The Swan Circle

A story of Georgian networking

The harmful vogue of Chinoiserie

18th Century Digressions, Occupations & Trades, The Georgian Home 1 Comment »


 'Chinese Baubles'

The growth of my passion for all things to do with the eighteenth century coincided with the success of retailers such as Past Times. Leafing through their gift catalogues whilst sipping from a glass of Pinot Grigio became a happy distraction and a moment to slip away from the present. The displays of decorative arts or chinoiserie wallpaper helped complete a fantasy that I could have my entire home ornamented in a vogue that reached its peak between 1750 to 1765.
   For many an eighteenth century wife, the style seemed to become a de rigeur home accessory for the fashionable much to the frustration of one commentator: 


Through the ignorant taste of the present times, ornamental China has become a universal fashion, and the veriest tradesman's wife within the weekly bills, would look down upon herself a downright Tramontane, unless she had an urn or a Mandarin on her chimney-piece. This pernicious custom has been a great loss to our carvers and dealers in looking-glass, who formerly supplied the ornamental part of our chimneys, and by that article alone, employed a prodigious number of hands, whose labour was extremely serviceable to the community; this circumstance, therefore is a fresh reason why the East India Company should be laid under some immediate and salutary restraints, as nothing can justify our allowing any set of adventurers an exclusive right to prejudice any manufacture of the kingdom”.
London Chronicle

 The writer continued to express his concern that thousands of pounds derived from the sale of such objects would go east to the Indian Princes, who would “acquire millions to squander on some European instrument of tyranny and murder”, while our industries are oppressed for the importation of “Chinese baubles”.
   These words were written as the fashion began to wane and décorative styles moved towards neoclassicism. The chinoiserie vogue faded and the impetus for the great British industrial engine was about to move up a gear and place these islands at the centre of new modes of manufacturing.

Catherine Palace

No. 73 Kew Green & a Royal visit

Family History, The Georgian Home, The Swan Circle, West Family 1750-1800 No Comments »

Centre of picture: Nos.  73, 75 and 77 Kew Green

Henry West and his wife Elizabeth lived in a house on the north side of Kew Green until Henry's death in 1784. The property they owned in copyhold is now two houses, nos. 73-75*, or no. 784 on the manorial survey and is described as part of 'five messuages, outhouses and yards about 1 rood and 14 perches'. Number 73 is now a Grade II listed dwelling (listed 1950) and consists of 'three storeys. Three windows. Parapeted brown brick front. Doorway with elliptical-arched fanlight. First floor balcony with tented canopy' (English Heritage).
After Henry's death the property transferred into the hands of his spinster daughter Sarah, who must have shared it with her mother Elizabeth and my great great great grandfather Henry. Henry junior married Henrietta in 1787 and they had one child Stephen who was probably born in the property in 1790. The house at number 77 was owned by John Dillman Engleheart who belonged to the famous dynasty of artists and he left the property to his niece Ann Engleheart; the dwelling was then let to German immigrant Frederick Albert, the father of Mrs Charlotte Papendiek assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe to the Queen. From the 1790s the house appears to have been occupied by Mrs Clementina Jokkobinn Sobeiski Schnell formerly Macdonald, who claimed to be the god-daughter of the Old Pretender.
    All these families would have watched from their windows as the carriages of visitors to Kew Gardens mounted and parked on the Green; how many times did they idly perambulate amongst the flowerbeds and trees of those famous gardens? Were they the ones that complained about Sunday parking and coaches causing ruts and destroying the grass?
    During the stay of George III and his family, the royal entourage passed along the road directly in front of the row of houses on its way to and from Kew Palace, accompanied by a troop of life guards. The Wests took this opportunity to entertain their royal neighbours. In her memoirs, Mrs Papendiek vividly recalled the parties the West family gave in their house on the ait opposite the Kew bank, entertaining the Court and no doubt the sons of George III, 'Parties came up by river too,' she wrote, 'with bands of music, to the ait opposite the Prince of Wales's House. The whole was a scene of enchantment and delight'.
    With such close ties to the royal household, the families alongside the Green would have been shocked by the attempted assassination of George III by Margaret Nicholson. On 2 August 1786, the King alighted his carriage at St James's Palace and was approached by a well-dressed woman carrying a slip of paper, thinking it was a petition he took the note, but the woman lunged at the King with a dessert knife. The King was unharmed and during the days that followed, burgesses and officials throughout the land paid grateful homage, thankful for the King's escape (London Gazette, 8th August).
    On 8 August 1786, the royal family arrived at Kew to a reception from the local inhabitants. Fanny Burney, who had taken a position as Second Keeper of the Robes earlier that year, recorded the event:

"An exceeding pretty scene was exhibited to-day to their Majesties. We came, as usual on every alternate Tuesday, to Kew. The Queen's Lodge is at the end of a long meadow, surrounded with houses, which is called Kew Green; and this was quite filled with all the inhabitants of the place — the lame, old, blind, sick, and infants, who all assembled, dressed in their Sunday garb to line the sides of the roads through which their Majesties passed, attended by a band of musicians, arranged in the front, who began "God save the King!" the moment they came upon the Green, and finished it with loud huzzas.
This was a compliment at the expense of the better inhabitants, who paid the musicians themselves, and mixed in with the group, which indeed left not a soul, I am told, in any house in the place.
  This testimony of loyal satisfaction in the King's safe return, after the attempted assassination, affected the Queen to tears: nor were they shed alone; for almost everybody's flowed that witnessed the scene. The Queen, in speaking of it afterwards, said, " I shall always love little Kew for this!"

If not a soul was left in any house as Fanny wrote, then Elizabeth, Sarah and Henry West were amongst those that greeted the procession and the meeting upon the Green, ever thankful for the safety of their King.

*They owned part of no. 75 as it was split into two copyhold plots. A single plot of three stories appears to have been added after 1777.

MJ Holman

No. 75 Kew Green1771 Manorial Survey of Richmond






From left to right: No. 73 Kew Green, No. 75 Kew Green, The manorial survey of 1771 showing plot no. 784 (no. 73)

No. 73 Kew Green is partly open to the public. Visitors can access the gardens of four houses along the north side of the green including no. 73 by visiting the NGS:

Kew and the Noble Savage

18th Century Digressions, West Family 1700-1750 1 Comment »

The idea for this blog first materialised when I began to research the family tree of my grandmother and realising the family had some extraordinary links, I decided to chart those connections. I wanted to create a complete story of those intertwined personalities, of places, of lifestyles and a contextual view of society as a backdrop.
   My grandmother's family the Wests moved to a house on Kew Green, Surrey in the early 18th century and are listed as occupants from 1746 through to at least 1794. The Wests had links to the Capel family, who granted them rights of passage to land passengers on the south bank of the Thames in the 1720s. At Kew Palace, the future George IV was undoubtedly a fan of their particular brand of entertainment, and they may have been unwitting middlemen in his pursuit of the actress Mary Robinson.
  The Kew connection is a delightful excuse to write about some individuals and events that may have been familiar to the family. The story of the short life of an eleven year old boy called John Savage would have been known to them. The burial register of St Anne's Church Kew has an entry recording his death:

"John Savage an Indian youth of the tribe of Catawa came from Michelmahana and was taken under the protection of Her Majesty May 29 1769 by whose gracious order he was committed to the care of Mr Bellamy. He was by his guardian sent to a respectable school at St Edmundbury, Suffolk. He died of rapid consumption April 21 1772 at Mr Bellamy's house at Kew in the 12th year of his age. Jack Savage was a youth of truly, amiable disposition and greatly beloved by all that knew him".

    The register entry immediately evoked Dryden's words from The Conquest of Granada, hence the title of this piece

"I am as free as nature first made man,
 Ere the base laws of servitude began,
 When wild in woods the noble savage ran".

   John Savage probably attended the King Edward VI School in St Edmundsbury under the guardianship of the Reverend Daniel Bellamy, minister of Kew and Petersham and the author of some poems and sermons on the Book of Job. 
   Life on the Green with its high profile personalities and the very strIct rules of the school, must have seemed far away from the world that Savage had came from.
The school, established in 1550, published a set of rules for teachers, parents and pupils:

Rules for staff in 1550
They shall abstain from dicing, gaming and tippling. They must not keep their family on the premises. Women like deadly plagues shall be kept at a distance. The masters shall not be excessively harsh or severe or weakly prone to indulgence.

When it is thought fit to allow some relaxation to unbend the mind and sharpen the wits the boys shall amuse themselves in decent sports such as running races, the use of the javelin or archery. They shall not play dice, knucks (knuckle bones) or chuck farthing (tossing coins). These games are unworthy of a well bred youth. The privilege of recreation shall only be allowed on Thursdays and only then if the weather is fine and the work of the scholars justifies it.

Rules for parents in 1550
You shall allow your child a bow, three shafts, bow strings and an arm guard to exercise shooting.

School rules for the boys in 1550
Those who cannot read and write shall be excluded. They must learn elsewhere the arts of reading and writing.

No boy shall come to school with unkempt hair, unwashed hands or dirty shoes or boots, torn or untidy clothes. Any boy misbehaving himself either in Church or any other public place shall be flogged.

They shall speak Latin in school. Truants, idlers and dullards shall be expelled by the High Master after a year's trial. Every boy shall have at hand, ink, paper, knife (used to sharpen a quill pen), pens and books. When they have need to write the boys shall use their knees as a table.

 MJ Holman

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