Tag Archive | The Bear Hotel

Susana’s 2015 English Adventure: Week 2

Hatfield House

Hatfield House is a Jacobean manor built by Robert Cecil, the son of William Cecil, the most trusted advisor of Elizabeth I. Robert succeeded his father as Elizabeth’s advisor, eventually becoming an advisor of James I as well. Robert Cecil is the one who discovered the plot of Guy Fawkes and others to blow up the House of Lords. A later Cecil (James) was made Marquis of Salisbury, and the Salisburys still own and live at Hatfield House more than 500 years later.

Hatfield Palace, which stood nearby (of which only a banquet room remains) was where all of Henry VIII’s children (Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward) were raised. It was here where Elizabeth learned that she was queen after the death of her sister Mary.

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Elizabeth I

Photos of Hatfield House

Kenwood House

William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, bought the house in 1754 and commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it, which he did from 1764-1779. The library is a masterpiece of Robert Adam genius, but the rest of the house is equally splendid. It is a pity that most of the original Adam-designed furniture was dispersed long ago, but a later owner, a Lord Iveagh, purchased the house in 1925 and displayed his fabulous collection of paintings there before leaving the house and its contents to the nation in 1927.

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Lord Mansfield and his wife never had children of their own, but they did take in two young daughters of nephews: Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle, who was a mixed-race daughter of an enslaved West Indian woman. Dido Belle was the subject of a recent film, Belle.

Dido Belle and Elizabeth Murray

Dido Belle and Elizabeth Murray

Pictures of Kenwood House

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace needs no introduction from me. I scheduled my trip this year so that I could visit, since it’s only open to visitors when the Queen is on holiday in Scotland (August and September). No photographs allowed, so I pinned these from other people’s Pinterest boards.

Here’s Squidgeworth ready to enjoy a coffee and scone with me after the tour.

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Pictures of Buckingham Palace

Osterley Park

Built by Sir Thomas Gresham, financial advisor of Elizabeth I, Osterley Park was later purchased by Robert Child, a wealthy banker, who left it (and his entire fortune) to his granddaughter, Sarah Fane, who married George Villiers and became Lady Jersey (yes, Sally Jersey, one of the patronesses at Almack’s during the Regency period) a year later. But the house has been little used, as the Jerseys preferred spending their time at other properties. Here you will see not only the Robert Adam touches, but also nearly all of the original furniture, including the room where Adam worked and some of his drawings.

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Pictures of Osterley Park

Devizes & the Bear Hotel

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The Bear Inn was once owned by the father of a young Thomas Lawrence, who used to charm the clientele by reciting poetry and drawing likenesses. He was quite good, and was eventually knighted for his portrait painting. See my blog post here.

Pictures of Devizes

Bath

Squidgeworth and I had a very enjoyable two days in Bath, staying at the Brooks Guesthouse, where I stayed three years ago on my Rick Steves tour. Here I visited No. 1 Royal Crescent, the Jane Austen Centre, the Victoria Art Gallery, the Holburne Museum, the Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum (second visit), and Sally Lunn’s.

Here’s Squidgeworth saying goodbye to Bath.

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Pictures of Bath

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

The following post is the fourth 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 chock full of 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!

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The Bear Inn

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The Bear Inn (or Hotel) in Devizes was a popular stopping-off point for travelers headed for Bath. According to Mr. Tristram, author of Coaching Days & Coaching Ways, the Bear Inn was known for its fine stables. After Bath became a popular retreat for the wealthy elite, the roads also became targets for highwaymen, and many travelers abandoned the normal routes to take the one through Devizes. At its peak, the Bear was taking in up to 30 coaches a day.

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Among its more prestigious guests were King George III and Queen Charlotte as well as the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria. In 1817, Queen Charlotte wrote that she had had an “elegant repast” at the Bear and that the landlord had put at her disposal “10 pairs of horses as fine as any were put to harness.”

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Note: The Bear Hotel continues to be a hotel today. Rooms can be had for as little as 99 pounds. Click here for more information.

