Authenticity Hoo-Ha pt. 2: Did Lord Byron and Princess Victoria etch their names on the windows?

Sir Hilary Jenkinson held that authenticity is one of the defining characteristics of the archive. Here is the second of three blog posts about some recent authenticity issues.

On being asked to visit a former hotel to pick up a donation of records, any archivist would expect there to be guest books. Less expected is a pane of window glass. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the “Byron Window” is the most unusual item I have accessioned in twelve years as an archivist. Why is it called the Byron Window? Because it is said that Lord Byron (i.e. George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, 1788-1824) scratched a poem onto it. The lines read:

Where so ever is folly court
Mortal unthinking will resort
For want of reason, still,
Shame on our sex! As for the fair
They all want something everywhere
And something want they will

These etched lines have not gone unnoticed. The Byron Window is mentioned in a variety of magazine articles, including a feature in Derbyshire Life in 2010, and the sale catalogue from when the Temple Hotel was auctioned in 1975.

But how do we know this to be the work of Byron? We don’t, really – in fact, I am not even sure that the squiggle nearest the poem says Byron!

D8116/3/1: The Byron Window

D8116/3/1: The Byron Window

An article on the Andrews Pages cites William Adam’s 1840 guide book “The Gem of the Peak” as evidence that the poet visited the Old Bath in Matlock Bath, and at first glance, I thought the Adam reference extended to the etched window itself – however, it certainly isn’t mentioned in any of the editions we hold here.

William Adam describes The Temple as “originally built as a lodging house or appendage to the Old Bath for the comfort and convenience of those visitors, who wished to be out of the noise and bustle of a crowded Inn”, and observes that the house had been “much improved and enlarged” by its owner, Mrs Evans. He also remarks that the name of Walter Scott is inscribed on a window in room 5 (without making any claim as to who made the inscription).

So, hang on… William Adam was interested enough in Byron to mention his visit to Matlock Bath and interested enough in inscriptions on windows to mention Scott – but did not think to tell us about Byron inscribing a window?

What puts the kybosh on the thing is the date right next to those lines. “6 Oct 1784” is the easiest bit of the whole thing to read, and dates it to before Byron’s time.  (Unless the date and the poem are unrelated?  I would be delighted to be proved wrong!)

The window pane is, transparently, something that a large number of people have inscribed over the course of centuries – so whether or not their number includes Lord Byron, this is an amazing addition to our collections.  I don’t think I have the heart to investigate the other claim, which is that a young Princess Victoria put her name on the same bit of glass!

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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.

Advent Calendar – Day 9

Is there anything new to learn behind door number 9? We hope so…

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Roll of Honour of the 8th Co. Imperial Yeomanry, 4th Battalion, Derbyshire contingent, during the Boer War (Ref: D6160/1)

The Roll of Honour records the names of the seven officers and 128 non-commissioned officers and men of the contingent, as well as the names of those killed in action, taken prisoner, wounded or died of disease. It is decorated with illustrations, including photographic portraits of the seven officers and a photograph of the 1st Company of the Imperial Yeomanry at Winburg. It is also illustrated with portraits of Queen Victoria, King Edward VIII and Queen Alexandra, a map of the area of conflict in South Africa and a small painting of a rifleman on horseback.

About the company: enrolled on 9 January 1900, it left Derby for South Africa on 21 January 1900. It fought in various engagements, numbering 73 in total, including at Thaba Nichu, Biddulphsberg, Wittebergen and Reitz. It left Capetown for England on 7 May 1901 and arrived in Derby on 9 June 1901, being disbanded the next day.

D6160-1 Boer War Roll of Honour

D6160-1 Boer War Roll of Honour