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”.

Travels with William Porden: London to Lincoln with a dog and a portrait painter, 1795

On Friday 21 August, 1795, William Porden set off from London to Lincoln in the stagecoach.  On this occasion his travelling companions were:

My old friend Staveley, a Lieutenant Bromwich of the Navy, a Mr Thick, a miniature painter on a professional expedition to Hull and a young man whose name I did not learn and in whom there appeared to me nothing worthy of notice but a want of feeling for a portly little brown dog that he had with him in the coach.

They young man certainly is very unfeeling towards his pet:

According to his own account the little creature had been unable to follow him so fast as he wished, through the streets of London in a heavy shower, and in a rage he had struck him such a violent blow with a cane as to stun him so much that he roll’d over as dead.  In the Coach he found the care of him attended with some little inconvenience, and after having stewed up in the heat (for very hot it was) for several hours he inhumanly turned him into the Basket exposed to the cold and rain of a severe night, in spight [sic] of the remonstrances of all his fellow travellers.

On the journey, Lieutenant Bromwich recounted some of his experiences in Naval engagements at Guadeloupe and Quiberon Bay, but I confess to being somewhat more interested in the other passenger, Mr Thick:

A huntsman by William Thicke, 1805

A huntsman by William Thicke, 1805

Mr Thick our other companion was a little fat jolly facetious man, as illiterate as an artist could be desired and seemingly taking small interest in the Arts or in subjects relative to them. His mis-pronunciation w[oul]d rival Mrs Slipslops.  He abounded in jests and smutty stories which he told tolerably well, though sometimes, as it must happen, with men who are always telling stories, lost the spirit of the story and seemed not always to know where the joke lay.

 

Mr Nathan Crowe by William Thicke

Mr Nathan Crowe by William Thicke

 

This miniature portrait painter is someone that I have at last been able to positively identify.  A search on Ancestry found William Thicke, miniature portrait painter of Marylebone, in London directories of the time.  A Google search also brought up several images of miniatures painted by him that have been through auction houses.

 

 

His miniatures aren’t of the first quality – they’re somewhat naïve in style – but perhaps that befits a painter who has little interest in the arts and prefers telling ‘smutty stories’.

For our next journey with Mr Porden, we climb aboard the ‘Eliza’, where we get to experience a channel crossing in 1816 – not an experience that many on board enjoyed!

Travels with William Porden: Hull to Lincoln and Sleaford, 1795

We continue our travels with William Porden, beginning in Hull on 1 June 1795, where his diary (archive ref. D3311/4/4) records that he is in his town of birth, Hull:

I found my mother tho’ very infirm yet chearful and happy.  She now approaches her 80th year.

I amused myself at my leisure in ranging over the scenes of my boyish days, where every stone and every tree appeared as an old acquaintance and strongly interested my heart. For this reason a visit to Hull is never a visit of chearfulness.  There are too many objects to awaken by feelings and to induce a comparison of the present with the past, and my emotions are too strong to admit of any sensation of Gaity.

Kingston upon Hull in 1790 by Thomas Malton courtesy of www.albion-prints.com

Kingston upon Hull in 1790 by Thomas Malton
http://www.albion-prints.com

On 4 June he set off in the stage coach to Lincoln…

My companions in the stage were a young Lieut of the Navy & a farmer & his mother, [and] a venerable old officer in the army whose name and rank I did not learn. He had been a General Officer in the East India Service but as he did not name his rank in the line I conjectured that he held a much lower rank now.  He was upward of seventy, tall, strong and healthy, had a last few of his teeth and was good tempered and cheerful.  I conjectured that he had been at Hull to seek out a habitation for himself and family which consisted of a Wife and Daughter to which place he was attracted by an idea of living cheaper there than elsewhere which I believe to be the case.  He had lost the fire of Youth and had nothing of military insolence.

The ‘venerable old army officer’ relates a story about what happened between the sailors and the ladies of the town when his ship arrived at Portsmouth which is a bit too racy to relate on this blog (you’ll have to read the diary for yourself for that).

William Porden quite often seems to encounter sailors on his travels.  On his previous journey to Newark in 1794, he is joined by two merchant seamen, whom he describes as ‘displaying the true sailors character – Rough, cheerful, careless, eating hearty, drinking hard, and at home every where.’  The officers of the Navy whom Mr Porden meets on his various stage coach journeys are somewhat better behaved than the sailors in the Portsmouth story, but make hit and miss companions.  On this occasion:

The Naval Officer was a stout healthy looking man, but though he had been in many countries to Asia, Italy &c and spoke of Naples, Rome, Smyrna & other places yet he was so illiterate, and so little knowledge out of his profession and perhaps so little of imagination or Understanding that I could derive neither information or pleasure from his conversation. We were joined by a sprightly Woman at Spittle.  As the young sailor rode with his face towards the Horses I gently hinted to him that possibly the Lady might prefer that seat; but he was not galant enough to resign it.

