William Nightingale’s ‘Domesday Book’: guest post by Dr Richard Bates

Did you know that in a couple of years it will be 200 years since Florence Nightingale was born?  Many people aren’t aware that Florence’s family was from Derbyshire, but to link with her anniversary, the University of Nottingham has a major Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project called Florence Nightingale comes home for 2020. 

One of the researchers on this project, Dr Richard Bates, has been here at the Record Office looking through the records of the Nightingale family and was particularly interested by item D4126/1, snappily titled “Schedule of the Title deeds and Particulars of the Estates of Wm Ed Nightingale, Esq, in Lea, Holloway, Wakebridge, Matlock, Wensley &c &c in the County of Derby”

D4126 1 front

Richard writes:

This volume, dated 1825, was produced either by, or for, William Edward Nightingale (born William Shore), Florence’s father. It was most likely drawn up in the early 1820s. In 1815, William had assumed possession of a considerable estate of land, bestowed on him in the will of the eccentric Derbyshire industrialist Peter Nightingale, his uncle, who had died in 1803. However William, who had to change his name to Nightingale as a condition of taking the inheritance, only came to live in Derbyshire in 1821, having spent the initial years of his married life travelling in Europe, especially Italy. His daughters were named Parthenope, the Greek name for Naples, and Florence, after the cities in which they were born.

D4126 1 open

The book, held in the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock, is a compendium of every parcel of land comprising the estate built by Peter Nightingale in the Lea / Holloway / Cromford / Matlock Bath region of the Derbyshire Dales. The estate included the cotton mill at Lea – still a going concern as John Smedley Ltd – and a lead smelting factory, as well as agricultural lands, rented cottages, and a large swathe of garden and parkland. The size and annual value of every piece of land is enumerated.

D4126 1 page detail

The book is embossed in gold lettering, perhaps reflecting the importance of the contents to William – it was, in effect, the key to his fortune – and the pride he took in the estate and its management.  An accompanying account book, dated 1820, shows that the annual value of the Lea estate was at least £2200 – equivalent to around £125,000 today – from land totalling over 1100 acres. In total the Nightingale inheritance gave William an annual income of around £7,000. In addition, the Nightingale land in Derbyshire turned out to contain coal deposits, which generated further income that William could invest.

The Nightingale inheritance thus allowed William and his family to lead leisured gentry lives, mixing with and entertaining the great and good of 19th century liberal Britain.

Florence’s father turned out to be a good accountant, marshalling the family fortunes sensibly and solidly over five decades. This was crucial to Florence, who never married, and thus always relied on the family income. Florence could never inherit the estate herself, since Peter Nightingale had stipulated it could only be transmitted through the male line. This left her and her family in a precarious position – if her father had died young, her immediate family would have lost control of the money and been forced into reduced circumstances.

Fortunately, however, William lived until 1874. From 1853, when Florence definitively left the family household, William allowed her an allowance of £500 per year, which gave her independence. Later in life, Florence used the money from her Derbyshire-derived income to live in Mayfair, close to the politicians she was lobbying to enact sanitary reforms.

It’s our anniversary!

Time flies when you’re having fun!  It’s hard to believe that it’s five years ago today that the Record Office and the Local Studies Library joined together in a newly extended and refurbished building.  We were hurriedly tidying away the workmen’s tools as the doors opened and the first customers came in!

It feels like barely five minutes ago, but a lot has happened since February 2013.  Over 88,000 people have come to use the Record Office and we’ve produced 46,575 original documents for our customers.  We’ve also reached over 8700 people outside the Record Office doing events and activities for all ages – and let’s not forget all the emails, letters and calls we’ve received – nearly 17,500.

But numbers don’t tell the real story, so what have we been doing in the last five years?  Here are a few highlights:

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If you really want to get a sense of what we’ve been up to over the last five years, then browsing through this blog tells the story… from cataloguing, digitising and preserving our collections to going out and about engaging people with Derbyshire’s amazing past.

