else?

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.

Rule Britainnia, at the top of our lungs

Saturday, June 12, was a busy day for Kristine and me.  Victoria here, to tell you about a couple of experiences to add to the list Kristine has already provided.  This was the day she arrived in London, Saturday, when we visited Apsley House, saw the naked bike ride and walked to Horse Guards in Whitehall, not far from Trafalgar Square.  We didn’t have enough energy left to walk any farther, but we had enough oomph to sing!

I am getting ahead of myself, however. As we walked east on Piccadilly, we found the Athenaeum Hotel (at the corner of Down Street). As you can see at above, right and below, it is a vertical garden. This is a lovely idea and has caught on in other cities, so watch for more of them.

A bit farther east, we turned down St. James Street and left on Jermyn St. to see the statue of Beau Brummell.  Here is Kristine with one of her heroes — not Artie, but nevertheless…

After the Beau, we struggled onward to look at Waterloo Place, almost at the site of Prinny’s Carlton House. Today it is not very busy, flanked by the cream-colored buildings of Carlton Terrace and leading to steps down to the Mall. It is the end (or begining) of Regent Street.

The center column is a memorial to the Duke of York, second son of George III who was chief of the army most of his adult life.  Sometime we need to do a blog on this character too.  His mistress, Mary Anne Clark, sold her influence with him to various officers seeking favors — and it was a great scandal. I am not sure he would have had this column if it hadn’t been for the Duke of Wellington.

As we walked along, we passed this building which had the old-fashioned open flame gas lights on either side of the main door.  I think my pictures actually show the fires.  Look closely. We were amazed. It is apparently the home of the Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall, but nothing as tacky as a name plate was posted.

 As we walked, slowly, drooping more than a little by now, into Trafalgar Square, I asked Kristine if she’d like to see if there was a concert at St. Martin’s in the Fields church. She said, “Yes, and I want them to play Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks.”

Well, dear readers, we were just in time to buy tickets, visit the loo and sneak into the back row as they began a program of Handel, Mendelssohn, with a full choir and orchestra.  Designed like the Prom concerts at Albert Hall, this one also had a sing-along section. And of course a suite from the Royal Fireworks music was included. We both had the chills at that! And it was thrilling, glorious music, every note of it.

Well, at least until the sing-along when we jouned in.

I was quite naughty and stood up to take a picture, but please don’t tell anyone.

So what did we sing? The Old 100th Hymn, and the verses to Rule Britannia. The conductor instructed us not to change the word rule to rules, so we didn’t.  Here is the refrain: “Rule Britannia, Britannia, rule the waves; Britons never will be slaves.”

We also sang three verses of the National Anthem:
God save our gracious Queen, -Long live our noble Queen, –
God save the Queen! – Send her victorious – Happy and glorious, -Long to reign over us; God save the Queen!

Thy choicest gifts in store – On her be pleased to pour, -Long may she reign:  May she defend our laws,- And ever give us cause – To sing with heart and voice – God save the Queen!

Nor on this land alone, – But be God’s mercies known – From shore to shore: Lord, make the nations see – That men should brothers be, -And form one family,- The wide world o’er.

Very nice sentiments indeed.  We also sang that staple of Prom concerts, Jerusalem, by Parry. I’ve heard it many times and always wondered exactly what the words were. Here are the two verses we sang:

And did those feet in ancient time – Walk upon Engl
and’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God – On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine – Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here – Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold! – Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O Clouds unfold! – Bring my my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight, -Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem – In England’s green and pleasant land.

Well, there it is!  Perfectly Victorian. The orchestra and chorus ended the concert with a rousing version of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah.

When we left the church, there was a large crowd still hanging around in Traflagar Square, but we had heard no shouts of victory. When we returned to the pub next to our apartment, we found that the US and England had tied — a draw.  Yes, it was the World Cup visit to London for us — everywhere people were mad for it.

Frankly, we were prepared, if the US had actually defeated England, to say we were from Canada.  But since it was a draw, we sat down with a couple of very cute young guys and downed a pint or two. No one was really down in the dumps over the game, but they were not happy either.  Turns out that at least one of these fellows was an arborist from northern England, in London helping set up for Taste of London in Regent’s Park, which went on the weekend we left for Waterloo.  Be assured that our conversatons were sufficiently motherly!! They were definitely of an age with our kids!!

A long, but absolutely fabulous day. Need I tell you we were exhausted and slept like babies?

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.