Miss Fanny Burney and Hester Thrale Make the Acquaintance of a Young Thomas Lawrence

Miss Fanny Burney

Miss Fanny Burney

In April of 1780, Miss Fanny Burney, who later became a famous novelist (Evelina was published anonymously in 1778), was traveling to Bath with her friend and patron, Hester Thrale. While waiting for supper, the pair sat down to cards, but were soon interrupted by the sound of a pianoforte. Following the music, they found the musician to be “a very handsome girl with fine dark hair upon a finely-formed forehead”. Another girl welcomed them and found them chairs, and it was then that the visitors discovered that the girls were the daughters of the hostess of the inn. “Oh, what a surprise!”

“But though these pretty girls struck us much,” she writes, “the wonder of the family was yet to be produced. This was their brother, a most lovely boy of ten years of age, who seems to be not merely the wonder of their family, but of the times, for his astonishing skill at drawing. They protest he has never had any instruction, yet showed us some of his productions, that were really beautiful.”

Apparently, the father of the future Sir Thomas Lawrence was making good use of his son’s talents. Tristram says that:

Instead of offering lame excuses when the roast had gone wrong, or saying that a bad bottle of claret was simply “sick from a journey,” this original in the way of a host, used to simply to introduce his son to the malcontents, and in a moment where there had been disgust there was wonder. At the simple talisman, “Gentlemen, here’s my son; will you have him recite from the poets or take your portraits?” the most confirmed bald-headed grumbler ceased his monotonous drone, and the storm in the coffee-room fell before the smile of the young genius.

The Rise To Fame Of Sir Thomas Lawrence

Thomas Lawrence self-portrait in pastels

Thomas Lawrence self-portrait in pastels

By the time the family moved to Bath soon after this encounter, young Thomas was supporting his family drawing portraits in pastel. Due to his talent, charm and good looks, Thomas became very popular about Bath society and was allowed to view private art collections. In 1787, at the age of not quite eighteen, he established a studio in London, settling his parents nearby. In 1788 he exhibited five portraits in pastel and one in oil. In 1789 he exhibited 13 portraits, mostly in oil, to critical acclaim. At age 20, he received his first royal commission, portraits of Queen Charlotte and Princess Amelia. After the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1792, George III appointed him “painter-in-ordinary-to-his-majesty.” In 1794, he became a full member of the Royal Academy. He went on to paint many portraits of the elite, as well as important figures in the war with Napoleon, and even the Pope. In 1815 he was knighted, and in 1820 he became President of the Royal Academy.

Sir Thomas and the Siddons Sisters

Sally Siddons

Sally Siddons

Maria Siddons

Maria Siddons

Thomas fell in love with Sally Siddons, one of the daughters of the famous actress, Sarah Siddons. But then he fell in love with her sister Maria. But then he decided to go back with Sally. (Imagine the turmoil in that household!) But neither of the girls was healthy. Before Maria died in 1798, she got her sister to promise not to marry him. Sally did not, refusing to see him for the five years before she herself passed away.

 

Lawrence never married. His companions in later life were Elizabeth Croft (half-sister of Sir Richard Croft, the accoucheur who apparently botched the delivery of Princess Charlotte’s son and who committed suicide soon after) and Isabella Wolff, separated from her husband and whose son Herman may have been Lawrence’s.

Plagued With Financial Problems

One might expect that, with all the commissions pouring in and his prolific work ethic, Lawrence should be a wealthy man. On the contrary, he was constantly in debt, to the point where he seemed to be always on the brink of bankruptcy and had to be rescued by his friends, dying insolvent. Nobody is quite sure why this was, except for an assumption that he was unable to keep good accounts, and perhaps he was too generous with family and friends. He himself wrote:

“I have never been extravagant nor profligate in the use of money. Neither gaming, horses, curricles, expensive entertainments, nor secret sources of ruin from vulgar licentiousness have swept it from me.”

Legacy

The director of the National Portrait Gallery described Lawrence as “a huge figure. But a huge figure who we believe deserves a great deal more attention. He is one of the great painters of the last 250 years and one of the great stars of portraiture on a European stage.”

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Queen Charlotte

George IV at his Coronation

George IV at his Coronation

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Pinkie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 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