Tag Archive | Montague House

Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.

The Burning of Montague House

This noble mansion, situated on the north side of Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, was first built about 1674, by Ralph Montague, Esq., afterwards Baron Montague of Boughton, and Duke of Montague, Keeper of the Wardrobe to Charles II., and who was subsequently in high favor with King William and Queen Anne. The house was erected in the manner of a French palace, from the design of Robert Hooke, the celebrated mathematician, and the inventor of spring-clocks and pocket-watches, and much employed in the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire; he was also Curator of the Royal Society, in the year 1678.

Within ten years this superb mansion was burned down by accident, or rather, by the carelessness of a servant. John Evelyn records in his Diary:—“Jan. 19. 1686.—This night was burnt to the ground my Lord Montague’s palace in Bloomsbery, than which, for paintings and furniture, there was nothing more glorious in England. This happened by the neglect of a servant airing, as they call it, some goods by the fire, in a moist season; indeed, so wet and mild a season had scarce been seen in man’s memory.”

The house was at this time in the occupation of the Earl of Devonshire, to whom Lord Montague had let it, for the sum of 500 guineas by the year. Of its destruction we find another entry:—

Whitehall, the 21st Jan. 1685-6.

“On Wednesday, at one in the morning, a sad fire happened at Montague House, in Bloomsbury, occasioned by the steward’s airing some hangings, &c., in expectation of my Lord Montague’s return home; and sending afterwards a woman to see that the fire-pans with charcoal were removed, which she told me she had done, though she never came there. The loss that my Lord Montague has sustained by this accident is estimated at 40,000l., besides 6,000l. In plate; and my Lord Devonshire’s loss in pictures, hangings, and other furniture is very considerable.”

The North Prospect of Mountague House by James Simonic, 1715

The North Prospect of Mountague House by James Simonic, 1715

Montague House is rebuilt

Lord Montague’s large income was again placed in requisition for the reconstruction of his palace; and though executed by French artists, the plan (that of the hotels of the nobility at Paris) was the same, the new structure being raised upon the foundations and burnt walls of the old one. The architect now employed was one Peter Poughet, a native of Marseilles, who was assisted in the decoration by Charles de la Fosse, Jaques Rousseau, and Jean Baptist Monoyer…  This exclusive employment of French artists in the new house gave rise to the popular but improbable tale, that Montague House was rebuilt at the expense of Louis XIV., to whose court Lord Montague had twice been sent as ambassador.

The second Montague House was finished about 1687; and the eccentric but munificent owner, who in 1705, was created Marquis of Monthermer and Duke of Montague, resided in it till after his death, which took place March 9, 1709. He was succeeded in his titles and estates by his son John, second Duke of Montague, who quitted the vicinity of St. Giles’s for the more courtly region of Whitehall. While a new mansion was being erected for him there, he, however, continued to reside in one of the wings of Montague House. After his removal to Whitehall, the house in Great Russell Street remained unoccupied, until it was purchased, by Act of Parliament, of Lord Halifax, for 10,250l., in the spring of 1754, for “the British Museum.”

Montagu House drawing by Nicholas Sutton, published in 1754

Montagu House drawing by Nicholas Sutton, published in 1754

The British Museum

The building must have been in a very dilapidated condition, for the repairs cost more than the purchase, and, with furniture, &c., amounted to the large sum of 29,736l. 10s. 10d.

In plan, the old Museum resembled a French hotel of the first class: consisting of a large and lofty pile, with two sides built for offices, and a high front wall, with an arched doorway, and above it an octangular turret, surmounted by a cupola and vane; this was the principal entrance, and was known as “Montague Great Gate;” and at each extremity of the wall was a square turret.