So what do the next five years hold?

Well, in part the future is digital, so we’re working on plans to continue improving digital access to our collections – this is a long process, but in five years’ time (and hopefully sooner!) we should have a radically different website and much more digital content.

In the meantime, we’re finishing off the Amazing Pop Up Archives project, which has seen us ‘popping up’ with our collections around the county.  We are also winding up our NUM cataloguing project and will be blogging more about that in the future.

There are plenty more projects in the pipeline, too – we usually have at least one funding bid on the go for cataloguing, conservation and/or outreach activities, although we can’t say anything on our blog about them until we know whether we’ve been successful.

One new project that started last summer involves a group of volunteers improving our descriptions of maps of the Derwent Valley.  They should be finishing that job soon, after which we will be digitising the maps so they can go online as part of the Derwent Valley Mills ‘Vital Valley’ project.  We’ll be looking to involve more volunteers over the next few years in other projects, building on the group of wonderful people who already support us, so if you’d like to be involved, get in touch.

We’ve had a busy and exciting five years in our lovely building.  Thanks to all our staff, volunteers and customers for being part of the last five years –  here’s to the years to come and all the opportunities they bring!

 

Travels with William Porden: French hotels in 1816

My love of snooping through, and blogging from, other people’s diaries has been on hold for a while whilst I’ve had to concentrate on other things. Recently, however, I had an opportunity to look more closely at collection D3311 (from which I blogged William Porden’s diaries earlier this year) and was delighted to discover a ‘new’ William Porden diary. I had been looking at the diaries of Eleanor Anne Porden, William’s daughter, who had also been writing a travel diary of their joint trip to France in 1816 – what a  marvellous opportunity to see the same experiences through two different eyes!

Even more marvellously, it turned out that the person who originally catalogued the diaries had been fooled by the fact that the books looked the same from the outside into thinking that they were all by the same person. When I opened one (D3311/14/3) and saw this:

It was perfectly clear that this was the diary of William Porden the architect, and not his daughter.

As ever, I also found some little snippets about their travels that charmed me. Here’s an account from Mr Porden’s diary for 13 October 1816, when they arrived at Cambray:

At our Inn “The Grande Canarde” we were much straitened for Bed Room and obliged to submit to inconveniences that in England would not be borne.  Miss Appleton and Eleanor slept in one bed and I was obliged to inhabit a small closet within it, with a Glass door, without any curtain, or any Accommodations for the toilet of a Gentleman.  This obliged me to rise early to give way to the Ladies, so undressed & unshaven I sallied forth and enjoyed a Walk on the Ramparts in a delightful morning…

On my return to the Inn I found the Ladies had not made the best use of the time I had allowed them, and we were all three obliged to finish our dressing together in a ludicrous manner which reminded me of Hogarth’s print of the Strolling Players dressing in a Barn.  I was shaving, the Ladies doing I know not what.  Though scenes like this are not unusual in France, it seemed to amuse the House, for during our operations two or 3 different servants came in with “Did you ring sir?”

If you want to know what they looked like, here’s William Hogarth’s Strolling Players rehearsing in a Barn (c) Victoria and Albert Museum:

Note that when William Porden refers to his ‘toilet’ he means washing, shaving and dressing – for a description of a French hotel toilet as we would understand the term, see this description.

Eleanor wrote in her diary (D3311/14/2) on 10 October of an experience when they arrived at an inn that clearly wasn’t used to having guests:

It was dark when we reached Montdidier and established ourselves in the two rooms at the Grenadier Francois … there were three domestiques or rather three sisters of the Maitresse who all made errands into the room and crowded round us, and gaped, and stared, as if we had been the most extraordinary monsters in the world.  They said they had very few passengers by that road and still fewer who slept there, and talked much of an English lady and four children who had been there about six months before, and whom of course we were expected to know.

