Travels with William Porden: London to Guildford, 1793

As his diary records (archive ref. D3311/4/4), on 25 May 1793, architect William Porden set off in the stagecoach to Guildford in order to visit Hampton Lodge in Farnham, Surrey.  He doesn’t mention why he was going, but possibly the owner of Hampton Lodge was a client.

This is a journey that nowadays takes just over an hour (according to Google Maps – I feel sceptical you can actually get out of London by car that fast!), but in 1793 took three to four days.  Mr Porden rarely mentions the scenery on his travels; on such long journeys it was your travelling companions that made the journey more or less enjoyable. There only seem to have been two other passengers on this journey:

At 8 in the morning left London in the Guildford – Passengers W Gill a Gentleman of some fortune in the Neighbourhood of Guildford, and the Rev W Chandler … a neighbour and acquaintance of Mr Gill. He was a Gentleman Parson and more interested in the affairs of this world than the next. I had no reason to think his natural abilities or his arguments extraordinary. His remarks were common place and related more to fashionable amusements than general life and literature.

Mr Gill appeared to be a man of sense, and well acquainted with men and books. I did not think him polite with regard to me, but perhaps I ought to have blamed myself, for having rose early after a night of little sleep I was not much disposed to attentions – however it seemed as if he was willing to keep state with Passengers in a Stage Coach.

The Rev W Chandler seems to have been doing most of the talking on this journey, and the topics of conversation certainly didn’t verge into the religious.  They discussed Ranelagh, the fashionable public pleasure gardens in Chelsea:

A View of Ranelagh Gardens, 1754, copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum

A View of Ranelagh Gardens, 1754, copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum

Mr Chandler said that about 30 years back the Company used to assemble at Ranelagh from 6 to 8 o’clock and retire about 11 or 12. It was no uncommon thing for a Gentleman to drive himself in a Phaeton, full dressed, bag [wig] and sword to drink tea there and return by eleven or earlier – At this day few persons of fashion think of going till eleven or twelve.

Mr Chandler also had something to say about horses:

When Horses are landed from a vessel they always fall down the moment their feet touch the Ground. Those who are acquainted with the circumstance take care to have them landed on straw to prevent them from breaking their knees.  Mr Chandler was once obliged to swim a favourite Horse to a packet that lay off Brighton at above a mile distance.  The Horse was slung and hoisted out of the water when the tackle broke and plunged him again into the sea – by good fortune he turned towards shore and swum out amidst the hollowing [hallooing] of the spectators which with the peculiarity of his situation hade him tremble with terror.  He was afterwards swum back to the vessel and safely embarked.

Poor horse!

2 thoughts on “Travels with William Porden: London to Guildford, 1793

  1. Thank you so much – it’s great to identify Mr Porden’s travelling companions. You’ve inspired me to try and track down the not-very-religiously-inclined parson, Rev Chandler. Browsing through the Surrey marriage registers on Ancestry (every marriage entry gives the name of the minister who officiated at the ceremony, so this is a handy way to check up on names) has uncovered a J F Chandler who was curate of the parish of All Saints, Witley, about 3 miles South of Eashing. He seems a likely candidate – it’s quite likely that Mr Porden got his first name wrong, or I might have misread it.

  2. “The Buildings of England: Surrey” by Nairn, Pevsner and Cherry, 2nd edition, 1971, gives Hampton Lodge, Seale as by Porden in 1798 “a small Picturesque villa…” Sales particulars of 1799 say “erected with great taste from the designs of an Architect of the first Eminence”.
    The client would have been Nathaniel Snell who had purchased the estate in 1793. He was a merchant with family and business partnership interests in trade with the West Indies and owning plantations there. The County History of Surrey by Manning and Bray (three volumes c.1810) recorded that Snell had “expended a considerable sum of money in enlarging the house and beautifying the estate”. The house was substantially altered and enlarged again c.1860 leaving little of Porden’s work identifiable.

    W. Gill the travelling companion was probably from Eashing near Guildford and Godalming where the family had a large house and extensive estate.

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