Left to Right: Montagu House, Towny Gallery, and Sir Robert Smirkes' West Wing Under Construction, July 1828

Left to Right: Montagu House, Towny Gallery, and Sir Robert Smirkes’ West Wing Under Construction, July 1828

To the original building additions were made from time to time, as the collection increased, until 1820, when the rebuilding of the Museum was commenced; the plan bordering three sides of the spacious area formerly occupied by the gardens of Montague House, behind the original mansion. By this means, the collection was removed from the old into the new building as the latter progressed, without any inconvenience to the public. In like manner, the principal front took the place of the old Montague House façade, which was removed piecemeal; and strange it was to see the lofty pitched roof, balustraded attic, and large windowed front of “the French manner,” giving way to the Grecian architecture of Sir Robert Smirke’s new design. The octangular and not unpicturesque apartment over the great gateway lingered for some time after, and was the last to disappear of old Montague House. The materials were sold by auction; and curious was it to see such pieces of the painted walls and ceilings as could be removed entire, bringing a few shillings—one of La Fosse’s deities for half-a-crown, or a bunch of Monoyer’s flowers for 1s. 6d.

The Waddesdon Bequest

This has nothing to do with Montague House, but is just something interesting I came across while researching this blog post. Last summer I visited Waddesdon Manor in Aylesbury, which is where Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild displayed the treasures he acquired from his travels to the Continent and beyond. Baron Rothschild is quite the romantic figure. He fell in love and married his second cousin Evelina, only to lose her in childbirth eighteen months later. He never married again, but spent his life in the acquisition and admiration of beautiful objects. Click here to take a look at my Pinterest board for Waddesdon Manor.

In 1898 he bequeathed the contents of his New Smoking Room at Waddesdon Manor to the British Museum.

This consisted of almost 300 pieces of objets d’art et de vertu which included exquisite examples of jewellery, plate, enamel, carvings, glass and maiolica, among them the Holy Thorn Reliquary, probably created in the 1390s in Paris for John, Duke of Berry. The collection was in the tradition of a schatzkammer or treasure house such as those formed by the Renaissance princes of Europe. Baron Ferdinand’s will was most specific, and failure to observe the terms would make it void, the collection should be

placed in a special room to be called the Waddesdon Bequest Room separate and apart from the other contents of the Museum and thenceforth for ever thereafter, keep the same in such room or in some other room to be substituted for it

The Waddesdon Bequest

The Waddesdon Bequest

As a footnote, the cover of my time travel, A Home for Helena, includes a photograph of Waddesdon Manor taken last September at the time of my visit.

Home for Helena Cover 200x309

Amazon

Romance of London Series

  1. Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
  2. Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
  3. Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
  4. Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
  5. Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
  6. Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
  7. Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
  8. Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
  9. Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
  10. Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
  11. Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
  12. Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
  13. Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
  14. Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
  15. Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
  16. Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
  17. Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
  18. Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
  19. Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
  20. Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
  21. Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
  22. Romance of London: Voltaire in London
  23. Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
  24. Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
  25. Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
  26. Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
  27. Romance of London: A London Recluse

Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.

Montague House, Portman Square

Montague House, Portman Square

Elizabeth Montague’s Bluestocking Parties

At the north-west angle of Portman Square is Montague House, built for Mrs. Elizabeth Montague, authoress of the Vindication of Shakespeare against Voltaire. She had often been a guest at the second Lord Oxford’s, the resort of Pope and his contemporaries; she was the intimate friend of Pulteney and Littleton; and she survived to entertain Johnson, Goldsmith, Burke, and Reynolds, to their respective deaths. Dr. Beattie was among her visitors; and Mrs. Carter, the translator of Epictetus, was her intimate friend, correspondent, and visitor. At Montague House Mrs. Montague had her blue stocking parties; and here she gave on the first of May, “Sweeps’ Holiday,” which originated in the discovery among the fraternity of chimney-sweeps, of the eccentric Edward Wortley Montague, ‘son of the famous Lady Mary Wortley Montague, by her husband, Edward Wortley.’