… after chatting and writing a bit, when we wanted our warming pan, not a soul was stirring.  Our rooms had indeed a superfluity of chairs of all descriptions and sizes, but neither pillow, blanket, water nor napkin [towel]

It transpired that the fire was also out in their room. However, the intrepid Miss Appleton was nothing daunted:

Up started Miss Appleton, and Papa as a faithful Squire, followed. Downstairs she flew and after chasing the Cats that were stretched upon the hearth, and stirring the embers, found some that had life.

Their clattering around to find warming pans finally woke the mistress who came in her chemise [nightwear] and provided them with everything they needed…

She even pulled the pillow from under her master’s head to accommodate us, for there was but one more in the house…. I have seldom slept more comfortably.

Having spent a couple of months in each other’s company in intimate situations like this, the friendship between Miss Appleton and the Pordens is shown to the full in this ‘certificate of good behaviour’ within Eleanor’s last diary (D3311/14/4), just before the Pordens returned to England:

It reads:

Certificate of good behaviour, drawn up by Papa to be signed by Miss Appleton – previous to her departure for Paris –

Lille to wit –

To all whom it may concern –

We the undersigned do hereby certify that during a journey of Five Hundred miles in which we have been subject to various vicissitudes and divers inconveniences Monsieur Porden our Companion and Protector has conducted himself with becoming discretion, and that when we were all obliged to sleep in the same chamber, as oftentimes befell, he never peeped behind the Curtain at improper seasons; never pretended to turn his back while he was watching from the looking glass before him; never presumed to tye the Garters of any lady unless he was requested so to do; and farther, that the Kisses with which he dispelled the slumbers of the morning were soft as the breath of Favonius and pure as paternal love – Given under our hands this 26th day of October in the year of our Lord – 1816 –

Elizabeth Appleton

Signed at W Porden’s particular request but with a mental reservation as to some of the clauses of this certificate against which I shall hereafter formally protest.

Eleanor Anne Porden

The (very) Young Victoria… Miss Appleton and the Duchess of Kent

ITV’s ‘Victoria’ is back on television, and so this seems a good time to follow up on my previous blog post about Miss Elizabeth Appleton, where I mentioned that some sources suggested she had been considered as a governess for the future Queen Victoria.  The reason for this suggestion can be found in William Porden’s diary (archive reference no. D3311/4/6).  On 10 September 1820, Mr Porden writes:

Miss Appleton at dinner.  She has lately published a book on the Early Education of Children which she has dedicated to the Duchess of Kent and having received a visit from Gen [blank] on the part of the Duchess about a fortnight ago, has been in high expectation of being summoned to attend her Royal Highness and perhaps her flattering fancy may have given her an establishment in her Royal Highnesses household.  She has now received a Letter from Capt. Conway commanding her attendance on Wednesday.  What will be the result?

Miss Appleton clearly described what happened on her momentous visit to the Duchess of Kent in great detail, as it takes up nearly three and a half pages of Mr Porden’s diary.  She visited on 13 September and the young Princess Victoria, who would have been almost 16 months old at the time, is described (like many babies of that age!) as ‘a healthy fat thing’ .  After being passed through a chain of servants, she waited in ‘a magnificent Drawing Room’ until she  was taken to the Duchess’ dressing room for an audience…

Where besides the Duchess were the little Princess seated on a piece of Tapestry, the English Nurse attending her and other Attendants standing round rather in Scenic Order.  She was most graciously received and had perhaps half an hour’s rather familiar conversation.

Miss Appleton had brought a doll as a present for the princess, which was:

…given to the Child on the Carpet who appeared delighted with it but began to pull its head-dress and cloathing as made Miss A apprehensive that its drapery which she had taken so much pains with would be destroyed before her face.

Anyone who knows small children of this age would hardly be surprised at this!  Miss Appleton mentions that she was dressed in white, whereas the Duchess and everyone else was in black.  The Duke of Kent had died in January of that year, and Miss Appleton’s outfit seems to have been a bit of a faux pas, as ‘The Princess was struck with the contrast, and showed surprise, more than pleasure.’