They stayed overnight in Lincoln and then took up a new passenger, a child with a sad story:

June 5 this morning we left Lincoln having parted with our farmers and taken up a beautiful Girl of 12 years going from school to visit her parents and sister at Sleaford. She was in high spirits and enjoyed the idea of the Romp she should have when she got home; but at Sleaford she learn’d with sorrow that her hopes would be disappointed as she had arrived only time enough to take her last leave of her dying mother.  Whether she had been sent for or had left her school of course at the vacation for the holidays I know not; but if her friends had sent for her at the request of her sick mother they had acted most inconsiderately and cruelly in not making her acquainted with her mother’s danger; Also in raising high hopes of pleasure only to plunge the child into the greater misery.

I’m possibly slightly obsessed with identifying Mr Porden’s travelling companions, but I suspect that, if the girl’s mother did indeed die, a diligent search of the parish registers for Sleaford and environs for June-July 1794 should reveal a suitable burial which could then be used to find the baptism of a daughter about 12 years before.  If anyone frequents Lincolnshire Archives and wants to do a search then please do let me know what you find.

Travels with William Porden: London to Newark… an escaped prisoner!

On Monday 17 November, 1794, William Porden left London in the Newark stage coach on his way to Lincolnshire.  His fellow travellers didn’t particularly impress him:

My companions were a Quaker from Sheffield and a young man of York, neither of them entertaining in any shape whatever and not possessed of so much civility as may generally be found under the meanest Garb and in the most untutored mind. They however were not positively disagreeable.

Things got a bit more interesting when they got to ‘Kates Cabbin’, which now seems, appropriately enough, to be a service station by Peterborough.  There, a new passenger joined the coach: a Bailiff from York who had been taking a prisoner under sentence of transportation to London.

The Prisoner has been a servant to a Gentleman near Hull and having paid his addresses to a female servant either in the same or another family, the woman had robbed her master and prevailed upon the youth to secrete the stolen goods. This was the crime.  In other respects his character was uncommonly Good and his master and others had solicited his pardon.  He was low in stature and of a mild character, yet altho he was handcuff’d and had irons on one leg and was chained to an iron bar or rail on the top of the Coach he had the courage and dexterity to make his escape which he effected by throwing himself off and thereby breaking his chain.  This was about two o’clock in the morning, extremely dark.  The Bailiffe the Coachman and the Guard got down to pursue him but in vain, under cover of the darkness he eluded their search and got off but whether he was afterwards retaken or not I have not heard.  I think it probably that he had thrown himself into one of the ditches by the road and laid quiet otherwise the noise of his irons must have discovered him.  The Chain which he broke by the jerk was as thick as a common waggon-trace chain.  A piece of it was found next morning on the Road.

William Porden here, and in other diary entries (archive ref. D3311/4/4-5), , shows himself to be more merciful than the justice system of the day:

As his crime was not great and he had suffered a long confinement if the Bailiffe could justify himself, I wished he might not be retaken.  The end of punishment would probably be as perfectly answered by his future fears and anxieties as by transportation and perhaps his mind might escape the contagion and corruption of Newgate and the voyage to Botany Bay and he be preserved a useful and worthy member of society in his own Country.

With a bit of digging in the York Quarter Sessions or Assizes records for 1794, it would probably be possible to find out the name of the prisoner.  Whether it’s possible to find out what happened to him after his escape is another matter.  Like William Porden, I rather hope he got away, changed his name, and lived a long and happy life.  Of course if he did, he may well have created a future nightmare for some poor family historian trying to find his birth in the parish records!

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!

Introducing William Porden…

d3311-5-1-000002

Portrait of William Porden (D3311/5/1)

Just before Christmas I flicked through a couple of diaries written in the period 1793-1820. I love reading diaries and letters. Through them, I feel like I know the people who wrote them; they become familiar friends and their world, even if 200 years old, seems as real as our own.

I thought I would share some of the diary entries in this blog, partly just because I like them (a good enough reason in itself – that’s partly what this blog is for), but also because their author, William Porden, is a Hull man and so we can do our bit to celebrate Hull’s status as City of Culture 2017.

So firstly, a quick explanation about the man himself.  In his first diary and commonplace book, he notes family events, but interestingly, it looks as if he didn’t know the date of his own birth.  He records himself thus:

W Porden son of Thomas & Hannah Porden of Kingston upon Hull was Baptised January the 29th 1755 as St Mary’s Church and it is supposed his Birth was sometime in December preceding.