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with Her Son Edward. Lady Mary was the first to bring smallpox inoculation to Western medicine after her experiences in the Ottoman Empire.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with Her Son Edward. Lady Mary was the first to bring smallpox inoculation to Western medicine after her experiences in the Ottoman Empire.

Edward Wortley Montague

This hopeful boy was born at Wharncliffe Lodge, in Yorkshire, about the year 1714; he was sent to Westminster School, whence he ran away, and was more than a year apprentice to a fisherman at Blackwall; he was sent back to Westminster, again ran away, and bound himself to the master of an Oporto vessel, a Quaker, from whom he escaped immediately on landing. In one of these flights, he changed clothes with a chimney-sweep, and for some time followed that occupation. After a long and anxious search, he was discovered by his friends, and restored to his parents, on the first of May, at the family mansion in Portman Square.

800px-Edward_Wortley_Montagu_by_Matthew_William_Peters

A 1775 portrait of Edward Wortley Montagu by Matthew William Peters

He had also served an apprenticeship among a traveling troop of showmen, who were distinguished by their skill in horsemanship; then worked in the fields in Holland as a day-laborer; next hired himself as a postillion; he then assumed the attire of an abbot, and passed for one at Rome. He next then passed for a Lutheran preacher at Hamburg, and was universally popular! He subsequently embraced the Mahomedan religion, and conformed to all Turkish habits, even to chewing opium and sitting cross-legged on the floor! With the Hebrew, Arabic, the Persian, and the Chadic he was as well acquainted as his native tongue. He at one time returned to England, and acted more comformably to his rank, and was returned as a member in two successive parliaments… But Montague’s profuse expenses soon compelled him to quit his native country, and he again assumed his wandering habits, and eventually died at Padua, at the age of sixty-two years.

The First of May: A Day for Chimney Sweeps

CHIMNEY SWEEP. A chimney sweep and his young helper. Line engraving, English, 18th century.

CHIMNEY SWEEP. A chimney sweep and his young helper. Line engraving, English, 18th century.

To commemorate the restoration of the truant to his family, in the grounds attached to Montague House, his relative, Mrs. Elizabeth Montague, for many years feasted the chimney-sweeps of London, on the first of May, with roast-beef and plum-pudding, “so that they might enjoy one happy day in the year.” And this special treat is said to have given rise to the general sweeps’ holiday. Mrs. Montague died in the year 1800, in her 80th year.

Portrait of Elizabeth_Montagu (1718-1800) by Allan Ramsay (1713-1784) in 1762

Portrait of Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800) by Allan Ramsay (1713-1784) in 1762

 

Incidentally, chimney sweeps’ cancer is the first industrially-related cancer to be found (1775).

sweepsholiday

In honor of Sweeps’ Holiday:

Name any works of art, literature, movies, etc. that prominently feature chimney sweeps.

 

Romance of London Series

  1. Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
  2. Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
  3. Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
  4. Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
  5. Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
  6. Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
  7. Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
  8. Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
  9. Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
  10. Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
  11. Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
  12. Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
  13. Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
  14. Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
  15. Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
  16. Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
  17. Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
  18. Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
  19. Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
  20. Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
  21. Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
  22. Romance of London: Voltaire in London
  23. Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
  24. Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
  25. Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
  26. Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
  27. Romance of London: A London Recluse

The Dover Road: Blackheath and Dartford

dust jacket

The following post is the fourteenth of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana recently obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is replete with commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A great find for anyone seriously interested in English history!

Note: Comment to enter the contest for Susana’s September Giveaway, a lovely necklace from London’s National Gallery (see photo at right).

Blackheath: Dark-Colored Heathland

The area of Blackheath is about seven miles from London Bridge. Originally the name of an open space for public meetings of the ancient hundred of Blackheath, this name was also given to the Victorian suburb that was developed later in the 19th century. While this area was certainly used for burial pits for the victims of the Black Death in the 14th century, it was only one of many used for such a purpose in London and was not the source of the name. Blackheath comes from Old English, “dark-colored heathland,” undoubtedly referring to the color of the soil.