Painted a few years later, this portrait of the duchess (still in black) and her daughter, by Henry Bone, gives an indication of how the Duchess would have looked.

Unfortunately for Miss Appleton, the book dedication and her visit didn’t result in a job offer.  Given the fact that she subsequently opened a highly profitable school, she perhaps didn’t mind too much in the end.

Miss Elizabeth Appleton – an independent Regency woman

Those of you who followed William Porden’s travels in France in 1816 will remember Miss Elizabeth Appleton, who was so very seasick on the channel crossing. This intrepid young woman, befriended by the Pordens, was journeying to the Continent alone, and appeared to be a seasoned traveller. The friendship continued after their return to Britain, and Mr Porden continues to mention Miss Appleton in his diaries, for example on 29 August 1820:

At Mr Flaxman’s in the Evening.  [Present were] Mr Owen Pugh, Miss Appleton, Mr J Denman, Mr and Miss Flaxman, Maria Denman and selves.

I suspect this Mr Flaxman is John Flaxman RA and Owen Pugh, who Mr Porden describes as a Welsh Antiquary, would be Dr William Owen Pughe.

So who was Miss Appleton?   As to what she looked like, we have Mr Porden’s description of her in an entry of 13 Sept 1820 as ‘a tall, genteel figure, nearly 6 feet high’.  She is clearly well educated and wealthy enough to travel abroad for pleasure.  She is of independent means and also socialises with eminent people of the day.  Well, with the wonders of the internet it’s proved possible to identify exactly who she was – here’s how and what I found.

I started with a search for her name in the British Newspaper Archive on www.findmypast.co.uk, which brought up a few Elizabeth Appletons.  Bearing in mind what I already knew about her education and social status, this notice in the Morning Post on 28 January 1822 seemed likely to be the right Miss Appleton:

I also found this marriage notice on 4 February 1826:


This led me to the marriage in Southampton on 21 July 1825 of John Lachlan McLachlan and Elizabeth Appleton.  Note the fact that the newspaper got John McLachlan’s name slightly wrong, a good reminder that the facts in newspaper articles should always be checked.   In fact, her married surname continued to make it difficult to find her online. I eventually found she had her own Wikipedia entry under ‘Elizabeth Lachlan’ which then led me to an entry about her in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, under Elizabeth Appleton (married name Lachlan).  I should have just checked there in the first place!

From all this information I learned that when William and Eleanor Porden first met Elizabeth Appleton she was 25 or 26 years old and had apparently spent three years on the continent a few years before, following an argument with her mother.  She had been a governess to aristocratic families and was making her name as an educationist, having just published her first book Private Education; or a practical plan for the studies of young ladies. The school that she subsequently opened in Upper Portland Place was so successful that by 1825 she was reputedly earning £4000 per year, an immense sum, equivalent to roughly £300,000 in today’s money. She was even reputed to have been asked to be governess to Princess Victoria (more on this in a future blog post).

It’s easy to see why Miss Appleton and the Pordens would have become friends. William Porden valued female education and his daughter Eleanor, who had recently published her first work of poetry, is considered a proto-feminist.  Miss Appleton’s story as a successful, independent, professional woman came to a sad end, however.  Her money became entangled with her uncle’s and when he went bankrupt, her money was lost at the same time.  Eventually, her husband fled to France to escape his debts and she died in London of cholera in 1849.

Despite the sad ending, Elizabeth Appleton proves that in the Regency era, a single genteel women could have a well-paid job and move in intellectual circles.  Although Elizabeth Appleton is not from Derbyshire, she is the kind of woman being celebrated in projects happening around the country for the 100th anniversary of women gaining the vote in 1918.  Derby-based Vox Feminarum’s Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Deeds not Words: towards Liberation’ project is researching 100+ years of women’s sociology-political activism in Derbyshire.  Take a look at their website at http://www.deedsnotwordstowardsliberation.com for more about the often untold stories of Derbyshire women.

