The Swan Circle

A story of Georgian networking

Breakfast with the Austens

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


Godmersham Park

On a Sunday morning in 1812 Fanny Catherine Knight the niece of Jane Austen set out for church with her family. It was midsummer and Godmersham Park must have been delightful, a picturesque retreat set in the lovely verdant countryside of the Stour Valley.
Later that morning, the family sat down for breakfast and were joined by Mr Louch an acquaintance from the town of Hythe. He stayed awhile, no doubt enjoying the park before eventually accompanying the family to dinner. In May 1814 he dined with the family again, this time at Chawton Great House and in the June, he delivered a letter from Cassandra Austen to her sister Jane to which the author replied:

June 23rd 1814 Henrietta Street: I received your pretty letter while the children were drinking tea with us, as Mr. Louch was so obliging as to walk over with it'.

But who was Mr Louch and how did he come to know the Austen family? The answer to this lies with my great, great, great, great grandmother Elizabeth West formerly Louch.
After the death of her husband she took over the proprietorship of the Swan Tavern at Brentford with her daughter Sarah, son Henry and his wife Henrietta Stevens. The business had been hugely successful and as a consequence the family had acquired numerous properties at Brentford where various members of the family resided including Elizabeth's unmarried sister Jane Louch. The sisters appear to have had a brother called James Louch and nephews William, James and perhaps a John who was recorded as vintner of the White Hart in Brentford in 1791. The same year William Louch was listed as the proprietor of the Drum Inn at 319 High Street, Brentford, but in 1813-14 he seems to have rented a large portion of Churcher's College in Petersfield, Hampshire described as 'the whole of the front of the said college and the kitchen behind the same' for a guinea a week.
During his residence at Churcher's College, William would have received William Stevens Louch son of his brother James and great nephew of Elizabeth West. Sometime prior to 1806, William Stevens Louch had become the business partner of Henry Thomas Austen (pictured below right). They were recorded in partnership at the formation of two banks: Austen Blunt & Louch at 13 Market Square, Petersfield; and Austen & Louch at 93 High Street, Hythe, Kent.
Their business venture and the bank crash that followed the abdication of Napoleon is well documented and I do not intend to cover it here, but an excellent account is provided by T. A. B. Corley in an article for the Jane Austen Society called Jane Austen and her brother Henry's Bank failure. There is also an online source listed at the end of this article.
Despite such full accounts of the bank collapse, there is very little information about Mr Louch, so it seems appropriate to provide some accompanying material here.
William Stevens Louch was born on 25 April 1788 at Brentford and was the son of James and Sarah Louch. Both of his parents may have died in 1796 leaving him and his sister Mary Ann under the guardianship of their uncle William. His grandfather James had married Mary Staples at Twickenham and they seemed to have had links to the Stevens family of Box Hedge House, Steventon. 
William's early life is a mystery, he appears to have been well educated and survived the bank crash despite being gazetted for bankruptcy in 1816. At the time of the crash he was living at Hythe in Kent, but by 1851 he had moved into Hanover Chambers at 12 Buckingham Street, Westminster with three others: Thomas Withers, David G. Henderson and John Hodge a stock broker. William never married.
In 1856 his portrait was painted by the enamel painter William Essex and exhibited at the Royal Academy. Mr Louch was a keen art collector and had managed to acquire a number of paintings by Essex and by the artist Caleb Robert Stanley. No doubt these ornamented his rooms at 12 Buckingham Street and 1 Durham Place, Chelsea where he lived until his death in 1871. The house at No, 12 is part of a terrace just off the Strand in the parish of St Martin in the Fields and is now the Regent Language School. Samuel Pepys had also lived at No. 12 and is said to haunt the grand staircase probably scaring the current students as a 'blurred, smiling phantom'. Other previous occupants include Mary, Countess of Fauconberg, the third daughter of Oliver Cromwell; Sir Thomas Pelham, afterwards 1st Baron Pelham and after Mr Louch, the novelist Benjamin Leopold Farjeon.

In 1870 William prepared his Will and apportioned the following bequests:

'I give to the trustees of the South Kensington Museum the following pictures videlicet four miniatures on enamel by Essex of Shakespeare Garrick Milton and Nelson Oil painting of Callendar Bridge Scotland by C R Stanley watercolor drawings of Kilchurn Castle Ireland and a view of the Shannon by C R Stanley… and two small miniatures on metal of the father and mother of the Pretender…'

The stunning painting of Callendar Bridge by Stanley can be viewed on the Victoria & Albert Museum website. I have not been able to trace any of the other works or the portrait of William Stevens Louch, however I am sure they are stored in a vault at an art gallery somewhere.
William had no immediate family and therefore left a number of legacies to his godchildren. But his most generous contributions were reserved for the hospitals of London:

'One thousand pounds to the trustees of Saint George's hospital Hyde Park Corner one thousand pounds to the trustees of the Westminster hospital Broad Sanctuary Westminster one thousand pounds to the trustees of the Middlesex hospital Charles Street… one thousand pounds to the trustees of St Mary hospital Paddington one thousand pounds to the trustees of the Brompton Consumption hospital five hundred pounds to the trustees of the Institution for homeless No. [?] Great Queen Street Lincolns Inn Fields and two hundred pounds to the trustees of the Victoria hospital for children Gough House Chelsea…'

Clearly William had not suffered as a result of his business ventures with Henry Thomas Austen and the only real victim appears to be their relationship. He is not mentioned by either Fanny or Jane after 1814 and it seems unlikely that he breakfasted with the Austens again.

MJ Holman @mishjholman

From Fanny Catherine Knight's pocket book:

June 21st 1812 Godmersham: 'Morning Church. Mr Louch came to breakfast and staid to dinner. Mr Hoare came to dinner'.

May 17th 1814 Chawton Great House: 'Mr and Mrs Papillon and Miss Jackson, and Mr Louch dined here and some from the cottage. A letter from Edward'.

Online source for information on Henry Thomas Austen's business failure:


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:

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