Besides a queen devoted to junketings [Queen Caroline, who lived at Montague House], a letter-writing father, bent on directing his son to the deuce [Lord Chesterfield], and a great warrior [Major General James Wolfe, conqueror of Quebec], rebellion has in the good old days…raised its head on this celebrated spot; and it raised its head in the person of Wat Tyler, who was here in 1381 at the head of one hundred thousand other heads (which was wise of him seeing that he had previously cracked a poll-tax collector’s head at Dartford, after drinking too much ale, I suppose, at the celebrated Bull Inn). Another rebel was here, at Blackheath 1497. Lord Audley to wit, who went through the somewhat aimless exercise of bringing troops all the way from Cornwall, pitching their tents, and immediately afterwards suffering defeat at the hands of Henry the Seventh.

Montague House, residence of Queen Caroline

Montague House, residence of Queen Caroline

The Predecessor of Rotten Row?

For this celebrated spot occupied in the annals of England much the same sort of position apparently as Rotten Row occupies in the annals of contemporary fashion. It was the place where kings and ministers met casually on their way to or from London, and babbled of the weather, the price of corn, the latest hanging, the odds on the next bear-fight, the state of the unemployed, or any other kindred subject which might suggest itself to medieval brains, in an open space, where it was not too windy.

blackheath

Henry the Fifth a Spoilsport?

On his return to London, “The Victor of Agincourt” was greeted here by “the mayor and five hundred citizens of London. The mayor and aldermen had prepared an elaborate reception, with wine and scarlet and gold robes and all the trappings. But Henry “nipped all the worthy mayor’s preparations in the bud,” refusing to accept the praise and thanks that should go to God.

A pious decision, but one which must have been extremely unsatisfactory to town councillors who had launched forth in the way of dress and decorations, and to the thousands of Londoners who had flocked out to Blackheath to see the show.

Henry V: not in a proper mood to be fêted

Henry V: not in a proper mood to be fêted

Henry the Eighth: A Guilty Conscience?

It was here on Blackheath that the already muchly married king publicly received his fourth wife, with all due decency and decorum, having already made up his royal mind to put her away privately. For Henry on this occasion did not play fair; and though he pretended to Anne of Cleves herself that it was at this meeting on Blackheath that he had first seen here—in saying so, he said that which was not; for he had already privately inspected her at the Crown Inn at Rochester. It was on this occasion it may be remembered that the bluff Tudor gave way to a regrettable license of speech at first sight of the goods the gods had provided for him, and said many things unfit for publication; which shocked the onlookers, and made Cromwell put his hands to his head to feel if it was still in his shoulders.

Alas, Cromwell, as the advocate for this marriage, paid for his folly with his head. Anne of Cleves, however,

was content to forego the dubious joys of married life for the possession of the several manors in Kent and Sussex that her grateful late lord bestowed upon her. The number of these manors exceeds belief, and at the same time gracefully gauges Henry’s conception of the magnitude of the matrimonial peril past. Indeed, it seems to me that…whenever he had nothing villainous on hand, and was disinclined for tennis, he gave Anne of Cleves a manor or two simply to while away the time.

setWidth320-The-Manor-Gatehouse1

The Manor Gatehouse is all that is left of the manor Henry VIII presented to Anne of Cleves as “one of the first manors granted to this little-married but much-dowered lady.”

Charles II’s Triumphant Procession

…it was in 1660 no doubt that the grandest of its historical pageants was to be seen: when the long reaction against Puritanism had suddenly triumphed, and all England went mad on a May morning at the Restoration of her exiled king; when through sixty-one miles as it were of conduits running wine, triumphal arches, gabled streets hung with tapestry—through battalions of citizens in various bands, some arrayed in coats of black velvet with gold chains, some in military suits of cloth of gold or silver—Charles, who had slept at Rochester the night before, rode on to Blackheath between his brothers, the Dukes of York and Gloucester.