Travels with William Porden: Regency era toilets abroad

It’s been a long while since I’ve blogged from Mr Porden’s diary, but we catch up with him now, at the English Hotel in Dieppe where he, his daughter Eleanor, and their fellow passengers on the Eliza arrived after their long channel crossing in 1816.   The town is unpleasantly smelly owing to a lack of sewers, and a French toilet is also described, not the kind of detail you usually find in letters and diaries, even now, so this particularly intrigued me…

With regard to another Accommodation, that was not quite so bad as what I found in Scotland.  I visited two of the Repositories which were in the very roof of a lofty House.  I must not say they were like poor Winifreds Tub with a pair of tongs across but  they were truly nothing more than a wooden tub in the shape of a Yorkshire Horsing block upon which you mounted and sat in trepidation lest any violent motion should overset you and blend you and the contents of the vessel on the floor.

I’m not entirely sure what makes a Yorkshire horsing block special, but generally horsing, or mounting blocks look like a short run of stone steps. You can still see them around these parts, like this one in Church Street, Matlock: 

 

 

 

 

Given the somewhat euphemistic description, I couldn’t be absolutely certain that Mr Porden was describing a toilet without tracing the mention of Winifred’s Tub.  That might not have been much to go on but as he had previously written ‘Sister Tabitha’s tub’ and then crossed it out, an internet search led me to Tobias Smollet’s 1771 novel, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker.

The principal reason it’s taken me so long to write this blog was that I felt compelled to read my way through Humphry Clinker to check the reference, and it’s taken me a while!  It’s a picaresque, rambling, epistolary novel about a family journeying around England and Scotland, and as such it’s a very suitable book for our much-travelled architect.  I suspect it was one of Mr Porden’s favourites (perhaps he had taken it with him for holiday reading) as I picked up another reference to an episode from it elsewhere in his diary.

I finally found the right passage on page 257 of my edition, in which maidservant Winifred Jenkins writes in a misspelled letter to her friend about her experiences in Edinborough:

… there is nurro geaks [privies] in the whole kingdom nor any thing for sarvants but a barrel with a pair of tongs thrown a-cross; and all the chairs [commodes] in the family are emptied into this here barrel once a day; and at ten o’clock at night the whole cargo is flung out of a back windore [window] that looks into some street or lane.

I imagine the pair of tongs formed a kind of rudimentary toilet seat, which seems to be missing from the ones in Dieppe.  Given the lack of sewers and overall bad smell, one assumes that the wooden tub in Dieppe was also emptied out of the window – yuck!

I still shudder when I remember the old squat toilets that were still common in French campsites when I was a child.  It sounds, however, like they were an improvement on the ones that the British travellers in 1816 had to contend with.

If you enjoy reading about eighteenth century life in its more eccentric and earthy forms, then I very much recommend Humphry Clinker.  Smollett fills in the details on some of those more practical ‘accommodations’ that you don’t always find in other writers of the time!

Changes to our opening hours

A few months ago, we carried out a survey about reducing our opening hours.  We asked which day our customers would prefer us to close: Monday, Wednesday or Friday.  The results have now been analysed and Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet have agreed the changes.  There was a clear preference for Mondays, so we will be closing on a Monday and opening Tuesday to Friday as normal.

We will also be reducing our Saturday openings from every Saturday to one Saturday a month.  Many people who responded to our survey pointed out how important it is to have plenty of time to do their research when they visit us, so we have decided to extend our hours on the Saturdays we are open.

As of 1 June, our new opening hours will be:

Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday to Friday: 9.30am to 5.00pm
Last Saturday of the month: 9.30am to 4.00pm

We unfortunately need to reduce opening hours in order to make budget savings.  Although we will be closed to the public on a Monday, we will, however, be able to do other activities on that day.  We can open up more spaces for volunteering, as we can use our search room for volunteer activities on a Monday.  We will also be able to run events that aren’t possible when we have customers in the building, like larger (and noisier!) classroom visits from schools.