An eminent architect of his day, he lived in London and his most famous surviving building is the riding school and stables at the Brighton Pavilion, built 1803-1808, which is now the Brighton Dome Concert Hall.

Brighton Pavilion Stables

Brighton Pavilion Stables

If you’re wondering why on earth his papers are held at Derbyshire Record Office, it’s because William Porden’s daughter, Eleanor Anne Porden (1795-1825), was the first wife of Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), who famously led a disastrous voyage of Arctic exploration along the Northwest Passage in 1845 (you’ll find more blog posts about this here).  Their daughter, Eleanor Isabella Franklin, married into the Gell family of Hopton Hall, Derbyshire, and so her mother’s and maternal grandfather’s papers came with her into the family and now form part of our Gell collection D3311 – it all makes sense in a way!

William Porden didn’t use his diaries to record his everyday life, but begins his diary in May 1793:

If every man would treasure the Observation, which he makes in his Journey through life and Register the remarks of others he would soon collect an abundance of knowledge and preserve the means of amusing many a future hour. I have often made this remark and I have often resolved to put the matter in execution nay I have frequently begun to do so; but idleness and want of perseverance has rendered it of little effect.  I again resolve to do so and I now again begin to register what has occurred during a Journey of three or four days.  I dare not flatter myself that I shall be more steady than I have been – but I will try – Whatever may be the end I shall consider all that is got as gain.

I confess to also being guilty of occasional idleness and want of perseverance in my blog posts, and may also not be more steady than I have been – but I, too, will try.  In the next post, we journey with Mr Porden on the London to Guildford stage…

Have bike, will travel – a splendid celebration of cycling

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Thursday 5th May saw the start of our latest ‘What’s in the Wall?’ exhibitions.  Running (or should I say pedalling?) until the 30th July, ‘Have bike, will travel’ is a comprehensive collection of items from our Local Studies and Archives, ranging from the late 19th century to the present day. Many of the photographs are courtesy of Picture the Past

Bicycle related photos, maps, magazines, drawings and diaries are all there, along with a large dose of nostalgia, from the early days of the penny farthing, the bicycle as an essential form of transport, to the cycling proficiency test and 80s BMXing!

This exhibition will coincide with the Aviva Women’s Tour which has a whole stage in Derbyshire on Friday 17th June (it will go up Bank Road in Matlock, definitely worth watching!) It will also coincide with the Eroica Britannia – a 3 day festival held in Bakewell from Friday 17th June – Sunday 19th June, which ends on the Sunday with over 4,000 riders taking part in a vintage bike ride.

Come and take a journey with us through the history of Derbyshire cycling.  The display is in our Reception area and we are based on New Street, Matlock – parallel with Bank Road (if you don’t know the road, come and take a look at the steep gradient the women will have to climb on the Derbyshire stage of the Women’s Tour!)

Directions are here and we are open Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5.00pm and Saturdays 9.30am – 1pm.  We have cycle parking as well as car parking.  Our other forthcoming events can be found here

Our latest acquisition: Isabella Thornhill’s diary

Here’s a picture of the diary of Isabella Thornhill, nee Gell, which we accessioned yesterday:

Diary of Isabella Thornhill

Diary of Isabella Thornhill

I was going to transcribe an entry dated 21 November 1867, describing a dream in which Queen Victoria escorts Mrs Thornhill to a dinner. The punchline, or at any rate the end of the thing, was that just as the dinner (a dish of mutton) was being served, she was awoken by the arrival of her breakfast tray.  But I mustn’t transcribe it, because the diary is an unpublished literary manuscript, which will remain in copyright until 2039, unless the law changes later this year.

But there’s nothing to stop you reading it!  You can access the diary through our search room right away, using the reference number D258/71/1.  The entries cover 1863 to 1875 in only 43 pages of writing, and the handwriting is reasonable, so the diary provides a painless means of inserting yourself in another time.  It covers social events, personal encounters and anecdotes gathered from acquaintances.

Isabella Thornhill (1800-1878) was born Isabella Gell, daughter of Philip Gell (1775-1842).  She married William Pole Thornhill MP of Stanton Hall (1807-1876) in Wirksworth in 1828.  On Philip Gell’s death, the Gell family’s Hopton Hall estate went to Isabella for her lifetime; she and her husband took the name Gell and lived at Hopton Hall for a short time but eventually renounced the inheritance. She was the last of the Eyre Gell line.  The catalogue entry describing the diary is here.  I added it to the D258 Gell collection, most of which we accepted during the 1960s, and which also includes six volumes of the Lysons’ Magna Britannia, which Isabella Thornhill grangerised.