Charles II riding into London

Charles II riding into London

Sir Walter Scott, in his novel Woodstock (1826), paints a picture of Charles catching a glimpse of the characters of the novel in the crowd and making a point to dismount, prevent the aged Sir Henry Lee from rising, and ask for his blessing, after which, “his very faithful servant, having seen the desire of his eyes, was gathered to his fathers.”Quite a poignant scene, but could not have happened in real life since Sir Henry had passed away fifty years earlier. Don’t you just love historical fiction?

Charles Dickens: “veritable genius of the road”

His memory burns by the way—as all but the wicked man who has not read Pickwick and David Copperfield will remember—and indeed A Tale of Two Cities. For in the second chapter of that wonderful book the very spirit of the Dover Road in George the Third’s time is caught as if by magic.

A Tale of Two Cities: read Chapter Two here: http://www.online-literature.com/dickens/twocities/2/

Who does not remember these things? Who has not read them again and again? I declare that I think this second chapter of A Tale of Two Cities a picture of the old coaching days more perfect than any that has been painted. Every detail is there in three pages.

tale

George IV Insulted at the Bull Inn

In 1822

…while the great Fourth George was majestically reposing in his royal post-chaise in front of the old archway he experienced an unpleasant surprise. A very ungentlemanly man named Calligan, a working currier who ought to have known better, suddenly projected his head into the carriage window, and observed in a voice of thunder, “You’re a murderer!” an historical allusion to the king’s late treatment of Queen Caroline, which made the royal widower “sit up”. Upon which a bystander named Morris knocked the personal currier down,and the window of the post-chaise was pulled up, and the post-boy told to drive on as quickly as possible.

The Royal Victoria and Bull Inn (formerly the Bull Inn)

The Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel (formerly the Bull Inn)

 

 Index to all the posts in this series

1: The Bath Road: The (True) Legend of the Berkshire Lady

2: The Bath Road: Littlecote and Wild William Darrell

3: The Bath Road: Lacock Abbey

4: The Bath Road: The Bear Inn at Devizes and the “Pictorial Chronicler of the Regency”

5: The Exeter Road: Flying Machines, Muddy Roads and Well-Mannered Highwaymen

6: The Exeter Road: A Foolish Coachman, a Dreadful Snowstorm and a Romance

7: The Exeter Road in 1823: A Myriad of Changes in Fifty Years

8: The Exeter Road: Basingstoke, Andover and Salisbury and the Events They Witnessed

9: The Exeter Road: The Weyhill Fair, Amesbury Abbey and the Extraordinary Duchess of Queensberry

10: The Exeter Road: Stonehenge, Dorchester and the Sad Story of the Monmouth Uprising

11: The Portsmouth Road: Royal Road or Road of Assassination?

12: The Brighton Road: “The Most Nearly Perfect, and Certainly the Most Fashionable of All”

13: The Dover Road: “Rich crowds of historical figures”

14: The Dover Road: Blackheath and Dartford

15: The Dover Road: Rochester and Charles Dickens

16: The Dover Road: William Clements, Gentleman Coachman

17: The York Road: Hadley Green, Barnet

18: The York Road: Enfield Chase and the Gunpowder Treason Plot

19: The York Road: The Stamford Regent Faces the Peril of a Flood

20: The York Road: The Inns at Stilton

21: The Holyhead Road: The Gunpowder Treason Plot

22: The Holyhead Road: Three Notable Coaching Accidents

23: The Holyhead Road: Old Lal the Legless Man and His Extraordinary Flying Machine

24: The Holyhead Road: The Coachmen “More Celebrated Even Than the Most Celebrated of Their Rivals” (Part I)

25: The Holyhead Road: The Coachmen “More Celebrated Even Than the Most Celebrated of Their Rivals” (Part II)

26: Flying Machines and Waggons and What It Was Like To Travel in Them

27: “A few words on Coaching Inns” and Conclusion