Please rest assured that we are working hard to get more of our material online and to  offer more opportunities for people to enjoy our collections in new ways.  We understand that our Monday closure will be inconvenient for some customers.  We very much  hope, however, that the work we are able to get done behind the scenes whilst we’re closed, to make our collections more accessible, will compensate for the loss of opening hours.

Results of our 2016 Visitor Survey

Back in Autumn 2016, we participated in the national survey of visitors to archives, which is carried out by the Archives and Records Association (ARA).  The national results have just been published – these may be of more interest to archivists than visitors, but if you’d like to see the results for the whole country, you’ll find them on the ARA website under the heading ‘PSQG National Survey of Visitors Reports’.  For Derbyshire, here are a few highlights:

This compares well to the national averages, which were 9.8 for attitude of staff, 9.7 for quality of staff advice, and 9.3 for the service overall.

The gender profile of our visitors has changed markedly since we last did the survey in 2011.  Then, 52% of our visitors were female and 48% were male.  A lot more men seem to be using us now: in 2016, 62% were male and 38% female.

Five years ago, 81% of our visitors were researching family history.  This has nearly halved – in 2016 only 41%  of our visitors say they are researching family history.  Local history is now the most popular topic of research at 43%.   We can’t say with absolute certainty why this shift has happened, but it’s likely to be caused by the rise in websites like Ancestry and Findmypast.  These websites mean that people can do a lot of their family history online, and don’t need to visit record offices so much.

For the first time, the survey asked people to say specifically what they were researching, and there is a fascinating range of subjects given, from the diary of Henry Colvile’s, who fought in late 19th century Uganda, to changes in church windows over the years.  If you’d like to see a bit more detail about what our visitors are researching, what they said about the Record Office, and our responses to their comments, we’ve compiled the key information into a document: 2016 Satisfaction survey – summary of responses.

You might think that this is all very interesting (or not!) but what impact does it have?  Well, knowing why people use us and what kind of subjects they are researching is enormously helpful in deciding what collections we catalogue or digitise, and the future work we do.   And the scores that our customers give for our various facilities and services help us to plan where we will be making changes.

As an example, the survey tells us that 49% of visitors search our online catalogue before their visit.  However, only 48% of them rated the usability of our online catalogue as very good.   We want more people to use the online catalogue, and for them to find what they want more easily so we’re at the very early stages of ambitious plans to overhaul the online catalogue over the next few years.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey.  I know it can feel like once you’ve popped your survey in the box, nothing happens, but it takes a few months to process the results for the whole of the UK.  Although it’s slow, it does eventually have an effect, so watch this space…

A tale of crime and punishment

Recently, I’ve been blogging about William Porden’s journeys, taken from diaries (archive ref D3311/4/1-7) written between the 1790s and 1820s.  There is more to these diaries than travel, however.

In 1820, William Porden recounts a sorry tale about his housemaid, Eliza Watson, which shows that he still retained the merciful attitude towards criminals he showed over 25 years earlier when he recounted the tale of an escaped prisoner.  On 5 October 1820 he has two visitors:

I was summoned to attend two Gentlemen whom I found to be Mr Mortlake [actually Mr Mortlock], the eminent manufacturer & dealer in Ornamental China and an Officer from the Police Office of Marlborough Street. They came in search of Eliza Wilmot, my House maid who was to have left her place that Evening and to be married on Saturday morning.  She was accused in being concerned with the Man she was going to marry who was her cousin & confidential servant of Mr Mortlock, in robbing Mr M of a considerable quantity of China, a practice that had been continued some years.  She was questioned and confessed that she had received money from him, and it appeared by a Book that was found that she had placed in the Saving Bank upward of 70£ the last deposit of £20 being Feby last.  Her Box was afterwards searched and China Cups, Smelling Bottles and other articles were found that sufficiently proved her guilty of receiving them to be stolen.  I was much shocked at this discovery, for although Eliza was not a good servant in her situation my daughter thought her a Good Girl and often spoke of her in those words as a reason for retaining her, and she had taken some pains that day to find a handsome shawl to be given to her when she left the House.

Mr Porden is torn between wanting to assist the police and his desire not to let Eliza incriminate herself, although the next morning…

 I had the mortification to find that I also had been robbed for many things were discovered at Mr Mortlock’s with my name upon them and in Eliza’s trunk was found a work-box of my daughters. She was taken to Marlborough Street for Examination.… calling at the office I there identified 4 Sheets, a table Cloth, a Napkin and 2 Brushes which had had my initials cut upon them by order of my Wife to prevent the stealing of them by the servants which frequently happened.

Although distressed by the theft, Mr Porden appears more upset on Eliza’s behalf, when she is remanded to the Clerkenwell Bridewell [prison]:

What must have been her distress to find a comfortable home, a plentiful table, and society of her own rank and creditable in their Stations, exchanged for a cheerless Prison – the Prison fare and the company of wretches who have lost sight of every moral or religious feeling. Whatever sentiments of this nature she still retained were now to be changed for the depravity of her associates till she became as wicked as themselves.  … I believe that no punishment that she will hereafter receive will be so severe as what she will feel during the first 24 hours of imprisonment.

Mr Porden recovers his stolen property and doesn’t prosecute Eliza.  He hopes that she has learnt her lesson and writes:

It appeared that she had at first resisted the temptation of her Cousin to whom she was going to be married, but as he continued the practice of robbing his Master she was at length drawn in to aid him in nefarious conduct…. The Articles she stole [from] me such as Sheets & blankets seemed preparatory to House keeping. If I had prosecuted her, she would have been sent to Prison and if a single feeling of religion was left it would have been extinguished and she would have come out seven times worse than she went in, even if she was not brought to trial.  If she were brought to trial and escaped either transportation or death, one or other of which would in all probability have been her doom, her character would have forever blasted and she would have no other resource than vicious courses till she was gradually ripened for the Gallows.

Eliza calls on him to thank him on 12 October, and it sounds as if he may have read her a bit of a lecture!  Her fiancé did not benefit from such leniency from Mr Mortlock.  Eliza’s fiancé was  Daniel Gentle, aged 26.  He was actually Mr Mortlock’s Warehouseman, who, with William Read (the confidential servant), was indicted at the Old Bailey on 28 October 1820.   Both were sentenced to death.  The Criminal Registers for Middlesex are on Ancestry and show that Daniel Gentle was executed.  After his execution, it looks like Daniel’s body was claimed by his relatives and a Daniel Gentle, aged 27 years, was buried in the Gibraltar Burial Ground at Bethnal Green on 14 December 1820.  You can read the account of his trial on the Old Bailey Online website.

Mr Porden’s last mention of Eliza was when she called for a letter for a Mrs Foy on 15 October 1820, so it’s hard to know what happened to her after that.  Searching for Eliza Watson in the Old Bailey Online brings us several similar thefts over the years, some of which may have been committed by the same Eliza Watson, but it’s hard to be sure, as it’s a common name.

The most likely ones are an Eliza Watson, aged 25, who is indicted for stealing some fabric from a draper in 1824. She pleaded distress, had a good character, and was recommended to mercy and fined a shilling.  In 1830, an Eliza Watson, aged 32, is indicted for stealing fabric from a linen draper in 1830, again pleaded poverty, had a good character, and was recommended to mercy and confined for 1 month.

These could possibly be Mr Porden’s former housemaid, who, despite not being prosecuted the first time around, might have found it difficult to gain employment without a good reference and been forced, by poverty, back into crime – but that’s just supposition.  Let’s hope instead that Eliza recovered from the tragedy of her fiancé’s execution, and was able to avoid having to take recourse to ‘vicious courses’ as Mr Porden feared.

Travels with William Porden: a channel crossing from Brighton to Dieppe, 1816

We’re jumping to 1816 this time, and a diary documenting William Porden’s travels in France (archive ref D3311/4/7).  The crossing (his first sea voyage) is described in detail.

In early August, William Porden and his daughter Eleanor embarked for France on the ‘Eliza’ packet (a ‘packet’ is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a ship travelling at regular intervals between two ports, originally for the conveyance of mail’).  Mr Porden has conveniently drawn us a little diagram to show how the ship was arranged:

d3311-4-7-eliza-packet

William Porden’s sketch of the Eliza. ‘These Cabinetts are stretched rather too large and the Great Cabin too small’

The journey took about 18 hours and just getting to and from the ship wasn’t easy:

About 8 o’clock in the Evening we embarked in a large row boat and were pushed into the water by the sailors as usual. …  There was little wind but a very considerable Swell & when we arrived at the Vessel Eleanor was much disordered.  With the assistance of the Gentlemen present she was got into the Packet and I deposited her in a Cot on the floor of one of the Inner Cabins in which there were four of these Catacombs or Cabinettes, two on each side one over the other.  I took my birth in the Cabinett over Eleanor.  Opposite to me was another young Lady and the Stewards Wife on the Ground floor below.

I found my situation comfortable and notwithstanding the motion of the ship and the noise of working the Vessel I should have slept very well if the Steward’s Children and Friends had not been perpetually in and out to relate the State of their friends and the other passengers for it seems all were ill except myself.  We had a brisk breeze till two o Clock when the wind fell and we were becalmed at the distance of 20 miles from Dieppe.

At 10 o’clock we were approached by a Clumsy Sailing boat from the Shore, manned by 4 Rowers and a Steersman. Into this we entered and were rowed toward the Shore; but our Seamen were so awkward and lazy, as well as too few in number that we were four hours before we arrived at the Beach before Dieppe on which the boat was run aground and the passengers carried to shore on the Shoulders of men that waded from the Beach.

If you’re wondering about the practicalities of the accommodations and being sea sick on a vessel like this, then wonder no longer.  I can’t help feeling sorry for the cabin boys:

All the business of the Cabins was conducted with decency and though men and women were in the same apartment and within reach of one another All were in their cloaths and shut up by Curtains in their Cabinetts. Even the disagreeable circumstances attending Sea Sickness was very little offensive as it was managed.  The Cabin Boys attended and removed the Basons in silence and returned clean ones so that nothing was left of Annoyance.  Eleanor was sick every half hour; but slept well in the Intervals.

Eleanor, though, doesn’t seem to have suffered as much as another passenger, Miss Elizabeth Appleton:

She was dreadfully ill from the Moment she entered the Row boat at Brighton to her landing at Dieppe.  She was so unable to assist herself that she was left in the packet (I know not whether by neglect or no) when all the other passengers got into the french boat and followed us in the ships boat.  We received her and placed her as well as we could but she lay helpless and almost insensible till we reached Dieppe and scarcely knew herself how she got into the Inn or any thing that had passed.

Miss Appleton was certainly an intrepid young woman to be travelling alone on the continent in the early 19th century.  Mr Porden describes her thus:

She is a tall and Elegant figure, not unhandsome – well-bred, sensible, speaks French fluently and has a literary turn.  She is active, courageous as appears by her venturing alone on such a journey and fully adequate to take care of herself on land.  I have found her very useful from her knowledge of the French language and my daughter has found in her a very agreeable companion.

After passing through customs, the travellers were collected by Mr Taylor of the English Hotel, where they subsequently stayed and “dined in the English way for which we paid English prices, though our dinner was far from having the English elegance of a Good Inn”.